Monday, December 30, 2013

Travel 2014

Where are you going in 2014? In January, I'll share some travel places that would make a great trip in 2014.

Let me know about your plans...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Travel Mugs

Think about packing a wide mouth travel mug in your carry on bag. Make sure it is one with a screw on lid.

Use it for the obvious...water or coffee or tea. But, it can serve a whole lot more purposes than just liquids.

Transport your sunglasses in it...they won't get crushed. Pack delicate souvenirs to bring home. Store your extra cash in it in the bottom of your carry on bag. Keep your cords for your travel gadgets in it. Toss the extra change in it so it doesn't weigh down your pockets.

If you're traveling with kids, put their crayons or markers in it. You can even roll up some drawing paper and put in with the crayons.  Or, put their snacks in it so they don't turn into crumbs.

I'm sure there are plenty more uses...what do you do?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Favorite Travel Tool

Do you have a favorite travel tool? One favorite could be your Swiss Army Knife. It has so many different tools in one handy piece.

We've used it as a screw driver, a corkscrew, a knife, a file, and so much more.

Be careful when packing it. Chances are, you won't get it through security. Put it in your checked luggage to be sure it arrives when you do.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Travel Binoculars

When packing your gadgets, do you include a small pair of travel binoculars? They don't take up much room and aren't heavy.

They're great for looking at things far away or outdoors. Now, think about using them indoors as well.

When we were in a museum in Italy, looking at the painting of the last supper, we were not allowed to stand real close. Understandably. Yes, it was close enough to see the whole painting. But, some of the details might have escaped us without the binoculars.

Ceilings in churches often have paintings, frescoes, or mosaic tile works...especially in Italy. Using the binoculars gives you a different perspective or the work involved on the ceiling.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Travel Extras

Sometimes, hotel staff, concierges, travel guides, or other people have provided special service when we travel.

For instance, the concierge who moved us to a different room...on the concierge level. Our original room was right next door to some people with some noisy puppies. Cute...but noisy. We didn't have concierge status at that hotel, but he was making up for our noisy neighbors.

Then there was the server at a restaurant who brought us the chef to explain his recipe when I asked her to compliment the chef on the dessert.

These and other special treatments are part of their job...and much more. Sometimes a simple thank you is not enough. A fellow traveler takes a small pack of decorative post cards with her when she travels and writes a thank you before she leaves. Then she gives the thank you to the person the next day, or after the meal, or a little later. It's unexpected and a nice gesture. And, it looks better than using the hotel stationery!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Traveling Like a Toursit

More on traveling like a tourist...


English is indeed widely spoken all over the world, but not making any effort isn't in your best interests. Try to learn the basic phrases of please and thank you at the very least. More than that is even better. 

One frequent traveler says there are six major areas to educate yourself about before you go to a new locale: greetings, gift giving, exchanges of money (whether to put money in someone's hand or on the table), handshakes, body language, and food. 


Carrying zero cash and using your debit card to pay for a bottle of water is growing more and more common in the U.S., but when you're abroad, you can't count on plastic. Credit cards may not be widely accepted in some countries. And, while it's a good idea to bring a credit card or two, leave all unnecessary credit cards at home.


You can't cancel out the bad behavior of every American doofus traveling abroad, but you can make a difference by being a positive example of a U.S. citizen. "Americans in general have a pretty bad reputation to try to live down," Post says. "Any time you can go the extra effort to use every courtesy that's available to you to show appreciation—like for the time that someone gives you in a shop—even if they don't return it right there, I think that that is part of what it means to be an ambassador for your country when you travel." 

Great ideas...what are some things you do or don't do when you travel?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gifts for Your Traveler, part 3

More gift ideas...

WakaWaka Solar Charger
Give a gift that gives back with this WakaWaka solar charger. The compact, seven-ounce device juices up a phone in just a few hours and has a built-in light that can shine for more than 60 hours. Best of all? For each charger purchased, the company donates one to the typhoon relief effort in the Philippines (; $69).

Moleskine Photo Notebook
Authors, artists, and travel writers all swear by Moleskine’s classically styled, durable notebooks. The latest offering retains the old-school open-flat stitched binding, ivory colored pages, and elastic closure but lets travelers customize, adding photos, notes, and quotes to the pages (; $50).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gifts for Your Traveler, part 2

Check out these gifts:

National Parks Map
This Ello There print on 100 percent cotton rag archival paper celebrates the U.S.A.’s 59 protected parklands, mixing faux bois patterns and graphic print trees. It’s a lovely reminder to appreciate our cash-strapped national parks—and count off the ones you’ve visited (; $95).

BottleGuard Neoprene Double Wine Protector

There’s nothing more disappointing than toting around precious vintages for an entire trip only to arrive home to a suitcase full of broken glass and Bordeaux-stained clothes. Help the oenophiles in your life keep their bottles safe with this double-layered, shock-absorbent neoprene wine protector (; $34.95).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dryer Sheets

When traveling, I put a dryer sheet in the bag I will be using for dirty clothes. It helps keep the dirty clothes smell from permeating my whole suitcase.

Another great idea for dryer sheets is to cut one in half and put each piece in your hiking or walking shoes. Remove it before you hike, however!

They're great for removing static and pet hair, as well. Any more ideas?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gifts for Your Traveler

Many publications offer their version of the best gifts for travelers, especially this time of year. Here are a few of my favorites from sites like Budget Travel, Fodors, Frommers, and Travel and Leisure.

4-in-1 Adapter
This handy Lego-like tool snaps together four plugs and one adapter to power up gadgets in 150 countries. The red, blue, yellow, and green components correspond to a color-coded map to help you quickly determine the parts needed based on your destination (; $25).

Artifact Uprising Postcard Packs

Great vacation shots tend to languish on hard drives and iPhones these days. Show them off instead by making a postcard book with Artifact Uprising. Its easy online tool helps you upload photos and edit them into richly designed postcard packs, photo books, even a wooden calendar made from reclaimed Colorado pines (; $16.99–$29.99).

Bentgo Containers
Culinary-minded fliers, road trippers, and car campers alike will appreciate being able to pack and go with these stackable plastic food containers. Inspired by Japanese bento boxes, the BPA-free plastic packs include two containers; a built-in knife, fork, and spoon; and a sealing strap. They’re safe for both microwaves and dishwashers (; $14.99).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pesky Cords

Let's say you're going to Europe and taking your tablet computer, your phone, your Kindle, and any other gadget that needs to be recharged. If they don't all charge on the same cord or if you don't have a device that allows you to plug different cords in to the same spot, you have several cords you need to take with you.

Or, let's say your kids have a couple of game devices and they need to take their charging cords.

Keep them untangled and identified by using those plastic closures found on bread or English muffins. Write the name of the device on the little plastic tag. You could save different colors and use one color for each type of device or each kid.

Slide the plastic tag onto the cord and you'll know which device it gets used for by just glancing at it. If you have several cords, put each one in its own small plastic resealable bag. No more loose cords hanging out in the bottom of your backpack or sneaking their way around your suitcase.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Do you travel like a tourist?

When traveling to another country do you try to fit in with the locals? Are you interested in the culture and the way things are done there?

Do you ever see 'ugly Americans' and wish they would tone down their behavior a little?

Recently I read a great post on Budget Travel's site about dressing and acting like a tourist. I've included some of their ideas and added some of my own.

Just like money doesn't buy taste or love, having vacation savings to burn doesn't guarantee the royal treatment everywhere you go. There are two keys to not being an American jerk: "Being a little bit patient and not assuming that everybody here is here to clamor over your tourist dollars is important," says Anna Post, co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette 18th Edition. Back in 1922, Emily herself wrote a book chapter titled "Europe's Unflattering Opinion of Us." Unfortunately, very little has changed. "For years, we Americans have swarmed over the face of the world, taking it for granted that the earth's surface belongs to us because we can pay for it," she wrote. Try to buck those stereotypes. 

Are you that person who orders French fries from a McDonald's next to the Spanish Steps in Rome? . "The absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore the local food in favor of what's familiar to you: always seeking out the American-style burgers and pizza and Caesar salads on a menu or, worse, eating at fast-food or chain restaurants you know from home," says Laura Siciliano-Rosen, founder of Eat Your World, a website featuring local eats around the globe. Try sampling local or exotic foods. Enjoy that country's culture through their food. Worried about food poisoning? If you're concerned about cleanliness of the food, wash your hands a lot and be smart about the basic things—avoid tap water and ice and unpeeled fruits and vegetables—and you can eat plenty of local food," Siciliano-Rosen says

Gifts for Your Traveler, part 4

Need a gift for a traveler in your family? This is the last in a series of ideas I gathered from great travel sites. Be sure to read the earlier posts as well.

How Do You Zoo Fox Sleeping Bag
Make little ones feel at home on the road—or at a friend’s sleepover—with this How Do You Zoo sleeping bag. Made of soft cotton, the bags roll up with elastic straps for easy portability. The cuddly animal face can be removed for use as a pillow; penguin and bear bags are also available (; $99).

Portable Chargers
Staying powered-up is one of the biggest challenges for on-the-go gadget lovers. Pocket Prong builds a plug and charger right into its iPhone case to ensure you can plug and play anywhere. The Anker Astro Slim Portable Charger hooks up to smartphones, iPods, and GoPros alike to supply backup power as you travel (; $37.99–$69).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Travel Gadgets

What travel gadgets do you take with you when you travel? Do you take different ones depending on where you're going? Is there something you can't leave home without? Do they weigh you down when traveling?

Do you really need your laptop? I don't. My tablet computer works so much better and easier to take with me.

Do you take a large camera or do you use your phone? I take my large camera. It's important to me and I don't mind carrying it.

Don't forget the cables, charges, extra memory cards, and any other accessories you may need as well. If you're traveling internationally, make sure you have the correct adapter. No use having carried your device only to have no way to plug it in.

Pack your gadgets carefully and make them easy to retrieve when you want them. It would be a good idea to have a small bag for the cables, etc. so you know exactly where they are. You could make a gadget checklist as part of your packing list...provided you have a packing list.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Airplane Travel Tips

Things to think about before boarding your plane for a non stop ride to Paris...or any other long distance flight.

The cabin air will be dry. Since you don't want that dry air to compromise your immune system, stay hydrated. This means...if you normally drink four glasses of water a day, drink at least that amount on the plane. Carry a refillable bottle and fill with water once you're through security. On the plane, ask for water to drink instead of soda.

Long stretches of sitting in one spot can contribute to circulatory conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis. On long flights, get up and walk around. Do ankle and leg  exercises at your seat. Move those ankles around in circles while sitting. Remove any tight shoes or socks.

Long flights can be boring. Pick up a book of puzzles or games to stimulate your brain. If you have recently learned a new language, practice it at your seat.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Credit Card Tips

Recently I read this post about the best credit cards to use when traveling. I thought it was worth reposting.

CardHub today released its list of the Best Travel Credit Cards for 2013, selected from more than 1,000 different offers, in order to help consumers save as winter vacation planning gets into full swing in advance of the busy holiday season.
With nearly 60% of consumers expected to take a vacation this holiday season and the price of both airfare and lodging higher than last year, it’s clear that we could all use a few hundred extra dollars during this expensive time of the year. The right credit card offers just that, thanks to historically lucrative initial rewards bonus and 0% financing deals, but taking advantage of such perks this winter necessitates starting the application process as soon as possible.
You can find a quick summary of CardHub’s choices for 2013’s Best Winter Travel Credit Cards listed below. More information about each card offer as well as additional money-saving travel tips can be found here:

Best All-Around Travel Credit Cards
·  BarclayCard Arrival Card: $400 initial travel rewards bonus & effectively 2% cash back on everything when you redeem for travel-related expenses
·  Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: $400-500 initial bonus
Best Airline Credit Cards
·  Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: 50,000 bonus points = 2 free round-trip domestic flights
·  Lufthansa Credit Card: 50,000 bonus miles = 2 free round-trip domestic flights or 1 round-trip international flight, 1 free companion ticket after first purchase
·  PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Credit Card: $200 initial bonus & 5 points per $1 spent on airfare
Best Hotel Credit Cards
·  Club Carlson Premier Rewards: 85,000 bonus points = up to 18 free nights, 10 points per $1 at Carlson properties, 40,000 bonus points each account anniversary
·  HHonors Surpass Credit Card: 60,000 bonus points = up to 12 free nights, 12 points per $1 at Hilton properties
·  Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 50,000 bonus points = up to 7 free nights, 1 additional free night upon account approval, another free night on your account anniversary, 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott properties.
Best Roadtrip Credit Cards
·  PenFed Platinum Rewards Credit Card: 5 points per $1 on gas at any station, 3 points per $1 on groceries through Dec. 31
·  Blue Cash Preferred from American Express: $150 initial bonus, 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% on gas and department stores

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Travel Bucket List

Do you make a bucket list for places you want to visit? Many people do. They cross off sites as they see them.

What does your bucket list mean to you? Is it only a list of places you want to see? Or, do you want to do more than visit? Do you want to really experience those places?

Does it include something other than site seeing? Do you want to learn the language before you go? Do you want to spend two weeks hiking the back country?

Do you want to bring home souvenirs? Do you want to take photos for your scrapbook?

Does your list include places and sites in many different countries? Whatever you bucket list is like...enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oregon Pinot Noir

Tasting Pinot Noir wines at Sokol Blosser in Oregon...

Wine barrels decked out for the holidays...

If you love Oregon Pinot wines, the Willamette Valley would be a wonderful place for you to visit. If you go in late November, harvest will be finished a long time ago and only a few lonely bunches remain shriveled on the vines.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Airport Security

What do you do to make your time getting through airport security easier? Lately, I've seen some people that either don't travel very often or don't think ahead. They must not listen to the agents who repeat the same message over and over, either.

These are just a few tips that come to mind to avoid your delay and everyone behind you in the security line.

Do have your ID and boarding pass out before you get to the TSA person. Now is not the time to fumble in your purse because you can't remember which pocket you put it in.
Do remove your belt before you walk through the metal detector. It will beep if you don't.
Do remove everything from your pockets...everything.
Do remove your shoes...yes even flip flops.
Do remove your jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt.
Do remove any clunky jewelry...even if you think it will make it through.
Do remove the zipped bag of your 3 ounce bottles of liquids. Yes, 3 ounce bottles. The TSA doesn't care if your 12 ounce bottle only has 3 ounces left in it.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Some thinking ahead will get you ahead. And the people in line behind you will thank you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Travel Questions

When you travel, do you pack everything you might need? Or, do you pack fairly light?

Does it make a difference if you're checking your luggage or carrying it on as to how you pack?

Do the airlines you travel charge for checked luggage?

If you carry on your luggage, do you try to stuff as much as possible in that one bag?

Just curious...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Travel Tips for Reading Signs

When traveling in a different country, do you take time to learn a few words? How about learning what the signs look like and what they mean?

With all the GPS devices we rely on, it still doesn't hurt to know what the signs mean. This is especially true if you are driving in a foreign country.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Traveling With Credit Cards

Remember to contact your credit card company to let them know you will be making purchases and using that card outside your normal location. This is especially true if traveling outside the US.

Look for transaction fees. Many credit card companies charge foreign transaction fees that can be around 3%. You can check out to compare cards and companies.

Always have a back up card. Or, if traveling with a spouse or significant other...each take a different card with you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Traveling With Your Phone, part 2

Remember to bring your phone charger with you when you travel. If you are outside the US, check to see what type of plug and voltage are used in your destination. If you pack the right converters, you can charge your phone just like you do anywhere.

If you have a phone with data roaming features, you may want to turn that off before your flight. This will tell your phone not to connects to data networks outside of your home network. This also helps in keeping the data roaming charges less.

Same with automatic emails. You could be using data without knowing it. If you turn off the auto features, your charges should be less.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Traveling With Your Phone

When you travel, do you use your phone for more than making calls? Probably. Most of us use our phones for photos, texting, staying connected in a variety of ways, and keeping up with our friends.

You don't want huge roaming or other unwanted charges. This is especially true if you're traveling outside the US. What do you do if you want a phone but don't want those charges?

Call your service provider before you pack that bag. There may be options for international calling or data plans. They may offer rental options so you can have a local phone to use when traveling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Travel Tips

Just a few random travel tips from some readers... You probably already know these, but it's good to hear them again.

Visit off season to avoid crowds. Anytime you can avoid crowds of people, especially in popular destinations, is a good thing.

Pack light...

Use the local transportation...metro, subway, etc.

Book tickets for events, museums, attractions, etc. online before you go.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Travel Trends

Where do you stay when traveling? Do you get a hotel or an apartment or vacation home? One of the trends seems to be in what people are renting. Staying for one night in a hotel makes sense. But, what about a week or more?

When we travel we like to have space to move around and spread out. That means renting an apartment or someone's vacation home. Usually, it's more cost effective and comfortable. We also find it gives us a better experience when wandering around the city.

You can check out the place you're renting on line, check the neighborhoods on line, and even get a street view on line.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Recently I read that traveling keeps you younger. Do you agree? I believe it.

Traveling gives you a sense of what other cultures and places are like. Traveling lets you experience those different cultures and places...if you let them. Don't think everything has to be like it is'back home'. It shouldn't are in a different place than you were at home.

Enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vouvray Wines

Four different wines from Vouvray, France. All are Chenin Blanc wines...all different. In one I could definitely taste the limestone, mineral soil. Another one was fruitier but still crisp. Of course, the bubbly was a favorite of mine.

Wonderful tasting and food pairing. Thanks to Joel, TasteLive, and the people who sent the wonderful wines.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Travel Bucket List

Do you have a travel bucket list? If so...what places do you want to visit?

Do you add to it as new places intrigue you? I do...mine will never be completed as it grows every year.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Walking Tour Apps

Has anyone used any of these apps when exploring cities?

Field Trip is free for Android and iOS. It is a Google designed app that uses your phone's location service to pick up on what's cool around you.

Historypin is free for Android, iOS, Windows Phones. You can pick a landmark and see what it looked like a hundred years ago.

Stray Boots does cost per tour for Android and iOS. Families or groups may enjoy the combination of a city tour with a scavenger hunt.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Luggage ID

Trying to identify your bag if it gets lost can be tricky. Let's's black, has wheels, is about this size, and has two zippers. Hmm...wonder how many bags that describes?

Next time before you give your bag to the airline, take a couple of photos with your cell phone. Try to get as many distinguishing shots as you can. It may help the airline track it down.

Don't forget to have a tag with your name and a phone number on it. Most do not suggest adding your address unless it's a business address. And...don't lose your baggage claim ticket.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Carry On Snacks

I know you love those small bags of peanuts and pretzels the airlines give. But, do you want a little more of a snack than that? Here are some ideas you can take in your carry on bag or purse.

Dried fruit in a resealable bag doesn't take up much room. Add nuts or popcorn in another bag and eat them together. Don't pack them in the same bag as the dried fruit tends to make the nuts and popcorn soggy. Not so good!

You can also take fresh fruit that's easy to eat. Grapes, apples, or oranges work well. Cut up the apples and oranges before you get on the plane!

Make your own peanut butter or almond butter crackers and pack them in their own bag. You could do the same with small rice cakes.

Pack some string cheese and whole grain tortilla chips.

Don't be like the guy next to me on the last flight...his sandwich made the whole plane smell like grilled onions!

Happy flying.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Airport Security Line Tips

Part two of security line tips:

It's a good idea to check with your airline and find out the recommended arrival time. International times will be different than domestic. They may even vary from airline to airline.

Wear shoes you can slip on and off easily, if possible. Same goes for jackets and sweaters.

Remember to remove anything metal and place it in the bin to go through the scanner. I'm always amazed at people who forget they have on a belt or left keys in their pockets. Having said that, I wear a sterling silver bracelet most days. I've worn it for years...literally years. Through countless airport scanners. It never sets off the scanner. On the last trip home from San Diego...the scanner beeped. I had to remove it and I felt like I just committed a faux pas. I asked the TSA agent if this was a new scanner and she said yes...lesson learned. I know now to remove my bracelet!

The TSA says to leave gifts unwrapped. Apparently they figure we all use kryptonite wrapping paper that the x-ray machines can't see through. Not sure. Bottom line...leave the gifts unwrapped!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Airport Security Line Tips

It doesn't matter whether you are flying to Rome or to still need to go through airport security. Being prepared makes a difference to me. It may save you time and hassle as well.

Get organized in your carry on luggage. The TSA says if you pack your carry on suitcase in layers it speeds up the process for their viewing agents. They don't have to wonder what they are looking at in your luggage. I prefer to roll my clothes, but I still have my suitcase organized.

You know you're going to need your boarding pass and ID. Have it ready BEFORE you arrive at the agent checking these items. Nothing worse than being behind someone who is searching and searching for their ID that dropped into the abyss of their bag.

Have your 3 ounce containers in a clear zip top bag before you get to the security line. Know where you put it in your carry on bag. Standing in line is not the time to discover your bottles are 6 ounces or to wonder where you put them in the bag.

More later...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jessup Cellars

Fun and educational time last night at Jessup Cellars.

Tasted 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Pinot, 2009 Table for Four, and 2009 Juel. Listened to Sandor Katz talk about fermentation from his latest book, Art of Fermentation. This is all part of the TasteMaker Series. Sunset Magazine food editor Margo True and Sandor did an amazing job of bringing the subject of fermentation to foods we eat and drink.

Afterwards, we sampled food from the Cultured Pickle, Bar Tartine, and Shed. Art was provided by Cynthia Carey, Michael O'Brient, and Mikki McClure.

Wonderful way to spend an evening...