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