Friday, January 31, 2014

Are Writing or Painting on Your 2014 To Do List?

Recently I learned of a place in Italy where painting and creative writing courses are offered. Solo travelers to all looks like a place I want to visit. Check out what they have to say...

Find your inner artist or author in Tuscany
- New year, new skill…
Feed your creative side at The Watermill at Posara in Italy with a range of painting and creative writing courses held at a picturesque 17th century grain, chestnut and olive mill in rural north-west Tuscany.

In true Italian fashion, food plays an important role on each of the Watermill’s courses. Fuel your brain with superb local cuisine from Tuscany and the neighbouring regions of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, be it gorgonzola souffl├ęs, traditional Ligurian pesto using fresh basil from the garden or homemade tiramisu, all washed down with pre-dinner aperitivi and wines.

The Watermill at Posara’s 2014 programme includes 13 painting courses and three creative writing courses (crime fiction, TV scriptwriting and writing romance) Two sample courses include:

They say that everyone has a book in them, and author Sharon Kendrick knows exactly how to extract ideas from her students. With more than 90 Mills & Boon books to her name, she’s led six immensely popular courses at the Mill. During the week (3-10 May 2014), Sharon will guide you through the entire process, from the early days of plots, characters and dialogue, right through to selling your story and working with agents. Personable and enthusiastic, Sharon’s passion for romantic fiction is contagious and she knows exactly how to bring out the best in her students. Costs from £ (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since school as all levels are catered for on this course (7-14 June 2014), led by sympathetic American artist Becky Joy. You’ll be given the tools to create your own unique style through brushwork and colour. Your paintings will be filled with light when you discover how to make a painting glow. You’ll head out and about into the Tuscan hills, using the local surroundings as inspiration. There’s plenty of one-to-one tuition with Becky, and the week ends with an informal exhibition showcasing all of the students’ work. Costs from £ (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.

Self-taught English artist Trevor Lingard (20-27 September 2014) has won international acclaim for his watercolours, which are colourful and dynamic. Introducing figures into your work, he reckons, cold be the hallmark of success. Trevor's teaching is enthusiastic and informative and caters for artists of all levels. He aims to help students to build their confidence and encourages a loose approach to watercolours. On location, in the beautiful landscapes surrounding the mill, and in the studio, he'll demonstrate architectural, figurative, townscape and landscape compositions. Costs from £ (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.

*Prices include all tuition, seven nights’ accommodation, all meals (including local restaurants), drinks and aperitivi, transfers (to/from Pisa), local transport, materials and a mid-week excursion. Flights extra.

For further information on the above courses contact The Watermill at Posara on (UK number)

I'm ready to about you?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Destination Suggestions

Early in 2014 every website and travel guru has their best destination list for the year. I've taken a look at many of their suggestions and wanted to share some places and reasons to go there.

This is a list I found that works for foodies...

Marrakesh, Morocco for its Tagines. These classics are simmered in the conical clay cookware and often include food such as chicken with preserved lemons and olives or lamb with prunes.

Hong Kong, China apparently is home to the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.

Turin, Italy has so many reasons to visit if you are into food. It's home to Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food organization's biennial extravaganza of cuisine. Of course, there's also abicerin, gianduja, Barolo wines, and truffles.

Lyon, France is known for its more than 20 Michelin starred restaurants in the city but also for its small, family run eating places. It's a foodie paradise.

New Orleans, Louisiana offers food in the traditional Louisiana-French style to Cajun dishes to the mix of both. And, of course...there are those beignets.

More destinations will follow later...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Should You Purchase Travel Insurance?

According to a study I read, over 50% of Americans don't know what travel insurance covers. Do you know? Do you purchase travel insurance?

Here are some facts from a report from, a travel news and advice website.

Expensive trips to international destinations with limited access to medical care...good time to have travel insurance.

Travel insurance does not protect against all types of trip cancellations.

Refundable airline tickets are probably better than travel insurance if you are worried about changing your mind. Travel insurance doesn't usually reimburse for a simple change of plans.

Ask your credit card companies about protection they offer when you use their cards for traveling.

If you are getting travel insurance for medical reasons, ask detailed questions about the coverage offered. Also, ask about providers and access to them.

Concerned about stolen luggage? Make sure that is covered by the policy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Interesting Flight Facts

Did you know...

In the summer of 2013 the average economy class flight from the US to Europe cost $1,284.

Those flights were booked 31 weeks in advance. That's almost eight months...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Airline Tickets Tips

You're planning your next trip and wonder how far in advance to purchase your airline tickets. What's the optimal window? How far is too far? Yet, you really want tickets on a particular day.

What do you do?

After looking at multiple sites and multiple suggestions by trusted travel gurus, I have found answers all over the map. I've come to think there are no perfect suggestions that will work each and every time. Days of the week vary for purchasing. How far in advance to purchase varies according to different sites. Different airlines matter. When you are traveling matters.

A recent report form CheapAir tells us airfares are best at seven weeks prior to departure. Another report by Airlines Reporting Corporation says six weeks.

For domestic airfare, you can book too early, according to FareCompare. Three months is about right as that's when domestic airlines start managing their flights and releasing the more affordable seats. It also helps if you are flexible when it comes to the dates.

If you're traveling internationally, start your research early...try eight to nine months out. A good idea is to create a search on a site that will notify you when the prices change.

Of course, this might all change if you're traveling a busy time of year. Think Christmas or summer vacations versus the middle of October. It really does matter.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Palm Springs in Winter

Palm Springs in winter is surprisingly affordable. Several hotels cater to those wanting to escape some harsh winter temps. Budget Travel listed a few that offer great prices this time of year.

Check out Los Arboles, Alcazar, The Saguaro, and Del Marcos. Depending upon what you are looking for, one of these hotels might fit your plans.

Take advantage of the plentiful hiking opportunities. Moorten Botanical Gardens, plentiful mountain hikes, the Living Desert wildlife area, and a desert oasis provide a variety of things to do.

For a view of the entire valley and beyond, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount Jacinto. Take a jacket on this tram even though you'll be hot at the start. At the top, it's cold and quite possibly lots of snow.

If you're interested in 20th century architecture, Palm Springs is your place to check it out. Maps show where you can get a view of different types from desert modern to pop culture to everything in between.

No visit to Palm Springs would be complete without checking out Elvis's home. This mid 1960s home is fun to see both from the outside and a guided tour.

Many other stars' homes, both past and current ones, are marked on several maps. Take time to do a walking tour.

Enjoy your winter escape to Palm Springs...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paper Clips

Do you pack paper clips and binder clips in your travel bags? They don't take up much room, weigh practically nothing, and have so many uses.

Use one when your skirt, pants, or shirt loses a button. Clip a shawl or pashmina at your waist for a quick, makeshift skirt.

Clip your documents together in your purse or bag. Use one clip for air documents, one for hotels, one for rental cars, and more.

Clip your cords together in your bag so they don't wander around.

If using a paper map, clip it open to the spot you need. Clip the pages of your guidebook to make them easy to find.

Put a binder clip over the end of a regular, non-electric razor to prevent it from cutting anything in your luggage.

Clip your purse to the table or to your chair.

There are so many more. What do you use them for when you travel?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Before You Leave Home

Do you have a check list of things to do before you leave home for a long vacation? Here are some things you might want to add, if you don't already have them on it.

Check the expiration dates on your passport and driver's license.

Do you know what your medical coverage is? This is especially helpful if traveling to a foreign country.

Have you called your credit card companies and your bank?

Is someone picking up your mail and paper or do you need to stop the delivery?

Clean out your refrigerator.

Check your thermostat.

Unplug any unnecessary devices.

Check the weather at your destination.

Make sure all windows and doors are locked and your alarm is set.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Traveling With Pets

Looking for pet friendly hotels when you travel? Check out these…

Marriott: Marriott offers a variety of pet-friendly options across the U.S. and the world. Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites are two brands that specifically cater to guests with pets, but many other brands within the Marriott family such as Fairfield Inn and Ritz Carlton also allow pets depending on location. Select luxury hotels such as Ritz Carlton even offer loaner Burberry raincoats and pet massage therapists!

Kimpton Hotels: Kimpton is the gold standard when it comes to treating pets like superstar guests on vacation. Twelve of these boutique hotels even have a Director of Pet Relations on site who can give you tips on pet-friendly locales. These hotels offer fresh water and snacks for your feline in the lobby, comfy pet beds, and food & water bowls. Pets are welcomed at no extra charge and with no deposit required.

Loews:"Loews loves pets" is the motto at these hotels, and you can expect your pet will be treated like a VIP…very important pet in their words. Want gourmet room service for your pet with meals prepared by an award-winning Master Chef? Loews even provides extra touches like catnip and scratching posts on request. The basics are also covered: hotels provide specialized bedding, leashes, collars, litter boxes (and litter), pooper scoopers, and more.

W Hotels: These super-chic luxury hotels greet cats in style. A "pet welcome kit," special treats, and toys are all part of the P.A.W. philosophy: "Pets Are Welcome." However, you will pay a little extra for the star treatment: $25 extra/day plus a non-refundable $100 cleaning fee.

Hotel Indigo:  This is a great option for budget-conscious travelers, as Hotel Indigo welcomes pets with open arms. Some properties charge no additional fee to book a room and a number of locations even offer permanent pet residencies.

Hilton: Many Hilton hotels are pet havens thanks to the company's "Hilton: Pet Friendly" program. Select hotels within the DoubleTree, Homewood Suites and Home2 brands accommodate your pet’s needs with a Creature Comfort welcome kit, grooming services, and special menus. Keep in mind that guests are charged $75 extra per pet. 

As always, check with the individual hotel when you book your room. Ask about services, fees, and extra charges. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Away From Home

Do you have someone pick up your mail or newspaper when you leave for several days? Do you ask your neighbor to walk by and look at the house when you are gone?

You could ask your neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you are away. Ask a friend or neighbor to water your plants.

Anything else you do to make it look like someone is still at home?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Passports Copies

Make a copy of your passport, birth certificate, driver's license, credit cards (both sides), and any other important documents before you travel. Give those copies to a relative or close friend before you leave. In case these documents are stolen or lost, you will have copies to use to get the originals replaced.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Space Saving Bags

Have you ever used those space saving bags inside your luggage when you travel? They shrink the clothes in them by removing the air. If you are taking bulky sweaters, jackets, or any items that take up extra room...these work great.

You can buy the travel version of these that don't need a vacuum to operate. Or, you can try it on your own with large zip topped bags. Fill the bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. You will be amazed at how much space you can save.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Stuff Your Suitcase Some More

What happens when your suitcase is stuffed full and there are still a few leftover items that need to go in it?

Try zipping it closed, standing it up, and then re-opening it. You may find there are a few spaces without anything in them...corners, spaces between shoes, etc. It just may be enough space to fit in those few items still left on your bed.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stuff Your Suitcase

 You've probably read that if you roll your clothes before placing them in your suitcase, you will be able to fit more. Plus, clothes don't wrinkle as much.

Those are true for me. There are some other tricks that work for me as well.

Layer thin sheets of tissue paper on your clothes before you roll them. For some reason my clothes wrinkle even less than just being rolled.

Try stuffing your shoes with smaller items. Socks, underwear, belts, and t-shirts are some items that fit nicely in shoes. If you lay your shoes on their sides, you can also maximize space.