Friday, February 28, 2014

California Trip

California's Pacific Coast Highway has been called one of the best US road trips by several magazines. It's easy to see why.

From sunshine to fog, this drive never disappoints as it jogs along cliff side beaches. Take time to enjoy towering redwoods, serene farms with happy grazing cattle, walks on the beach, and of course...the sunsets.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Duct Tape and Dental Floss

Ever travel with duct tape and dental floss? Why not? The uses are endless.

You don't need to take the whole roll of duct tape. Wrap some around a pencil , a straw, or the little package of dental floss.

You can fix just about anything for a short amount of time with these two, from buttons and hems to broken zippers.

I'll give some ideas later...what are some things you have used them for when traveling?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Luggage Tips

If you've ever lost your luggage when traveling...even for just a couple of know what it's like to try to describe it to the lost and found people.

It's black, the zipper goes all the way around, there's red tape on the handles, it's about this big, it has my name on an airport tag...


Next time, take a photo of you standing next to your luggage. It still is black with red tape on the handles...but at least they will know it's your luggage. Think about using a sturdier name tag instead of the paper ones provided at the check in counter. It may help.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


You probably know you need to allow four to six weeks to get a new or replacement passport. And, you probably know that in several countries you need six month's worth of validity remaining on it in order to enter.

Did you know you can expedite the process if necessary? It will cost you about an extra $60...

Did you also know that some countries like South Africa require at least one fully blank visa page in your passport? Without it, you may be refused entry. If you travel a lot, it would be a good idea to check your pages.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Train Travel

If you are looking for an economical way to travel around Europe, check out the Eurail pass or the European country rail pass.

You can view both on their websites. If you are using a travel agent, be sure to ask questions about your destinations and stops. If you want to purchase on your own, it's definitely easy to do. Think about these things before you make your purchase.

Plan out the cities and days you will need the passes. Are you traveling in only one country or through several? It will make a difference.

Check the beginning and ending times and days of the pass. Friday nights fill up quickly.

Remember you need to validate your rail pass at a railway ticket office before you use it the first time. There may be a line to do so.

If you want an assigned seat, be sure to purchase the correct pass.

You will need to make advance reservations for sleepers.

Don't leave your luggage unguarded...use a lock or some other form of safety precaution.

Your rail pass is not replaceable...keep track of it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Travel Mistakes

Recently I read several posts about mistakes some travelers make. Any of these resonate with you?

When you booked your airline ticket, you didn't leave a comfortable amount of time between your connecting flights. Check the airport where you will be connecting. You can find airport maps online. Do you know how far you'll have to walk? Are you carrying your luggage?

When you rented a house for your vacation, you didn't really read the contract. Did you know the neighborhood had a curfew? Did you speak to the owner of the house to find out anything special that wasn't listed in the contract? Did you look at the check out time or the fact that you had to do the laundry before you left?

When you booked your flight into an out-of-the-way airport because it was cheaper, did you realize it would take you over two hours to get to your hotel? Sometimes less popular airports are great...sometimes not. Check out the logistics.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Travel to Eat

Do you find local places to eat when traveling? Who do you ask? Do you scope out places ahead of arriving at your destination?

What's your favorite tip for finding interesting restaurants or cafes?

You can read the guidebooks and ask fellow travelers...but take some time to look around when you travel. Who is eating at the sidewalk cafes? Are they locals or mainly tourists?

Have you ever taken a walking food tour of any city? Recently we took one in San Francisco's Little Italy. Even though we've been there many, many times...we still learned some real local insider tips of some restaurants we've walked right past.

It's worth talking to the locals. You never know what you might learn.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remedies for Ailments When Traveling

These home remedies may assist you when traveling.

Ginger: It has been known to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as aid in digestion. It may even work for motion sickness.

Chamomile: This can be used to sooth a stomach ache.

Warm Salt Water: It sounds odd, but drinking a glass can aid in soothing a sore throat.

Baking Soda: Ever read the labels on antacids? They contain bicarbonate of soda...baking soda. Mix a teaspoon in some warm water to get rid of indigestion or heartburn.

Lemons: Squeezing a lemon in some water may also soothe an upset stomach.

You certainly won't need all of these...but it may be a good idea to pack some ginger tablets, a packet of salt, or some baking soda in your travel bag.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Renting a Villa

Renting a villa can be the best option for your travels. Here are some things to think about before you rent.

Check out the area where you will be spending most of your time. This means knowing the towns, attractions, and areas you want to visit. Once you have that decided you can start looking for rentals. There are many sites available that will let you check out the interior, the exterior, the surrounding areas, nearby attractions, and even let you talk to the owners.

Check out Google Earth for street view. It may make a difference between what is said and what is real.

What size of a place do you need? What services do you need?

Read the reviews. Read the good ones and the bad ones. Don't just concentrate on one or the other.

Talk to the owner, if possible. Sometimes that will be the deciding factor for me.

Read the contract...make sure they send you one! Make sure it includes your rental dates, what is covered, any amenities not included, cancellation policy, tipping, and whether there will be services that require a fee. If the site says it sleeps 4 to 6, what does that mean? How many bedrooms? What kind of beds? Does it say beach front, beach view, or close to the beach? What does that mean. Google Earth is a great help on this one. Close to the beach may mean six or even ten blocks away. What does gourmet kitchen really mean?

Pay with a secure method.

Consider buying travel insurance.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Long Flights...What to Do?

Here are a few things to remember before you board for a long flight...

Make sure all of your electronic devices are fully charged. You may be fortunate enough to be on a plane with power outlets under the seat. But, it's a good idea to check first. Having everything charged means you can use your tablet or computer during the flight and your phone is ready to go once you land.

Drink water...lots of it. Airplane air is dry.

Use lip balm and eye drops if you need them...dry air.

If you would like to sleep more comfortably, take an inflatable neck pillow and an eye mask to help.

If you remove your shoes, take a pair of slippers or socks to protect your feet.

Dress in layers.

Take a shawl, pashmina, or large scarf to use as a blanket, pillow, or extra layer.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Car Rental...Part Two

Have you ever rented a car and then asked for an upgrade when you get to the rental car counter? You may get a free upgrade if cars are available. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Do you have a membership in AAA, AARP, a frequent flyer plan, or some other reward program? If so, check out their website to see if renting a car through them is a better and cheaper option. Even if you don't book through them, ask about discounts at the counter for members of your program.

Check the car for dents, scuff marks, and anything else that could be looked at as damage to the vehicle. Make sure everything works. Take photos of anything that looks like it could be potential damage. Renting in France, damages exist on many cars. It's just a way of life. It doesn't hurt to protect yourself with photos.

When you return your rental car, wait until the agent checks it over and hands you a final bill.

Many car rental agreements in the US don't let you drive to Mexico and sometimes not even to Canada. Your car insurance may not cover international rentals, either. Your credit card company may offer some protection but maybe not enough. It would be a good idea to purchase insurance specially for either Mexico or Canada from the rental place.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Car Rental Tips

What do you do when you rent a car when traveling? Do you pay for gas ahead of time? Can you take the car across borders? What about insurance? Think about these tips...

Perhaps you have a pre-dawn flight. If so, prepaying for gas can be a great plan if you think time will be a concern when you return the car. Otherwise, you will probably end up paying much more than necessary for that fuel. We have always found that filling up the tank ourselves is a much better option.

Having said that, always check for the nearest gas station when you leave the car rental place. It's easier to do it then instead of when you're in a hurry to get to the airport.

Before you leave home, check with your insurance company to see what coverage you have on rental cars. Take a copy of your insurance card with you and make sure it has your agent's phone number on it.

Check with your credit card company to see if they will cover additional items your car insurance does not. Some companies have excellent coverage.

Pay attention to the newer fee charged by car rental companies. It's called a "loss of use" charge. It means the rental company can charge for the loss of that vehicle in case of an accident. Your insurance company may not cover this but many credit card companies do when you pay for your rental with that card.

More tips next time. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Italy Beckons...Again

This is the second part of a place I recently learned about. Painting, writing, and eating in Italy...does it get any better than this?

Check out their site for more information.

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)

Sounds wonderful to me...