Oops, We Have a Little Emergency

By Kathy Klofft

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Today I made a detour a local urgent care clinic in Florida. It wasn't on my itinerary of bike riding, kayaking, and napping on the beach!  Luckily for me, a small injury or bug bite that became infected was easily and quickly treated with antibiotics, but injuries and emergencies on the road can be scary. About a year ago, I wrote a post about how to avoid medical emergencies and how to prepare for them when they occur. I hope if you have a travel medical emergency, it is small and easily solved, and I hope our tips help you solve it and get back to the fun stuff! 

See our post here; 

 http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/5/30/expecting-the-best-preparing-for-the-worst

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

Europe- don't make my travel mistakes!

I travel a fair bit, and I even write about it on a travel blog! So you'd think I'd be immune to "travel mistakes" - but on my recent trip to Great Britan and Paris, I made a few! I'm not too proud to share them with you, so that if you are planning a trip, you don't make the same mistakes! 

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

 1- Don't forget to adapt to the culture and customs of the place!

When I travel, I tend to bustle around trying to fit a lot into a day.  London suited me; it moves fast and since we started our trip there that's what we did! But every place in Europe has a different culture from the next place, and when traveling in Europe it's easy to travel an hour or two and be in a whole new country. I forgot how important it is to remember it can also be a whole new culture! After London, we went to Paris on the Eurostar train and we were in Paris in less than 2 hours!  And I was still hustling down the Rue de Rivoli like I had a train to catch. Except I didn't, and the French strooooooll along. I had to slooooooow down! Luckily, for me it was made easier by a few rainy days, because even the French pick up the pace in the rain! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

 2- Don't go it alone at the museum

Travel requires an investment - of time, of money. I like to save both, but don't make the mistake I made of spending money to go somewhere and then not getting the most out of the experience. My daughter is a design major, so we thought we could explore the Musee des Arts Decoratifs on our own. And while she was able to point out the Cameron Macintosh chairs and distinguish between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, neither of us could sort out the layout of this museum! We walked for miles trying to find exhibits! The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is in the same giant palace as the Louvre, but it's set up vertically with a small set of galleries on each of 9 floors. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get from one floor to next. One set of stairs only goes to some floors, another lift to the top floors can only be accessed from the 4 th floor. The museum is well staffed, and we asked the docents, but after the fourth explanation in French, I didn't know my troisième from my deuxième etage!

We decided to take 2 Context Tours in Paris, https://www.contexttravel.com/city/paris?page=1 which were recommended by Wendy Perrin on her WOW list http://www.wendyperrin.com/wow-list/ We picked the Louvre Crash Course and The Pompidou Center. Context provides local guides for walks in many European cities, and they are usually educated people with expertise in the area you are visiting. Our tours were led by artists and art teachers. We had skipped booking a guide for the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and it took us twice as long to navigate the labyrinth of galleries as it should have and we only understood half of what we saw, with me reading the descriptions in my high school French and my daughter trying to recall her art history class. In contrast our Context guides got us to the front of the line, had a planned route through the museums that hit the highlights and still left time for us to explore things not on the hit parade. The Context guides also provided, well, context (with a small c) to understand how the works were seeing fit into the culture and history of the place. We couldn't afford to hire one for every museum we visited, but our experience show is well worth hiring a good guide for places that require a high level of expertise to navigate and interpret! 

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

 3- Don't rely on tech to bail you out

We brought plenty of tech on this trip, and generally I rely on technology as a travel aid.  I had paid for an international plan with my cell carrier; I could send texts, but inexplicably only received texts once I arrived at a rest area one day on a motorway in England! I never had cellular data in England despite paying for it.  My daughters phone charging cord was fried by the power outlets. At one point nearly every piece of tech we brought was broken, uncharged, or just plain ineffective!  My niece, who we met whee she was studying in Oxford, got a sim card in the country for her phone. That worked better for her than my hoping my carrier will play nicely with the carriers abroad. I'd get the SIM card for a long stay in Europe next time.

I did download 2 good apps that allowed me to route the public transit off line. (YR Creative Offline London Tube and Paris Metro Maps) These were invaluable for finding our way around the Tube and Metro, when we couldn't count on google maps. I also carried a guide book with street view maps which proved very helpful when standing on a corner wondering which way to go! (DK Eyewitness-  Paris, London) 

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

4- Don't get pick pocketed IRL or phished or scammed on line on wifi

In big cities anywhere, there will always be an element looking to take advantage of distracted travelers by trying to pick their pockets, or worse! We were lucky, with our cross body bags from PacSafe, we didn't encounter any trouble in real life (IRL) and our bags had RFID blocking pockets to prevent scammers from scanning our electronic info from passports or credit cards remotely. But we also had to guard against getting phished or hacked on wifi and sometimes using wifi in public places can be chancy! Don't enter personal passwords or important info over public wifi, where anyone can be skimming for that data. While we were away my daughter fell for a phishing scam (this was a coincidence and not related to our travel) where she clicked on a link to reset a college account password that was from a hacker, not her university! Luckily, the University shut her account down before any major damage was done! Try to use wifi networks that are password protected, where they change passwords frequently. And don't fall for phishing scams anywhere, never change a password with a "link" sent to you, always log in at the website first to make a change or enter data. My daughter knows this now! 

Also, remind people back home not to fall for travel scams. A popular one is to send emails or social media messages to loved ones in your name, asking for money because of an emergency abroad. While sitting in the airport in London, I had a FB message from a young cousin with a general statement saying she "needed my help". That sounded "phishy", and we hadn't been in touch in months, so I responded asking if her account might have been hacked. She responded with request for help with some general information she needed (not personal info) and used very specific nicknames for her grandparents, so I knew it was really her. Before helping loved ones when you receive a request for money or information, be sure that you are really hearing from the person you think you are. Check multiple sources of contact; text, email, call them in person. If they just instagrammed their breakfast, they probably aren't locked in a Tunisian jail! And remind your loved ones you'll use specifics if you ever needed to reach out to them for help, so they don't fall for a scam at home either! 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

 5- Don't take the wrong (overpacked) bag

In a classic case of Maternal "I Told You So..." I had warned my daughter not to take a back pack she's had since middle school on our European trip. With no padded lap top section, a zipper that splits open at the worst possible times, it was too small and overstuffed.  Mother knew best; this was not the bag to take! I offered any of a dozen promotional back packs I have sitting in my closet, but these were rejected. So what could go wrong?! First, the bag fell from a hook in the loo at Kings Cross and the display on the lap top was ruined. Second, we made it almost all the way home, when the zipper split (in the bathroom again, this time in our home airport!) and she didn't realize a bag of chargers and a small sentimental gift from her boyfriend had fallen out until she arrived home. I did the good mother thing - empathized, even though you know I wanted to say it!

There are so many great travel bags (I'll be reviewing my pacsafe sling bag soon, which traveled beautifully on this trip!) and you can spend a fortune. But you don't have to! You just have to make sure the bag easily accommodates your things with extra room for souvenirs,  is secure and meets the guidelines for size and weight by your carriers, The most important part is to know you can access important things like your passport, or lap top, in and out of the bag without losing the contents and while keeping them be secure in crowds.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

 6- Don't fail to get your vat back

There I was at the Customs desk at Gatwick trying to get my paper work stamped to get back my VAT (value added taxes added to goods for residents that is generally refundable to tourists at the end of their stay) I was arguing with the agent about what he would do if he bought a sapphire ring. (I wanted to say it might not look so good on his fingers, but I rightly decided snark wouldn't be the best tactic at that moment!) I spotted a ring in exactly the style I had been looking for for years in a shop in Cambridge. It was also my daughters birthstone and would be the perfect souvenir to remember this special mother daughter trip to Paris. I bought the ring, which in itself is shocking because I rarely buy things, I usually just go places! I got all the official paperwork from the shop to get the taxes back and took them to the airport. Because the ring was for myself and we were very overpacked going home, (see # 5 above) I left the "presentation box" with my relatives in Britain and just tucked the new ring in my jewelry pouch.

Well, big mistake. Seems there are people willing to scam, (see # 4 above) and one of those scams is to bring paperwork from someone who is staying in the country with the goods and tries to pass off an old ring and reclaim the VAT money. I would never be clever enough to think of that or brave enough to do anything so stupid!  But the agent couldn't know that about me, and he argued "if I bought a nice ring like that I'd save the box it came in". Well, I resisted the urge to yell, "well, I'm not you and I don't collect superfluous packaging" because I knew that would get me nowhere fast! I prevailed on him that shop keepers in his country sold these things making the promise of VAT returns and it would be disappointing not to get it back. I explained how we were overpacked, the ring was for myself, and as he inspected the new ring for age wear,  I explained I could call my sister in law and have her dig the box out of her bin, pick off the coffee grounds and banana peels and send a photo to my iPhone! Luckily, with enough obsequiousness and apologies on my part, the stamp hovered above the paperwork, then swiftly came down...punch, punch. Satisfied I wasn't a tax scamming tourist, he approved my paperwork, I queued at the money exchange booth to get my VAT back, (less their fee!) Lesson learned, have the paperwork, but also keep the article new and with all of it's packaging before heading to Customs!

 

Overall, we had an amazing trip, just two gals exploring in London and Paris and visiting relatives in England. We had a few stumbles and made a few mistakes, but mostly we learned to be patient and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy time with eachother! And that's what travel is all about! Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting my trip reports for Paris France,  London, St Ives, Ely, Cambridge and Oxford in England, with lots of photos...this time Kathy's own attempts to follow Jeff's photography instructions about how to get great travel shots. I hope you will follow along and enjoy the reports and photos from our special mother/daughter trip! 

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!  

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!  

Travel Isn't Scary!

But it can look that way sometimes!!  Just in time for Halloween, I thought I'd post a few "scary" travel photos. Most times the scariest part of our trip is the flight...but sometimes we do encounter some scary stuff!  Luckily it's almost always scarier looking than it really is!  Enjoy our  gallery of "creepy"  (and sometimes crawly!) photos!

Happy Halloween!

Our daughter is amateur actress and here she really sells her terror at this enormous grasshopper...made of grass by our guides in Costa Rica! 

Our daughter is amateur actress and here she really sells her terror at this enormous grasshopper...made of grass by our guides in Costa Rica! 

(Find our Costa Rica Trip Report here)

One of the icons of scary on Halloween is the bat. This tiny bat in Costa Rica and his brethren were sleeping the day away on the wall of our eco lodge.  Lots of people find bats terrifying, but I think he's pretty cute, and most of them eat the bugs that are really scary!! 

One of the icons of scary on Halloween is the bat. This tiny bat in Costa Rica and his brethren were sleeping the day away on the wall of our eco lodge.  Lots of people find bats terrifying, but I think he's pretty cute, and most of them eat the bugs that are really scary!! 

Did someone say SCARY BUGS?! A spider in Costa Rica 

Did someone say SCARY BUGS?! A spider in Costa Rica 

Sharks!  This one was safely in a tank at the New England Aquarium in Boston. 

Sharks!  This one was safely in a tank at the New England Aquarium in Boston. 

As was this huge great white in the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Australia 

As was this huge great white in the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Australia 

(Find our Sydney Australia trip report here)

However there was no glass between us and these black finned sharks in Bora Bora...just a bit more scary! But we were advised by our local guide that they only eat dead things, so we should just keep swimming! 

However there was no glass between us and these black finned sharks in Bora Bora...just a bit more scary! But we were advised by our local guide that they only eat dead things, so we should just keep swimming! 

(see our Paul Gauguin Ship tour here)

We didn't even need to go far to see this scary site...a coyote in our back yard! They sound scary when they howl at night, but when we howl back, they run off every time!

We didn't even need to go far to see this scary site...a coyote in our back yard! They sound scary when they howl at night, but when we howl back, they run off every time!

Some people find snakes scary, but I know they are like most wild animals, shy and they try to avoid people. This one was at the Cypress Knee Swamp in Southwest FL 

Some people find snakes scary, but I know they are like most wild animals, shy and they try to avoid people. This one was at the Cypress Knee Swamp in Southwest FL 

(see our post about "real Florida" here)

Those Teeth! A leopard at Duma Tau camp in Botswana. The rule on safari is to stay in the truck, and these predators will ignore human visitors, while hunting.

Those Teeth! A leopard at Duma Tau camp in Botswana. The rule on safari is to stay in the truck, and these predators will ignore human visitors, while hunting.

More teeth! A lion at Duma Tau camp in Botswana

More teeth! A lion at Duma Tau camp in Botswana

Even more teeth!! a 15 foot croc in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica

Even more teeth!! a 15 foot croc in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica

 (find our Costa Rica Trip Report here)

Happy Halloween...hope your travels are safe and just scary enough to be interesting!

Disney Bans Selfie Sticks!? Yes, and Thank You!

See, even our family takes selfies! This time at Los Nardos restaurant in Havana...but selfie sticks?  No way! 

See, even our family takes selfies! This time at Los Nardos restaurant in Havana...but selfie sticks?  No way! 

I'm not above taking a fun travel selfie, but I'm happy to see this fad being rejected across the travel landscape. Why? Not because I'm some Luddite who believes in the "good old days", when travel meant a guide book and a Brownie camera, because I fully embrace many new technologies to make travel easier, more fun and to connect with others. Without my cell phone I would not have connected with a great local guide in Budapest, found my way on foot around Burlington VT, or known to get a great deal on my last cruise. It's become an invaluable tool. And yes, it's even a camera...but I draw the line at the selfie stick because if fufills all 3 of Ms Bissonette- Clark's 3 Ds, which is not a good thing! (Footnote: Ms. B-C, was my children's grade school principal and she always taught the children not to commit the 3 Ds)

 

Dangerous 

Selfie sticks are long and usually made of metal. In some countries they are the only weapon the policemen carry! Even if you never encounter a selfie stick wielding mad man who is better armed than the local police during your travels, you are very likely to get bonked in the head with one at Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

 Destructive

This is generally the stated reason by most institutions for banning the selfie stick. Having visitors wave a large pole around a world class museum filled with priceless treasures is a recipe for disaster. It's only going to take a couple of insurance claims on the part of the museums before the risk loss management specialist says, "Nu uh, you can't afford insurance if patrons use those things". (Of course they won't say it THAT way, they will say it in a tersely worded memo instead, and charge by the hour) 

 Disrespectful

Selfies at a funeral or with the WWII Veterans Memorial? We've all seen the pictures, we've all feigned the outrage (because I know I've been so good at feigning outrage and then being guilty of being outrageous myself) This is a slippery slope, and I know culture changes, and the next generation does things their way. But it's disrespectful to any culture to not do your homework. Understand what happened at a place, or what a monument exists to commemorate and what it means to the people there. Lots of people head off to Vlad the Impalers castle in Romania like they are taking a ride through the Haunted Mansion. But he was a real guy, a real bad guy, who killed real people, in a real bad way, even if it was a real long time ago. It's still important to respect that fact and the people who live in that place and may still find it difficult to live with that history.

Lastly, even if you are certain you would never commit the 3 Ds, (Mrs B-C would be proud) I'd still suggest this reason for not using a selfie stick. Maybe this story will give you the motivation and courage needed to hand your camera to a stranger when you are standing in front of a monument instead. My husband was taking pictures in Turkey on the Asian side when a young woman in a head scarf traveling all alone pantomimed askimg him if he would take her picture. She probably recongnized that since his camera was more expensive than hers, he would be unlikely to run off with it! He obliged and used her camera to take a photo. Jeff, who always appreciates an opportunity to get a street portrait, pantomimed back asking if he could take her photo with HIS camera, she agreed and posed, then she pantomimed that she would like to take a photo of him with HER camera. Not a word was exchanged, but later my husband told me this was one of the most interesting and special encounters he's ever had taking street portraits, and felt like he'd made a friend. So leave the selfie stick at home, save the art work and your fellow travelers from concussions and every time you hand your camera over to a stranger to "take our picture?" you have an encounter, a real connection with a real person, and you have the opportunity to make a friend. And isn't that why we travel? 

Jeff was shooting Istanbul at sunset when a stranger asked him to take her photo..

Jeff was shooting Istanbul at sunset when a stranger asked him to take her photo..

...and became a friend! 

...and became a friend! 

What In The Air is Going Here? Surviving the Airlines Part 2

Updated June 2018

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What in the air is going on here?! Surviving an airline flight in coach during the modern age.  

Remember flying during the "Madmen" age? Well, of course not! Most of us are too young to remember it for real, so just think about when you last binged watched "Madmen". Now, forget all about that!  Flying has become a cattle call onto filthy, cramped airplanes run by airlines with very little concern about much below the bottom line.  And trust me, if you haven't flown recently, passengers are below the bottom line!  As actual human beings, you do have some rights as a flyer, those that have been afforded of you by the people who sit at the table in Washington and make our airline consumer laws: that would be the airlines' lobbyists. But it is important to know your rights and I recently read an article in the Boston Globe Business section which provided an excellent summary of airline passenger rights.  It's linked here, Airline Beefs Lead to Circles of Frustration and don't worry, it's not long; there are not that many rights! 

My own bill of rights (if I had enough money for my own lobbyist) would look something like this..

  1. Tell us what the heck is going on, exactly, and often.
  2. If you are going to nickle and dime us with fees, disclose that, exactly, and often.
  3. Give human beings seats that accommodate the size of real human beings, not seats that accommodate size of real chihuahuas.
  4. Clean the planes with actual cleansing products, exactly and often.  And for flights longer than 4 hours that means someone needs to attend to the lavatories and not be pretending to straighten the magazines or manning the forward door when the lav floor is covered with excrement (yup, don't even look at the floor on an overnight flight and for heaven's sake wear shoes!!) and the toilet paper ran out over Hawaii.  It's an icky job, so draw straws or take turns, but someone must do it!  Ideally, I'd love to see those lavs that completely hose themselves down with hot water after each user like they have on the streets in Paris.

I could go on, but really, that's it...just treat humans with basic human decency, I'll start with that and move onto boarding methods, bag fees and lack of snacks another day, when I hire my lobbyist.  You might have your own priorities, but you'll have to hire your own lobbyist! If you'd like to read a humorous tale of one of our recent flights, you can find it here.

Before I even get on the plane, I have several things I do to purchase the right flight and get ready for a flight.  I blogged about those recently in part 1 Successfully Hunting Down Fights which details the things I like to do before booking a flight and part 1 1/2 : You Have To Take Steps To Flywhich describes packing and preparing to leave for the airport.   

Here are the things I do to survive a coach airline flight in the modern age

1. Score a decent seat

One of the things to do before arriving to the airport is choosing the right seat online when you book the flight.  This can dramatically improve your experience in the air!  When booking flights, I will often check what kind of plane (the pros call this "equipment")  is being used for that flight.  It's usually listed on the airlines website. I use Seat Guru, to look at the flight I will be flying. This website lists all the advantages and disadvantages of the seats on that plane.  It will direct you to the best area of the plane and any seats that have an issue, such as not reclining, or being near the lavs (Remember the lavs?...and my rant about cleanliness? Now  picture yourself outside of it for 12 hours with a line of passengers looming over your seat during the entire flight! You DO NOT want these seats!)

Sometimes, its worth paying a little extra for comfort.  One of the advantages of the new a la carte pricing system airlines are using now (extra fees for extra stuff) is that you can pay a  fee for the parts of the experience you want; such as paying to upgrade to early boarding, and or extra space in your seat. This is usually cheaper than buying a business class ticket, with lots of extras bundled into the price you might not need. If you add the fee to the cost of your whole trip, you might find it's a small price to pay for some extra comfort.  We will try to forget they used to give us all of that included in the airfare, and hope that takes the sting out of it!

2. Pack a flight survival kit

I have different ways of surviving short flights than surviving long flights.  For me a short flight is anything under 4-5 hours.  A long flight is one over 6 hours and any combination of flights that take over 6-8 hours. The big difference is that for the short flights, I don't pack anything for sleeping (earplugs, pillows, eye shades etc.) 

For long flights, I wear compression socks, pack slippers, pillow, blanket, and eye shades

For long flights, I wear compression socks, pack slippers, pillow, blanket, and eye shades

  • headphones -even for littlest kids games, no sound should emanate from any device by any person of any age on any flight, ever!
  • earplugs, if your headphones aren't noise cancelling, If you have NC headphones, I like to download spa sounds onto my device for sleeping instead of earplugs.  You can get over 100 "songs" for 99 cents on iTunes! I listen first to pick the the ones that don't have sounds that annoy me, and play about 25 of them on a repeat.
  • an inflatable neck pillow which saves space in your carry on
  • a pashmina, shawl, or lightweight blanket, once at your destination you can use this as a shawl, picnic blanket or towel.  
  • a pair of disposable slipper (I have a pair from a fancy hotel stay I take everywhere) These are great for when you are tucking your feet up under you while sleeping...I put my shoes back on for using the lav and then put my slippers back on at my seat to avoid bringing germs from the lav floor into my teeny tiny air space! I also like to use compression socks for flights longer than 4 hours.  
  • A pair of compression socks. My favorite pair is from Travel Sox. My legs are definitely less fatigued, swollen and jumpy since using the socks. They aren't just for old folks in nursing homes; endurance athletes also use them! 
  • a small RuMe bag with essentials: any medication I'll need during the flight (so I don't have to access a weeks supply in my carry on to take a single dose) I include my preferred pain killers, stomach and sleep aids, in case of troubles mid flight.  Any bigger medical issues can be addressed by my travel medical kit (see my blog post here about what I travel with!) packed in my carry on bag. I also include gum or mints, a small toothbrush (you can buy tiny disposable rubber brushes wrapped in plastic with toothpaste already loaded on them) and toothpaste, a comb and any other grooming essentials I require. The airlines sometimes give these things out on long flights, but that is becoming less common on US carriers. 
  • phone, laptop, or tablet loaded with my favorite books, music, audio books, and magazines. The Texture App is a great app to subscribe to magazines and down load them so you can take them with you without all the bulk of actual magazines.  You can usually download books and movies from your library for free, and if you already subscribe to a movie service (cable, Netflix, Amazon etc) you can usually download some content onto your device and take it with you. 
  • my favorite snacks, which are usually nuts, peanut M & Ms and pretzels because they pack lots of energy and are small, "unbreakable" and don't stink! I also fill my water bottle after clearing security so I don't have to wait till the flight attendants make it to my section to slake my thirst.
I use a RuMe 3 pocket bag to hold all my flight essentials...it fits right in the seat back pocket and I won't need to pull my carry on bag out or dig through the overhead   to get what I need  during times when those bags must be stowed. My tablet has Next Issue on it. I pack hand sanitizer because I can't always get up before eating to wash and I use alcohol wipes to clean the armrests and tray table as soon as I board.

I use a RuMe 3 pocket bag to hold all my flight essentials...it fits right in the seat back pocket and I won't need to pull my carry on bag out or dig through the overhead  to get what I need during times when those bags must be stowed. My tablet has Next Issue on it. I pack hand sanitizer because I can't always get up before eating to wash and I use alcohol wipes to clean the armrests and tray table as soon as I board.

3. Avoid Jet Lag

There is lots of advice about how to avoid jet lag.  I think of this as pseudo "medical" advice, so rather than tell anyone else what to do I will share how we manage to avoid the worst of jet lag.  Using these techniques usually by day one, we are feeling pretty good and essentially on the new time zone, except for maybe waking a little earlier or feeling sleepy a little earlier.

  • adopt the new time zone immediately upon boarding; we change our watches, eat and sleep according to the new time zone.  If it's an over night flight were we will arrive in the evening, we sleep early in the flight and awaken and stay awake late in the flight so we will be tired by bedtime in the new time zone.  I use melatonin, a natural sleep supplement to sleep when I'm not sleepy, both on the plane and in the destination to help transition my own system to the new zone. Unfortunately, medications, caffeine or alcohol are known to only make matters worse...sure you might sleep, (or stay awake in the case of coffee) but you will suffer after affects and are still not meeting the goal of getting your own body chemistry to the new time zone. Here is  an article from the Australian Government  that discusses why using alcohol, caffeine and stronger drugs aren't helpful for jet lag. (why Australia? I thought it was trustworthy, succinct and given how far Australians have to go to get anywhere, they probably know a thing or two about jet lag!)
  • eat meals on the schedule of the new time zone and drink lots of water; even if I have to pack your own food and buy/fill my water bottle after passing security. Airlines tend to feed you based on the time zone you left.  If we arrive at 4 PM, we don't eat the "breakfast" served by the airline, we eat a lunch/dinner food. 
  • expose ourselves to the day light on the plane and in our destination, as much as possible without disturbing others, even cracking the shade on the plane can help.  Once we arrive in the new time zone, we get outside, active and exposed to the natural light conditions in our destination as soon as you can.  A long walk in our new destination works well. We do not nap, and usually by doing these things we don't need to.  If we must nap (or die!) we set an alarm and only allow a short cat nap (30-45 minutes)

4. Practice Yoga

No I don't mean try the "downward dog" pose in seat 15 G or "sun salutations" in the aisle (though I'm sure it's happened!) But I started a yoga practice about a year and half ago and I noticed something interesting happened on my last overnight flight.  I was able to manage the stresses of travel and flying with my breathing.  My yoga breathing and meditation also helped me to block out distractions so I could rest better during the flight.  I found I was more flexible and less stiff during the flight because of all the practice I had with twisting and folding poses!   It's unfortunate that in order to have a good flight, I had to marshal all the physical and mental benefits of yoga to tolerate it.  But it's not a bad idea...stand and stretch regularly, breathe deeply into your belly and let your mind push away distractions and irritations of flying and you will have a better experience!  I always remind myself that despite all the jokes about airlines, I am fortunate enough to be able go up into the air to go somewhere else in a relatively short time, and that the airlines do in fact do a good job of getting me there safely.  So in addition to my carry on, I try to pack a great attitude and sense of humor and so far...I've survived every flight (so far!)

(For more on using Yoga to make flights more comfortable see our post here)

Note: We don't sell trips or any travel related items mentioned and we haven't been paid to travel or accepted free items to review, mostly because no one has offered!  If that ever happens, we would disclose that clearly. All of the products profiled here are products we've used ourselves and liked.  

How do you survive a flight?...share with us!

 

 

 

 

 

"It's Not An Adventure Until Peril Is Involved"

When I travel I do a lot of research. Did I say "a lot"? I may have exaggerated, actually, I research and plan obsessively before a trip.  I usually go on the web to whatever forum has threads related to the trip I'm taking. In the case of this cruise, I spent quite a bit of time on the River Cruise Boards of Cruise Critic. I ask questions...I ask a LOT of questions. Did I say a lot? I meant I ask questions obsessively! 

One of the things I like to learn about is logistics; how to get from here to there, where to stay, what's the procedure for this or that. When I get a sense for the logistics, then I don't have to spend vacation and touring time on them, I can move through the "business of travel" (how to get to the hotel, changing money, where to buy tickets for the metro etc) and enjoy the fun of travel (sitting in a cafe with a glass of wine, biking through the streets, touring a museum) So my sources on Cruise Critic all assured me I could easily walk from the Marriott in Budapest to the dock where the AMAPrima usually docks. I took them at the their word, but apparently I didn't ask quite ENOUGH questions.  

We could see the AMAPrima from our room, it wasn't more than 1/2 mile away. Sure we had 4 bags, but they all rolled and we can manage them easily, and frankly, if we did a little work getting them there; we could use it after all the rich food we'd been enjoying in Budapest! 

So we rolled out of the Marirott with high hopes and our sights set on arriving at the river ship with little trouble, I'd done the research, I'd asked the questions, maybe I was even a little obsessive...I was confident!

 

Jeff leaving the Marriott towing our large roller bags, hopeful, confident with a big wide sidewalk to walk on, just mere steps from the Marriott to the AMAPrima! 

Jeff leaving the Marriott towing our large roller bags, hopeful, confident with a big wide sidewalk to walk on, just mere steps from the Marriott to the AMAPrima! 

Maybe we were a bit over confident, we started out on a big wide perfectly paved boulevard sidewalk, but to make it to the ship we had to cross 4 lanes of highway and tram tracks. No problem really, traffic control was good in Budapest, with pedestrian walks and lights. We found a pedestrian light and crossed over to the river. There was a sidewalk there, maybe not as wide and spacious as the boulevard sidewalk across the way, but certainly passable and we continued along past several small day cruisers.  

 

Then something happened...to channel Shel Silverstein- "Where the Sidewalk Ends".  We were faced with a chasm; a few granite cobble blocks barely wider than the lane marking stripes in the road, with traffic whizzing by just inches away with the merest of guard rails on one side and a set of steep stone stairs leading to the Danube river some 20 feet below on the other side. Imagine a tightrope walk, now imagine it with 4 roller bags, one of which contains all of Jeffs camera gear (and I'll remind you, dear reader, so you also feel the peril, that without this gear, there will be no pictures! Or maybe that's what you have been rooting for all along! ) 

We came to a dead stop "Where the Sidewalk Ends" to assess our options.

1- go back a 1/4 mile, and try to find a way on the surface streets and hope for another crossing closer to the ships dock (ding, ding ding! This was the correct answer!)

Or 

2- carefully shuttle the weighty and unstable rolling bags across the perilous tightrope of cobble stones, taking care not to let go or trip, lest both we and the bags end up in the Danube below. The only way to do this practically is to take one at a time until all four are at the other side where the side walk begins again. (This was the WRONG choice and of course the one we chose!)

 

Lest you think we exaggerate, here is "where the sidewalk ends" and our rather weighty bags wating to cross.

Lest you think we exaggerate, here is "where the sidewalk ends" and our rather weighty bags wating to cross.

Having committed to the perilous journey on uneven cobbles mere inches from either certain death by vehicular homicide or drowning, Jeff starts across with the largest and most unstable bag, (figuring heck, if it's not going to work we may as well figure it out early in the process) Amazingly, he makes it across successfully leaving the bag alone on the other side (this is a travel no no, and we worried for a moment that someone might steal it, but it was abundantly clear that absolutely no one else was foolish enough to take this route on foot, even without 4 roller bags!)

So Jeff returns, carefully picking his way back for another bag. His real worry is sitting in his carryon bag- thousands of dollars worth of camera gear that is not terribly compatible with even a slight mist, much less getting completely submerged in a foreign river and floating out to the Black Sea. (we are pretty sure this was not what AMA had in mind when they advertised the "Black Sea Voyage"!) By this time, I want to speed up the process and had decide that I could manage both carry roll aboard bags if I take one in each hand and walk across the cobble path to the other side (really, won't I just be BETTER balanced with 2 ?) 

Jeff of course is panicked, imagining me and the camera gear tumbling into the Danube (the camera gear is his biggest worry, of course; I can swim). So I start out with his camera bag in my Danube side hand and my carry on bag in the whizzing-truck-street side hand. Jeff's panic escalates, so to reassure him I do a tricky mid transverse "switch" of the bags, balancing over the Danube (thank God for yoga, this works!!) and he seems calmer with the camera gear on the street side, where it's only at risk to be smashed to bits by a passing bus.

 

 

To up the degree of difficulty, every so often one of the cobbles is just ...missing.

To up the degree of difficulty, every so often one of the cobbles is just ...missing.

Luckily, we did make it all the way across with all four bags, none of them made an "unscheduled water landing" and we found the wider side walk, and of course the much easier crossing just a few feet from the dock, where we should have gone in the first place! So if you are going on this journey and want to try walking, the advice is correct, it can be done...just don't follow us! 

Here our our bags, safely secured on the AMA ship awaiting a more relaxing journey! 

Here our our bags, safely secured on the AMA ship awaiting a more relaxing journey! 

 

We have a family travel motto, that's "it's not an adventure until peril is involved". So it's officially an adventure now!

13 Words You Do Not Want To Hear Immediately After Takeoff


Sitting over the wing over Istanbul

Sitting over the wing over Istanbul

 

"If there is a doctor onboard, please identify yourself to a flight attendant" 

Ah, The joys of air travel in economy. I promise I'm not going to make this a negative blog, just to get laughs, (and not just because there is no laughing permitted in economy) but when it comes to flying these days, there is not a lot of positive. 

One positive is we are directed to the TSA precheck line at the airport (despite the fact that we have not yet signed up for pre check) but it's a busy Friday night and they are trying to move things along. It's like hitting the TSA jackpot; Congratulations! You've been selected for pre check - you get to preserve your dignity and you can keep your belt, coat, underpants and any metal replacement parts on! As an added bonus you don't have to unpack your private toiletries, (this is my denture cream, preparation H...) or (new this year!) fire up all your electronics. And special tonight- you can even keep your shoes on! 

Our luck continues, here in the terminal building, it's crowded but we find a couple of those little shoe shine chairs with foot rests to sit in when most of the other flights board leaving just Turkish Air and Emirates to leave after 11 PM. I think it's a bad idea, being comfortable in the terminal so close to a flight in economy; better to have the memory of comfort be a distant thing before boarding. 

But given we've booked economy tickets, our luck cannot hold out. We've just boarded, the Turkish airlines airbus is turquoise colorful. The very first sight we see is a chef in a torque - we know immediately that he has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that will be served in our cabin! We arrive at 17a and b; the space between rows gets stunningly smaller every time we fly, but at least we've got two seats together, window and aisle with no one next to us. Of course the people in front of us can recline into our laps so low we could do dental work on them. Watching my 6 for 6 inch husband attempt to arrange himself in this space is a little heartbreaking and I vow to pay for business class for the next flight longer than 6 hours, even though it kills me to spend thousands for a few inches of recline and leg room.  (Having just completed the flight, Jeff admits it's never as bad as it first seems, call it Stockholm syndrome)

In addition to trying to stow our carry on gear and arrange our travel comfort items, we've got to contend with the rubble of amenities meant to appease any seat discomfort; look there's a pillow! a blanket!  (all plastic wrapped and hopefully sanitized) a pair of cozy slippers! a cute bag with lip balm! toothpaste! ear plugs! eye shades! 

Is there a soul back here in steerage who wouldn't trade it all for a few more inches? "Alex, I'll take 6 more inches of leg room for a toothbrushe and lip balm please" 

 

Poor Jeff- knees to seat! 

Poor Jeff- knees to seat! 

We settle in and finally take off just about on time. We've got a tiight connection when we get to Istanbul - 1 hour and 45 minutes to make the last flight out to Budapest, so when I hear the announcement for a doctor, I can't help but panic. Of course, I hope the afflicted person is ok, but as I watch the two doctors who volunteered (a tall young African American man and a short middle age white man) consult in the aisle about whose specialty best matches the offending body part of the affected person, I can't help but worry our travel plans may be dashed! I see them hustle up to business class (what does it say about our own economy that the doctors are all sitting in economy? Remember when doctors were the rich guys?) and I worry that any moment the captain will come on explaining that we must return to Boston because someone is ill. I begin to dread each "bong" worried it will bring the dreaded announcement. Luckily, after an hour or so the announcement doesn't come. And I stop panicking every time I hear a bong ( and what is with those bongs? What do they mean, why must they go off randomly every 7 or 12 minutes startling everyone out of a sound sleep? No one knows what they mean or why they happen, but we all ignore them like a car alarm in a parking lot) 

But despite sitting on tenterhooks, no announcement comes. I'm Thankful that the podiatrist  or immunologist, or pathologist, or whatever specialty the vacationing doctors have they was able to distinguish between a panic attack and a hear attack,  or a leg cramp and a blood clot and not only is everything all right with the patient, but we will make our connection! 

And look! The guy in the torque is coming down the aisle, asking "pasta or fish"? 

Maybe there is hope for us in economy after all! 

Our plane was parked next to this one in the "plane parking lot" that stood in for gates in Istanbul.

Our plane was parked next to this one in the "plane parking lot" that stood in for gates in Istanbul.