Category Archives: travel

Travel Month in Review

I’d say that out of all the months I’ve been doing my Happiness Project, I’ve learned the most in July, in which I focused on travel.  Not only did I learn about the countries, cultures, and people that we were exposed to, but I also learned how to travel.  Here are a few of the do’s and don’t’s that I found on our journey.  As this is my blog, they’re my lessons learned – they might not apply to everyone!  We were on a Mediterranean cruise, so if you backpacked in Chile or stayed in Tokyo for two weeks, you may have a totally different take on things.  If you have a tip to add or disagree with one of mine, by all means add a comment to the list.

Traveling Tips

  • Research, research, research the places you’ll be going.  Bring along maps, a list of sights to see and the stories behind those sights, currency conversions, the names of popular local foods, and general info you’ve learned about the place you’ll be traveling to.  Even if you don’t pull these items out of your bag on a regular basis, there’ll be times when you’re glad you have them.
  • Take plenty of pictures, but make sure to come out from behind the camera lens to enjoy the moment.
  • Make sure there are people in your pictures from time to time – they’re more fun to look at than landscapes (most of the time).
  • Pack lightly. Look at each item and decide if it’s something you want to bring or need to bring.  You’ll be lugging it every place you go, and even light items add up to a heavy suitcase.  As we found out, wheels on suitcases can and do break, so a rolling suitcase is no exception to the pack light rule!  You can always hand wash items to wear again – just give them plenty of time to dry!
  • On a day trip, bring as little as possible and instead buy what you need (food, drinks, etc).  It might be cheaper to bring four water bottles along with you, but they’re heavy to carry across town.  Pare down to the absolute essentials.
  • Find the ATM as soon as possible.  Many places overseas, especially restaurants, don’t take credit cards.  Both of our credit cards and debit cards charged for currency conversion, so you don’t really save any money by using credit cards.  Don’t take out so much that you’ll have to find a place to exchange the local currency back to dollars, though.
  • Practice your multiplication before going to another country.  It sounds simple, but trying to multiply 47 by 1.3 is easier if you know what you’re doing before you go.  Practice converting back and forth between dollars and the local currency before you leave.
  • Set an alarm clock. Then, set a backup alarm clock.  Then, arrange for a wake-up call.
  • Start preparing for a large time change a week or two before your trip.  You don’t want to miss out on something because you’re too tired from jet lag.
  • Don’t wear a security pouch around your waist. It makes you look like you have a huge gut in every picture.  Find a secure purse or another way to wear your passport.  (Does anyone have any ideas about this?)
  • Eat something every place you travel.  If possible, find out the local specialties before you arrive.
  • Get a really good house and pet sitter so you don’t need to worry while you’re away.  Ask them to e-mail an update or two during the trip in case it’s possible to check your e-mail.
  • Unless you are sure that your hotel room has an iron, invest in wrinkle releaser.
  • Call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be going overseas.  If you don’t, they might put a freeze on your card for suspicious activity.
  • Make a list of everything you’d like to do in a city, on the cruise ship, at your resort, or wherever you are.  That way, you won’t end the trip with regrets of things left undone.
  • Always ask if you’re on the right track – at the airport terminal, walking to the beach, trying to find a museum.  It might be embarrassing, but it’s better than missing a flight or wasting time being lost.
  • Travel with a partner (preferably the love of your life) – it’s just more fun.  Before the trip and at the beginning of each day of vacation, talk about your goals for the day.  It’ll go more smoothly if you make time for activities that you each enjoy.
  • Bring multiple cameras to each location you go.  If one dies or the memory card is erased, you’ll have photos of everything on both cameras.
  • Function trumps fashion. You’ll be able to enjoy your trip if you’re comfortable.  Don’t let a cute pair of shoes prevent you from walking to the beach.

We’re back from the honeymoon… and yes, it was amazing

Remarkable, exceptional, fabulous, eye-opening, romantic, and on and on and on – our honeymoon was PERFECT.  We took a Mediterranean cruise, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Here are the cities we visited, with (very) short description of our stay there:

  • Venice, Italy.  Stayed overnight in Hotel Arcadia; wandered around before the rest of the city woke up; ate an Italian breakfast at our hotel.
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Walked the city walls; ate gelato; went shopping for souvenirs.
  • Kusadasi, Turkey and Ephesus.  Took a full day tour of the ruins of Ephesus; visited the House of the Virgin Mary and the ruins of St. John’s Basilica; ate traditional Turkish foods in a buffet; watched a rug-weaving demonstration; tried to avoid street vendors and pushy salesmen.
  • Santorini, Greece.  Rode donkeys up the cliff; wandered around Fira; took a bus to explore the city of Oia; lounged and swam at the black-sanded Ammoudi Beach.
  • Corfu, Greece.  Walked to Corfu Town; shopped for souvenirs; ate ice cream and a gyro; swam at the beach.
  • Padua, Italy.  Toured the Basilica of St. Anthony; went on a guided tour of the city.
  • Manchester, England.  Took the train into the city; sat in a cafe and people-watched Sky Ride (bicycle event); went to the art museum; walked around the city.

We had all of the fun we planned and then some – visiting Manchester wasn’t originally in our plans.  We were originally scheduled to have a long layover there, but there wasn’t quite enough time to actually do anything (aside from sleep in our hotel room).  As we prepared to check in for the long flight to Chicago, we were approached by an American Airlines employee – the airline needed someone to volunteer to wait to fly another day, as the flight was overbooked.  Both being educators with a lengthy summer holiday, we weren’t racing home to get back to work, so we agreed.  American Airlines paid for our hotel room, meals, bumped us up to first class the following day (absolutely incredible experience, by the way), and gave us each a $500 voucher for a future flight.  Our honeymoon was extended by a day, so we got to go into the city of Manchester.  What a great surprise ending to a fantastic trip!

If you want the details of the rest of the vacation, check out any of my planning posts in July – I’ve opened them all up to the public.

It was a marvelous honeymoon, but it’s good to be home!

Day-trip Packing List

Perhaps I’m over planning, but I’ve been trying to make a list of what to bring on our excursions.  We’ll most likely bring a backpack to trade off between the two of us.  If we find that’s too big, I have a purse that I can bring, but that means I have to lug it around the whole time (and it’s not as comfortable as a backpack, either).  Here’s my initial list of what to bring, based on carrying a backpack and two security pouches:

Paul’s pouch: His passport, credit and debit cards, the health insurance cards, drivers’ license, cash, SetSail pass

My pouch: My passport, credit and debit cards, drivers’ license, SetSail pass, emergency phone number/address list

Backpack

  • Two waterbottles
  • Snacks
  • Towels (if going to beach)
  • Books (if going to a place to sit for an extended time)
  • Camera
  • Basic first aid materials
  • Kleenex
  • Umbrellas (if rain is in the forecast)
  • Headscarf/shawl (if going into a church or mosque)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses/regular glasses
  • Hat (if not wearing)
  • Map
  • List of sights to see
  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Extra clothes (if expecting to get wet or very sweaty)
  • Plastic bags/baggies

The list would be shortened to the essentials if we were bringing my purse instead of the backpack: water bottles, camera, first aid, Kleenex, sunscreen, map, list of sights to see, pen.  If worse comes to worse, we can go back to the ship and pick up what we need, eat lunch, rest, or do whatever else we need… however, I’d rather not spend the little on-land time we have walking to and from the boat!

How to Prevent Jet Lag

We should have started planning this quite a while ago.  I’ve never had jet lag before… but then again, I’ve never traveled father than Hawaii.  Our Mediterranean destinations are 7-8 hours ahead of us, which means:

  • 7 am in Italy, when we’d like to start exploring, is midnight on our biological clocks.
  • If we eat lunch at noon in Greece, it would be like eating a 4 am breakfast back at home.
  • Watching the sunset in Dubrovnik (about 8:15 pm) will feel like 1:15 pm to our Wisconsin brains.
  • Going to bed on the cruise ship at our usual time, 10 or 11 pm, would be like falling asleep at 3 in the afternoon.

According to many websites (and simple logic), it would have been a good idea to start adjusting our bodies to the upcoming time change about a week ago.  Whoops.  That did not happen.  We’ll have to make to with some other tips and tricks from the web.  Here are a few I’ve gathered.

  • Sleep on the plane when it is nighttime at your destination. Earplugs, headphones and eye masks can help diminish noise and light.  Stay awake on the plane when it is daytime at your destination. Read a thriller with the light on and the window shade open, or cruise the aisles.  (eHow)
  • Before departing, make sure you have all your affairs, business and personal, in order. Ensure you are not stressed-out with excitement or worry, and not tired or hungover from a function the night before.  (nojetlag.com)
  • Some travelers like to exercise before they go to the airport. (This can actually help you sleep better on the plane.)  Once you’re at the airport, avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks.  Instead, walk and take the stairs on the way to your check-in area and gate connections.  (Independent Traveler)
  • When I traveled from the U.S. to Israel a couple years ago, a trip that involved an eight-hour time difference, I resisted the temptation to take a nap when I arrived (11 AM local time, 3 AM body time). Instead I stayed up till 9 PM local time and got a good night’s sleep. Instant reset of my body clock.  (The Straight Dope)
  • If you have a stopover in between your flights on a long journey, you might want to take a shower to wake up your body, get the circulation flowing and freshen up. Usually, I just wash my face, hair and brush my teeth rather than taking a full body shower.  (Brave New Traveler)
  • The dry air in aircraft causes dehydration. Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids counters this. Water is better than coffee, tea and fruit juices. Alcohol not only is useless in combating dehydration, but has a markedly greater intoxicating effect when drunk in the rarefied atmosphere of an airliner than it does at ground level.  (nojetlag.com)
  • Wearing two watches, one set to the current time, and one to the time at your destination, can help you prepare yourself mentally for the coming time change.  (Independent Traveler)
  • Most important when you’re in the air is to keep exercised. Sitting for the whole period is not good for your circulation so get up as often as possible (but not excessively). Here are some simple exercises you can do.
    1. Shoulder shrugs – lift your arms and roll them in a wide circular movement both forward and backwards.
    2. Knee raises – bend your knees to hip height, hold for a few seconds, release and do the same for the other knee.
    3. Upper back stretch – lock your fingers, stretch them out front bowing your back with palms facing inwards.
    4. Ankle swirl – move your ankles around in small circles from time to time.  (Brave New Traveler)

Any more tips to add?

Day Eleven – Flying Home

August 1, 2010

7:00 am – wake up, go on a walk and find something to eat

8:15 am – check into airport

9:55 am – 12:30 pm – Flight BA5107, Manchester (Terminal 3) to Chicago (Terminal 5), in flight for 8 hours 35 minutes

5 hour 15 minute layover

5:45 pm-6:40 pm – flight BA5305 – Chicago (Terminal 3) to Green Bay, 55 minutes in the air

7:00 – get picked up by Mom and Dad, drive home

Day Ten – Padua, Italy and flying to England

July 31, 2010

6:45 am – Ship docks in Venice

8:30 am-12:30 pm – Padua Excursion and airport transfer

  • walking tour of Prato Della Valle, an oval park on the site of a Roman Theater
  • Basilica of Sant Antonio
  • Bo Palace, the ancient University main seat and Caffe Pedrocchi
  • Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta (two picturesque squares)
  • pass by the gardens of the Roman arena

When tour is over – arrive at airport, check in

4:50 – Flight BA2585, Venice to Gatwick (2 hours, 5 minutes flying time)

5:55 pm – arrive at Gatwick Terminal N for a 4 hour, 5 minute layover

10:00 – Flight BA2914 departs for Manchester out of Gatwick Terminal N (55 minutes in air)

10:55 pm – arrive in Manchester Terminal 3

11:00 pm – check into Crowne Plaza, which is attached to the airport.  Hotel phone number +44-871-9429055.  Confirmation number 63981060.

Carry-on Packing List for Our Cruise

Three, three, three more days!  Three days until we’ll be jet setting off to the Mediterranean for a seven night cruise.  It’s about time to finish packing!

We’re going to be using only carry-on luggage for the trip, so space is at a premium.  To see what I need to live (and what I can live without), I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the past week and a half.  “Practice packing,” I call it.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind that I’d regret.  I did end up switching a few long sleeves for short sleeved shirts, and adding some little necessities that I had forgotten.

I fit everything into a carry-on suitcase, small backpack, and security neck pouch:

Not bad!  Here are the contents of the suitcases.  Am I missing anything?

Wear on the planes to Venice:

  • Black capri pants
  • Tan tank top
  • Black button-up sweater
  • Black belt
  • Olive walking sandals
  • Watch
  • Bra (racerback)
  • Underpants
  • Glasses

Clothing

  • Bottoms
    • Capris (cream)
    • Jeans
    • Shorts (brown, blue plaid, orange plaid)
    • Skirt (white)
    • Workout shorts
  • Tops
    • Long sleeved shirts (brown, black)
    • Short sleeved shirts (green, black, purple, teal)
    • Tank tops (teal, black, brown)
  • Other
    • Dresses (blue, brown)
    • Pajamas
    • Swimming suit
    • Underpants (9)
    • Bra (strapless convertible, sports)
    • Socks (6)

Accessories

  • Barrettes
  • Bracelet
  • Earrings (five)
  • Headband
  • Headscarf
  • Necklaces (three)
  • Shawl

Shoes

  • Sneakers (gray)
  • Sandals (brown, flip flops)
  • Dress shoes (black)

Personal

  • Band-aids*
  • Brush
  • Bobby pins
  • Contact case, with contacts inside^
  • Contact solution^
  • Contacts (extra)^
  • Cotton swabs*
  • Deodorant
  • Dental floss*
  • Face wash
  • Feminine products
  • Hand sanitizer*^
  • Hair ties
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Make-up
    • Eyeshadow
    • Eyeliner
    • Blush
    • Nail polish^
    • Concealer^
    • Mascara
  • Medication (prescription, IB Profin, vitamins, allergy, itch cream, tums)
  • Mirror
  • Nail clippers*
  • Razors
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste*^
  • Tweezers
  • Wrinkle releaser

Other

  • Alarm clock
  • Night light
  • Paperwork in folder
    • Address list (for postcards)
    • Airline e-tickets
    • Backup credit card
    • Credit/debit cards
    • Cruise documents
    • Currency conversion chart
    • Driver’s license (copy)
    • Emergency phone number list
    • Health insurance card (copy)
    • Hotel paperwork
    • Passport (copy)
    • Phone card (copy)
  • Plastic baggies

Backpack

  • Books (two)
  • Canvas bags
  • Camera bag
    • Camera and charger
    • Cell phone and charger
    • Headphones
    • Playaways
  • Games
    • Deck of cards
    • Scrabble card game
  • Glasses case
  • Highlighters
  • Journal
  • Kleenex
  • Pencils (2)
  • Pens (2)
  • Puzzle books and copies
  • Snacks
  • Sunglasses
  • Umbrella*
  • Water bottle (empty)

Security Shoulder Pouch

  • Airline e-tickets
  • Cash
  • Currency conversion chart
  • Credit/debit cards
  • Cruise documents
  • Drivers’ license
  • Emergency phone number list
  • Health insurance card
  • Passport (original)
  • Phone card

* Can share with Paul – pack somewhere between the two of us

^ Liquid – must fit in quart baggie