Travels

I had previously hosted my travels using Google Sites but (after they came out with their “new sites” experience) decided to self-host to have more control over the appearance.

Note that links were valid at the time of creation, but may have changed or be invalid in the many years afterwards after the trip was planned and content created. Likewise, the information was correct at the time of the trip, but since that may be 10 years ago or longer, many things may have changed and the information may no longer be correct. But we always had a great time so enjoy your travels and be flexible since the best plans can be derailed. But also be prepared to quickly take action and adapt when things go wrong. We have had flights delayed/rescheduled, flights cancelled, luggage delayed, and transport strikes. The joys of traveling make up for these problems of the moment (or at least it does after you have been home for a while).

As an example of acting quickly when necessary, in 2011 we went to Greece and on checking in for the return flight in Athens, we learned that our plane had not left the US yet because its nose gear was damaged and, since this was the start of low-season, we had to wait until another plane could be flown to Athens and the crew had their rest period; the total delay was around 36 hours. While many people took their food vouchers and went to eat since this was lunch time, we went directly to the attached airport hotel (which was very nice BTW) and used our room voucher and got our room. The hotel filled-up and some people had to take a bus to another hotel several miles away.

General Helpful Hints

Electrical

  • Power is often 220v 50 Hz. Most small electronics (e.g., those with a universal power supply such as a phone charger) will work on this power with only a plug adapter from US to EU plugs. But different countries use different plugs so I also find a universal adapter very useful. If there is a switch associated with the outlet, make sure it is turned on. In some hotels in Europe, to conserve electricity, the lights and power to room outlets are switched off when you leave the room. I always travel with a spare hotel key-card to leave in the the switch just in case. But then I also always turn off the lights and TV to save power when out of the room.
  • I bring a short extension cord with me so that I can plug the cord into the wall (using the plug adapter) and then plug 2 or 3 chargers into the extension cord. Generally US extension cords are rated for 600v so should have no problem handling 220v, just be careful about plugging in your chargers. This means you only need 1 plug adapter for your various chargers.
  • Be careful using US appliances (such as hair dryers and curling irons unless they are set for 220v) since the higher the voltage will often destroy the appliance and most certainly blow a fuse or trip the circuit breaker. On one trip, a couple spend the night in darkness after tripping the breaker when the front desk was closed for the night.

Money

  • Make sure you notify your credit card company (not necessary for AMEX) and debit-card issuer (bank) that you will be traveling internationally.  US credit cards will generally NOT work in automated machines (because a signature is required) but will work where there is a human handling the transaction (e.g., train station windows & restaurants). So I make sure I have bills for the ticket machines.
  • I find getting Euros at the ATM at the airport easier and cheaper than buying travelers checks or Euros in the US.  But because possible pickpocket threat, be careful using ATM’s in busy train stations or tourist areas.
  • After you buy your metro or bus ticket, in most countries, ALWAYS use the (separate) time-stamp machine to validate it (or just write the date/time on it in pen but spell out the date since US dates are written differently)! Traveling without a time-stamped ticket can result in a large fine. Ignorance or not knowing the language is no excuse to the plain-clothed transit police (this happened to someone who worked for me). 

Nominal Cost

And a couple of other tips that cost money but we have found useful:

  • Medical evacuation insurance. We have MedJet evacuation insurance so that if the unthinkable happens, someone will deal with getting us back to a Chicago hospital. I believe you should never buy insurance for something you can afford to pay for on your own. But with medical evacuation, I don’t even know where to start to plan it. Never had to use it and hopefully this will just be a “waste” of money that we never need to use.
  • Luggage GPS tracking service. After my wife’s luggage did not arrive with her a few times (she has airline paid-for clothes from Buenos Ares, Bergen and Copenhagen), we have a GPS tracker in both of our suitcases. A GPS tracker doesn’t stop your suitcase from going missing, but at least you know where it is. When her suitcase was delayed getting to Bergen, Norway, after a connection in Oslo, it sat at the Bergen airport an extra day because, while the flight from Oslo arrived in the morning, it was after the delayed luggage for the day was handled. The next time when her suitcase didn’t make the short connection in Iceland (because the inbound flights was greatly delayed) on our way to Copenhagen, we knew the suitcase was still at Keflavik and we also knew when to bug the local baggage service because the suitcase had arrived at the Copenhagen airport and we were leaving the next morning on the ferry to Oslo. Ignoring the baggage fee, airlines wonder why passengers prefer carry-on luggage? Of course thanks to TSA and why wife’s make-up, we always need to check at least one bag.

Land Trips

September 2021
September 2020A bad year overall. Fall trip was postponed to 2021.
October 2019A week in Cancun.
September 2019“Single Friends” 2019 Denmark/Norway/Iceland Trip
April 2019A week in Jamaica.
February 2019Monograms tour of Brazil and Argentina.
February 2019A week in Cuba, supporting the Cuban people via capitalism.
October 2018GateOne trip to Portugal and Spain.
September 2018“Single Friends” 2018 Budapest/Prague/Krakow Trip
July 2018A Nordic Visitor tour around Iceland.
February 2018A week in Puerto Vallarta.
December 2017A week in Punta Cana.
September 2017“Single Friends” 2017 French/Italian Riviera Trip
May 2017Globus trip to French Riviera.
April 2017A week in Cancun.
February 2017A week in Puerto Vallarta.
October 2016A week in Cancun.
September 2016“Single Friends” 2016 Austria/Italy/Switzerland Trip
June/July 2016Globus trip to China/Tibet and then on our own in Japan
April 2016A week in Cancun.
September 2015“Single Friends” 2015 Sweden/Denmark Trip
April 2015A week in Cancun.
September 2014“Single Friends” 2014 France/Belgium/Netherlands Trip
July 2014America-by-Rail trip to western Canada.
September 2013“Single Friends” Italy Trip 2013
September 2012“Single Friends” Germany Trip 2012
September 2011“Single Friends” Greece Trip 2011
September 2010“Single Friends” Spain Trip 2010

Cruises

We enjoy ocean cruises. We don’t find a problem with the tiny cabins (as long as we have quiet neighbors) and enjoy most of the shore excursions. What’s not to like about not cooking your food or cleaning your room. However, since becoming vegan, we have found it a problem eating onboard most ships and will be reconsidering our favorite cruise lines.

March 2020Norwegian EpicSJU->Aruba,Curacao,Bonaire,St Lucia,St Kitts
January 2020Carnival MiracleSAN->Hawaii
January 2020Carnival MiracleSAN->Cabo
January 2020Carnival MiracleSAN->Baja w/ Single Friends
February 2019Royal PrincessAndes & Cape Horn Grand Adventure
January 2019Carnival FascinationSJU->St Thomas,Barbados,St Lucia,St Kitts,St Maarten w/ Single Friends
July 2018MS ExpeditionAround Svalbard from Longyearbgen
June 2018Royal PrincessLON->Guernsey, Cork, Dublin, Glasgow, Kirkwall, Invergordon, Edinburgh, Le Havre
March 2018Coral PrincessSFO->Cabo, San Juan Del Sur, Puntarenas, Cartagena, Aruba
January 2018Carnival GloryMIA->Grand Cayman,Roatan,Belize,Cozumel
January 2018Carnival GloryMIA->Half Moon Cay,St Thomas,San Juan,Grand Turk with Single Friends
January 2018Crown PrincessFLL->Curacao,Aruba,Bonaire
January 2018Crown PrincessFLL->Roatan,Cozumel
February 2017Coral PrincessFLL->Aruba,Colombia,Panama Canal cruising,Costa Rica,Jamaica
January 2017Jewel of the SeasSan Juan->St Thomas,St Kitts,Antigua,Barbados,St Maarten
January 2017Jewel of the SeasSan Juan->St Croix,St Maarten,Dominica,Barbados,Grenada w/ Single Friends
June 2016Diamond PrincessGrand Japan (Tokyo->Kushiro,Korsakov,Otaru,Hakodate,Aomori,Busan,Nagasaki
January 2016Carnival ConquestFLL->Grand Turk,Curacao,Aruba with SinglesCruise
January 2016Carnival GloryMIA->Grand Cayman,Roatan,Belize,Cozumel with Single Friends
August 2015Norwegian PearlInside Passage with Glacier Bay (SEA->Juneau,Skagway,Ketchikan,Victoria) with kids & spouses
March 2015Carnival BreezeMIA->Ocho Rios,Grand Cayman,Cozumel with my 2 youngest
January 2015Norwegian EpicMIA->Ocho Rios,Grand Cayman,Cozumel with Single Friends
March 2014Celebrity ReflectionMIA->San Juan,St. Thomas,St. Maarten
January 2013Carnival GloryMIA->Cozumel,Roatan,Grand Cayman with Single Friends
January 2011Carnival GloryMIA->Nassau,San Juan,Grand Turk with Single Friends