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 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 and having stories to tell make up for these problems of the moment (or at least it does after you have been home for a while and forgot the immediate pain/anxiety).
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 first day of low-season, there were few scheduled flights and so we had to wait until another plane could be flown to Athens and the crew had their rest period; the total delay ended up being 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.
Most of our trips are with the “Single Friends” of the Northern Suburbs meetup.com group. This is a very fun group of people to travel with even though we are no longer single, but did meet each other on the trip to Spain.
General Helpful Hints
- Power outside the US is often 220v 50 Hz, but check the local electrical standards of the countries you are visiting. 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 or local 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 take the room key. 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 when 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 voltage will destroy the appliance and most certainly blow a fuse or trip the circuit breaker. On one trip to Austria, a couple spend the night in darkness after tripping the room’s circuit breaker after the front desk closed for the night; the next morning at breakfast, the women asked why her curling iron smelled funny.
- Make sure you notify your credit card company (not necessary for AMEX) and debit-card issuer (i.e., 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) because they can give you a slip of paper to sign. So I make sure I have bills for the ticket machines. Worse case, you can use your debit card since it uses a PIN to verify, but I don’t like using debit cards except when getting cash at a bank.
- I find getting Euros at the ATM at the airport easier and cheaper than buying travelers checks or Euros in the US. But because of 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) and the large fine is designed to deter people from not paying the transit fare.
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, Norway, 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 liquids, we always need to check at least one bag.
|September 2020||A bad year overall. Fall trip was postponed to 2021.|
|October 2019||A week in Cancun.|
|September 2019||“Single Friends” 2019 Denmark/Norway/Iceland Trip|
|April 2019||A week in Jamaica.|
|February 2019||Monograms tour of Brazil and Argentina.|
|February 2019||A week in Cuba, supporting the Cuban people via capitalism.|
|October 2018||GateOne trip to Portugal and Spain.|
|September 2018||“Single Friends” 2018 Budapest/Prague/Krakow Trip|
|July 2018||A Nordic Visitor tour around Iceland.|
|February 2018||A week in Puerto Vallarta.|
|December 2017||A week in Punta Cana.|
|September 2017||“Single Friends” 2017 French/Italian Riviera Trip|
|May 2017||Globus trip to French Riviera.|
|April 2017||A week in Cancun.|
|February 2017||A week in Puerto Vallarta.|
|October 2016||A week in Cancun.|
|September 2016||“Single Friends” 2016 Austria/Italy/Switzerland Trip|
|June/July 2016||Globus trip to China/Tibet and then on our own in Japan|
|April 2016||A week in Cancun.|
|September 2015||“Single Friends” 2015 Sweden/Denmark Trip|
|April 2015||A week in Cancun.|
|September 2014||“Single Friends” 2014 France/Belgium/Netherlands Trip|
|July 2014||America-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|
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? Some people worry about keeping busy on a cruise but there is always something (though perhaps lame) going on and no matter what, you are always find a quiet place to read. However, since becoming vegan, we have found it a problem eating onboard most ships and will be reconsidering our favorite cruise lines if they don’t improve their vegan food offerings.
|March 2020||Norwegian Epic||SJU->Aruba,Curacao,Bonaire,St Lucia,St Kitts|
|January 2020||Carnival Miracle||SAN->Hawaii|
|January 2020||Carnival Miracle||SAN->Cabo|
|January 2020||Carnival Miracle||SAN->Baja w/ Single Friends|
|February 2019||Royal Princess||Andes & Cape Horn Grand Adventure|
|January 2019||Carnival Fascination||SJU->St Thomas,Barbados,St Lucia,St Kitts,St Maarten w/ Single Friends|
|July 2018||MS Expedition||Around Svalbard from Longyearbgen|
|June 2018||Royal Princess||LON->Guernsey, Cork, Dublin, Glasgow, Kirkwall, Invergordon, Edinburgh, Le Havre|
|March 2018||Coral Princess||SFO->Cabo, San Juan Del Sur, Puntarenas, Cartagena, Aruba|
|January 2018||Carnival Glory||MIA->Grand Cayman,Roatan,Belize,Cozumel|
|January 2018||Carnival Glory||MIA->Half Moon Cay,St Thomas,San Juan,Grand Turk with Single Friends|
|January 2018||Crown Princess||FLL->Curacao,Aruba,Bonaire|
|January 2018||Crown Princess||FLL->Roatan,Cozumel|
|February 2017||Coral Princess||FLL->Aruba,Colombia,Panama Canal cruising,Costa Rica,Jamaica|
|January 2017||Jewel of the Seas||San Juan->St Thomas,St Kitts,Antigua,Barbados,St Maarten|
|January 2017||Jewel of the Seas||San Juan->St Croix,St Maarten,Dominica,Barbados,Grenada w/ Single Friends|
|June 2016||Diamond Princess||Grand Japan (Tokyo->Kushiro,Korsakov,Otaru,Hakodate,Aomori,Busan,Nagasaki|
|January 2016||Carnival Conquest||FLL->Grand Turk,Curacao,Aruba with SinglesCruise|
|January 2016||Carnival Glory||MIA->Grand Cayman,Roatan,Belize,Cozumel with Single Friends|
|August 2015||Norwegian Pearl||Inside Passage with Glacier Bay (SEA->Juneau,Skagway,Ketchikan,Victoria) with kids & spouses|
|March 2015||Carnival Breeze||MIA->Ocho Rios,Grand Cayman,Cozumel with my 2 youngest|
|January 2015||Norwegian Epic||MIA->Ocho Rios,Grand Cayman,Cozumel with Single Friends|
|March 2014||Celebrity Reflection||MIA->San Juan,St. Thomas,St. Maarten|
|January 2013||Carnival Glory||MIA->Cozumel,Roatan,Grand Cayman with Single Friends|
|January 2011||Carnival Glory||MIA->Nassau,San Juan,Grand Turk with Single Friends|