Snippets from the Road

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

WHERE TO TRAVEL … AND WHERE NOT!

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A recent Forbes column I received had all kinds of travel warnings for 2020.  The information is important to all of us; thus, here you go.  Let’s start with the good news — places where you’re least likely to encounter danger.  Regrettably, safety cannot be promised to anyone at anytime.  Didn’t your mother ever warn you about getting hit by a bus??  The list in no particular order:

Now, for the no-no’s — most of which are pretty obvious.  Again, these are in no particular order:

  • Libya
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Yemen
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Central African Republic
  • Part of the Congo (DRC)
  • Part of eastern Ukraine
  • Mali
  • Parts of Pakistan
  • Afghanistan
  • Part of Egypt

For the excellent full column by Laura Begley Bloom, click here.  I wish you all safe and fulfilling travels in 2020.  Whatever you do, don’t let the ba*#@rds keep you from seeing the world.

 

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 2016
Snippets from the RoadThings You Should KnowU.S. Travel

EVERYONE’S “FAVORITE” DESTINATION :: THE DMV

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In anticipation of my driver’s license expiring on my upcoming January birthday, I scheduled an appointment to get it renewed and take care of getting a REAL ID.  You’re probably aware that the government has set October 2020 as the date to have either a REAL ID or Passport to board a domestic flight.  Obviously, the REAL ID is far easier than carrying one’s passport around.

After waiting two months for my designated appointment, I showed up with my driver’s license and passport but neglected to bring two other forms of identification — mainly my social security card and perhaps a utility bill or something of that nature.  I renewed my license but was not able to secure the REAL ID.  The good news is the total time spent at the DMV was just 45 minutes.  But –and don’t tell my hubby who asked if I was all prepared — a return trip is required.

Not wanting to wait, I went online to make another appointment.  You’ll never guess the outcome:  They DON’T want me back until earliest 2022!! Why is that?? Well, my newly renewed license expires in 2025 and my Passport in 2027.  So this was their response:

Your federal identification is valid through at least 2022, and you may use it to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities such as military bases, federal courthouses, and other federal offices. We recommend holding off getting a REAL ID until your state or federal identification expires, whichever comes first.

Considering getting it now anyway?
We admire your enthusiasm! However, we expect demand for REAL ID to be very high in the next two years, and we are asking those whose REAL ID needs are not urgent to please wait so that we may serve urgent needs first. We appreciate your understanding, cooperation, and patience.

As much as I WANT to believe this, I’m not even sure I can safely rely on the response.  As the hubby said (I did tell him), you’re going to trust this information as gospel?  Hmmm, what would you do??

Snippets from the RoadThings I LoveThings You Should Know

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

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Kindness.  What do I mean by that?  Specifically in the context of people one encounters while traveling.  I believe that reluctance to engage when traveling might have more to do with inhibition or being self-conscious about not speaking correctly or a myriad of other reasons when folks generally do want to engage.  But someone must make the first move.

Three examples reminded me of this.  The first happened to my sister and her husband in Japan.  She tells it like this:

“An amazing moment of human kindness: realizing we might be on the wrong train back to Tokyo (I know, shocking), I tried typing in the name of the correct station on my phone. The young man (maybe 20 years old) sitting next to me sees this, taps me on the arm and starts talking to me via his phone translating Japanese to English. He tells me we are, indeed, going in the wrong direction and then says ‘I will guide you to your train.’ We exit at the next stop and then follow him to the right platform, where he makes sure we know where to go from there – and then he runs off to get back to his train! All this for two strangers, in the middle of rush hour.”

The second is from a trip to South Korea a few years ago.  The hubby and I were going to a baseball game.  We had a print-out of the ticket order but needed to find the Will-Call window.  A young man saw us and not only offered to help but escorted us to the window, spoke Korean to the person in charge and then waited to show us to our seats.  Regrettably there’s no photo of our Good Samaritan, but a couple from the game.

We could have used help with the scoreboard!

Last year in Moscow, we were attempting to find our restaurant in the midst of a parade with very crowded sidewalks.  A young woman noticed us trying to read our map and offered to help.  Again, not only did she provide unsolicited guidance but she walked the several blocks with us until we arrived at our designated spot.  And we learned a lot about each other along the way.

Whenever I see people taking photos, I offer to take the picture so they can be in it together.  Not everyone accepts (and most laugh when the hubby inserts himself in their photo), but I feel better for having done so.

My takeaway is this:  Make the first move.  Ask for guidance.  Engage.  We all benefit from simple acts of kindness.

Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

AMERICAN AIRLINES IS QUITE FINE

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I want to give a shout-out to American Airlines.  They have upped their game in terms of cross-country routes (LAX to Philly, NY, etc).  We flew to Philadelphia on a Friday in August (i.e., the height of summer tourism season) and the flight got to our destination early.  Our exit row seats were two on the side and very spacious.  The business class configuration is terrific but I would only do that if my upgrade request came through.  I don’t like to use miles for domestic flights, preferring to save them for the long international flights.  For the LAX return, we left Cincinnati for Chicago with a plane change at ORD.  Again, on-time departure and early arrival plus our gate was clear.

 

I read all the horror stories about cancelled flights and other nightmares. No doubt, that could be my tale at any time. Did you hear the one about the flight leaving Peru that had multiple delays over the course of THREE DAYS?   That was indeed the perfect storm of ineptness and things beyond one’s control.  But fortunately that is a very rare occurrence.

The takeaway is this:  When the news or experience is good, let it be known!

 

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Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

WE MUST NEVER FORGET …

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One might think that incorporating a visit to a somber site while on a fun road trip might be counter-intuitive, but I think it’s of utmost importance.

SHANKSVILLE, PA

On our recent baseball trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, we took a side trip somewhat out of our way in order to visit the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, PA.  To say that this site is literally “in the middle of nowhere” is not an exaggeration.  It is a beautiful place of rolling green hills in the Allegheny Mountains off the main interstate between Philly and Pittsburgh.

The weather was somber — dark clouds with some rain and plenty of lightning —  as we walked the vast space.  The memorial is under the auspices of the U.S. National Park Service.  The design of the site allows visitors to view the crash site from a flat ridge above the area.  One can also drive to the site and walk the length of the debris field, some quarter of a mile long.   There is one long wall displaying the names of each victim.  Their stories are also available elsewhere at the site.

Of the four hijacked flights, Flight 93 will forever be the most personal.  It is widely thought the flight was on a path to either the Capitol building or White House.  The hubby and I had entered the U.S. Capitol that morning just after 9am, and were hastily evacuated not long after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.  So in my heart of hearts,  I will forever owe the heroes of that downed Flight 93 for saving countless lives while sacrificing their own.

 

“A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”

SQUIRREL HILL

The next day while in Pittsburgh, we went to Tree of Life Synagogue.  We attempted to meet with the Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, but regrettably the timing did not work out.  We were at least able to see the synagogue, which is closed, and that somehow provided a connection to the community.  Evidence of the “Stronger Together” message was seen all around the area.

 

 

My “Snippet from the Road” is this:  take some time out of your travels and pay tribute to the fallen.  Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City Memorial, Valley Forge, 9/11 Memorial and sadly many more.  My sense of gratitude has only increased after these visits.

Snippets from the Road

TOP 10 TRAVEL RULES

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A wonderful friend recently sent me “10 Commandments for Travel” that she had come across, with the suggestion that I provide my own.  Well, here goes:

  1. Go with the flow!
  2. Bring copies (yes, paper) of your reservations.
  3. Keep copies of cancelled reservations including the cancellation number until after your trip — or until your credit card posts.
  4. Work with hotel concierges.  They are your best friends.
  5. Hire local guides and drivers through the hotel.  They work with and know the best and it’s not just a matter of cost.   You might also get a referral for a guide from someone you know and trust.
  6. If you’re of a certain age, make sure you are covered if you get sick or have an accident.  We recently enrolled in GeoBlue — covers all international travel for 12 months at a reasonable cost. It’s unlikely your health insurance covers foreign travel.
  7. Try for morning flights.  If it’s a “short” hop, you can still get to your destination and perhaps have an afternoon tour.  Try not to blow an entire day with a midday flight.
  8. Even if you can obtain a visa upon arrival, I recommend paying perhaps a bit more and arriving with it in hand.  Why waste travel time searching for the kiosk and perhaps waiting in line.
  9. Splurge on a greeter at the airport if you’re arriving somewhere foreign for the first time.  It’s so calming to have someone show you through the maze upon arrival.  You can cut your costs on the airport return.
  10. Talk to locals!  You can talk to your fellow countrymen when you get back home.  Smile and engage — you’ll get it back tenfold in return.