Things You Should Know

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

WHY LOYALTY MATTERS …

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Repeated robocalls.  Anyone not sick of them? The hubby answers far many more of them at home than I do, and even engages some of them to my ever astonishment.  So when the phone rang and showed American Airlines as the caller he answered — and this one was for real, with the caller asking to speak to me.

“Hi, Mrs. Bialosky, this is so-and-so from the American Airlines Platinum desk calling to congratulate you on recently achieving Lifetime Platinum status!  May I give you our dedicated phone line?  Let me know when you’re ready to write down the number.”

 

Loyalty pays.  Recognition, free bags, early boarding, upgrades, more mileage rewarded, lounge access among other perks.  But just being thanked and acknowledged for loyalty says it all.  And it only took me a little over 32 years to achieve!

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??

International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should Know

DECISIONS, DECISIONS …

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In the course of doing some long-range travel planning — for Spring 2021, no less — I have gotten two proposals for safari in Kenya and Tanzania.  Africa is the one destination that requires significant advance planning as the safari camps can have as few as 6 accommodations and fill up quickly, especially during peak travel periods.  Our trip is during the “slower” months, but still it’s good to book out in advance.  In fact, I was able to secure 2020 rates by booking early.

A beautiful lioness. All photos from previous trip in 2016.

Africa is also a destination that requires the help of professional tour companies.  It is so complex to move from location to location that I (as both a seasoned traveler and planner for others) wouldn’t even attempt it.  I went back to an excellent provider who arranged two previous trips — &beyond.  At the suggestion of a friend who has made numerous trips to Africa,  I likewise engaged African Travel Resources (ATR) to see what they could offer.

King of the Jungle couldn’t care less that we observed.
The elusive leopard.

I literally have streams of emails from both providers.  African safaris are unquestionably one of the most expensive trips to take.  Start with the distance (and travel time) to get to the continent.  Then, once there, it is costly to move around for 10 or 12 or more days from location to location for extraordinary “camps” in the middle of nowhere providing an indescribable experience.  It is also incredibly worth it if one can evaluate such a thing.

Elephants sipping and reflecting.

The dilemma?  How to make the decision.  Having spent my adult career in sales, I know that being on the wrong side of a bid is disappointing.  One invests a lot of time and effort to “get the order.”  The hubby and I were literally at the point of throwing a dart to make our pick.  In the end, the decision was to go with ATR.  Once made and deposit paid,  I wrote a lengthy email to my &beyond Travel Specialist explaining everything.  She was “beyond” gracious, wished me well on our Kenya and Tanzania safari and hopes to have the opportunity to work together again.  Indeed.  I look forward to it.

The colors of Africa.
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.

International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should Know

PUERTO VALLARTA FOR WEEKEND WEDDING

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There’s no question attending a destination wedding is a commitment.  For the hubby and me, even though attending meant leaving the country again a mere four days after returning from three weeks in Southeast Asia, the decision required little thought.  When very dear friends invite you to share a joyful occasion in their lives, you go.  Barring an Act of God, there isn’t much else to discuss.  Were the timing different, we would have stayed an additional day.  But declining the invitation was never part of the equation.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture that most of us have been to weddings where the invitation and/or attendance has been “obligatory.”  By that I mean there’s not a deep relationship with perhaps the wedding party, or it’s a business relationship.  This is a friendship that goes back more than 25 years.  We have witnessed the bride essentially grow up and mature — with a bit of typical parental angst as part of the journey.  So to share the ultimate happy moment was something really special.

The destination was the Grand Velas Resort — one of many in Puerto Vallarta offering all-inclusive packages.  There are spacious rooms, multiple pools, food and drinks galore and easy beach access.  We arrived on a Friday afternoon and departed Sunday afternoon, never walking more than 10 minutes anywhere.  That included the the pool, restaurant and wedding festivities.  It was perfect.

But here’s the thing about traveling to Mexico.  Beginning with entering the terminal, there can be a lot of confusion as to which personnel at the various counters are actually in charge.  “We’re from the government” was a familiar way to grab our attention (they weren’t).  The central contact for this wedding had provided us with directions for where to go for our pre-arranged transportation.  If one made the leap to ask where to find this, that led to “that’s us!  We can take you!” They weren’t of course. With some language barriers, it can become quite a frustrating situation when one just wants to get to the destination and not be pitched on a timeshare property.  Give credit to the Mexicans, they can be very creative in handling tourists.

A glimpse of the pool; the hubby with matron of honor Leslie; Shabbat blessing at the rehearsal dinner

Here’s my take on all-inclusive resorts:  I think they are ideal for families with children.  Trying to please fussy eaters on random schedules can take away from the parents actually enjoying themselves.  Were guests to actually pay for all that food and drink, their bill would no doubt be higher.  But — much like cruises — this type of property is not something I would opt for given the choice.  I will reiterate — it was perfect for this wedding.  And US News & World Report ranked the resort #1 for best all-inclusive resorts in Puerta Vallarta.  Click on this link to see the entire list.

About our Houston friends, this completes the wedding cycle for their four offspring, which events have allowed us to get to know their other friends and family.  Kudos to the them for planning yet another beautiful and heartfelt event.

Below:  Fred & Kay Zeidman walk beautiful bride Nancy down the aisle, having been preceded by the nephews; the bride’s brothers and groom’s mom under the Chuppah.

Below after the ceremony, us with the happy parents.  The morning after, it’s possible one of us could have used a bit more sleep … and Advil.

Wishing every joy to Mr. & Mrs. Cory Accardo!

As the sun set over the horizon, we were filled with gratitude for the friendships in our lives.  There is much to be thankful for …