Travel Rules

International TravelSnippets from the Road

BERMUDA BLISS

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Here’s a key piece of advice:  Factor in downtime for your travel, especially if your itinerary includes going non-stop in order to “see it all.”

One of the things the hubby and I truly appreciate is having a few days to do nothing.  That means no plans, alarms, or advance decisions on how to spend the day. Not only is that a true luxury but something one really needs.  Plus there’s the added bonus of returning home just slightly less tired.  It can be a time to reflect on the trip highpoints/lowpoints.  Since time is obviously so precious, it makes sense to evaluate what works best for you in order to mitigate mistakes or unforced errors.

Bermuda has always been on the to-do list, but it’s minimum two flights from the west coast.  With our post-Africa route through Heathrow, getting to Bermuda was just one more flight.

There are some 70,000 residents collectively in the 150+ islands, but most principally reside on the five largest.  I was surprised at the number of native Bermudians we met with families that had been there for generations.  Most other people — especially those working in hospitality — were an international mix.  Not surprisingly, tourism is the main source of revenue along with insurance and Bermuda onions (not kidding).

Below — the Rosewood Bermuda.

Bermuda is colonial in feel and sometimes in attire where men don pastel Bermuda shorts with loafers and button-down shirts.  Golf is huge; at least eight courses on the main island.  Many hotel guests send their clubs in advance via Ship Sticks.  I used them to send resort clothes ahead as African flights were limited for luggage, but the recommended timeframe to send the bag seemed ridiculously early (shipped from LA on April 16 for our May 4 arrival).

It wasn’t early at all.  The bag in fact made it to the island around April 26 but only delivered to our room on May 5.  With major custom delays (Covid strikes again), copious emails resulted between the shipper, the resort and me.  In the end, in our room there was a sight for sore eyes and a source of clean clothes.

So we took our own advice and did pretty much nothing.

At the main pool
At the beach pool
At the beach
Simple and perfect nightly dessert. Homemade.

The one big adventure consisted of a “car” from Rugged Rentals and driving to the other side of the island.  Seen below is a golf cart disguised as a Hummer with no power steering, brakes or shock absorbers.  Factor in driving on the “wrong” side in Bermuda, and my arms got a workout.

And, as with all good things, this trip came to an end … after 24 days, 3 countries, 15 flights, 6 covid tests and endless memories.  What a blessing to be on these adventures together.

Bye, Bermuda .. Until we meet again.

 

International TravelThings I Love

A SEAMLESS START

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When the time to depart finally arrived, I was quite nervous.  After so many blips, changes and uncertainties (see previous post), we were finally airborne.  Changing our arrival in Africa from Nairobi to Dar Es Salaam meant an extra flight, but leaving from Burbank Airport (to Seattle) is so swift and hassle free that it was worth it.   Best news is no touching our bags until the “final destination” — which is such a creepy saying.  Need to think of an alternative.  Suggestions?

Stunning Mt. Ranier from the plane

The hubby and I like to think it was an auspicious start to the trip to have the Bruin track team on the flight.  I asked if we should start an “8 clap” and that got everyone’s attention.  We chatted about the epic Final Four and in particular our allegiance to the blue & gold.  My goodness, they were so young!

For the next leg, 14 hours from Seattle to Doha (via the north pole) is daunting, but this was a pleasure.  With a half-full cabin, the staff were even more attentive.  And how can one not love an airplane bathroom where you can actually turn around (and change clothes comfortably).  Highly recommend Qatar Airways, especially if you are part of the One World Alliance (American and British Air, etc.)

My roomy and comfy cabin aboard Qatar.

 

Breakfast is served

The eight-hour Doha layover was limited to the airport per covid restrictions.  But Hamad International rivals Singapore’s Changi in facilities, albeit on a smaller scale.   The endless stream of green-jacket-wearing assistants provided carts and guidance throughout the transfer process.  Maybe it is due to my Platinum status on American or they mistook us for foreign royals, but honestly we just went with the flow.  Except when they kept offering us wheelchairs for some reason.  I later found out American thought I had requested this, which I did not.  At least it wasn’t due to assumed gimpyness of us.

Qatar Lounge
Meal #??? en route at the airport lounge

We finally arrived in Dar es Salaam, but for just two hours.   A short flight to Kilaminjaro Airport in Arusha followed with zero view of the iconic mountain due to clouds.  The flight departed as soon as everyone was on board, a good 15 minutes early.  No “we are cleared for takeoff” or “we are fifth in line for departure.”  Rev up those propellers and take off, with the Arusha arrival 25 minutes early.

Aboard Precision Air

Rivertrees Country Inn provided a perfect overnight to get our sea legs.  We loved a long chat with fellow guest Melvin from the UK.  When I asked about his itinerary, he said “I left for three weeks and that was five months ago.”  Can you imagine?  He had one small bag while buying and discarding clothes as needed per weather requirements.  Interesting way to travel, to say the least.  He traveled to Arusha from Dar es Salaam via train.  What took us just over an hour took him 22 hours with no stops in between.  We’ll stick with the planes, thank you very much.

Next stop:  safari in Central Serengeti.

Usa River
Rivertrees Country Inn

 

Snippets from the Road

PLEASE, NO MORE CHANGES!

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It’s a very good thing that I love trip planning because the time spent finalizing this itinerary has been rather inordinate.   And that’s a proverbial understatement.

Not long ago, I posted a blog (click HERE) about just how complicated it is to plan an international trip at this particular time due to Covid uncertainties.  Or maybe it’s just because of this destination.  Regardless, that itinerary became moot a week ago and a new one was suggested, agreed upon, and flights were changed.  Again.

We’re now at zero minus 2 days until departure.  Vaccinated to the hilt, results in hand, Covid tested (the first of many for this trip), we are packed and good to go.  We hope.  Maybe just a bit of praying involved.  Our new map is below.  It does look like a lot of moving about, but the flights are mostly short within Tanzania and Uganda. And it is fascinating to see the landscape between destinations.   As for Kenya, we have a brief layover  through Nairobi as they have new restrictions in place prohibiting seeing more of that country.   Trip highlights, starting from the lower right:

Tanzania:  Dar es Salaam (plane change only) to Arusha (near Mt. Kilimanjaro) to Serengeti East to Ngorongoro Crater.

Uganda:  Entebbe, Bwindi Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest (all in the western part).

Back to Entebbe to Nairobi to exit the continent.

 

Fingers crossed, the next post will be from on the ground in Tanzania.  Stay tuned ..

International TravelThings You Should Know

AND THE AWARD GOES TO …

FIRST PRIZE

For “Best understanding and navigating the complicated world of travel restrictions,” the award goes to :: Anyone who prevails, especially internationally.  I will gladly accept my blue ribbon (after untold hours spent).

Many of us might just cry “Uncle.”  Our family trip to Italy has been rescheduled twice since 2020 and is now calendared for November.  For me and the hubby, this year’s trip was always going to be Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), but what a ride it’s been.  And we haven’t even left yet.

Industrial-strength desire and patience is a must in the planning stages.  It might be tempting for some to think its just too much work to pull off a trip.  And is anyone truly patient?  I know I’m not.  Just when one is certain the itinerary is settled, a new wrinkle appears.  I could fill up a recycling bin with printed copies of reservations made and cancelled.

A LATE CHANGE

The biggest surprise, literally just contemplated and confirmed a few days ago, is Tanzania is out and Uganda is in.  That means in addition to the traditional “Big 5” — lions/leopards/elephants/rhinos/buffalo — we are including gorillas and chimps, oh my!  Until recently, I thought Rwanda was the only place to go for gorilla trekking.  In reality, there are some 400 of these amazing creatures in Uganda’s Bwindi Forest where we’re headed.

The staff at Africa Travel Resource have been extraordinary throughout the process.  Numerous itineraries were offered.  They weighed in with pros and cons.  They have continuously sent clients on safari in spite of the challenges from the pandemic and know the terrain extremely well.

THE JOURNEY THERE

The first hurdle?  Getting to the African continent with travel rules that change daily.  There are few routes (via American Airlines partners) where one is able to “transfer” through a destination.  That means arriving somewhere but not entering the country (i.e., outside immigration).  Instead, the onward travel to the next destination simply continues within the confines of the airport. This avoids any of the country’s quarantine requirements.  Even an overnight at an airport hotel might require quarantine; thus avoid!

A case in point of how airport transfers can become a nightmare:  We once had a plane change in Sri Lanka.  Since we weren’t technically entering the country, I didn’t apply for Visas.  Lo and behold, the Sri Lankans considered going to the baggage carousel to gather our bags for the next flight (on a different airline) to be “entering the country.”  Long lines, language barriers, and a ticking clock to the next departure equaled major stress.  Singapore Airlines more than earned their best airline status by helping us through the calamity.

By the way, if the Sri Lanka episode happens to you, be firm about not missing your next flight.  We were told that there was no way we would make it.  But because of polite persistence and some absolute insistence, we indeed made the flight.  (More about that subject is covered in a previous post linked HERE).

Thus I feel positively victorious to be flying from Los Angeles to Nairobi on just two flights in a mere 22 hours.  We have one plane change in Doha, Qatar, for two hours.  I used 75,000 AA miles per person for the flights on Qatar Airlines. Even with the first leg at 15-1/2 hours, I’m looking forward to experiencing their Q-Suites.

We’re scheduled for the required COVID test just prior to leaving Los Angeles.  Kenya requires proof of a negative test (not more than 96 hours old) for entry to the country.  From there, no quarantine is required so off we go.

The trip map

I will write more later about the rest of the journey.  I’m just happy to be able to finally focus on all that needs to be done before we leave in a few short weeks.  That is a great joy indeed.

U.S. Travel

THE CAROLINA’S :: HILTON HEAD, BEAUFORT AND HOME AGAIN

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Note:  Sorry for the long delay in this final post from the June trip to the Carolina’s.  Life intervened but happy to be back with this wrap up and future posts to follow! 

The idyllic setting at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island was just the ticket to wrap up our swing through both of the Carolina’s (see previous posts here).  It’s an easy drive down the highway from Charleston to the general area.  The hubby was in charge of finding a place for lunch prior to arriving at our hotel.

To say that he entered nirvana at Magiamo in Hilton Head is the proverbial understatement for this year or any other.  The restaurant happens to have very good pizza, but the food is completely secondary to the experience as the “home away from home for The Ohio State Buckeyes.”

“You can’t believe all the stuff here!!”
Memorabilia from other Ohio teams

From the moment one enters, it is literally Buckeye memorabilia covering every inch.  Signed and framed jerseys, game balls, newspaper articles, enormous photos from big wins and every other item one can imagine.  The one that truly “hits below the belt” is shown in the photo below, a testament to the depth of the Michigan rivalry.  We’re told that game viewing is insane, probably second only to being at The Shoe (aka Ohio Stadium).

Ouch .. the ultimate diss.
Oh, what a game! Hubby and son were there.

If living in a gated golf community is what you desire, then Hilton Head is your place.  Once on the island, we passed innumerable entryways to communities.  We walked past what appeared to be multi-unit buildings, town homes and single-family residences — all part of the Harbor Town area.  It seemed like everyone was riding bikes, even at night when it was too dark to see a street sign!

Harbor area.

As with the recent road trip, our itinerary was routed to include another high school reunion.  In nearby Beaufort, SC, en route back to Charlotte for the flight home, we visited two LA transplants. We had a great time hearing about life there vs. what we know it to be in California.

High school friends and sisters Lorraine & Sheila

Here are some quick facts on travel adapted to mitigate the spread of COVID ::

  • Don’t expect much in the way of housekeeping. The first time full service was provided at any hotel we’ve stayed in (either this trip or the previous one) was in Hilton Head.  We were asked at check-in for our preferred time slot so we could plan to be out of the room.  This helps the staff with fewer encounters.
  • The smaller of the two pools also required a reservation to preclude over-crowding.  Likewise the gym.
  • Everything is under wraps, including remote controls.
  • There are signs posted as to how many should be in the elevator at one time.  At Sea Pines, it was limited to one family per ride; in Charleston it was no more than six people but the elevators were much larger.

None of the above facts are noted for anything other than information sharing.  If one chooses to travel at this particular time, one needs to know that the hospitality industry is both trying to survive while at the same time doing everything possible to mitigate any spread according to guidelines.

Poolside social distancing.

My takeaway: Same as with the previous road trip, travelers are happy to be out and about.  It’s hot as hell, it’s summer and we’re being mindful.  Clearly others may feel differently and we all just need to respect one another’s choices.

 

Snippets from the Road

ITALY, PARTY OF FOUR — UPDATED

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(This March 3 post is updated at the end … )

With the big post-tax season trip just six weeks away, I’ve been repeatedly asked these questions:  “Are you cancelling your trip?”  “Are you concerned?”  “What are your thoughts about …”

My answer has not changed.  No, we are not changing unless we are forced to.   In other words, if all flights to Italy are cancelled, then I guess we’ll change our itinerary — flying into Rome and departing from Milan, with additional stays in Florence and Venice.  American Airlines currently has a deadline for flight changes without penalty until March 16.  All of the hotels and cars may be cancelled without fees.  So not much at stake while we see what happens.

We’re a generally healthy family who in all probability would tolerate a flu without much fanfare. While I’m not looking for adverse conditions, the fact is we could stay home and get sick.  So what the heck .. onward.

My Snippet from the Road:  Carry on unless you’re forced not to.  Wash your hands.  And if change must happen — the South of France is just an hour flight from Rome.  A win/win.

UPDATE:  In case you’re interested in where we stand now (March 13), we are looking to postpone just a few weeks from our original 4/17 departure.  Typically we’re home around May 10 looking forward to attending Dodger games.  Since that is also postponed, our timing is flexible throughout May.   It would be a pleasure to be among the first to help resurrect Italy’s economy in some small way.

The plan is to see how things look at the end of March/beginning of April before changing flights and hotels.  Until then, we’ll talk to each other, catch up on reading and perhaps binge watch cooking shows on Netflix …