Travel Rules

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.

Snippets from the Road

TOP 10 TRAVEL RULES

top ten

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.

International TravelThings You Should Know

SOUTHEAST ASIA FOR THE WIN

spring 2019

When one is fortunate to take an annual three-week vacation, where to go is obviously the biggest decision.  Many people return over and over again to their favorite spots.  They know what to expect and/or they’ve created relationships with a particular hotel or resort.  To each his own, but the hubby and I are not those folks.  Every year we try to go where we’ve not yet been for at least the majority of the trip, with possibly a repeat stay somewhere to how the trip is routed.

This year as the title suggests is to SE Asia to four new countries:  Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.  On other trips in the region, we’ve been to Japan, China, Thailand, Singapore and several times to Hong Kong.  At some point we’ll go back to those spots, but not now.

Planning this trip was challenging as there’s a lot of geography to cover and no cruise ships involved.  And, unlike previous trips to Europe, there’s no train travel nor driving involved.  So it’s all about flights and more flights — mostly short ones.  For the long flights,  I do feel “victorious” having once again secured them via my AA miles:  LAX-Hong Kong on American (biz class for 70K per person).  The even better one (and it does feel like a victory!) is Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong (with a 10-hour stop providing ample time to visit the tailor) and then continuing on to LAX — this time on Cathay in biz class likewise for a total of 70k each.  Long-range planning and perseverance, my friends, is what this is all about.  Our spend becomes on the ground instead of in the air, which is why I commit so much time “achieving” these tickets.  By the way, the hotels where we’re traveling are so much less than the same brands charge in other destinations.  So if I’m sounding deliriously happy, there’s a good reason for it!

The first flight was a flawless one — on time, smooth, slumber achieved.  The hubby’s seat was dysfunctional requiring a total system reset, but I was asleep.  His new bestie attendant was very kind — even awarding us each 10K miles for the “inconvenience.”  That’s what I call service and a great way to reward loyalty.

I hadn’t thought about checking the bags all the way through to Taipei as we changed airlines in Hong Kong from American to EVA.  That change was flawless as well — the transfer desk simply took our documents, handled finding and re-ticketing our luggage, then gave us new bag tags, boarding passes and lounge access all in about 40 minutes.

So stay tuned — next post after our couple of days in Taipei and enjoying baseball in a fifth country!

Excellent local cuisine at Fujin Tree and then sleep!