Let's Just Go

Traveling with no regret

7 Tips To Prepare for Travel Disruptions: The Importance of Flexibility When Traveling — September 28, 2020

7 Tips To Prepare for Travel Disruptions: The Importance of Flexibility When Traveling

“We can’t direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”  -Thomas S. Mason

Canceled or delayed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, mechanical breakdown, illness, and yes, even a pandemic can derail or, even worse, cancel your travel plans. I hope you’ve never experienced any of these in your travels but the more we travel, it’s likely that a disruption will present itself from time to time.  It’s a fact of life.  And while it’s not always possible to prevent such disruptions, the pessimistic side of me would advise you to expect life to happen and encourage you to consider the what if’s.  When your plans start to fall apart, the question is, will you?

Vacation plans disrupted

A year ago, we planned a trip to spend time with family on a Barrier Island along the Gulf Coast.  Reservations were made, flights were purchased.  And then came the 2020 pandemic.  For our personal wellness, and since I am chronically ill, we opted to cancel our flights and drive.  We usually prefer to fly so we’re not “wasting” our vacation in the car.  This was no small decision for us since the drive would mean 14 hours of driving, not including stops. but we knew that driving meant controlling our environment, making us feel more comfortable about traveling 5 states away. 

2020 has been the year of what’s next, hasn’t it?  So, as if a pandemic was not enough to deal with, when it came time for our trip, a major hurricane started to churn in the Gulf and even though we carefully watched the forecast, the storm had it’s own idea on where it planned to go.  Inevitably, gaining strength just off shore and rolling right over the town where we were meant to spend our vacation. 

Our decision to drive turned out to give us the blessing of flexibility.  Not only did it afford us more security and social distancing, but it made us more flexible in terms of being able to side step the worst of the storm.  Our original plans to fly would have been canceled when the airport we were set to fly into closed due to the storm.  That would’ve left us at home with no vacation at all!  (Oh the horror!)

As we got closer to our destination, the storm made its turn and the weather deteriorated even for us so we sheltered until it was safe to get back on the road.  However, as Hurricanes do, the storm did so much damage, we had to abandon our plans and we started looking for a way to salvage our vacation.  Where can we go with no reservations?  Thankfully, being in Florida and having the flexibility of our own car meant that we had good options to choose from for an alternative vacation.  We found a quiet, cozy Airbnb near the beach for some restful vacation time with places to explore and a lot of yummy food to try.  It was definitely not the trip we planned but we were able to explore a beautiful spot we would probably not have explored otherwise and we enjoyed our time there.   

Radar image of Hurricane Sally. Credit Weather.com

Be prepared, just in case!

As you plan to travel, there is an endless list of things to consider but how many times have you considered what to do if life gets in the way? 

It can be impossible to prevent a disruption to your trip but the best remedy is to stay as flexible as you can.  I admit that despite being veteran travelers, for most of our travels, the only planning we usually make regarding travel disruption involves buying travel insurance.  We’ve been lucky!  However, since I have a chronic illness and my condition can be very unpredictable, travel disruptions are always in the back of our minds every time we prepare to travel.  

Considering the time and money spent to travel, it is a good idea to consider what you would do if your travel is interrupted so that you are not left in a panic.  It’s a good idea to know what your resources are if and when something happens.

Daria Shevtsova/Pexels

Tips for handling the what if’s

Unexpected things will happen when you travel and no amount of planning can really address every situation.  However, these are a few suggestions to help you cope.

Use a Travel professional.  I have written a blog on why using a Travel Professional is a great idea.  Read all about it at https://letsjustgo247.com/?p=399.

Pack essentials for a delay.  If you travel with prescription medication, always travel with plenty for your trip and several days extra in case your travel plans are changed and you’re stuck somewhere unplanned.

Your carry on.  If you’re flying, a well stocked carry on is a must and  can be a life saver if your flight is delayed or canceled.  If your luggage is lost in transit, a spare set of clothes, toiletries, and snacks could make the inconvenience a bit more tolerable.

Pack a raincoat!  Watch the weather forecast for your destination as you prepare to go.  Always pack a raincoat (my #1 packing tip)!  Pack weather appropriate clothes and shoes.  Remember, a rainy day on vacation is always better than a sunny day at work!

Road trip what if’s. It’s always a good idea to make sure your vehicle is in good working order before heading out.  No one wants a flat tire or over heated engine.  However, the security of roadside assistance is also a plus when dealing with unexpected mechanical issues.  To make long trips more bearable, stop frequently, switch off drivers, and break up long drives into multiple days.  Play car games, listen to music or audiobooks, and consider having snacks and beverages within easy reach.  All great ideas to make the experience fun.  Don’t be in a hurry and remember that traffic is inevitable.  All of these suggestions might seem obvious, but they can make long drives a little less grueling.  A road trip can be a great way to travel if you plan for the what if’s.

Keep your cool.  Let’s face it, not all travel is perfect, especially the flying experience.  My advice is to try to be as flexible as you can and breathe.  If you’ve worked with a Travel Professional as you planned, reach out to him or her if you need help.  Other resources if you need help can include your tour guides, concierge, or even local welcome centers when you need alternative suggestions.  Listen to their suggestions.  They might have even better options for you.  If you don’t lose your cool, it’s easier for the professionals who can help to do everything they can.  Staying calm helps the situation resolve quickly.  The professionals trying to help you will be as thrown by the disruption as you are but they want to be helpful and get you back on your way.  Being pushy or loosing your cool just ruins your day even further.  

Kaboompics.com/Pexels

Our recent experience has inspired this advice and I hope you find it helpful.  I’m also betting there are many of you that have experienced travel disruptions that were more like nightmares and I’m sure you could write a book!  If you have any great tips to share, please be sure to comment below.  Just know that your travels are not always going to be Instagram filter worthy unless you want to share the reality of the experience!  

Safe Travels and don’t forget to pack your raincoat!

3 Reasons to Visit New Orleans — August 24, 2020

3 Reasons to Visit New Orleans

“We dance even if there’s no radio.  We drink at funerals.  We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of other who don’t.”  -Chris Rose

Whether you call it the Big Easy, NOLA, or the Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana is a vibrant, historic, eclectic, and culturally rich city perched on the Mississippi River that every traveler should experience at least once in their lifetime.  French, Spanish, West African, and Southern historical influences on the city’s culture have resulted in a City with it’s own unique cuisine, music, art, architecture, and yes, even it’s own language.  It’s a charming city like no other!  But why should you go?   

Beautiful New Orleans architecture

Eat great food

“We don’t measure our seasoning. We just sprinkle and shake until the spirits of our ancestors whisper.”  -Unknown

Food is a big part of travel and New Orleans proudly shares it’s culinary heritage with every visitor.  If you are fearless in your food adventures, the list of dishes to try is long and delicious!  Be sure to seek out and try Gumbo, Etouffee, boiled Crawfish, Po Boys, Bananas Foster, King Cakes, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, or the New Orleans Muffuletta.  Each of these dishes can be easy to find and will surely reinforce the New Orleans culture all around you.  

For us, our visits to town always start gleefully enjoying Beignets at a NOLA institution, Café Du Monde.  And while some might say that visiting Café Du Monde is the tourist thing to do, for us, it is a distinctly New Orleans must stop!   Established in 1862, Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day and closes only for Christmas Day and the occasional Hurricane that ventures too close to New Orleans. 

Cafe Du Monde, 800 Decatur Street

In the 18th century, the French settlers to the Gulf Coast brought coffee and the Acadians (Cajuns) from Nova Scotia brought other French customs such as the beignet.  Followed by a coffee shortage during the Civil War that led the New Orleans Creoles to develop Chicory-blended coffee and you have the distinctly New Orleans coffee and beignet combination served at Café Du Monde. 

A Beignet is a square piece of dough that is fried and covered in powdered sugar.  Made fresh, each order comes with three Beignets and I always warn that, if eaten properly, you will be covered in powdered sugar by the time you’re done!  If you’re a coffee drinker, pair your Beignet with Chicory Coffee, or what appears on the menu as Café au Lait.  Find these delights at Café Du Monde at 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA. 

Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde

Listen to great music

“I’m not sure but I’m almost positive that all music came from New Orleans.”  -Ernie K. Doe

For me, New Orleans is the most vibrantly and demonstratively musical city of our travels.  Especially in the bustling French Quarter, you can hear music on nearly every corner or exuberantly pouring out of restaurants or bars with the differing tunes crashing together in the street as you walk along. Considered the birthplace of jazz, the music of New Orleans has been influenced by the varying ethnic groups that have lived in the city throughout it’s history and the music you will hear has a distinctive swing like no other.  In fact, when you hear it, I dare you to stand still!  Most of us have at one time or another, enjoyed the music of New Orleans born musicians Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick Jr., Fats Domino, and Aaron Neville and The Neville Brothers, to name only a few.  The City of New Orleans celebrates it’s musical traditions with abandon and as you plan a visit, consider participating in the endless party sure to be happening in town.  You can choose from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, Voodoo Music Experience, Bayou Boogaloo, Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival, Buku Music &Arts Festival, Cajun Zydeco Festival, Central City Festival, Satchmo Summerfest, Freret Street Festival, Jazz In The Park, and of course, Mardi Gras. If you’re not in town for a festival, remember that in New Orleans, every day feels like a party and it’s likely that you can find some toe tapping street musicians who make walking The French Quarter feel like a celebration. 

Street Music in New Orleans

Explore the History

“When you go to New Orleans, you’re not just going to a city, you’re going to an entire culture.” -James Carville

Founded by the French, occupied by the Spanish, and the most important city in the South during the Civil War due to it’s position at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the size of the Port of New Orleans, the city is rich in cultural and architectural history.  A quick visit to the city should include a walk through the famous French Quarter, one of the most historic neighborhoods in NOLA, photo ops in Jackson Square, and a peek inside the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral. 

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

Stepping outside of the French Quarter, a recommended ride on The Saint Charles Streetcar is an easy way to see more of the city.  The Saint Charles Streetcar is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world.  Live Oak trees that drip with Spanish Moss line the route that passes dozens of antebellum mansions, Loyola and Tulane Universities, and Audubon Park.  Buying a ticket from the driver makes for an easy, enjoyable ride through one of the most beautiful parts of New Orleans.

The St. Charles Streetcar in the Garden District

Bonus

While in New Orleans, if you have time, an hour outside of the city is Oak Alley Plantation.  On the west bank of the Mississippi River in Vacherie, Louisiana, and a true snapshot of life in the antebellum south, Oak Alley is a beautiful 28 acre property named for the double row of twenty eight 300 year old southern live oaks that create an 800 foot canopy that give the Plantation it’s name. 

Oak Alley and it’s magnificent Southern Live Oak Trees

Built in 1837 and now designated a National Historic Landmark, Oak Alley was established to grow sugarcane.  Today, a visit includes tours of the “Big House,”and truthful exhibits about the Civil War and slavery at Oak Alley as well as the Sugarcane Theatre where the history of sugarcane cultivation is explained.

To plan a visit, find Oak Alley at www.oakalleyplantation.com.

Each time we visit New Orleans, we have a different experience but it is always an adventure.  There really is no place like New Orleans especially when you have a local guide (we are lucky to have family in the area) to help you immerse yourself in the spirit of the city.  If you aren’t that lucky, do your research and have a great time.  A visit to New Orleans and falling in love with the food, the music, the history, and of course, the people is highly recommended.

Enjoy your visit! 

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!”  (Let the good times roll!)

With Love, Waco; How we planned our trip to Waco, Texas — July 5, 2020

With Love, Waco; How we planned our trip to Waco, Texas

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” –Unknown

There was probably a time when Waco, Texas was not a tourist destination.  But then, along came Chip & Joanna Gaines and their HGTV show, Fixer Upper!  It seems like everything they touch turns to gold and we all want to see and experience the positive and beautiful changes that Waco has experienced.  The Gaines and their show have certainly put Waco on the map for many of us. 

Of course, like so many, I am a fan of all things Magnolia so we planned a trip to Waco.  With some research, we had a wonderful trip in and around Waco and this is how we planned our trip. I hope that what we learned can help you to plan an equally memorable trip to Waco. 

Magnolia Market; Waco, Texas

The best time of year and the best day of the week to visit the Magnolia Silos

Weather and crowds are always the biggest considerations for us as we plan any of our trips. This was especially true as we planned to experience Waco. From our research, we saw that many recommendations indicated that crowds were smaller in the fall so we planned our trip for September.  The summer tourist rush had subsided and the kids were back in school and it is generally a time of year that we prefer to travel anyway.  In addition, the oppressive summer heat of Texas had backed off and while it was warm, it was not uncomfortable as we explored.   

We also learned that the day of the week played a role in crowds as well.  We planned to visit Magnolia Table and the Magnolia Silos on a Monday morning and had no crowds at all.  If you choose to go on a Monday, be mindful that because of smaller crowds, some businesses in downtown Waco are closed on Mondays so be sure to check the hours for any peripheral business you would like to visit in the downtown area to be sure they are open.

TIP: when considering the time of year to visit the Magnolia Silos, be sure to check their website for the events that they host like Silobration or the Silo District Marathon.  These are busy times with big crowds and while the events look like tons of fun, hotels, parking, and getting onto the Magnolia Silos campus will take some patience.  The Magnolia Silos is a grown up Wonderland, family playground, and foodie delight all wrapped up in one place so there are likely to be lots of people when you visit.  Our Monday in September was perfect!

Stay in a “Fixer Upper”

Where we chose to stay was frankly, the part of our trip that I looked forward to the most.  For the same price as a hotel, we opted to stay in an Airbnb.  And not just any Airbnb!  We stayed in one of the houses that Chip & Joanna remodeled on their show.  We stayed in the house that appeared in Season 3, episode 2, “The Brick House.”  This was my favorite house that Chip & Joanna had on their show.  I loved it!  We were able to get some groceries and make a few of our own meals so we didn’t have to eat out for every meal.  It turned out to be a quiet, comfortable place to stay after a fun day of touring that was centrally located to everything we wanted to do.  Staying there instead of a hotel truly enriched the trip and reinforced why were in Waco.  See an Airbnb link below for details on how to rent the house or check out the Magnolia blog to see the house before and after: https://magnolia.com/our-show/episode-02-brick-house/ 

Fixer Upper, Season 3, episode 2; “The Brick House”

Our house was clean, cozy, and just as cute as it was the day it was revealed on the show after it’s remodel.  In fact, right next door was another Fixer Upper home, “The Giraffe House.”  For those of you who have used Airbnb before, our house has a “Superhost” status and our host was fabulous at making us comfortable, checking on us before, during, and after our stay and she was available if we needed help. 

Staying in a Fixer Upper home is easy.  A LOT of them are now rentals so be sure to check Airbnb for your favorite Fixer Upper home if you’d like to truly have a Fixer Upper experience while you are in Waco. 

Such a comfortable place to stay in Waco!

Our trip plan

In my research, I noticed that a majority of those who head for Magnolia are “Girl’s trips” that look like lots of fun.  My Mother in Love joined us for the week and we met her in Dallas and headed to Waco.  My Husband is the best!  He drove his Mother and me anywhere we wanted to go and waited patiently while we shopped.  He’s a good sport! He had some fun too!

We used Waco as home base and midpoint for everything we wanted to do in the time we had.  Below was a rough plan of our trip:

Day 1; flew into Dallas and drove to Waco. 

Waco is about an hour and a half from Dallas so coordinating flights and meeting Rose Mary in Dallas worked well.  Once in Waco, we found our home for the week, grabbed some groceries, and headed out for some Tex-Mex before calling it a day. 

Day 2: Our day dedicated to Waco

Magnolia Table; Waco, Texas

Breakfast: In keeping to the all things Magnolia, we started with breakfast at Magnolia Table.  The restaurant is known for big crowds so we were there not too long after the doors opened at 8am and we were seated right away.  They only serve breakfast, 8am-3pm, Monday through Saturday.  For me, the highlight was the delicate and complex Lemon Lavender Donut Holes.  Don’t wrinkle your nose! (I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too).  They did not taste of potpourri or soap at all.  They are lemon, floral, and sweet all at once.  Try them!  You won’t be sorry!

Magnolia Table; Eggs, Biscuit, sausage, hash browns, and Lemon Lavender Donut holes! Fuel for a day of shopping and touring!

Magnolia Market Silos & Waco Tours: After breakfast, we headed for the Silos to shop and enjoy the grounds of Magnolia Market Silos.  The Silos grounds are set up to be very family oriented and you can play lawn games in the green space, enjoy the gardens, grab a meal or a sweet treat, people watch, and shop to your heart’s content. 

Around 11am, we joined a group for a wonderful tour of Waco with Waco Tours.  The tour included stops by several of the actual houses that were renovated on Fixer Upper, we stopped at Harp Design Co., owned by Clint Harp who played an integral part on Fixer Upper,  stopped at Heritage Creamery for a taste of the most delicious ice cream on the planet, had coffee at Common Grounds, stopped by the Dr. Pepper Museum, visited the campus of Baylor University, and saw sights in and around Cameron Park.  We also learned a lot about the history of Waco and it’s people from our knowledgeable guides.  It was a great way to see Waco with actual locals who love their home town and we would highly recommend that you consider a tour with them early in your trip so you can go back to the places they point out during your stay.  Our tour enhanced our time in Waco and helped us get our bearings.  They also offer river boat tours on the  Brazos River that we would’ve taken if we’d had more time. The staff is tremendously helpful and make you feel like family.

Waco Tours. A comfortable way to see all of Waco with locals who love their home town.

Lunch: After our tour, we went back to the Magnolia Silos to have lunch.  On their campus, you can choose from any number of food trucks for a quick bite to eat.  For us, that was the humble Grilled Cheese at the Cheddar Box Food Truck.   Crunchy and cheesy, it met our expectations for one of our favorite comfort foods and we paired our sandwiches with Iced tea from another food truck, Alabama Sweet Tea, which was served ice cold in a reusable mason jar.  Very Southern!

Cheddar Box Grilled Cheese and Alabama Sweet Tea Company; Food Trucks on the Magnolia Silos campus.

Before leaving the Silos for the day, we felt compelled to grab treats to take home from the Magnolia Bakery.  Serving cupcakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls…we wanted them ALL but we took home enough to keep our sweet tooth satisfied for our stay! 

Cookies, Cinnamon buns and Cupcakes! OH MY! Magnolia Bakery

Before calling it a day, we headed back to Harp Designs Co. to shop around. 

Day 3: San Antonio

Waco is 2 hours and 40 minutes from San Antonio. We made the day of it, taking a boat tour of the River Walk and had lunch in a Tex-Mex restaurant overlooking the water.  After lunch, we had a short walk to the Alamo.  I have never seen it so we toured the inside, trying to imagine what happened there so many years ago when today, the Alamo is eclipsed by the skyscrapers of San Antonio. 

The Alamo; San Antonio, Texas

When we got back to Waco, we visited Waco Suspension Bridge. 

Visiting the Waco Suspension Bridge

Day 4: Dallas

On day 4, we made a quick trip to Dallas to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  I love history and this is my third Presidential Library.  President Bush’s Library is very interactive and unlike the other Presidential Libraries I have visited before.  The exhibits start, as all new Presidential terms do, with hope and dreams for a better future, specifically with the inauguration and Mrs. Bush’s role as First Lady.  However, the first turn into the exhibits, sets the tone for what came next in Mr. Bush’s Presidency.  The lighting is dark and you hear sirens.  You are in the portion of the Library dedicated to the horrible events of September 11, 2001.  The contrast from the room before is dramatic and in the middle of the room is a twisted piece of one the World Trade Center towers.  While I expected the story to be told, it felt like a place of reverence to see the twisted steel.  The exhibit as a whole was powerful.  It is a humbling place that tells the story of that horrible day and beyond as well as how the events shaped Mr. Bush’s Presidency.

Twisted beams from the World Trade Center; a poignant reminder of a terrible day.

The library exhibits remain darkly lit through the period that followed the Terrorist Attack on our Country and there are interactive exhibits around the wars in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan including a fascinating one that puts you in the President’s shoes.  In this exhibit, you are in the Situation Room and you are given a situation that President Bush had to deal with when he was President.  You are given updates by “experts” and you see news reports on the events as they happened.  You have a series of buttons in front of you and when prompted, you have to make a decision.  On the screen, you can see what decisions others in the room made.  The moderator then tells you what decision President Bush ultimately made and why.  It was fascinating to get the perspective of how a President must make the decisions he must make with the information and advice he is provided.  We all grow up wanting to be President and spend our adulthood criticizing those who hold the job but after experiencing that exhibit, I can say with certainty, I do not envy the people we elect to make those decisions.  I’m always amazed that in a four or eight year term, our Presidents always seem to look much older.  Now, I certainly understand why!

A giant interactive touch screen that lays out the wars in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

There is a full size replica of the Oval Office from President Bush’s time as President.  This is worth mentioning because it was the first that allowed you to walk into the office and sit behind the desk while others we have seen were not interactive.  This is a really neat touch. 

A replica of President George W. Bush’s Oval Office; George W. Bush Presidential Center, Dallas, Texas

Other parts of the Library highlight the First Family’s life while in the White House.  There is a section on the First Pets and a delightfully funny retrospective of Mr. and Mrs. Bush by their daughters Jenna and Barbara.  The exhibits end exploring The Bush family and what they have done since leaving office. 

No matter your political preferences,  it is a great place to visit and if you have to opportunity to visit any Presidential library in your travels, I encourage you to experience one.  I have visited John F. Kennedy’s Library in Boston and Ronald Reagan’s Library in Simi Valley, California and while each one is different and striking in their own ways, Mr. Bush’s Library is very engaging and interactive, which we enjoyed very much. 

Day 5: Free day to explore more of Waco

Our last day in Texas was left as a free day on purpose.  We had done some driving throughout our trip so our plan was to stay close and go back to anything in Waco we might want to revisit, like Heritage Creamery (read more about them in a previous blog: https://letsjustgo247.com/?p=652) or the bookstore at Baylor University.  We enjoyed some shopping at Spice Village (not to be missed-there is something for EVERYONE!), and enjoyed one last Tex-Mex meal while we had the chance to get something authentic.  The rest of the day was set aside to relax and enjoy our little Fixer Upper Airbnb and prepare to head for home.    

Here are some direct links to all these great places to help you plan your trip:

Magnolia Table: www.magnolia.com

Magnolia Market Silos: www.shop.magnolia.com

Magnolia Bakery: www.magnoliabakery.com

Waco Tours: www.waco-tours.com  We met reps of Waco Tours across the street from the Magnolia Market Silos.  They took us by golf cart to their main offer where we met our group and boarded our van for our trip  They have wonderful guides and everyone associated with them were friendly.  Take a tour early in your visit if you can.  They take you to places around town that are worth going back to for more time!  They even took us back to our car, parked just outside the Magnolia Market Silos. 

Cheddar Box Food Truck: www.cheddarboxwaco.com

Alabama Sweet Tea Company: www.alabamasweettea.com

Harp Design Co: www.harpdesignco.com

Heritage Creamery: www.heritagecreamery.com

Airbnb, The Brick House: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36237369?location=Waco%2C%20TX%2C%20United%20States&adults=2&check_in=2020-12-01&check_out=2020-12-05&source_impression_id=p3_1593959144_2qj0zL6FZr92ZjXs&guests=1

The San Antonio River Walk: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/

The Alamo: https://www.thealamo.org/

The George W. Bush Presidential Center: https://www.bushcenter.org/

Spice Village: https://spicewaco.com/

We truly enjoyed our time in Waco.  Overall, Waco feels like home–like any town.  Chip and Joanna Gaines have made a positive impact that seems to have injected growth to downtown Waco and sparked new businesses that no doubt, have served many who live in Waco.  It is great to see. 

I hope I’ve been able to give you some ideas for your visit and I hope you enjoy your trip! 

There’s No Place Like the Travel Addict’s Home — May 31, 2020

There’s No Place Like the Travel Addict’s Home

“There’s no place like home!”  -Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

The thrill of travel includes many components but the two that I love most are JUST GOING and coming home!  As much as we love to pack and go, our travels have always made me appreciate the comforts and blessings of home.  I think everyone that travels can relate to that, just a little.   

We live where the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay converge and there are a lot of names for where we live; Hampton Roads, Tidewater, “The 757”, and sometimes, “The Seven Cities.”  “The Seven Cities” of our area include Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, and Suffolk.  When we travel and we’re asked where we’re from, sometimes it’s easiest to say, “Virginia Beach,” because that is usually the local city that most people can identify in our area. 

Norfolk; The City of Mermaids

We are a military town, surrounded by every branch of the military and home to Naval Station Norfolk, the headquarters and home port of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Forces Command.  I might’ve been a Marine brat as a kid, but I am born and raised in Norfolk which makes me a Unicorn of sorts! If you’re ever in the area and you have the opportunity to check off, “find a Norfolk Native,” on a scavenger hunt, come find me!  Being a native of the area is a badge of honor for me.

There is nothing like the homecoming of an Aircraft Carrier at Naval Station Norfolk

We might also have the designation of “Seven Cities,” but there is even more to our area.  While I grew up in Norfolk, for the early years of our marriage, my Husband and I have lived in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, finally moving out to the country to enjoy small town living and some wide open spaces in Isle of Wight County, a rural community just outside the “Seven Cities” boundary and just minutes from “town.”  When we want to “go for a ride,” we like to jump into the truck and go across the James River by bridge, tunnel, or ferry and explore Williamsburg.  We go often.  My Husband’s favorite restaurant, Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que, a longtime institution in the area, is nearly always the primary destination.  

Sailing the Elizabeth River on The American Rover

Our area is a tourist mecca in it’s own right, even if we don’t think of it that way.  While we marvel at sunsets and beautiful churches in the spectacular European cities that we visit, we wonder if the people who live there truly appreciate where they live.  I’m guessing that they are a lot like us and take their home towns for granted.  Tourists come here from all over to spend a week at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront or to explore the nearby “historic triangle” of Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg.  We have the joys of the beach and many opportunities to enjoy time on the water along the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, the Chesapeake Bay, and the James and Elizabeth Rivers. Then there is the seafood!  I’ve always loved the easy access to fresh seafood including my favorite crab boil for my birthday.  

Some of the other well known visitor areas of our region include:

-Fort Monroe

-The Cape Henry Lighthouse

-The Virginia Zoo

-Norfolk Botanical Gardens

-False Cape State Park and First Landing State Park

-Colonial Williamsburg

-The Jamestown Settlement

-The American Revolution Museum

-The Virginia Beach Board Walk

-Museums such as Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth, Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton, Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach

We live in a beautiful part of Virginia that bursts into color in the spring, celebrates Harbor Fest and July 4th like a small town, revels in festivals and wine tastings in the fall, and becomes a local’s town again for a little while during the winter.   

King Neptune on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk

It’s a place where we spend time with friends and family; where we make our home and go to work so we can travel again, and where my Tempur-Pedic is always waiting for me! (I always miss my bed!)   Some people think of where we live as a vacation spot.  We just call it home.

Come see us when you can!

The Travel Addict’s Benefactors; A Love Letter — May 24, 2020

The Travel Addict’s Benefactors; A Love Letter

“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories.” -Og Mandino

**Please forgive the photo quality for some of the following photos. Some of them are very old!

When I pack my suitcase for one of our adventures, I rarely acknowledge where my addiction to travel started.  Since I’ve been missing my suitcase during the 2020 Pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on how my passion came to be.   

1970: Christina and her Dad aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, Boston Harbor

On Mother’s Day, I was happy to visit with my parents.  In the times of “social distancing,” we were quite frankly, tired of being apart so we threw caution to the wind and spent the day together–big hugs and all!  As we made our plans for the day, I asked my mom if I could look through our old family photos.  She has piles of them and as I browsed the yellowing pages and flipped through loose, printed photos, I took note that there were no fabulous pictures of foreign lands, no campy cruise photos like the ones that photographers insist you pose for as you board a cruise ship, no old boarding passes, and no travel post cards like the ones we collect when we travel. This wasn’t really a surprise and knowing my parents, I wasn’t really expecting those types of photos anyway. 

Instead, as I sorted through the pictures, I was looking for something else; memories!  In my search, I realized that my Mom and Dad sparked my love of travel!  My Dad worked hard to support his young family and my Mom made it her priority to ensure that my brother and I had a secure and memorable childhood.  I was a happy kid and for that, I am eternally grateful.  And while I know that world wide travel wasn’t in the budget back then, what I do know is that my parents didn’t hesitate to load us kids into the car for endless road trips. 

With family and friends living well above the Mason-Dixon Line, we took countless summer trips to the Upstate New York countryside.  This is where I learned to drive a tractor and then a car, rode horses, milked cows, laid down in grass so tall that I disappeared from view, crawled into hay lofts, swam in bone chilling spring pools and streams, marveled at the birth of a calf, and ate corn on the cob freshly out of the field.  We loved going to the weekly farm auction, eating cheese curds and curly fries, and watching horse and tractor pulls at the summer fair.  I learned to love the small town farm life and appreciate the people who live it. 

1984: Christina visits the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston again

While in New York one summer, we headed to Niagara Falls, venturing into Canada and looking back toward home from a foreign country for my first time.  That was back when Canada wasn’t so foreign–you didn’t need a passport to cross the boarder.  Although I distinctly recall the Boarder Patrol questioning everyone in the car.  As a kid, of course I didn’t have anything to declare except my favorite stuffed animal but the forceful questioning left an impression.  And then, there was the unforgettable, perpetual roar of the falls that we explored from above and below as well as from both sides of the boarder.  

1980: Niagara Falls

My parents took us up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida.  Our family adventures have given us memories that we often laugh about as a family.  The most memorable include the perennial apple that my Mom packed as a snack for every road trip–never a cookie to be found!  Then there was the odyssey to Florida around my 13th birthday.  I think that trip’s main destination was Walt Disney World but for me, the lasting memory of the trip was the journey with four very tall people (and our luggage) packed into a two door hatchback Ford Pinto with no air-conditioning in late June/early July.  Needless to say, when my brother starting touching me, my Dad stopped the car with traffic whizzing by along the interstate, seats were exchanged and the touching definitely stopped!

I watched my Dad valiantly attempt to fish in beautiful mountain lakes with only little nibbles or tiny fish not fit for eating as his prize.  I have vivid memories of a very hot evening when my Dad and one of our dear family friends hand cranked ice cream on the porch of a State park cabin while sweat poured down their faces.  I recall horseback riding and looking for “Fairy Stones” in other State Parks,  watching my Mom eat lobster in Maine with a bib around her neck, observing while my Dad packed our cars with military precision, making use of every inch, visiting the ducks at The Peabody Hotel, and an endless afternoon in a hotel pool in Nashville with my brother while my parents ventured off to the Grand Ole Opry (everyone was happy).

1984: Mom eating Lobster!

Then there are the sweet memories of our favorite family activity, camping.  It is amazing to me that we loved it so when our very first camping trip was in a Pop up tent camper and just after setting up, the rain that Noah must have experienced came down leaving us stranded inside with nothing to do.  As teenagers, it was torture!  Eventually, even my steadfast Dad gave up and we took the contraption down and went home.  Damp but not discouraged, we went out again and again.  Over time we graduated to newer and bigger campers and disappeared as a family into what my Husband calls the “deep dark woods,” as often as possible, sometimes for weeks at a time. 

As I got older, travel also included the addition of Mission trips with my Church Youth group and summer camps as a counselor.  That meant that our summers would go something like this: we would come home from New York, wash clothes, pack, and head out for a week of camp, come home, wash more clothes, pack again, and head off on a Mission trip.  The summers of my teenage years were busy, glorious and some of the most formative of life.  As a camp counselor, I worked with a woman named Rose Mary, helping her as she cooked in the camp kitchen and worked on craft projects with the campers.  Little did I know that she would one day be my Mother in Love! I made lifelong friends as we sat around the camp fire late into the night telling jokes that we thought were funny but turned hilarious as we eventually had to explain them to the most innocent of the group who, after each joke stated, “I don’t get it!”

1987: The Goofy Tourist (Me, my Dad and my brother), Opryland, Nashville, TN

I have to confess that as I looked through the photos with my Mom, I was a little disappointed that there are so few photos of most of these sweet memories.  On the other hand, I am equally relieved to have grown up during a time when we didn’t have a camera or electronic device readily available to expose all of our shenanigans! 

I cherish my childhood memories and credit them with my spirit of curiosity, love of fun, adventure and exploration.  My love of travel is an affliction for which my parents are to blame and from which I never wish to be cured.  It is also a condition that I still love to share with my parents when we are able, with friends as often as possible, and that I hope to pass on to anyone willing to come along.  As an adult, I am so very blessed to have a partner who loves to travel as much as I do, if not more so and that together, we have been able to go to places that I never thought I would see.  And to think, it all started long ago with a road trip to New York! 

Thanks Mom & Dad!  I love you both!

Travel Addicts emerging from Quarantine; Is it over yet? — May 13, 2020

Travel Addicts emerging from Quarantine; Is it over yet?

Is it over yet?  Where did I put my suitcase?  Let’s Just Go!

We have RESERVATIONS!!!  That’s right!  Reservations to take the RV out in June and July.  We are probably more excited than usual because we’ve been shuttered in the house for so long but regardless, we have reservations and we are going!  At last! Plans to make, bags to pack, and blogs to write!

But wait a second!  Is it safe to emerge from our safe havens or not?  It’s unclear which crazed voices we should believe with mixed messages swirling around us.  

Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Uplash

While we’ve sadly watched the confirmed cases and death tolls rise in places like New York and in our beloved Italy, here in my home town, this period has had the familiar feeling of preparing for a hurricane that never materializes.  You know.  The news channels are talking none stop, prescribing their best advice of “stay home” and the grocery stores have been ravaged like no hurricane we’ve EVER had!  However familiar the feeling, it is now enhanced by the devastating loss of jobs, the awkward dance in the aisles of the few stores that are open for essentials, and the actual shock of someone we know who has had some they know get sick and pass away.  It is all just unbelievable.  

As a natural introvert, I feel like I’ve been in training for this quarantine experience all my life!  However, even an introvert wants to get out and go somewhere once in a while!

I can only laugh at myself when I think that in only 7 weeks, I have happily gotten used to living in my tee shirts and leggings everyday. Going back to the bra required dress code is going to be a huge adjustment, for sure.  I love working from home and not having to schlep to the office.  When summoned, the drive will, no doubt at first, feel more of an odyssey because I’ve gotten out of the habit of driving 45 minutes one way, on a good day.  I love having three hot meals at home every day but I am conflicted with the constant flow of dishes in and out the dishwasher.  Only a few weeks ago, I used to HATE going grocery shopping but over the last 7 weeks, I have found myself almost giddy about going!  For me, it’s all about the list making and the hunt for the illusive toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins.  With face masks and gloves, the whole shopping experience feels like some strange scavenger hunt.

Really? Is THIS the new normal and how long will it last? Will we ever go back to what was once our normal?  This whole period in quarantine has obviously become a love/hate situation for me.  After the constant shift from one “new normal” to the next since all this started, I don’t know what to think about this next stage of “reopening.”

Photo: Claire Mueller/Uplash

As we step out, what will the world feel like?  How will we interact with our friends, coworkers, and strangers in line at Target?  Somehow, I envision us acting like kids that have just been let out of school for the summer.  In fact, living close to the beaches, we are already seeing this.  Yes, the main tourist beaches remain closed here but our Governor can’t have patrols on all the beaches.  We recently walked along a riverside beach, bobbing and weaving to stay clear of others.  There were people EVERYWHERE!  This is all so bizarre! We haven’t been released back into the wild officially and we went to a spot we felt would be pretty remote.  Wrong!  If anything, it proves how much we all WANT OUT even if it might not be entirely safe to do so. 

As those of us who yearn to pack a suitcase start to emerge, there are even more questions.  How will the airlines keep us from violating each other’s personal space?  I can’t imagine having personal space on a commercial jet.  Being packed in like a sardine in a flying tin can is all I know!  We have plans to fly in September so stay tuned.

Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Uplash

 In our exuberance to be free, will we remember to respect each other’s space?  Somehow, I’m not that confident as I watched a Mother and her son head right for me and pass within inches in the grocery store recently, all while not a mask and consideration for my space in sight!  It seems that there are a lot of folks out there with a different attitude than mine.  Being a chronically ill patient, I am very careful when we go out and while I have always been uber sensitive around others who are coughing and sneezing, I am supremely cautious now as I step out and watchful for how others respect (or don’t) my personal space.     

Regardless, the world is starting to open up.  Pants with waistbands and bras will be donned along with the new addition of masks.  In the summer heat, that should be loads of fun! 

For now, The Travel Addicts of Let’s Just Go plan to head for the woods first and continue to self isolate but this time, enjoying the out of doors in our RV.  But then, there are the Murder Hornets to consider!  Oh Good grief!

Be safe out there and take care of yourself and others!  

A Chronic Travel Addict — May 11, 2020

A Chronic Travel Addict

I wish travel therapy was covered by my health insurance. –Anonymous

Traveling with illness is really not fun.  If you’ve ever traveled with a nagging headache, or worse, you ate or drank something you probably shouldn’t have, you know what I mean.  Being sick on the road can zap the fun right out of wherever you might be.      

Imagine then, that you are chronically ill and a travel addict like me.  

Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Uplash

As a chronically ill patient, I can have good days and bad days.  It is a not-so-simple fact of my life and has been since 2005 when I was finally diagnosed.  The catch is, I never know from day to day, or even hour to hour, how I will feel.  I can wake up feeling great and be down in bed and in pain by lunchtime.  Luckily, over the years my body’s bad behavior has only threatened to keep us from flying one time.  In the meantime, I have taught myself to live with my condition which means I carry on with life, as undeterred as possible. 

Whether you have migraines, asthma, MS, diabetes, or any illness that can threaten to slow you down, here are few things that work for me as I prepare to travel as a chronically ill patient:

In the planning stage

As you prepare to travel, have you ever had to ask yourself, “Should I stay home?”  That’s a tough question when your trip is planned and paid for.  It’s important for me to take care of myself so I can travel.  That means seeing my doctor regularly, taking my meds on schedule and as prescribed, and making sure I am rested and have as little stress as possible (Ha!).

For me, it’s a great practice to see my doctor before I travel, if at all possible.  Am I well enough to hit the road safely and in good health?  I also try to be wary of any pain or potential side effects I might be experiencing and talk with my doctor before I go–best to address something beforehand so it doesn’t become a problem while I’m traveling.   

For our major trips, we always purchased travel insurance.  Our thinking is that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and wish we had it!  This is a bit of security for us in the event that my body rebels and I can’t travel or worse, if I get sick on the road and have to seek medical care.  Ask your travel professional about travel insurance if you think you might need a safety net but before you purchase, make sure you understand how it works, what it covers, and how to use it. 

Traveling with medication

When we travel, I am a walking medicine chest!  While most people check and double check their travel ID’s, tickets, boarding passes, and pass ports (which we do as well), I check and double check to make sure I have all the medication I need, both prescribed and over the counter.  My symptoms can often be managed with medications so I will always bring more than I need, just in case I need it or in the rare case that there are any hiccups in our travel plans (i.e. no plane in Salt Lake City!).  Since my illness can be unpredictable, I go prepared for anything. I would rather bring home unused meds than not have enough to manage on the road.   I always consider how I will travel with my meds.    Do you need a written prescription to get you through TSA checks or customs? If you travel with sharps like me, do you know how to do that properly? One of my drugs needs to be kept cool so that can be a trick!

Check and double check

I always make sure that my precious carry on space leaves my meds within reach.  Never, ever put your meds in your checked bags in the event that your luggage gets lost in Chicago and you are looking for it in Stockholm! (My poor husband! He had no luggage for several days and had to attend a formal dinner in the clothes he traveled in!)  

Self care when I travel

When we travel, I try to practice self care which can sometimes be even more important that my actual meds!  Some of our travel lends itself to rest like our favorite form of travel, cruising (I love an occasional nap between lunch and dinner!).  However, some travel is fast paced and we are moving non-stop all day.  Those can be the trips that I physically struggle with the most.  For example, we traveled with a group to Italy in 2016.  While it was the trip of a lifetime and we fell in love with Italy, I struggled with pain on and off throughout the trip.  One evening, some of the group went out for dinner in Florence.  I chose not to go.  I knew that I needed to rest my body.  I needed to drink water and sleep.  I went to our hotel room and got in bed.  The culprit for me is usually the medication that I am on.   It works best if taken at the same time of day, every day, so traveling through various time zones can prove troublesome for me.  As a result, during nearly all of our travel in Italy, I was in pain of varying levels.  Going to bed early that evening and resting my body was helpful and I felt much better the next day.  Late nights, early wake up calls and long, strenuous travel days can put stress on my body.  While I want to see it all in the time I have, I’ve discovered that rest and pacing my travel is important for me.  It’s taken me a long time, but knowing my body and understanding these triggers has helped me to take care of myself better on the road so I can enjoy where I am.

Which girl is in pain and which one is feeling great? I hope you can’t tell but I know!

Being sick doesn’t always mean you can’t travel

I try to be smart and pay attention to my body. When I travel, I do what I can to balance new foods, rest, the stress of travel on my body, and taking my meds as prescribed.  I also try to remember to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. That one is the hardest ones for me, even at home!  I count myself blessed.  We’ve had some great trips and my body has thankfully behaved.  I am not afraid to travel but as we near our departures, I have to manage the anxiety of “what if.”  The most important thing for me to do then is to try not to worry about something that might not happen and instead, just be prepared. 

My illness has quieted now after some very difficult times.  (I hate to say that kind of thing out loud.  It’s like my body hears me bragging and says. “Oh yeah?  Take this!”) In fact, the simple act of writing this kicked my body into a slight  rebellion and you might’ve seen me mention a tough 48 hours recently on Instagram. I have been determined not to be defined by my body’s bad manners and even after a major hospitalization, I was well enough to be on a plane to Scotland two months later.

I want to go, do, and see!  I don’t want to be sick!  I do know my limits though and while I might push them from time to time, I do know that traveling is ultimately good for my soul.

I know there are other fellow sufferers out there that love to travel.  If you have any tips or tricks that you use before and during your travel that you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love to know how you manage. 

I hope that if you suffer physically in any way, that you can travel in whatever capacity you are able. 

I always wish you safe and healthy travels, where ever you might be heading.  

A great Travel Agent: The smart Travel Addict’s best travel tool — May 6, 2020

A great Travel Agent: The smart Travel Addict’s best travel tool

I have collaborated on parts of today’s blog with my Travel Professional and I am not being compensated for any endorsement. The advice provided in today’s blog should be verified with a travel professional of your choosing.

A smart traveler’s best travel tool can be an experienced and trusted Travel Agent.    

However, before I get going too far, and in full disclosure, not all of our travel has been with the assistance of a Travel Agent.  In fact, our earliest travels were ones we pieced together and planned on our own.  In fact, we’ve even traveled without reservations in the past.  (GASP!  I know.  We were young…but it was sort of fun!)  Now, in hindsight, some of that travel might’ve been even better with the help of a Travel Agent.   

Courtney caught a quick selfie of us on the Grand Canal in Venice

In 2010, I met my dear friend and fellow Travel addict, Courtney Roggmann.  She has owned her own travel business, Solutions Travel, for 15 years and she is a dedicated, passionate travel professional.  We first met on a trip she planned and escorted and we hit it off! Since then, Roger and I have traveled with Courtney and her Husband, Michael, just us four, to places like Key West, Maine, and on a Viking River Cruise through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.  We’ve also traveled together on some fantastic trips that she has escorted under the umbrella of her business.  In the 10 years we’ve traveled together, I’ve watched her up close and learned a lot about what she does.  This week, she has been kind enough to sit with me as I blog so I can share insights with you about how a Travel Agent can be a tool for your travel.    

Consider travel an investment

Food for thought; when you invest in a home, most people will seek out a real estate agent.  When you invest in a new car, a lot of people do so with the help of an Automobile Dealership. For us, the biggest purchases in life are usually made with the help of careful research and the use of an expert and for us, the purchase of major travel is no different.  No matter what kind of travel you enjoy, you are spending your hard-earned money and possibly using precious vacation days.  If you’re like us, you want to know that you got the best return on your investment.  In my view, a Travel Agent can be a wonderful resource. 

In addition, invest your own time as well as your money as you plan your trip.  I always recommend that you do your research.  We live in a wonderful time with the internet providing information on every topic easily and quickly at our fingertips. Seek out any and all information about your destination that you can. Know where you want to go, what you want to do and see there, and when might be the best time to travel where you plan to go. 

Me and my Travel Agent exploring the beautiful Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

A Travel expert can be the best place to turn

An experienced and trusted Travel Agent can help you plan your trip, give you an estimate(s) on what your trip might cost, do their best to stick to your budget, and will have resources that could upgrade your trip in ways you might not have known about on your own.  Travel Agents have resources and relationships with travel vendors that can enhance your trip and a great Travel Agent can take your broad travel plan and fill it in with great ideas that make it a trip to remember. 

How much does a Travel Agent’s services cost? 

When you speak to an agent, a good first question would be regarding what the fees for their services will be.  Know that the answer could vary from agent to agent.  Courtney charges nothing.  That’s right!  Nothing.  I’m betting that might be a surprise for you if you’ve never used a Travel Agent before or maybe even if you have used an Agent that charged you a large fee.  Perhaps, the unknown cost of an agent might even be why you’ve shied away from calling a Travel Agent for help.  Is that a fair guess?

You should know that Travel Agents are paid a commission on the products they sell by the vendors they are working with such as a cruise line or an all-inclusive resort.  That commission may be paid to them directly or through a host company.  Some Travel Agents, like Courtney, will not charge you for their services. She does however, help her clients that need assistance with the purchase of airline only tickets.  For this assistance, she will charge a nominal fee.  This is because the airlines do not compensate her for the sale of the tickets.  She does waive that fee when booking airline tickets as part of a travel package. 

However, other agents could  charge a consultation fee which could run up to $250.   So, if you need help planning a trip, I recommend talking to friends who have used travel professionals for their travels.  Word of mouth recommendations could lead you to a great travel professional.  Always be a savvy consumer and ask lots of questions. 

Ready to see Budapest

Before you call your travel professional

A great Travel Agent will be a busy person.  So, before you talk with him/her, it’s a good idea for you to have done your research and be able to answer these basic questions: 

—When and where do you want to go?  How do you want to travel?  Do you want to go on a cruise or land based vacation?  If it’s land based, are you driving, flying,  or considering an all inclusive?  If it’s an all inclusive, are you looking for a family friendly or adults only resort?  Do you want to sit on the beach and catch up on your reading or do you want to go to Italy and to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?  Try to have a something in mind so you can get your Travel Agent working quickly on a plan for you. 

—What budget do you have in mind for your trip?  You can do some research on line and get a feel for what type of budget you should be prepared for.  Know how much you are willing to spend and how much, if any, you can bend with that amount. 

—How many people will be traveling with you?  Do you have kids traveling with you and how old are they?  Do you have anyone traveling with you with special needs?

—What do you want to do or what do you want to see on your trip?

—Have an open mind.  A Travel Agent might make suggestions for your trip that you had not yet considered. 

Why should you consider seeking out the help of a Travel Agent?

A Travel Agent is, or should be, an experienced traveler and ideally, have first hand knowledge of where you want to go.  On top of that, a good Travel Agent will know the trends in travel and will have a working knowledge of travel vendors and resources that a travel lay person, like you or me, would not otherwise have knowledge of or access to. 

What if you opt to plan without a travel professional?  Sure, you could do it.  You might even find a “really cheap” price for your trip on line somewhere but what are you getting for that cheap price.  Roger and I always agree with the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”  What if something happens during your trip?  Will your on line source be there to help you?  Is there even a resource to reach out to if you need help?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If you planned on your own, you will also be on your own to figure out a solution if your travel plans are interrupted. For us, it’s a security thing.  We know that our Travel Agent is there if we need her from start to finish.   

For a real life example: we traveled with Courtney on an escorted tour to The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks.  The night before we were to head home, she got an alert that there would be no plane waiting for us the next morning.  With the first leg of our trip home badly delayed, it meant that our entire group would miss our connecting flight.  Courtney sprang into action and pulled from her resources to get us home.  By the time we made it to Washington, D.C., there was a motor coach waiting for us and we were driven home.  We were a few hours late as a result but Courtney got us home, at her own expense.  We have the luxury of actually traveling with our travel professional but if that had happened to us without her, I know she would’ve  been there to help us make it home.  

A great Travel Agent is your advocate.  When you plan your trips with a Travel Agent, you have someone who can be your resource and someone you can reach out to when something unexpected pops up (be sure to ask your travel professional about his/her availability while you are traveling).  If your travel results in a missed or canceled flight, no room to go with your reservation when you get to your hotel, or your friend’s room is not next to yours when you get to the resort, you need only reach out to your travel professional. When your travel professional has a relationship with a vendor, your concern may be easily fixed if there is an issue.

Another quick selfie at Buckingham Palace. Smile like you mean it Christina! (I think she caught me off guard!)

 Do you need travel insurance?

A good Travel Agent will recommend travel insurance.  Again, travel is an investment.  What happens if you have an accident on the way to the airport to catch your flight?  What happens if you are sick and hospitalized and can’t travel?  What do you do if you get sick and are hospitalized in a foreign country?  What happens if your trip is two days away and you have a death in the family?

Many travel vendors have strict policies about refunds.  Be sure to understand what those might be up front.  No matter the reason that you might be prevented from traveling as planned, the purchase of travel insurance could result in some, if not all of your expenses being covered. 

As an example: you are on a cruise and you don’t feel well and you seek out the service of the ship’s doctor.  Courtney had a client who received a medical bill for $4,200!  $4,200!!!!   That’s surely an unexpected expense.  Wouldn’t you agree?  I’ve seen cruise guests helicoptered off a couple of cruise ships for serious medical reasons by the U.S. Coast Guard.  I don’t want to know how much that might cost!  Luckily, Courtney’s client had purchased Travel insurance which kicked in to help with this out of pocket expense.  I can only hope those folks that left by helicopter are well and had insurance! 

Travel insurance is something Roger and I always purchase, without question.  Life happens and you never know when a curve ball could derail your travel plans.  We consider travel insurance an investment to guard against the unknown. 

Having a good time in our of our favorite places, Key West

When should you travel and how far out should you start planning?

Spring break and summer vacations are huge travel times, of course.  When you start thinking about travel, depending on the time of year you plan to go, you could be vacationing with thousands of your closest new friends.  Roger and I like to travel in the off season.  We don’t have kids so we can take off in February on a cruise or in the fall after all the kids are back in school and the bulk of the tourists are done with their vacations.  Consider too that traveling during the off season, depending on where you are going, might be a bit cheaper.  Finally, if you’re like us, we don’t like to travel when it’s blazing hot or freezing cold.  We are “Goldilocks” travelers.  We like the temperature to be  just right!  If that’s you, consider the time of year and what the weather might be where you are heading.   

Understand, that some vacations require planning and reservations so calling a Travel Agent and asking for a trip to Disney in two weeks during spring break season might mean that there are no reservations to be had.  Courtney recommends planning 8 to 12 months out or longer whenever possible.  Doing so also allows for making payments on your vacation, if needed.  Courtney states that depending on your trip, to help you in planning, reservations could be open as follows:

-Nearly all cruise lines will post their cruises 1 to 2 years in advance. 

-Resort vacations packages with airfare take reservations 10-11 months in advance.

-Group tours such as Trafalgar or Globus start planning 18 months in advance. 

-Disney Vacations are released in June for the next calendar year.  You can book a Disney hotel 1 year out but can’t book other trip components until 6 months out.  Give yourself time and plan in advance when looking to go to Disney.  Your travel professional will know tips and tricks to help you. 

**this timing is always subject to change so be sure to consult a travel professional.

All of us in Scotland: Courtney and her husband Michael in front & Roger and me in the photo bomb position!

Today is Wednesday, May 6, 2020: National Travel Advisor Day!

We are very blessed to have a Travel professional that we trust and consider a dear friend.  Right now, in the middle of a pandemic, every facet of travel has been affected.  Those of us who love to travel miss our suitcases and are starting to twitch just a bit!  I just want to thank my friend and travel professional for her enthusiasm and love of travel that she shares with us and all of her clients.  She works so very hard to make every trip memorable, comfortable and just what all of her clients hope for.  Courtney’s special personal touches are a feature of her business that sets her apart and her client family loves her for it.  2020 has been a tough year for her as she’s had to work with her clients to make difficult decisions about their travel.  Do we cancel or postpone?  Courtney is doing everything she can to give the best advice possible as the situation has twisted, turned, and drug on and on.  As always, she is doing an outstanding job!  Much love to you, dear friend and Travel Agent on this very strange Travel Advisor day! 

If you already have a travel professional, don’t forget to reach out to them today and share some love with them, especially this year!

I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked, “Can you recommend a Travel agent?”  Of course, if you can’t tell, I can recommend a great one!

If you need an outstanding Travel Agent, please find Courtney’s contact information below:

I hope we can all pack a bag soon and get back to our adventures! 

Safe travels!

Travel Addicts in quarantine, Part II — May 2, 2020

Travel Addicts in quarantine, Part II

Quarantine week 6, day 46.  The Travel Addicts torture themselves! 

A few nights ago, we entertained ourselves by looking through photos from past adventures.  We love to do this but it’s just a little bittersweet right now since we know we can’t travel.  As Roger flipped through each picture, he started saying, “I can’t believe we were there!”   As he said it again and again, I started to wonder which “pinch me moment” places were my favorites.  The list is long and picking favorites is as impossible as picking your favorite child!  We have had some wonderful trips in fantastic places so it’s been hard to pick just a few. 

These are just a few of my “pinch me” places that I will remember when I am old and I will smile because I was there!

Venice.  Just the name is a complete sentence to me.  In my mind, there is no other place on the Earth like it and I fell in love with a place that is magical, romantic, and beautiful from nearly every angle. There was so much to see and so little time.  I don’t know of any other city in the world where you can take a water taxi to the airport!  Somehow, it felt wrong to get on a boat with my giant suitcase!   What an experience that was!  We loved the food, the artisans who make the famous Venetian glass, the food market, the magnificent buildings full of history and works of art, strolling down back walk ways that opened to grand Piazzas, and the Gondolas!  We were enraptured.  Our trip to Italy was a bucket list check off, for sure!  In fact, I have never taken it off!  My hope is that we can go back again one day and immerse ourselves in all things Italian with lots of time to enjoy the charms of Venice.   

The Grand Canal, Venice

Paris. For us, Paris is truly a “pinch me moment” with the emphasis on moment!  Our first trip to England was our first trip to Europe and we planned it all on our own.  We used Gray Line Tours to see the sights and in our planning, found a tour that took us by train from London through the Channel Tunnel into Paris for the day.  The entire day was 12 hours long so our actual time in Paris was 8 hours at the most.  At the time, we didn’t think we’d ever be that close again so we grabbed the opportunity to see everything we could.  Part of the tour took us onto the Seine River, giving us the opportunity to see Notre Dome from the water.  In light of the 2019 fire, I lamented that we didn’t have the time to go inside!  The tour shifted back to land at the base of the Eiffel Tower and while the bulk of our tour group went on to The Louvre, which is where we eventually reunited with them, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Paris from the Eiffel Tower.  Now, you need to know that I am not a fan of heights but in instances like this, I risk a panic attack and go anyway!  I’m so glad I did.  The elevators alone are an experience as they creep sideways up the leg of the tower to the first level which is as far as I ventured while Roger went all the way to the top. What a spectacular view!  In separating from our tour group, our tour guide told us that all we needed to do was grab a cab at the base of the tower and she told us how to find her.  RIGHT!  This left me as spokesperson, in PARIS, trying to remember my high school French lessons to get us, as politely as I could manage, to the Louvre.  I guess it worked but I told Roger to make sure to give the taxi driver a good tip!  I know!  Typical American!  I did my best!  That in itself was adventure enough!  Returning to Paris, and visiting other parts of France, remain BIG on my bucket list.  We can’t believe that we were there for less than 8 hours and saw what we saw.  It was a tiny taste of all things French and it was magnifique!

The elevator going up the leg of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Westminster Abbey; London, England.  We’ve all seen Westminster Abbey on TV during Royal weddings and funerals but let me assure you that in person, it is magnificent!  It took my breath away!  When I stood in this building, I felt the history all around me.  Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Poets, Scientists.  They are all there!  From the black and white tile floor to the soaring cathedral stained glass, it is a sight to see.  We’ve been lucky enough to be awed by it on two occasions now and I will go again and again if I am so fortunate. 

Westminster Abbey, London

The Hungarian Parliament Building; Budapest, Hungary.  We took a Viking River Cruise down the Danube from Budapest to Passau, Germany as an anniversary trip.  For me, the biggest highlight was Budapest.  My beloved Great Grandmother was Hungarian and I have wonderful memories of her, the wonderful food she cooked, and of a sweet children’s song that members of my family sang in Hungarian when I was young.  I thought a lot about her when we were in Budapest even though the Hungary we saw was likely very different than the one she left in 1912.  The Hungarian Parliament Building is fantastic from every angle and is an iconic figure in many of Viking’s ads.  We stood on the top deck as we left Budapest for our next port and my friend that was traveling with us captured this fabulous shot that I cherish!  What a fabulous place! I was so grateful to have been able to see just a glimpse of where my family came from.    

The Hungarian Parliament building, Budapest

Giant’s Causeway.  Our visit to Ireland was almost one we did not make.  My Travel Agent friend was planning an escorted trip and while we hadn’t considered going, we told Roger’s Dad about it.  Visiting Ireland had long been on his bucket list and we told him that if he wanted to go, we would go as well.  It turns out that Ireland is beautiful and full of wonderful people and we were so glad that we decided to go.  For me, my favorite parts were in Northern Ireland.  Specifically, Giant’s Causeway.  I have to admit that I knew nothing about the place before we went so when we arrived, I was, and still am, fascinated in the oddity and expanse of the location.  We gingerly climbed the rock formations and marveled at their shapes all around us.  We lost Roger’s Dad in 2017 and we are so glad that we were able to see Ireland with him. 

Giant’s Causeway. County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Canadian Rockies.  Roger will tell you that he didn’t want to go on this trip and that he had no idea what to expect.  Now, I’m pretty sure that he would be willing to go back.  While I knew what to expect, it was a trip full of awe.  Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, The Columbia Ice Fields, Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake.  To us, these are some of the most beautiful places we have ever been.  The crystal blue glacial water makes you think you’re in a tropical locale for just a split second but the cathedral Mountains around you remind you that you aren’t.  The Rockies are a place to be admired and their ruggedness respected.  For me, it was humbling to look at the mountains around us.  I get the same feeling at the edge of the Ocean.  We hope to return to the Rockies with our RV one day to be humbled again. 

Banff National Park

We are so blessed to have been to some really cool places, many of which we never thought we would ever see with our own eyes. What lucky ducks we have been! Our bucket list continues to grow and I can only hope that we are fortunate enough to find more places that we can add to this list.

Today, we continue to look through our photos and get them organized and properly backed up.  We might not be able to pack a bag and go but we are not letting a virus keep us from enjoying our travels.

Travel Addicts in Quarantine — April 20, 2020

Travel Addicts in Quarantine

For us, January and February 2020 were clipping along as planned but in general, March just fell down with a big flop!  Did that happen to you too? 

For the last week of February, Roger and I were lucky enough to squeeze in a wonderful cruise to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.  At the time, COVID 19 was out there but really, not a concern and far away. 

Walking the pier; February 2020

The week after we got home, we picked up our new RV and off we went on our first official camping trip.  Again, COVID was out there and we were listening to reports but especially since we were in our own vehicles in the woods, we weren’t terribly concerned.   

Our first s’mores over our first fire!

However, within three days of returning home from our camping trip, my job as a Student Nurse Recruiter saw massive cancelations in on campus recruitment events as Universities started implementing social distancing and sending their students home.  Within the next week, my office started social distancing which quickly shifted to working from home full time amid the growing concerns.  Looking back, it is just stunning at how quickly our normal life was disrupted.     

Thankfully, we are well and in our safe place.  On the rare occasion we watch the news, I feel the anxiety sneak up on us after a particularly hysterical news story prompts Roger to ask me, “do you think we need to get some groceries?”  All we can do is make smart decisions and stay home as much as possible.  Luckily, we have masks in the house because Roger wears them in the yard due to his allergies.  I always have gloves in the house and as a germaphobe, I always travel with individually wrapped  hand sanitizing wipes so we feel we have the gear we need to safely step out on the rare occasions that we need to.  We have chosen to go grocery shopping late at night, just before the store closes, when there are very few people in the store.  With masks and gloves, we look like bandits robbing a train, but there we are!  God bless our local grocery store staff!

Now, we are in week 5, day 34. 

In September 2019, B.C. (Before Corona), I started a habit of listing 5 things that I am thankful for each week.  I make my lists right on my calendar each Friday and it has been a positive addition to the end of each week and a great way to start the weekend.   Over the last 5 weeks, this has been a practice that has helped me to focus on the positive.  That along with limiting my exposure to the news and it’s toxicity.

This little piggy needs to stop making banana bread!

This week, I was thankful for:

  1. Working from home. B.C., I worked from home three days a week, which is a true blessing.    Now working from home full time has eased the anxiety of going out to possible exposure.  As an asthmatic and  someone who is immunosuppressed, limiting my exposure to any illness is paramount to my health, in the best of times.  In this pandemic, I am mindful of this in the extreme.  
  2. I was thankful that bad weather passed us by earlier in the week.
  3. All family and friends are reporting healthy.  BORED, but healthy!
  4. I am thankful for being home which reduces my stress, thus helping my body to be well.  My particular illness is made worse when I’m stressed and despite the stress of the world outside, being safely at home has seen my symptoms all but disappear.  A real plus for me and a surprising benefit of all this!
  5. Time.  The time at home has given us the ability to focus on things that need doing around the house.  We tend to put many of these things off so having no excuses has made us happy to get some mundane, long awaited projects completed at long last.  We are also reading more with our time.  We are hoping that this becomes a habit we hold onto when quarantine is over. 

What are you thankful for?  I am hopeful that you have at least 5 things this week that are blessings in your life.

I’m thankful for the time that I would otherwise be spending on my commute.  This has also saved us big money in tolls and gas.  I have enjoyed having more time to dedicate to reading, kicking off my blog, and working in my own office where I can make it as warm or cool as I’m comfortable with (my other office is one of those offices where you wear a coat inside even when it’s 90+ degrees outside in August). I am thankful for banana bread, my favorite comfort food that I need to stop baking!

I miss jumping in the car and turning up the tunes.  I miss an impromptu trip to Target, Hobby Lobby, and Home Goods.  I miss our usual Friday night dinner with friends and visiting with my parents.  I miss texting my friends during a meeting to set up a lunch date. 

Pretty accurate!

Of course, from a travel blog perspective, there is no question that I am missing my suitcase! I miss packing a bag and catching a flight or crawling into the truck and heading off on a road trip.  We’ve had to cancel two camping trips and our Easter Family Reunion in Mississippi.  Not having travel plans on the horizon is unusual for us.  We do hope to be able to venture off to the Gulf Coast in September and sneak off to the woods with our RV soon.  Fingers crossed!

 I hope that if you can’t pack a bag, you aren’t limiting your travel.   Follow a travel blog (there are tons of them), get on YouTube and travel with those who have travel Vlogs (there are lots of good ones out there), or research a trip you want to take when this is all over.    

No matter what, we are thankful and blessed.  When I hear myself start to complain or I get frustrated by being “stuck at home, ” I go back to my gratitude list.  I remind my self that, you know, this could be a lot worse! 

I hope you all are well and finding things you can be thankful for.