Let's Just Go

Traveling with no regret

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 pack 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 not 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.  For us, the purchase of 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.

Use those vacation days! — April 8, 2020

Use those vacation days!

The saddest conversations I often have with friends and co-workers starts with “Where are you guys going next?”  They know that we always have something next on deck to talk about.  Are they asking because they are looking for ideas or just living vicariously through us?  I know it’s polite conversation but I know they aren’t packing bags and having an adventure.  It makes me a little sad. 

Falling in love with Italy!

Worse, I recently had a friend tell me that she wanted to “grow up to be like me,” after asking me where we were going next.  I loved the sentiment but I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her that she IS grown and she CAN be like me. 

We love to travel.  Anyone who knows us, if asked, would tell you this about us if that is the only thing they can say about us with certainty.  

We sort of joke about it, but my Mom once even stated that we “travel more than most.”  I guess that’s true, but again, a little sad!  We love to travel.  It’s our “thing!”  We love to watch other people’s travel vlogs on You Tube (yes, we love to see other people’s vacation photos).  I read travel blogs enough that I wanted to start one of my own.  We study and dream.  Heck, we have a bucket list and it is totally based on where we want to go. 

A Wikipedia definition of travel that I just love states:

 “Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical locations.  Travel can be done my foot, bicycle, automobile, train, boat, bus, airplane, ship or other means, with or without luggage and can be one way or round trip.  Travel can also include relatively short stays between successive movements, as in the case of tourism. 

To us, the term “travel” fits that definition in every way. 

Golden Hour in Venice

Did you even know that there is a National #PlanForVacationDay?”  Yes!  It’s January 28!  THIS should be a proper National Holiday!

I love it but to us, every day is plan for vacation day!

Start now!  Open a savings account and put a little in it each month.  Talk to your friends that travel.  Ask them where they go or better yet, go with them!  If you don’t have the time, just take a long weekend somewhere within driving distance. (Of course, my advice is–make the time!)  Go to the beach, rent a cabin, buy a tent and go camping, get a hotel room in a place you’ve never been and explore for the weekend, visit a friend in another state and let them show you around.  The options are endless. 

If you have some extra time and money, (HA!  Lucky you!) call a Travel Agent that you trust or that a friend might recommend (I can connect you to a great one!) and plan the trip of a life time!  Go to Alaska, go on a cruise, visit a National Park, GO. TO. ITALY! 

Just GO!  Use those vacation days.  Enjoy your life!  Make memories!  You won’t be sorry!