Chapter 4 What’s On Your List?

Chapter 4    What’s On Your List

In Chapter 3 we talked about Making a List, or Lists…and this chapter will cover what you may want to include on that “list”….for the items on this list can “make or break” your travels. In addition to the “list”….there are some basics to include in your carry on, and I got the following from a travel blogger, Jamie.

When you think of the best parts travel, immersing yourself in new cultures and eating authentic food probably sound more appealing than flying to your destination. But, when you have the right things with you, your flight can be the ideal time to relax and dream of all the discovery to come! To make your time in the sky even more enjoyable, we reached out to Go Ahead staff to hear which products they always pack in their carry-on bags. Here are ten of their favorites to have with you the next time you take to the skies.

One thing is for sure: Digging for your passport and other travel documents isn’t nearly as fun as digging into culture. That’s why having a functional travel wallet on hand is a must—and why we love the colorful selection made by Zoppen. With well-organized pockets for your boarding pass, money, cell phone, and more, you’re guaranteed to have everything you need at the ready. Plus, the wallet’s RFID-blocking material prevents anyone from electronically nabbing ID info and credit card numbers, so you can stroll through busy terminals at ease (and in style!).

2

Water bottle
If you’ve ever arrived at an airport’s security line just in time to remember you’ll need to toss the full water bottle in your bag, this tip’s for you. Next time you pack up your carry-on essentials, bring along an empty water bottle. You can fill it once you’re through security instead of paying high airport prices for a bottle while waiting to board your flight. Then, you’ll be able to refill it during your adventure (as long as it’s safe to drink tap water at your destination). We love the Hydro Flask bottles, which are insulated to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, making it easier to stay hydrated while quenching your thirst for adventure.

3

A good read
Far-off places spring to life from the pages of a good book, and bringing a travel-centric tale along during your flight is sure to get you dreaming of all the adventure to come. The Go Ahead team is full of top travel book recommendations, but one of our staff favorites is The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. In it, Weiner says there’s a link between inspiring destinations and overall happiness… and we can’t argue with that!

4

Noise-canceling headphones
If you’d rather catch up on a good flick while coasting through the sky, noise-canceling headphones are the way to go. While quite reprieves may be hard to come by on busy flights, these headphones help keep any outside noise (think: crying babies) at bay while you tune into your movie or music. Want an option that won’t break the bank? Check out Sony’s over-the-ear headphones, which are comfortable enough for long trips and fold up when you’re ready to pack them away.

Portable charger
Enjoy passing the time on flights by watching movies on your tablet? A portable charger is the thing to bring. One of our top picks is the Jackery Bolt, a small-but-reliable external battery charger with built-in cords. It can provide a medium-sized smartphone with up to two full charges and give tablets and other electronics with USB ports more life. Simply plug the charger in overnight to give it some juice before you take off, and all you’ll need to think about is filling up your wine glass on tour instead of running out of battery in the air.

6

Toiletry bag
Like a good travel wallet, a roomy toiletry bag is a must for wrangling all of your in-flight essentials, and one of our favorites is the Herschel Supply Co. Chapter Travel Kit. The good-looking material is sturdy, the interior is roomy, and you can simply pop your plastic gallon baggie full of 3-oz liquids inside. That way, you won’t need to go rooting around in the bottom of your tote for lotion when your parched hands need some love mid-flight.

7

Antibacterial wipes
While meeting new people is one of the best parts of travel, picking up any germs (or sharing your own) undoubtedly dampen the adventure. That’s why using antibacterial wipes is always a good idea, and Purell’s travel packs are a good go-to. You can clean your hands, tray tables, and armrests in flight for a germ-free journey, and then tuck the package in a convenient place—the wipes aren’t considered a liquid so you don’t need to worry about keeping them in your gallon baggie.

8

Hand cream
An airplane cabin’s dry, recycled air can do a number to your skin, so it’s key to have a good moisturizing cream on hand (get it?). We love L’Occitane en Provence’s creams, which hydrate without feeling greasy—and call to mind bright fragrances in the South of France. If you’re hoping to sleep as you coast through the sky, opt for the lavender scent for an extra splash of relaxation.

9

Lip balm
A refreshing wake-up may be just what you need after snoozing mid-flight, and a minty lip balm should do the trick. One of our favorites is Smith’s Rosebud Perfume Co. Minted Rose Lip Balm. It hydrates while providing an invigorating kick and a light tint, all in a compact, pretty tin.

For the trip itself, let’s start with the obvious…your camera or camera phone, and the charger. Your IPad, if you use it for photos, and its charger. If you use your IPad for Kindle, then be sure you have the books you want to read downloaded while you have an internet service available. Sun glasses are always needed, and you might think about a case to keep them from breaking.  If you like to take notes of things you see, or memorable things that happen on the trip, take along a writing tablet or note pad, and a couple of pens that work. Maybe for you it is your daily Diary. Binoculars always come in handy, but get a good one. REI is where I got mine…very pleased and only $100. A small umbrella is always good to take, for even though you may be in an area where it is not suppose to rain, be prepared in case weather turns bad. Just keep it small. Sunscreen may be needed, so stick in a tube, but it has to be the right size. For the flight, air sickness or Jet Lag pills may work, and the same for sea sickness. Slippers for the long flights are often well used, as well as a neck brace and eye covers and ear plugs. Always good if you plan on sleeping on the flight. And, if you take medications, be sure you have them with you on the flight, not in your checked luggage.

We covered the correct clothes, coats, and hats previously….but also think about personal security. If you have a fanny pack or a pouch, be sure it is RFID, which protects valuables for potential theft of private information. If you carry a purse, be sure it is RFID and has a way to strap it to your body. Men’s wallets should be kept in the front pocket of pants, not in the back pocket. If you use a back pack, they are great but can be accessed from the back, and you might want to look at one that you can carry in front of you, as well as on your back. If you are in a big crowded area, keep the pack in front of you with your arms around it. Speaking of personal security.…let’s think about the credit card and cash that you carry. First, be sure and notify your credit card company that you will be traveling outside the US, and they will probably ask what countries, and the dates, so have this handy. And, be sure and mention that you may be using both a credit and debit card. Regarding US dollars, in cash, for the most part will not be accepted in stores. Use a credit or debit card. However, dollars can be used for hotel tips, etc. but again, not widely accepted. Local cash, which you can get at ATM’s, which are very accessible, is the way to go. I do not recommend keeping much cash on you (maybe $100 converted to local currency) as you can use your debit card for almost all purchases. This process is much more common outside the US than in the US. We will talk  more about getting local currency once you arrive at the in-country airport.

Now that you have done your pre trip planning, your pre-trip packing, and have your list of items to take, you are ready to depart and head to the airport. Chapter 5 will deal with “The Airport”….from getting there to taking off….stay tuned.

What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Viking Cruises….Ocean and River

Effective January 1st…I am the Redding agent for Viking Cruises, and am very pleased with this opportunity. We just completed our 3rd Viking Cruise…and I am now “a believer” in Viking. They are great. No wonder they are consistently rated #1 among the Cruise lines.

Viking Cruises, both in their Ocean and River Cruises, offers cruises where you truly explore your destination-through its food, culture, countryside, and customs. You learn about the lands through which you travel via informative talks that bring history to life through cultural adventures, in-depth pre-trip materials, and on-demand programing-all designed to help you experience the most from your travels.

So, just send me an e-mail at    ron@ronlargenttravel.com   and I will get you brochures, information, details on the Cruises, both Ocean and River…and we will go from there. Viking is a winner.

Europe in the Winter…a trip dairy

We took this trip a few years ago, and will re-visit some of these sites, locations, and events this coming December. Here is the daily log:

 

We started thinking about a winter trip to Europe after we had taken a 4-week trip to China in September 2002. Coupled with this, our four children decided to do something for us to celebrate our 40th anniversary, and this started us thinking. At the same time, Audy read about the Christmas Markets in Europe, especially in Germany, and we agreed this would be something we would enjoy doing and seeing…thus the idea was born.

 

Initially we wanted to see these Christmas Markets, but in looking into them and when and where they were held, we found that for the most part they were early to mid December, which just would not fit with our schedule. Then we looked into Tours that would see these various places, and found that they were, for the most part, bus tours where you traveled to a different city each day, etc. This did not appeal to us…so we decided to “do our own trip”. Utilizing United Frequent Flyer miles and Marriott Points for the hotels….all was left with getting around in Europe and we happened on Eurail Passes….and our planning started. Our goal included seeing Berlin, where Audy and I met some 41 years ago while on an exchange type program, and which has been through a lot of change since the days when we rode our bikes under the Brandenburg Gate, including the Wall between East and West Germany. Another goal was to see Leipzig, which had been in East Germany, and which Audy saw in 1988 when she was in Germany with Curt…we wanted to see how the city had changed in the 12 years since the wall came down. Our third goal was to see Warsaw, Poland, where neither of us had been. All three goals were met, as you will see.

 

Day 1 (of 14) started on December 24th, 2002, as we left Redding on the United Express commuter to San Francisco (SFO). At SFO we boarded a United flight to London…where we changed to Lufthansa and on to Dusseldorf and then to Zurich, Switzerland, arriving at 6 PM on Christmas night. London Heathrow Airport is one of the older ones in Europe, and still serves millions annually as it has for 50 years, and it looked just as we remembered it, with tunnels and roads under buildings and very cluttered with offices and buildings almost on top of each other. On the other hand, Dusseldorf is a very, very modern airport serving the industrialized western part of Germany, and this airport is as open, bright, and light…as Heathrow is dark. An interesting contrast, but just right for our timing, for Dusseldorf Airport was very quiet on this Christmas Day so Audy had a good 1 hour nap while we waited for our flight. Arriving in Zurich, we used the shuttle to get to the Renaissance Hotel, which was about 10 minutes from the airport…and obviously it was bedtime, as we had been fling for 24 hours.

 

Day 2—Zurich, Dec 26: After a fair nights sleep (I was awake for 2 hrs. due to jet lag), we got up and took the airport shuttle to the Airport Train Station to catch the train into Zurich. They have arrangements in all of the cities where you can buy a 1 or 2 day pass that allows for unlimited riding on the public transport system. We rode the train into the main train station, which is quite large and quite buys, and after looking around for a place to eat, of which many were closed due to the day after Christmas closing, we walked out on the street to the adjacent McDonalds. Suffice it to say that traditionally we have refused to eat at McDonalds, etc…but, as we found in China, they have excellent “local foods”, as was the case with the Egg McMuffin we had. Quite good and with coffee came to about $4.00. We then walked down their Haufbonstrasse, which is the main shopping pedestrian street in Zurich. Every possible shop…many very upscale..and a beautiful area, in spite of the rain that was starting to fall. We walked about 2 hours and got up to the Lindenhof overlooking the Limmat River and the beginning of Lake Zurich…the Picture-postcard Lake that you often see when you see Zurich photos. From there we headed back to the station area, where we were going to catch the “Trolley tour” of the city, which we did. For 2 hours we got to see the big churches, including the famous one where artist Marc Chagall has the stained glass windows. Quite a beautiful city. Following the tour, we caught the train back to the hotel…a 2 hour rest…and at 5 got up to come back downtown to see “the lights”. We walked back down to the lake and then back to the station for a lasagna dinner…and back to the hotel…a good first day in Europe.

 

Day 3…Zurich to the Alps, 12/27/02: Although Zurich is impressive as a staid and wealthy old city that was not harmed by the war…what we were to encounter on this scenic day trip is almost indescribable. We caught the 9 am shuttle to the train..got on the Lucerne IR, which stands for Inter Regional, train…also known as the express trains…and headed for Lucerne, which is south of Zurich along Lake Lucerne…another picture postcard city. This was the first leg of the scenic trip up into the Alps, so we stopped at the station long enough to get a close-up look at the Lake and the new museum…and try to recall when we were there previously. It was starting to clear, so was very pretty, and in 30 minutes we were on to train #2, bound for Interlaken, which is the entry point into the Alps from this direction. It was here that we met the family from Florida that was on the 1 week ski trip…in Gstaad…and unfortunately for them and thousands of others…no snow, due to the southern Europe warm weather…(40 degrees was the high that day). At Interlaken we boarded train #3..and as we started up the weather cleared beautifully…and off we went to Zweissimen, which is the town for the start of the Golden Pass Scenic tour, and we got on train #4 for the steep climb, etc…into the middle of the Alps. This was absolutely spectacular, and the lack of snow allowed us to clearly see the Alpine villages, the beautiful mountains, and the enchanting valleys and waterways, from creeks to rivers. Nothing like it. And, the train goes where the cars can’t go, in that much of the track is literally along the side of the mountain, making for exciting views. This trip took us 2 hours as we traveled up and over and down into the french speaking part of Switzerland, and into the city of Montreux. Unbelievable beauty describes this part of the trip, as we passed by world famous resorts such as Gstaad…with many people but no snow. From Montreux we boarded train #5 for the short ride into Lausanne…then on to #6 for the return fast train to Zurich via Geneva and Bern. We were back in Zurich by 7 PM, and enjoyed our evening meal of the train…delicious soup and bread, which was about all we wanted for we had been sitting and viewing all day…and what a day it had been. Highly recommended for anyone that goes to Zurich, for this is the real Switzerland that can only be seen on this kind of a train trip. On the train ride back into Zurich, we were on the European bullet trains, and they run at speeds up to 120 mph. We had a number of these…some called IR and some called ICE (InterCityExpress)….and although the ICE is the new and famous looking bullet trains…all of them can really move. Inside the trains you do not hear much, for they are all electric and very quite, but stationary objects that are passed by the trains are blurs…and cars on the highways look as it they are creeping along, although they are probably going 60 or 70 mph. All of the trains are very clean, with very comfortable seats…and they have plenty of non-smoking areas…, which we always had. Some of the trains are double decker, but on all of the trains, the windows are big, so you can see all that you want to see with no problem whatsoever. On the return trip we went along Lake Neuchatel, another picture lake, but often fog covered due to the elevation of the lake when it is warn like it was, relatively speaking.

 

Some observations: Zurich is very expensive and not too tourist oriented. It is the money city with the famous banks and the large insurance companies. Zurich Insurance is the largest re-insurer in the world, attesting to the amount of money in Swiss banks. The area is very clean, and especially so as you travel out into the country as we did. The farms look almost unlived in…so neat and clean. As mentioned, the scenic trip was definitely a highlight.

 

Munich…..continued

We went down to the Marriott for breakfast and the placed was packed. Apparently, the hotels put together a special package for these holiday, and the place was full. We ordered from the menu…and got much more than we could eat. We walked back to the hotel…and left at 12 to catch the train to Leipzig. We were a little late in leaving, so had to rush to the station, using the U-bahn, but made it with about 5 minutes to spare. We went on to the first car that we saw was first class non-smoking, and as it turned out it was the end car with the engineer, except that the train was going in the opposite direction. This was the new ICE train, and the engineers compartment is like a cockpit, in that he sits at a console with computer screens “wrapped” around him. He is in a highback chair that is adjustable and on air, so that in the event of a bumpy ride his seat does not move. Right behind him is a glass wall, with a door, and then 6 seats, where we sat…then a wall into the next compartment. Within a few minutes we were off, headed towards Augsburg. It was at this time that the train changed directions, and the engineer came up to our car…so we in essence were in the first car…the drivers car, if you will. Pretty exciting, for again, these trains really move, and to watch the engineer control the speeds, etc…very interesting. He used both a cell phone and a console mounted phone, and was continually watching and checking the computer screens. We tried to monitor the speed, but it was hard to see through the glass, but knew we were going fast. Five hours later we arrived in Leipzig after this exciting time for both of us on the ICE. When we got off, the station at Leipzig was almost overwhelming…new, modern, and huge. The largest in Europe, with a full mall below the main station. Wow!. We walked 1 block to the Marriott, and although it was cold, we knew we were going to enjoy Leipzig. We were upgraded to the Executive Level, so had dinner right there…fried zucchini, etc…then went out for a walk in the sludge, as it had snowed and was much colder than in Munich. Back to the room and in bed by 9. A fun day on the train for a kid like me.

 

Salzburg

Some of our best memories are of Salzburg. When Audy and I were together in 1961, we met Dr. Maurice and Sue Faulkner, my music professor at UCSB, there, when they met Audy for the first time. We then went back when we were stationed in England…and then one time later on. It is a city that has not changed, and still has the charm that it had 40 years ago…so we were pleased to be there. We left the hotel at 8:45 am, after having a full breakfast buffet at the hotel which was included in the room plan (the European breakfast buffet, as it was in China…is everything you want from eggs to french toast to meats and cheeses to cereals and pastries)…walking over to the station where we caught a bus to the downtown area, for we wanted to go to the Dome (Cathedral) for the 10 am mass service. We got there a little early, so walked to the church and then around the area, which is all just below the massive castle on the hill overlooking the city…and which you see in all of the photographs of the city. We walked over to the St. Peters Church, and a service was going on…so we looked in the back, in probably was one of the prettiest churches we have ever seen. It was completely decorated with candles and ornaments…and it was just glorious. They were concluding their service, which was, again, part of the Christmas week services…thus the extensive decoration, and the final song was “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty…” with the full filled church singing. Very touching and beautiful. We then walked back over to the Dome, and the service was going and this massive church was filled. We walked to the front and got a seat on the side…and enjoyed very much the service with the full organ, 2 oboes, and a bassoon accompanying the soloist and the small adult choir. Although they were using the smaller and newer organ, of which there are 4 in the church, the music was beautiful and carried so well in the big dome….we stayed for the entire service. A blessing!

We left and took the funicular (cable car) up the hill to the castle-fortress, which we both remembered, as we walked to the top back in 1961. At the castle we walked around to see the sights and the views of the city from the top…had a coffee at the little restaurant…saw the Marionette Museum..and enjoyed the clear weather, although colder. This is a true fortress, in that it guarded the city, and today it has been preserved and is still a landmark to behold. We walked down into the town…went to the Mirabelle Castle, where I got one of my best photos of Audy in ’61…and walked over to the Mozart Museum. This is very well done and goes through the real history of Mozart…what he did…where he did it… and some of the family history. This is a must for anyone that appreciates Mozart, for it clearly demonstrates with videos and photos the incredible life of this genius. The Mozart birth place is nearby, and most of Salzburg has been turned into these pedestrian shopping areas, including the old market square, the street where Mozart’s home was, etc. We got a feeling for this on Sunday, but then on Monday it was a huge crowd of people. On Sunday we found a great little Italian restaurant in one of these pedestrian areas and had a great lasagna meal…served by an Austrian that had lived for 2 years in LA. We went on over to the Marionette Theater in hopes of seeing the 4 PM show…but couldn’t get it so got tickets for the evening Marriage of Figaro by Mozart…by the Marionettes. Although we had hoped to see the earlier show of The Nutcracker at 4, it turned out better that we got to see the “Marriage” that evening. This is really an incredible performance, for these Marionettes are about 4 feet tall, and from the distance that we were at, after a few minutes you forget that they are on strings and look like real opera performers. They are so good, that they make hand motions with the music changes, etc. Just makes you think they are real in every respect. Very well done and very worthwhile to see. The music, of course, is great, for it comes out on some form of large Bose type speakers, so you think there is a live orchestra playing…a great show! We tried to find out a little more about the “puppeteers”…for they are true professionals, and all we could find was that this is what they do after years of preparation and rehearsal…true artists. The theater itself is a regular theater, seating about 300, and we were towards the back, for it was almost sold out…and so well done that you forget that you are not seeing a real opera by real actors and singers. Well worth it!

We left the theater about 9:45 PM…walked to take some night photos, etc..and back to the hotel at 10:30 PM. A great day in Salzburg. Unfortunately, Audy’s back is starting to act up, and this is when we decided that when we get back, we are going to get on a regular exercise program to help strengthen her back muscles. But we had a good night…and Audy slept in the next morning…as we had a slow day planned.