Travel Like an Expert: “Don’t Do This!”

TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES AND MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any way you choose.” Dr. Seuss

Over the years you would think I would have everything mastered for seamless travel.  Each trip is memorable for something I shouldn’t do. Here are some of them so that you can avoid the pitfalls that trapped me.

St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.
St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.

Seventeen Travel Tips

1)  If you fly for business, don’t book your flight far in advance of your meetings. I booked my flight in early August to attend a November conference. Two days ahead of time I entered all my meeting times into my online calendar for the first time. The meeting I chaired started at 4:00 p.m and my plane arrived at 5:00 p.m.

2)  Don’t trust the “change your flight plans insurance” to cover mistakes like, “I didn’t know I had a meeting scheduling conflict.”  While it may not be your fault, it is not the airline’s fault either, and insurance doesn’t cover that.  Read the 45 pages fine print.

3)  When you connect flights, make sure you get to the right gate and not the one next to the right gate. Keep checking for changes in the gate. Don’t read something engaging; they don’t hold the plane for 20 minutes after take-off for you to get on. (Apparently, they don’t call your name over the intercom either.)

4)  Book through United Airlines rather than US Air. If you miss your connecting flight, they will get you on another flight without charging you. I’ve done that twice. Both American and US Air did not help.

5)  Don’t print your ticket up at home.  If you are lucky, when they print your ticket at the airport, you might get a “Pre-Check” ticket, which is given randomly. Or you can buy them through Homeland Security for $100 for 5 years. The application may kick you offline, and you have an interview, but Pre-Check is like gold.

6)  Since Pre-Checkers don’t have to take their shoes off, don’t wear buckles on your shoes.

7)  When you do miss your flight, and they book you on another flight, and you leave the customer service counter without a printed ticket, don’t assume that you can get your confirmed seat without a ticket. This happened to me twice with two different airlines. Both flights were overbooked, and the clerks were rude.

8)  When the clerk tells you that there are no more seats on the flight and you have a ticket don’t assume that there are no more seats. Wait until the plane loads. Stand near the counter and look old and helpless. If there is a seat, he or she will find it just to get you out of his hair.

8)  Do not wear a blouse with trapunto stitching when you fly. The naked airport scan indicated that I was carrying illicit something in my blouse. The TSA agent had to put her gloved hand in my bra to check for hidden contraband even though I assured her there wasn’t much in there. On her third check, the agent got mad at the naked picture reader behind the plastic curtain.”It’s just stitching. There is NOTHING THERE!” she announced in a loud voice.

9)  Don’t try to joke with the TSA agent when they are searching in your bra for drugs and counterfeit money.

10)  Don’t overpack your carry-on luggage even though you don’t want to pay for checking a bag. If you can’t squeeze it in the overhead bin, the attendants and passengers get angry even if you look old and helpless. Best to check it at the last-minute, if you can. Better to pack light!

12)  If you are going long distances on a full train, don’t assume that you have been assigned to the correct seat.  I went to the restroom and came back to an occupied seat.

13)  If you sit next to someone on the train who either stinks or has on too much perfume, consider drinking all night.  At least in the dining car, you can choose who you sit with. (to a point).

14)  When you drive at night in strange towns, and your GPS tells you the streets to take, don’t assume 1) that they are not torn up, and 2) that they are not one-way streets.  In South Bend, IN, fortunately, there was a parking lot that led to the one-way street that went the direction I needed to go.

SFW 2013 STL Lights 114

15)  If you are going back east in the winter, don’t forget to take more than one coat. Costco sells down coats that roll into a little ball.  St. Louis hit twelve degrees with the wind chill factor. California winters do not prepare travelers for that.

16)  DO NOT eat fish and chips at 10:00 am in an airport restaurant. You might not feel the effects for 12 hours, but you will feel them.

17) Don’t forget to pack Imodium pills.

Here are some pictures from my trip to St. Louis, MO. I hope you will enjoy.

What travel “do not do what I did tips” do you have?

WP Photo Challenge: Nighttime

Nighttime in St. Louis last November sparkled with Christmas lights.  We were on the snow route, but someone forgot the snow.

2013-11-23 21.01.21

They didn’t forget the cold.  Cheryl and I both had our reindeer noses on, but no sleigh!  🙂

2013-11-23 20.50.52

Breathtaking sights that phenomenal night walking around in the bitter, clear cold.

2013-11-23 20.43.44

Without my friends my magnificent night would have bubbled away and escaped into a book.  I’m so glad I have friends who wouldn’t let me miss the magic.

2013-11-23 20.57.52

About a week after I left St. Louis, Vince and I flew to Honolulu.  What a difference!  It is almost a challenge to find nighttime in Honolulu.  The island Los Angeles never sleeps.  We found this statuesque young man on the street corner, painted in silver, shimmering in the city lights, and not moving a muscle…then he did.

2013-12-04 18.32.44

NCSS holds conferences all over the United States.  In 2011 we went to Washington DC.  These statues at the Korean Memorial stayed eerily still that night during the nighttime tour.  I can’t guarantee what happened after the tour ended.

Korean Memorial

Nighttime city tours are the best.  The Marine Corps War Memorial signified the conclusion of the campaign in Pacific.

Iwo Jima Memorial, Washington

You never know who you will meet.

FDR Memorial @ night

Important people you don’t expect to see.

Vincent J. Ingrao, WWII Veteran

Of course, nothing is nicer than nighttime at home….. once in a blue moon!  🙂

Nighttime1

I apologise for the quality of my photos, I hope the nighttime story is still enjoyable.  Sleep tight!  🙂

If you can’t sleep check out some other nighttime stories here.

Travel Highlights of 2013

This was my first full year of retirement.  All my life I dreamed of traveling when I retired, and certainly God granted my every wish.   When I didn’t get travel, Manny did, so I have many wonderful pictures and memories for 2013.

Manny in Wuerzburg

On January 5th Manny and I headed south in my little green Prius that has 192,000 miles on it to San Diego where we met the History Girls.  We met Russel Ray, the San Salvador, and the bronze lady.  We faced peril in the Railroad Museum, and had to keep Manny under control in the Botanical Gardens.

Manny on San Salvador
Manny is climbing on the San Salvador as it is being built.

Later in January I attended a committee meeting in Berkeley and had time to walk around the neighborhood and take pictures.

Manny walking the streets of Berkeley

I went to Los Angeles to visit my friend Elane in February and so some shopping and serious eating.  I probably visited my dentist, Dr. Moy, as well.

Brian's classroom

In March California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS) held its annual conference, Social Studies on the March in Burlingame in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Marches in Birmingham.  SFW 2013 Folklorico Dancers 036

The next week the History Girls and I celebrated our friendship in Costa Mesa attending the play “Wicked,” which I had wanted to see forever.

getting made up
We all had to wear green make-up.

April is the month for the Executive Conference for CCSS.  As the President, I got to pick the place, and Vince prepared our house to host it here.  However, that didn’t work out for too many people, so we it moved to Los Angeles to the location where our conference will be held in 2014 at the Sheraton.

LA Sheraton

By May our neighbors wondered if I still lived here.  I visited my friend Elane again in Los Angeles.

Brian's classroom

My friend Jean and I went to San Francisco to celebrate her birthday for a couple of days and did walking tours.

Hotel Beresford

Towards the end of the month Vince and I took Cindy and Manny to Kauai, HI for her birthday.  The dogs watched our homes, and Kay and Mike East watched them.

SFW Luau Grounds071

We arrive home from Hawaii on June 3, and believe it or not, we stayed home until September 11, and rested up for the remainder of the year which made us dizzy.

Manny and Danny 3

Since we stayed home, we sent Manny to visit Ralph in July.

Manny going to airport

In August he left Ralph’s home in Spain, and traveled to London with Ute.

Manny at Buck palace

From September through November he went with Carol and Glenn to Cologne, Bruges, Brussels, Frankfurt, Tasmania, Toowoomba, Waterloo, and Wuerzburg.  I’ll be doing lots of posts about these trips during the year.  I just need to learn a little bit more about them, and Manny is being rather tight-lipped about the events of the trip!  Carol tells me they have some secrets they’re not telling me.  🙂

Manny in Toowoomba

Then he flew home with their daughter Melissa, who was going to Florida.  She sent him home from there.  His bags arrived in December from Australia.  He had fun showing us all his stuff.

Manny and stuff
Kalev thought Roo was for her. We caught her playing with him when we weren’t looking. She never plays with stuffed animals, but she loves Roo. We had to move him. 🙂

By September Vince and I contracted the travel bug, and went to Oregon to pick up the best Ebay bargain trailer on the market in Southern Oregon.  We turned it into our accidental vacation when our truck broke down in Klamath, CA.

Klamath Canon288

Manny was still on the road, so he missed my next trip.  A week after Vince and I got back from our first trailer trip, I took a train from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon to attend the Oregon Council for the Social Studies annual conference, and to meet my brother.

2013 OCSS Conference321

After the conference my brother took the train ride of our lives going first to Chicago, then to South Bend and Indianapolis, IN for a week.

Randy and Marsha's elementary school.
Randy and Marsha’s elementary school.

After a short jaunt to Louisville, KY, I headed home on a plane to CA, and my brother took the long way home by train back to Portland.

Louisville Sluggers

Almost immediately I had to go to a dental appointment, and stayed in Santa Monica, an took the opportunity to visit our President-Elect, Amanda.

SFW Santa Monica155r

No sooner than I got home than my house-bound husband wanted to take a trailer trip to the coast for two weeks.  We stayed a week, then he went home for some appointments. I stayed in Avila by myself to write my contribution to 2013 NaNoWriMo, Girls on Fire.  A few days later he drove back and picked the trailer and me up and carried us back home.

SFW SLO Beach 2013104

Less than two weeks after that, I flew St. Louis, MO to the 2013 National Council for the Social Studies Conference.

The Mississippi in Missouri
The Mississippi in Missouri

Manny and I arrived home about the same day, him from Australia via Florida and me from MO.  It was my husband’s birthday, and one week later the three of us got back on a plane heading for Honolulu, HI, where we spent a week in Waikiki.

Bishop Museum 122r

We have been home eighteen days, and today we took a day trip to the coast to celebrate our friend, Margaret’s birthday, but I think we are going to stay home for a while now.

birthday cake with S & M

At least until morning.  🙂

I’d love to hear about your highlights from the year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

How fortunate for me that the WP Photo Challenge is so unexpected.  I didn’t expect to have Monday alone in St. Louis, but most of my friends left on Sunday, so I had unexpected found time to explore on my own.  I like to go the seamy, trashy underbellies of a city when left to my own devices.  I know – that’s unexpected.  I was downtown with no car, and wanted to find the local river, you know the Mississippi.

It’s not a particularly well-known river in these parts.  That’s because it’s so hard to find.  That was unexpected.  There were no signs pointing the way, no tours advertised in the hotel lobby.  I had to ask a passerby how to get to the river front.

By the way, St. Louis is not the only place with strange statues, but you tell me, is she a bit odd?

Most cities flaunt their river fronts with chic shops and restaurants.  Some places combine the two like good book stores where you can browse among thousands of books, choose something, and sip a cup of coffee in between moments of distracted staring out the window at the beautiful river.

I found myself unexpectedly going in circles trying to find the Mississippi River in St. Louis.
I found myself unexpectedly going in circles trying to find the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

The first person directed me in the general direction towards the river.  I finally got close enough to catch a glimpse of his idea of, “Go straight down this street and you can’t miss it.”  Finally, I caught my first glimpse of the great Mississippi.  Can you find it?

I worried that the parking lot attendant would demand money from me for walking through his lot.
I worried that the parking lot attendant would demand money from me for walking through his lot.

Do detour signs make you dismal?  When you motor in unfamiliar cities, confident that your GPS or map skills would direct you to your destination, have you ever found that the recommended street was unexpectedly closed for construction?  Fortunately I was on foot because there were plastic construction fences everywhere. The closer I got, the more nervous I became that here would be no hole in the fence, and I would have to recalculate, make a u-turn, and find an alternate route – again!

Downtown foot traffic was light on Monday.  You should have seen it after the Rams v the Bears game on Sunday.
Downtown foot traffic was light on Monday. You should have seen it after the Rams v the Bears game on Sunday.  I was relieved to get closer and see that there was an exit.

Fortunately I saw one other person walking my way, so I knew he had come from the other side of the red barrier somewhere.  Once I squeezed past the plastic rope barricade I reached the chic restaurants and bars.  I don’t know who else could, though.  Streets in Atlanta proved hazardous to me and to Cheryl, a friend of mine, four years ago at NCSS, but those streets and sidewalks were silk roads compared to these.

Mind the street.  Spiky heels are not recommended.
Mind the street. Spiky heels are not recommended.

Have you ever driven through an unfamiliar town at night and it seemed that someone had hijacked all the street signs so that GPS, iPhones, and traditional maps were useless?  Now I know where they put those signs.

At night they must light these up and flash a hologram into the sky so drivers can see them.
At night they must light these up and flash a hologram into the sky so drivers can see them.

This must be very helpful when you walk with your handsome date in your platform heels down a dark street to go to a bar with a great dance floor.  Keep in mind that the sidewalk, though a little wavy, might have been walkable, but if you unexpectedly veered into the street, the least bit tipsy, you would probably not make it home with all your bones attached.

SFW 2013 Streets of STL114

It was so cold that your feet might have slipped on the icy bricks.  By morning only slush remained seeping between the cracks.

The reflections were good, but I missed seeing what hours they opened.  I think you went to the website to warn them you were coming before they sent someone to open the door.
The reflections were good, but I missed seeing what hours they opened. They didn’t expect visitors.  I think if you wanted to visit, you needed to go to the website to warn them you were coming so they could someone to open the door.

I wondered how any of the business in this area stayed afloat, even when there were no flood waters.  I unexpectedly encountered the famous St. Louis Wax Museum.  It looked particularly inviting with professional signs admonishing me to carry cash if I wanted to see their evil, life-like monsters.

I took a picture of their faces in case I needed to report them to the police.
I took a picture of their faces in case I needed to report them to the police.  It was unexpected to feel so molested in the middle of the morning.

There was some traffic in front of one restaurant.  Their tables remained outside for anyone who wanted to enjoy the stiff breezes taking the temperature down to about 12 degrees.  The traffic ambled along as it ate up the street.

The other street traffic jogged up to the vehicle and walked along beside it for a ways.
The other pedestrian, a construction worker, jogged up to the vehicle and walked along beside it for a ways – a real SMV.

I finally go to the river’s edge.  It lapped peacefully at the shore as though it might have been the beautiful McKenzie River in Oregon.  With the exception of my visit that morning, no one else visited that I saw.  One truck looked like it wanted to commit suicide.  I took several pictures to see if it actually completed the act, but it must have waited for me to leave before rolling to its demise.

See the truck thinking about jumping in?
See the truck thinking about jumping in?

I snapped a few pictures of the bricky bank and the boats navigating the murky waters, then headed back to catch my shuttle to the airport, satisfied that I had seen the unexpected seaminess of St. Louis.  Here are a few more pictures of the beautiful Mississippi to upload to your memory before I go.

What are some of your unexpected experiences in strange cities?  Click here for more of the unexpected.

 

Best “Don’t Do This” Travel Tips

take off your shoes and make yourself at home

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any way you choose.” Dr. Seuss

Over the years you would think I would have everything mastered for seamless travel.  Each trip is memorable for something I shouldn’t do. Here are some of them so that you can avoid the pitfalls that trapped me.

St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.
St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.

1)  If you fly for business, don’t book your flight far in advance of your meetings. I booked my flight in early August to attend a November conference. Two days ahead of time I entered all my meeting times into my online calendar for the first time. The meeting I chaired started at 4:00 p.m and my plane arrived at 5:00 p.m.

2)  Don’t trust the “change your flight plans insurance” to cover mistakes like, “I didn’t know I had a meeting scheduling conflict.”  While it may not be your fault, it is not the airline’s fault either, and insurance doesn’t cover that.  Read the 45 pages fine print.

3)  When you connect flights, make sure you get to the right gate and not the one next to the right gate. Make sure that you keep checking for changes in the gate. Don’t read something engaging, or you might miss your flight, and they don’t hold the plane for 20 minutes after take-off for you to get on. (Apparently, they don’t call your name over the intercom either.)

4)  Book through United Airlines rather than US Air. If you miss your connecting flight, they will get you on another flight without charging you anything. I’ve done that twice. Both American and US Air did not help.

5)  Don’t print your ticket up at home.  If you are lucky, when they print your ticket at the airport, you might get a “Pre-Check” ticket, which is given randomly. Or you can buy them through Homeland Security for $100 for 5 years. The application may kick you offline, and you have an interview, but Pre-Check is like gold.

6)  Since Pre-Checkers don’t have to take their shoes off, don’t wear buckles on your shoes.

7)  When you do miss your flight, and they book you on another flight, and you leave the customer service counter without a printed ticket, don’t assume that you can get your confirmed seat without a ticket. This happened to me twice with two different airlines. Both flights were overbooked, and the clerks were rude.

8)  When the clerk tells you that there are no more seats on the flight and you have a ticket don’t assume that there are no more seats. Wait until the plane loads. Stand near the counter and look old and helpless. If there is a seat, he or she will find it just to get you out of his hair.

8)  Watch what you wear when you fly.  I wore a blouse that had shrunk and raised stitching.  The naked airport scan indicated that I was carrying illicit something in my blouse.  The TSA agent had to put her gloved hand in my bra to check for hidden contraband even though I assured her there wasn’t much in there.  On her third check, the agent got mad at the naked picture reader behind the plastic curtain.”It’s just stitching. There is NOTHING THERE!” she announced in a loud voice

9)  Don’t try to joke with the TSA agent when they are searching in your bra for drugs and counterfeit money.

10)  Don’t overpack your carry-on luggage even though you don’t want to pay for checking a bag. If you can’t squeeze it in the overhead bin, the attendants and passengers get angry. If you can’t lift it, look old and helpless, and sometimes people help. Sometimes they just get irritated. Best to check it at the last-minute, if you can. Better to pack light!

12)  If you are going long distances on a full train, don’t assume that you have been assigned to the correct seat.  I went to the restroom and came back to an occupied seat.

13)  If you sit next to someone who either stinks or has on too much perfume, consider drinking all night.  At least in the dining car, you can choose who you sit with. (to a point).

14)  When you drive at night in strange towns, and your GPS tells you the streets to take, don’t assume 1) that they are not torn up, and 2) that they are not one-way streets.  In South Bend, IN, fortunately, there was a parking lot that led to the one-way street that went the direction I needed to go.

SFW 2013 STL Lights 114

15)  If you are going back east in the winter, don’t forget to take more than one coat. Costco sells down coats that roll into a little ball.  St. Louis hit twelve degrees with the wind chill factor. California winters do not prepare travelers for that.

Here are some pictures from my trip to St. Louis, MO. I hope you will enjoy.

What travel “do not do what I did tips” do you have?