Friday, February 21, 2014

Eat with a Local

On one of my trips to London one of my favorite things I did was to share a meal with a local family in their home.  Sitting around the table sharing stories and laughs, seeing what a typical English home is like and what a typical meal is like was truly an unforgettable experience.

Sharing a meal with a local in their home is a great way to really experience authentic food and see how the people really live verses just experiencing the tourist side of things. is a website that list people in various counties who host guests in their home for a meal.  Each host sets a minimum and maximum number of guests that may attend, the date and what will be served.  There is a fee per guest which ranges from host to host.

The site is very easy to use, each host has a bio page listing about the home such as whether there is pets in the home, if it is accessible by public transportation, the languages spoken, if there is heating and cooling, if kids are welcome as well as several other details.

There are lots of pictures on each host's page including pictures of the food, guests and the hosts.  If you are looking for a unique opportunity to share a meal with a local on your next trip abroad stop by and make your reservation.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Children's Play Area at LAX

Traveling with children can be trying enough but long waits at the airport with restless children can make you want to put your hair out.  Bored kids are fussy kids.  But if you are traveling through LAX you may find some relief.

Inside Los Angeles International Airport’s recently renovated Tom Bradley terminal is the new LAX Beach, a 971 sq foot play area for children ages 2 to 8 years old.  The space is decorated in soft sculptured foam pieces in the shape of ocean waves, sea life, surf boards, and beach toys.  Children will also find a slide and other equipment to climb on where they will be able to burn off extra energy and pass the time while waiting for their flight.  There is also a comfortable seat area for parents to relax in while keeping an eye on their children at play.

LAX Beach is located near the dining terrace in the terminal’s Villaraigosa Pavilion and is open during terminal hours.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

From Our Readers

* My travel tip is to bring your own water bottle and fill it before you begin your day!

* Mail home some of your things after a lengthy trip instead of trying to carry it all home. It will give you space for purchases and finds.



Cabinet War Rooms - London

On a trip to London I was looking for something interesting to see.  My teenage son has a huge interest world war II history so I was looking for something that might be of interest to him.  I found the cabin War Rooms, an underground complex that served as the British headquarters during WWII which sits underneath the treasury building, just east of St. James park.  The rooms have been kept exactly as they were during the war.  The  BBC had a small studio in the complex where Churchill made regular radio addresses.  The complex was much more extensive than I thought it would be.  It was like a small underground city.  People stayed down there for extended periods of time.  It was very impressive and I really liked that it was intact with all the original contents.  If you are someone interested in WWII history or looking for a different type of museum you should definitely checkout the Cabinet War Rooms.
Virginia, Georgia




Travelers Tips

Transfers in London
There were six of us going on a cruise that departed from Dover, England. We were looking for transportation from the airport to a pre-cruise hotel and from the hotel to the ship pier in Dover. After doing a great deal of research the best deal I found was with Express Ways (phone: 08456 12 12 12, fax: 020 8883 6142, There was no upfront charges, we paid the driver in cash. The charge from Heathrow Airport to our London hotel was $82 for four of us and $57 for two of us and from the hotel to the pier in Dover $240 for all six of us which was about half the price of other companies. We were very pleased with their service, they were on time and it was a pleasant experience.

Linda in Texas

Driving in Ireland
While on vacation in Ireland with my wife, we rented a car. I took along my GPS to help navigate the roads. Don’t forget to update your maps before you go. Many of the maps in GPS’s are older and can be out dated which we often found. We ended up using our smart phones to down maps and navigation apps. However you can’t always get a signal so if you go this route you need to download maps ahead of time so each night while at our hotel while we could get WiFi we would download maps for the next day. Also with GPS we found it like to take us on the most direct route, even if that meant taking us down a cow path rather than an actual road. So I recommend always having an old fashion paper map with you, in the end it still seems to be the most reliable.

Stephen in North Carolina

Train Tickets in Italy
Before leaving on my trip through Italy I purchased several tickets from Trenitalia ( It’s easy to setup an account and I purchased all my long distant train trips in Super Economy. By booking ahead I saved a considerable amount of money. For example, a ticket from Trieste, Italy to Padova usually cost $35 but by booking it ahead of time online I only paid $9. The Super Economy fare seats are limited but available on most routes throughout the day. Refunds and changes are not permitted so you are restricted to the ticket purchased but the savings are worth it. When purchasing the ticket you have the choice to receive your confirmation, including your passenger number reference (PNR) code, by mobile device or email. I could also choose to receive my payment receipt by email or have the conductor issue me one on board the train. This allowed me to board my train without having to pickup a printed ticket or worry about getting a paper ticket stamped before boarding. On board the conductor just checked the PNR code on my ticket against his electronic printout.

Patricia, California

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Traveling to North Korea

Now that travel to North Korea has opened up many people are interested in traveling to the formally forbidden territory.  For seasoned travelers its an exciting opportunity but it doesn't come without risks.  On November 19, 2013, the US Department of State recommended against all travel to North Korea by US citizens.

The North Korean government has not only imposed heavy fines on but also detained, arrested and imprisoned persons for violating their laws.  Four US citizens have been arrested for entering the country illegally and two other US citizens who had valid DPRK visas, were arrested on other charges.

Foreign visitors may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that are not sanctioned inside North Korea regardless if those activities took place inside the country or not, including religious and political activities.  Unauthorized or unescorted travel within the country or unauthorized attempts to speak to North
Korean citizens may be viewed as espionage.

Visitors can be arrested for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor or taking unauthorized photographs or even shopping as a store that is not designated for foreigners.  It is a criminal offense to show disrespect to any former leader or the current leader.  It is a criminal act to bring in either print or electronic media that criticizes the North Korean government.  The government will go through your devices..  You may or may not be allowed to keep your cell phone upon entering the country.  If you are allowed to keep it you should assume all your communications will be monitored.

If you do decide to travel to North Korea make sure you know all of the laws and restrictions.  Be extremely careful of everything you say and do.  Do extensive research before you go and understand that you will be traveling against the advice of the US State Department so you are traveling at your own risk.

Clothes with a Secret Compartment

The Clever Travel Companion clothing company offers travelers clothing that has secret compartments in it to discourage pickpockets.  You can hide your passport, cash or credit cards in a secret pocket hidden inside a tank top, t-shirt, pair of underwear or longjohns.

 Travel safety garment: tank tops with secret pocket

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Allure of the Seas Dry-Docked

The Allure of the Seas will be dry docked on February 24 to repair its propulsion units.  Royal Caribbean will provide booked passengers a full refund or the option of rebooking other itineraries with RCI at the
same rate.

The largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure, isn't the only ship to suffer propulsion unit problems.  The Carnival Paradise, Celebrity Millennium and the Carnival Legend have also had problems.

The propulsion unit can swivel the ship 360 degrees or stabilize the ship.  Problems with the units can result in the ships having to decrease their speed or losing propulsion power.  On other ships, the bearings which are used to enable the swiveling have that prevent the ships from moving at high speeds.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Virgin Atlantic's Seat Assignment Fees

Virgin Atlantic has sent out this notice to customers:

Changes to Economy Advanced Seat Assignments

We know how important choosing a seat is to you and your passengers. Over the past couple of years we’ve been investing in ways to improve this process.
As we’ve launched our new Advanced Seat Assignment (ASA) process, we’ve listened to your feedback and have made significant changes so that we can continue to better serve your business and our mutual customers.
Travel agents can now carry on assigning seats in the GDS for exempt booking classes.

To clarify, here’s how it all works:
Agents can use GDSs to pre assign seats for:*
  1. Upper Class bookings: booking classes J,C,D, I, Z
  2. Premium Economy bookings: booking classes W, H, S, K
  3. Y & B class Economy bookings

Booking in Virgin Atlantic Economy (Booking class Y and B are exempt)
Passengers in Economy booking classes will need to assign seats through Manage My Bookings  and enter their Booking Ref/ E-ticket number. This should only take a few minutes.
The cost to assign a seat will be $40 per person per sector ($80 per round trip) on Virgin Atlantic long haul flights.

Bookings on Virgin Atlantic Little Red
Passengers on Little Red will also need to assign seats through Manage My Bookings and enter their Booking Ref/ E-ticket number. This should only take a few minutes.
There is no charge on Virgin Atlantic Little Red UK domestic flights.
As of April 1 2014, the below will be exempt from ASA charges but seats will still need to be assigned through Manage My Bookings if flying in an Economy booking class other than Y or B:
  1. Bookings made on a corporate deal code**
  2. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold Members
  3. Bookings made on Virgin Atlantic Little Red
  4. Bookings made between LHR & NRT (marketed and operated)

So basically, if you buy the discount tickets you will have to pay $40 each way for a seat assignment.  Otherwise plan on getting to the airport early so you can get the seat or seats you want, especially if you have more than one person in your party.  This is just another example of the airlines nickel & dimming passengers to death.  It's not like this is a fuel surcharge where the the airline's might have a legitimate claim that due to the rising cost of fuel they need to add this extra fee but it cost them absolutely nothing to assign a passenger a seat.  Its just a ridiculous way for them to get more money out of you.  But they are inline with airlines like Spirit Airline who are charging for carry on now.  Is it really a wonder why passengers are so cranky these days?  Can agents and flight attendants really be baffled when a passenger becomes so angry so quickly, we started getting screwed long before got to the airport.