Originally our travels were documented in our travelogues - a rather comprehensive photo album of each trip. However, the travel hints were buried in the individual travelogues, and the travelogues were too long for many people. We are struggling with the format, and welcome your suggestions.
We tried to convert our travel web site to a travel blog. What's the difference? On the web site, I write long pages, you read. On the blog, I start and you continue the dialogue with us. It didn't work, so we are moving the blog pages back here.
This picture is Jenny and Charlie Plesums, the people traveling and creating the travelogues and suggestions. They are overlooking the sacred valley outside Cusco, Peru.
With one exception (Santiago), we would love to do any of our trips again - see our travelogues.
If you are just starting to venture internationally on your own, we suggest these destinations
So how do we answer "where to next" for us? We don't. For the security of our home, we do not say when we are going, or for how long, or where we will be (except to close family and folks watching our house) until we are back home. We do NOT post on Facebook while we travel: "See how we are enjoying Tokyo ... (this would be a good time to burglarize our home.)"
Availability is the first issue. Not all rest rooms provide it. Some, where there is a token fee to use it, provide a few sheets when you pay to go in. Occasionally there is a central roll for everyone, none in each stall. In other countries you are expected to bring your own. Once (in Japan) people outside a department store were passing out plastic envelopes with advertising - Jenny recognized it as toilet paper, and accepted the gift, even though she could not read the ads. For "bring your own" we remove the cardboard from the center of the last few percent of a toilet paper roll, which then fits easily in a pocket or purse; when we had it with us, we rarely used it; when we didn't have it with us, we wished we did.
Disposal is a dirty question. Not all countries or cities want used toilet paper put into the toilet. Our guide in China, where the tradition varies by city, had the best (universal) advice. "If there is an open waste basket with a disosable plastic liner next to the toilet, put the used paper there, otherwise flush it.
Why does Uber get a prime listing in a travel site? Because they serve more than 400 cities in 72 countries. For a couple years we could not use them at home - the idiots on the Austin City Council figured they could run Uber better than the company, and kicked them out for not changing procedures to follow Austin City Council rules. Uber is back in Austin, but now there are multiple competing services.
We had an uncomfortable taxi ride to a museum in Portugal. Not bad, but it sure could have been better. So decided to try Uber to the next museum. Great ride, nice car, good driver (he spoke some English but that didn't matter since we had already entered our destination in the Uber app.) No question on payment - it automatically went on our credit card. We have since used Uber in numerous cities and countries, with universally excellent service.
There is no charge to set up an Uber account, and once established it works all over the world. Whether you choose to use it or not, we suggest that you have it available before you travel.
Jenny has watched the kids in Rome and elsewhere, and made some important observations.
Guess we should conclude that, once they are out of a stroller, parents are bad for kids. I also like to rank museums by teenager acceptability. In one museum I watched what appeared to be a rowdy group of teens rushing through the exhibits. A little while later the same group was huddled in a stair well sharing what they had seen - as a group they had seen as much as I had. If the exhibits are bold and clear, with brief descriptions, teenagers like them (and so do I). If the descriptions are long and detailed, great for the history buffs and academics, but I don't like them any more than the teenagers do. I want an overview of some portion of the exhibits, and the option to move on, without having to study each item in painful detail.
We patronize American Airlines extensively, and appreciate using the Admiral's Club and the other lounges we may access as very frequent flyers. American is quick to brag how wonderful the lounges are and how they are being upgraded, but they do not have a list of lounges and where they are located. If you are on the bus or train between terminals, there is no convenient way to find where to get off to go to the lounge nearest your gate.
Click for my list of Admiral's Club and other lounges American flyers might be able to access. Or click here to download a PDF version of the list, that you might save on your smart phone. The price for this service is for you to add to and correct the list... since American doesn't have a list they share, I have harvested data from multiple sources, so it may not be perfect, and I would appreciate your help.
is a Spanish chain of over 500 reasonably priced 4-5 star city hotels in Europe, South America, and Africa. We discovered them in Buenos Aires, liked them even better in Berlin, and had a suite in a centrally located hotel in Santiago for about $150 per night. We stayed in one of their "upscale" Collection hotels in Amsterdam and Vienna. Their reservation process is irritating, but that is overcome by good hotels at a reasonable price. If breakfast is included, it has been outstanding, but it if is an option, it can be expensive - in Vienna we just went to the McDonald's across the street.
In the United States we like staying at Hampton Inns. They are 3 star hotels with excellent breakfast and WiFi, and far more than just adequate rooms (but don't expect a fancy lobby to meet friends). They claim you get the best deal by booking on their web site, but there are occasional bargains on Booking.com - we saved about $75 on a two day stay in New York City, but sacrificed our hotel points.
Not all of our hotel plans work out as well. We had a good time in Prague March 16-23, 2010 - but the hotel logistics arranged by American Airlines Vacations were terrible. We won't use AA Vacations again.
Join your local museum. We are members ("Partners", "Ambassadors") at the Dallas Museum of Art. Yes, it is a worthwhile charity, and also gives us free garage parking at the downtown museum, discounts in the cafe and bookstore, and free admission to special exhibits (basic admission is free for everyone). But the key for travelers is "Reciprocal" membership in other museums. For example, we saved $50 at the Boston Museum of Art (and had no wait in an endless line), saved $30 at the Anchorage museum, saved $50 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art In New York, and saved $30 at a museum in San Antonio. In New Orleans, a museum did not offer reciprocal privileges, but gave us a $1 courtesy discount, but most of all, did not send us back to the endless line waiting to buy tickets.
As part of an Italy trip, we documented issues with money and museum tickets, and some notes on guide books.
Beware of renting a Mercedes Benz in England (and perhaps elsewhere in Europe). In 2015 we decided to go upscale since we would be doing a lot of driving for the week. "C class" should be fine - that is what our dealer loans us when our car is in for service. The manual driver seat did not go back as far as other cars. The steering wheel did not tilt (as a tall guy I had a terrible time getting in and out). There were no heated seats (it was very cold when we were there.) When we returned the car, the agent suggested getting a VW Passat or similar next time.
It is often a cheap ticket that triggers one of our trips. For example, $196.20 round trip for Austin to New York City. Or $985 to Vietnam, about 18,500 miles. How do we find the bargains? Google Flights.
There are many ways to approach the Google Flights site - it seems different each time I use it. So start this way...
Now get the focus off the map and onto the flights, by clicking on the menu at the top (just under the word Google). Click on the little calendar next to your departure date. Under each date is the fare if you departed that date for a trip the same length as your original departure and return dates. Pick a departure date, then click on the calendar near your return date... again the prices appear under the date in the calendar for your choice of return dates (with the same departure date... this changes the length of your trip.
Near the calendar is a "price graph" button. It will give you the prices for each departure date on the graph and your specified length of trip. Note there is also an option to change the length of the trip. Below the day-by-day graph is another graph that shows how the prices vary over a longer time (would it be better to go in the fall?).
Close the price graph and it will show you some suggested outbound flights for your selected dates and city. Would you pay a little more to not leave at 5:30 in the morning? To only have 2 stops instead of 3? Make a choice - you are still just playing.
Once you have chosen, it will show you the details - flight numbers, layover times, etc. If you don't like your choice click the "X" by the Outbound Flight title, to choose again.
When you are happy with your outbound flight(s), you can choose your return flight the same way.
When you have something interesting you can save or share (by email) the itinerary, or you can just try another trip. If you are really serious, you have the option to book the flight. If I click on "Book with American" it takes me to the American Airlines web site with all the flights and dates entered, ready to log in and enter the passenger names.
Don't wait too long - if you come back days or weeks later, the prices will probably have changed. The price can change until you buy your ticket.
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