When do I need a Passport?

passportIt seems so confusing, but it is not.  I will cover the Passport Card in a separate Post but in general, you need a Valid Passport if:

  • you are flying into or out of the United States of America
  • you traveling into or out of the U.S. by land border-crossings or ports-of-entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda

However, there is an Exemption if you are cruising from a U.S. Port and returning to the same U.S. Port.  Other paperwork can be used instead. Continue reading When do I need a Passport?

Credit Cards / Debit Cards when traveling

Do not forget to notify your credit card company when you are traveling.  It would be unfortunate if your card was flagged for possible fraud and you were out of town or even out of the country.  Bring 2 cards with you for this very reason.

Debit Cards – use at ATMs to get local currency, conversion rates for the day’s activity are used.  Make sure you know if there are any fees.

Credit Cards – Companies do not have to use the current day’s exchange rate and you may pay a higher exchange rate than you anticipated.  Also, some companies charge a fee for this service.

When looking for a travel card, look at your local credit unions.  Our local credit union does not charge a currency exchange fee.  Also, the Visa Check Card can act as either a debit card or a credit card.  If you don’t already have an account at a credit union, open one and use it just for travel.  Our local credit union can now print your Debit Card on-site.  Since Credit Unions are actually owned by the users, they usually do not have fees or have much lower fees.

When you are traveling or when you are at home, it has become more important to protect your credit and debit cards.  I see videos all the time on how credit card information is stolen.  I purchased some RFID blockers before my last trip (from amazon).  The package was so big that I shared with my family and everyone has their cards in them all the time.

Ten tips for your first Carnival Cruise

Vickie Travelz

Tip #1 Bring some money to tip the luggage porters when arriving at the port.

Tip #2 They are going to take your picture, alot.  It starts before you board the ship.  You do not have to participate but you should.  Just smile and let them snap your picture, it is part of the experience.  Every night you can go look for your pictures and toss the bad ones in the trash.

Tip #3. Budget some money for pictures.  There are lots of photographers on board and they are good at their job.  You will want to buy a picture or two or twenty.

Tip #4 Bring a corkscrew and a bottle opener.  On a Carnival cruise, you are allowed to carry-on one bottle of wine per person, good idea if you like wine, but if you forget the corkscrew you will be taking it home with you.  You can purchase a bucket of beer that holds 4 iced beers.  You can carry it anywhere on the ship with you.  But, you cannot open the beer without a bottle opener.

Tip #5 Bring sunscreen, bug spray and aspirin.  You might not need it but it is worth the space in the luggage if you do.

Tip #6 Don’t bring any clothes that are even the tiniest bit snug.  They wont fit after the 1st or 2nd day.   The amount and variety of food, drink and dessert available while in relax mode guarantees at least an extra pound or two.  Hot chocolate & BLTs via room service is a family favorite.

Tip #7 If you are a photographer at heart, bring your camera.  My daughter is a natural photographer and captures some amazing pictures with her phone but I need the camera to help me take some nice pictures.  I can’t capture the vibrant colors with my phone.

Tip #8 If watching people drink alcohol bothers you, consider a different vacation.  You can still have fun on a cruise if you don’t drink alcohol but there are bars everywhere and people drinking everywhere.  They give out free mimosas when you attend a 10 a.m. seminar.  Drinking is an all day activity for some.

Tip #9 Bring walking shoes.  You will be walking all over the ship.  Up the stairs, down the stairs, front of the ship, back of the ship.  You will have beautiful calves at the end of the cruise if you never take the elevator.

Tip #10. Ladies, bring the heels for dressing up at night but be prepared to leave them in the stateroom. Walking in heels on a ship is a bit different than walking on land in heels.   Also, your legs might hurt from walking all day or you might just be in a flip flop mood.

Packing for a Carnival Cruise

Vickie Travelz

I waited until the last day to pack.

We are leaving in the morning and I have many items laid out to put into the suitcase and I am pretty excited to try out my new packing cubes so look for a post on that experiment soon.

I remembered that one of my students gave me an amazon gift card and I wanted to be sure to get some new books on my kindle before we left — I plan to sit on the deck in the sunshine with my book and my beverage and just relax.  I am looking forward to it.  I was pretty excited to be able to purchase some books from my wish list but it took me over an hour to choose which ones to purchase – what is wrong with me?

I have had several kindles over the years and I have to say that the touch screen, backlit e-reader is my favorite.  I can read without the light on and my husband is quite appreciative of that.  My dad was even nice enough to purchase the one without the ads, I mean “special offers”.

I am off to charge my kindle and test out my new packing cubes!

A better way to shave on the road.

Most men shave every day and when I travel, especially to remote locations in Mexico and Central America and to other areas outside of the United States, I find it a pain to take the supplies.

Let’s review the options:

  1. electric razor – I have one but it needs to be charged regularly and that is a problem in remote areas or where the power isn’t the same as the United States.
  2. Regular bar or liquid soap – Not a good option for me at least. Dries my face out, doesn’t lather up or help lubricate my beard so I am a lot more likely to nick and cut myself.
  3. can of shaving cream – The full size aerosol can is too big and heavy for carry-on luggage, I think the small travel can is expensive and doesn’t last. In checked baggage you have to consider what if the top accidentally gets pressed? Now we have to do laundry.

So I started researching and testing other options out.  And now you get the benefit of all that research and testing!

I found solid shaving soap. After trying several different ones I now use a Arko Shaving Soap Stick. It’s small, light and doesn’t require I carry a shaving brush. I carry it in a ziplock bag and just wet my face, rub the open end of the Arko over my beard and then use my wet hands to lather my face up.  It provides a nice shave and I don’t have to worry about shaving cream all over my suitcase.

If you want to take an Arko stick on your next trip, you can use the link below to order it from Amazon at a very reasonable price.

Arko Shaving Soap Stick, White, Pack of 2, 75g each

Travelz with Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime membership keeps getting better and better.

While you are traveling take advantage of the following Prime features:

  • Free Movies and TV shows
  • Free music
  • Free book each month — choose from about 6
  • Free books to borrow
  • Free photo storage
  • Free games on Twitch
  • Free audio books

Enjoy all those features while at home AND enjoy

  • Free 2-day shipping on many items — be careful because all Prime items don’t have this available.

Shop Amazon – Give the Gift of Amazon Prime

Packing for Portugal & Spain

I spent quite a bit of time researching and trying to figure out what to pack for our trip. We traveled in late April / early May.  Hope this helps you pack for your trip!

Here is a list of what I packed:

  1. Black pants (they are yoga pants but they aren’t tight on my legs and they pass for dress pants – daughter approved)
  2. Gray pants (similar to the black pants)
  3. White pants
  4. Jeans
  5. 3 pairs of shorts in the same shade as each pair of pants (black, white, jeans) — I only wore 1 pair of shorts but several people in our group wore them more often.
  6. A dress shirt that matched both the black pants and the white pants — wore this to our farewell dinner.
  7. Enough Shirts to wear each one twice
  8. 3 scarves to wear with my plain t-shirts (mix-n-match)
  9. Cardigan for the plane and evenings – brought the one that doesn’t wrinkle easily and is easily stuffed into my bag.
  10. Black warmer jacket
  11. Rain Poncho. This is also easily stuffed into my bag when not in use.
  12. Walking shoes – my research said that women in Europe do not wear tennis shoes — our guide agreed but I saw many tennis type shoes for sale in the shops and I saw many people wearing them.
  13. Chargers and Two converters — good thing because 1 broke!
  14. Sinus medication — packed extra and I am so glad — it was a late spring and my sinuses were very active.
  15. Lotion — I come from a humid climate and it was very dry there — so glad I had some good quality lotion because the lotion provided in the hotels is ok but not great.
  16. Snacks
  17. 31 Vary You bag that turns into a backpack.  I don’t like the backpack very much but I do like the extra zippered pouch that pick-pockets cannot get into.  The inside compartment is large enough for my cardigan and rain jacket and tissues and hand sanitizer and more.
  18. ATM card — super easy to use and get money.  Credit Card in case I had problems with the ATM card.  Read my blog post on this subject.
  19. Travel steamer — what a great idea — it doesn’t really wash out stains but it kills all the germs in the clothes so when I wanted to wear something a second time, I steamed it and told Mom that I was “doing my laundry”.
  20. Bus Bag / Plane bag — this was a easily folded-up bag that I used to carry the airplane pillow, blanket, books etc on the airplane.  While touring I used it for anything I wanted to have with me but not carry around, like the rain poncho or walking shoes and anything I bought.  I bought it on clearance from Travel Smith but I liked the lightweight bag my mom had better — it just crumpled up and fit into her purse or suitcase.
  21. Sunscreen — needed it almost every day
  22. My Kindle e-reader and some paperback books with short stories.  (My kindle does not have the ‘special offers’ and I love that).  The paperbacks took lots of space so I left them behind when I was finished reading – I only brought them in case I couldn’t read the kindle on the plane during takeoff and landing.  The Kindle e-reader is awesome, it is lightweight, mine has a back-light and keeps the charge for a long time.  I pre-loaded lots of books to read and never ran out.

Here is a list of what I wish I had packed:

  1.  An umbrella to go with my poncho.  Sometimes it just sprinkled a little bit and a small umbrella would have been nice instead of having to get in and out of the poncho.
  2. Puffs-plus.  I had sinus problems and remembered to bring the medication but had a difficult time finding soft tissue.
  3. Charmin Toilet Paper – not going to discuss this but I think you understand
  4. Wash Cloth
  5. Second pair of walking shoes — just one pair was not enough.

Things I didn’t need:

  1.  Shampoo, conditioner, soap — provided by every hotel.  I would only pack a single sample of each in case of an emergency.

Good Ideas / Bad Ideas:

  1. I was concerned that eating lunch at 2pm and dinner at 8pm would cause me problems but after the first week I didn’t need any additional snacks.  I would still take snacks but not quite so many — plenty of stores around if I needed to restock.
  2. I wore flip-flops on the plane — that was also a great idea!
  3. Pack your toothbrush & toothpaste in your carry-on.   After the over-night flight you will be happy you did!
  4. Leave room in your suitcase for purchases or bring stuff you will use or leave behind (like paperback books), leaving extra room in your suitcase.