May 25th, 2013 No comments|
Here’s number 3 in my countdown of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise: a collapsible day pack.
This nylon Baggallini pack is pretty simple — just one medium-sized bag with an outer pocket and webbing straps. It’s not the most comfortable or best-looking pack, but then I’ve never been all that stylish a traveler. The pack is wonderfully practical, though, because it zips compactly into its own pocket so that you can throw it in your luggage and pull it out when you need it. A snap-down flap over the drawstring closure adds security.
We didn’t use this on the ship, we used it in port. In Bermuda and Valencia, we took it on rented bikes. In the Bahamas we took it to the beach. In Punta Delgada and Malaga, we carried it when we went out on foot.
The bad news is that I can’t find this expandable pack for sale anywhere. There are some reasonable-looking alternatives out there, including the Trek Light Bindle Pack for $27. If you prefer a tote bag, Baggallini still sells expandable totes that zip into their own pockets. You can get them on eBags for $45. I own a couple and have given them as gifts.
Here’s a tip: Never put your wallet in a backpack or day pack. Or if you must put the wallet in the pack, don’t put it in the outer pocket and carry the pack in front, no matter how nerdy it makes you look. We use hidden wallets for cash and credit cards and keep bulkier items in the pack. The operating principle is that we should be able to continue our vacation without substantial disruption if it the pack were to disappear. The most valuable things we could lose would be our point-and-shoot cameras — a disappointment but not a disaster.
Here’s a trick: If you keep an expandable pack or tote in your suitcase at all times, you’ll always have a handy extra bag for gifts and souvenirs on the way home.
May 25th, 2013 No comments|
Air traffic control at Bradley International cleared a commuter jet to land in the path of a departing flight last Friday, prompting someone in the control tower to drop a very audible f-bomb on the recently released audio.
I’ve had days like that.
The ExpressJet Embraer ERJ-135 (Flight 3822 out of Newark) was landing around 8 a.m. on May 17 as the US Airways Airbus A320 (Flight 1509 headed to Charlotte) took off on an intersecting runway. This is called a near miss, but it may not have been all that near. It appears the US Airways flight was already in the air as the ExpressJet flight landed, and it sounds as if air traffic controllers diverted the arriving jet to a taxiway before it reached the intersection with the other runway.
Still, it’s the kind of thing that gets the FAA up in your grill.
WVIT Channel 30 has a report and LiveATC.net has posted a lengthier excerpt of the audio on YouTube with the profanity transcribed and un-bleeped. I’m not judging. I say the same thing when I drop something on my foot.
May 24th, 2013 No comments|
I’m counting down a list of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise, and here is number 4: an outlet tap.
Truth to tell, I didn’t know what the thing was called when I packed it, even though I’d had it for years. I Googled it post-cruise. (Google knows all.) An outlet tap is essentially an outlet multiplier — plug it in and turn one outlet into several. And on many cruise ships (including the Carnival Legend, which carried us from Tampa to Barcelona) that can turn out to be quite handy.
Before we left, my husband warned me that he’d read on Cruise Critic that even the suites on the Legend offer only one 11o-volt outlet, and that we should pack a power strip. I scoffed. How could this be? A modern cruise ship would have multiple outlets in each cabin. And a power strip would be far too bulky. But I packed the outlet tap just in case, expecting not to need it.
But he was right. There was one lonely 110-volt plug in our suite. (There was also a 220-volt European-style outlet. More on that below.)
May 23rd, 2013 No comments|
I made a list of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise, a personal list to be sure. This is number 5, not because it was least useful to me but because I have to acknowledge that it’s of use only to wine drinkers. On the other hand, it’s very useful to wine drinkers.
If you’re a beer drinker, substitute a bottle opener. I brought one of those, too.
Anyway, back to wine. Most mass market cruise lines allow you to bring a bottle or two of your own wine on board at embarkation (although not at ports of call, usually.) This is a course of action I highly recommend. You’ll get to choose from a wider variety of wine at a far lower price than you will ever get on board the ship.
May 5th, 2013 No comments|
If you bring ham back from Spain, be prepared for it to be confiscated at Customs.
We lost about $25 worth last month at the Philadelphia airport. The concern, the agent told us, is hoof-and-mouth disease. Don’t be fooled, as we were, by the shop clerks who tell you that the packaged, vacuum-packed slices of ham are cleared for U.S. Customs. It just ain’t true.
Says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Information Center: Parma, Iberian or Serrano hams – Call (301)734- 7633 or (301) 734-3277. Only certain plants are certified exporters, and the hams must be accompanied by certificates and seals.
We had the ham and it was sealed, but there were no seals per se and certainly no certificates.
April 25th, 2013 No comments|
Five great memories from a quick visit to Barcelona:
5. Tapas and cava sangria at Ramplax in the Eixample district.
4. Churros and hot chocolate (for dipping, not necessarily drinking) at Granja La Pallaresa in the Barri Gotic.
3. A leisurely dinner at Semproniana, where we were the only tourists.
2. The view of the city from the tower tour of La Sagrada Familia.
1. Exchanging a rose (for me) and a book (for my husband) to mark the Diada de Sant Jordi.
February 28th, 2013 No comments|
The local NBC affiliate reports that an A380 on its way from Dubai to New York was diverted to Bradley, presumably on Wednesday, when the story was posted.
The story offers few details about how long the plane was on the ground at Bradley, where previous diversions of international flights have not gone well. Bradley calls itself an international airport but these days there’s no real scheduled international traffic and hence no customs or immigration agents hanging around to process passengers. (Passengers on the scheduled flights from Canada are pre-processed by U.S. officials at the Canadian airports.)
December 31st, 2012 No comments|
If there is one burning question that my readers ask to test my vaunted travel expertise it is this: Where the hell is the cell phone lot at Bradley?
So last time I was at BDL I tried to follow the totally inadequate signs that purportedly lead to the cell phone lot and couldn’t find it, so I drove around randomly until I happened upon it. Then I recorded the location on my GPS and determined that the cellphone lot is precisely here, at (A):
October 21st, 2012 No comments|
The last story I saw in the New York Times about affordable hotel rooms had nightly rates over $300, which is not affordable for me. New York is expensive. I get it. But if you can’t come up with a real bargain, don’t pretend you have.
I also recall a Times story about dingy dive hotels that cost more than $100 a night, an article that functioned more as a series of horror stories than as any kind of useful travel advice.
But today’s Times had a much more helpful piece, a Frugal Traveler column titled “7 Manhattan Hotel Rooms for $150, More or Less.” Some of the establishments seem to be more like bed-and-breakfasts than hotels but they all sounded like sensible choices.
The column also mentioned using Priceline and Hotwire to get hotel discounts, noting that the savings are most substantial on weekends. I heartily endorse that strategy and would add that it can be much cheaper to stay just outside the city, along a subway or commuter train line that can whisk you into town fairly quickly. We’ve stayed in Jersey City (with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline) and in Stamford, Conn., at very reasonable rates.
October 20th, 2012 No comments|
If you think of your airlines miles as currency in a bank you should realize the bank can turn on you at any moment, change the rules, devalue the “currency” and leave you hanging with no FDIC to bail you out. So says Joe Brancatelli, who knows these things, warning that airline mileage programs are about to change dramatically. And, of course, not for the better. If you have any miles piled up, you would be well advised to read Joe’s advice.