Friday, September 07, 2012

Car backpacking. Road trip tip changes.

The Latest Europe Road Ways
Road Trip Return:
Pyrenees, Northern Spain, South of France.
Planning changes with the times.

With some fourteen years of road trips with my adult son, we are modifying some earlier how-to's to accommodate 1. Rental car size;  2. Trips technology; 3. Homeland Security assists; 4. Luggage limits; 5. Playing the theft odds.




1.  Rental car size. Class C for ease. Not the tempting but misleading B, that is really a huge car. This is counter-intuitive.  If you are using Hertz, choose a Class C car if you want access in little villages, blending in, and street parking.  Class B, that to us had meant size a little above smallest economy, certainly not a mini, but not a big car, may well produce a station wagon for Italy and Sicily, or, as this trip, a big Opel RV.

Class C means a sacrifice on power, but that is easy.  Don't push speed and power. Recommend: the one we finally got, a little Peugeot. Size like a Ford Focus.

2.  Trips technology. Update the GPS, even if you resent having to do that because you are not a techie.  The European Union has produced fabulous roads. The new roads and cloverleafs may well not be on your GPS, however, if yours is old.   We never update or buy new maps, thinking we can find our way, and that is not wise these days when the new roads are motorways.  No time to think when the exit is upon you. 

Those of you with smartphones and devices can skip this.  I travel with little fancy, however.
  • Other technology.  We would upgrade to something that offers a street map, for walking; not just how a car would get somewhere. We tend to park centrally where there is a good underground lot, then find the hotel. On foot, the GPS thinks you are a car and will not route you up the one-way streets. Always mark on the map where the car is, and where the hotel is.  Old towns are warrens of streets.
  • Theft and attention avoidance.  We carry nothing another might covet and find easy to run off with.
3.  Homeland security. Help them out.

Anticipate their issues. Put anything that could trigger an inspection in a hand-carry-on, not in your main bag. Carrying many glossy guidebooks, for example, and retaining receipts and tourist maps and pamphlets grows into huge volume. Put them all in a hand-carry-on, not in your backpack.
  • Tainted tourist syndrome:  Returning from Denmark a few years ago, I had all those picture books and paper and info in plastic supermarket bags in the bottom of my duffel-style backpack.  Out it all had to come. They came, they saw, they let it all back in with no change. Just a tourist endangering her back with the weight.
  • Then this year, returning from Spain, I was told by one of the agent-questioning people at check-in that my record on the computer showed that I had been found earlier to carry heavy dangerous items, so please explain what is in your backpacks. 
  • Yes, tour books could be thrown and their corners are sharp, so don't let the issue even arise.  Carry them separately. Homeland Security:  at least specify what was found to be dangerous. Everything went right back in again after inspection. How could it have been dangerous? No, just skip it. Another tainted tourist.
4.  Luggage limits.  One overhead, one underfoot (a handbag, and mine can expand into a little backpack, or a shoulder bag; and has a compartment for documents; Dan carries a canvas briefcase floppy thing for favorite tour books and our logs. 

Tuck in an extra fold-up bag in each backpack.  One serves for overnight joint toiletries and minimum clothing. 

5.  Playing the theft odds. The other fold-up bag? Handy for organizing the trunk with bad weather gear and other things not immediately needed. Keep anything else in the backpack and leave it all in the trunk. In the trunk?  We do.  Nothing is left visible in the car, it is obviously a rental car, but so are so many others.  We play the odds. Someday it may backfire, but who can carry all that everywhere. And the documents and a change of clothes and basic maps remain with us all the time.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Language Crib Sheet for the Wallet

Getting the Idea Across Fast

With this online, we can translate the basics in a flash, go anywhere, and not reinvent the wheel each time. We are heading off to Barcelona, Pyrenees and South of France.  French I know, enough.  Spanish:  need more help. 

Conversation, getting and giving information, requires fast reference. Language glossaries in guide books are useless for day-to-day use, inconvenient, too too. Start with your own interests, write out what you think you will need, go to a translation thing online, and roll it out.

Each category -- cut to fit your wallet, sideways. When you need a category, slip it up so you can read it. Staple once at the top corner. This works well when crossing borders. 

Here, I put the English last because usually the words are recognizable.

Habitaciones
Hola.
Estamos contentos de estar aquí.
Por favor. Gracias. Disculpe.
Quisiera una habitación para mí y mi hijo adulto.
Queremos quedarnos por una noche.
Nos gustaría camas separadas.
¿Cuál es el costo?
¿Sirven el desayuno? ¿Cuánto?
¿Hay un cuarto de baño?
¿Cuándo es el registro de salida
¿Dónde puedo aparcar de forma segura
¿Hay un albergue cercano
Si no tienen espacio, ¿podría recomendar
donde podríamos ir

 
Gas, lo necesario, llegar
¿Podría decirme dónde está la gasolinera más cercana es.
garaje
¿Hay un baño cercano

Comidas
Nos gustaría pollo, carne de res, carne de cerdo, huevos, emparedado
Stew, asados​​, sopas, mariscos, pan
¿Hay una especialidad local que pudimos probar
Vino, cerveza, refrescos, agua sin gas, agua con gas (!)
¿Qué haría usted pide aquí

 
pánico
No puedo encontrar mis gafas, pasaporte, billetera, ingenio
¿Se los dejo aquí
¿Puedo dejar mi correo electrónico (tener uno para este fin)
Por favor, hágamelo saber si aparecen

..............................................................
Rooms and Politeness
Hello. I am glad to be here.
Please. Thank you.  Excuse me. 
I would like a room for myself and my adult son.
We want to stay for one night.
We would like separate beds.
What is the cost?
Do you serve breakfast?  How much?
Is there an en suite bathroom?
Is there a hostel nearby
If you have no room, could you recommend
where we might go

Gas, the Necessary, Directions
Could you tell me where the nearest gas station is.
Garage
Is there a bathroom nearby


Meals
We would like chicken, beef, pork, eggs, sandwich
Stew, roasted,soup, seafood, bread
Wine, beer, soda, water no gas, water with gas (!)
What would you order here

Panic
I cannot find my glasses, passport, wallet, wits
Did I leave them here
May I leave you my email (have one for this purpose)
Please let me know if they appear


Friday, August 12, 2011

Flaneurs at Europe Road Ways. The Car-Dan Tour Company flans. The Art of the Flaneur. .

The Great Travel Focus
The Flaneur
How and Where the Most Important Experiences Happen. 

Is that so?

Flan, the great key: Flan.
I flan, you flan, he-she-or-it flans,
We flan, you (pl) flan, they flan.

They what?  They flan. FLAN.  They peruse. Saunter. Whenever requirements and schedules loom, quashing the moment, go flan. Enrich thyself.

Say the flan starts, when it begins to rain during a planned route to The Required Cathedral. The Flan says:  Wonderful  What happens next.

Wonderful.  An opportunity to flan elsewhere, than as planned.

Flan. Mimic, or be, the "disinterested, artistically inclined wanderer..."  The flaneur. A flaneur is not someone who makes flans, although it could be. See those allusions and more at  http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2004/08/12.html.  The intentional lounge-about.



A flaneur, we now learn, is one who meanders, journeys without a map ordering destinations, as in Edmund White's Flaneur, A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, 2001, see http://www.edmundwhite.com/html/flaneur.htm.  He lived in Paris for 16 years, doing as the word suggests: the stroll, the loaf, the idle, giving over to "the spectacle of the moment." English needs that word. Circumnavigation according to whim, as a respected activity. A noble art. Freedom from the ought. View through the eye of a poet, perhaps. If travel generates ideas, the travel was successful.

Beaudelaire:  wrong to include isolation, or alienation as necessaries in the mix.  See Wordoftheday above. 

The text is part of a three-volume series, a Bloomsbury series called "The Writer and the City."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Travel in Place; of Give the Gift of Travel. Living Without Fear. Can Fear Be Reduced.

Boost Understanding.

A.  Travel:  Give travel to Others. 

B.  Do It In Place for Yourself. Give travel to yourself, locally in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
What can you learn by going for coffee in another's neighborhood.


See How.

A. Travel as a Gift

Give to the child, the grandchild, the graduate.  

Give the gift of independence, trying something out.  Are all our fears necessary? Can we give the gift of the "flaneur" experience, the going abroad, or into unfamiliar territory, to see what it is like, to see that we have similarities as well as differences, bridge cultural, and economic gaps.

1.  Travel. Give it. 

Do you have a graduate.  A child in need of a boost. The gift of non-tour travel is a gift of experiences, and independence, but not things. See http://www.accumulatingmoney.com/spend-your-money-on-doing-things-rather-than-owning-things/.

Are things that important to our children's future?

The idea is viral. See http://www.experientia.com/blog/americans-increasingly-elevating-experiences-over-things/  Experiences are of more value to our children, and ourselves, over things.

How to put a value on independence from imposed fear.  Learn for yourself what is worth, and not worth, "fear".  Modes of travel address that.

Give the gift of independence, says Leon Logothetis in the Los Angeles Times.  Enable a child (that one is an adult) to go off somewhere and let what happens happen, see http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-gift-20101219,0,2204867.story/



2. If you merely give "independence," however, think many, you have no Thing to show for it. Life is things. What if we leave our children no "things".  


Nuts.

If you give a child or grandchild something to put on a shelf, or have a financial advisor manage, the child has lost.
  • No "thing". as a gift,  is not "nothing."
How can that be?  How can paving a way, making a thing possible, have value.

Use the sport of Curling is a model. 

The team requires some to start the rock in motion, and some other people to help sweep the path ahead.

Can your contribution to a young person, or anyone else, to travel, put you in the position of sweeper -- without which contribution the rock would stop. 

See http://www.curlingbasics.com/; or http ://www.curlingrocks.net/ Watch it at http://ww.youtube.com/watch?v=dXeXNHRPMMI

B.  Travel locally.

Don't stop with encouraging others to travel.

Do it for yourself.

Does travel on one's own, and its risks and challenges, produce more integrated information in the brain, as compared to, say a life of shopping and keeping up.

Does more integrated brain information "stay" longer, in times of mental deterioration. See Sizing Up Consciousness as Bits of Information, NYT 9/21/10, Science section, article by Carl Zimmer about Dr. Giulio Tononi's research.

3.  Aging.

Can you assist your own caretaker in advance of the need? By what you do for your own brain and memories now? See http://www.seniorhomecareinformation.com/dementia/best-mind-stimulating-activities-for-those-with-dementia

4.  If travel itself is not feasible, do it in place.

Take a bus or walk for a day in an unfamiliar ethnic area.

Stop. Get out. See a coffee shop. Go in. Don't be foolish, start with a reasonable comfort level, and research what kinds of signals and steps will tend to make you safe, see ://www.livestrong.com/article/14212-don-t-be-a-victim/  Simple steps about your car and being purposeful help empower, convey and bring about relaxed confidence.
  • Go to an ethnic neighborhood.  Independence Thwarts Fox.  Would your world-view change, would you spend so much time listening to Fear and Dump Talk if you actually found you enjoyed yourself more by getting out. 
  • Would our democracy function, if people actually "traveled" to their own inner city or an ethnic enclave wherever; and had lunch there. 
  • Give yourself a task:  paper, three lines, and you are to put on each line what someone there looked like (not necessarily a name) and where they were raised.  That's all.  That's a start in communication. Fox and other fixed worldview purveyors: opiners depend on dependent people.  It would be out of business if their audience went abroad, no tours, no dogma on how to interpret everything, but found they could vet the world themselves.
  • Go to a mosque, a synagogue, any other religious shrine or institutional place of worship. 
  • Independent assessment thwarts legislators projecting causes of problems on others. There is a mosque near you. There will be, we have found, people there to help you feel comfortable, and let you know the customs. If everybody went to one mosque, and one synagogue, and one or more other shrines and talked and asked questions, would negative stereotypes diminish even a little.
  • For companionship, take, perhaps a still child-child, or a differ-abilities adult child.  
  • A person with Down Syndrome, for example, as we do.What abilities are there that just need a sweeper in front.  What would happen to the Fear being spread about so freely these days if people challenged the idea that the world is to be feared. Travel where you are planted.
Fear the world? No. Explore it. Glenn Beck stimulates the amygdala.  Is that proven?  Do you have to take it?

How about that.  See http://www.npr.org/2010/12/17/132141793/living-without-fear

Curling:  An Olympic sport, see

For each one take one (as in a trip to a new place, even close to home), see each one teach one, Frank Laubach, theology perspective, at ://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=43; and literacy focus at ://www.hermes-press.com/laubach2.htm/

Does living in heightened awareness enhance consciousness?  Travel, Curling, Aging and Actualizing.  Choose Independence over Dependence.  Boost your child. Travel in Place:  Go Local To Start.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chain-Saw the Guide Books - Regional Travel

Traveler's Guide to The Axe.
Reduce the Bulk of the Guidebooks

Guidebooks are heavy.  Too heavy.  Regional travel, going to multiple countries, adds to the carry-on.  Solution:  The Great Chop.  The Axe. And plastic bags with zippers and rubber bands inside..

.

Step one. Cut up the books.
  • Separate out the countries (as in Scandinavian guidebooks that cover Norway, Sweden and Finland); or, if you are going to Northern Germany and still have the book from going to Southern Germany, slice out the south and leave it home.
  • Find your big serrated kitchen knife and saw those books right down the binding. Make piles. Denmark here, Sweden there, Northern Germany there.
  • Go ahead. Saw-saw. Unnnh. Saw-saw. Unnnh.  Saw-saw.  Unnnh.  Saw-saw = Ahhhh. Your lumbar region will be grateful you did.
If you are in love with the big intact picture-y heavy glossies, just be prepared to carry them.

Step two.  Clip the book remains back together with a big metal office clip and a rubber band. Then bag them.
  • To each country baggie, add the country maps. 
  • If you got an advance ferry reservation (some delays are not worth it), make a copy and put that in there, too. 
  • Have extra baggies so you can jam all the receipts in there also. Throw out no receipts.  None.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sasha and Michele - One Parent One Child. Benefits of Travel. No Western White House.

The Value of a Trip with a Child 
Benefits of One Parent, One Child Travel
Consider it in the Entire Budget


Here:  No Western White House saves taxpayers a bundle

How to justify the expense of taking one child on a trip.  Isn't that a bit much?  Not if you think about it, do more than react without careful thought.  Consider the Spain Trip 2010. Sasha and Michelle. One on One, even with Friends. Looking at budgets, pro's and cons, as any family must. Conclusion: Well done.  Cheer the timing, place, manner and means.

  • Their family:  Context:  Michelle Obama is in Spain with Sasha. Some disapprove and say that is too much a luxury for a wife and one child. However, consider: This is a bargain vacation compared to a Western White House. And the elder daughter is already at sleep-away camp, and the President is busy. Put the trip in perspective, as you would with your own family. What other expenses can you forego, or have your foregone, in order to make this possible.
  • For American taxpayers, it  cost taxpayers $225,000 per trip to Crawford, and how many trips were there a year? See ://voices.washingtonpost.com/reliable-source/2010/07/rs-_obama_spain.htm/  

Think what we save because the Obama's do not compel us to support a Chicago White House. See ://www.westernwhitehouse.org/.  "Armed to the teeth?"  And $225,000 per trip - lovely Crawford TX? See ://voices.washingtonpost.com/reliable-source/2010/07/rs-_obama_spain.html/

  • Michelle and Sasha with friends, and the friends are all paying their own way, in Spain. Even with friends around, the focus for Michelle is on one child instead of two, and it is often appropriate to do things separately. Then do something next time with the other child.  One parent, one child.  Good idea. And an exciting location.





Going with one child, and not taking even the spouse, is a new idea for many.  Try it. See ://www.takingthekids.com/Blogs/EileensBlog/The-Obamas-and-mother-daughter-trips.aspx/; and ://community.todaymoms.com/_news/2010/07/28/4770552-michelle-obama-is-right-take-kids-on-individual-vacations/

1.  Time your trip when they are well mobile, and curious.
2.  Place.  Perfect. 
  • Spain's places and history and variety - wonderful. And its issues are our own - economics, the place for minority populations, multiple traditions, cultures.  And the fun.  Don Quixote and Carmen and Sultans and Basques and Pilgrimage sites. If you choose one country in Europe to see, see Spain  .  Hope you get to try the braised pigs' ears.  A benefit of one parent one child travel is freedom in eating. Free to try without a predictable Ew-w-w-w-w-w from too many other people. Bring home some recipes.
3.  We spend our money better on memories than things, once there is enough to keep you going at home.

Comparing alternate choices for spending:
Taxpayer Perspective on Costs: Prefer a Spain and other vacations vs. other presidents' duplicative and egotistical insanity of a second White HouseThis is not a new idea - just an under-covered one - see ://www.sodahead.com/united-states/bush-spends-millions-of-taxpayer-money-to-go-to-texa-camp-david-kennebuckport/blog-342631/  All that wiring.
  • Why not recoup Crawford for use as the New Guantanamo? There are always ways. 
  • Critics of this trip? Maureen, you know nothing this time of what you speak. And that hair is so yesterday. That's a joke, Maureen. You look lovely, as do I.


4.  Who go "foreign"?
  • The best way to vet your own perspective, if it interests you to check things out, is by changing your looking post. And you as a parent may well be able to do it, too. Even if you are of moderate means. If you are wealthier, don't gripe when you choose to put your own priorities elsewhere than in being actually with a child on your own, say you choose a McHouse or a McCar.  Michelle has the right idea.
  • Foreign can be cheaper than at home, except for the airfare perhaps. Go by budget allocation, if you can.  Of course, any trip is discretionary and other expenses may have to come first.  But many parents who tut-tut at the cost of a president's family going to a foreign country could allocate their own budgets to have one parent take one child abroad. Go! Just to see it, and feel part of the bigger world, and have a ball. Just trade off the bigger car, the overnight camp, whatever - going to a foreign country is manageable, barely - depends on family priorities - with belt-tightening elsewhere.
5.  American Values - weigh, balance, consider, decide

  • Give a child a sense of Freedom
  • Freedom from other people's roles and their views of ours being imposed upon us.
  • Freedom to take a child and relate on our own: even with a horde of photographers, there is alone time
  • Could you do it? Michelle's idea may work for some. Just look at your choices, and see what choices you really have. FN 2
Contemplative time abroad puts issues at home in perspective.  Do we really need to get into others' personal lives? Offer a child contact with real other people, regular residents in other countries, other population groups, religions, communities; free of one's own group's pressures.  Start travel early? That's when kids learn. Start kids in global cultures as early as the gun people start guns early.
    Time passes.

    ...........................
    FN 1 In our family, we didn't think of trips like this until our son was grown. But our son has special needs, and going abroad with him is like going abroad with a far younger person than his years, every year. And is it fun?

    Need you ask?

    Are we jeopardizing our own financial future?  Sure, if you think that "jeopardy" means not being able to maintain what we used to do without thinking when I was working. We just can't now, and so we don't. Some doing without is not jeopardy. We'll get along. Fine. Drive that car until it dies. Great. When jeopardy does knock, as with people who already are in real jeopardy, we will recompute.

    Meanwhile, we favor every tax or other break possible for people in marginal or middle situations, a special tax deduction every time they do something directly with, or provide a talent or cultural enrichment for, their children.  You figure out how to draft it.  If you ain't marginal and are something at middle or a little over, don't complain, and pay up so others can keep their children above the margin. Their kids are our kids.

    FN 2 You have choices in how to get somewhere, if you decide you can possibly go and be reasonably responsible on all fronts. The Misery Index is too high for so many that this idea of travel is not intended to diminish that, see ://www.walletpop.com/blog/2010/08/05/10-worst-places-to-live/ So, if you can, and prioritize for it, go this way: Cheap. Economy, compact rental car, no reservations for hotels or ferries, stay where you find and that may be a pensione or small place. A big hotel is but not by choice. We stay there because it is 7PM and we are tired and this one is right by the big square, or the flight out is 6AM and we need to be near the airport. Eat street food at the vendor carts, or pub food (huge portions), or smaller bistros, sometimes places with tablecloths, but that is to do fancy for fun.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Recurrent thrift in food and lodging. And fraud.

    Saving money abroad. 
    Watching out for fraud.
    Condensing Baggage


    Travel hazard. 
    Fraud, and paying necessary and avoiding unnecessary expenses
    The Parking Ticket.

    Small economies will be offset by the fraudulent additions to your credit or debit cards you use when you travel abroad, but you may feel better about them  We found these: we are just back from Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and Northern Italy, that additional region now added to our earlier southern-focused Italy Road Ways.

    I. First, the frauds: 
    • The multiple swipes game. There may the vendor that says the first swipe of your card, even the second, did not go through; then you find two or three expenses reported on your credit bill, instead of one. Leave if the first swipe does not go through.
    • Double parking ticket collections.  First, pay your bills. We believe in obeying a country's laws and if you get surprised by one (an invisible claimed pay station around the corner from your parking line), so be it.  
      • Our parking ticket required payment in Swiss Francs.  We had those, and sent them, with photocopies and certificates of mailing.  
      • We did not, however, pay for a return receipt (do that).  The rental car company says no sign of it (check the mail room pockets, please).  The requirement of cash means they can collect for a parking ticket, but may not pay it to the local police, and you get the second bill from the police, with a penalty.   
      • Solution:  authorize your credit card company to accept a charge up to a certain amount, and no more, allowing for currency differences from the source that you name; then give the credit card information to the source.  With your "stop" on the amount to be accepted, you are protected from any further amounts on it.  
      • We provided for a "no Europe" stop on all our cards when we returned; and this added one should work.

    II.  Second, the economies.

    .
    1.  Car-picnics.

    Do not underestimate the freshness, taste and quality of gas station sandwiches in Europe.  Try some. We found coldcuts to lox, egg and tomato, and the meats have none of the gummy hardfat armorall greasing up the surface. The breads were crusty and tender.

    Fanta.  Try their soft drinks. This soft drink formula over there only has 93 calories per bottle, not our 150 or so that is common in our soft drinks.  Tastes tart, but delicious and gives some fizz.


    2.  Stay with Starters on the dinner menu.

    All you need to do is stay alive until breakfast. Add something for reasonable quality of life, and enjoy the starters. Some "starters" are platter size. We avoided fancy restaurants, and mostly liked the pubs and pub menus.

    3.  Eat a big, big breakfast.  

    It costs (say $10 added to a good hotel bill for each person, folded into the room rate but avoidable if you ask).  But it costs $3 for a cup of coffee anyway, plus whatever else in a bakery you find, and you won't find cooked eggs or the buffet with cereals and good stuff out on the street.  You may save some money eating out, but you lose time.  Splurge.  Hotel breakfasts win. We do not hoard for lunch. Enough is enough

    4.  GPS. And Youth Hostels.

    Get a listing of the youth hostels in your country (Switzerland: Schweizer Jugend-herbergen, Schaffhauserstrasse 14, Postfach, CH-8042Zurich.  Phone (add the US code) +41 (0)44 360 14 14 .  Fax +41 (0)44 360 14 60.  You don't have to be a youth. 

    Then take your GPS to find them. We found they charged in Switzerland about $35 per person.  Go for a room with more capacity for late-comers, and the price goes up.

    Sadly, ours worked for only a few days. Bad rental car for that purpose. The connection in the lighter outlet in the rental car gave out.  Thanks, Hertz.  Inspect much?

    Be sure to specify a working lighter connection.  If you prepay the car, however, you get a better price and may preserve a chance of some recoup for flaws. Too many previous renters doing what we wanted to do - recharge shavers, camera batteries and use a GPS. Back to the converter.

    5. Inexpensive pensiones.

    We wanted to plug in the address for any place that a guide book or hostel list suggests at an inexpensive price.  A GPS will also help locate business traveler hotels.  We like Ibis.  They are everywhere, at airports and major interchanges especially.  About $150.00 per night. Small economies add.

    6.  Baggage carry-on strategy. Lightening.

    Needed: the guidebooks for three countries. Needed: wide range of climate clothing.  Alps to hot. Take one of each kind of onion-layering. No-one cares what you wear.

    Economize on nightwear. In case the WC is down the hall, take no usual dedicated silly jammies. Take a pair of light flats as slippers and going down the hall, and for the plane.

    Sleep in a substantial-fabric black T-shirt dress. I have an ancient Jockey. Sleep in it, and go down the hall anytime and look dressed. Add a belt and feel swanky for evening dinner - never did that, but could have. For freshening up at dinner, I just take a dedicated white shirt. Just keep up with the laundry. Back seat great for drying.

    Best guidebook types:  The glossy paper ones with pictures, like DK,  are heaviest, but most useful for us in figuring where to go. We used the wordy and pictureless Lonely Planet type once we were there, and added a Rick Steves type for the walking tours and detail, but you get fewer topics.

    Lots of weight there. And there is the need to organize maps, daily stuff for the back seat, foul weather gear, once you have the car.

    7.  Baggage condensing.

    Russian doll routine.  Put additional smaller bags in larger bags to get there, and then have the additional storage for the trunk.

    Combined daily wear for two into one small duffel (a fold-away, snuck into the bottom of the backpack), and leave the rest overnight with a prayer in the trunk. Clear out all traces of tourist from the car, and hope that the mere rental license plate will not lure a thief.  Years ago we were frenetic about removing everything every time.  Not any more. Just take what you can't replace.


    8.  Flight strategies.  

    You are allowed
    a) a bigger bag for up top (the backpack),
    b) one smaller for under the seat - find a shoulder cross-the-body one so it stays on your shoulder when you carry it all (do like Russian dolls with any smaller bags for maps later); and
    c) a third handbag for trips to the loo, your blinders and earplugs. Dan prefers only two carryons, I add the shoulder compartmented handbag just to have it once there.

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Travel for No Return: The Statistical Side of Planning






    Prepare for the worst.
    What if you don't come back?
    Death planning and the Post Mortem Sorters


    Did you ever think, 
    As the....

    Imagine the unimaginable. You die. Fuss?  No.  Plan? Yes. Simply plan what you can for yours, and move on with your other decisions.  Death planning. Go ahead. Say it.  And now this:  the Post Mortem Sorters. The Sorters are coming.

    .
    Some people don't have the chance to plan. See these carved wooden headmarkers Sapinta, Romania - called the "Merry Cemetery" - and it shows how each person went.  Most carvings show sad scenes - here a firing squad, there a child looking up in alarm with an auto approaching, there a sickbed.  Others are simple depictions of the person's occupation - here a butcher in his shop, there a woman, sewing.

    Your marker may not lay out how you end, but you can at least be remembered for not burdening those remaining, more than the situation already does.

     Regardless, it should be part of your trip planning.Small checklist here, to be added to and revised:


    1.  Your will.

    2.  Tidy your bureau drawers and closets and pitch the worst. Find something embarrassing, etc?  Out it goes. 

    3.  Put all odd things in piles of the same kind of thing, to make it easier for the sorters even if you did not know what to to with the stuff.
    4.  Credit card and bank account protection. 
    • A house organizer notebook - lay out bank accounts and numbers; lay out each credit card held, and its number and the phone number to reach the company; or at least have that information out and ready for review fast. 
    • Pay up the credit cards if you can, and prepay what you can on each credit card, in case a payment comes due while you are away or before you get organized when you get back.  Citicards will return to you an excess payment (they want you to be late) when they realize you overpaid, but American Express will hold it as a credit.  So pay Citicard its excess just before you go.  It usually takes them a month or so to see that there is an excess amount in there.
    5.  Housekeeping
    • A reminder list for daily, weekly, monthly stuff - those left here may well not remember to water the plants.  
    • Financial periodic payments - lay out what to expect in the way of property tax, insurances, etc.  
    • Where is the main water cut off, the electrical cut off,  the utility rooms, any odd things about your house another person might not know
    • Laundry - reminders about how to use and where to turn the water off.  Expect who is left to be somewhat incapacitated by the news of your demise, and this helps whoever comes in to help
    • Who is the electrician, the cable guy, who ya go'n' call.
    6. Instruct who is left here (assuming your cards are joint) to suspend all bank or commercial credit cards you took with you immediately upon your demise or incapacitation.  Your cards will repeat will be misused.  Bank on it.
    7.  List anything left undone that you can think of.  Reminders about anything.
    8.   If you are traveling with someone with disabilities, and you are a full or partial guardian,  so that there is a state-appointed monitor of any kind as to planning or care, confer, and obtain permission to go, even if not legally required. No activity anywhere has guarantees of no harm - even softball - but have a backup for your own common sense.  Great experience with a series of past trips, of course, as we have had, removes some variables, but never all. Change, change.
    .

    None of this is prescience.  It is common sense.


    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    2009 Trip Pending. Hand-Span Non-Plans in the Bucket. Guides.


    How Much Can You Really Cover
    Use your handspan as the measure, on the same all-Europe map each time.

    Scoping out a trip II. 
    Update for 2009 - and Disease Planning.
    The Frugal Fashionista Shares Tips

    Here: the informal steps at home, a recap and update on how we plan; and resources for assistance abroad when trouble strikes. We are anticipating going to Switzerland, Austria and Northern Italy, but plans can change.  Wherever, check for travel warnings, hazards related to specific governmental instabilities and whether the State Department is in a position in a given country to assist a traveler in trouble. Swine flu. Think of it.  Then go anyway, if you choose. Note that you will not get medical treatment through an embassy or consulate. Get your own treatment/evacuation insurance and drive carefully.
    .
    Assuming no swine flu, follow along, and find the serious resource list for epidemics and disasters at the end.
    .
    1. Area. The Handspan Guide to Scope of Trip.
    .

    Take a AAA planning map of Europe.

    Those have route numbers, but little else. Take an average adult hand with fingers tight together and out. Note fixed handspan. Lay handspan on AAA map. We can do a handspan in two weeks, with days before and after for the travel. Say, 14 nights on the loose. Put handspan with heel on Geneva, as this year's arbitrary but central landing and leaving point. Aim hand directly east, cover Switzerland, and find Graz, Austria, at the outer end, perhaps Zurich to the north, dip into Northern Italy south, and enjoy all the Alps you can find. Handspan for scope.
    .
    Aim hand directly south, cover part of Switzerland, and find Marseilles at the outer end, with Provence, and Northern Italy on the way back to Geneva. If you like runs, see if there is a ferry spot available to Corsica, then do that and add a big run back with fewer stops in Italy on the way.
    Dan is considering all this, plus variations. It does not matter to me.
    ,
    2. What to see. The Red Pencil Guide to Destinations, Attractions.

    Tailor your maps, and use your guidebooks to highlight.
    .
    Which map. We like the Hammond-type attractions maps with the sights indicated for day-to-day driving, not the AAA route numbers maps that we use only for when we need route numbers. Dan has travel books, and is putting postits on each page he likes. Then he circles where they are in red pencil on the attractions map. Wherever there are the most red circles, we aim there. Easy.
    .
    3. Routes. The Weather Guide to Direction. Computers.
    .
    Weight to weather. If we land in Geneva in the rain, we probably head north to Zurich over flatter land. If we land in the sunshine, get the Alps when you can. It does not matter with no reservations anyway.

    Google maps, for those carrying computers (we don't - we use public internet cafes or the hotel business center, if there is one) has a new feature. Search for driving directions. See Google maps. Enter your country, and get a route from A to B. Then, when you see the weather, or decide to do a side trip, click and drag from any point on the route to the new attraction, or to anywhere not in the Alps, for example, if there are a series of storms coming.

    The new routing comes right up. We will have an old GPS (easier to conceal, less space, see #4 here) and plan to use it for alternate routing.

    People with iPhones can do that click and drag with google maps in the palm of their hands. We, even if we wanted to spend the money, are concerned about using fancy gadgets abroad, where others can see. Too much of a lure for someone seeing us merrily at it at some place, and then following us to get it. We are not paranoid, just do not want to attract any attention at all. We did lose our luggage in Blarney's parking lot several years ago, and have no illusions about everybody being other-directed.

    Back to computer directions at google maps. Check your point A to point B on the Terrain tab. Click on terrain and you see exactly where the elevations are.
    .
    4. The Terrible Departure Guide to Exits: Additional Electronics.
    .
    We always have several terrible departures per trip, where we can't figure out how to get out of the town, and go in circles. Or we are in endless suburbs trying to find the old town. This time, we are taking a GPS - ordinary lap variety, to be kept well concealed at all times, with no devices on the windshield. We understand we can download Europe on our old TomTom. Why not. Otherwise, we st2009 and all is well. Less money, same great spirit to go, swine flu hovering but early fall will be better than later, we think. So, we are off. Just about.
    .
    5. The Frugal Fashionista Guide to Carry-Ons.
    .
    Other years: To avoid checking luggage through, Dan has a backpack, I have a backpack that is just a duffle with shoulder straps. All floppy, no frame. Can jam in anything. Jam in another floppy duffle for the car trunk. For under the plane seat: Take a small soft tote, put your handbag in it along with your other toys and books, carry the tote as your handbag. Some planes even permitted an under-seat tote as well as a handbag on your lap, under the seatbelt. Clothes: We did one set to wash, one set to wear, one set for spare. And then a few things with color, even a white, not just the black and tan I live in, and something for a change at the end of a dusty day, like a boring skirt or additional pants. Shoes for wet, shoes for dry, and silly flats to double as slippers to rest the feet. First aid, extras, lots of room. Jam it in above the seat.
    .
    This year: No checking through. So skip any additional clothes. Depend on the underseat tote-handbag duo arrangement. Airlines are tough now on carry-ons, so we are cutting back even more. We used to be able to wail our way on board with something a little bigger than the model shape at the airport. Now, not even trying. One set to wear, and one set to wash. Nobody cares anyway. But still that something for the end of the dusty driving day. A freshen-up. And the same shoes as before. Actually, we are wearing the same stuff we wore years ago - just find it and stick it in again.

    DK glossy books are too heavy. Wish they went with paper covers. We use ours - not for show a home.

    Now Dan is looking at Cathar country. Next year, that and the Pyrenees, perhaps.

    6. Travel hazards. U.S. Department of State

    Back to how to weigh hazards. Find travel advisories or travel warnings through the State Department site as a start, at ://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html/ Criteria for the list:
    • the country is dangerous or unstable, and has been for a protracted period of time
    • the United States cannot assist travelers in trouble because of lack of consulate or embassy there, or because of a drawdown in staffing
    Other topics: International Travel, ://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html/ Some menu selections:
    • Pandemics, health, think Swine Flu, at ://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html/ See also the Centers for Disease Control at ://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/. Find the latest on H1N1 (swine) and its Novel H1N1 combining avian, pig, and human things, ://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/content/outbreak-notice/novel-h1n1-flu-global-situation.aspx/ See the travel health kit there at ://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/content/pack-smart.aspx/ No room for clothes.
    • Financial scams, including "emergency" requests for help for an American in distress, at ://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/financial_scams/financial_scams_3155.html/ Expect your card numbers to be duplicated, keep all receipts, alert your card company as to countries planned (they may freeze the card if not notified in advance and charges appear) and then change all your numbers as soon as you get back.
    • Maritime piracy, at ://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/piracy/piracy_4420.html
    8.  Travel records - assume all disappear
    • Go to your contacts section for your email
    • Set up something innocuous that looks like a person so only you can find, and put in the notes there some coded form of your credit card numbers so that they do not read as credit card numbers (be creative) and phone numbers to the companies, your passport number, again coded for your use only, etc.  
    • If the issue was theft, go to the local police immediately and document in a report what was stolen.  That police report helps support your request to get back in the US without a passport. Get a certified copy of the police report, contact number and person there. Then contact the embassy-consulate.
    • You can even, if you blog, set up a blog that only you can access (restrict the permissions to the writer and that is you), and scan in a misleadingly titled post there your information and pictures of your credit cards and passport. More online access.
    • If you lose everything, you go online as a start back to sanity.  Travel distress resources.  Start your checklist.