About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Award Wallet and Frequent Flyer Miles

In the past year or so I've been making a concerted effort to accumlate Frequent Flyer miles.  The problem with accumulating FF miles is keeping track of them, which is where Award Wallet comes in.  Award Wallet is an online tool to help manage your FF miles, including miles for hotel reward programs, and more.

When you set up an account with Award Wallet you provide it with your FF program numbers and login information, from there is keeps track of your miles - whether they're going up or down.  You have the option of storing your FF account log in information on the Award Wallet website or on your own computer, whichever you prefer.   

Award Wallet sends out a weekly e-mail update with your activity.  This will only show programs where there is activity and provides a link to go into your programs website and review that activity.  This is very handy if you have unexpected activity or do not see activity that should have posted.  It's also a nice treat in your mailbox, especially if you have an increase in activity.

As an extra bonus when you have a trip planned it will add that information to your account.

Award Wallet does all this for free!  It's really handy and makes tracking miles very easy - whether you have a lot of activity or a little activitiy. 

Award Wallet also offers some premium/paid services.  Award Wallet will show the expiration date of miles for up to 3 accounts, I do find this really handy when trying to keep miles from expiring.  While I have not paid for this service yet, this is one feature that I have been considering upgrading my account for.  There are some other features that are handy, but are geared toward a more frequent traveler then I am.  But that's the nice thing, you decide how much you want to pay! or if you pay at all.

One downside - Southwest does not allow Award Wallet to access their system.  I think it's lame of Southwest, but it's their policy.  Sorry to all you Southwest people!

Even if you're not really into miles accumulation, it's still a good, useful website.  It will help you keep track of miles and keep them from expiring, that's worth the few minutes it takes to set up an account.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Photo

From the Bellagio's Christmas decorations.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What to do in 2011

Last Friday instead of writing a blog post, I was planning a trip.  Well, at least it sounds like a good excuse.  While I'm getting my life back in order, I'm still having some issues and thinking of taveling, instead of writing about it, is one of those issues.

So what am I planning?  Early last week I realized that I had a $50 credit with Jetblue, which I should have used for my mothers trip to Florida, but didn't.  Since it's expiring this summer I didn't think I would have an opportunity to use it.  The obvious solution to saving $50 is to spend more money and go on a trip.  Uhhh, who was that president who talked about "fuzzy math?" 

On Wednesday I got the briliant idea that I should go to Disneyland, saving $50 is kinda like winning the Super Bowl, so why not.  I've actually wanted to go, but since I've been to LA twice and don't love it, I don't see myself going there except on a stopover to somewhere cooler.  I figured I could go on a quick weekened trip and fly one way on Virgin America (obviously I need to fly one way on Jetblue for my $50 savings).  But since flying on Virgin America is on my list of things to do in tavel, it seemed like an obvious choice.  I figured I would wait and see if Jetblue or Virgin America came up with a discount on airfares - they were both listing fares at $150ish one way, so it seemed like I might be able to do this pretty cheaply especially if I could find an even cheaper fare. 

On Thursday I get an email from Jetblue, they're discounting airfares.  Decision time...  I decided to go (after much discussion and mulling over).  I booked the Jetblue Flight, contacted a travel agent for the Diseny part of the trip and then stressed about which flight home to take with Virgin America.  I didn't actually book the flight home until Friday. 

So now I have myself a quick little weekend trip to a warmer climate in the middle of winter, something I've never done before. 

Some other things  I have in the works for 2011 are Ireland and Walt Disney World.  I guess I should start working some OT!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

London's Churches

So do you like St. Paul's or Westminster Abey better, and why?

During my stay in London I visited both.  I will say that they both were similarly priced to visit and  both included audio tours.  They were both quite beauiful and have long great histories.

One thing that was frustrating was that you could not take photos in either.  I'm sure this is to maintain the integrity of the art and to sell coffee table books.  I have several coffee table books from many of the different places I have visited, but I rarely, if ever, look through them.  I didn't buy a book on either place; subsequently, my memory has faded and I can't always remember some of the details of what I saw in which.

St. Pauls at first, is more striking.  Westminster Abbey is more of a sleeper - as I went through it, it grew on me more and more.  It may not have been as large or as grand, but it had a lot more little nooks that enhanced it and made it special.  Poet's Corner, the Great Cloister, Lady Chapel. 

One thing though that did set St. Paul's apart was the views of the city.  If you're willing to climb a couple hundred steps you can visit the whispering gallery and get great views inside the cathedral, continue climbing and you can see the city.  I was not in shape when I visited and the stairs were a challenge, to say the least.  I didn't climb up the 3rd set of stairs for the highest view of the city, but the view at the top of the second flight was great and worth the workout.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Day At the Hershey Spa

This summer I spent a day at the Hershey Spa with my friend, Tara. 

The Hershey Spa often offers promotions for, a day at the spa, using specific packages.  Packages vary, but Tara and I took advantage of a package that included lunch at the Oasis, a traditional massage and a 30 minute facial.  Becuase this was a day at the spa package we were also allowed to use the pool at the hotel.

Heaven, this was a fantastic day of relaxation. 

Check-in was easy, though you should arrive early since there is some paperwork you need to fill out.  The staff was friendly and professional. 

Our first stop was lunch at the Oasis.  It was a nice lunch, but I thought it was overpriced.  They offered all cold foods, mostly cold meats and salads.  They tasted very good and were high end, healthier foods.  But the best part was the desserts.  They also offered juices and teas to drink.

After that we had a good hour or so before our massages and decided to check out the indoor and outdoor pools.

The indoor pool was a smaller pool with hot tub next to it.  It was a nice quiet area with a couple other people who were visiting the spa there.  Otherwise it was unremarkable as far as hotel pools.

The outdoor pool was great though, one of the best I've visited.  There was a family pool with slides and sprinkler types of things.  It looked like it would be fun if you were traveling with children.  However, I was with adults and headed to the adult pool, which is an infinity pool.  The pool was the perfect temperature.  I've never been in a pool where you walked right in and never noticed a change in temperature, it was heaven!  There were ledges around the pool making it a nice place to sit in the pool and hang out with friends.   

When our massage appointments were due we headed back to the spa and hung out in the aroma room (since you can't talk in the quiet rooms).  I found the people who came and went through the room were fairly friendly.  The massage was great and after I was done I met with Tara in the aromatherapy room again and waited for my facial.  Tara and I had slightly different experiences with the facials.  It was nice, too short, and did not consist of a hard sell at the end, thankfully!  I've had massages and facials at many a spa over the years and in terms of the quality of the massage and facial I thought they were just as good, if not better, then other spas I have been to. 

Tara and I are already discussing when the next day at the spa will be, though I think we'll stay overnight at the hotel to make it an even more relaxing experience.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Credit Cards

On Tuesday I was reading John Heald's blog and got a lesson on Credit Cards, not really what I expected from John Heald, Cruise Director for the Carnival Splendor. 

For a while now I've been hearing about the europeans having these mythical credit cards with chips in them.  And I've also heard that in some places in Europe if you don't have one of these special cards then you can't use your credit card - the street bike rentals in Paris is one example.  I know many are bummed about this, especially since US credit card companies don't seem interested in this model. 

I am also aware that thieves, when they steal credit cards, will sometimes go to a gas station to check the credit card, it's an easy place to do it and not have to encounter a person incase it has been reported stolen.  I guess the credit cards and gas stations heard about this and many gas stations in the US now ask for your zip code before approving your credit card.  Sounds easy.  Except if you don't know your zip code (usually people with business cards), or you are from another country and don't have a zip code, as John found out.  ACK!

I guess we all have our issues with credit cards and it's not just a plot against non-european bike riders.  For those of you visiting the US, bring cash for gas!

Friday, December 3, 2010

North Dakota, the scary state

Right now I'm in training and at the facility I'm at there are a lot of people from different places around the country.  It makes things quite interesting.  The last time I was here I learned a bit about Wyoming, which if it wasn't so cold there might be a great place to visit.  This time I learned about North Dakota, the scary state!

The only thing I really knew about the Dakota's before tonight was that they are really separated by East and West culturally, not North and South.  I need to listen to fewer podcasts because they didn't know what I was talking about.  But it's a crazy ass place that I don't know if I ever want to visit.

Here is a briefing of the conversation, which did involve alcohol:

A 20 year old giving birth to her 5th child, in an ambulance.
The girl I was talking to lost her virginity in the backseat of a pick up truck on a windy night and got pregnant.
"Fixing" a dog at home, improperly, while the woman from Head Start stops by.  The men were not fans of that one.
Trying to commit suicide but measuring the rope wrong, everyone else's fault.
How to properly shoot up a barrel so it can be used for a fire.
Burning your trash at home, also burning yourself and having the medicine woman help clear up the burns.
Getting eaten by (at least 5) dogs, and living, but losing several limbs.

Individually each story was ok, when you put them all together you would rather drive through Canada to get where you're going.

If you're from North Dakota and normal, I'm sorry to offend you, but I'm a little freaked out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Disney Restaurant Reviews:

My resturant reviews from my May trip to Disney World:

Big River Grille and Brewing Works
Located at the Boardwalk Resort.  I didn't really like this place.  My Mom and I waited at least 30 minutes, probably closer to an hour to eat here.  Then the food was just average.  I got a pasta dish and it didn't have much flavor. Even though it's a brewery type of place I do expect tomato sauce to have flavor to it.  The service was ok, but the best part of the place was that you could watch sports games at the bar.

I doubt I would ever go back here, maybe if I was at the Boardwalk and despirate, but I would go to the ESPN Zone or Flying Fish first.

Wolfgang Puck Cafe
This was better then the Big River Grille, though not a place I would add to my highly recommend list. 
I had the BBQ Pizza, which was spicier then I expected and made it not as good as it could have been.  But I found the menu to be a little too fancy for a restaurant at Downtown Disney.  I've been to Wolfgang Puck restaurants in Vegas with a more basic, but interesting menu.  When my sister tried to make a reservation for us she asked for 6:00 and was given 5:30, which is fine if they're busy since we were a bigger group with kids.  But, when we left at 6:45 the place wasn't that busy, at least 1/3 of the tables were empty.  That left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. 

I liked Wolfgang Puck Cafe and would go back.  However, I would pick another resturant that I haven't been to at Downtown Disney first.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pilots and technology

In my surgery recuperation I was watching a show from one of the History channels (how many are there now?) about runway incursions - almost accidents.  They highlighted the 1977 crash of a KLM and Pan Am 747 - the deadliest crash in aviation history, a story of how a dozen little things happen to make a gigantic crash, it's terrible and didn't have to happen.

But the crash did happen and it had lead to some improvements to prevent such crashes from happening again.  The show moves on to talk about some of the technology to prevent crashes.  I have to admit I watched parts of the show 3 times because I kept falling asleep, so I don't remember what any of it is called.

-There are changes to runway design/layout - such as making taxiways that do not go through runways.  Takes a lot of money and 10-15 year until completion of such a project.
-Then there are red lights they can put in runways that will go on when a plane is going on a runway so that other planes know not to cross - costs lots of money.
-Technology that monitors planes and when it sees a possible incursion redirects the planes (or maybe just 1 plane).  From the show I thought this was starting to be used, but then they said no on is using it, so not sure what the story is.  It does cost a lot of money though.

Then I was reading a blog post which mentioned the whole Ryan Air wanting to get rid of co-pilots.  I had heard some pilot talk about how that might not be as crazy as it sounds with the new technologies coming out, it feels weird, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

But back to my thoughts about the technology that identifies incursions and redirects planes.  I was resisting, I mean, doesn't the controller know better (possibly the guy who didn't realize it was happening in the first place).  Uhhh, ok, the computer knows which way it's directing planes and is giving everyone the same message.  Hmmm.  I remember watching some other show about plane crashes where the controller gave bad information and didn't correct an incursion.  I'm leaning towards the technology (and you should only know how technology hates me lately).

I'm switching back to Ryan Air's plan to get rid of co-pilots.  While it still doesn't feel right, I think if the technology is there, maybe it's not such a bad idea.  Most plane crashes have to do with human error, if we get rid of the humans wouldn't we reduce the chance of a crash?

In the meantime, wear your seatbelt on the taxiway, it's dangerous there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where am I?

I want to apologize for not posting as much lately.  I have a whole bunch of excuses, some better then others.  But here's what's been going on...

I was busy with my day job at one point, I worked a lot of extra OT in October, then the first weekend of November I was away for a Penn State game - got to see Joe Paterno get his 400th win against Northwestern.  It was one of the best games I've even been to, the crowd was great (once the team started to score), I could barely hear the Blue Band for most of the game!

I bought a new computer, a Mac and I'm so confused by it, I keep finding new issues every time I try something new.  My brain hurts whenever I try to deal with iphoto.  There's been success and hysteria, but I'm still wondering where exactly my pictures are on my harddrive?  Let's just say that technology has not been my friend lately.

Then I had surgery and I'm still feeling doped up over a week later and I stopped taking the good drugs a few days ago.

So what does the future hold, until I sort out a couple more things posts will come out slowly.  When will things sort themselves out?  I wish yesterday, but I'm thinking another 2 weeks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Creepy Toys and free museums in Edinburgh

While I was at the Scott Monument in Edinburgh the group I was with got chosen to do some surveys, as part of it the girl mentioned some free museums in the city and recommended the Museum of Childhood, located on the Royal Mile.  But she left out the part of the creepy toys there...

The museum is primarily a bunch of displays of different toys from various periods in history.  Some were cool, others were just creepy.  There were a lot of dolls.  Big dolls, little dolls, fancy dolls, simple dolls.  Even a doll with it's head on backwards.  It was one of the nicer dolls, but it still reminded me of chucky.  Who makes a doll display (presumably, one of your nicer displays in a toy museum) with a doll with its head on backwards? 

And what about all the doll houses and the like?  How about one for a butcher shop, complete with toy dead animals to hang in the window.  Huh? 

Overall the Museum of childhood was ok.  It has some interesting things in it, but it also had some weird and creepy things.  But, it was free.  I wouldn't put this on the top of your list of places to visit in Edinburgh, but if you're passing by and have a half hour to kill then stop in.  This musuem is a good if you're traveling with children, as they'll be interested in the toys, yet there is a small gift shop, not a big money sucking one like we have in the US.

In contrast I did stop at The People's Story, another museum on the Royal Mile.  At the time I thought it was kinda lame, but in hindsight, for a free museum, if you don't mind guiding yourself (I had done quite a few attractions that included an audio tour and got lazy) through a musuem, this one wasn't too bad.  It is also a free museum so you shouldn't get your expectations too high, but it's another place you can fill a half hour or an hour of time and maybe learn something too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ghost Tours

I did two ghost tours on my trip, one in York and one in Edinburgh.  York is known as the most haunted city in the world, so it's a great location to do a ghost tour.  In Edinburgh my tour was actually ghosts and ghouls by Mercat tours.  I did enjoy both tours, but the one in York was MUCH better then then one in Edinburgh. 

I think the company that did the tour in York is called the Original Ghost Walk of York, Contiki arranged it with a guide named Clive and he was fantastic!  Clive was the kind of guy who you could tell did ghost tours because he loved the ghost stories themselves, not just to make a buck.  He was very authentic, knew the city well and didn't do the theatrics that are often complained about in these types of tours.   I did notice other tours in York while we were on ours that had a lot of theatrics, this was not one of them.

In Edinburgh I had a tour with Stuart from Mercat Tours, you could tell the tour was more scripted with a bit of theatrics (but no one jumped out at you).  But it was a good tour, it covered a wider variety of the history of Edinburgh.  Crime and punishment, life in the city throughout it's history and we went into the underground vaults for most of the ghost stories.  It had a lighter, cheesier feel to it compared to my tour in York.  But it was still enjoyable and not over the top.    

The one thing I liked about both tours was that they made the city come alive a little more and in a different way.  I wouldn't necessarily do a ghost tour to learn about a city, but if you're looking for a tour in the evening, or something other then a straight up history tour then a ghost tour is a fun way to see a city.  How cheesy you like your tour is up to you, but I did like the more authentic style of tour better.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Boardwalk Villa's Review

I should start this post with a caution.  My views of this resort are clouded by the overcrowding in our unit, which is not the fault of the resort.

I thought the unit was nice, tastefully decorated and well set up for a family with a maximum of 4 people.

The kitchen:
I thought the kitchen was small compared to other time share units I have been in.  It did have all the necessities, but the counter space was limited.  I don't think this was a good space to do serious cooking in, just lighter meals.  The kitchen table was crowded since it was so close to the living room.  Basically, if you're looking to have breakfast and snacks here, it's just fine.  If you're looking to save money by cooking then this kitchen will be cramped.

The living room:
I thought the couch, chair, TV and tables all worked well in the room and were appropriate for a unit like this.  But, the fold out couch was not comfortable to sleep on.  For that reason, I would not suggest this unit for a group of 4 adults. 

Washer and Dryer: 
Small, but handy especially in this day of bag fees on airlines.

A nice size, but it didn't feel clean.  There were a lot of birds around and it was obvious that the floor, chairs, tables and ledge were not cleaned regularly.  I wondered if it had been cleaned before we arrived.

A nice size bedroom, the bed looked more comfortable then the fold out couch.  There was a TV and a chair in there too.

This was the highlight of the unit.  The bathroom had 2 parts - one had the shower, toilet and a sink, outside of that and part of the bedroom was another sink and a whirlpool bath.  It was spacious and suitable for the larger group since there was the additional sink that could be used while others were showering. 

Closet space was ample, one of the closets was big enough to hold a pack and play.  Though it's kinda mean to stick your kid in a closet. 

I wasn't overly impressed by the pool area.  It was a basic Disney pool with a big slide.  It looked like it needed fresh paint too.  And the clown slide reminded me of the movie It, so I wouldn't say it was a friendly pool.  But there was a hot tub and it was a fun ride down the slide.

Boardwalk area:
I thought the Boardwalk area was nice with the shops and restaurants, though it is quiet during the day (that whole park thing), but it seemed lively in the evenings.  The streetmospheres were very good, my nephew loved them.  But again this area seemed a little washed out and looks like it needed fresh paint. 

Very good if you like EPCOT, not as good if you like the Magic Kingdom. It was a short walk or boat ride to EPCOT, but the bus to the Magic Kingdom felt quite long and had a couple stops on it.  There was also boat service to the Hollywood Studios, not as short of a ride as to EPCOT, but it was very easy to use and the boats were great if you had a stroller since you didn't have to fold them up.  The Swan and Dolphin and the Beach and Yaht Club were equally convenient to all the same parks.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Contiki's Pre-Departure Meeting

Every Contiki tour starts with a pre-departure meeting.  The meeting is typically the night before the tour starts.  It's a bit of an introduction to the tour, and a chance for the tour manager (TM) to collect some information about those on the tour before the tour starts.  In London the pre-depature meeting takes place in the Contiki basement, but the location doesn't matter that much, the meetings are all pretty similar.  It goes something like this:

You arrive about 15 minutes early, that will get you a good seat and a chance to check out the people on the tour as they come in.  Initially, everyone is sitting apart, but as people arrive they fill in the seats.  There are a lot of single women scattered in the room, there is little conversation going on.  Then some couples arrive, they stick close together.  Friends arrive, maybe just 2 people, or maybe a group of 4 people.  They seem to bring a little life to the room, they are actually talking to each other as though oblivious to the excited, nervous, tension in the room.  As the group grows you start to wonder, how many people are in here?  This looks like more then 50, maybe there are 2 tours?  But what is the other tour, and who is on my tour and who is on the other tour.  Wait, there are 3 staff memebers here, but I know the one girl works here, so which of the other 2 staff members is going to be my TM?  Of course there are the people that you look at and make the snap judgment about and pray they're not on your tour - they just look weird! 

Then the meeting starts, a few minutes late since people were still trickling in.  One of the TM's starts, introduces herself and which tour she will be running and introduces the other TM, who will be running the other tour.  They both look cool and friendly, but yours looks like the better TM.  Or maybe you're disappointed that the cute TM isn't your TM.  They tell you what time to arrive the following morning, and suggest getting something tonight to eat for breakfast the following morning, breakfast on the first day is not included in the tour.  The TM's break up the groups, the cute TM takes the other tour to the other side of the Contiki basement, and they take that weird looking person with them. 

Your group moves in a bit, taking up the empty seats that opened up when the other group left, you notice a lot of girls in the group and a lot of the guys seem to be in couples.  It doesn't look like you're finding the love of your life on this tour.  Your TM gives a little introduction of themselves, they've been with Contiki 4 years - good, that means they know what they're doing.  He/she gives some information on what the first day or two will be like.  You look around at the people, some have their contiki documents in the documents folders, others have them separate.  Are they saving space or trying to be cool?  Then the TM starts collecting paperwork.  Those in front quickly jump on line while many of the others hang back and start to introduce themselves.  Who's from Australia?  You're from New York?  I love New York!  Someone annnounces that a bunch of people are going to dinner and drinks at The Pub after the meeting.  After a while you realize that you might have gotten rid of the initially weird looking person, but realize that you do have an annoying person on the tour, the one who knows everything and talks a lot.  Mental note to steer clear of them.  Eventually you turn in your paperwork and then make your way to The Pub.  There's only a dozen people from tour there, but you start talking to people, find the guy who is the one who thinks everyone would be happier if they were drinking and hope they don't try to push alcohol on you the whole tour.  After a while you decide it's time to leave, who wants to start a tour hung over and tired, you have 2 weeks to get to know everyone and besides, that guy does keep trying to push drinks on you. 

Note:  This is a fictional account of a pre-departure meeting, made from a cluster of memories of various pre-departure meetings and embelished for your entertainment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Edinburgh Dungeon - Don't do it!!!!!

I visited the Edinburgh Dungeon and it was terrible!  Do not be confused by the photo where I actually looked scared! 

I do think Edinburgh Dungeon would have been a little better if I was with a group of people, but even that wouldn't save this cheesy attraction.  It was expensive too - 15.50 pound, I believe it was the most expensive attraction I did the whole trip. 

You go through a series of dark rooms and "learn" in a very cheesy way about some of the history of crime and punishment.  But often it was just cheesy over the top scenes.  There was a boat ride, but I suspect it didn't go very far and I'm not sure what was supposed to actually happen on it because it didn't seem to actually go anywhere or do anything other then be "spooky." 

At the end there was a ride where you go up, see a little video where you're sentences to death and get "hanged."  This was the only good part of the whole thing, and my picture came out so good that I had to buy one. 

Otherwise I just rolled my eyes the whole time and wondered when it would be over.  I almost asked one of the staff members how I could get out because it was so stupid.  

After going I did find a coupon for 5 pound off admission, which added to the annoyance.  However, I didn't necessarily think the price was high for what was offered.  There was a large staff and you interacted with a lot of them, so in terms of labor vs price I didn't think that 15 pounds was that high, if you like this sort of thing. 

But if you don't like cheesy, fake, scary stuff, DO NOT go to any Dungeons, not the London, Edinburgh, Hamburg, York or Amsterdam Dungeons.  It wasn't scary, it wasn't educational, it was just dumb.   

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Costs in England

I often get asked about how much to budget for a trip.  The answer is very personal.  Some people drink a lot, others barely drink.  Some like to shop, some like cheap cheesy souvenirs, others like to make a big purchase.  Then there is eating, some like to grab food at the grocery store and picnic, others want to have a nice sit down meal.  Depending on the answers to these questions, your budget will be either higher or lower then my standard answer of $100 a day.  One thing about tours though is that you'll often have full days in cities, and then spend the days inbetween as bus days.  Bus days tend to be cheap, usually you're just paying for a meal or two, snacks and maybe a random souvenirs.  Days in cities can be much more expensive - food is more expensive, attractions, more souvenir options (and more expensive ones).

Often when I get home I will go through my receipts and get a sampling of costs.  For this trip I was really good with some stuff, and not so good with other stuff.  But here goes: (all prices are in pounds)

Holyrood House 10.25
City Cruise (London Eye to Tower) 5.36
Day Pass for Tube (off-peak) 5.60
Edinburgh Dungeon 15.50
Camera Obscura 9.25
St. Pauls 11.50
Edinburgh Castle 11.90
Hadrian's Wall 4.80
Celtic Necklace 10.00
Rugby Shirt 15.00-30.00
Dinner with a drink at Giraffe 13.70
Scarves 10.00 to start
Postcards 35-50 pence
T-Shirts 10.00 to start
Stuffed Animals 5.00-15.00
Glenlevitt Whiskey 28.00 to start
Tea 1.00-4.00
Soda 2.00-4.00

I didn't actually price beer and alcohol.  I do remember some places being pretty cheap - 2 pounds or so for a drink, while other places might be 4 or 5 pounds.  

Food was pretty expensive.  Meals for lunch at a cafe usually ran 5-10 pounds.  Dinners often started at 10 pounds.  Tea with a scone usually cost around 7 pounds. 

I spent a little under 900 pounds for the whole trip, which included my hotel in Edinburgh for 2 nights after the trip.  2 full days in Edinburgh and London before and after the tour (no meals provided).  Taking out the hotel, my costs were about $100 a day.  While I'm not a big shopper, and not a big drinker, I did do some shopping and I do drink more on tour then I do at home.  I also like to have good meals.  Also, I did find attractions in London and Edinburgh were expensive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thoughts on London

For my first two days of my trip I was on London, and I really like London.  It's a nice clean, pretty city with a good vibe.  I think the preparation for the 2012 Olympics helped making it a tourist friendly city too.

The Tube is a lot nicer then the NYC Subway - it was clean, good announcements, good signs and I didn't feel dirty and icky when I got off.

There were a lot of conservatively dressed Muslims.  I had heard this before, but it was even more evident then I imagined.  It was more noticable then when I was in Cairo (in the touristy areas).  I thought NYC was diverse, London was blowing NYC away.  But aside from the Muslims there were different languages being spoken all over the place, more then I've noticed in NYC.

There was a lot of good signage.  When you came out of the tube stations or were walking around the city there were signs showing how to get to the different tourist attractions, very handy. 

It's expensive.  Not as expensive as the last time I was there, but when every attraction is 10-15 pounds sightseeing is expensive.  Food isn't much better and clothes were even worse.

The food isn't very good.  While I did have some good food, I found the menues didn't have appealing food listed on them.  My best meal was Italian food.

Heathrow is a BIG airport.  Terminal 5 is massive and has lots of shopping.  I think it was a mile walk from the plane to border control.  And I had to take a bus to my plane coming home.

There was a good mix of tourists and locals walking around.

There were a lot of cops without guns.

There were EMT's on motorcycles, how do they transport people?

They have annoying people trying to get you to donate to their charity, but can be easily confused by statements meant to be confusing - it makes them go away.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Iphone App Review: Snapfish

Not too long ago I downloaded the Snapfish App for the Iphone and I love it!  If you use Snapfish this is a FANTASTIC way to access your photos. The App gives easy access to all of your photos, and your friends photos on Snapfish. You know those times when you're talking about a trip and wish you had the picture of the really nasty bathroom you saw in Russia, well you can access it on your iphone.

Once you're signed in it's easy to use.  You have the option of viewing "Your Albums" or "Friends Albums."  Then it lists your albums from the most recent to the oldest - as they are listed in your snapfish account.

After that you are given thumbnails so you can choose to look as specific photos or create a slideshow from the folder. 

The app also has a function to take pictures and also to upload them to a new or existing album on snapfish.

My biggest complaint would be that it can be slow at loading up the list of folders in the albums.  Otherwise, it's a handy way to view your photos at snapfish when you're away from  the computer.  I highly recommend it to those who are using snapfish.

Friday, October 8, 2010

British Airways Business Class - In Flight

Boarding for Club World had it's own line, so it was quick boarding.  I was in seat number 19A, a rear facing window seat.  My first problem was that there is no under the seat storage, all that seat, but no storage.  Actually there is a little drawer under my neighbors seat for me, I was able to fit a few things in there.  But it took me a few minutes to figure out what I wanted and needed for the flight - like my camera ;).  Then to get all my complaints out of the way, I realized I was facing my neighbor.  By the window there are 2 seats next to each other, one facing forward, one facing backwards.  The leg area is more narrow then the seat area and you end up facing the person you're sitting next to, it's a little weird.  Once the flight takes off though you can raise a little window and get your privacy.  

Once boarded I settled in and the FA brought me a glass of water - yes, I did mean a glass.  The glasses were collected before departing.  The pilot did come on the PA to announce we were having a delayed departure due to a sick passenger, but that we would make up the time in the air.  Hello, I want sleep, take your time!  After take off I set myself up for sleeping.  I put down my foot stool and put my seat in the  lay flat position.  I will say it's not terribly comfortable - the foot stool doesn't line up quite right, and the seat does have a stiff seat feel - it was not soft like a bed would be.  I suspect the difference between first and business class is the width and length of the seat and the comfort of the seat/bed.  Ahhh, I guess I was complaining again.  I don't mean to because the lay flat seat was FANTASTIC, but I don't want anyone thinking that the seat is comfortable like a bed.  But shortly after laying down I was out cold.  I slept a solid 4 hours, I did sleep through dinner though to do that.  

I woke up around the time that breakfast was served, which was good, but not great.  A smoothie, fruit and a gross bacon roll.  And of course tea, after all it is British Airways.  

After landing I got delayed by having to repack the few items I had taken out of my bag and the passengers in "steerage" got off the plane ahead of me.  I was appropriately disgusted as someone who was never in a class above economy and isn't counting on every being in a class above economy again.  But I was able to go to an express line that's for First and Business class passengers so it didn't take too long to get into England.

After the flight I certainly saw the value in upgrading to business and first class, I did sleep very well.  Is it worth the money and the points for it?  At the time I thought, maybe.  Then I heard the horror stories of the other people on my tour who flew in Economy and I really think I need a better job so I can afford to pay and guarantee flying in the better classes!  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

British Airways Business Class - The Concorde Lounge

Through a bit of luck I was able to get myself into British Airways Business Class on my flight over to London.  I was hoping to get into First (who isn't), but Business Class it was.  I actually started this post while sitting in the Terrace Lounge on the BA wifi, life is good.  I'll be finishing it once I get home.

I was a little thrown off by this lounge thing.  I didn't get to wander around the airport and spend money on magazines and stuff, I was here extra early too.  So, I had a drink, went on the internet to work on my blog.  Then I did one of the things I love to do, I scheduled a message!  But there was a wait so I went and had dinner.  One of the frustrating things about flying to London is that you fly overnight, but since the flight is only 7 hours you can barely get a good nights sleep, let alone eat on the flight too.  Having dinner in the lounge before was a great advantage.  And the food was good too.  You could get a salad, bread, chicken, beef tenderloins, fish, and dessert.  It was good food and it didn't cost an arm and a leg.

After dinner I got myself a 15 minute scalp and neck message.  It was in a really cool chair that messaged most of my body.  I need one of those chairs!  I think I need a job that pays more.  It was a nice way to relax while at the airport stressed out about flying.  The spa is an Elemis Spa and my therapist did try to sell me some products, but it was stuff that I actually had a home already.

After that I only had a few minutes to go to the bathroom and make sure everything was together before boarding my flight.

Once I adjusted to lounge life I really liked it.  The environment is quite relaxed, a good opportunity to relax instead of wandering around the airport finding a way to kill time.  And dinner and a message just topped off the experience!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Unroad Warrior - A blog review

The Unroad Warrior is a blog I've been reading on and off for a few a few years.  Only recently though did I start reading it regularly.  I really like the blog - it has a nitch, is written simply and is informative.

The Unroad Warrior writes about airline stuff - the UNroad.  Maybe it's a plane, or a new policy by an airline.  But I have really enjoyed the posts about all that complicated airline stuff that I only kind of understand - interline agreements, codesharing, and alliances.  The posts are written in an easy to read and understand style, the kind of writting where when you read it you go, "oh, that's how that works." 

I recommend the blog to those of you who are interested in how all this airline stuff works.  I think you'll slowly learn a lot of tricks of the trade and be able to make better choices for yourself.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back from England and Scotland

I came back Monday night from my Contiki tour of England and Scotland.  The trip was a lot of fun.  I wouldn't say that England and Scotland were my favorite places, but they were both very wonderful in different ways.  My tour group was good, and my Tour Manager and Driver was great too.

I did get an opportunity to fly Business Class on British Airways out to London, which was great since I got some good sleep in!  I'll write about that later.  I saw everything on my list in London.  I saw Stonehenge, Bath, a Pencil Musuem, Hairy Cows in the Highlands and lots of sheep.  The trip was an obvious success!

The downside to the trip was that when I was in Edinburgh after my tour I was so lonely and sad without my tourmates.  It was much easier to be alone before tour in London.  So even though I think Edinburgh is a great city, it will always be the city I was sad in :(

You'll hear much much more about all of this, once I start to wrap my brain around it all, and go through the 1900 pictures I took.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Not all Doritos are created equal

Back in 2002 I took a cruise with my mom and my sister on Carnival and one of the stops was in Cozumel, Mexico.  I insisted on going to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum with my sister and I experienced my first bit of tourist scamming.  I should mention that at the time I collected key chains from the places I went.

The excursion starts with a boat ride to Playa Del Carmen.  It was about 30 minutes and the boat moved very fast and bumped on every single wave as it crossed the channel separating Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen.  It was not a good crossing for those who get sea sick, I saw a couple white bags around the boat.  Then we took an hour long bus ride through Mexico.  While I certainly wouldn't describe the area as ghetto, it certainly didn't feature nice homes of the locals.  More like small wooden houses a step above shacks.  We had one stop about halfway there at a souvenir shop offering cheesy Mexico souvenirs. 

Once we arrived at Tulum we were offered the choice of taking the tram (for a charge) or walking the mile or so to the ruins.  Since it was, as an old friend used to say, "Africa Hot," we took the tram. 

After we finished looking at the ruins we went to market/souvenir area to look around.  I was looking at the key chains when I was approached by one of the workers.  Apparently, the key chain was real silver and cost $80.  The guy tried to get me to buy this key chain.  When I practically laughed at $80 he asked how much I was willing to pay, it was real silver after all.  I offered $8.  I might have had a key chain collection at the time, but I doubt any of them cost more then $10.  The conversation didn't last long, but it was a nice try by the guy.

After that we went to buy some snacks, this was a fairly long day with no lunch break.  My sister and I decided on a small bag of Doritos and a bottle of Gatorade each.  But we were in Mexico so the Doritos flavors were written in Spanish.  We opted for the bags that looked like Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch flavor and in total paid about $7 for the Gatorade and Doritos, a bit of a rip off for the time.  When we got on the bus back to the ship we opened up our Doritos and quickly found out that not all Doritos are created equal.  The orange bag of Doritos was not Nacho Cheese and the blue bag was not Cool Ranch.  I believe one ended up being a jalapeno pepper flavor and was not very good.  I don't remember the other flavor, but it also was not very good.

I would have chalked it all up as a funny tourist mistake - except I was hungry at the time!  But it was a good lesson that when you travel things are not always what that seems - sometimes it works out and other times it does not.  And of course watch out for people trying to sell you overpriced crap.  At least the $80 offer was so insane that I couldn't take it remotely seriously.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reflecting on London

A week or so ago I was discussing my upcoming trip with my boss.  He lived in London about 30 years ago, maybe more and told me a bit about his time there.  First, he almost never saw Buckingham Palace.  It wasn't until he was about to leave and mentioned it to a colleague who proceeded to turn the car around and take him to see Buckingham Palace.  Also, you couldn't find a good burger there, it wasn't until the Hard Rock Cafe opened up that you could find a good burger in the city.  I found that pretty funny since it's now considered a tourist spot.  But at the time that was the first and only Hard Rock Cafe and the only place with a good burger.

His reflections of London remind me of my short time there.  It's a city where I saw my own personal growth as a traveler.  My first day there I was terrified of getting lost, almost didn't hop off the hop on and off bus I went on.  At the end of a 2 week tour I was back in London and feeling much bolder.  I decided to go to the London Eye, bought myself a tube pass, mapped my route and did it, even put in a stop in Trafalgar Square to stop at a market.  In Trafalgar Square I had this realization of how far I had come and how much more confident I was.  I started to hyperventilate and it felt great!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trip Preparation, what to do in London and beyond

I've spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks preparing for my trip to England and Scotland.  Since It's a Contiki trip I have spent most of my time preparing for London.  Though I should probably be spending a bit more time preparing for my 2 days in Edinburgh at the end of the trip.  So what have I done?

As I write this I'm watching Braveheart, for some historical perspective on the trip.  I might have to do a bit of research on the real William Wallace, at least check out what wikipedia says, you know how Hollywood can be.

I've mapped out London.  I figured out how to make custom maps in Google Maps - I have maps with specific icons for the different place I want to go to.
Giraffe (restaurant), hoping to meet Giddy
Churchill's War Room
Westminster Abby
St. Paul's Cathedral
British Museum

There area  few other things I would like to do, but they'll be secondary.  I would rather make a light schedule and not feel like I'm rushing around and maybe get a chance to get a feel for the city.  The secondary things are:  Harrods, a nighttime walking tour (Jack the Ripper?), and a cruise of the Thames.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo of the Week: Hawaii

From Hawaii this is a flower.  I would love to tell you what type, but my guide spoke about so many flowers that I can't remember which is which, but I thought it was quite lovely.  If you do know, please feel free to post in the comments section.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mr and Mrs. So and So - You are on the wrong flight...

When we left Disney back in May we flew home on Jetblue and had a bit of an interesting flight.  Once on the plane we all settled in and were waiting for the plane doors to close and the plane to pull out when I heard a strange announcement - "Mr and Mrs. So and So, you're on the wrong flight, you're flight is leaving in a half hour and going to LaGuardia Airport."  2 people did the walk of shame down the aisle and off the plane.  Seriously?  How do you end up on the wrong plane?  Yes, it was another Jetblue flight leaving around the same time and also going to NYC.  But it had a different flight number, a different airport destination, different departure time and was leaving from a different gate.  I can't imagine how that would happen.  Maybe wishful thinking?

Other then that the flight was going well until we started to descend almost an hour before landing.  My 4 year old nephew started screaming and screeching his head off because his ears hurt - he was THAT kid that everyone hates.  My sister did try food and drink to help with the ears, but nothing worked.  I could see a couple passengers were not happy about it.  I think his exhaustion from the trip played a big role in his reaction since he didn't act like this on the flight to Disney.  Once we landed he stopped screaming, but then started to cry - now he had to go to the bathroom and we were stuck waiting for a good amount of time to get to a gate, eventually my brother-in-law took him to the back to the bathroom.  Just a note - while you are not supposed to get up, a flight attendant is not going to tackle you in the ailse for getting up when you're not supposed to.  What does that mean?  If it's an emergency then do what you have to do, but if you get hurt know that it's your own fault.  After landing we waited an hour for our luggage, not good, but since our luggage actually came I guess we should be happy.

I thought all of this was the icing on the cake of a not very good vacation.  But, I woke up with a cold the following day.  Well at least I enjoyed our time in the parks!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and thoughts on Becco for lunch

After my visit to the King Tut exhibit I realized that it's time to get myself out and about and seeing more things in New York City. On my list was a visit to "The Met" or The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since I was meeting my friend from out of town for lunch in the city, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to see a museum.

I met my friend at Becco on West 46 Street and had a great lunch. Becco had really good food (the kind of food that the average eater goes, "Wow, this is why people love food," the service was great. My only complaint about it was that the restaurant was kinda loud.

After lunch I had the brilliant idea to walk to The Met. It was a nice walk, but by the time I got there I was already tired and my feet were already starting to hurt, not a good way to start a visit to a museum.

The museum does not have a required admission, they have a recommended admission of $20 for adults. It mental hurts to give money, but I know it's the right thing to do and is certainly in line with the cost of other museums so I did give the donation.

I first went to the Egyptian exhibit, it took me a few minutes to get into it but slowly I did. What I didn't like about the exhibit was the signage for the different pieces, some were hard to read, others I never found. I also found all the different little rooms made it hard to make sure you saw everything, I think for that reason (and the large amount of stuff they have) you either need to dedicate hours or you need to visit several times to see the whole exhibit. What I liked was the different pieces. There were a lot of pieces of wall, which really surprised me. There were a lot of sarcophagus's too, though not overly impressive ones like you would see in Egypt.

This was the first time I looked at Egyptian art in terms of time period, other then a few little things, I really never knew what might be the difference between art from different dynasties, until now. Unlike the King Tut exhibit I recently saw there were not too many smaller pieces from tombs, the pieces were more ordinary pieces - pieces of wall, statues, sarcophagus's, and pottery are what stick out. It seemed a little more like daily life type of stuff, not just the stuff of Pharohs.

After seeing the Egyptian stuff I headed to the American exhibit, which I really enjoyed. This is my type of museum stuff - stuff that tells me about American life. There was a giant house like exhibit with "rooms," the rooms were all very nicely decorated and gave a nice feeling for how people lived. To add to the experience there was a woman in one of the rooms talking about how the bed reminded her of her bed in her farm house from her youth. I like that real life image that I can picture.

After that I was exhausted and ready to go, but on my way out (since I couldn't figure out how to get out) I walked through the armor rooms - who doesn't like a knight in shining armor? It seemed like cool stuff in there, and I felt bad for the horses who had to wear armor, it looked really heavy!

Overall I enjoyed The Met. It's the type of place that if I lived nearby I could see myself stopping there every couple weeks and checking out a different exhibit.  For those planning a visit I would suggest planning a few hours to see just 1 or 2 exhibits, otherwise you might end up tired or overwhelmed by the museum.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Photo of the Week: Paris

In honor of Labor Day, here are some Parisian laborers writing parking tickets.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Last day in Disney

For out last day in Disney I asked Mom if she wanted to go back to EPCOT to finish her shopping. Our flight wasn't until the evening so we had plenty of time. Heidi decided to come with us with the baby. Meanwhile Alex and Mike were going to stay at the hotel and swim.

I think this was the hottest day, the heat and humidity were stifling. We decided to walk around World Showcase since they have some unique shops there. Mom did find a few things there and although I really wanted a pretzel in Germany I was talked out of getting it during our initial walk. It was so hot that I had to put my foot down and insist we eat lunch somewhere with AC - the wait at Mexico was too long so we ate at the Electrical Umbrella. Then I took the boat by myself (and I had thought it was silly that there was a boat from Future World to World Showcase) from Future World to Morocco to cut down my walk back to to Germany, that boat was really handy! Heidi and Mom went back to the resort while I got my pretzel.  After that we all met up at the hotel again to get everything together for the flight home.

This was one of the ironies of the trip.  My sisters lack of action in regards to the reservation and Magical Express forced me go to the hotel Concierge, they were extremely nice and helpful and game Mom and I a complimentary taxi ride to the airport.  Meanwhile my sister, her husband, and the kids took Magical Express.  Which coincidently had plenty of room for Mom and I on it.  But Mom and I had a quiet peaceful ride in the taxi instead.  I find it very strange that they can comp a taxi ride, but not a Magical Express ride, now that is fuzzy math!  But I'll take it.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back from Las Vegas

Last week I was in Las Vegas with my sister, Kelly, and her family and her husband's family (this is not the sister I went to Disney with).  I have taken this trip several times in the past.  It's always a nice trip, but not a great trip.  This trip fell into the same category as the rest.  It's funny, everyone keeps going on the trip, yet no one seems to love it.  But it's cheap for my family so I guess that's a big part of it.

Here is a profile of the trip:  We stay at the Hilton Grand Vacations on the strip in 2 - 2 or 3 bedroom suites.  We go to the pool in the morning, do an activity with the kids in the afternoon and go out for lunch.  We have dinner out with the whole group (11 of us) to a child friendly restaurant.  We'll usually see 1 show during the trip.  After dinner most of the adults go out gambling for a few hours, the Dad's stay out later then the rest of us girls.

What I like about the trip:  it's pretty relaxing.  I have very little control over what we do, I just choose if there is something I want to or don't want to do.  Mostly, I just go with the flow and that's nice.  I enjoy relaxing by the pool with a drink and a book, chatting and watching the kids in the pool.  I also like exploring Vegas.  Since I have been there a few times I know the layout fairly well and have seen most of the casinos/resorts/hotels.  But there is always something new there and there are plenty of things I haven't done there.  But, I do sometimes have to make and find opportunities.

What I don't like:  It's a little over indulgent of the kids.  The afternoons often consist of trips to game rooms.  There's so much there to do that has a little more substance to it, but they seem to end up in game rooms everyday and sometimes more then 1 in a day.  And the game rooms aren't cheap.  I'm just glad I don't have to bank roll a kid on one of these trips!  Gambling, I'm not a big gambler and at night it's all about gambling.  I'll go out a few nights and play some blackjack but it seems if I don't feel like going out that there is something wrong with me and I don't like that feeling.  I don't think that it helps on this trip that my body was totally on the wrong hourly schedule to be gambling at night and I never adjusted.  On this trip I was a little frustrated with the eating arrangements.  Due to the surgery I had in July I'm a bit restricted on what I can eat - I can't use my front teeth so am forced to eat food on the softer side and I didn't feel like anyone other then my mother took that into consideration when choosing restaurants.

But in the end it was a nice vacation, I got to see a Cirque Du Soliel show which was on my things to do in Vegas list.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Streetmospheres at Disney

In a past post I wrote about how Alex, my nephew, wasn't into characters at Disney World and how this saddened me.  But there was something he did enjoy and it was a bit unexpected for a child of only 4 years old. He liked the Streetmospheres!

I never actually got to see Alex and the sword swallower at the Boardwalk, but I was told they became friends earlier in the trip.  Alex did mention him several times though.  In light of that I would recommend Boardwalk to people/families that like streetmospheres.

Then one day when we were leaving the Hollywood Studios we ran into a group performing and Alex was mesmerized.  I was eating a mickey ice cream sandwich and trying to hide (didn't want to give him any ideas for junk food), but I could have been sitting next to him and he never would have noticed.  My sister and her husband tried to pry him away from the performers so we could leave, but we had to wait until they were done because Alex was not leaving until they were done.

I have to say I like the streetmospheres too, I seem to run into a good show every time I go to Disney World and I always get a good laugh.  It's one of the unique things about Disney too, I never saw streetmospheres when I was at Universal or Great Adventure.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Suitcase: Victorinox E-Motion 360

I've always used a traditional suitcase when I travel, but often think about changing to a backpack.  However, I tend to get really tight muscles, sometimes with pain, in my neck and shoulders so a backpack doesn't make the most sense to me.  But lately a new class of suitcase has come out, a hybrid.  A suitcase with both wheels and backpack straps.  Unfortunately, there are only about 5-10 on the market and not all come with a waist strap, a must if you're actually going to carry your suitcase on your back.  With my upcoming trip to the UK I decided it was time to buy one.  I decided on the Victorinox E-Motion 360 Trek Pack Plus 26 inch.  They do make a womens version in 24 inch, but I decided to go with the larger suitcase.  The pre-packed weight of this bag is just under 10 pounds.

The exterior of the suitcase.  The suitcase has a small detachable pack on the front.  It is small though large enough for a book, magazine, wallet and a few toiletries, more on that at the end of the post.  If you're going to be using the wheels of the suitcase the back zips up hiding the shoulder and waist straps.  The only issue with this is that the flap that covers these straps just hangs there when it is unzipped.  I'm sure they could have come up with a way of securing that flap.  The other issue I have found is that as a 5 foot, thin woman the waist strap is loose on me.  I'm not sure how that will work out for me if I have to actually put it on my back.

At the bottom of the suitcase there is a shoe compartment.  It's accessible from the outside and has a sleeve to protect the contents of the suitcase from the shoes.  I'm not sure how useful this will be as I usually bring more then 1 extra pair of shoes with me, but it seems nifty.  The inside is pretty bare, in the photo you can see the single post for the handle, I liked that the single post takes up less room then suitcases with 2 posts for the handle.  The walls of the suitcase look white, but that is actually cardboard that keeps the shape of the suitcase.  

This is the small backpack that attaches to the front.  This also has backpack straps that can be tucked away. This zips onto the suitcase at the top and on the bottom are clips that also help secure it to the main body.  There are two compartments to this pack 1 larger one that is open and the smaller one in the front as shown in the photo with some compartments in it.  There is also a compartment on the side that can hold a water/drink bottle.

I'm pretty excited about this suitcase and hope it's the answer to some of my luggage issues, especially since I already have a couple pieces of luggage.  I'm not sure if I'll be taking this to Las Vegas with me, but I will be taking it on my Contiki trip, I'm sure I will encounter at least one hotel without an elevator there and will be pulling those straps out.