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, May 31, 2013

Foreign Transaction Fees

Last week Chris Elliott ran a great article about currency conversion and foreign transaction fees - dynamic currency conversion and the pitfalls.

If you've been traveling I'm sure you've had someone at some point as if you want your transaction to show as dollars or the local currency.  Of course they don't mention the rate or the fee they add on, maybe not even if you ask for it.

What's a girl to do? (or a guy). Well, it seems the best course of action is to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee and to pay in the local currency.

Which cards don't charge a fee? Here is a quick list (some do have an annual fee) of some that I'm aware of, as of the publishing of this post:
Chase, Marriott Rewards, Sapphire Preferred
American Express Platinum
Capital One - Venture, Cash Rewards

Here is an even more extensive list of cards from Nerdwallet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Friends Get Flakey

Earlier this month I traveled to Colorado to visit with a friend.  While I was visiting one friend, I had another friend who lived in the area that I wanted to meet up.

I had loose plans with friend #2 and when I tried to firm up plans he would push back or not answer emails.   I really appreciated when he told me what he thought I should do, instead of hearing what I wanted to do.  I started to wonder why we were friends.

Then I spoke to a colleague about it and he told me an even crazier story.  A friend was coming to visit with another friend and a couple friend, a total of 4 people.  He set up hotels, cars, excursions and then never heard anything for weeks.  2 days before he cancels everything.  Later that afternoon she calls and says they'll be in tomorrow!  WHAT?  Well apparently she changed all her info due to a crazy ex-boyfriend.  But still, you wait until the day before to confirm you plans.

Friend #2 and I worked out our differences.  He can be stubborn and so can I; but, once we spoke on the phone and committed to working something out we found all the issues before had gone away.

So, how do you handle it when your friends get flakey when planning a trip?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grand Canyon's North Rim

Our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon started with an early drive from our hotel in Kanab and a time change. Of course we were staying in Kanab that night so our return from the Grand Canyon would include a time change. 

At the North Rim there is a nice visitors center that includes facilities, maps, a restaurant and beautiful views.

From the visitors center there are some shorter walks along the ridges (they’re perfectly safe for the average person) and offer AWESOME views. If you’re visiting this area follow the trails to the Bright Angel Point.

If you’re looking for something more strenuous you can do the Bridle Trail, which I did.  The good thing about the Bridle Trail is that it is shaded and easy for the average visitor. The bad things is that most of it has absolutely no view.  So why do it? It leads to the trails that go into the canyon.

I opted not to go down into the canyon because I was afraid it would be too much for me and I would find out too late. But I hear the trail was not one of the nicer ones we would have done in the National Parks due to the donkeys.  Apparently the trail was not as clean and pristine. 

Instead I opted to relax and take a nap inside the visitor’s center while looking out at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve got nothing against the outdoors and all that nature stuff, but sometime it’s better to sit and be in it rather than doing as much as possible. Today was that kind of day.

We did have lunch in the restaurant, it was a bit pricey, but it was good.  And after I had just enough time to take my favorite wildlife photograph ever!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Year with Disney World

When I took my trip to Disney World in December 2011 I decided to get an annual pass.  The plan was to see if I could find some good deals on trips in 2012 and hop on a plane and go.  The plan worked in some ways and not in others, but it was still a good year.

I never really found good deals, but I had some vacation time and took several shorter trips.  Actually, one of my trips was not only not a "good deal" but included expensive hotels and plane tickets, but was a great experience.

My first trip was with my sister and her two kids.  It was a fun trip, but the 4 of us in one Polynesian hotel room was a bit much for me at times.  As usually happens with kids, the trip revolved around them, we went on lots of rides, and I loved the Polynesian.

The rest of the trips I took that year ended up being about experiences more then about rides.

On one trip I actually decided to ride the rides that no one talks about, the ones you can't ride with other people because they want to go on the good rides.  It wasn't one of my better plans, but now I have a list of rides I never need to go on again.

Another trip was all about the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Fantasyland.  While I did do some other things, having already been 3 times in less then a year, I didn't feel the need to do much more then that. There's no line for the new Little Mermaid ride, better ride it lots before the lines grow! I can ride Peter Pan, Space Mountain and shop another time!

Tour a resort, who has time for that? When you go 5 times in 12 months, you have time to tour an interesting resort (Art of Animation), you probably even have time to tour a boring one (as though they exist).

The biggest thing I got out of these 5 trips was that every one I had a slightly different goal, explore a resort, experience a new party or event, ride new rides.  The goal was not to see as much as possible in as short a period of time as possible. With that, I got to spend time with the charming lesser known things, instead of on lines. I got to experience the whole of Walt Disney World.

After that year though, I did get a little bored.  The average attractions that you might do because you don't get to do them often, they lost there thrill. You run out of new experiences to have, or at least the list gets shorter. So yes, the thrill wore off a bit, but the ability to relax on a Disney vacation started to exist, and I really never thought that was possible.

A lot of people asked when I was going back, or commented that I wouldn't be able to give it up.  But I have no plans of going this year.  While it would be easy to go back, the desire to explore something new is stronger.  I'll be back there, but it might not be until 2015, GASP! But I wouldn't be opposed to doing it with an annual pass again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bryce Canyon

After seeing Salt Lake City and having to prove myself for a drink (I was 35 at the time) it was time to head south to see some National Parks.  Bryce Canyon was our first stop.  If you havne't been following me for a while you should know, I have a fear of hiking downhill.  It's been near paralyzing at times.

With that, we arrived at Bryce Canyon in the afternoon and were given 2 hours to explore.  We were given the choice of a couple different trails and although I was hesitant I took the longer hike.  Oh, not only do I have a fear of hiking downhill, I was also in terrible shape having had bone taken from my right leg 3 months before for a bone graft. But then, nothing like a little exercise to get your body back. 

The hike actually only took an hour and 15 minutes and I did manage to hike down without killing myself.  The hike up however... it was strenuous.  As in, switchbacks like I haven't seen since I was in Norway going to Geringer Fjord, except instead of riding in a bus I was walking it.  Ugh, I thought I was going to die.  Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I was hurting at the end. And my shoes were coated in a lovely layer orange dust. This is one of those place I would suggest bringing your old shoes too.

It was worth it though, Bryce Canyon is beautiful.  The colors are fabulous, I'm sure it helped that we had a bright sunny day to contrast with the deep earthy browns and oranges of Bryce.  The formations of the hoodoos make the landscape unique from all of the other National Parks I have visited.  And as much as the hike sucked, it was also fun, there were a lot of quirky formations there, the kind of things a writer could make an interesting story out of.