Travel Planning: Japan!

Well, it's official. We're going to Japan!

Update: Our flight leaves on 5/18 at 7AM, and we land in Japan the next day by 2PM. An itinerary is in the works and I'm finding out what's worth visiting by reading vacation stories on other travelers' blogs.

Be back later!

Flashback Trip: Blizzard Beach Photo

Yay Disney!

Travel Planning: Veterans' Tribute Trips

Before you read, play this music thing, please.
Nothing kills me more than seeing the age next to the name of a fallen soldier. You ever looked at the age? Firstname, Lastname, 22, or 20, or 19, or breaks my heart. It's painful that nothing has changed as far as that goes. Kids going to war...12 to 15 year-olds that fought World War I, kids in their teens fresh out of high school storming the beaches of France on D-Day, college kids going to Korea and Vietnam...what's going on?

The only thing worse than that is reading the alarming rate at which our beloved vets are dying. I'm talking about our WWII guys. They did so much for our country, and for the world. In France, on the metro, there are signs that tell you to give your seat up to vets, if you see them. That is wonderful- because you see them, wearing their medals, still.

So, I ask that you take special time to recognize our vets. Please, before they're all gone. And take special care of our troops now. Support the troops, send them mail. Send them puzzle books and coloring books and send them Little Debbie snacks and sunscreen. Send them chapstick and phone cards, or handheld electronics games. Seriously. After 9/11, I saw yellow magnetic support ribbons on each car, or at least an American flag- I haven't seen any lately. Pick it up, people.
So, in honor of all our troops, past and present, pay tribute to the following areas:
Gettysburg and Antietam
Revolutionary Playgrounds: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.

Normandy/ Omaha Beach, France

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Holocaust Museum, Washington DC

Travel Planning: Five Travel Things You Need to Do

I know that a lot of people aren't as travel-minded as I am. Thankfully, I was blessed to grow up in a family that was not only hooked on traveling together, but did it in ways that I could always appreciate, and never feel like I was being dragged around. Because of this, a general love for history, and the adventurous friends I have, I have been lucky enough to throw caution to the wind [and appropriate requests for time off from employers] and see a lot of places. I've compiled a simple, short list of five things that are travel-related that you should do.

1. Visit a country with a foreign language
There's nothing as humbling as trying to accomplish getting somewhere in a language you have no clue about. However, there is also no better feeling of accomplishment. When you're in a country whose national language is one you're completely unfamiliar with, you're forced to rely on the most basic of human communications: facial expressions, drawings, hand gestures, sounds, acting- it's like massive game of charades. You will often find that many people are willing to help, so long as you are polite, and in agreement with their typical customs. I think finally finding you can communicate with somebody from a completely different culture/language, puts life into perspective a little. The world is not as small as it seems at times.

2. Give a personal tour of an exquisite place
Not everybody wants to see the Mona Lisa, and not everybody cares about Gettysburg, that's why personalization is key. Taking somebody to a place where you have experienced something unique or awesome will make taking them there much more special. Anybody walks up to the Eiffel Tower will generally feel the same thing. However, taking a friend, a parent, your loved one, to a favorite little coffee house, or a hidden church up a thousand steps where you can see all of Paris, will leave a far longer lasting impression.

3. Travel alone
Do you know who you are? I'm not saying that a one-person trip will all of a sudden change your life, but you certainly do learn stuff about yourself. You will also have ample time to think of all the people you wish you WERE with. It's a weird way of making you step back and say, 'huh...I actually do miss them!'

4. Make a friend in another country, while you're there
They don't even have to live there, you just have to have met them there. There's nothing else to this than it's nice to have friends and getting snail mail from somebody with weird stamps is awesome.

5. Take part in a study-abroad program, or international help organization
This is a must- it's a once in a life time experience. You meet a lot of people, hopefully you will make some lasting friends, and you will learn a lot.

I'm going to see if I can find some good links for study-abroad programs. Schools may have them, and many of them will pay for the chaperone's trip, as long as they get a certain number of students- a great deal!

Flashback Trip: Blizzard Beach May 2007

While we were at Blizzard Beach, I bought a waterproof camera to use. It was $22, but WELL worth it. It came with a dorky strap you could attach to your wrist, and then flip the camera up, to snap a picture. The prints aren't the best quality, but I think it's because it was cheap film to begin with. However, I was able to take pictures without fear of the water, or breaking the camera, and even underwater! Unfortunately, I don't have a scanner, so I had to take pictures OF the pictures, by holding them up to the built-in camera on my MacBook Pro.

The plastic case pops open so that you can remove the camera, which is reusable! So you can add more film the next time you go to the beach and go surfing, canoeing, kayaking, or go white-water rafting. You can even take some pretty neat pictures in the rain, but make sure you buy quality film. Apparently, this same company makes digital cameras! But the above link lets you buy the same one I used for a mere $15. Phenomenal!

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Travel Info and Tools: Zookoda

Guess what? I'm starting a newsletter! In it, you'll be getting a snippet of my latest blog entries: travel tips, must-have buyables, and oodles of awesome travel-related links. So sign up! I'm using a really neat [free!] tool called Zookoda, you should try it out!

The service is double opt-in, so after you enter your email address, you'll be emailed a confirmation, asking that you affirm you wanted to sign up for my newsletter, the Passport.


Travel Tools: Trip Organizers

No joke, take a look at the links below.

Don't take 'flight is full' for an answer! Know your passenger rights, visit for full information.

Rule 240.

Before airline deregulation in 1978, Rule 240 was literally a federal requirement. Nowadays, it's a term describing what individual airlines will do for late or stranded passengers. In fact, the major airlines have filed "conditions of carriage" with the U.S. Department of Transporatation (DOT) guaranteeing their respective Rule 240s.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, or if you've missed your flight connection, these policies may give you free meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, phone calls, and other amenities. You may be booked on a substitute flight -- even on another airline -- and you may be compensated or given a full refund if the flight problems persist.

Next stop, fancy travel is for sissies. Be a man, get a backpack, get some foot salve and some baking soda powder for anti chaffing, a map, and ID- hit the road, Jack. This awesome travel blog provides a great list of top backpacking destinations- check it out! From Nicaragua to India, Nepal to Thailand- tons of information for the adventurous traveler. [That's you!]

Ok, so maybe you're bad at planning and picking your own travel adventures. That's cool, use somebody else's. A new site called TripWiser now allows users to post their successful itineraries, so that you can partake in their fun! It's cool because people create trips like 'Weekend Boston trip with kids in mind,' so you can very specifically choose a trip that's tailored to your needs!

Another fellow travel blogger has posted a great list on planning and executing your travel plans. To be more specific, he's got tips on making your 'Travel Dream a Reality." There are a lot of good points and I certainly encourage you to visit!

Do you use evites? Evites are a great way to share your plans with a group of people, but they're not exactly meant for planning multiple-people travel adventures! That's where sites like triporama and triphub come in! You can use these sites to send 'invitations' to your travel mates, to share plans, itineraries and schedules, update eachother on travel prices, everything you would typically have to do through a looonnggg string of emails. You can assign tasks to people, like searching for airfare, finding activities to do, or booking a hostel. Definitely a great find!

Yay for cooperation! Triporama is my favorite, it's easier and a lot more user friendly.

Flashback Trip: North Carolina 2006

I don't think I've posted about this, so I thought I would.

Last year, Kevin, Andrew and I decided to jump in CF2 [catfish=Ford Taurus, 2=Kevin had the first, I have the second] and drive to NC. Honestly, I was waiting for that car to just give up, but it didn't! It got us there safe and sound- and back, too!

We made it to the Georgia/Florida border from Orlando in just under 4 hours. A miracle, I know, and we were through Georgia in a clock tick- but not before being hit in the face by the awful smell that eminates from Geogia's soil. As you can see from the above image, Kevin was not pleased with the stench.

The rest stops are always interesting. One gas station, called 'El Cheapo' had this little quote, "Sex is so good." It was quickly reprimanded by the following quote, "Shut up You need Jesus Amen." Amen, indeed! When we got to NC, I remember it raining immensely. It was ok, though, it left a very fine mist. We were also high up in the mountains so the fog was awesome to look at. Our first day in NC, we drove out for breakfast and stopped at some local antique/thrift shops, where I fould 'The Ungame!' If you've never heard of it/played it, you're missing out!

The diner we went to for breakfast had awesome food, too!

Travel Buyables and Planning: Transportation

Big cities= big walking.

That means a couple things, comfortable feet and sturdy shoes. I have no arches, and neither does Kevin, so we make sure to have this covered, because we're both pretty cheap when we travel. When we went to Savannah, we covered every square of that city on foot. When we went to Europe, we took full advantage of any available public transportation system. Even our trip to Chicago was wrought with aching feet and endless accomodations to help them recover from the many miles covered.

Here are a few buyables you should consider, from experience:

-Shoes with a thick sole, like Doc Martens or Bumpz
-Don't skimp during the summer, a nice pair of sandals with thick soles is safer and far more durable, but they don't have the advantage of throwing a flimsy and cheap pair of flip-flops out after use
-Desenex, spraying your feet and shoes before a big walking day will keep them dry, which means your travel partners won't freak out over your bodacious foot odor
- Disposable socks, these are awesome! After a long day, just throw them out. On the way home, your bag will be lighter, too!
- Charge your feet by using a nice heat rub at the end of the day- you'll feel a difference!

Now, with all this walking, you certainly have to have your stuff together. The internet is amazing because you can find entire subway, metro, and tube layouts! You can also buy passes online for extended periods of time. Below are a handful of links to get all your city slicker travel needs taken care of. These sites also offer printable maps for your walking convenience!

Paris Metro passes
London Tube passes
Japan Subway tickets
Eurorail tickets
US Amtrak tickets
NYC Subway Info
Boston T Info
Germany Subway passes

Travel Tools: BubbleShare

I'm sure you've noticed my super fancy slideshows! I used to use photobucket, but no more! Ashley turned me onto BubbleShare- a neat site that lets you upload your photos and videos and create awesome slideshows from albums. You can also take photos and stick clip-art bits onto them! Sersiously, it's awesome.

That being said, using a free site like BubbleShare is awesome because you can find an internet kiosk or internet cafe nearly everywhere across the globe and unload your packed memory card! I've placed my photos on it from my most recent trips, and I can't wait to get the rest on there. I honestly believe it even beats out Google's Picasa tool.

The only problem with digital cameras/photos is this: you don't print them out! Let's face it, very few people print those out anymore! That's why I love love LOVE my Canon Rebel. It was a gift and I treasure it so much! It takes amazing pictures, but I'm deathly afraid of breaking it, so I rarely take it with me. :(

The second problem is that with digital images, photographers become careless. Since 'film' is expendable, you take pictures of everything! This is a huge waste. I try to keep one of each picture. I delete a LOT- you should, too.

Anyway, below are some slideshows from April's trip to the Blogher conference in NYC with Ashley. Enjoy!

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Flashback Trip: Weekend Mini-Trips= Mega Fun!

Man, I haven't been here in a while, but be ready for the SLEW of posts I have half-written, waiting to be completed and unleashed. I have tons to write about, but I thought I'd focus on this past weekend's super awesomeness.

Friday night, I left work kind of late, but I popped in About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. Let me tell you, I saw Bates boobs, and Nicholson boobs. Yeah. When you're that age, guys, it's time to tuck it in. Please. Kathy, you're my girl, and a fabulous actor- you don't need your burlap sacks swingin' in the wind, ok? And Jacky-boy, you're a millionaire already, if these are the only projects you have left...move on, man. Move. On.

Anyway, Kevin and I were left staring at the screen, blinking. It was late and we were generally confused, we went to bed. Saturday morning I awoke to the very loud midi-sounds of my cell phone. I know it's old, don't hate.

Pete: Hey, you up? Me: What? Yeah, when are you getting here? Pete: I'm outside. Me: Oh. Bye.

So I squeezed into my bathingsuit, like a gentle porpoise trying to slip into a body stocking. It's a one-piece, I'm not brave enough for even a tankini. I grabbed my trusty beach bag, and the three of us drove to Blizzard Beach! Kevin hooked us up with sweet $20 tickets- Yay for connections! We had a few hours before Kenny and Julius show up, so we went to town. Lazy river, wave pool, team tubing, toboggan racing, you name it! I could tell Kevin was kind of apprehensive with the heights, but he was a good sport and waited patiently while Pete and I ran upto the 'Slush Gusher' slide- I swear I came off that damn thing- and I had the WORST wedgie afterwards!

After Julius and Kenny showed up, we did it all again! None of us got burned, but we did suffer a few scrapes from the rough bottoms of the wave pool and lazy river. For lunch we hit up Golden Corral and got our fat on. Julius kept trying to befriend this little lady bug, he was concerned it would die what with being stuck inside the restaurant. Then, he accidentally killed it. :( He was genuinely sad. Then we went to see Shrek the Third. It was cool, and my lover was in it [John Krasynski].

That night, we went to sleep bronzed, fat, and happy. The next morning I took Pete and Kevin to the Breakfast Club, downtown, for breakfast. It was good, and then Kevin and I drove to Mall at Millenia. I bought a ton of stuff, and then we went to Celebration, where we enjoyed amazing Kilwin's Ice Cream! I'd never been to Celebration, but I highly recommend jumping in your car and just driving around. It's a ton of fun. The shopping goal was to find the perfect 'cool' outfit for that night: the Arctic Monkeys show. I wore an awesome pair of long brown shorts, and a black top, with my new orange flats. Kevin wore some shirt and corduroy blue pants! Super awesome!

Then I got my eye brows did, where I was partially assaulted by the little Asian lady. In short, her plans to attack my bikini zone were thwarted, but she succeeded at a sneak-attack of my upper lip! Ouch. :( Enough said.

Cool outfits purchased, and bellies full of ice cream, we went back to my house so that Kevin could pack-up. After, we drove to HardRock and at the prestigious Café. It's not that expensive, I definitely recommend it! When we got into the show, some bleach-blonde stick of a girl was convulsing on the stage. As Kevin says in his blog, "
Of course, being the spontaneous people that Nicky and I are, we tried to dance like her. Needless to say, it hurt our bodies and we were quick to stop writhing with her."
But when the Arctic Monkeys came on, all bets were off. We were out of control. We clapped, we yelled, we threw our fists into the air and kicked around. It was like we had our own show, pretty much- everybody else just faded away. Good thing, too, they were boring anyway. After the show, we drove home, straining out our voices to that skkkyyyy diving, rocky mountain climbinnngggg song. :) It was an awesome weekend, and I'm sad it's over, but it reminded me of how much fun hanging out with my friends and family is- given the right environment.

Kevin, you're welcome. :)