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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How to Travel: Part 4 - Renting a Car

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

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Traveling and Renting a Car 



Additional disclaimer: Check with the rental companies before you book a car. All information here is based on personal research or experience. This is not considered legal advice. Do your own research before making any plans.

Renting a car while traveling can be scary. There are many options to consider and there is always the slight possibility of an accident that you fear you may be ultimately responsible for. However, for many trips, a car may be strongly advised or even necessary to fully enjoy the amenities of the area. Take a look at these tips and decide for yourself if renting a car is worth it.


1. Rent a driver and car instead. With the recent surge in the use of car services (in addition to the traditional taxis), renting a driver and car has become very popular. If you have a group, it might even be cheaper. Renting a driver (perhaps along with a tour guide can take the fear out of driving in an unfamiliar city, state or country. In some foreign countries, it might even be advisable (such as India). This can be arranged before you arrive at your destination or with the hotel's concierge. If you are renting a house or apartment, check out the tourist information booths (the official ones) for suggestions.

Arriving in Delhi, India: rented car with driver


2. You will need a credit card. You can use a debit card with some companies, but they may hold a large amount of your funds and there is a possibility it many not released for up to two weeks. Certain countries put a hold on very large amounts, such as $1,000- $2,000 (Jamaica, for instance). What to do? See number 1 or use public transportation.

Exchange cash into local currency to use at gas stations

3. You may be required to purchase insurance (in foreign countries) or purchase a temporary license (for a small fee, such as $10 - $25). However, check with your personal auto insurance and also check out your benefits with your credit cards. If you are renting domestically, you may already be covered. But, be prepared to have cash in the local currency to fill up the tank. Normally, I am not a fan of purchasing the fuel package, but it can be convenient for those one day rentals.

Alternative: public transportation

4. Europe makes is fairly easy to navigate by rail (train) and public transportation. But the lure of the countryside in spring can be hard to resist. Also, labor strikes are frequent, planned and unplanned. If you are staying in a city, you will only need a vehicle for a day trip (keeping a car longer gets complicated with parking). You may also want to take a bus or train to a town and then rent the car on that end. For example, the town of Reims, France, is home to many champagne wineries and you may want to tour them all. Take the train from Paris to Reims and rent the car there. You may have to reserve one.



5. When you have limited time, such as on a cruise, renting a car on an island state (Hawaii) or country gives flexibility and independence. You can combine sightseeing, with cultural outings and a beach day and save time. Buy a map beforehand and get one from the car rental company. Roads may not be so numerous in smaller countries and they often have one main highway that makes navigating fairly easy. Also, there are often signs with cruise ship icons designed to help you back to the dock. 


6. Some of the cheaper options are not at the airport or cruise dock. If the company offers a free shuttle, bear this in mind when you have to return the car. Add an extra 45 minutes to allow for traffic or the fact they may have to wait for the van to fill up. 

7. If you rent a car for a cruise day, note the operating times of the company. If your ship docks on a week-end, you options may be limited.

Parking can be complicated in cities or small towns with pedestrian zones

8. Although not 100% necessary, an international driving permit is strongly recommended, particularly if you want to go from country to country. It is valid for one year and not renewable (you must start a new application). You must have a driver's license in your own country and carry both. You also cannot use it in your own country in place of a real driver's license. Only two companies in the USA are authorized to issue them: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). 

9. Be alert to the driving patterns. For Americans, this means learning how to drive on the left side of the road, possibly with a right-hand drive car (with the steering wheel on the right side, rather than the left); making turns into the left lane; learning expressions like Give Way, rather than Yield; for some, traffic circles.; a lower speed limit in some countries (despite evidence to the contrary), a NASCAR-like speed limit in other countries or states; learning the metric system (kilometers rather than miles) and reading in other languages. Luckily, most sign colors and shapes are international.



10. Finally, wherever you are, it is your responsibility to know the local laws. It should go without saying that some customs should be automatic regardless of whether it is a law or not: no drinking and driving, wear your seatbelt, car seats for younger riders and good defensive driving strategies, turn on your lights when it is raining, etc.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cruising 101 Part 5: Plan Your Own Excursions

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr. Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockZenfolioImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime. 



Planning Your Own Cruise Excursion






If you are first time cruiser, you may get sticker shock when you see what is not included in your fare and how much extras cost. (see our article here). Activities that you do while in port are generally called excursions. Cruise lines charge extra for excursions and you may be led to believe that they are mandatory. Check out my tips below.





Bonus tip: you don’t have to get off the ship! Check out the newsletter for the day and enjoy the peace and quiet, along with available deck chairs at the pool.

Extra bonus tip: Be aware of how much time you have. If I have a long time (6 hours or more), I’ll get off and explore the town, come back to the ship to eat lunch and then get off again to catch a cab to a great free public beach.

Here are my top tips:

1.  You do not have to buy the ship’s excursions but there are some advantages: they already researched reputable and reliable companies; they're guaranteed not to leave you behind (the ship will wait for you); it’s easier for the more exotic day trips, like parasailing, zip-lining and ATVs.



2.   Stop at the information desk when you disembark. Although it seems they are steering you to their friends and relatives in the business (and sometimes they are), they will also guide you to the more reliable vendors. Cruise guide books are a great way to introduce yourself to great sightseeing spots.



3.   Explore your options about ports before your cruise (don’t waste precious data while onboard if you bought the internet package). Travel guidebooks (hard copy or electronic) are also a wealth of information. For a book that combines almost all of the Caribbean ports, I use Fodor's.





4.   Don’t be afraid to rent a car and explore. Pay a little higher and use familiar names such as Avis, Hertz, etc. Hint about Caribbean cruises: for the most part, you are on an island, which goes in a circle, less chance of getting lost. Don’t waste your mobile phone data with GPS, go old school and use a map, the rental companies will give you one. See more information here.


Don't forget to gas up before returning the car. You may need local currency.


5.   The above tip being said, be aware of which countries drive English style and which drive American style. Sometimes you get a right-hand drive car, sometimes not. After one excursion you will get the hang of it.


Barbados lets you know right up front about the taxi fares

6.   For the less adventurous, some islands that have safe public transportation. When a ship is in port, buses miraculously are on the ship’s schedule and seem to be available when you dock. Tell the driver where you want to go and when you need to be back onboard. He or she will tell you what time you should catch the bus back. You may want to take an earlier bus just to be safe (remember the tip about getting left behind).


Hiring a van for a group can be more economical: they'll give you a tour and take you to a local beach.


7.   For the even less ambitious, a cab will take you to a location and will pick you up at an agreed time. Get a price before you get in, don’t be afraid to bargain. A cab to a beach will probably run you half of the price of the cruise price total. For example, we’ve taken cabs for $25 round trip for 2-3 of us. If you are traveling with another family, you can hire a whole van sometimes for $50 total. We had 7 of us between two families. Not bad when it would have been $280.

8.   You can arrange your own excursion with a company in advance from home. However, do your research: check out the reviews on websites such as Cruise Critic or Trip Advisor (but learn how to read between the lines for some of the reviews).

The Butterfly Farm in Saint Martin

9.   Some sightseeing that you can do on your own are museums, shopping, public beaches (the local cabbies will know which ones are safe for tourists), or even day passes at resorts (Atlantis, for example). Save some fun for the next time so that you will have something new to do when you return.

Save money and catch a cab to Dunn's River, Ocho Rios, Jamaica


10. The more you visit a port, the more familiar and safer you will feel. Nassau is one of the most popular ports and you can tell experienced cruisers. They haven’t bought an excursion in years, yet they've done almost everything there.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Stop and Watch the Trees: Fall Foliage

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr. Purchase our fine art and decor or stock photos on ShutterstockZenfolioImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime. 



Click the photo to buy a Kindle

Fall Foliage
Locations Outside of the Northeast USA

(Note: many travel books now come in electronic editions only. You do not need a Kindle to buy e-books. Buy them on the Amazon website and just download the app for your tablet). 

We folks in the Northeastern region of the USA might think that our neck of the woods are the only place to see fall foliage (pun intended) but we understand that other parts of the USA can share in the glory, also. If you can't get to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and of course, my home state, New York, here are some other alternatives:


Sedona has been a hot destination for quite some time. The Oak Creek Canyon would be a good locale to hike and view at the same time. Try mid-October. 




While you're in Arizona, make your way to the iconic Grand Canyon. Autumn is still popular, but the crowds may not be as tremendous as the summer. The backdrop of the gorgeous canyon to the vibrant colors of autumn promises a feast for the eyes. 




Always a popular destination with landscape photographers, Zion is a natural choice for fall leaf-peeping. The canyons' natural hues only serve to highlight the foliage.






Plan this for next year: you must enter a lottery for a permit to drive the road. You can enter the lottery May 1-May 31. You have to choose the date you would like. Check the link above in May to plan for next fall. I'm sure the views of snow-capped mountains and the fall foliage will be worth the effort.





Known for it's waterfalls, picture those flowing waters with the saturated colors of trees through your viewfinder. Add to that the fantastic wildlife and you have a postcard in the making.





Trail Ridge Road seems to be a hotspot to get your exercise on while taking in the breathtaking views of autumn. Watch the wildlife as you take in the atmosphere.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An Intro to...10 Things to do on Governors Island, NYC

Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).


Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr. Purchase our fine art and decor or stock photos on ShutterstockZenfolioImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.



TOP 10 THINGS TO DO ON 
GOVERNORS ISLAND, NYC

Governors Island seems like a well-kept secret known only by locals New Yorkers who live in Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn. Every summer, the ferries start again and the island opens up for fun and relaxation. 





How to Get There:
There are two ways to get on the island: Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan, 10 South Street between Broad and Whitehall (1 train to South Ferry, 4 or 5 to Bowling Green, R to Whitehall St. or M9, M15 bus) and from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway and Atlantic Avenue (2, 3, 4, 5 trains to Borough Hall, R train to Court Street or the B63 bus. 





There's a small fee for the ferry and bikes will cost a tiny bit extra (worth it). Before you go off and have fun, immediately check the timetable for the ferry back. Although you may want to stay until the end, know that the lines can get longer the later you stay. 

You'll land at Soissons Landing (what is a Soissons?), Pier 102 or Yankee Pier (from Brooklyn).

Stuff to Know:

Once there, you can opt to walk, bicycle or jog the loop of the island and see the sights. The one main road will take you all around and there are paths that cut across to other sections. 

There's been many upgrades in the last few years and some construction is still on-going. 



What to Do:


1. Get Some Wheels or Bring Your Own...














2. Peek into the Past: 


Fort Jay: 



Castle Williams: 




Nolan Park: 


 Colonels Row:









3. Take a Hike...Up the Hills:





4. See Some Art: local artists showcase their work in the historic buildings in Nolan Park or Colonels Row.





5. Take a Snooze...There's actually a Hammock Grove.



Buy a folding blanket here





6. Grab a Snack: there are food trucks on Liggett Terrace and ice cream and other vendors throughout the island.




7. See a Lighthouse? Well, really a light station.




8. Enjoy the skylines of Manhattan and Brooklyn:




9. Check out the events: concerts, festivals, etc.





10. Integrate into the Environment... 




For more info: Governors Islandhttps://govisland.com/. The map.



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