Traveling on United to Boston For New Year’s Eve

Flying over the Sierra Nevada

Flying over the Sierra Nevada

So I decided I hadn’t traveled enough in 2016 (a dubious assessment, you might rightly think) and I therefore took off today, December 30th, to spend New Year’s in Boston with my son. He broke up with his girlfriend this Fall and was planning on dinner alone at a family favorite restaurant that I introduced him to, Cragie on Main. This upset his mother. Oh, and I might also mention that a trip to Boston pre-January 1 would throw me over the finish line for 1K status with United next year. So my long-suffering husband (who hates New Year’s and hardly ever stays up till midnight on New Year’s with me anyway) said MERRY CHRISTMAS and here I am on a United flight to ORD (Chicago) and then BOS (Boston) to meet my son. It’s funny, but as you get near 1K status, all of a sudden you can speak in airport shorthand…

In any event, I also decided to try to burn some RPU certificates that I got as a Platinum elite flyer with United. I got a fairly cheap flight and booked myself into Economy Plus…and even though all the flights had TONS of first class seats, of course United waitlisted me on all of them. Um, thanks United. And then on this flight I go to check in and there are still 2 seats left in first class. United, in it’s non-infinite wisdom, decided they would try to upsell the remaining first class seats for $200 each (yep, I was offered to BUY the seat for $200 at check-in) instead of honoring my hard-earned RPU. Of course they both sold for that price and I ended up #1 on the upgrade list and my upgrade didn’t clear. I hope that the $200 makes the difference in your yearly profitability report United, cause It seriously pissed off this frequent flyer. Continue reading

A Family Trip In Osaka

Arcade in Osaka

Arcade in Osaka

Finally a quiet moment on my trip. I haven’t blogged much (other than micro-blogging on Instagram) since this Japan trip is a family trip and the first time in probably 6 years that my family has been on a trip all together, just the four of us (me, Mr. Travelholic, Son Travelholic and Daughter Travelholic). So spending time together has been the major priority. We have also kept incredibly busy, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Arima, Hiroshima/Miyajima and Osaka in just 9 days. The trip would have been much better paced if we could have had 2 extra days, but Daughter Travelholic had to get back to classes and Son Travelholic had to get back to work on Monday.

We have also walked and walked and walked this trip which is common in Japan; we have easily walked over 14,000 steps each day which is about 6 miles; today I have walked 16,218 steps or 6.84 miles and we are going out to roam the Continue reading

Flying All Nippon Airways to Japan for the First Time

United Club at SFO

United Club at SFO

My kids have already departed from Boston and Mr. Travelholic and I are ensconsed in the United Club at SFO awaiting the beginning of our trip to Japan. We are here a million hours early because of that one time I gave myself 6 hours to get to SFO from my home (normally a 3.5 hour drive) and nearly missed my flight due to Bay Bridge traffic. Of course today there was no traffic and we have nearly 4 hours now to wait till our plane departs for LAX, and then to Haneda on the red eye.

You might ask why we are going from SFO to LAX and then to Haneda, and then why on an awful redeye. Well, we were able to get 1/2 price Business Class tickets by picking this route, and since putting my legs flat vs not for 12 hours help the rheumatoid arthritis affected knee joints immensely, this is the route we have picked. The difference between flat legs vs bent legs for that long can mean hitting the ground running vs. a slow and painful start to an international trip.

As for the redeye, we get into Tokyo at a godwaful 5am arrival time. Mr. Travelholic sleeps great on planes and is already plotting his day in Tokyo. I never sleep on planes and look at all such plans with great trepidation.

We are taking All Nippon Airways (“ANA”) for the first time internationally. This is exciting because we always take Continue reading

Playing Travel Delay Roulette. And Losing. And then Sort-of Winning.

View from Cortyard Marriott, Portland Waterfront

View from my room at the Courtyard Marriott Portland Waterfront

So yesterday morning my group of five travelers (ranging in age from 21 to 83) woke themselves up at the ridiculously early hour of 3:30am (12:30am West Coast time if you are counting) to catch a 6:15am flight out of Portland. We normally wouldn’t try to leave that early going East coast to West coast but we were trying to make a wedding on the West coast after seeing the play my daughter directed on the East coast the night before. Tough scheduling.

We had a non-eventful trip to the airport and then Gate. Very pleasant actually; no traffic from Freeport to Portland, easy car-rental return, easy Premier check-in line (thank you United) and TSA-Pre security. We like the choices for breakfast at PWM (Portland International Jetway): great breakfast bagel sandwiches at The Great American Bagel and Starbucks (I think there is also a Burger King for those so inclined). Am I the only person who eats low carb except on long air travel days because I just have to self-soothe on those days…).

We boarded the plane in a timely manner, and then the captain’s voice: “We have to power Continue reading

2Hippos and Off I Go!

Me, at SMF airport after waking up at 4:30AM to catch an early flight

Me, at SMF airport after waking up at 4:30AM to catch an early flight

When you live in a small city on the West Coast, going anywhere on the East Coast generally requires waking up at a horribly early hour; most flights I need take off between 5:30 and 6:30am; we live 1.5 hours from the nearest airport (thanks, United, I’m still bitter about you ending flights to our local airport in 2014…please come back). I’m not a morning person; the wake-up time math is ugly.

This time we stayed at the Residence Inn near the airport but we still had to wake up at 4:30am (and thank you to Marriott for the very nice Starbucks gift cards you had for me at reception as a Welcome Back gift…you know the way to my heart!). We parked in 2H at the airport (hence 2Hippos…its how we remember where we are parked; take the floor and the letter and imagine the correct number of a memorable animal).. We flew through TSA Pre, navagated the long but quickly moving line at Peets coffee, got to the Gate with 15 minutes to boarding time, and I am on the plane as I type.

I am heading up to Maine for a multi-purpose trip. We have friends and family along to see my daughter’s production of Sherlock Holmes (she is the director) at Bates College. We are staying at a favorite place, the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, my son is joining us from Boston, and we are scoping out possible rental locations and rentals for Summer of 2017. So pretty busy for a 4 day trip, and I’m hoping to have some time for blogging and photography as well.

And for those new to my blog, I also post travel images and micro-blog daily over at Instagram, at TheTinyTravelholic so follow my page and check back often; I also followand interact with my community on Instagram as much as possible; I love seeing all of your travels and adventures!

Excursions on the Carnival Breeze, Western Caribbean: Beaches, Ruins and Snorkeling

Shot with DXO ONE Camera

Passion Island Beach, Shot with DXO ONE Camera from the boat as we approached the shore.

I am definitely a person who takes ship excursions whenever possible. I am well aware that you can often find cheaper, similar activities on your own, but just once in my life when off on my own activities at port I had to run to catch a cruise ship. This was in Turkey, and I decided right then and there that it was worth any extra money for the security that taking a ship excursion gives you (if your excursion gets back late, the ship will wait).  Yes, watching runners trying to catch a ship can be entertaining for everyone on board the ship, but trust me, it’s not very entertaining if you are the person doing the running. So, I took three excursions on the Carnival Breeze on my recent Western Caribbean cruise (September 25 to October 2) Here are my reviews of those excursions, plus some thoughts on excursions that other people in my party took.

               PASSION ISLAND: In Cozumel, Mr. Travelholic and I decided to have a romantic day alone on Passion Island, which is really just a far peninsula of Cozumel.  We took a 40-minute smaller boat to our location, and then had an idyllic all-inclusive day on a perfect Caribbean beach. Turquoise water, soft sand, and all drinks and food included. And hammocks; right in the gentle warm water. We spent a good part of the day in those hammocks and it was wonderful.  There were water activities and dancing activities for those who wanted to do more than we did. The food was typical and tasty Mexican fare, and the drinks were tasty (don’t ask me about quality of alcohol because I can’t tell you…I’m not a big drinker and my husband doesn’t drink at all, but I had a couple of the margaritas and enjoyed them). My only criticism of the excursion is that it wasn’t long enough; we certainly had enough time to stay for another hour and I wish we had.  This was a particularly uncrowded excursion when we were there, but we were the only cruise ship in the port, and I’ve been to Cozumel when there were seven, and I asked one of the operators and they said on a particularly busy day there could be as many as 1,000 people so your results may vary.  One reminder: my husband and I knew all was included for the excursion fee ($69.99 each) and we are not big shoppers, so we didn’t bring any cash or credit cards with us, just our ship cards. This turned out to be a mistake, because the absolutely best picture of us on the cruise was taken there and we didn’t have $12 to buy it. We took some money with us on the next two excursions. Finally, typical cruise music was played on the boat ride back (Wobble, Macarena, etc) and crew and cruisers who were so moved danced.

          LAMANI RUINS: In Belize, we had our longest excursion, a 7-hour jaunt to the lovely and remote Lamani Mayan ruins. imageThe ship tendered us in at Belize City, and to get to the ruins took a lengthy bus ride and a 35-minute boat ride up a jungle river. Just a note that the river is wide, so if you are imagining wildlife over your head in trees along the river, you will be disappointed. The ruins themselves, however, are surrounded by jungle and we saw very interesting flora and fauna while we were there including howler monkeys and leaf cutting ants.  The ruins themselves were outstanding; very scenic due to the jungle all around them, not crowded the day we were there, knowledgeable guides (our guide had actually worked on excavation at the site) and you get to climb the High Temple for a fantastic view (most Mayan ruins I have been to do not allow you to climb them). On the way back you get a classic Belizean lunch and the opportunity to purchase beverages (I did one of those rum drinks in a coconut, because it is a law that if you come to the Caribbean you must drink rum at least once and have a drink in a coconut at least once as well). The lunch was at a relatively new tourist facility on the river that was very nice.  The bus ride was interesting; you could see this area of Belize was poor, and you could also see the damage that a recent hurricane had caused to trees and some buildings.
Continue reading

Writing My Travel Blog

Walking around Osaka last November I found many restaurants and cafes perfect for writing.

Walking around Osaka last November I found many restaurants and cafes perfect for writing.

This post could just as easily be entitled “Not Writing My Travel Blog” because sometimes life just conspires against you when you are a writer.

Writing a travel blog is the hardest when I am actually traveling. Because it’s always a choice of spending my time having experiences and taking photos or spending my time writing.  Generally I do try to build some down time into my trip so I don’t exhaust myself (rheumatoid arthritis and exhaustion do not go well together), so I’ll try to couple the down time at a café, hotel, or cruise cabin with writing. Sometime this works, sometimes your significant other or best friend has other ideas.  I generally travel with someone, be it my husband,  children, other family members or friends, and sometimes the downtime belongs to them; sometimes sitting in a café with your husband or friend talking and laughing beats writing.

Which brings up trying to write at home when there are other people around. After a break from writing for a few years after I left, I am just now getting back into a writing routine.  This seems a bit hard for certain members of my family to comprehend.  This week was a bit of a writing wash out, since I had family members in town, a premiere of The Producers at my theater company, and backed up home chores after my recent cruise.  Did I mention the giant storm that blew in making my RA feel just terrible (honestly, I’m like a weather vane).  In any event, I woke up all ready to write this morning!  And them Mr. Travelholic bops into the bedroom all energy and excitement, and announces that we have 14 errands to do in town, plus he needs a trip to the bookstore.  I grumble that he has enough books and I planned to spend the day writing. He grumbles that I shouldn’t ignore him on a Saturday morning. Negotiations ensue; so here I am writing and bookstore and errands shall commence later today.

Then there is Instagram.  Instagram is the perfect thing to do when I want to work on my whole “travel blogging and travel photography Tiny Travelholic” thing, but just don’t have the time or the energy to write.  But the thing about Instagram is it is  a huge time suck, especially when you are trying to grow a new account.  Which I am. So, I’ll head into Instagram to post one of my 100,000 travel photos (yep, been taking travel photos since 1984) and before you know it, I’m liking other people’s images, adding followers, and sucked into Lightroom or my iPhone photos to find more photos to post.  Next thing you know it’s an hour (or two) later.  I’ll definitely do an article on Instagram and travel photography in the near future; if you haven’t yet checked out my Instagram it’s The Tiny Travelholic and it’s a great place to see my travel photography and micro blogging about places while I’m between posts here.  And of course, more actual blogging is on the way. I have a few upcoming articles on my recent Carnival Breeze cruise, a review of the DxO One camera, a look at different types of photo equipment for different types of trips, plus I’ll be in Maine shortly and then Japan again.  So stay tuned!



Hurricane Matthew, Natural Disasters and Travel

Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole wind speed, courtesy of NHC

Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole wind speed, courtesy of NHC

When I book travel, I generally don’t think about natural disasters. Well, maybe a little bit. I won’t book an island with an erupting volcano (unless it’s the Big Island of Hawaii) and I won’t book a place that has just had a major natural disaster (like Nepal after the recent earthquakes). Otherwise, natural disasters don’t usually cross my mind.

Except that when I booked my recent Carnival Cruise to the Western Caribbean, hurricanes actually DID cross my mind and were a topic of discussion with the friends I booked the cruise with. We realized that by booking a Caribbean cruise in September we were booking right into hurricane season. We weighed the pros and cons. On the “pros” side, the timing for the cruise was right for us: the show I was Assistant Director for was ending a week before the cruise, and no one else was performing in//rehearsing for a show. Also, there are less children on the boat at the end of September because school is in session (we are empty nesters, so a plus for us).  Another pro was that cruises to the Caribbean during September are generally cheaper, so we could get a great deal for our booking. Continue reading

Post-Vacation Depression

Processed with Snapseed.

Vacation memories may fade a bit but some will always be in technicolor. Carnival Breeze.*

My cruise vacation is over, and I have a classic case of post-vacation depression. My cruise was everything I hoped it would be, I had a huge amount of fun and sun, and now I am home and reality hits hard.

The trip back was uneventful although a little more difficult than the trip out; on the trip to Galveston we had a direct flight from Sacramento to Houston on United, but due to timing issues, on the way back we had to travel Houston-San Francisco-Sacramento. Plus roughly 1.5 hour drives each way to the airports. We had some minor travel delays due to air traffic control in San Francisco (typical) but nothing too troublesome.

The most troublesome part of my trip home was that I had somehow sprained my ankle dancing away the evenings on the Carnival Breeze. I attended the line-dancing deck party, and then the fabulous Rock-N-Glow 80s party, and danced twice at Club Liquid.  As an ex-dancer, I’m going to dance on vacation whether or not my RA is effecting body parts. I knew my right knee was bad due to the RA and also an old injury, so I think what happened is that I overly-relied on my left side (as I often do) while dancing all week. The last day of the cruise I woke up to a really swollen and painful left ankle. I didn’t feel myself injure it, but it definitely was sprained. Continue reading

Cruise Debarkation Day: All Good Things Must Come to an End

Shot with DXO ONE Camera Processed with Snapseed.

Empty sun loungers on the Lido deck of the Carnival Breeze

There is nothing sadder than a cruise ship the morning of debarkation. The long awaited vacation full of sun, fun and friends is over, and to add insult to injury, you generally have to vacate your room pretty early so you wake up at the crack of dawn.

For our debarkation, Mr. Travelholic and I always choose to self-assist.  On the plus side, you get to keep your luggage with you instead of having to leave it outside your door before midnight the previous evening.  I’m always afraid I’ll be one of those cruisers you see the next morning debarking in their pajamas because they forgot to keep an outfit out for debarkation morning. Although they are entertaining.

Another plus is that the self-assist people get to debark before the people who ask for luggage assistance. For me this is a huge plus; some people like getting a leisurely breakfast and coffee and having a last cruise moment.  Not me; I wake up and all I can think about is getting home.  Continue reading