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“E” is for Electronics

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I hinted at this with the “D” post yesterday, but have you noticed how our attraction to electronics has changed the traveling experience? The TV commercials make it all look so easy – just whip out your phone and snap a pic of the two of you in front of the Trevi Fountain. Edit and email this great video clip of you (or someone) whitewater rafting on the Colorado before your hair’s even dried. ¬†Skype your conference call and no one will ever know you’re in a Tokyo hotel room instead of in your office in Duluth.

iPads, phones, laptops, cameras and even Kindles – yes, even Gameboys and portable DVD players – ¬†are awesome tools and toys to have along with you for the trip. But it also translates into more stuff to carry and keep track of -and eventually it’s all going to have to be plugged in to something and recharged.

Is it any coincidence that the airlines started to charge for baggage right about the time our concept of travel neccessities started to change? In 1999, I could have done just fine with a carry-on only; now the gadgets and cords and chargers take up valuable space. On a recent overnight trip to Toronto, I realized that the number of cords in my bag outnumbered the pairs of clean socks! When we travel by car, we’ve even taken to designating a bag as the “electronics” bag, keeping all the cords and chargers in one place. MInd you, as someone who once shared the task of carrying a JVC Super 8 movie camera up Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, the toys themselves have gotten a lot lighter. It just seems like there’s so much more of them!

Hotel rooms aren’t exactly keeping up with progress either. Whereas we used to check in, dump our bags and reach for the remote, we now spend the first half hour locating all the outlets, so everything can be plugged in to recharge. And there are never enough outlets, or they’re in wildly inconvenient places.

What are your electronic must-brings when you travel? How do you deal with the plethora of cords and batteries while on the road?


Check the date!

How time flies! It seems like only yesterday that news of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was first announced, and then implemented. This, of course, required Canadians, many of whom had enjoyed travelling in and through the US for years, to now produce a passport upon entry to “the States” by land, sea and air. In fact, it was almost five years ago that discussion of this initiative first started, and almost three years ago (June 2009) when the policy came into effect.

For families like mine – where most of our travel took place in Canada and the US – this meant you needed a passport for the first time ever. Even if you were just making a quick run across the border for groceries. Or to pick up someone at the airport. Or to visit a friend. And also for families like mine, who weren’t prepared to shell out the cost of passports for everyone all at once, (they’re about $85 apiece!) you probably started getting your family’s passports one at a time, nice and early in advance of the deadline.

If this was your process, it’s time to start checking your dates – Canadian passports are typically valid for five years (three years for children under 3). Depending on when your family started acquiring their passports, the expiry dates may be approaching soon.

I know my passport isn’t exactly top-of-mind for me: it stays in a safe place 95% of the time. If you’re a passport holder who doesn’t travel outside of Canada often, it’s probably not top-of-mind for you either. You know you have it, and that’s enough -enough to safely envision that spur-of-the-moment cruise in the Carribean with a Detroit departure. But that expiry date can sneak up on you! And while simply having a valid passport may be enough for entry into the US, many countries you may ultimately travel to could require a certain length of remaining validity, like three or six months.

It’s time to check your expiry date, and figure out a system for keeping track of it. Maybe writing it down on your yearly calendar is the answer – a simple “renew passport” notation could be the answer. Or check it today, and then make checking the date part of your birthday routine every year.

After all, it would be a real downer to decide to jet off to Europe this summer and then discover you’d have to postpone your trip.

For more information about Canadian passport validity and renewal, visit Passport Canada.