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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?

“A” is for Airports

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It’s rare to find anyone who has anything very positive to say about airports. While much is printed, blogged and tweeted about the hassle involved in traversing this no-man’s-land between here and there (wherever “here” and “there” happen to be), I can’t recall reading or hearing about anyone who’s been particularly happy about spending time in an airport.

Until now. I love airports.

I’m not what you’d call a frequent flyer – I’ve flown perhaps two dozen times in my life. And none of that internationally. And I can’t say that I’ve a specific airport that stands out as a favourite. But I haven’t yet met an airport I didn’t like either.

From Denver (the largest airport I’ve ever been in) to Elliot Lake, Ontario (I recall it was about the size of my living room), there’s something about the coming and going that I find at once soothing and exhilarating. Leaving home, stepping into the airport is the point at which I begin to truly feel “away.” Coming back from a trip, it’s once again the arrival at the airport that turns my attention away from the vacation just passed and toward home. For me, the stress of traveling- going or coming- stops when I get to the airport, not the other way around.

The airport is the world in miniature; I’ve never understood those who glue themselves to a movie or book for two solid hours before their flight leaves. Oh sure, I read; I also people watch, shop, eat, wander, eat some more. I particularly like browsing the news-stands; were it not for the aforementioned Denver airport, I likely never would have discovered Mental Floss magazine, for instance. My gut reaction to the plot of The Terminal was “how cool would it be to live in an airport?” It’s right up there with the concept of living in a shopping mall (thank you Richard Peck)

I’m sure part of it derives from when I was little; my grandpa would often take me out to the local airport to watch the planes take off and land. This was back in the day when anyone could get through the gate and go right up to the window. We’d watch a few planes, then adjourn to a nearby truck stop for  a snack. I even loved watching the baggage pickup – staring at that hole in the wall, trying to guess when it would spit out the first suitcase, and who it would belong to.

I’m the first to volunteer when anyone I know needs a ride to the airport. And I’ll even pay for parking and go in to wait when I’m picking someone up. It’s not as much fun anymore, with all the good stuff on the other side of security, but I’ll take what I can get.

What’s your favourite airport experience?

Here comes the rain again

It’s raining again, which is, sadly, becoming more normal than snow during the winters in these parts. I see all these rom-coms and sob-fests of US Thanksgiving homecomings, yada yada, and there’s always this white fluffy blanket of snow. And I think, where do these people live? I’m in Canada and the marigolds and roses still have their blooms.

But rain’s got me thinking about a particular travel challenge. Everyone feels more enthusiastic and adventurous when the sun is shining, or the weather’s co-operating. But how do you cope with the rain? Let’s face it, walking, using public transportation, and especially any outdoor sightseeing, just suck in the rain.

I saw a Samantha Brown travel video a while ago, she was in Munich IIRC, and she mentioned remembering to bring along her umbrella. It was just your basic, collapsible, telescoping umbrella. Folded down to a size where she could fit it in her shoulder bag. I was surprised by how insubstantial it looked.

And there’s the problem. I purchased an umbrella this year that I’m happy with, as a public transit user. It’s lovely, black with red polka dots, makes a bit of a statement, and most importantly, keeps me relatively dry. But it’s not telescoping- folded, it’s still two feet long, and there’s no strap on the handle for hanging, so it’s a bit of a pain to put it somewhere when I arrive, wherever somewhere happens to be.

But those little collapsible “travel” umbrellas, the ones like Samantha Brown had in the video? I don’t get it. I’ve never had one last more than two rainfalls before it breaks – the wind gets under it, the flimsy little hinge on the rib breaks, you name it. It becomes useless faster than you can say “It’s supposed to clear after lunch.”

So, give me some hints here. How do you cope with the rain when you’re wandering the world? Imagine you aren’t driving, and your budget will only withstand so many taxi rides. And do you believe Samantha Brown really gets by with such a flimsy umbrella?

Can airport x-rays damage your Kindle or other e-reader? | Sync™ Blog

Can airport x-rays damage your Kindle or other e-reader? | Sync™ Blog.

Yikes! Having had both the girls’ Kindles experience this problem of the screen blacking out – although it seemed to happen spontaneously several  months after they’d flown – it makes me wonder. Guess I’ll be investigating silicone Kindle covers for Christmas gifts.

‘Cause really, one of the main points of having a Kindle, IMHO, is how it allows you to travel with lots of reading material.

C-c-c-c-old!

It happens every year, right on time – the temperature drops, and all of a sudden I’m dreaming of blue skies, sandy beaches and palm trees. And I don’t even like beaches.

But wanting a winter getaway is just one of the burdens of living in Northern climes. Florida would be lovely; or somewhere in the Caribbean, definitely. Heck, at this point, I’ll take a nice 60-degree day in Kentucky. I don’t mind wearing a sweater – what I mind is wearing a sweater and still being cold.

A warm weather adventure is not in the cards for me this winter, but it is for many of those I know. Where will you find the warm this winter?

Travelling light

When I was a little girl, I used to spend two weeks at camp every summer. My mother would let me pack my own suitcase; then, the night before departure, I’d have to drag it out into the dining room for inspection. Whereupon, my mother would add all the things I hadn’t thought of, and any extras she believed I would need. (she was usually right) The end result was that my suitcase always seemed to contain far more than I would need for 13 nights away, and it was full full full.

You would think that after years of cramming a family of five – and their luggage – into a minivan for vacations, that I’d be an expert reducing my luggage to its essentials.

You would think, but you’d be wrong. All those folks that were so upset about airlines charging for checked bags? Yeah, I was one of them. This, in spite of the fact that I usually get where I’m going, use only half of what I brought, and always swear that NEXT TIME it’ll be different.

I’m off to Toronto for the Students in Travel Conference tomorrow; I’ll be away from home a total of 39 hours. Theoretically, I need what I’m wearing tomorrow, something to sleep in, what I’m wearing for the conference on Tuesday, and that’s about it. Sounds easy, right?

Ha!

First, what am I wearing on the train? The train is often cold; I’ll need layers. Plus, things to entertain me, like the laptop, Kindle, etc. And train snacks. At the other end, I’ll be staying with a friend, but I need to use the TTC to get there; hence, I will need my coat, mittens, and possibly a hat. And my umbrella.

I have to decide now what I’m wearing to the conference on Tuesday. Not too big a deal, but what if I change my mind? What if I spill something on my shirt, or something rips? Will the convention centre be blazing hot, or freezing cold? And then there’s the fact that everything I’m not wearing will have to go to the conference with me – on the bus – because I’m leaving on the train again right after. Plus, I’ll want to make sure that whatever I’m wearing will also be comfortable train attire. And the train is often cold, etc.

The inability to travel light isn’t the only thing that’s stopped me from being a world traveller yet, but I have the feeling it’s something I’m going to need to get a handle on.

What are your favourite tips for travelling light?