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Tag-Archive for "serenity travel club"

Something else to do in Chicago 2 Dec 01

The true travel sophisticate, who visits the same place more than once, often finds the most interesting feature of a good destination is the food.

In Chicago, you’re supposed to try the Chicago Style Pizza.

Its reputation extends clear to Delaware, and one thing my dear sweet wife wanted to try on this, her first visit to the windy city, was some Chicago Style Pizza. So after we checked out Fox and Obel’s food market, we asked around (Traveler’s rule for asking directions: Always get directions from more than one person. Keep asking until you get two people who tell you the same thing. The first two people we asked suggested the same place), and got directions to a place that had authentic, genuine-not-imitation, real Chicago-style pizza, Gino’s East. It was walking distance. We plopped our $75 worth of exotic groceries into our vehicle, and headed off.

Halfway there, we stumbled on Lawry’s, of seasoned salt fame. (The salt is a product of the restaurant.) We were going to be in town one more day—the pizza could wait. I took my dear sweet patient wife to Lawry’s, and therein hangs a tale. But this post is getting long. Here’s a link to the tale: Chicago Adventure.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the Chicago-style pizza feast that actually happened.

Try not to get lost Nov 26

One of the rules for going on a road trip is not to get lost. We had the prospect of driving more than 12 hours from the east coast to Chicago, in the rain, on the day before Thanksgiving, during the morning rush at our starting point, and during the evening rush at the destination. Sounds like fun, eh?

Get a GPS! Carry an atlas for backup. Our GPS served us well; we drove straight to the goal without a hiccup. Yes, the weather was miserable, yes we ate mainly junk while we were on the road. Yes the trip consumed three tanks of gas.

But yes, we were relaxed: We had plenty of time for the trip (we didn’t tell them when we would arrive), and we swapped driving chores agreeably. She likes to have me read to her while she drives, and I like to read aloud. Makes the hours and miles go quickly, and we polish off a book in the process. And I remembered to take an anti-car-sickness pill.

They were glad to see us when we arrived. What could be better?

Travel agent or not? Nov 18

You decide to go on a vacation, a really nice one, to an exotic location, or at least something more exotic than Aunt Martha’s. How do you decide where to go and how to get there?

You could go online (that’s where you are right now, you’ll notice) and do a little research and reading on the subject of travel (which you’re also doing right now). How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? What about hidden costs, problems you might not think of, secret discounts you don’t know about, pitfalls in processing—many dangers lurk in traveling beyond familiar confines. All that research—and figuring out how the processes work—is time consuming. What’s your time worth?

You might visit a travel agent. Travel agents have an unearned reputation for being expensive. After all, they have offices and all those fancy travel books and posters. All those ads are supplied by the cruise lines and travel companies, and that’s who pays the agent, too, not you, normally. If an agent has to charge you for a service, they will tell you up front. if you’re in a travel club, you can expect the agent to reduce or eliminate the commission, too, further reducing the price.  Ask yourself: What’s a travel agent’s knowledge and experience worth? They know the ropes, pitfalls, they have access to all the discounts, and they’ll save you time—after you get to know a travel agent, one phone call can take care of everything.

Of course, you have the same problem picking a travel agent as you do making travel decisions online: Who’s good? How do you tell? Here are a few ways to take the measure of a travel agent.

  • Does the person have a connection to you? (This rule applies to real estate sales and funeral directors, too.) Relatives, acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends are motivated to take especially good care of you.
  • Is the person well traveled? Especially if they have been to where you want to go, but all travel experience seasons a person to the rigors of travel. A travel agent who has personally been around the block a few times is a fount of wisdom and advice, and they can tell you what to expect.
  • Is the person organized? Not necessarily neat (but that’s a good indicator), but can they find your file immediately? Do they know where everything is? That sort of thing. You don’t want an absent-minded professor as your travel agent. You never (okay, seldom) see a good travel agent surprised by something, and they keep their promises about when they’ll have something ready. They are ready for you when you show up after the first, introductory meeting.
  • Do they answer phone calls and emails promptly? This is a must. Even if they have to tell you they need more time, they don’t make you wait for a reply.
  • Do they want to do a good job for you? You can tell this by the number of choices they present you with. A lazy travel agent won’t research multiple options, won’t hunt for the best price. You see them look up one thing and give you a price. A good agent will hunt down good deals, think of options (a nearby less expensive location, for instance) that you didn’t consider, check with several wholesalers, give you a lot to choose from.

A good travel agent can make your next trip more enjoyable.

See if you get the pun:

Note the sign on the back wall...

(Note the sign on the back wall)

Another “hidden” cost on a cruise Nov 09

Well, not exactly hidden, but it’s not part of the price you pay to get on the cruise.

Everyone knows that the cruise lines low-ball the fare (and some travel agents, especially, ahem, travel clubs, can discount them even more), for which you get the cabin, the food, the evening entertainment, and many activities. If that’s all you care to do, a cruise is a really, really  good deal. You can stay fairly busy and have a pretty good time without ever leaving the boat.

However, the cruise companies also offer shopping, gambling, and alcoholic beverages on board, and those aren’t free. Justifiably, perhaps—after all, people have so many individual preferences that it’s impossible to include these in a way that would please anyone, much less everyone.

Don’t drink? Gambling against your religion? You’re satisfied with your possessions? You’re still not out of danger. If you’re not into any of those vices, you probably want to do some sightseeing or have an adventure while you’re on shore, right?  After all, you won’t find much snorkeling in Kansas, or catamaran rides, or a Georgian naval base. If you have any intellectual curiosity or spirit of adventure, be prepared to go on a couple cruise-sponsored activities. Every port of call has something worth doing, and unless you speak the language fluently, and have local relatives, you’re ahead to stick with the planned itineraries. Prices range  from $35 to $100, and they have something to suit every taste. They’re worth it. Sign up for something at every port. The memories are worth far more than the cost of the excursion.

Replica of the original Endeavour—the space shuttle was named after this ship

Replica of the original Endeavour—the space shuttle was named after this ship

Here’s a pic of the Georgian (architectural style) naval base, on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. You can go on a really interesting tour of the place if your cruise ship stops at Antigua.

Another travel comic Nov 05

It relates to the post earlier in this blog about road trips—the part that refers to the zen saying. 299802.fullHere’s a link to the comic’s site: F Minus