Tour Packages: Are They Worth The Costs?

glasgow-cathedral-and-infirmaryIt’s a month out from your trip and you are contemplating your very tight budget. Some of the considerations are that you really want to see a bunch of castles near where you are staying, but can’t do a hire car because of the cost. That will leave you with a tour option. However there are so many tours, how can you find one that fits your needs and well, isn’t too touristy?

Hint: For larger cities like London, you will always find a tour. But really good ones can fill up in advance. If a tour has really good ratings, also check for complaints against in a search. You may want to book a few weeks out, especially in high summer, August.

I don’t know about you, but I really am not a fan of traditional tours. Tourists can be so distracting and well, in some cases, behave poorly when on a trip. When I am traveling, I usually avoid the traditional tourist traps if I can, or try to see them at off times, and visit spaces like someone who may live there might. However, if you really want to see a land feature or castle and it’s out of city limits, you may have to resort to a tour.

Commercial Tours €£€£

If you really have limited time and want to pack in as much as you can, the commercial tour companies that depart from most city squares are your bet. You will pay between £30-50 for these tours on brightly colored buses from most metropolitan squares. Then you have to deal with densely packed buses. You can get to a great many sites in one day. I find if I do use these services, I will plan one day to be used up, and of course get back into town and head for a neighborhood I like, just to get some sense of people and community. They are noisy, smelly affairs.

Avoiding Commercial Tours: Compromise €£€£€

There are smaller, more intimate tours for the areas you may be visiting. These are usually smaller vans and smaller bus affairs. They will, however, cost more than the massive tour bus companies. You are paying for a smaller comfort and more intimate and personal tour. Sometimes these are run by smaller family businesses, groups of friends. You can even get specific tours that may follow a theme. Keep in mind that these can cost over €75-200 per person, but may be over several days. Also, check Twitter. Some smaller companies have accounts and you can check out their feed and see what tours are going on and what people are saying.

Walking Tours €0-10

Finding walking tours in cites whether guided or self guided means doing some research. If you check out a tour guide like Trip Advisor, you can get a good selection of these tours along with paying tours listed. There are tours operated by independents that may involve a small group that hires themselves out. These can be really entertaining as many of the guides are locals and you can contribute what you like and tip them. You may find that it is easier to meet groups of other travelers and then have a meal afterwards. Check for local online and hard copy community newspapers and magazines. They will have a good listing of these tours. Also, research alternative tours of the area.

Public Transport Tours – Self Guided £5-10

If you have a few days in an area, using public transit and getting around on your own tour can be done. Most local cities and towns even have maps and bus route information on their city websites with tourists in mind. There are also many touring apps that have city walking tours and tours that venture out. Now, these are free for the most part, and may not be up to date. There may also be roadworks and improvements going on that may delay you, you will need to check local information. I did quite a bit around Inverness last year via this route. You do not get as much packed in as an organized commercial tour, but it can be much easier on the budget.

There are many guided tours apps created by enterprising individuals or tourist boards. If you visit the App Store, you can find many of these. Also check online for local What’s On publications for the city. There may be an app they have created. And don’t forget local book stores. They carry these things called maps that fold out.

Booking

Trip Advisor/Viator are the same company, just different formats. One is the classic Trip Advisor green and the other is a bit more supped up and takes more bookings.

https://www.viator.com

Tour Radar

http://www.tourradar.com/d/europe

City Specific

London

Manchester

Cardiff Wales

Glasgow Tours

Edinburgh Tours

Dublin Tours

Belfast Tours

London Pass

Articles and Resources

https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/choosing-the-right-tour-company/

http://www.scotlandmadeeasy.co.uk/

http://www.irelandmadeeasy.eu/

https://www.vacationsbyrail.com/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/scotland/articles/12-of-the-best-self-guided-tours-of-scotland/

https://www.myirelandtour.com/travelguide/solo-travel.php

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/the-50-best-travel-websites-8646338.html

 

 

Suit Case Limits on European Flights: Check All Airlines Restrictions

downloadAfter months of keeping an eye out for suit case deals, reading articles and comparison charts by brand, a decision had to be made. I am flying in about a month and needed to get the reality check purchase made. Restrictions on size being the main criteria, small European flights are indeed small, like flying match sticks, and have no overhead room. So, how do you get that in that small but useful cabin bag size working for you and What features do you really need?

When I first started considering the small plane flights, I remembered one of my hops last year and how I barely made the size restrictions on that last leg of my Transatlantic  flight, and the fear and expense of having to track two bags in the hold. There’s nothing like getting to your dream vacation spot and your luggage takes days to catch up to you. I was using borrowed travel cases and learned so much about baggage “hate” that trip. This year I decided I had to budget for new cases and invest in sizes that fit the minimum or under in dimensions for the overhead bins in the cabins, and that they had to work for the smaller planes. After doing research on the internet, I decided I had better call the airlines for Aer Lingus restrictions on my tiny flight and was glad I did. The online references really weren’t clear, going mostly by weight. The case size was restricted to a 18 inch tall bag (length) and I had to research how to get the carry on under a good budget and afford the purchase of a second larger case. In my initial research, I found that if I bought cases according to maximum measurements, I was averaging a huge sum of money for specific sizes. I am sorry, I know there are people who love the designer thing, and some that are professional travelers, but most of us can’t spend $500.00 or more on luggage. That covers quite a few nights in a hotel. But what about buying cheap cases that may bust in the hold? How can you meet a tight budget and have cases that survive the trip? Check out reviews online and hope for the best. After some research and looking at some reviews, I made a choice that fit my budget and the size restrictions. I also went in with the mindset that if the cases made it through two Transatlantic trips, meaning two vacations, it would be a good investment. Why get a expensive set of luggage when size restrictions could change in the future?

Your carry on bag should contain all toiletries you will need immediately upon landing, and at the very least 2 changes of clothing. If your baggage is delayed you have something to work with while you wait for the cases to catch up with you.

Measurements for Consideration

55cm x 40cm x 24cm Cabin for Transatlantic, 18 inch tall for smaller planes.

90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) Checked Luggage size

Contact your airlines for intercontinental flights sizes before you board. The restrictions can vary per airline, but many airlines buy the same planes. The above is an average.

Luggage Restrictions for European Fights 2017

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Criterion

Hard-sided meeting European cabin luggage restrictions 18 inches tall, 4 wheels not 2, for smaller intercontinental and island hopping flights.

Wheeled, preferably spinner second case under 62 inch restrictions

Small travel backpack/day pack with iPad pouch and place to hide passport, etc.

Spend amount less than the price of one very expensive piece of luggage. Buy a set of2 for the price of one American Tourister.

Purchase Made: inUSA brand, Model: San Francisco, spinners( 4) on both cases, self locking TSA lock combo included (we’ll see about that).

imagesI finally made a choice after reviewing several cases on Amazon. I also chose a situation where shipping was free, since I was finding many of the cases were costing a great deal in shipping fees, thus adding to the price. My considerations were meeting the size restrictions and including spinner wheels height extension. After years of standard cases and lugging a case that was too bulky across Scotland last year, I decided it was time to scale down and streamline, bring less clothing and do more washing. Not something you want to have to do on your trip, but planning your trip to include space and time to do laundry unfortunately has to be done. I planned for laundry in Glasgow and Dublin Stops, with research on Yelp for reliable machines.

Other Considerations: TILE brand luggage and pets GPS tags, DYNOTAG permanent luggage tags. Osprey light daypack, featuring space for camel pack or laptop, tablet, and padding space, hiding space for passport.

Research Your Cases

http://www.luggageontour.com

http://nymag.com/strategist/article/the-best-rolling-luggage-according-to-frequent-fliers.html

 

 

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Travel Apps Round Up 2

ayrshire-antique-county-map-parishes-ayr-kilmarnock-scotland-lizars-1885-2-207660-p

Room for Your New Travel Snaps

Grab your smartphone and hang on. You are going on your trip in a month or less and getting extremely excited about everything your will do. You plan on taking snaps everywhere and wonder about the fact you already have a zillion photos on your phone. You have you hard copy itinerary and have booked on a travel app you are sort of liking but not sure is really your thing. There is so much to see and do, and you will get a hundred brochures on sites when you hit the hotel. Overload awaits you. Not if you start planning and clearing out the old, and setting the stage for the new.

Clear out the last years photos from your phone. Sounds easy right? It actually is, but we tend to hang on to every picture of our cats doing weird things, and foodie shots. If you are on iPhone and have iCloud account, you should back up your photos to the cloud regularly and there is a feature that lets you do that. So, check that you have uploaded and backed up your camera rolls then clear off your phone. But with all the sharing, images keep popping up on all devices and can be annoying. You need to do a two-step process with iPhone:

How to Set Up iCloud Phone Library and Optimize Storage

Then take the extra step to get the photos off your iPhone after you have verified that the photos have been backed  up in drive.

Clearing iPhone Photos

So if you are an Android or Google Phone type, you will need to check out these ideas to help save and clear your stash of snaps. Many of us use Google drive and this should be easy but you will need to take a few enabled steps.

Clearing Photos and Images on Android Using Google Drive

Travel Apps

Now that you have freed up some space on your phone, and checked what apps you can get rid of because you don’t really use them, you can now start looking at some travel apps. There are many websites that help with booking, but there are some apps that make travel more fun and organized if you try them out and get used to the interface before hand.

Google Trips v Tripit

I have just started using this little gem. If you have a Gmail account, any of your booking confirmations that come in can be automatically added for your trips. I just started my trip planner for July and started manually putting my flight info in. It would be handy if Justfly.com did an export to the app directly. You can access off line as well through your Google account in case the phone is not available, like at at hotel lobby.Google Trips

I can manage my hotel and accommodations on Booking.com easily enough, and export confirmations to my Wallet app so I can just walk in and show it as confirmation. Sometimes it’s good to have a mobile app that has a very user friendly interface. You may have to try a few to see which one has the ease of use that works for you before you hop your plane.

Tripit is a similar program but you can send your itineraries from any email to it and it will add automatically, Google defaults to Gmail of course. It’s a bit more involved, has a few more features. I say try both out for bit before your trip and see which you prefer.

Duolingo

Traveling to France or another tongue you do not speak? Try an app for translation on the fly. Gone are the days of flipping through a translation book, plonk in you language and ask it to translate. There are short lessons in this app that will help you a bit with the language basics. For more in depth in a language, search for that particular language app at the app store. Try it free to see if the interface works for you.

Citimapper

Free alternative to Google Maps with transit mapping included. Works in most major cities. Warning, data hog.

XE Currency

Check all the currency exchange rates at a glance. Smartphone app and web site conversion. This has been a go to standard for years. Currency converter. You can check their rates, look at world currency values up to date by the minute.

Easy Currency Converter

Great little app, available on Android. Includes bitcoin.

My Currency Converter

iPhone app, very clean and easy to view, use design. I always go with easy of use, otherwise it’s smash the app time on the phone.

Travelex Money App

Need to top up your Travelex money card while traveling in Europe, you can do it through this app. What I don’t like is it default loads to try to get you to drop $1k on it immediately as they do make money off you. But being able to slip the currency in on the phone when getting money from your bank while abroad may have even high fees is a good idea.

Usage Hint: Data suck is high in these cities, download travel map apps that allow for offline use when necessary, WiFi doesn’t follow you around, you have to find it. Good WiFi finder app is a must. Live GPS will kill your data space.

More

Hopper

Yelp

Skyscanner

Spotted by Locals

GoEuro

WiFi Finder

Atlas Obscura

UseIt Europe

Local Apps

Check out the city you are going to for their local tourist apps as well, usually on the city website or local tourist board site. Some of them have great walking tours and information about smaller museums and sites that you would otherwise have to dig through Trip Advisor for. Don’t forget the What’s On sections of most online newspapers. There will be links to all local attractions and advertising for apps.GL_ipad

Local Apps Ireland

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/articles/apps-for-ireland/

Belfast

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/visit-belfast/id405725557?mt=8

Galway

https://galway-app.droidinformer.org/

http://townapps.ie/project/galway/

http://www.loveconnemara.com/french/things-to-do-t46565

Scotland

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/visiting/getting-around

http://everyedinburgh.com/8-essential-edinburgh-apps-you-need-to-download/

http://www.travelinescotland.com/apps

Glasgow App Developers with local apps http://appdeveloperscotland.co.uk/

Articles

http://budgettraveller.org/20-best-free-travel-apps-travelling-around-uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/jan/02/10-best-travel-apps-free-paid-for

https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-travel-apps/2/

https://www.danflyingsolo.com/best-apps-for-travelling-2017/

 

Fringe Festival at 70: Bigger, Better and Defiant

3894492440_9e61f57334_oBut will that change? Filled with politics this year, you bet.  In reading an article this morning on an interview with a founder of the Assembly Rooms Venue the Fringe festival in Edinburgh, there are fears that subsequent years will lose out in the international flare. Brexit fears and restrictions on visas will make the venue less attractive to performers from EU countries. Hard to think that something we all take for granted, such as a festival, could be so impacted by restrictions at borders. It certainly can.

The Fringe programs just got published. Last years fest was a massive beast with listings of nearly all performances. I lugged mine around with me all over Scotland. With the big 70th celebration this year, it promises to be an even bigger extravaganza. However, this can all change in the next 2 years if Brexit continues. Just think, Edinburgh expands it’s population every August to nearly 3 times it’s usual population. This includes people just touring the city and those specifically traveling to Fringe fest. In 2016, over 2 million tickets were sold in the month. So, if I massive influx this is happening, people are booking hotel rooms and spending a great deal on food, the local economy has a month of serious boom. This month is the month you have to book rooms months in advance as I discovered last year. The food offerings are enormous, and a lot of money is being made. What will happen if less acts can come to perform, if the festival loses it’s edge a bit due to restrictions on visas and performers rethinking that it may be easier to attend/perform in a festival in one of the EU countries? Will it mostly be a Scots only venue? Will the culture be less international? These are some of the questions coming up as all festival organizers in the UK brace for change. It’s not just the Fringe, but all festivals in the UK that have international performers may be affected.

The politics of the Fringe make it a great place to show union and solidarity. The festival is taking a without borders stance, celebrating the diversity of it’s performers and attendees. With current events in the world bringing a distasteful isolationism tone that is clearly against what arts festivals portray and celebrate, will the Fringe lose it’s edge? Not if organizers and performers have their say.

Secure armed police are now being seen in many public events all through the UK. There will be protests possibly and artistic political commentary throughout the fest.  This will not deter the performers and promoters. Themes promise to cover our current world state of affairs on refugees and political statements. Artists will express and share their views on the state of world affairs.

I am going with the thought in mind that this Festival is the perfect vehicle to portray all of life. I believe many of us attending will feel that this is the perfect time for this Festival to celebrate it’s 70th year, that it is a perfect symbol of cooperation and arts. You can see a microcosm of the world in a massive snow globe in a stage filled with many stages. I plan to pack in as much as I can in three days, what will you be planning for your days at the Fringe?

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2017/jun/07/edinburgh-festival-2017-what-to-see-and-where-to-go

http://www.beyondthejoke.co.uk/content/3082/news-edinburgh-fringe-2016-sales-figures-released

http://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/brexit-fears-for-fringe-ahead-of-70th-anniversary-1-4468002

Travel Apps Round Up 2 and Clearing Space for Snaps

ayrshire-antique-county-map-parishes-ayr-kilmarnock-scotland-lizars-1885-2-207660-p

Room for Your New Travel Snaps

Grab your smartphone and hang on. You are going on your trip in a month or less and getting extremely excited about everything your will do. You plan on taking snaps everywhere and wonder about the fact you already have a zillion photos on your phone. You have you hard copy itinerary and have booked on a travel app you are sort of liking but not sure is really your thing. There is so much to see and do, and you will get a hundred brochures on sites when you hit the hotel. Overload awaits you. Not if you start planning and clearing out the old, and setting the stage for the new.

Clear out the last years photos from your phone. Sounds easy right? It actually is, but we tend to hang on to every picture of our cats doing weird things, and foodie shots. If you are on iPhone and have iCloud account, you should back up your photos to the cloud regularly and there is a feature that lets you do that. So, check that you have uploaded and backed up your camera rolls then clear off your phone. But with all the sharing, images keep popping up on all devices and can be annoying. You need to do a two-step process with iPhone:

How to Set Up iCloud Phone Library and Optimize Storage

Then take the extra step to get the photos off your iPhone after you have verified that the photos have been backed  up in drive.

Clearing iPhone Photos

So if you are an Android or Google Phone type, you will need to check out these ideas to help save and clear your stash of snaps. Many of us use Google drive and this should be easy but you will need to take a few enabled steps.

Clearing Photos and Images on Android Using Google Drive

Travel Apps

Now that you have freed up some space on your phone, and checked what apps you can get rid of because you don’t really use them, you can now start looking at some travel apps. There are many websites that help with booking, but there are some apps that make travel more fun and organized if you try them out and get used to the interface before hand.

Google Trips v Tripit

I have just started using this little gem. If you have a Gmail account, any of your booking confirmations that come in can be automatically added for your trips. I just started my trip planner for July and started manually putting my flight info in. It would be handy if Justfly.com did an export to the app directly. You can access off line as well through your Google account in case the phone is not available, like at at hotel lobby.Google Trips

I can manage my hotel and accommodations on Booking.com easily enough, and export confirmations to my Wallet app so I can just walk in and show it as confirmation. Sometimes it’s good to have a mobile app that has a very user friendly interface. You may have to try a few to see which one has the ease of use that works for you before you hop your plane.

Tripit is a similar program but you can send your itineraries from any email to it and it will add automatically, Google defaults to Gmail of course. It’s a bit more involved, has a few more features. I say try both out for bit before your trip and see which you prefer.

Duolingo

Traveling to France or another tongue you do not speak? Try an app for translation on the fly. Gone are the days of flipping through a translation book, plonk in you language and ask it to translate. There are short lessons in this app that will help you a bit with the language basics. For more in depth in a language, search for that particular language app at the app store. Try it free to see if the interface works for you.

Citimapper

Free alternative to Google Maps with transit mapping included. Works in most major cities. Warning, data hog.

XE Currency

Check all the currency exchange rates at a glance. Smartphone app and web site conversion. This has been a go to standard for years. Currency converter. You can check their rates, look at world currency values up to date by the minute.

Easy Currency Converter

Great little app, available on Android. Includes bitcoin.

My Currency Converter

iPhone app, very clean and easy to view, use design. I always go with easy of use, otherwise it’s smash the app time on the phone.

Travelex Money App

Need to top up your Travelex money card while traveling in Europe, you can do it through this app. What I don’t like is it default loads to try to get you to drop $1k on it immediately as they do make money off you. But being able to slip the currency in on the phone when getting money from your bank while abroad may have even high fees is a good idea.

Usage Hint: Data suck is high in these cities, download travel map apps that allow for offline use when necessary, WiFi doesn’t follow you around, you have to find it. Good WiFi finder app is a must. Live GPS will kill your data space.

More

 

Hopper

Yelp

Skyscanner

Spotted by Locals

GoEuro

WiFi Finder

Atlas Obscura

UseIt Europe

Local Apps

Check out the city you are going to for their local tourist apps as well, usually on the city website or local tourist board site. Some of them have great walking tours and information about smaller museums and sites that you would otherwise have to dig through Trip Advisor for. Don’t forget the What’s On sections of most online newspapers. There will be links to all local attractions and advertising for apps.GL_ipad

Local Apps Ireland

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/articles/apps-for-ireland/

Belfast

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/visit-belfast/id405725557?mt=8

Galway

https://galway-app.droidinformer.org/

http://townapps.ie/project/galway/

http://www.loveconnemara.com/french/things-to-do-t46565

Scotland

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/visiting/getting-around

http://everyedinburgh.com/8-essential-edinburgh-apps-you-need-to-download/

http://www.travelinescotland.com/apps

Glasgow App Developers with local apps http://appdeveloperscotland.co.uk/

Articles

http://budgettraveller.org/20-best-free-travel-apps-travelling-around-uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/jan/02/10-best-travel-apps-free-paid-for

https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-travel-apps/2/

https://www.danflyingsolo.com/best-apps-for-travelling-2017/

 

Suit Case Limits on European Flights: Check All Airlines Restrictions

downloadAfter months of keeping an eye out for suit case deals, reading articles and comparison charts by brand, a decision had to be made. Flying in about a month and needed to get the reality check. Those small European flights are indeed small, like flying match sticks, and have no overhead room. So, how do you get that in cabin bag size working for you and planning to shop.

When I first started considering the small plane flights, I remembered one of my hops last year and how I barely made the big time size restrictions on that last leg of my trans Atlantic flight and fear of having to track two bags in the hold. I was using borrowed travel cases and learned so much about baggage hate that trip. This year I decided I had to budget for new cases and invest in sizes that fit the minimum or under in dimensions, and that they had to work for the smaller planes. After doing research on the internet, I decided I had better call the airlines for Aer Lingus restrictions on my tiny flight and was glad I did. The case size was restricted to a 18 inch tall bag (length) and I had to research how to get the carryon under a good budget and the second larger case. In my initial research, I found that if I bought cases according to maximum measurements, I was averaging a huge sum of money for specific sizes. I am sorry, I know there are people who love the designer thing, and some that are professional travelers, but most of us can’t see spending as much art a three night stay in hotel on cases. But what about buying cheap cases that may bust in the hold. What and how can you meet a tight budget and have cases that survive the trip? Check out reviews online and hope for the best.

55cm x 40cm x 24cm Cabin for Transatlantic, 18 inch tall for smaller planes.

90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) Checked Luggage size

Contact your airlines for intercontinental flights sizes

Luggage Restrictions for European Fights 2017

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Criterion

Hard-sided meeting European cabin luggage restrictions 18 inches tall, 4 wheels not 2

Wheeled, preferably spinner second case under 62 inch restrictions

Small travel backpack/day pack with iPad pouch and place to hide passport, etc.

Spend amount less than the price of one very expensive piece of luggage. Buy a set of2 for the price of one American Tourister.

Purchase Made: inUSA brand, Model: San Francisco, spinners( 4) on both cases, self locking TSA lock combo included (we’ll see about that).

imagesI finally made a choice after reviewing several cases on Amazon. I also chose a situation where shipping was free, since I was finding many of the cases were costing a great deal in shipping fees, thus adding to the price. My considerations were meeting the size restrictions and have I got spinner wheels. After years of standard cases and lugging a way to bog case across Scotland last year, I decided it was time to scale down and streamline, bring less clothing and do more washing. Not something you want to have to do, but planning your trip to include space an time to do laundry unfortunately has to be done for us non jet-setters. Planned for laundry in Glasgow and Dublin Stops, with research on Yelp.

Other Considerations: TILE brand luggage and pets GPS tags, DYNOTAG permanent luggage tags. Osprey light daypack, featuring space for camel pack or laptop, tablet, and padding space, hide that passport.

Research Your Cases

http://www.luggageontour.com

http://nymag.com/strategist/article/the-best-rolling-luggage-according-to-frequent-fliers.html

 

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Smartphone or Camera for Travels?

7667826378_dcf400aa0f_o

On my last trip, I relied solely on my smartphone camera for taking pictures while traveling. It was an older iPhone model but still did the job. However, it was very limited to its uses, and the clarity is somewhat lacking. I am contemplating the idea of getting a separate camera to take on this trip. But of course this brings up several things to think about.

Smartphone Camera
Your smartphone has a camera. It works great for selfies and other “get it now” pictures. However is is not a fine detail image builder. There are apps that you can get that mimic other digital cameras interfaces, and using one of these you may like. However unless you pick up a lense kit for your phone, you won’t get great picture quality. And even some of these lenses will only go so far. Check out some reviews on lenses for smartphones and see if this may be all that you need. Save money for splurging on something on the trip.

Budget
Always a tough one. The price of a really good camera can equal the price of a plane ticket. It’s always a matter of what can you afford? Most of the camera manufacturers like Canon, Sony, and Ricoh, have several models within ranges for their camera offerings. A decent camera starts in the $375.00 range and can go up to $800.00 for basic models. Do you want changeable lenses? Then you will need to pay more. The fixed lense models are more affordable, but some have less than desirable digital interfaces. Some models still have the classic camera mirror, others do not. However, mirrors are not a good thing when traveling as they will break. To find your camera for traveI, I would suggest going to a larger electronics store or camera store and look at models that you can test out. Then, see if you can get better pricing online. Pay attention to the interface for working with the camera. Does it feel like you are going to have a long learning curve on this software? Camera software is known to not be easy to work with.

Another Device to Keep track Of
Cameras have always been delicate pieces of machinery. Traveling with them means careful packing, often in a case specific to them. That means another case to keep track of. If you get a slimline style, you can get away with a very small padded case and stash it with your daypack. I am a big fan of a small daypack backpack for all travel as you can keep a lot in it for your day as you may not be able to get back to your lodgings in between all your touring for the day. You may want to get a locking mechanism for any external pouches you store camera in for anti theft deterrent. There are a vast array of camera back packs out there now with the padding and compartments built in to keep parts from jostling, and messenger bag styles as well.

What do You Really Need
Traveling means keeping things compact. Unless you are a photojournalist, chances are you would not need to have a higher end camera traveling with you. You are taking a chance with any electronic device in damage at the airports and other transit for your travels, train racks are brutal. Not to mention the target you become for theft because cameras are easy to grab and resell. Do you want that stress on your tour? I know that I don’t. However, I would like to have a camera that takes better pictures than my iPhone can. But a large extensive camera loaded with features is really going to be more than I truly need. I need to find one that is a few steps up from a camera phone model, with an easy interface to work with. Don’t need learning curve with electronics on vacation.

Tell us your camera stories

More…

http://www.switchbacktravel.com/best-travel-cameras
https://www.lifewire.com/best-camera-cases-and-bags-to-buy-4078328
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-iphone-lenses,review-2366.html
http://phandroid.com/2017/02/21/best-android-camera-apps/
https://iphonephotographyschool.com/best-camera-app-for-iphone/

Planning Your Travels and Keeping Track

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You have been living in America or Canada your whole life. You decide it’s time to adventure past your borders. You have mostly flown domestic or done a border hop to the US or Canada. Because the borders and cooperation between countries was fairly easy for years, you never took much notice of what it really requires to travel beyond. You’d be surprised at how many people forget they need a passport until about 6 weeks before travel, if not a few weeks. I have met people where I have asked how fun their passport pictures have turned out after they told me about their trip. I got the deer in headlights look. If you are lucky enough to live in a very large American or Canadian city with embassies from most countries available to you to stand and line and wait hours, you can wait physically in line for help with this. If not, you have to go to a passport center and wait some weeks, up to two months to get your passport. Then you need to figure out what visas are required for what countries. And if you will need to get shots for disease prevention. That cheap flight that attracted to you visit somewhere exotic suddenly becomes very complicated.

Americans have been traveling abroad more in the last few years. The economy is still not great, but many more people seem to be venturing out. But now we have countries, including our own, tightening borders and placing restrictions on travel. And face it, Americans tend to over do most things. Packing or not packing right is no exception. Then there comes the keeping track of how you travel.

Files

I travel with a folder filled with many things. I may be an electronics nerd, and I use a lot of travel apps, but I know that things happen with electronics, that you will not have WiFi on the plane and sometimes having a hard copy to prove you paid in advance for a tour just feels a little more secure. It also helps organizing yourself if you have planned a crazy itinerary that isn’t all included in say a travel site like Booking.com.

I also have a digital folder in Google Docs and may do one in Dropbox as well just in case. I also have a folder with my professional CV and such. Yep, being a teacher means looking for the next year’s classroom while on vacation sometimes. Sigh.

The hard copy file though is my talisman. It shouldn’t be, maybe it’s better to think of it as a touchstone. I have printed copies of itineraries, booking confirmations, the list I started of gyms and other facilities. Oh, and the gym routine for the month copy so if I can get to a gym I can keep up with my plan. I know, you are on vacation, but I think of travel as a serious adventure and training and keeping fit helps you get through the marathon. Plus if the bathroom facilities in your accommodation are lacking, you have a backup shower. Also if you book in advance for theatre and comedy shows like I am doing for Galway’s Arts Festival and the Fringe Festival, having a hard copy of receipts may be a good idea. I do keep lists on my smartphone as well, but if the battery dies I am out of luck.

What to keep in this folder? Well, flight details are good. Yes, you should join the online website of your flight providers, not just rely on digital access when you need it. This way you can do things like make sure you have seats, because JustFly can only do so much with that on some participating airlines. It may say you have a reserved seat of choice, but when you get there it’s another story.

Any prepayments for tours. Yes, tours abound when you are traveling. You may book a tour or two from the city you are in. Many of them do not have cash facilities for when you get there and you will need to book online. Having a printout with a ticket is still the thing on many tours, they don’t all have online ticketing where you can download to your smartphone’s wallet app. And since many tour companies have very similar names in certain regions, it’s a good idea to have a hard copy with name print out and any tour meetup instructions. See, paper is really good for notes. Note that because tourist season is insane, it is best if you can book tours a month out, so retain your receipt. Many good tours get booked solid.

Notes on Your Smartphone
Yes, they all have a note app. You could also get Google Docs app to just play it safe. You should have a travel folder online as a backup and a document about your trip with notes, dates, etc. Travel can be overwhelming. I know for a fact that Fringe Festival is going to be massive and cramping 3 days of it is a marathon. Having a diary doc will work if you don’t have a travel journal. I have to do this since I blog. I will of course write bits in my hard copy journal while visiting sites and museums for notes. But constantly using your device in a heavy data city will rack up your minutes. Paper is cheaper.

Travel Checklist

Six or More Months Out
Shop for plane tickets. Great sales happen during end of year holidays. Shop even earlier and tickets will be less than half. Do research on visas.
Start booking rooms and reading reviews. You can change them later, but if you are going during high season, festival season in Europe and mean your fav city is already booked solid, you may have to stay in a neighboring town.

Two Months Out
Passport, Visas applied for 3 months out hopefully. Check embassy websites to see the requirements for the country you are coming from. Many countries are now revising their visa requirements.
Cases-Research luggage sizing allowed on all flights. European flights are restricted more than US flights and many of the newer small planes have very little overhead space.

Get laptops and electronics cases, sleeves suitable for travel. TSA is moving towards all electronics packed in the hold.

Week Of
Packing: Pack everything you would need for a mini vacation in the carryon in case luggage gets misplaced. Get trackable luggage tags. They have a online app that you can use to track luggage with and you can upload pictures of luggage and contents in case they get misplaced in travels. This supposedly helps if your tags get separated from bags. Take enough clothing and plan to wear some items several times. Baggage allowances are less than domestic US or Canadian flights allow.

More Reading

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/travel-apps/

https://www.brit.co/travel-journals/

Terrorism and Travel

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On May 22, another act of senseless and cruel terrorism occurred in Manchester, England. The fact that it targeted children and young adults has shocked many in the world, however brought together a beautiful city of caring inhabitants. This is their city, and they will not allow this terrible atrocity to do further injury. The government’s response is to go into the UK Terror Level of the highest “Critical”. Troops are deployed to work with law enforcement.

I remember my first trip to London back in my university days. I arrived a few weeks after a terrorist attack. I was very young and had just come from the bubble of American life where we were mostly untouched by such acts. I read the local papers and went to where it happened and looked around. Londoners were determined to carry on. It was a truly humbling experience to talk with locals.

Many other cities in the UK are on high alert now because they have very public events going on. In Scotland, where I am going, concert venues are stepping up security and soldiers are being deployed to guard nuclear facilities and infrastructure that may be possible targets.

As a traveler the summer, you will be experiencing heightened security on planes due to the new laptop and devices restrictions. There will now be another layer of security in airports due to these recent events of terrorism in several cities around the globe. Prepare yourself for longer times in customs and be patient. Much of what is being done is for your security. Add an hour to your pre-flight time.

Show solidarity when you travel. If you are traveling to any of the cites recently affected by these events, show your support in your tourism by participating in the economy and talking to local people. Listen to what they are saying and experience their cities’ greatness. Let them start the conversation.

For more reading:

http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-england-manchester-40007967
http://www.scotsman.com/regions/glasgow-strathclyde/scottish-concert-venues-increase-security-after-manchester-attack-1-4455976
http://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/in-pictures-armed-police-deployed-across-scotland-1-4455556

Smartphone or Camera for Travel Pictures

On my last trip, I relied solely on my smartphone camera for taking pictures while traveling. It was an older iPhone model but still did the job. However, it was very limited to its use. I am contemplating the idea of getting a separate camera to take on this trip. But of course this brings up several things to think about.

Smartphone Camera
Your smartphone has a camera. It works great for selfies and other “get it now” pictures. However is is not a fine detail image builder. There are apps that you can get that mimic other digital cameras interfaces, and using one of these you may like. However unless you pick up a lense kit for your phone, you won’t get great picture quality. And even some of these lenses will only go so far. Check out some reviews on lenses for smartphones and see if this may be all that you need. Save money for splurging on something on the trip.

Budget
Always a tough one. The price of a really good camera can equal the price of a plane ticket. It’s always a matter of what can you afford? Most of the camera manufacturers like Canon, Sony, and Ricoh, have several models within ranges for their camera offerings. A decent camera starts in the $375.00 range and can go up to $800.00 for basic models. Do you want changeable lenses? Then you will need to pay more. The fixed lense models are more affordable, but some have less than desirable digital interfaces. Some models still have the classic camera mirror, others do not. However, mirrors are not a good thing when traveling as they will break. To find your camera for traveI, I would suggest going to a larger electronics store or camera store and look at models that you can test out. Then, see if you can get better pricing online. Pay attention to the interface for working with the camera. Does it feel like you are going to have a long learning curve on this software? Camera software is known to not be easy to work with.

Another Device to Keep Track Of
Cameras have always been delicate pieces of machinery. Traveling with them means careful packing, often in a case specific to them. That means another case to keep track of. If you get a slimline style, you can get away with a very small padded case and stash it with your daypack. I am a big fan of a small daypack backpack for all travel as you can keep a lot in it for your day as you may not be able to get back to your lodgings in between all your touring for the day. You may want to get a locking mechanism for any external pouches you store camera in for anti theft deterrent. There are a vast array of camera back packs out there now with the padding and compartments built in to keep parts from jostling, and messenger bag styles as well.

What do You Really Need
Traveling means keeping things compact. Unless you are a photojournalist, chances are you would not need to have a higher end camera traveling with you. You are taking a chance with any electronic device in damage at the airports and other transit for your travels, train racks are brutal. Not to mention the target you become for theft because cameras are easy to grab and resell. Do you want that stress on your tour? I know that I don’t. However, I would like to have a camera that takes better pictures than my iPhone can. But a large extensive camera loaded with features is really going to be more than I truly need. I need to find one that is a few steps up from a camera phone model, with an easy interface to work with. Don’t need learning curve with electronics on vacation.

Tell us your camera stories

http://www.switchbacktravel.com/best-travel-cameras
https://www.lifewire.com/best-camera-cases-and-bags-to-buy-4078328
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-iphone-lenses,review-2366.html
http://phandroid.com/2017/02/21/best-android-camera-apps/
https://iphonephotographyschool.com/best-camera-app-for-iPhone