Saturday, October 1, 2022

New proposals to protect air travelers

If you have flown in commercial airplane in recent months you may have had a flight cancelled or significantly delayed. Vouchers that are good for only a year have been the standard way airlines compensated travelers—and we all know that is far from equitable. The voucher can only be used towards a future flight on that airline and the amount must be used on one flight, essentially giving the airline an interest-free loan and leaving the customer without their cash or any recourse. Getting a refund from an airline is practically impossible.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has recently proposed new rules for airlines that could work for the benefit of fliers. The public has until November 21 to offer comments that will hopefully bring about changes to protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get timely refunds they deserve. If you wish to contribute to the discussion please do so at  docket number DOT-OST-2022-0089

The proposals include four key objectives:

1.      Require airlines to provide refunds if the departure or arrival time changes by three or more hours for a domestic flight or six or more hours for an international flight.

2.      Require airlines to provide refunds when the airline changes the passenger’s departure or arrival airport or adds stops to an itinerary.

3.      Require airlines to provide refunds when the airlines cause “a significant downgrade” in the travel experience by switching to a different type of plane.

4.      Require airlines to provide future travel credits that never expire when passengers can’t travel for health and safety reasons during a pandemic or because borders are closed.

The rules would also apply to tickets that are typically non-refundable, including lower-priced basic economy fares.

If enacted, the new regulations “would be the largest boost to traveler protections in years,” said Scott Keyes, founder of flight deal tracking service Scott’s Cheap Flights. After the 90-day public comment period, the DOT will consider feedback and decide how to proceed. 

Of course, airlines and their lobbyists will have plenty of opinions, which might lessen the impact for some of the proposals, so any public comments supporting the proposals should be extremely helpful in ensuring a good outcome for fliers.

Still, airlines would not be required to compensate passengers when the passenger initiates a cancellation or flight change for uncovered reasons. The only case where airlines are required to provide assistance is when a passenger is “bumped” from a flight due to it being oversold.

“Americans expect when they purchase an airline ticket they will arrive at their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter sent to heads of the major U.S. airlines in August.

These proposed rules come on the heels of a 34.9 percent increase from May to June in air travel service complaints from passengers to the DOT.  In fact, complaints are nearly 270% above pre-pandemic levels, not surprising considering the number of flight cancellations and disruptions in recent months. Passengers were often severely inconvenienced when airlines sold flights they did not have pilots, staff, and ground crew to properly operate.

Buttigieg even suggested that airlines should provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight because of disruptions within the carrier's control. Didn't that used to be the norm?

For information about airline passenger rights, as well as DOT’s rules, guidance and orders, visit the Department’s aviation consumer website at

Photos from free sources. 



Monday, September 26, 2022

Why do people visit Sedona?


Sunset casts a magnificent glow over the rocks.

The obvious answer is for the majestic red rock scenery. The red-orange color of surrounding rocks is not only beautiful but many people claim these rocks have inspirational and spiritual properties.

Although Sedona is in the Arizona desert, there is plenty of evergreen vegetation. This contributes to the unique energy people feel when in this environment. The climate is generally mild, but winter snow can add a stunning contrast of colors.

hiking toward Cathedral Rock

Surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls, and pine forests, Sedona offers trailheads for all skill levels of hiking or biking. Even if you’re not super physical, there are other ways to appreciate this region. Jeep rides are plentiful for exploring landscapes beyond paved roads. Uptown Sedona is filled with New Age shops, spas, and art galleries. Wineries, river rafting, golfing, and natural swimming areas are abundant, as are accommodations in all price ranges.

Magnificent Chapel of the Holy Cross is built into the rock.

Hiking on Airport Road trail 

Layers of rock show geology of the region.
Enjoy tastings at many of the region's 
wineries--here at Alcantara Winery

Each time we visit Sedona, we find new ways and places to explore. As we get older, our activities are starting to shift from active adventures to calm appreciation of all the town has to offer. I hope you enjoy this photo tour of one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.

Fun for all ages at Slide Rock State Park

Golf in a beautiful setting at Oak Creek Country Club

Take a train ride through the Verde River Valley.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, September 19, 2022

This may be the world's most scenic drive

One of the highlights of our recent visit to Norway was driving on the Atlantic Ocean Road. Although it’s just over five miles long, the winding highway took us through beautiful countryside where the ocean washes against the northwestern shores of Norway.

Called “the world’s most scenic drive,”  by a British newspaper, the Atlantic Ocean Road (Atlanterhavsveien) connects the towns of Kristiansund and Molde, the two main population centers in this part of Norway. Both of these cities were port stops on our recent cruise, so we got to see this amazing structure from both ends.

Named “Norway’s Construction of the Century” in 2005, the Atlantic Ocean Road links charming villages and zigzags across eight bridges as it skips from island to island. Because of the spectacular scenery, it has become a popular site to film automotive commercials.

 Although the Road has become very much of a tourist attraction, that wasn’t the initial purpose. It replaced a ferry that was less than ideal for transporting people in this region. After gas and oil were discovered in the late 1970 and 1980s in Norway, many roads and bridges were built. Construction on the Atlantic Road took from 1983 to 1989. It was financed by public grants and tolls. By June 1999 the road was paid off and the toll removed, so the road is now free for travelers.

At one point along the Road, there is a visitor center that features a café, informational posters, and a paved path with outstanding views of the Road. Larry and I walked on this path to get a better feel for the Road than when riding in a vehicle on it. We also admired one of the outstanding bridges that cross the ocean on this Road.

The day we visited was quite chilly and blustery, so we hurried along the path. But we were pleased to see colorful purple and white flowers blooming and rocky outcrops added variety to the landscape. A memorial to sailors who had lost their lives at sea added a bit of solemnity along the route.

Today the road is preserved as a cultural heritage site. It is classified as a National Tourist Route, something that was inevitable given the nature of this stunning location and its natural beauty.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Enjoy a healthy getaway to Florida's Historic Coast

St Augustine and Ponte Vedra

Summer is winding down. Kids are back to school and it is adult time. Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida's Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches.

While August was National Wellness month, September is Healthy Aging month and there is more than the Fountain of Youth here to help keep you young.  Here are 10 ways to stay well and experience life on Florida's Historic Coast in September:

Try a little Yoga session on the grounds of a historic museum or at the beach. Or try a fun session of Aerial Yoga. Every Wednesday and Sunday morning, a one-hour vinyasa yoga session takes place on the lawn at the historic Ximenez-Fatio House. Guests at the Embassy Suites Oceanfront Resort at St. Augustine Beach enjoy refreshing seaside yoga sessions each morning. And, at St. Augustine's Pilates Yoga Loft, the instructors take yoga to new levels with Aerial Yoga sessions for all levels of experience. Take up a fun sport like Pickleball to get the heart pumping. The newly renovated sports facility The Yards, is a great place to learn to play pickleball.

Resorts along Florida's Historic Coast offer a variety
of activities, spas, and wellness therapies.

Take a hike on a bird watching tour through a state park. Anastasia State Park hosts guided bird walks are a great way to ground yourself in nature. Participants learn about the beautiful terrain while watching for exciting aviary life.

Shop for healthy fruits and vegetables at one of the fantastic farmer's markets that showcase local produce, flowers, baked goods, handmade arts and crafts and more. The St. Augustine Amphitheater Framers Market takes place every Saturday morning, and the Pier Market at St. Augustine Beach takes place every Wednesday morning.

Get closer to nature on a sunset paddle with an expert naturalist. Earth Kinship guides lead a paddle along the pristine six-mile creek to learn about the history and diverse wildlife along the St. Johns River.

Beachcombing at sunset is beautiful.

Become a beachcomber
. This one's easy and free. Plus, no special skills are needed. Florida's Historic Coast offers 42 miles of pristine beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. From Mickler's Landing to Vilano and Crescent Beach, there are perfect spots to call your own for long walks along the shoreline. You might even uncover some unique shells and fossilized shark teeth. Take in the fresh salt air and let the ebb and flow of the waves wash away your worries. Or take a beach history walk with one of the St. Johns County environmental educators to learn about the unique history of Vilano Beach.

So many beautiful beaches
Any time on the beach is rejuvenating. Give back and get some exercise while participating in the International Coastal Cleanup 2022. The Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway are organizing volunteers to help with this beach cleanup.

Take a hike. Try one of the many trails along the GTM Research Reserve. If you want to enjoy some native wildlife, like ibis, herons and eagles, Beluthahatchee Park offers visitors the space to truly get lost and immerse yourself in natural, unspoiled surroundings. And, the best part is, it's easy to maintain safe social distancing outdoors.

Ride a bike! You can get great exercise and explore bike-friendly St. Augustine. There are bike rentals and bike racks all over the city. For the more the more adventurous bicycler, take a trail ride at The Nocatee Preserve.

Bike on trails or the beach.

Good Health at the Spa. Massage therapy using Himalayan salt stones, practiced for centuries, can enhance healing and wellness. While a float tank experience can reduce pain and stress. Both therapies are available at Salt Spa St. Augustine, a Zen oasis in the heart of the city. A trip to the Spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club offers more than 100 luxurious pampering spa services that will melt away your worries. The Poseidon Spa at the Casa Monica Resort & Spa uses earth's simplest element, water, in treatments that renew and rejuvenate the spirit.

Healthy dining is readily available.

Enjoy a great dining scene
! Florida's Historic Coast is known for its exceptional dining scene. The abundance of year-round fresh local seafood and produce provides great healthful dining experiences at several seafood restaurants.

More information at

Photos from free sources.


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Essentials for your carryon bag

We are travelling again!

I’ve got several international trips planned during the next six months. After mostly domestic travel during the past two years, I’m refreshing my memory on what to pack in my carryon bag.

You see, I would never travel internationally without a carryon big enough to pack at least three days of necessities. The unthinkable (delayed/lost luggage) has happened more than once, and I don’t need to be hammered over the head to learn an important lesson.

On an overseas flight, there are several items that can make the journey healthier and more comfortable. While everyone has a few pet items they can’t do without, here are things I consider necessary to pack in my carryon. 

My list

Compression socks. Even if you’ve never had a problem with blood clots in your legs, long socks with mild compression will help relieve any swelling or achiness. You can find cute and crazy socks (forget blah black and brown) in varying levels of compression to fit your needs. Just catching a glance of these wardrobe necessities will cheer you up.


Disinfecting wipes and spray. You know what that’s for—spray or wipe all surfaces you’ll be touching in public transportation, and keep your hands clean throughout the journey.

      Eye mask. If you plan to catch a few winks on the flight, a darkening eye mask that fits snuggly to your face is a necessity. You can buy comfortable molded masks that fit away from your eyes so eyelashes don’t rub against it.

4.      Pack noise-cancelling earphones or ear plugs, if you are sensitive to surrounding noises. I usually am okay without these, but you might want to include them.

Slippers are handy if you want to remove your shoes on a long flight. That’s one of the first things I do, as my feet tend to swell when we get high in the air. Slippers are comfy and will keep your feet and socks clean (Who wants to walk on dirty airplane floors?)

        Hand lotion and lip balm or Vaseline will help your body stay moisturized even though airplane air is notoriously dry. If it’s scented with lavender or chamomile, you’ll enjoy the relaxing scents.

         A notebook is one of my essentials. As a travel journalist, I’m forever writing notes about what’s happening and what is in my surroundings. You’ll be amazed when you return from a trip how much you might have forgotten if not for whatever is jotted in your notebook. It’s a place to consolidate activities, descriptions, people you meet, place names, and much more.

8.      Don’t forget to bring in-flight reading material or movies that appeal to you. Yes, there will be movies, TV, and documentaries available on longer flights, and that’s another option if you don’t want to bother bringing your own. Traveling is my best time to catch up on magazines or books that I’ve put aside too long.

9.      Many airlines now have chargers, but you might also want to include an adapter in your carryon. It’s small, and you might need it if you arrive at a hotel that doesn’t’ accept or can’t charge your electronics.


 Of course, you’ll need your passport and any required visas handy. In addition, make copies of your passport that are stored in a different place from the actual thing. It’s also a good idea to carry an extra passport photo that could be used if you lost your passport and had to get and emergency one. Some countries may require a record of COVID vaccination or other health immunizations.

1  While most people take a change of clothes including underwear, I take at least three days worth in my carryon. Experience has shown that it can take that long for the airline to locate a lost bag and transport it to your destination. And if you are heading to a hot, sunny place, slip a tube of sunscreen in your carryon, too.

 Take enough toiletries and medications for at least three to four days. If you have travel insurance, you may be able to replace these in a day or two, but the timing depends on how quickly your insurance company authorizes new purchases.

13.  Travel insurance information. Be sure you can access the name of the company, number of your policy, and a phone number to call if you are unlucky enough to experience missed flights or lost luggage before arriving at your destination.

   Images from free sources

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The magnificent North Cape of Norway

What do you do when one of the most anticipated sights you hoped to see on an excursion is so shrouded in a dense fog that you can barely see 10 feet in front of your face?

Past the Arctic Circle, North Cape is at
the tip of Norway.

You go back. Even if the site is in Norway, and you live in the U.S.

That’s just what Larry and I did last summer when we retraced our route to the North Cape. We booked a cruise that traveled along the western coast of Norway, once again enjoying the majesty of coastal fjords, frosty summer temperatures, and perpetual daylight above the Arctic Circle.

The drive to North Cape is spectacular itself.

From the ship we rode a shuttle bus 20 miles from the port of Honningsvag. It was a gorgeous drive with lots of twists and turns as the road followed the ocean. Our goal was to experience what we understood to be breathtaking views from ocean cliffs at the top edge of Norway

Although situated on the island of Mageroya in the Barents Sea, Honninsgsvag is classed as the northernmost city in Norway. The island is connected to the mainland through the North Cape Tunnel, which opened in 1999. It is Norway’s deepest at 696 feet below the sea and 4.2 miles long, although we really couldn’t tell how far below the ocean’s surface we were traveling.

This is it!

We arrived at the Cape around 12 noon, with clouds thick and low. Visibility was only slightly better than during our previous visit six years prior. We wandered outside the North Cape Hall to take took pictures of what we could see—hazy cliffs and a special globe indicating that this is Europe’s most northerly point that is accessible by road.
Beverly tries to take photos through the fog.

Chilled and somewhat disappointed (but not surprised), we returned to the Hall to visit the historical displays and dioramas depicting the earliest explorers who arrived by ship in 1553 and early visitors who used ropes to tie each other together when on the cliffs in 1660. We also checked out the Thai Museum, St. John Chapel, Cave of Lights, and watched a beautiful panoramic film of the Cape.

First view of ocean cliffs at North Cape

After perusing all these informational areas and a map of the island on which Honningsvag is located, we wandered into the gift shop to look around. There is also a restaurant and a post office where you can have a postcard stamped and mailed.

It was getting close to the end of our 90 minutes there, so we decided to go outside again to see if the clouds had lifted at all. They had! “Oh, my goodness!” was all I could manage to say about this profoundly different experience.

The same view an hour later!

The weather was quite glorious, warmer and clearer than earlier. We could actually see the entirety of the cliffs and the ocean beyond as well as more land and a few low hanging clouds. It was incredible! I was awed by the enormity of the cliffs and the extraordinary views of the sea.

We retraced out steps along the path we had walked earlier, snapping photos quickly as time was passing. I practically jogged to a  previously fogged-in side that we had never seen before. This was a different angle looking across the cliffs, but it was no less amazing. We stayed there as long as possible before time to return to the ship.

All of this beauty had been obscured earlier.

This visit was a beautiful surprise, so worth returning for. Now I don’t need to show friends the postcard purchased on our first visit; I can show them my own photos of the stunning North Cape.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Thursday, August 18, 2022

New COVID variants not primary concern for most travelers

Despite reports of the latest COVID-19 variant, BA5, generating waves of re-infections and single-digit increases in U.S. hospitalizations, trip takers are sticking with plans to go abroad. Nearly 80% of the world’s most experienced travelers say the threat of a new COVID variant is unlikely to make them cancel or postpone international travel this year, according to the Summer 2022 Global Rescue Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey.  

Travelers are ready to go!

“Whether it’s revenge travel or responsible travel following vaccination – or a combination of both, 7-out-of-10 travelers are much less concerned about travel compared to the beginning of the pandemic. 

Testing can help relieve anxiety.
They feel safe enough to plan trips and vacations because they’re vaccinated, borders are open, and they have confidence they’ll be able to get home if the worst happens,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents have already traveled internationally since the pandemic. The balance expects to travel abroad by the end of the year (16%) or in the first three months of 2023 (9%).  

International flights are on
the upswing.

More international travel is likely due to the recent U.S. policy change. Nearly half of travelers (49%) say they are more likely to travel internationally in the next 12 months now that U.S. officials no longer require passengers flying to the U.S. to show a negative COVID viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID before they board their flight.  

“The decision to end the requirement for a negative COVID test to enter the United States is a welcome step toward recognizing the decreasing severity of the disease, the urgent need to restore confidence for travelers, and support for an industry badly damaged by the pandemic,” Richards said. 

Cruises are popular again.

Traveler hesitancy is unchanged since early 2022. After two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions, a third of survey respondents still experience travel anxiety related to where to go or when to get back to travel.  

The biggest international travel fear among trip-takers is testing positive for COVID and being stranded away from home (33%), a 37% decrease from early 2022. Having an accident (24%), trip cancellation (21%) and civil unrest/terrorism (8%) were the next biggest concerns. Being robbed, war, natural disasters, and difficulty finding a COVID-19 testing facility each accounted for less than 2% of responses. 

Having travel insurance
lessens the stress of the
unknown during travel. 
“The pandemic has generated a tectonic shift in the traveler mindset. Travelers learned emergency rescue and evacuation services are essential, whether it's due to COVID, a natural disaster, civil unrest or simply needing emergency help when you're traveling. The majority of travelers (64%) say medical evacuation services are more important than Cancel For Any Reason (18%) insurance or traditional travel insurance (15%). Traveler preferences have moved travel protection for emergency medical services and evacuation from ‘optional’ to ‘obligatory’,” Richards said.   

Traveler confidence increases.

“The decision by the CDC to ease its COVID-19 guidelines is a welcome step toward recognizing the decreasing severity of the disease, the urgent need to restore confidence for travelers, and support for an industry badly damaged by the pandemic,” said Richards.   

It's a great time to travel!
The CDC’s updated guidelines include ending quarantine recommendations after exposure to COVID-19 and replacing it with a recommendation to mask for 10 days and get tested on the fifth day. The announcement also reduces the isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic or have quickly improved symptoms.  This will alleviate the biggest international travel fear—testing positive for COVID and being stranded away from home.  

“The CDC announcement is a much-needed improvement and will contribute further to travelers’ peace of mind when planning trips and vacations,” Richards said.   

Information courtesy of Bill McIntyre, .  Global Rescue, travel risk and crisis response provider, conducted a survey of more than 2,100 of its current and former members between July 12 and 16, 2022. The respondents exposed a range of behaviors, attitudes and preferences regarding international and domestic travel.