Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Visit atolls of Tuomotu Archipelago in the South Pacific

Oceania Marina docked offshore at Fakarava in the
Tuomotu Archipelago of French Polynesia
When people think of taking a cruise to South Pacific islands, the first one that comes to mind is Tahiti, with Bora Bora a distant second. These are gorgeous islands with sandy beaches, soaring mountains, and lush vegetation that recall photos you’ve seen from the French Polynesian islands.
But there’s more to explore in the South Pacific, especially if you like to snorkel or scuba dive.  Although many of the 78 atolls (narrow strips of land surrounded by reefs) scattered throughout the Tuamotu Archipelago are still difficult to visit, some cruises include stops at atolls like Fakarava and Rangiroa. Air Tahiti also flies from Papeete to Rangiroa, if you’re traveling on your own.
It's easy to see the lagoon on one side of the atoll and the
Pacific Ocean on the other side of this narrow strip of land.

Tuamoto Archipelago is the world’s largest group of coral atolls, but only 31 have passes (breaks in the reef) through which ships may enter, which means the Tuamotus are quite isolated. But it also means snorkeling is excellent at islands like Fakarava and Rangiroa. Luminous turquoise water teems with plentiful marine life including many fish varieties and various rays and sharks. It’s a true natural aquarium with some of the best swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the South Pacific.

Beautiful coral formations and colorful fish can be seen
snorkeling from the shore of Fakarava.
Fakarava has two ocean passes (and the largest one in the Tuamotus), which make it passable for ocean vessels and an outstanding diving and snorkeling location.  You can snorkel from the beach, but since there is little sand you’ll likely enter the water right over coral. A protected lagoon is on one side of the atoll with the deep Pacific Ocean on the other side.

Pearl farming is an important industry for both of these atolls.
Pearlfarming is an important industry for the 855 inhabitants. More a strip of land than an island, Fakarava is a prime example of nature at its finest—the environment is so unspoiled it has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for the preservation of rare plant species. Walk down the main street and you’ll see beautiful gardens full of colorful hibiscus, bougainvilla, and other tropical blooming flowers.

The Marina must navigate through a narrow pass (break in the reef)
 to reach the ocean
Rangiroa is the Tuamotu’s most populous atoll and one of the world’s best dive spots. Our ship entered through the Tiputa pass on the northern side of a very visible coral ring around the atoll. Resembling a string of pearls, the coral encircles a clear turquoise lagoon. The exchange of water between open sea and lagoon creates a fertile habitat for marine life, so it provided some of our best snorkeling on the trip.
Fish are plentiful in the clear turquoise water off Rangiroa.
After soaking up the palm tree-studded landscape at Rangiroa, visit Gaugin's Pearl Farm to learn how pearls are produced, how various colors are obtained, and what to look for if you want to purchase a worthy pearl. Prices are relatively inexpensive here compared to more popular Polynesian locations like Tahiti, and you may find that pearls rated a bit lower are just as lovely as the more pricey ones.

Another look at the reef surrounding the atoll.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Save money: Read Budget Travel for the Genius

If you love to travel—and want to save money while doing so—here’s a book that provides easy tips for doing both. Budget Travel for the Genius by Cynthia Drake is a new guide for traveling on the cheap, whether you travel as a couple, solo, or with your kids.  Drake helps you find a balance between expensive comfort and convenience and economical experiences beyond the usual tourist haunts--options that will fit your budget.
Drake reinforces the concept of packing lightly—for many reasons. She tells how to find discounts and complimentary meals, cocktails, and other treasures. She encourages you to be adventurous and try new things—remembering to find humor in just about every situation. And don’t forget to take photos, which Drake calls the cheapest souvenirs you’ll find.

Budget Travel for the Genius is divided into four parts: (1) Before you go--strategies for planning a trip including determining your travel budget and style and purchasing insurance; (2) Types of Trips—from tent camping to voluntourism to extended stay rentals; (3) While You’re Traveling—what to expect on a daily basis and finding low-cost options or coupons for dining, sleeping, and entertainment; and (4) Special Considerations—what to consider if you’re a single traveler or going with a group.
Whether you travel by air, car, train, bus, or ship, Drake helps you think through your choices and offers strategies for deciding which is most economical and sensible for your trip. Budget Travel for the Genius provides tips specific to both international and domestic travel—and staying connected to the folks back home--so don’t worry if your dream trips are to faraway places.

Finally, Drake includes nine U.S. cities that she considers great for budget travel, and she provides guidelines for making the most of each destination.  It’s a quick read packed with practical and usable suggestions for making trips enjoyable and affordable. Don’t be surprised if you have your bags packed and your wallet stashed by the time you finish reading the book.
Order Budget Travel for the Genius $27.95



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wacky Museums: If You Collect It, They Will Come

What happens when a personal collection outgrows its simple beginnings? Some morph into museums that continue to reflect the public's infatuation with specific — often quirky — items.Once an idea catches on, either because it's unusual, nostalgic or just plain wacky, there's no stopping it.

My article in NowU, “Unusual Museums with Their Own Kind of Charm,” profiles three such museums: National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin; Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas; and Museum of Bad Art near Boston, Massachusettes.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Malta is a wondeful holiday destination

Malta's stunning architecture
Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, and the people are a mixture of many Mediterranean Cultures. Throughout history its strategic location between the North Africa coast and the island of Sicily has resulted in different countrymen building fortresses and bunkers to guard the protected port area. Arriving by ship, it has one of the most outstanding entries you’ll see on a cruise.
Built along the sea, Malta is a busy port
Its history is speckled with invasions dating back to 800 B.C. when the Phoenicians colonized the islands. The North African colony of Carthage ruled for awhile; then Malta became part of the Roman Empire. Arabs arrived in 870 and were later expelled by the Normans. A series of European rulers and pirates from Turkey and Asian countries ravaged the island.  Crusaders from the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem protected the islands from 1530 until Napoleon conquered Malta in 1798.

Clear, turquoise water at the Blue Lagoon
After the Maltese defeated the French in 1800 the islands officially became part of the British Empire, so many natives speak English. Malta again found itself under siege during WWII as a key port in the battle for the Mediterranean Sea. Malta gained independence in 1965 and joined the European Union in 1992. Today most tourists to Malta come from the United Kingdom, but U.S. visitors are discovering its many charms.
With 300 days of sunshine and warm summer temperatures, it’s easy to see why the sea and sandy beaches are so popular. Be sure to stop at the Blue Lagoon (or take a boat ride there).When you’re tired of sifting your toes through the sand, take a drive to see more rugged areas of the coastline. Don’t forget to sample some of the seafood dishes and pasta for which Malta is known as well as the rabbit stew.
Golden sand beaches were so tempting

Spend some time wandering around Valletta, the capital city of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Winding alleyways lead to museums, monuments, baroque architecture, churches, restaurants, and shops. It’s a city built on two levels, with the more modern options on the upper level (a lift/elevator will take you up, if you choose not to walk).
Designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, Valletta is a wonderful blend of old and new.  It’s a 16th century architectural masterpiece known as the “city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”

Barrakka Gardens on the upper level of Valletta
It’s an easily walkable city, so in addition to sea, sun, and sand, plan time to enjoy Upper Barrakka Gardens, Palace of the Grand Masters, and Fort St. Elmo. Take in an overview of the memorable port area from land or ship and imagine pirates or invading countries trying to penetrate the massive stone walls and fortresses.
The historic “Old Town,” Mdina, is located at the geographical center of the island and is a functioning walled city with narrow cobblestone streets. The Mdina Cathedral, is known for its fine collection of paintings and wood carvings.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, February 20, 2015

Have wine--will travel


Nuvine Chardonnay
Is wine a favorite component of your travel plans? Transporting glass bottles in your checked luggage can be risky, even if they are well-padded. No one wants red wine stains on their entire vacation wardrobe should the rough handling result in a broken bottle. And boxed wine is…well, not very practical to travel with—and usually not very good.
Now there’s a new option for wine-on-the-go. Nuvino is billed as wine without excess baggage. It’s individual servings of wine in a lightweight, unbreakable pouch. No corkscrew needed to open and no bulky glasses needed for serving. Nuvino is perfect for the beach or an outdoor concert, too.
What about taste? Nuvino wines come from four internationally renowned wine regions. There’s a Sauvignon Blanc from the dry-farmed vineyards of Chile’s Maule Valley. Fresh aromas of white flowers, crisp citrus, green apples, and white peaches pair perfectly with salmon, salad, or lighter fare.
The zesty un-oaked Chardonnay comes from two of South Africa’s wine regions and features a balance of vanilla, pineapple, and ripe peach flavors.
Nuvino Malbec
The Red Blend hails from South Eastern Australia’s Swan Hill wine region. Smooth flavors of plums, mulberries, and oak flavor this soft, juicy wine.
Produced in the eastern foothills of the majestic Andes mountains in the Mendoza’s MaipĂș wine region, the fruity Malbec is perfect with your favorite steak, barbecue ribs, or spicy-sweet dishes.
Check out current offerings at
Information and images courtesy of Louis R. Barbarini, Illumination PR
(I have no connection and have not received anything from Nuvino)


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Now is the best time to visit Cuba

Iconic 1950s cars are still running on the streets of
Cuban towns and cities.
Thinking of visiting Cuba now that restrictions for U.S. travelers have been loosened? Read my article in NowU, a publication of USA Today.

You'll read about my visit to Cuba in 2013, regulations still in place and those that have changed, and tips for getting the most out of travel there in the near future.

Organic farmers are a new breed in Cuban agriculture.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best ways to exchange dollars for foreign currency when traveling

Cash is king when you travel. And if your journey takes you to another country, you’ll need to acquire cash in the proper currency upon arrival. Exchange rates and foreign transactions fees can take a big bite out of your money, so it’s important to think about this before you go.
You can often get the more common foreign currencies at U.S. banks, but it’s a good idea to check the exchange rate online before doing this. While it’s convenient for you, the bank may take an extra cut, meaning your dollars are worth less. If you do opt to travel with the currency of your destination already in your wallet, exchange just enough to get you by the first day.

Check on whether your credit cards still charge foreign transaction fees, which can be as high as three percent for charges made on the card. Fortunately, many cards, including Delta and United Airlines, have eliminated these fees, so you save a bunch and still have the safety of using a credit card. Credit cards from hotel companies like Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott, Fairmont, and Hyatt are also free of foreign transaction fees. Discover, Capital One, and some Chase cards are also good choices for travelers (check the small print).
Be sure to inform your bank or credit card company prior to travel that you’ll be charging items on the card in a foreign country. If unexplained charges suddenly appear, the charge may be denied or the card could be frozen and you wouldn’t be able to use it at all.

Another place to exchange money when traveling is at a foreign ATM, although check for fees here, too. Some banks require that you use specific ATMs, but if yours doesn’t charge a fee, this can be your best bet for withdrawing reasonable amounts of cash quickly and easily. Just be sure your bank account at home can cover the amount and your bank is aware that you’ll be using your debit card in another country for this purpose.
Airports generally have booths for currency exchange, but they charge high commissions, so avoid them unless you just have to have taxi fare in cash to get to your hotel. Exchanging currency for cash at the hotel will probably also hit you with high fees, although it’s certainly more convenient than searching for a local bank. Yet, that’s where you’re likely to find the most favorable rates. So, when you’re settled in, find the nearest bank to exchange dollars for pesos, euros, pounds, lira, or another exotic currency. Hopefully, you’ll get a favorable rate that’s close to the actual exchange rate.

Photos from Bing


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 tips to ease the stress of flying with kids

Traveling by air these days is challenging enough without the added strain of having kids along for the ride. But, of course, sometimes a family trip is in order. Still, who appreciates grumpy stares of other travelers when the kids are being…well, kids?
These tips can help you—and other passengers--have as pleasant a flight as possible.

Explain what to expect. Talk about your adventure and destination with your kids prior to the trip. Children are more likely to cooperate if they know what the procedure will be and what to expect when they get there. If you’re happy and excited about your journey, they will be, too.
Schedule flights during off-peak times. Holidays and spring break can be chaos with crowded airports and a higher likelihood of delays. If possible, schedule your flights mid-day and mid-week. Avoid the last flight of the day, or you could be stuck in the airport if anything goes amiss. During take-off and landing, protect ears with breast or bottle feeding, gum, or a lollipop.

Arrive at the airport early. Allow plenty of time for checking in, going through security, and finding the right gate. It’s nearly impossible to jog through the terminal with kids in tow if you’re running late. Allow time to put fresh diapers on little ones and to take older children to the bathroom before boarding. Many airports have play areas, so the kids can expend some energy during extra waiting time.
Bring a stroller. Leave the heavy-duty, pack-it-all-in model at home, and opt for a stroller that folds easily because you’ll need to do that at security and before boarding the plane (gate-check the stroller so you have it during layovers). When toddlers get tired of traipsing through the terminal, you can let them ride awhile (It’s easier for you if they are contained and not lollygagging behind). If kiddos prefer to walk, the stroller can hold backpacks and small luggage.

Be prepared for glitches.  Bring along healthy snacks your kids like—skip candy and anything loaded with sugar. Finger foods like granola bars, pretzels, and fruit pieces work well and avoid big messes. For infants, include juice and baby food (Can you imagine taking an international flight without an extra bottle? Just listened to a poor baby cry all night because mom didn't prepare).
Have plenty of items for entertainment easily accessible in your carryon. Late or cancelled flights can mean hours of waiting, so have a back-up plan in case this happens. You might even pack a couple of “surprise” items that can magically appear when a child is on the verge of a melt-down. Shop the dollar store for crayons, stickers, and small books to slip in your bag. If you have a DVD player bring it along (fully charged!)  Hours of screen time don’t count during a flight.
Head off potential mishaps by planning ahead and being calm and courteous to fellow travelers, flight attendants, and your children as well.  Relax and keep a smile on your face, and hopefully everyone will have a good experience in the air.

All images provided free of charge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Montego Bay, Jamaica--the island of All Right

Montego Bay,Jamaica ranks number eight among preferred vacation destinations for Americans.  No wonder: It’s the island of happy days—the island of All Right--inspired by a colorful native culture that comes alive in the tropical environment of the Caribbean.
The city of Montego Bay is the capital of the parish of St. James and the fourth most populous city in Jamaica. It is a popular tourist destination any time of year because it has duty-free shopping, a cruise line terminal, and several beaches to attract visitors—all with scenic mountains in the background.

Although we arrived at Montego Bay on a cruise ship, we choose our own slice of paradise by booking our own excursion through  The Montego Bay Bengal Falls and White Water River Rafting Excursion allowed us to appreciate several natural attractions on the island.
The first part of our excursion took us on a scenic drive to Bengal Falls. Our guide then led our group on a short walk through the rain forest to the beautiful hidden falls. The cascading water pours over a natural path carved out by the river, so we traipsed over large rocks and boulders (with the strong helping hand of our guide) to several thundering cascades—and a wonderful back massage as we allowed the invigorating water to pour over us.  We also climbed and splashed around gentle pools and thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing interlude.

Our guide then led us to inflatable rafts at the edge of the river. Safety gear and instructions were given before we started the scenic journey downstream. With the captain steering the raft from the rear, guests navigated the craft on the Rio Bueno River through class one and two rapids--gentle and suitable for family groups. Actually, the current mostly carried us along, so paddling was minimal, which gave plenty of time to admire the jungle landscape and listen to the birds onshore.
At one point, in a calm area under almond trees, we stopped and took turns flying on the rope swing, dropping into the cool water. After the brief break we resumed our spots on the raft and let the currents carry us over a few more rapids. We passed under an old stone bridge as we made our way towards the Caribbean Sea.

The river eventually opened up to the sea, and we arrived at a private beach at the end of Bengal Bay. This lovely tropical setting, filled with blooming pink bougainvillea, was the perfect place to relax with a cool drink, listen to some reggae music, and shuffle our feet in the sand.
As the day ended we agreed that Jamaica was indeed the Island of All Right.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, January 23, 2015

Yellowstone's bright colored hot springs explained

Brilliantly colored hot springs in Yellowstone National Park
One of the key attractions of Yellowstone National Park (beyond geysers, canyons, and wildlife) is the brilliantly colored thermal springs.  You may have seen stunning images of bright turquoise, deep blue, and clear green rings in these steamy pools.

Amid all the geothermal wonders of the park, Grand Prismatic Spring and surrounding springs are among the most wondrous and beautiful. When fur trapper Osborne Russell wrote the earliest description of the park in 1839, he featured Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone’s largest single hot spring and the world’s third largest hot spring.

Reflections in the steamy hot springs at Yellowstone.
Steam suspended in the air above the enormous spring reflects the colors of the rainbow.
Scientists explain the brilliant hues as the result of a complicated interplay of underwater vents and spans of bacteria.

In the case of Morning Glory Pool, located at the end of a path by Old Faithful, scientists at Montana State University were able to simulate what the pool looked like between the 1880s (when temperatures were significantly higher and colors more vibrant) and 1940s when an accumulation of coins, trash, and rocks lowered the pool’s temperature, killed some of the bacteria mats, and shifted its appearance to orange-yellow-green hues.

We didn't expect to see such incredibly beautiful colors in the springs.
Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 hot springs and geysers and is the largest geyser field in the world. Some geysers erupt 300 times annually, while others, such as Steamboat Geyser, may not erupt for 50 years.  One of the best places to see these steam vents is Upper Geyser Basin, located between Old Faithful (which erupts every 92 minutes) and Biscuit Basin Road. Within a span less than half a mile wide are countless geothermal features including more than 150 geysers and hot springs.
Old Faithful erupting in
Yellowstone National Park

Other notable areas to see when visiting Yellowstone National Park include Lower Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots, Roaring Mountain, Artist’s Paint Pots, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Norris Geyser Basin (Yellowstone’s hottest basin at 459 degrees F), Mud Volcano near the center of the caldera, and Mammoth HotSprings where about two tons of travertine limestone (calcium carbonate) are deposited in terraces every day.

Plan to spend several hours on boardwalks surrounding these steamy vents to appreciate this unique and amazing example of biologic interactions in nature. Don’t be deterred by a possible rotten egg odor which results when bacteria eat the sulfur and create sulfuric acid which then evaporates as smelly hydrogen sulfide gas. The colorful hot springs are a unique example of nature’s beauty you won’t want to miss.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't let the flu bug bite when traveling

Getting sick is never fun, but it’s especially annoying—or worse--on vacation. Traveling can be hazardous to your health, since eating and sleeping schedules are often different from your usual times. You’re likely to be exposed to new germs, and re-circulated air during flights can be dehydrating . All of these things can weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness.
It’s especially important to be vigilant about healthy practices during the winter cold and flu season. If you’re traveling, keep these tips in mind.

Get plenty of rest prior to leaving, and sleep enroute, if possible. At your destination, try to get on schedule quickly and continue to get sufficient rest to allow recovery from the stresses of travel. Having a flu shot prior to leaving can lessen your chances of getting the flu.

Wash your hands regularly. It’s the single most important thing to do. Your hands touch so many items and surfaces that strangers have also touched, but keeping hands clean can help you avoid another person’s germs.
Clean surfaces with antibacterial wipes, including arm rests and seat trays on airplanes and other public transportation. If you’re feeling even mildly ill, help prevent the spread of germs by wiping down surfaces you touch.

Drink water. Skip sodas and alcoholic drinks that can further dehydrate your body, especially when flying. Bring an empty bottle through security and fill it up once you’re at the gate, so you’re not dependent on flight attendants’ serving times.
Bring basic first aid supplies. In addition to prescription medications you might require, include bandages, pain reliever, eye drops, nasal spray, anti-diarrhea pills, decongestants, antacid tablets, antibiotics, and motion sickness pills. A pack of tissues also comes in handy—and use one when you must cough or sneeze.  Then wash your hands.

Bring your own travel pillow and blanket on long flights. Despite being placed in plastic bags, the pillows and blankets on airplanes are not cleaned after every flight and could harbor germs from the previous user. Your own might also come in handy in hotels.
Ask to change seats when someone next to you is coughing or sneezing. If you’re particularly susceptible to germs, wearing a face mask might be an effective alternative. Check out the cool, comfortable, and fun masks at Tutem.

Move around. Whether traveling by car, train, bus, or plane, walk around when you can, or exercise at your seat if you’re stuck there awhile. Moving your body helps with circulation, and it can prevent deep vein thrombosis or blood clots in your legs. Besides, you’ll feel better.

Taking simple precautions to prevent illness is better than trying to recover later--Beverly Burmeier

Friday, January 16, 2015

Plan a grand vacation with the grandkids

It’s not too early to start planning summer vacations, especially if you’re a grandparent or parent who wants to include the kids. Multi-generational travel is more popular than ever with nearly 30 percent of traveling grandparents including a grandchild in this bonding experience. You can plan a trip on your own to a national park or favorite destination or choose a tour especially organized for different generations  
White water rafting in Costa Rica is a great adventure for older kids.
Many travel companies offer vacation packages geared to grandparents and grandchildren. This is a great way to go because other travelers are in the same demographic. All the details are planned with two generations in mind, and there are usually some specifically for the kids and others geared for adults as well as those that combine generations. Typically summer vacation packages are geared for children from age seven through teens, but check on specific activities to find tours that appeal to the interests of your family group.

Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat on African safari
is life-changing for all ages.
National Geographic Expeditions just released its 2015 Family Trips catalogue featuring 22 itineraries that span the globe and offer enriching, hands-on travel experiences that will inspire your family as they have for generations of explorers. Adventures are geared to children ages seven to 17 and cover destinations as varied as Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks, Alaska, China, Ireland, Spain, Tanzania, Costa Rica, and Australia during the months of June, July, August, and December.
Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel)   (800-454-5768) offers educational vacations in the U.S. and abroad for adults 55 and over. Popular intergenerational trips include Costa Rica and Cuba for college-age children and an African Safari in the Serengeti designed for children ages 7-11.

Glaciers in Alaska will wow even the most tech-dependent kids.
Sierra Club (415-977-5522) offers a week-long outing for grandparents and grandkids in Tahoe National Forest, California for $695 per adult and $595 per child. Participants can help maintain the  forest while enjoying environmentally-geared activities.
Grandtravel (800-247-7651) offers Adventures by Disney tours with destinations to European countries, Alaska, and New Zealand. Some are geared especially to teens while others are suitable for younger children, too.

Generations Touring Company (888-415-9100) is a voluntour outfit that works like a travel agency dedicated to volunteering and humanitarian vacations. But they focus on projects that cater to the vacationer rather than the gung-ho volunteer--excursions are light on labor, but the mix is still a worthwhile bonding experience.
Feeding a dolphin at Sea World with one of my grandchildren.
Rafting America Families that crave outdoor adventure may choose a white water rafting excursion. Tours can accommodate youngsters from age five or get wild enough to challenge teens. In addition to the excitement of navigating a river on a raft, tours provide kid-friendly meals, river games (both on the river and off), teach kids the basics of whitewater commands, and share guide stories and whitewater lingo.

Cruise ships offer kid-friendly thrills like this ropes course--fun
for parents or grandparents, too.
Other options: Nature tour  company International Expeditions designates certain tour dates from their regular itineraries as family travel excursions. Or consider taking a cruise, where there’s a variety of activities to keep everyone happy. Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Princess are known for programs appealing to all ages. (877-386-9243)
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why do you travel?

Have you ever thought about why you choose to travel?

Are you curious about other parts of our planet?  Desire to know more about other cultures? To see beautiful scenery and natural wonders? To have unusual or challenging adventures? To broaden your educational and life experiences? To meet new people?
Getting acquainted with Maasai women in northern Tanzania, Africa.

Each of us has our reasons—which can change from trip to trip--but the bottom line is that travel enriches our lives in many ways. Its effect is multi-dimensional and often inspirational, whether a trip covers a few days or months at a time.

Trying out native dress worn by
women in the Highlands of Peru.
Studies have shown that money spent on travel experiences makes us happier than money spent on material items.  Memories often last longer than material goods, and the feelings of fulfillment definitely do.

Travel affects our ability to get along with others. We become more social and flexible and learn to adapt to different situations and cultures.

Travelers learn how to solve problems, which boosts confidence. We gain a broader perspective of the world and other ways of life and that often leads us to appreciate our own circumstances more. 

Traveling gives us experiences to share with our companions. Breaking away from routine can also be relaxing and rejuvenating, both individually and for couples. Travel can also be a great bonding experience for family members of different generations.

Yoga on a redwood tree in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California
Travel allows us to be adventurous. It can provide opportunities to try new activities and to challenge yourself physically and mentally.  It might even set you on a new life course.

Observing beautiful scenes and landscapes creates a sense of awe about our natural world and encourages us to protect the environment and the remarkable places on our earth. We also marvel about man-made wonders and appreciate the ingenuity of mankind.
Gorgeous reflections of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.
No matter why you travel, it’s almost sure to have a positive impact on your life. So stop dreaming and start planning your next trip.

Where do you want to go next?
Photos from our travels by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Friday, January 9, 2015

Pack like a pro (and avoid baggage fees)

A large duffel bag may be all
you need for a short trip.
Most airlines now charge for a checked bag, so passengers these days now cram as much as possible into their wheeled carry-ons.  While JetBlue and Southwest still allow a free checked bag, a few airlines have begun charging for bags you bring onboard the plane. The most typical fee for a checked bag for U.S. airlines is $25 each way or $50 for a round-trip flight, but you can avoid that by traveling with carry-ons only.
These packing tips can help you fit up to a week’s worth of clothes and necessary items into the maximum-size carry-on, which is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (Even so, you might be required to gate check your bag on smaller planes).

Don't be this person!
Make a list of what you’ll need—then follow it. You can have a general list that covers any travel; then add specific items needed for the current trip.
Set aside the clothing items you plan to take—then put at least a third of those items back. Same with jewelry and personal care items. Do you really need three gold necklaces and four lipsticks? Most hotels supply shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion, so you can leave yours at home.

Choose a soft side bag with wheels.
A soft-side bag will stretch to accommodate over-stuffing, unlike hard-shell luggage. Wheels are necessary—no longer a luxury--as are strong zippers and reinforced corners. Stash travel documents or other items you might need on arrival in outside pockets.
Packing pros recommend rolling rather than folding clothes. Shirts, pants, and skirts take up less space and wrinkle less when rolled. Or purchase bags specially made for vacuum packing these items.
Rolled clothes take up less space and wrinkle less.

Stuff small items like socks and underwear (and chargers) into shoes or other odd-shaped items. After your main wardrobe is packed, slip these small items into the nooks and crannies.
When traveling to a cold destination, wear jacket, boots, and hat on the plane. These items take up too much space in a suitcase, and chances are you can stash them in an overhead bin if they’re too bulky at your seat. That coat might even make a good pillow when you want to sleep.

You’re allowed a personal item, so make sure it counts. A large shoulder, duffel, or tote bag can hold as much as a small carry-on, thus increasing your packable space. Just be sure it will fit under the seat or in the overhead bin of smaller planes for take-off and landing.
A neatly packed suitcase
Packing liquids can be a problem when you’re not checking a bag. You can’t take a jar of barbeque sauce to your friends or sneak in a bottle of wine purchased on your trip. The TSA limits liquids to 3.4 ounces or less per container, and all of these must fit into a quart-size plastic zip bag. That’s a tall order for women who typically have a variety of personal care items. Instead of packing liquid perfume, deodorant, sunscreen, insect repellent, make-up remover, etc., switch to solids and wipes. Many products now are designed in sizes and composition that meet the regulations of air travel.  

All photos from free sites.