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Canada Guide: Vancouver

Canada turns 150 years old this year, and the country is celebrating coast to coast. The American dollar is worth about $1.30 at the time of writing, so your travel buck will go a long way.

Passport 2017 is a great place to start planning your visit to Canada.

I think Vancouver is the most beautiful city in North America. When I hear people rave about Seattle, I always ask them if they’ve ever been to Vancouver. There aren’t many places where you can go from sitting on a beach to skiing some great runs in about an hour. It’s cosmopolitan, world class, and yet it has a west coast laid back vibe that I love. If Vancouver sounds interesting, check out this city guide from Afar.

 

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8 Things I Love About Colorado

Hikers in Unaweep Canyon.

Redcloud Peak near Lake City.

1. Sunshine. It seems like the sun always shines here. While that’s not actually true, we do get a lot of sun.
Annual days of sunshine:
Colorado Springs 247
Denver 245
Grand Junction 242
Pueblo 258
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Breeze Through US Customs

You spend enough time in lines at the airport. Anything that helps to speed up that tortuous process is a winner in my books.

It’s called Mobile Passport. It’s a free app that you install on your smartphone that takes less than 5 minutes to do. Right now, it’s only available to US and Canadian citizens.

The Mobile Passport app speeds you through U.S. Customs when entering the USA at 1 cruise port and 21 airports. Officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mobile Passport allows travelers to submit their passport control and customs declaration information via their Android or Apple device and bypass the regular line to enter the United States. This app effectively replaces the traditional blue-and-white paper declaration form required of all travelers entering the U.S. by air or sea.
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What baby boomers want: to travel in comfort

Photo courtesy Holiday Extras

I love Paul Marshman and his blog called The Travelling Boomer. Since I am a travelling boomer, his writing always hits home for me, and his pieces are well thought out and informative without any of the annoying stuff, like click next ten times to see the whole story.

This piece really resonated with me. I recently took a solo trip to Panama and Peru. When I travel solo, I do it on the cheap because I’m not picky about where I stay, as long as it’s safe, has a roof, and a bed. But I’m at the point in my life where, even though I’m staying in a cheap hostel, I need a private room with a private bathroom. The love of travel is there, but age dictates some concessions. And that’s the point of this article.

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Personal Item vs. Carry-On: What’s the Difference?

The big push by US based airlines to become more like European budget airlines makes air travel even more confusing.

Depending on the type of ticket you purchase, you may not be able to bring a carry-on to put in the overhead bins at all, unless you are willing to pay extra. So far, every airline still allows you to bring what they call a personal item to stow beneath the seat without charge.

However, each airline has different size limitations. This piece from Smarter Travel has some good information. TIP: If you don’t want to have to click the next button 10 times, look for “View As One Page” beneath the first graphic.

It’s always a good idea to go to the airline’s web page and look at their baggage policies. European airlines generally require smaller carry-on luggage than North American airlines, so If you are looking for new carry-on luggage, look for a suitcase that meets international requirements.

 

 

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Baby Boomer Travel Trends

As a confirmed baby boomer and traveler, I found this article to be very informative, and a little surprising.

I always thought that I was a maverick by selecting autumn as my favorite travel time because there are fewer people on vacation, the weather is still good, and prices can be lower. But I was wrong. Fall travel is only slightly behind spring and summer travel.

Read more in US News & World Report.

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How to Protect Your Computer from Airlines and Hotels That Snoop on You

I’ve been booking and researching travel for a long time, and I learned something from this piece today. I just booked a hotel on Booking.com and saved about $500. Here’s how I did it. I switched my VPN to show my location in Canada, used an incognito page on Chrome to search hotels, found what I wanted, and clicked on reserve. Only then did I sign in. By that time, Booking.com was committed to giving me the room in Canadian funds, which means I saved 30% on the exchange rate. If I had signed in with my account and not hidden my location, Booking would have know where I was and quoted the price in US funds instead of Canadian.

Thanks to Frommer’s for some great advice!

Read more on Frommer’s.

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VIDEO: Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a special place in my heart. I always suggest this beautiful province as a vacation destination whenever I can.

I hope this video will tempt you to visit Nova Scotia this year.

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Europe: Plane vs Train vs Car vs Ship

It’s always a challenge to get around in a place that you don’t know well. I prefer trains for their comfort and speed, but negotiating the various train lines in various countries where I don’t speak the language can be very frustrating. I use Rick Steves’ train site whenever I take a European trip.

There are pros and cons to every method of travel in Europe, and this article really explains them well.

Interior of first class carriage, Eurail train, Switzerland.

Read more on Traveler.

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The 12 Things Traveling Teaches You

On my last trip, certainly not my final trip, I wondered why I have such a huge desire to travel. I know people who are not affected by the travel bug. To me, that’s as unfathomable as not liking coffee or the Rolling Stones. I try to understand it, but I don’t.

I love the process. Deciding where to go, a decision influenced by things like budget and time available. When a destination is chosen, there are the hours spent looking for the best and cheapest plane fares. Checking the layover times to make sure we don’t miss our flight from the departure terminal that always seems to be miles from where you are. Finally, hitting the confirm reservation button while hoping you don’t come across a much cheaper fare next month.

Then, poring over guide books, watching videos, fingers tracing routes on a map, trying to decipher the foreign language train schedule. Choosing accommodations is big one. How close is it to the train station or the beach or that thing/place you really want to experience? Are the beds big enough (Europe tends to have small beds)?  Is breakfast included? Does it have a coffee maker because, if not, I have to bring my latest travel treasure – a small, collapsible, dual voltage kettle.

Ugh. The airport. Trying to remember to dump the water in your water bottle so it doesn’t end up in that huge barrel of other confiscated stuff that the TSA doesn’t like. Oh my god! Did we bring the expensive wine opener that has that minuscule little blade thingie on it that the TSA will throw in the barrel? Feeling smug that you were smart enough to buy Global Entry as you sail through the security line. Buying the best, most healthy breakfast you can find in the terminal, and wincing at the price. Boarding the plane, passing the big, roomy seats that you don’t get to sit in, getting settled into your confined space, zoning out for the next x number of hours, the excitement of finally arriving, the confusion of where to go next, how to get to the hotel, and you’re there!

So, my love of travel is just me, and I had never really given much thought to what travel gives me. But Chad Grills at The Medium has.

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Eight Helpful Travel Apps You Can Use Without Wi-Fi

If you’ve ever traveled abroad without a data plan or a portable hotspot, you know how difficult it is to find free Wi-Fi. Many travelers plan their entire trips on their phones and computers, so it’s only natural that most people still rely on the Internet while traveling. Going online for directions and restaurant recommendations is second nature, but finding free Wi-Fi can take valuable time out of a vacation, and using unsecured connections can put your information in danger. For this reason, it’s important to keep an arsenal of travel apps on your phone that don’t need Wi-Fi.

Read more here on Smarter Travel. Click on view as one page if you don’t want to click through all the slides.

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How Do I Charge My Phone While Traveling?

The number of different power plugs used all around the world is pretty mind boggling. If you really wanted to be prepared, you’d need a separate suitcase to carry all the different adapters.

This is important. Different countries use different voltages. For example, if you plugged your North American 110 volt laptop into a European or Latin American 220 volt plug using only an adapter, you’d probably destroy it. That’s because you need to transform the voltage, and that requires a converter which is not the same as an adapter. Make sure you have both with you.

The good news is that most phones and tablets don’t require a converter because they already reduce the voltage in the plug. You will need an adapter to make the plugs fit. NOTE: make sure you check with your phone manufacturer so that you’re sure that you won’t need a converter as well as an adapter.

Here is a handy list of countries and the adapter plugs they require.

On my last trip to Peru, I had a heavy converter, a bunch of adapter plugs, and I took along a small power strip to plug into the converter so I could keep all my gadgets plugged in. While I was there, I bought a 220 volt power strip with the plug that works in most of Latin America as well as most of Europe, so I can skip the adapters and converter when I travel to those countries. It looks something like this and has a 6 foot cord. I paid about $5.00 USD for it.

This one is available on Amazon for about $25.00.

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Why I No Longer Feel Guilty About Taking Vacations

Do you ever feel guilty about taking a vacation?

It is a pretty common feeling, and there are many reasons fro it. Maybe you needed a break and just had to get away, leaving things behind that should have been done. Or, you have a job that doesn’t really encourage vacation time off. Perhaps you spent more than you should have. You can travel but your spouse/partner can’t.

This is a terrific story of a woman who felt guilt about taking her vacations. And then she saw the situation through her father’s eyes. And that changed everything.

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Get Your National Park Lifetime Pass For $10 While You Can

2014 - Zihuatanejo - Finger Print on Chilled Glass

I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy. I don’t choose to be optimistic, it’s just in the DNA.

So, as I enter the final chapters of my life, I do so with resignation. I’m not thrilled about it, but I might as well make the best of the inevitable.

There are some benefits to becoming a senior. Besides invisibility, a big one is discounts. Keep in mind that everyone’s definition of senior is different. Most 50 year olds are shocked when they receive their first invitation to join AARP. So, you have to ask, and some places don’t give you a discount for making it this far.

One that does is the US National Park Service. Once you hit 62, they will give you a lifetime National Park pass for just $10. But, government funding is shrinking, and to maintain the parks, that lifetime pass is going up to $80, which is still an incredible bargain.

Read more in ecoXplorer about getting yours.

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Terrific Groupon Vacation Package Deals

Please note. Many Groupon travel prices are based on double occupancy. In other words, to get the advertised price, you each have to purchase a package. The prices quoted are often time limited. Double check the dates and the departure airports before you book.

 

How about a four day Panama package from $599? Airfare and hotel included in that price from three East Coast departure airports.

Italy Vacation with Airfare, Hotels and Car Rental from Great Value Vacations – Castellammare Di Stabia, Italy from $899. Departure airports: Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

5-Day Peru Tour with Airfare and Hotels from Gate 1 Travel from $899. Departure airports: New York City and Miami.

The seasons are reversed south of the equator. December through February is the rainy season in Peru’s highlands. The Inca Trail closes during February for clean up. It’s high season for the coast and beach activities. Very rainy in the Amazon, lasting through May.

March through May, and September through November are ideal for less-crowded visits. September to November for good rain forest trekking.

June through August is the dry season in Andean highlands and eastern rain forest. It’s the best time for festivals and highland sports, including treks. It’s also the busiest time due to North American and European holidays.

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Where Should You Go In 2017?

Where should you go in 2017? That’s a great question, and you’re going to see a lot of lists like this. I like this list from The Points Guy for a number of reasons. The destinations are not super expensive places to get to, although you can spend a fortune on accommodations if you choose. It’s an actual list, so you don’t have to constantly click on next and endure a bunch of ads. I appreciate that. Plus, there’s some very helpful information about each location. Enjoy!

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