Monday, March 31, 2014

The Girl with the Travel Tattoo

Have any of you travelers out there every thought about getting a tattoo commemorate your travels? Here are some people that have!

{Man's tattoo tracks his travels}

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{Source}
{Texas Tattoo...accompanying song}




Friday, March 28, 2014

When Vacations Attack

I'm not sure if you would classify this as an attack...maybe and attack of cuteness. One photographer got pretty lucky when a young cheetah got a little curious

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p.s. If you want to see a cute movie involving a cheetah check out Duma.



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Facts That Sound like Lies but are Completely True

I found this really fun and interesting page on BuzzFeed titled 77 Facts That Sound like Lies but are Completely True. There were a handful of them that had to with different countries, geography and history and I wanted to share them:

1. Maine is the closest U.S. state to Africa.
2. Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were born in the same year, 1929.
3. The name Jessica was created by Shakespeare in the play Merchant of Venice.
4. Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.
5. Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto.
6. Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia.
7. Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire.
8. France was still executing people with a guillotine when the first Star Wars film came out.
9. The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.
10. New York City is further south than Rome, Italy.
{the green line is the straight line...maybe around Capri?}

11. North Korea and Finland are separated by one country.

12. John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, has a grandson who’s alive today.
13. Alaska is simultaneously the most northern, the most western, and the most eastern state in the U.S.
14. The pyramids were as old to the Romans as the Romans are to us.
15. If you dug a hole to the center of the Earth and dropped a book down, it would take 42 minutes to reach the bottom.
16. Every two minutes, we take more pictures than all of humanity in the 19th century.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Extreme Travelers: The Longest Way

Christoph Rehage started his trek on November 9th, 2007, his 26th birthday. He got the idea while he was attending the Beijing Film Academy and it sort of spurred from a walk he did in 2003 when he walked from Paris to him home town in Germany.

{Source}
In the video you see him on a plane and he only flew because he had to deal with some passport issues. Other than that he walked the WHOLE way! His trek stopped on October 25th, 2008. He clocked 4,646 km (2,886.9 miles). His original plan was to start in Beijing and head to Western China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Turkey, and back home through Europe to his home in Bad Nenndorf, Germany. The trip would have only taken ten hours by plane but walking is going to take than two years.

You can check out all his social media pages below for more information on his journey.


Facebook      Twitter      YouTube      Web Site




Friday, March 21, 2014

Apps: Siri

Did you know that at any given moment you can ask Apple’s Siri what airplanes are above you? I thought that was pretty cool!






Pretty nifty huh? Give it a try!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

8 Airfare Myths Debunked

Mainstreet.com just came out with a list of 8 Airfare Myths that have been Debunked.  I thought they were interesting and wanted to share. 




1. Last Minute Fares
This may be the single biggest myth about the airline industry: hours before a flight airlines will sell tickets for a song.

This myth has become pervasive enough to take over TV shows and even entire ad campaigns, but it's as wrong as it is popular. These days most flights run either full or oversold, and if a few seats remain open, they cost an arm and a leg. Want a good deal in the air? Plan ahead.

I think this might work in Europe, does anybody know? I know for sure it works on cruises. 

2. Planning Too Far Ahead
Don't plan too far ahead though, because here's our second myth: you can never buy tickets too far in advance.

As a general rule, tickets get more expensive the closer you get to a flight, so it seems intuitive that earlier is always better. Unfortunately, in this case, intuition will steer you wrong.

The truth is that too far in advance airlines don't have a fix on their prices yet, and they know people booking a year ahead will need that flight no matter what. Airfare moves in a cycle, and the best time to buy is usually a couple months in advance.

This is what I am guilty of!

3. Hidden Fares
Everyone knows someone who considers himself a travel ninja and promises that he knows just where to look to find the best prices online. Well, that's a lie because: there's no such thing as finding just the right site to get amazing, hidden deals.

Save yourself the time. The truth is that all of the airfare booking sites actually get their prices from the same database. You'll find some variation, because different sites will put together slightly different routes, and once in a blue moon that might make a meaningful difference. As a general rule though, rest easy. There's no secret site out there just waiting to cut your ticket price in half.

don't know if I believe this...I do think some people have a knack for finding really good deals. 

4. Talking Your Way Into an Upgrade
This myth also comes to us courtesy of pop culture: if you dress nicely and charm the gate agent, you can talk your way right into first class.

Think again, Danny Ocean. Like the myth of last minute fares, charming your way into first class has been effectively killed by a modern, efficient industry. Airlines know those seats up front don't always sell, so they take advantage of the empty space in a dozen other ways. They hand out first class seats as rewards to huge customers or let frequent fliers upgrade with points. Recently, more and more airlines have started offering customers a chance to buy upgrades at check in (in the one exception to our first myth).

The truth is, airlines know how to make the most of every inch of space on their planes, and they do so ruthlessly. I'm not saying getting bumped up at the jetway never happens, but almost always that seat you're trying to schmooze for has already been taken.

I've tried to do this when I've booked through a travel agent...it doesn't work...even when you offer to pay for it. 

5. There's a Right Day to Buy
Like all good stories, myth number five starts with a kernel of truth. Price-wise, there are absolutely better days to fly than others. That, however, has led to the myth: it's cheaper to buy your plane ticket on some days than others.

The myth makes might some sense, because airlines do sometimes publish a lot of deals on Tuesdays, but that makes no difference in standard prices. The truth is, day of the week doesn't matter. It's certainly cheaper to fly on a Tuesday vs. a Saturday, but as far as buying the ticket goes, there's just no impact.

I do think fares are cheaper in the middle of the week versus the weekend.

6. Airlines Run Great Online Deals
Speaking of those Tuesday, deals aren't all they're cracked up to be...leading to our sixth myth: you can get reliable savings through online deals.

This myth is a little different from our others, because once upon a time it actually used to be true. In the early days of web browsing, airlines began running online deals to try and get customers used to booking on their websites. Today people overwhelmingly book online, so the industry needs fewer incentives.

The result? Those once useful web fares have been increasingly cut back. The truth behind this myth is that while there are lots of special offers, they are generally so specific and limited as to be functionally useless. Every now and again, your plans might line up with the airline's exacting specifications, but for the most part, they're an advertising gimmick and nothing more.

7. Bereavement
Death of a loved one is one of the few personal reasons to fly last minute these days. This rare need to get on a plane tomorrow at all costs led to the myth of bereavement: airlines will give you a break to fly home for a funeral. The truth is, bereavement exists as a policy, but it has never meant particularly good prices.

As expensive as it is to buy last minute now, it used to be frighteningly more so. Trying to fly cross country on a moment's notice could cost thousands of dollars, so even at half price that ticket still cost a lot of money. Today last minute fares cost much less than they used to (although still considerably more than buying in advance), so the airlines don't need to cut as much of a break. They also have less room to do so, since everyone's ticket runs on razor thin margins.

I didn't even know these existed until a few weeks ago. And American Airlines is the last company to get rid of them. 

8. The Saturday Night Stay
This longstanding myth was once a staple of the business community: in order to get the best deals on a round trip flight, you need to stay overnight on a Saturday.

Now, this myth wasn't invented whole cloth. After airline deregulation some companies did start charging more to come back at the end of the week. The rule was aimed at shaking down business travelers who wanted to get home for the weekend and would pay extra to do so. The practice never really took though, and with increasing competition in the marketplace even the companies which did impose the Saturday rule have largely dropped it.

The truth is, although a few companies once did this on some routes, it was never really a major factor in prices to begin with and competition has largely killed it off. Flying back on a Friday or Saturday might sometimes cost more, but only because those are two of the most popular days to fly. Anything else is just a myth.

I've never heard of this one...

This article was written for MainStreet by Eric Reed. You can read more of his work at www.wanderinglawyer.com.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Expats are Ditching Their U.S. Passports

Would you give up your home country citizenship? The numbers are increasing for Americans; 3,000 Americans around the world renounced their citizenship last year. Meet five U.S. citizens who have given up their passports to escape an overly complicated tax code. You can find the original article on Yahoo! Finance


{Would you be willing to give me up?}
Name: Donna-Lane Nelson, 71
Lives in: Geneva, Switzerland

I renounced my U.S. citizenship in 2011. After I did it, I was so emotional that I threw up outside the embassy.

During my renunciation, I broke down. It was like getting a divorce. America gave me my education, a good career path, and I came from a beautiful part of the country. This was very hard.

Before I took the last oath, I asked if I could change my mind. The embassy worker said maybe, with official permission. But I still went through with it.

My decision to renounce was triggered when my bank threatened to close my account because I was American. What would I do without a bank? Americans in Switzerland were having trouble with their investments, getting credit cards, and some weren't even getting loans.

I've been in Switzerland since 1990, and became a citizen in 2005, because I wanted the right to vote where I was living. The Swiss can tell I have an American accent, and I'm often explaining that I grew up in the U.S. and have a daughter who still lives in the Boston area.

Filing taxes from abroad had always been a real pain. I was double taxed on my full pension, but it didn't bother me so much to pay taxes -- it was the annoying paperwork. I used to do my own taxes, but I started going to a professional when I learned about the new disclosure laws. I'm glad I did, because there were a lot of forms. Tax prep costs me about 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,123) a year.

Name: Ezra Goldman, 28
Lives in: Dongguan, China

I was born a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Germany -- the U.S. through my father, and Germany through my mother.

After graduating from college in 2008, I moved for work to Dongguan, China, and I've been here ever since.

Germany doesn't require me to report, file or pay taxes on my income earned abroad, even though I am a German citizen. But as an American citizen, I am required to file taxes on my worldwide income. I always knew that even as an expat, I would have to file.

I have a tax service in the U.S. handle it for me. There's just too much for me to possibly know what's going on with tax laws and regulations -- I can't keep up with it. It costs me several hundred dollars every year, but if a tax expert can keep me in good standing and in compliance, then I see it as the single best investment I make every year.

I am increasingly conflicted about giving up my U.S. citizenship. I plan to live abroad for a while for my career, and I don't know when I'll move back. It doesn't make it any easier as there also seem to be more and more restrictions for expats -- we're ostracized for being American.

On numerous occasions, I've gone to banks to talk about investment opportunities, and they will blatantly tell me, "We do offer them to our customers, but because you're American, those opportunities are not available." I've even had health insurance companies tell me they'd prefer I sign up as a German citizen.

Ultimately, I don't know what I'm going to do as time goes on, but I do know that I will always feel and be American, regardless of my passport.

Name: Laurie Lautmann, 58
Lives in: Gisborne, New Zealand

I went traveling through the Pacific, and landed in New Zealand in my mid-20s. I just loved it, and ended up staying, buying a home, finding a partner -- the whole works.

My partner, Frank, and I are pretty average middle class types. Frank is a local gym teacher, and I have a part-time job as a cleaner. Over the years, we have each separately owned our own businesses. Frank still has his, giving surfing lessons.

The tax obligations imposed by the U.S. drove us crazy! We live in a small town, and it was difficult to find an expert who knew the ins and outs of the U.S. tax system. When we did find a firm, it cost us more than 4,000 New Zealand dollars ($3,360) for them to do our U.S. taxes each year. We looked at the money we paid the accountants as the price we paid to retain our U.S. citizenship. But as we got older and U.S. tax laws became more convoluted, it just didn't seem worth it anymore.

The accountancy fee is the main reason why we both renounced our U.S. citizenship last year. It wasn't an easy decision -- super stressful, and very emotional. But at the end of the day, I think it was the right thing for us.

We made an embassy appointment, all the time thinking long and hard about it. I was nervous during the long drive to the consulate in Auckland. I couldn't eat; I couldn't think; I couldn't sleep.

From the time that you're young, you pledge your allegiance to the flag at school, and you always hear the U.S. is the best country. And here we were, cutting off our ties to America.

I still feel American -- it's where I grew up. If someone asks me what I am, well, hey, I'm an American! I can't say I'm a Kiwi, a New Zealander. I sound like an American, and I really am one. I just don't have the passport anymore.

Name: Christina Ammann, 56
Lives in: Belp, Switzerland

When you're an American -- and I've always been patriotic -- it's extremely troubling to think about giving up your citizenship. But it's an option I am considering due to the invasive reach of the IRS and the U.S. government into my personal life.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and went to college in California. After I graduated, I entered the Peace Corps, stationed in Costa Rica. That's where I met my husband, who is Swiss. I moved to Switzerland to be with him in 1984, and received Swiss citizenship when we married.

The fact that I have signatory rights on my Swiss husband's financial accounts means that I must report them to the U.S. government, which I find quite unfair. I have no problem paying taxes -- I have problems with reporting my non-American husband's assets. It's an invasion of privacy. I've always filed my taxes with the help of my brother, who is an accountant, but neither of us knew I had to report those accounts until my bank here sent me a letter about it.

We also didn't realize until recently that my daughter, who has U.S. citizenship through me, was required to file taxes after she turned 18 three years ago. I didn't think she had to, because her wages from a part-time job as a university student are very low.

I'm now working with a lawyer to sort this out. I think it will cost me in the range of $10,000 when it's all done, which hurts.


My conclusion is that new disclosure laws have caused an enormous amount of grief for an overwhelming majority of expats, just to get a few bad apples. They may be hiding millions, but the target persons are a small percentage of the millions of Americans abroad.
Is this something my expat readers would ever consider?



Friday, March 14, 2014

Favorite Airport

Happy Friday! I'm so glad its Friday;  this week has been really slow and for some reason I have been really tired...the daylight savings time, Spring Forward thing didn't help much. So today I'm going to keep it short and sweet. Have a great weekend! :)

{this is my favorite picture I took while I was in Norway}
While surfing Facebook or Instagram I saw a post from American Airlines and they asked the question, “What’s your favorite airport and why?” I thought this was a fun question and I immediately knew my answer. Bush International, Houston, TX. Why might I pick my local airport? Because it represents two things 1) I’m on my way to a new adventure or 2) I’m coming home to sleep in my own bed and see my pups! As much fun traveling is it’s always nice to come home and be back in your house.

Now, someone that travels more often might have more insight as to which is a BETTER airport, less congested, less confusing, etc.

What is your favorite airport and why?


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pinspiration

In one of my Christmas posts I shared a picture of all the Christmas ornaments I/we have collected on our travels. We also collect small works of art! Nothing fancy and we try to get stuff from locals/street vendors to keep it less expensive. When it comes to buying a little something from our travels we ask ourselves if we'll regret not getting it and if the answer is "yes" then we'll go ahead and buy it. Words of wisdom from my parents. My mom also told to always buy a little something on your travels to remember the trip and the moment.

Anyway... A few weekends ago we got around to hanging them up! In our last house we left quite a few holes in the wall from eye-balling where the nail would go so this time we did it smart!

How to hang your artwork:
We started by using some butcher paper to trace all the frames


Then we used painters tape to position them correctly onto the wall

And ta-daaaa! We have a nice little collection from all our travels!


Do you collect anything from your travels?



Monday, March 10, 2014

The Carry-on Only Challenge

My biggest concern while traveling is that the airline will loose my luggage. And when traveling to different countries where passport check-ins are required I'm concerned with getting through that, collecting my luggage and making it to my next gate in time. For our upcoming travel we have a hour and a half layover in Frankfurt before we depart for Amsterdam and I'm not sure that we'll have enough time to get our checked bags after passport check. So, I accepted the carry-on only challenge!

NOTE: All these outfits are in assumption that the temperature will be in the 40 degree Fahrenheit range...far too cold for this Texan! If that temperature changes then these outfits will most likely change too. 

Our trip is 7 nights long and 8 if you include the overnight travel. I was able to pack 8 tops, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes, a light jacket and a few other things all in my carry-on suitcase. I have to say I was pretty impressed. I'm also taking on board my one "personal item" which will be a backpack. All my outfits can be interchanged pretty easily; all the tops go with jeans or my black pants. On the plane I'll be wearing the outfit that is second from the left, on the top row and I'll be taking the purple jacket with me.  

{All 8 Outfits, also included are my jackets}
{the shoes that are coming with me}
{putting one pair IN the other saved some space!}
When packing I used the rolling method (I rolled all my clothes instead of folding them) and I have to admit, it seemed to work! I was able to fit all my tops and a pair of pants (plus some undergarments) on one side of the suit case! After seeing I had more room is when I decided to bring another pair of pants just in case. 


p.s. I actually found the outfit picture taking helpful because it turned out that the blue polka-dot sweater was a bit see through with a flash on...so an undershirt was packed too! 

{Almost full!}
 I put plastic bags around my boots so I don't get my clothes dirty.

{My one "Personal Item"}
After packing my converter/adapters, Microsoft Surface, camera, toiletry bag and make-up bag I'm sure I'll be able to fit my dress shoes and a few other items into my backpack.

How many days have you been able to pack in a carry-on bags?




Friday, March 7, 2014

9 Travel Companies that are Awesome

When making travel plans one can get overwhelmed. What airline do we take? What hotel should we stay in? Do we need a rental car and if so what company do we go with? See...told you, overwhelming! Well guess what, J.D. Power and Associates can help you out!

J.D. Power and Associates just came out with their list of America's Consumer Champions and nine travel companies made the list. So consider the following when booking your next travel.

{Top: (L) Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, source (R) JetBlue, source Bottom: Enterprise, source}
Hotels
The Ritz-Carlton
Four Seasons
Homewood Suites
Drury Hotels
Staybridge Suites

Airlines
Southwest
JetBlue

Car Rental companies
Enterprise
National

Have you used any of these companies? 
How was your experience with them? 



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When Vacations Attack

How would you like to be on vacation in Australia and you're just chillin' on a beach and then all of a sudden you see something terrifying *insert JAWS soundtrack here* but its not a shark! Its a 12-ft (3.657m) crocodile!  That's what happened on Cable Beach in Western Australia!

{Source}



Monday, March 3, 2014

Travel RoundUp

1 – Disneyhas raised its fee to get into Disney World to almost $100 per day. It will now cost you $99 per person to get into the park for one day. You bet I would literally be there ALL DAY for that price! BUT if you're going for more than one day maybe you should consider the three-day pass runs to $91.34 per day or a five-day costs $60.80 per day.

2 – Airlines are adding more perks to First and Business Class ticket holders. The latest is offering them distancefrom the masses. This includes your own private check-in and sometimes they will even have a private car that will take you from check-in directly to the plane!

{Source}

3 – AmericanAirlines is cancelling their bereavement rates. I didn’t even know airlines offered such things.

4 – Now you can be gluten-free on your flights! Beginning in March 2014, United will be switching from regular to gluten-free salad dressing on premium-cabin flights departing the United States to points throughout North and Central America. This summer, the offerings will be added to UnitedGlobal First. You can also find Two Degrees Fruit & Nut Bars as a gluten-free Snack Shop รก la carte option. To read more about what is being offered on United Airlines click here.  

5 – The Asiana Airlines flight that crash landed at San Francisco airport last year has been fined $500,000 for the crash. Read more here.  

6 - Man killed after huge wave breaks window of cruise ship MarcoPolo in English Channel.

7 – JetBlueis taking hold of the Caribbean market with the new addition of its 25th non-stop flight in the Caribbean. JetBlue can now take you from JFK (New York City) to Piarco international in the Port of Spain.

{Source}


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