Tag Archives: Travel

Army Surplus for Less . Englewood

Army Surplus for Less is one of Denver’s best and most well stocked army surplus stores, with gear stocked floor to ceiling in their maze like downtown Englewood store.

I love checking out different styles of travel bags and finding unique mobile gear, and this is a perfect place to explore. They carry a large selection of shoulder bags and backpacks including Fox Outdoor. If you’re looking for outdoor gear with a rugged military look it’s a great place in Denver to start. If you’re planning to fly however, don’t mistakenly select a bag labeled “explosives…”

They’re at 3524 South Broadway in Englewood, just north of 285.

Cologne and Perfume

When traveling where scents are required, i.e. weddings, ballroom dancing, fancy corporate dinner parties and the sticky hotel room affairs that follow – many experts advise spraying or dabbing perfume onto cotton swabs and transporting it in a small plastic baggie.

This is an excellent idea, but for even more potency and liquid form try a contact lens case.

Last month I flew to an out of state family function and wanted to wear some very special and sentimental cologne I own, however didn’t want to risk the bottle getting heisted by the TSA. (Even being under three ounces.)  I sprayed a small amount into one of my extra lens cases – then dabbed it on when getting dressed the next morning.

I have no idea if this has been thought of or done before – but I think it works great.  If you’re worried about dropping your actual contacts in the perfume I suggest these (hideous but great for kids) sport cases by AC Lens.

In Praise of Oatmeal

Have you ever read an entire post about oatmeal?

Instant oatmeal is the frugal traveler’s friend. Oatmeal packets are small enough to fit anywhere: in carry ons, in your purse, your manpurse, or even on person. Instant oatmeal packets don’t make a mess if broken. Nor do they get smashed up like crackers or melt like chocolate powerbars. (Non chocolate Cliff bars are ideal but they still get sticky in hot weather.)

Oatmeal offers a substantial meal or snack while lounging in airports or on planes. All you need is hot water, easily found at any Starbucks or airplane galley.  “A six dollar snack box? Why no thank you I’m all set here with my cup of hot water and stir stick.”

If you’re lost in the jungle and already dined on bugs you can grab a twig, stir in some rainwater and eat it cold. Kroger’s brand has 27 carbs each so it’s certain to keep you going in circles until you collapse from insanity.

I keep about 10 variety pack flavors in my bag. I always grab some fresh fruit before traveling, and eaten with apples or a banana, (separate or stirred in,) it makes a complete and healthy meal. If you’re thinking oatmeal is too depression era-esque for you then remember the Quaker and store brand variety packs include apple, maple and brown sugar, and cinnamon. And sugar or sweet and low is available everywhere. (Except the jungle.) Frugality is hip, oatmeal is cheap, thus oatmeal is hip.

Recently I was waiting in line at DIA’s Paradise Bakery at 7:30am. The totals of the two people in front of me were about $8.50 and $10. One had an oily muffin and large coffee, the other a yogurt and bottled orange juice.

I ordered a hot coffee, requested a cup for ice water, a cup of hot water and snagged a small bowl. My total was $2 for the coffee. I felt quit proud. Multiply this by three to four airport snacks or meals and it really pays to be prepared.

If you really want to splurge ask for some hot milk. If a clerk makes a stink about giving away free cups of hot water, (or heating up milk,) just point to a baby and say it’s for them.

I could write this exact same post about Sunmaid Raisin packs, also found strewn about my carry on, but the same concepts apply: Cheap, stays fresh and no mess.

Hooray for instant oatmeal.

Mass Rep Ed Markey’s Travel Protection

I found this article buried in the weekend news, and I’m unable to find much more on this obscure proposed bill.  Even though I doubt anything will come of it I still find interesting and somewhat bizarre.

Massachusett’s representative Ed Markey is proposing a bill to establish the “International Travelers Bill of Rights Act,” which would require travel companies to provide State Department warnings and related info on their websites. I assume this would include airline websites, in addition to big names like Orbitz and Expedia.

I am against it:

1. The state department already provides travel warnings, which are easily accessible to anyone. Those that book travel of any kind are adults, and thus capable of doing the necessary research on their destination. The government doesn’t need to hold their hand, or meddle into how companies handle a simple task like booking a hotel or flight beyond our borders.

2. Travel sites are already cluttered enough; littered with agreements to accept, ancillary promotions, and page after page of offers to accept or decline. This is in addition to the required process of making your reservation. I don’t want more pages to muddle through, simply to book a ticket from A to B.

3. This bill would make the U.S. appear even more of a nanny state paralyzed with fear. We’re supposed to be getting over that.

Reading the below bullet points it would seem HR 3099’s list of requirements are geared towards hotels and resorts, but that’s not specified.  Below are some general points, but they’re ambiguous and lack any sort of context.  I’m sure Costa Rica has a nurse or defibrillator SOMEWHERE in the country, but specifics aren’t found:

-State Department travel warnings and travel alerts
-Whether the destination employs a physician or a nurse
-Whether the destination has an automated external defibrillator and employs personnel trained in its use
-Whether the destination employs personnel trained in CPR
-Whether the destination employs a lifeguard, if there are swimming areas

Again, what is this referring too? Is Priceline required to know if EVERY hotel they partner with outside of the U.S. meets these factors?

If Markey is concerned about our U.S. citizens lacking the ability to research their destination in advance, then why not also include domestic information as well? Perhaps those traveling to Chicago from Boise should know about the recent uptick in crime. Why is it necessary to provide pages of “warnings” for Uruguay, but not Gary, Indiana?

Lastly, why does this only apply to the internet? Why shouldn’t a local company like “Dottie’s Travel Bee” be obligated to give the same info? Answer: It’s unenforceable, so why bother.

It’s unneeded, intrusive, and insulting to basic intelligence.

If Ed Markey or his crew reads this I would love further details. Perhaps he himself had a bad travel experience which is what brought this on. Fortunately I suspect we won’t be hearing much more of it.

From the Victora TX Advocate:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey has announced legislation intended to force Web sites that sell international travel to Americans to offer information about the health and safety conditions at their destinations.

Markey says the International Travelers Bill of Rights Act would keep Americans informed before they book a trip online.

The Democrat is a senior member of the House energy and commerce committee, which has jurisdiction over consumer protection. The required information would include State Department travel warnings and alerts, whether the destination employs a physician or a nurse and whether it has an automated external defibrillator and employs a person trained to use it.

Photo: Grace McCarthy/Webshots.

Related: Extreme Eating in the Nanny State
NYC to Ban iPods.

by James Van Dellen . Denver

Return to Argentina

I consider learning Spanish to be the most productive thing I’ve done over the past few years. Remodeling my entire house comes in a close second. While the rapid staccatos of some Mexican friends still whiz above my head, I can read and understand most conversations with an upper-intermediate level of proficiency, and am able to communicate and express my ideas in a solid and confident manner. When deciding on a fall trip I kept that in mind.

As mentioned in previous posts, my “Future Gringo” goal is to take two overseas or international trips per year, one in the spring and one in the fall – when the weather is generally agreeable in most regions. Combined with weekend trips in the U.S., and some bike trips and summer camping in Colorado and Wyoming I think that makes for a well rounded travel schedule. At least for someone who works full time.

With pressing obligations at work factoring in during the first quarter I didn’t think it wise to disappear to Europe for two weeks, even if Skype and VNC can facilitate easy virtual accessibility. So my spring trip was a jaunt down to Puerto Vallarta to hang out with friends. After things settled down at the desk I pondered where to go this fall. Buenos Aires was the first place I found to be a true cultural learning experience and exotic place. Although I’ve been to Europe a couple times since, something about Buenos Aires still intrigues me. I love the culture, the food, the architecture and styles that abounds throughout the city, and the passion of the people young and old.

I’ve decided to return in order to learn more, polish my Spanish, (or Castellano,) and to further explore Argentina. I have an apartment rented in Palermo, and will be traveling with a friend here in Denver who’s an artist and designer, and will no doubt appreciate everything the city has to offer. I’ve maintained contact with a couple friends who I met during my last stay, so in addition to meeting new faces I’ll have some friends to catch up with as well.

I’ll be taking some Spanish classes in order to improve on and refine what I already know. I have no idea how I’ll manage daytime classes while taking part in an active nightlife schedule too, which begins strictly after midnight. I guess I’ll adapt to the Porteños way of doing it.

Although not yet secured I’m planning a side trip down south to Ushuaia or somewhere in Tierra del Fuego. I’ve always wanted to see the “bottom of the world,” – and am working on arranging a glacier hike, a dive in the Beagle Channel, or something similarly active. If anyone has adventurous itineraries I’d love to hear – provided it’s actually doing something rather than just sitting on a boat.

When I visited a few years back we filled some spare time with shopping. I’m not an active shopper, but the exchange rate is still favorable and I found styles and brands that aren’t seen outside of New York and L.A. I’m instructing my friend keep his bags empty and fly down with the bare minimum – so we can spend our first day visiting Abasto Mall or Alto Palermo.

I’m quite enthused about returning. However even though the city is exotic to me, like any other city it’s not without its own unique and specific problems. Last night I was grabbing a bottle of wine and saw that the Smithsonian had a cover feature on Argentina. (Yes my liquor store carries the Smithsonian.) The writer, Daniel Politi, shares my “pie in the sky” view of the city, however in reading the online version at home I saw the comments of several residents and ex-pats offering various criticisms of the “American in Paris” outlook. It’s worth reading and noting the quality of life issues affecting the citizens.

Read the Smithsonian’s “Hola Buenos Aires” here.

And finally I can figure out what Te Mataré Ramirez is all about. Updates to follow…

You Have a Baby… In Amsterdam…

That line is actually from the movie “Sweet Home Alabama”  where Reese Witherspoon sees an old friend in her hometown bar and says “You Have a Baby… In a Bar…”    Not worth renting – but its a witty quip.

First my apologies to my faithful readers for the two week gap in posts.  You see I’ve been traveling around The Netherlands taking tons of photos of things I love:  bikes, trains, food, and architecture of modern and old.  

Amsterdam is an incredible city.  With the never ending canals, cafes, clean streets, and bikes everywhere its a utopia.  But why haven’t I been blogging every night from my trusty Asus computer?    Well – I’ve had a companion with me.   A few days after my arrival my sister and my beautiful niece Lili joined me in Amsterdam to continue our Dutch adventure.   Time to start waking up at 6am instead of going to bed at 6am!

I’ve learned that traveling with kids doesn’t lend time to much else.    I’ve always been the person silently praying to be spared in 29A watching a group of kids shuffle down the isle towards me.   I’ve always been the annoyed one when sitting in a quiet coffee shop and the strollers steamroll in.   And I’ve always been dumbfound at the mall seeing the amount of gear parents need to carry with them for a simple outing.  

So why on earth would I want to travel with a 15 month old?  Well I don’t see her much here in the states, and as you can see by the photo – she is perfect.  Reason enough.  So in addition to driving around the countryside and cycling in the city I’ve made a new friend and travel buddy – and she’s just as interested in people, places, and city life as I am.

And I even managed to keep my mouth shut as a parent on the plane lamented Southwest’s ceasing their family first boarding.

More photos and stories on the way…

Ink Up in Europe

Boy that sure would make a great intro to an article about German tattoo artists.  Or the best places for body art in Amsterdam, (coming in March,) but no – this is the more Orwellian issue of requiring fingerprints to travel.

This MSNBC article discusses Europe’s reciprocation of the U.S. policies which require extensive biometric information on all travelers.

Speaking of ink I know they use a biometric pad to collect prints now,  but do they still dip your finger in ink at old timey police stations?   I haven’t been arrested lately.

MSNBC Article and excerpts…

The United States already requires that foreigners be fingerprinted and photographed before they can enter the country. So does Japan. Now top European security officials want to follow suit, with travelers being fingerprinted and some also having their facial image stored in a Europe-wide database, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Washington Post.

The plan is part of a vast and growing trend — especially across the Atlantic — to collect and share data electronically for the purposes of tracking and identifying people in the name of national security and immigration control. U.S. government computers now have access to data on financial transactions; air travel details such as name, itinerary and credit card numbers; and the names of those sending and receiving express-mail packages — even a description of the contents.

For several years, the United States has required that airlines flying into the country transmit detailed passenger data before the flight’s arrival. In November, the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, issued the same proposal. The United States is working on an electronic travel authorization system, requiring travelers from countries where visas are not required to visit here to submit identification and travel details before departure. Now the commission is proposing something similar.

Cheap Is Not Always Best

I posted my comments on Rick Seaney’s Fare Compare blog after reading his “Top Ten Insider Secrets” linked from The Consumerist.   I didn’t find this basic list of rehashed (but good) ideas worth the trumped up label of profound and enlightening.   Furthermore, a couple of points I flat out disagreed with, such as his advice on bereavement fares.

Aside from my annoyance at number 10 – “only use Farecompare.com”   (yes I understand his blog is an extension of his company, but it’s a disservice to say you ONLY need one search site,)  I was also surprised that Rick was bamboozled by the “highway express lanes,”  and enthusiastically prompted GW to keep these nonsensical “lanes” always open.  Fortunately some air traffic controllers posted the same immediate response I had:   That this is just a snow job resulting in nothing.

Anyway I won’t keep bagging on Rick Seaney.  His site is popular, he certainly is an expert on price, however I find his other posts to be unoriginal, simplistic, and reactionary.  Agree to disagree.

His 2nd “Top Ten Secrets” point got me thinking about price.  I post random travel articles that interest me, but I only briefly mention or dwell on price.  Why?  Because unless a really killer deal comes along the price doesn’t matter.  It’s always subjective.  We all like to save money – but we all have different income levels and criteria of what we’re willing to spend.  What’s inexpensive for me may not be for you.  The majority of internet savvy people already know how to search kayak.com or farecompare.com    They know the best days to fly, or which airports are fortress hubs and which small markets have a low cost carrier.   Even the most web illiterate person can search out criteria netting them a cheap fare.  

That’s the problem though:  Cheap Fares.  When purchasing airfares the public descends on low fares like Target on Black Friday.   The fact is people insist on scraping up the absolute cheapest fares – then complain when the inevitable consequences arise.   Cheap fares OFTEN result in bad service and a low priority level.   And when people have a bad experience flying they complain, whine, and write letters about airline service – but when it comes time to purchase a ticket they’ll still acquiesce and fly whichever airline or fare is cheapest.

If you’re hiring someone to re-roof your house or drywall your basement should you take the lowest bid?  Probably not.  Would you pay bottom of the barrel rates for car insurance?  Not a good idea.   Then why pay it for transportation?   Reducing the fraction:  I can take the bus from my home downtown to my suburban office park for $1.50, which entails a transfer and an hour plus jaunt snaking down congested busy streets.  Or I can pay $1.25 more and take the train –  making my commute a quick 40 minutes trip.

Sometimes it’s better to pay MORE for your airfare for reasons of convenience and better treatment.  If I’m visiting a city in Europe for less than seven or eight days you can bet I’ll pay $100 more to fly non-stop and avoid an east coast or Chicago connection, where I could potentially lose an entire day if delayed.   If I’m flying to southern California I might pay $45 more and fly to Burbank rather than LAX.   If I have contingencies in my schedule I might pay MORE to fly a carrier with six flights a day to my destination city, rather than one – allowing me to grab an earlier or later flight.   (Yeah they’ll probably be sold out anyway.)

Users of Priceline.com get low prices, but they’re relegated to a level lower than plankton when it comes to rescheduling cancellations and aircraft changes.   For $35 more I might buy my ticket through the airline’s web site, plug in my miles number and move up a few notches – even flying economy.

The example of all examples comes from Columbus based Skybus:  The Columbus Dispatch  tells the story of Don Dennis and friends, who paid LESS THAN $50 dollars for their round trip tickets to Bellingham, Washington.   They planned a ski trip, rented a car, were booking a condo, then Skybus announced they’re pulling out of the Bellingham market as of January.   Poof. Vacation evaporates.

Needless to say they’re pissed.   But wait a minute:  Their outbound flight was TEN DOLLARS.  That’s cheaper than Arby’s en route TO the airport.  You SHOULD expect the same service and standard regardless of price – but the reality is it doesn’t happen. Boycott-skybus.com contains more tales of angry would be passengers. 

I might consider flying Skybus or any Barely-Air airline to go visit friends some weekend.  But I would never rely on them to attend a job interview or wedding.  Or a ski trip with friends.

Granted most of my trips or solo or with one other person, so I realize a higher (more convenient,)  airfare can be cost prohibitive to larger families.  Yet I think everyone should examine their options in detail before snatching up the price grabber specials.  You wouldn’t buy the cheapest car or TV available.  Treat airfare purchases like any other consumer product.  Cheap has it’s consequences.

Now.  How to I get to L.A. in a few weeks for under $150?  Rick I’m back on farecompare.

Skybus photo from Airlines.net