Category: Uncategorized

“Non-Essential” Spouses Separated by Borders During COVID-19

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Pointless Passports

Immediate Family is “Essential”

I’m compelled by personal tragedy to work to increase awareness about a significant story that is not getting the attention it deserves in the media, or from the governments, at this time of Coronavirus. As you may be aware, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico borders are closed to all but “essential travelers” at this time of COVID-19. You may agree or disagree with this decision. But whether or not the general public, including shoppers and tourists, should be allowed to cross the border is beyond the purview of this post. I want to talk specifically about a category that by all standards of common sense, ethics, and moral justice, should be considered “essential travelers.” The borders should open to them immediately. This category is immediate family, specifically the spouses and children of citizens of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

US/Canada Border, Peace Arch, Washington State, USA. Empty border lanes at crossing between US and Canada.

U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Closings

Spouses and Children: Separated by COVID-19

An untold but significant number of citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have foreign national spouses who are citizens of a neighboring country, and these people are currently being denied border crossing, despite the wording in the regulations that “essential travelers” are allowed passage during the Coronavirus outbreak. There are also an unspeakable number of children who are being denied access to their foreign national parent across the border, despite court orders enforcing visitation. This is outrageous, unconscionable, and indescribably inexcusable.

I’m an American Citizen and my newlywed husband is Canadian. We’re stranded, separated – myself in Florida and he in Ontario. Neither he nor I can cross the border to reunite right now. According to the governments, our travel is “non-essential,” our relationship disposable and irrelevant. The worst part isn’t even the separation itself – it’s the fact that we have no idea when the border will re-open or we will see each other again. It’s an agonizing waiting game, and one where I’m glued to the news desperately hoping for an update that would be encouraging in light of our desperate desire to be reunited. While the border closure was extended to June 21, it’s already been extended twice, so there’s no indication it won’t be extended again – or how many more times the border closure will be extended. Keeping immediate family separated for months on end, and with no end in sight, is extremely misguided, and, I would argue, immoral.

I don’t mean to suggest that spouses and children from countries outside of North America shouldn’t be included in the “essential travelers” category – they should. I’m only focusing on the North American numbers because the number of Canadian, American, and Mexican citizens suffering through the border closing, and separated from their immediate family members, is especially staggering due to the proximity of these three countries.

Young woman communicating with man via video call application.

“Non-Essential” Spouses

Safety Precautions Against Coronavirus are Possible

I get that governments are concerned about the Coronavirus and that they may not be ready to open to a flood of border crossings by “anyone and everyone.” But I contend that NOTHING is more important than immediate family, especially at a time like this. An exception should be made to the border closure for spouses and children of citizens, effective immediately!

I have some suggestions to include in my plea to make the plan safer. Require a 2 week quarantine for the spouses and children crossing the border. And, if necessary, download of an app to track the person could be required, to assure compliance with the quarantine. A negative test in the past 48 hours could also help if a COVID-19 test would be readily available to both parties. Although I consider these measures intrusive and an invasion of privacy that I would reject utterly under ordinary circumstances, I would gladly temper my ethical standards and comply with any of these requirements if it meant being reunited with my beloved husband.

A bad situation is being made much, much worse, and unnecessarily. There are mitigating safety measures that can be taken to allow truly essential travelers: spouses and children of citizens, to be added to the border crossing exemption, not just truckers and health workers.

There’s Other Factors, Too

Another thing to consider is that when spouses are from different countries, and share two different residences, they are more likely to have urgent business and property matters that need attention across the border. My car is stranded in Canada, and I’m stuck in the U.S. without transportation, since my husband and I came to the U.S. in his car and he was forced to return to Canada. I also have other personal property in Canada right now that I need, and don’t have, access to. This is a very complex problem with a very simple solution!!!

A Plea to Our Governments

Due to the close friendship between our countries, many, many people have developed relationships and created multi-national families, and being separated indefinitely is an extreme emotional hardship for them. A plea to our governments: you brought us together; let us stay together. Please make an exception for immediate family members to be considered “essential” travelers, and grant us permission to cross the border.

How You Can Help

First, I hope you will subscribe to my YouTube channel where I will be posting video on this issue shortly. You can find it at: Heather Anne Ultimate Travel Adventures.

Secondly, I hope you will consider signing these petitions. There is no cost, and I receive no benefit (unless it helps change the situation so I can see my husband!) There’s also an option to share the petition with others.

There’s an online petition to allow immediate family of citizens to cross the border here:

Canada: Allow Family Reunification During COVID 19

and there’s another one here:

Justin Trudeau: Love is Essential

What do you think? Do you think spouses and children of citizens should be allowed to cross the border? Please leave your comments below!

 

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

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Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area Lobby

A Tale of Two New York City Hotels

New York City hotels are abundant. How do you find a good one? I have two recommendations, one downtown and another on the outskirts. On my last visit to New York I stayed at two hotels, one downtown (Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South in Manhattan), and one easily accessible to downtown in the suburbs (Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in New Jersey). Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be more suitable for you, but either one is a great choice!

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Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South Exterior

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South

The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South is a stone’s throw from the Port Authority, and very centrally located to all of the action. It’s a short walk to the nearest subway, double decker bus stop, Theater District, and heart of Times Square. The neighborhood is abundant with great restaurants in all price ranges, and felt safe to traverse by night or day. The staff was professional and friendly. The room was small, but comfortable.

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Views from Hilton Garden Inn Balcony

I was fortunate to get one of only two rooms in the hotel with a balcony, where I enjoyed soaking in the city sights and sounds bird-like from my high perch. The refrigerator was smaller than usual for a Hilton room – rather than “dormitory” size it was very narrow. Normal size water bottles or soda cans wouldn’t fit – but the mini size soda you can sometimes find in the store would have. Not a suitable fridge for dining leftovers, either. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) the weather was cold in March and I used the balcony as a fridge…

The bath was trendy, and shower provided good water pressure and temperature. There’s an ample closet, as well as a desk for working. I had a great nights’ sleep on the very cozy bed.

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Hilton Garden Inn Guestroom

Amenities

Breakfast at the Garden Inn brand of Hilton is available but there is an extra charge if you are not gold level or higher in their rewards program. But if you are gold, or pay, it’s made to order fresh and delicious. The menu was not as extensive as I’m used to, but that may have been due to the timing (pre/early COVID in mid-March).

There’s no parking on-site, but there is a public parking garage across the street charging $50 per night. Room rates vary depending on your timing… but usually run relatively steep due to the incredible central location in Manhattan. If location is your top priority, I highly recommend this hotel. If price is your highest priority, I suggest another property…

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Homewood Suites Living Room

Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area

The Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in Edgewater, New Jersey may not be in Manhattan, but it’s extremely convenient to it for prices usually well below what you’ll pay in Manhattan. It’s also situated in a charming neighborhood of its own, next to lots of interesting shops and restaurants along a pedestrian boulevard.

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Homewood Suites Kitchen

Like other properties in the Homewood Suites brand, this hotel is all suites. Each room has a full kitchen (full size fridge, small stove, microwave, sink, dining table, and dishes and utensils). There are also separate lounge and bedroom areas, and an extra-spacious bathroom. There’s two televisions – one in the “living” room and another in the bedroom. Consistent with other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, the bed, furnishings, and showers are very accommodating here.

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Homewood Suites Bedroom

Some rooms have New York City views – in my opinion worth the splurge. Breakfast is free for all and consists of a small buffet. Socials are held in the evenings on some days of the week where snacks, beer, and wine are offered. Parking here is free for hotel guests. As for the location – if you want to get into downtown Manhattan it’s no problem. There’s a local bus that picks up across the street that goes straight to the Port Authority in the Times Square area. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and only costs a few dollars each way (seniors also get a discount). I suggest buying a roundtrip ticket when you board in New Jersey – it’s easier than waiting and buying a return ticket at the station when you’re ready to return.

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Homewood Suites View

More on New York City Hotels, and More!

Thanks for reading my review of New York City hotels! Both of these options are great places to stay if you visit New York City. If you’re willing to pay more, the Hilton Garden Inn can’t be beat for location convenience, but for a more-budget friendly option easily accessible by bus to downtown, try the Homewood Suites! For a full visual tour of each, view my YouTube video here:

Take a virtual tour of New York City here!:

Read my New York City blog post here!:

New York City Tour! (Pre/early COVID)

And for more travel destinations and hotel tours, visit my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

New York City Tour!

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Times Square at Night

New York City: COVID-19 Edition

I did a New York City tour right around the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic in March. It was before it was really clear what was happening. These are tough times for all of us, no thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. New York City in particular faces many challenges. I know a lot of us can’t wait until the “city that never sleeps” wakes up again. So in the meantime, I can share some images with you from my visit in mid-March, when news was beginning to surface about COVID but the city wasn’t in full shutdown mode yet.

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Times Square by Day

Times Square

Times Square is arguably one of the most iconic locations in New York – and usually one of the most crowded, too. But auto and pedestrian traffic was a little lighter, and became even lighter day by day during my visit. The sea of people I encountered on previous visits to Times Square was noticeably absent this time. But the square was still alive with its signature rainbow of bright neon lights and colorful characters in costume, though…

Views from the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

We managed to visit the Empire State Building observatory two days before it closed due to COVID. What a lucky break for us, not to miss these incredible views. Here is a view of downtown, including the towering One World Trade Center standing guard over the rest of the city, symbolically. In the background you can also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We enjoyed the art-deco decor of the structure as we proceeded through the lobbies on our way up to the observatory. Once up top you can walk all the way around the building to see the spectacular panoramic scenes.

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South Street Seaport Pier

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. Here you can inspect historic ships on the pier, or catch the New York Water Taxi for a tour of the harbor. And along cobbled streets stand the South Street Seaport Museum, as well as many opportunities for shopping. There’s a convenient stop for the double-decker bus tours.

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South Street Seaport

New York City Water Taxi

I recommend an outing on the New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport. I enjoyed outstanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan skyline, and Statue of Liberty from the boat. In addition to giving you a tour of the harbor, the taxi will also take you to additional stops where you can disembark and explore, like Midtown and Brooklyn. It’s a hop-on-hop-off experience, just like the double-decker bus. It was windy and chilly in March, but well worth it!

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Brooklyn Bridge

We managed to catch the very last Water Taxi running, because as soon as our trip was over it was shut down due to COVID. It was a relief to have caught the last boat, but sad to see it have to shut down. This is one of the best experiences for visitors to New York, and I highly recommend it when the outbreak subsides.

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Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Ordinarily the Statue of Liberty would be swarmed with huge crowds, but not on this day… apparently it was already closed. Still, we got up-close and personal with her from the boat, which swung around to allow passengers on both sides of the boat to catch a glimpse. Possibly one of the most iconic structures in the world, it’s an absolute must-see. If you prefer not to pay, the free Staten Island Ferry will give you a view of her too, albeit slightly more distant.

Double-decker Bus: Great Way to Tour New York

Although the Water Taxi closed after this run we took, we were able to enjoy the double-decker bus for another day. This allowed us to explore downtown, midtown, uptown, Harlem, and Brooklyn, for a couple more days, with the ability to hop on and hop off at various sights. The double-decker bus is a very convenient way to get around the city, and offers great views. I highly recommend getting around New York City and getting a bird’s-eye view from the top of the bus.

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M & M’s World

M & M’s World

If you have a sweet tooth, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at M & M’s World in Times Square! Here you will find rows and rows of tubes of a rainbow of these delights, and samples are available! Many varieties are available here that you won’t find at your local grocery or pharmacy. And you can also shop for an array of branded merchandise. So leave your diet behind and let your inner “kid in a candy store” out!

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Junior’s Diner Cheesecake

Authentic New York Treats at Junior’s Diner

I recommend trying out Junior’s Diner in the Theater District. Here you can indulge in delectable and authentic New York specialties like a Brooklyn Egg Cream, Pastrami Sandwich, and world-renown New York Cheesecake! It’s a little pricey, but portions are huge – take a friend and share and you’ll both be satisfied!

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Central Park

Central Park

No New York City tour is complete without a visit to Central Park. And what better way to shed off those calories than a stroll through this iconic landmark? It’s a relaxing oasis amid this bustling concrete jungle. Horse and carriage rides are another fun way to get around the park, but are a better value in a group of travelers sharing the cost. These rides were running about $50 for 20 minutes when I visited.

Tour More of New York City, and More!

First a disclaimer: I realize that this post may be controversial – that there may be some who feel it was irresponsible of us to visit New York in mid-March, 2020. And I’m sure there are others who applaud our determination to keep living our lives. We were in New York anticipating a cruise on the 15th that ended up being canceled two days before embarkation, so we remained in the city a couple more days before departing. At that time, there was a lot of confusion, and news of the virus was newly surfacing. The extent of the danger was not yet clear. To those who may be distressed by this post, know that after our visit we returned straight home and quarantined for 14 days. And to anyone wondering, no, we didn’t get sick.

Thanks for reading my New York City tour; catch my New York City video tour here!:

If you’re looking for places to stay in New York City, check out my blog post here:

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

And for more video tours of many destinations world-wide, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

When you visit a big city like New York, I highly recommend taking a tour or getting a City Pass so that you’re able to save money and skip the lines! I like the way you can visit several attractions at a discount, without buying tickets at each one. Check it out here!:

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at CityPASS.com!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of New York!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come! And at ultimatetraveladventures.blog we do not promote ANY product or service we do not endorse and personally use.

 

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos by HXT Electric Hummer – an electrifying experience!

 

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HXT Electric Hummers

The first stop for week two on my back-to-back cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore was Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. Grand Turk is an outstanding cruise destination and one I would gladly re-visit time and time again. Not only are the excursions I have taken here some of the best I’ve ever taken, but back at port there is a breathtaking public beach (with free lounge chairs and umbrellas) with the most crystal clear waters and spectacular views I have ever seen on a beach anywhere! Hedonists rejoice!

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Views of the beach and salt flats of Grand Turk

As you wander through the playful port, you realize quickly that John Glenn is highly honored here. Consistent with my tour guide’s proclamation that “John Glenn put us on the map!” there is an exhibit at port highlighting Glenn’s significant contribution to the island. The exhibit includes a life-size statue of Glenn and replicas of the Atlas rocket and Friendship 7 capsule (which landed here in the waters a couple of miles from Grand Turk in 1962 after completing the Mercury 7 mission – you can see the original nearby, one of the stops our Hummer tour made.) If you can pull yourself away from the incredible beaches, it’s worth a look!

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John Glenn exhibit, port of Grand Turk

Grand Turk Beach

Beautiful beaches at the Port, Grand Turk

It was daunting facing driving on the “wrong” side of the road (yes, they do that here!) in the electric Hummer, but once I gave it a try, just following the guide and hearing the frequent reminders to “stay on the left!” after every turn, it was no problem at all. I think anyone could handle it with no issues. Perhaps in a big city it would be more overwhelming – but here it was easy with very little traffic. The Hummers are convertible, allowing the warmth of the sun and light breeze of the wind to wash over you while you enjoy quite a comprehensive tour of the island. The Hummers are an absolute blast to drive, and being fully automatic they are easy to drive too, allowing you to focus on the amazing views.

The tour was very intimate and personalized, with my son and I in one Hummer, and only one couple in one other Hummer on the tour. Apparently not a lot of people booked it – and boy were they missing out! We made a few stops where the guide offered us more information about the island, including a wildlife sanctuary, a salt flats, the “downtown,” (shown above… very peaceful and relaxed!), and the original Friendship 7 capsule I mentioned above. You can see more on these stops in the video posted below. The stops were informative and fun… but to be honest I couldn’t wait to get back in the Hummer!!

I was disappointed when the tour had to come to an end, but having a beach break to look forward to before curfew on the ship made leaving my trusty hummer behind more tolerable!

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Beach bliss

Want to see more? I filmed the tour and you can watch it here!:

I am thrilled to report that I upgraded my filming equipment for these videos – however, this trip was filmed before then. I will be posting soon on my trip to Europe where you will see the difference! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel to further satisfy your travel fix!: Heather Anne’s Ultimate Travel Adventures.

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Next stop next week: Princess Cays, Bahamas, which was stop two of week two of the cruise! Thanks for joining in on the adventure!

Cozumel, Mexico: Horseback Ride through Mayan Ruins & Port

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Horses for waiting for the Mayan Ruins ride

Continuing from last week’s blog post, today I have the first port and excursion of the Norwegian Dawn spring break cruise: at Cozumel, Mexico. When I found an excursion that included a horseback ride through Mayan ruins I was sold – I love horseback riding and Mayan ruins! So I thought I’d hit the jackpot there!

The port at Cozumel is huge! There is a lot of shopping, a pool, lots of restaurants, fish pedicures…(!) The downside is that it feels a bit like a tourist trap and feels extremely commercial. So, while I had fun walking around, and definitely had fun listening to the Mariachi band welcoming people off the ship, I didn’t partake in the shopping here.

 

Of course, the real highlight of Cozumel was the horseback ride excursion. Admittedly, the Mayan ruins were somewhat underwhelming in their size, but still very interesting. They consisted of ruined buildings, statues, caves, and similar artifacts. The wooded area was peaceful and, other than the ruins, untouched nature. The horses were very friendly and well-behaved (for the most part…!), and the ride lasted a very satisfying hour. My horse was more interested in food than the Mayan ruins… he was quite the gourmand and intent on giving me the “culinary” tour! Once the ride finished, we returned to the stables for some very rainbow color inspired shopping (at better prices than the port) and a trip to a beautiful rocky beach with a small bar and very relaxing hammocks.

 

There are a lot of activities to enjoy in Cozumel. This was my second visit, and, again, I had to make a decision between many, many choices of what to do. (I visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum last time.) I would say the Mayan ruins (the BIG ones!) are definitely a must on the first visit – but the horseback ride was a very fun second choice! One thing I would not want to do in Cozumel? Stay at the port (for the reasons discussed above!)

I posted a vlog on this visit to Cozumel on my YouTube channel:

 

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More coming from Mexico next week, this time from Costa Maya!

Savannah, Georgia: Gloriously Green and the Jewel of Georgia

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Savannah: the perfect stop for the southbound traveler to Florida from East Coast locations. Its relaxing pace and abundance of parks provide a welcome respite from the traffic, dull scenery, and exhaust fumes of I-95. This is a favorite stop of mine on the way to the cruise ports of Southern Florida, and a great excuse not to fly.

Savannah is a city of parks adorning square after square and virtually every block in the historic district. Savannah is particularly famous for it’s somewhat spooky Spanish moss draped and magnificent magnolia trees, and the mighty monuments of silent Southern heroes which guard them. Even in the thick of Winter this city is beautiful. Basking in the sunny 70s January weather, it is an oasis of foliage if not blooms (yet). Savannah is delightfully quaint and peaceful.

Savannah City Hall

The golden dome of City Hall glistens in the sunny skyline, in this, the jewel of Georgia. And its queen might just be Paula Deen, the Southern cook of Food Network fame. I visited her restaurant “Lady and Sons” and partook in the buffet, which abounded with Southern favorite comfort foods like fried chicken, seasoned mashed potatoes, spoon bread, collard greens, black eyed peas, candied yams, barbecue ribs, meatloaf, and more. And as if that weren’t enough, we were offered her signature hoe cakes and cheddar biscuits, and rich, gooey desserts like butter cake, peach cobbler, and banana pudding. We washed it down with delectable, perfectly brewed sweet iced tea garnished with mint. Good thing we were in a city where walking is such a pleasure – dinner was admittedly an explosion of calories! Nightlife in Savannah is robust during peak season, but more modest in the off-season… the perfect time to settle for a relaxing stroll.

There are many good hotel options in Savannah a stone’s through from all of the attractions in the historic district, and off-season rates are excellent. Be prepared, however, to pay a premium for parking (forced valet) or park on the street at meters ($1 an hour and free overnight.) I always approach Savannah with a roll of quarters (although the new meters will accept credit cards as well). We have had great stays at both the Hilton Garden Inn/Historic District and the Courtyard Marriott/Historic District. The Hilton is located closer to the action (practically right outside the front door), while the Marriott is conveniently located right next to a city parking garage (and about a 10 minute walk from it all). We enjoyed the Southern hospitality and comfortable accommodations of both.

I hope you will have a chance to stop by Savannah. The historic district is small and compact, and may be comfortably explored on foot in the course of one day – perfect as a stopover destination.

My very first YouTube post is now live: Savannah, Georgia Vlog 2018! This is a small sample of Savannah which will (hopefully) whet your appetite for more videos, which will be forthcoming! I plan on becoming more ambitious with my videos in the coming weeks. Please give it a thumbs-up and subscribe! You may view it at:

Savannah, Georgia Vlog 2018!

Savannah Vlog Youtube thumbnail

Thanks for all of your support!

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Please consider donating $2 to this blog so I can afford to keep it going!

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Welcome!

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Photo: Costumed locals in the Dominican Republic

As a frequent traveler, I wanted to get some reviews, tips, and photos out there to hopefully inspire readers (travelers and armchair travelers alike!) and hopefully give some ideas and heads-up knowledge to help you better prepare for your own trips, my fellow travel fans! There will be something for everyone here; I take all different kinds of trips from independent travel, to cruises, to resort vacations (both casino and all-inclusive resorts), to weekend getaways, to flying trips, to road trips, to train trips, and more. I have been to 15 foreign countries and traveled extensively in the U.S. As a college student (albeit an older college student), I am not wealthy, so many of you will find the kinds of trips I take affordable, but not shoestring. In addition to information about travel destinations and transportation, I aim to offer other practical tips such as planning, packing, travel gear advice, and help saving money.

Given it’s the end of 2017, I have been planning my 2018 travel adventures. I aim to have most of the year planned out within the next few weeks. I rely heavily on my tax refund to travel, so I try to plan in advance for the whole year and pay as much as I can up-front and at-once. I strive to travel approximately every month – some months twice and a few not at all – as my school schedule allows. I also work, on a flexible schedule. I am often asked how I can afford to travel as much as I do – having more taken out of my paycheck throughout the year, getting a bigger refund, and planning ahead when I have that windfall is one of the ways. Other people set aside a travel budget every month, which works too if you have the discipline to pull it off. (I don’t!) I also use rewards programs, discount travel sites, and methods of getting travel experiences “comped” which I will be happy to share with you.

Writing is my second passion, after travel. I would like to post at least once per week, so on some occasions I may post about trips I took earlier in the year before I began this blog. I have had some thrilling experiences that have remained fresh in my memory. I hope you will have many thrilling travel memories, too. All photos on this blog will be my own.

I hope you will continue to join me in these adventures!