Tag: Heather Anne

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship Review!

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Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis of the Seas is among the most majestic on the Royal Caribbean fleet. It launched in 2008, and has an occupancy of 6,296 maximum. It holds 16 passenger decks. This city on the sea is an exciting treat indeed!

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The Atrium – sort of…!

The Oasis has a very different layout than many of the mega-ships I’ve traveled on before. A signature design for this class of Royal Caribbean ship is a cut-out middle, interior as well as exterior balcony cabins, and “neighborhoods”: a variety of unique types of “destination” locations around the ship. The “Atrium” does not resemble those of most of the ships I’ve experienced before, either. In this case, it’s a long hallway filled with shops, restaurants, and much more beyond passenger services desks.

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Lido Deck

The Lido Deck is expansive, and there are multiple pools and jacuzzis as well as an adults-specific deck under glass (admittedly it gets hot and starts to feel like a greenhouse in there!)

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Central Park

Central Park is one of the neighborhoods on the ship, replete with trees, plants, cobblestones, and relaxing benches. Many of the interior balconies have views over this delightfully green section of the ship.

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The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk looks and feels like a likeness to the Boardwalk at Atlantic City, complete with a Johnny Rockets diner, Zoltar fortune telling machine, arcade booths, boardwalk food, and an operational merry-go-round. There are also interior balconies facing the Boardwalk, as well as a massive water-based stage at the back of the ship.

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Ice Stage

Entertainment is abundant aboard the Oasis, and “go big or go home” never seemed a more fitting description than aboard this ship! Unique stages include the ice rink – a stage for ice shows by night and available for guests to ice skate on by day. Olympic skaters perform spectacular stunts, and I was thrilled and amazed every minute of it!

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Water Stage

The other unique “stage” on this ship is the water stage, on the Boardwalk, where Olympic divers perform death defying feats, complimented by synchronized swimming and other aquatic performances, all with a backdrop of cotton-candy clouds. The stage is outdoors under the sun, and the seating consists of splendidly colorful beach chairs.

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Balcony Cabin

I had a balcony cabin and found it to be plenty roomy, comfortable, and pleasingly decorated. I opted for the Oceanview, because I can’t get enough of the beauty of the open sea. But how great it was to have three balcony cabin view options at booking! Because there are so many balconies on this ship, I found them to be a better value than on some of the other ships I’ve sailed on.

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More of the Atrium

I greatly enjoyed my experience aboard the Oasis of the Seas. The ship is spectacular, well-maintained, beautifully designed, and offers a dizzying array of great entertainment, fun activities, and diverse areas to dine, party, and relax. I did not find it to be a particularly solo-traveler friendly ship – every time I entered the main dining room and asked for a table for one I was made to feel like Steve Martin in “The Lonely Guy” when a huge spotlight appears over his head and everyone stares at him like he’s psycho or something… and with no good promotion for the drink package on this cruise line I ended up drinking more than my fair share of ice water with lime. But all-in-all I had a fantastic time choosing neighborhoods to suit my mood, reveling in effervescent entertainment, and soaking in the sun!

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Larger than Life!

You can view a full video tour of the entire ship here!:

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Greyhound Bus Travel Tips!

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Greyhound Bus

Time for more tips! This time we’re looking at bus travel in the U.S. Greyhound is the most common and well-known bus operator, and there are ways of making sure you have a better experience traveling with them. Greyhound Bus can be a very cost-effective method of ground travel. (Note: this post is NOT sponsored by Greyhound.) Without further adieu, here are the tips!:

Save money on your ticket!

Prices are lower if you can book 3 weeks in advance, when you can save a quarter or even more off the full price of the ticket. If you can’t, then it may help to at least book 2 weeks in advance, which is still better than last-minute. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get to the station. Book your trip mid-week if possible. Prices are lower if you can hop on on hump day! Note that discounts are available if you are a member of Student Advantage or Veteran Advantage; go to “Discount Options” when making your reservation to choose this discount. Finally, do a search for promo codes – there’s a good chance you can score an additional discount that way. You will have a chance to enter the code before submitting payment. REMEMBER: There is a surcharge to “gift” a ticket to someone else. If at all possible, the traveler should be the one to pay for the ticket on their own credit or debit card, rather than someone else buying it for them!

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I used this 25% off code – and it worked

Luggage Tips

Note that you are allowed 2 pieces of luggage at no additional charge: one checked bag up to 50 pounds and one carry-on that will fit in the overhead compartment. (Avoid placing fragile items in the checked bag – disturbance of bags due to potholes and bumps is not unlikely!) Be careful about leaving carry-on luggage on the bus when you disembark on breaks, and keep your eye on your bags in the stations. Don’t create a temptation for thieves! Instructions for claiming luggage at different stations varies – listen to the driver for directions each time you disembark.

Ticket Tips

You will be able to print out a ticket or pick it up at will-call at the station, or have a digital ticket sent to your mobile device. Keep your ticket through the entire trip – you may need it to change buses and collect your luggage en route and at your destination.

Bus Comfort

Arrive early to line up to board early. Seating is first-come, first-served. Your bus may already have seated passengers on it, making this even more important if you want a good choice of seats. And if you need an outlet for your electronic devices, try to get a seat towards the front; not all seats have outlets. Free wi-fi is available on the bus. Travel pillows and blankets can be a welcome comfort on overnight trips – both on the bus and during long station transfers. Make sure you set an alarm on your cellphone to wake yourself up before your next stop – just in case!

Download the App

With the Greyhound app you can have easy access to your trip information, station location, and track your bus (and transfer bus) locations. And if your bus is running late and you may miss your transfer, you can find out when the next one is and make a bolt for the ticket window at the station to reserve a seat on that next bus before it fills up, potentially minimizing transfer time. Other customers may be clamoring to make the same alternate arrangements as you, in which case that next bus might fill up fast!

I hope these tips have been helpful for those traveling by ground on a budget! When it comes to traveling on a budget by land, road trips and buses are by far your best options.

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Perfectly Paradisiacal!

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Scenic St. Thomas views

St. Thomas, an island paradise in the Caribbean, and United States territory, is a playground of crystal clear waters dotted by lush, jade islands, all viewable from an endless supply of scenic mountain overlooks – each one more spectacular than the last! Basque in the beams of sunshine, be refreshed in the surf of the ocean, and inhale the essence of intoxicating Yellow Trumpetbush and Frangipani flowers as you explore the wonders of St. Thomas!

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Magen’s Bay Beach

Magen’s Bay Beach consistently ranks in the world’s top ten for beaches. With spectacular views, sand the consistency of baking powder, water so clear you can see your feet – and so warm it feels like bathwater… lounging out here will leave you feeling super spoiled while the sun soaks you in warmth amidst the sea-salt scented breezes. It’s the perfect place to relax… and escape!

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Charlotte Amalie

The United States purchased St. Thomas from Denmark in 1917 for the unbeatable bargain of $25 million in gold, or, what would be the equivalent of $489 million today. The transaction allowed the island to remain free from adversarial hands and boost Denmark’s coffers during the hefty expenses of World War I fighting. Much of the old Danish colonial architecture remains in the capital of Charlotte Amalie, and is indubitably charming.

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Danish colonial architecture

St. Thomas is a varied landscape of crystal clear waters, island formations big and small, and mountains and hilltops boasting amazing views of the expanse below.  It is truly one of the greatest jewels in the string of islands adorning the Caribbean! If you still have time for shopping in Charlotte Amalie, I highly recommend seeking out the paintings and photography by local artists in the AH Riise outdoor mall. The locals’ sources of inspiration are numerous, and talent enviable! The local art is my favorite souvenir to leave this beautiful place with.

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Cruise ships views

You can view my video tour of St. Thomas here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Seattle, Washington: Bastion of Bohemianism!

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Seattle Skyline

Seattle is a free-spirited, bohemian paradise, as I quickly discovered trekking up and down the boisterous bumps of its many hills, encountering its coffee culture, starving artists, and plumes of pot smoke along the way! (Yes, it’s legal here.) The grunge culture popularized in the 90s by local bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana is alive and well here as well. Seattle is fun, vibrant, and vigorously vivacious!

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Views from the Space Needle

A trip to the top of the Space Needle is high on many visitors’ Seattle bucket list, and for good reason. The observatory provides outstanding views of the booming skyline and surrounding natural beauty of ocean and forest, and, if you’re lucky enough to be here on a clear day, the brilliant white snow-cap of Mt. Rainier. I daresay it’s worth the dreadfully long wait in line to have this experience. Yes, be prepared to stand and wait over an hour… and then have no regrets. When you reach the top, make sure you stand on the glass floor as it turns high above the safety of solid ground – even the least height-averse person can feel a tad uneasy looking straight down up here!

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Pike Place Market

The iconic Pike Place Market is exhilarating in all of its commotion and excitement! Here humungous crowds of people gather and stroll amid shouting fisherman playing “catch” with their catch, people in tie-dye selling hemp-infused wares, artists displaying the colorful fruits of their creative efforts, and so much more. Endless varieties of foods quickly get you drooling as you bask in the gloriously gourmet culture. There are so many distractions here to peak your interest – sights, smells, and sounds. Here you can be surrounded and spoiled by the spirit that is Seattle.

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Port of Seattle

With so many cruise ships sailing to Alaska out of Seattle, a dynamic port scene has built up around them. With a Ferris wheel, restaurants, bars, shops, this area can easily keep you busy for hours. Soak it all in before you set sail!

Seattle is a great destination for the visitor looking to get laid back and let their free-spirited beatnik loose!

You can view my Seattle vlog here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Outdoor Delights in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan!

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Mackinac Bridge

Your entry point into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from the “mainland” is the magnificent Mackinac Bridge. This beautiful suspension bridge was opened in 1957, has a tower height of 552 feet, a length of 26,372 feet, and $4 toll for cars – well worth the “price of admission”! A wild, wonderful wilderness awaits on the other side! My anticipation escalated as I traversed this awe-inspiring bridge, and when I arrived on the U.P. side I was not disappointed!

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Painted Rocks

The Upper Peninsula boasts many natural wonders, and a visit is not complete without checking out the Painted Rocks near Munising. Two of the most popular ways of exploring the rocks are by taking a cruise tour or by renting a kayak. If you partake in one of the cruises, I highly recommend lining up EARLY if you want to avoid getting a seat in the middle of the boat, for the best view. At least half an hour before sailing or even more is recommended in the summer. The rocky cliffs are described as “painted” because of the brilliant stripes and splashes of different colors composed on them. You will also notice many waterfalls and delightfully strange rock formations, and pine trees that seem to grow out of solid rock!

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Tahquamenon Falls

The Tahquamenon Falls are another must-see in the U.P., and are located in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. In addition to the spectacular falls (the color is derived from high copper content), there are many hiking trails and a wonderful restaurant and brewery on-site, where I ordered delicious fresh whitefish and a flight of craft beers brewed on site. You can enjoy many different viewpoints of the falls by taking the provided walking paths. Almost as enthralling as the sight of the falls is the sound of the falls, leaving an amazing impression of their power on the senses.

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Views from atop Brockway Mountain

The peak of Brockway Mountain, near Copper Harbor, is accessible to vehicles, and the views are awe-inspiring! If anyone had any doubt that the U.P. is covered in unspoiled wilderness, these views of endless gloriously green forest and brilliantly blue lakes will remove all doubt! My only regret about visiting this site is that I didn’t do so during the peak of the fall leaf-turning season! Another great way to enjoy the U.P.’s beautiful forests: drive through the “Tunnel of Trees,” which hang over the road in a way that seemingly envelops you in a passage through wild wonderland!

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Point Iroquois Lighthouse

The U.P. is chock full of lighthouses of all shapes, sizes, and styles! There are over 40 lighthouses in the U.P. mostly from the 1800s. The lighthouse at Point Iroquois is one of many that you can climb to the top of (nice views!), and view the preserved, historic living quarters of former lighthouse-keepers, and visit a small museum at. If you’re into lighthouses, you’ll be spoiled rotten in the U.P.! They are a major part of the area’s history and culture. You’ll have no trouble finding them either; the Michigan Tourism Bureau has done an outstanding job with attraction signage throughout the state, and the lighthouses are no exception.

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Shipwreck Museum, Whitefish Point

The Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point provides a fascinating look into the mysterious world of shipwrecks! As an Art History major I have a lot of education on museums and their curation, and I can tell you the installations here are very well done, very interesting and informative, and include many fascinating historical artifacts, including underwater explorer suits, parts of shipwrecked vessels, historic articles found at shipwreck sites, and more.

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Interesting… house in Calumet…

You’ll never know what you’re going to find when you wander the back streets of U.P. towns. For example, this house in the above photo! There’s something particularly rewarding about stumbling on something quirky and unusual like this taking the time to get off the beaten path – often some of the most rewarding travel experiences of all. I found this house taking the back roads in Calumet.

There is an abundance of things to see and do in the U.P., and I can’t wait to return!

You can view my video tour of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Scintillating Skagway, Alaska: a Wilderness Wonderland!

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White Pass railway train

Skagway, Alaska is a remote wilderness wonderland, and frequent port on Alaskan cruise itineraries. Nicknamed “gateway to the Klondike,” Skagway has an illustrious history of people embarking on a risky but exciting adventure with the ambition of getting rich during the Gold Rush. Today it’s a sleepy town that resembles an Old West movie set combined with tourist commercialism in response to the large number of cruise ships that dock here throughout the summer. I visited while on the Alaska itinerary for the Norwegian Bliss. Luckily, the commercialism does not significantly detract from the historical interest of the architecture in town.

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“Downtown” Skagway today

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Skagway in 1898, during the Gold Rush (public domain image)

My highest recommendation for what to do in Skagway after a stroll through town to observe the Old West late 1800s architecture is a ride on the White Pass train. This train ride affords spectacular views of the White Pass Mountains, including remote wilderness, vast forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and glaciers (including during the summer.)

 

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White Pass train engine

Besides the scenic views, it is fascinating to contemplate, as you listen to the whistles and chugging of the train and feel the vibration of its powerful motor, the efforts involved in building this rail track through these steep, imposing mountains. You traverse over massive bridges, through long tunnels, and on the edge of the mountain. (Afraid of heights? Consider yourself warned!)

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Views from the train

There are a variety of train routes you may take in varying lengths, the longest making it’s way up into the Yukon Territory of Canada. You may purchase tickets for the train ride directly from the operator in town, or purchase an excursion or tour that includes the train ride as one of the included attractions, as I did.

 

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Gold panning lesson

Another attraction included on my tour ticket was a gold panning lesson. During this experience, a very animated woman in period costume explained and demonstrated the process of panning for gold. Following the demonstration, I was handed a pan and given a trough out of which to pan for my own gold. Staff make the rounds to help anyone in need of assistance, but I was still confused… when turning in my gold for an appraisal, it was appraised at about $5. (You do get to keep the gold as a souvenir.) Others did better than I did! The experience was very touristy, but I learned a thing or two about the Gold Rush culture and process of panning nonetheless.

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Iditarod racer lecture

The other portion of the tour I participated in included a sled dog lesson and demonstration. This began with a lecture given by an Iditarod racer, who showed and explained her equipment and discussed what the experience of participating in the Iditarod entails and what life is like for both racer and sled dog. Her presentation was, albeit somewhat touristy, engaging and informative. A short video presentation was also given.

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Sled dogs on a dry run in the summer

After the lecture, a sled dog “race” was simulated on dirt (given it was summer) on a dry run. The audience was introduced to the sled dogs on the team, and allowed to pet both the sled dogs and the puppies on site.

The train experience was definitely the highlight of any trip to Skagway, but if you can overlook the touristy veneer of some of the other offerings in the area much can be learned about history and culture in Alaska!

You may view my full video tour (including all of the above listed attractions!) here:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Landing a Great Airline Seat for Takeoff! How to Get the Best Seats for your Flight

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Airplanes awaiting takeoff at Reagan National Airport

Your seat assignment can make or break your flight every time, and the longer your flight the even more important it becomes to score the best seat possible. You may be wondering how to secure the best seats for your flight. I wanted to share some tips on recognizing a better seat, and to give some information on how some of the different major airlines work with regards to seat assignment, to help you in this quest! Nobody wants to get their travel experience off to a bad start before it even begins due to a loathsome seat assignment!

Consider pitch and width.

Pitch and width are the formulas that will help you determine which seats provide you with more space. Pitch refers to how far away the seats in front of you and behind you are, indicating legroom. Width indicates how much room you will have in the chair. This can differ from class to class, airline to airline, and airplane model to airplane model. It is also important to remember that some seats recline while others don’t.

Not all aircraft are created equal.

Different aircraft have different seat configurations. Visit seatguru.com to view detailed information about the seats on any plane. Enter the airline, date, and flight number and you will be advised on the pitch and width of each type of seat and the layout with which they are installed on the aircraft on a complete map showing where the exit and bulkhead seats are, how many seats are in each section of the cabin, and how many seats across there are in each row.

Not all airlines are created equal.

Airlines differ in a couple of ways when it comes to what kind of seat you can expect to get. The first involves which actual seat models the airline uses on their aircraft. For example, you can expect seats with 28 inches of pitch that do not recline on Spirit Airlines. The aforementioned resource, seatguru.com, can advise you on the seat pitch and width for each type of seat, and whether or not they recline, before you book the plane you are considering.

The second way the airlines differ is in their policy on how seats are assigned. My preference, and I contend it is the best way to assure yourself the best seat, is to book with airlines that allow you to reserve a specific seat at the time of booking at no additional cost. This has consistently been my experience on Delta and United, even when buying economy tickets. JetBlue also allows advance seat reservations. American, on the other hand, assigns the seats in economy coach; you do have the option when checking in (up to 24 hours in advance) to reserve a specific open seat, however, expect in most cases to be charged to do so. Southwest has a completely different policy – basically a free-for-all when you board. No coach seats are assigned and are first-come, first-served when boarding the plane. Your best bet if you fly Southwest is to check in 24 hours in advance (the earliest you’re allowed to!) so that you are assigned an early group number… and then hustle when that group number is called! Group numbers determine who boards the plane first, and those first to check in are placed in the early groups. NOTE: early check-in, with any airline, is always a good idea since the airline may begin giving upgrades to certain members of their loyalty program – making fewer good seats available to everyone else… at this time. It’s another good reason to reserve a specific seat at booking if you can!

Of course if you are flying first class, business class, or as a high-level member of an airline’s loyalty program you will receive priority. These guidelines apply to coach travelers, and, in particular, economy coach travelers.

Book a premium seat.

Some airlines, like JetBlue and United, offer seats with greater leg or chair room for a greater cost (JetBlue’s “Even More Space” seats and, for United, “Economy Plus Seating”). Different airlines will refer to these seats by different names; keep an eye out for a reference to greater seating space, particularly if you notice certain seats that come at a higher price point. And for even greater comfort, you can consider business and first class seats, where there are always fewer seats per row, much more legroom, and far wider chairs. Of course, you can expect these to come at an even higher price point. If you need even more space, some airlines will also allow you to book more than one adjoining seat.

Arrive on time.

You don’t want to go to the trouble (and/or expense!) to reserve a specific seat just to see it given away to a standby passenger because you arrived late for boarding! Try to arrive a half hour before your flight is scheduled to leave, when the boarding process usually begins… or as close to that time as possible.

Consider placement of seats on the plane.

Of course window and aisle seats are more popular unless you are traveling with a companion you want to sit beside in a middle seat. But there are other considerations. Seats near the wings are notoriously less turbulent than those further away from the wings, if that is important to you. If you have a connecting flight, choosing one closer to the front of the plane, so you can disembark more quickly, could prove extremely helpful.

“Bulkhead” seats or seats in the first row of the section, with no seats directly in front of them, can offer greater legroom but no personal item storage (expect to place it in the overhead bin). This may be an advantage or disadvantage to you depending on your priorities. And exit row seats have more legroom, but children are not eligible to sit in these rows, and you will need to adhere to the responsibilities of the exit row passengers as outlined by your flight attendant during safety instruction. Also, the exit rows may have a greater shortage of room in the overhead bin due to the storage of safety equipment.

Confirm your seat assignment before check-in.

If you made a seat reservation ahead of time, double check to make sure your assignment hasn’t been changed. In some cases the airplane scheduled for your flight may be changed to a different aircraft, causing seat reservations to be re-assigned unexpectedly.

Other considerations.

Consider congestion factors on the aircraft, such as the seats near the lavatories potentially being high-traffic zones. Also consider that seats closer to the door may be cooler if the weather outside is cold. And if you want to be served earlier during food and beverage service, flight attendants often (but not always!) start in the front and work their way back, especially on smaller planes (on larger planes more attendants may be serving and start from both front and back.)

If you want easier access to the restrooms you may want to go for the aisle – and, conversely, if you want to avoid having to get up and move for others in your row getting up, then the window may be better.

If you need access to your carry-on in the overhead bin during the flight, the aisle will be most convenient. The wall of the window seat can serve as a makeshift headrest, but the aisle seat can give you more opportunities to stretch out when people aren’t using the aisle. Finally, you can expect the back row of seats won’t recline, but you won’t have to worry about unruly passengers kicking your seat!

What about the “dreaded” middle seat?

Often the least coveted seat, the middle, does have a couple of advantages too! These include better access to the personal light and environmental controls, and often easier access to an outlet. It also will be easier to snag a middle seat in the front of the plane or an exit row if that’s where you want to be for other reasons. And if you’re a social butterfly, you’ve got the potential to make two new friends (or, on the flip side, enemies!)

If all else fails, ask again at the gate.

If you couldn’t get the kind of seat you wanted, assuming seats are assigned on your airline, try asking again at the gate. Loyalty program members may have been upgraded and their original seat assignments abandoned. This can translate into new, great seats becoming available at the last minute. Note that some airlines may refuse to accommodate this request if you are flying with an economy fare ticket.

I hope these tips will help you get the best airplane seat possible for your next flight! There are a lot of different factors to consider!

 

 

Winter in Cocoa Beach, Florida!

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The Pier at Cocoa Beach

While many beaches across the United States are closing up shop for the Winter, Florida’s beaches stay open throughout the year – and with temperatures frequently getting up into the high 70’s (Fahrenheit), and higher, even in the peak of winter, they are a joy to visit! So don’t pack away your shorts and swimsuits just yet – instead considering packing your bags for a winter visit to the Florida coast!

The Pier at Cocoa Beach, and neighboring beachfront, is the most popular attraction in Cocoa Beach. Here you will find sunbathers, swimmers, volleyball players, bars, restaurants, retail, and fishing off the Pier. For a nominal fee you can rent fishing time and equipment (including the fishing poles and gear as well as a fish cleaning station!) Fishing season here ends on December 15, but you can get some “winter” fishing in if you arrive before then!

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Cocoa Beach: popular with surfers

Cocoa Beach is notorious for being a draw for surfers. Nearby you can also explore Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center Visitors’ Complex. This area is often referred to as “Florida’s Space Coast” in tourist brochures. Surfers just call it paradise! If you fancy a cruise on one of the major cruise lines, those depart from neighboring Cape Canaveral too.

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Ron Jon Surf Shop: largest surf shop in the world!

The Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach consists of 52,000 square feet spread across multiple buildings. The complex includes a gigantic retail outlet, surf museum, and surf lesson studio! It is the largest surf shop in the world!

Cocoa Beach is a fun place to relax and unwind or test out your surfing skills, whatever the season! Should you be visiting nearby Cape Canaveral, don’t overlook the additional attractions here in Cocoa Beach, well worth the detour!

You may view my full tour here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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A German Christmas in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

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Holiday Horse & Carriage Ride

Frankenmuth, Michigan is rated one of the most “Christmas-ish” towns in America, and for good reason! What better way to celebrate the holiday than to stroll through this fantastically festive holiday wonderland?! Better yet, hop on a holiday horse and carriage ride and let the jingle bells of your horse heighten the holiday atmosphere!

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Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

No Christmas visit to Frankenmuth is complete without a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the biggest Christmas store in the world! Here you will be enveloped in Christmas spirit… albeit the commercial kind… with thousands upon thousands of holiday decorations to choose from. There are ornaments here for every subject, person, place, and thing – walls of them, and a multitude of trees in a rainbow of colors to adorn with them. Also available are a bounty of Christmas village displays and other decorations. You could get completely lost in here, completely immersed in holiday cheer, mesmerized by the glow of twinkling lights and shiny globes!

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Bavarian inn, from 1888

Frankenmuth was put on the map by German settlers in the 1880s, and the German influence abounds in the form of gingerbread house architecture, wooden carving, a brewery and brewing museum, and other nods to the homeland (note the clock towers and blue and white Bavarian flag checkerboard patterns on window shutters!) Christmas is also a major contributor to Bavarian culture, and in the spirit of this the town is illuminated and festooned to the hilt for the holidays!

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Frankenmuth Clock Shop

Many German traditions are practiced in Frankenmuth, including the wood carving of cuckoo and other German clocks here at the Frankenmuth Clock Shop. Craving fine German cuisine and great beer? Frankenmuth boasts many great German restaurants!

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Covered Bridge

At night Frankenmuth becomes perhaps even more spectacular – as the sun goes down and the lights come up. Whether strolling over the old Covered Bridge or holiday window shopping on a Silent Night at the brilliantly bedecked River Place Shops, Frankenmuth is truly a Christmas delight. For me, Christmas came early being here in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

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Holiday Shopping at River Place Shops

Watch my full tour of a Frankenmuth, Michigan Christmas on YouTube here!:

 

 

 

Jaunty, Jovial Juneau, Alaska!

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Mt. Roberts Tramway, Juneau

Juneau, Alaska is one of the more “metropolitan” destinations in Alaska, yet maintains its Old West, quaint town feel. On this day, I was feeling even more than that… I was feeling drenched from the torrential downpours that happened upon the city on that densely overcast day! Unfortunately, a highlight of Juneau, the Mt. Roberts Tramway, was not on my agenda with visibility from the peak nearing zero! Many others made the trek in spite of cloudy skies.

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“Downtown” Juneau

I opted instead for a stroll, umbrella in tow, through the main streets. While a small handful of what could loosely be defined “skyscrapers” dot the downtown district, most of the architecture harks back to an earlier time. Some of the building fronts resemble an Old Western movie set, the shadowy fringes of treetops on the mountains peeking out from billowing clouds looming in the background. I imagined Bob Ross capturing these mountains in a painting…

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Old Western Style Building Fronts

If you wish to venture out further, there are glaciers available to visit on a day trip. If you choose to embark on such an adventure, or a tramway ride, I am hopeful your weather will be more cooperative!

For a short video tour of a rainy day in Juneau, you can watch my YouTube video here:!