A Bajan Christmas


It is too late for me to jet off to Barbados (ticket prices are a budget buster) in time for the holidays.  Below are pictures of Bajan foods I like and will miss diving into during this season.  For certain, some, if not all, will be served as part of the cuisine in every household for Christmas.  Check out the links and try some of the recipes.  You are bound to get a taste of Barbados if you do.

Pigeon Peas and Rice  and Macaroni Pie

 

 

Fish Cakes and Steamed Pudding

 

 

Black cake

 

 

Sorrel

 

 

Soca vibe  Maizie  by Calypsonian Red Plastic Bag (Stedson Wiltshire)

Besides the foods, I will miss the warm weather, the hustle and bustle of Bridgetown, watching the fashion parade in Queens Park, and listening to the Royal Barbados Police Force Band’s performance.  If you are like me and cannot make a quick getaway for the holidays, then I hope these few pictures of traditional Bajan foods at Christmas time, and the links demonstrating how to make them, as well as, listening to the local Soca vibe that is most likely being played on the airwaves there now, would be enough to encourage you to add this destination to your bucket list for 2018.  It is never too early to plan ahead.  Need help with your itinerary?  Let me know, I am here to help you.

In three days we will celebrate Christmas and I want to wish my blog community, viewership and supporters a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

Itinerary Planner

Travel Conniptions


A week from today, my travels to Ecuador and Peru will begin.  This will round out all travels for 2017 (see ‘Coming to a Place Near You’ page on http://www.traveltinerary.com) and I will be able to add them to the list of countries visited.  The itinerary planning and research for these destinations have been extensive having read everything I can on both countries.  After perusing other travelers comments and tips online, and talking with Ecuadorian friends, I had to concede (more like have a travel conniption) that I simply cannot do all the things I would like to do, or go to all the places I would like to visit within the allotted time-frame of my air ticket.  Consequently, I had to make some changes to my plans.  It would mean trimming the itinerary in a way that would afford me the most bang for my buck.   Hence, The Galápagos Islands would become the “fall guy” because of time constraints, but Machu Picchu would remain on the must-see list.

The terrain of Ecuador and Peru does not allow for easy over-land travel.  Internal flights are available but can be pricy for non-nationals.  To capitalize on multiple territories, I purchased an open-jaw ticket, which in this case, is heavily bundled with travel connections, but the price could not be beat.  Since I chose the low-priced ticket at the expense of much-needed travel time, flexing on the itinerary then became my next priority (see tips on ‘Itinerary Planning’ page).  Once committed to a budget, one has to be willing to alter plans, if necessary.  This is the way it works for budget travelers who do not want to break the bank, figuratively speaking or literally, but instead, wishes to enjoy as much of their destination as do their wealthy counterparts who spend heftier sums.  Currently my budget is on track and well below the allotted self-imposed spending limit of $1,500 per country.  I must interject here that this amount goes a long way in some parts of the world than in others.  More spending power is available to me on this trip than would be on a similar trip to Europe.  Still, if properly navigated, travels can be had within the budget you set.

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.” – Confucius

While I may forego The Galápagos Islands at this time, God willing, I hope I will get another opportunity to revisit Ecuador on a longer timetable.  The flight schedule as it stands below promises to be quite hectic.  To date, I have received one airline change to the ticket schedule since purchase. I hope there will be no further changes.

New York → Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia →Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador → Guayaquil, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador →Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco, Peru → Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru → New York

Following the pre-travel checklist posted last month has served to:  keep my plans on track, keep travel essentials in view and keep travel acuity of the region high.  Below are my last to-dos before I jet off to find the spot where I can stand on the GPS location – latitude: 0°, 00′, 00″ known as the middle of the world.

Week 4
Pack travel bag
Confirm flights
Check weather conditions
Give copies of itineraries to family members
Print boarding passes

Am I excited about the adventures ahead?  A resounding YES!  However, I do have a few reservations.  Will I acclimatize in time to accomplish all the hiking I would like to do?  Will my plans be sabotaged from altitude sickness?  Will I enjoy the food in either country as appetizing as they look?  I am no Bourdain or Zimmern, I draw the line on what goes into my body temple.  So, no guinea pig thanks (pun intended).  Will I feel safe walking around at night?  Only time will tell the answers to my questions.

To all my blog peeps in WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, stay tuned as I bring you the most impactful experiences and scenic photo shots.  As always, I love to read your thoughts/recommendations on my post.  Please write your comment in the section below.  Shy?  You can select the buttons:  follow, like, thumbs-up, or email to convey your encouragement.

Keep it real all.

 

 

 

Trinidad and Tobago Firsts In Retrospect


Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the party mecca of the Caribbean.  Dubbed the land of the humming bird, boasting the greatest show on earth – Carnival, and giving the world calypso or soca music are a few of its cultural peculiarities, but I’m not going to talk about that.

I first visited this twin-island nation (whose soccer team recently beat the USA team at the 2017 World Cup, 2-1) with a gal pal on a get-away trip.  We were eager to escape our routine lives in exchange for a little adventure and to explore a nearby island.  So, we packed our bags and left on a 17 day vacation to T&T to chill with close family friends.

Traveling with a friend can be fun.  We shared laughs and encountered many firsts together.  Back then neither of us could call ourselves experienced travelers.  We didn’t have an itinerary, specific travel plans or even carried all the travel essentials that we insist on carrying today.  We only knew we wanted to see places we had often heard spoken of like:  Arima, Maracas, Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and Tunapuna to name a few.  Reminiscing with my friend about this trip brought back memories I had completely forgotten, nothing sinister, but better left unsaid.  It was also interesting to note what impacted her the most.

We spent our first 10 days in Trinidad visiting the bustling city – Port of Spain.  We rode the “Priority” (our first experience of riding a bus going faster than 30 mph as in our homeland).  We visited the world famous cricket grounds of Queens Park Oval (it brought back memories of a popular poem written by Paul Keens-Douglas “Tanti at De Oval“).  We ate callaloo, all kinds of flavorful roti and a variant version called “buss-up-shot”.

The next seven days we spent in idyllic Tobago.  There the pace was much slower.  Tobago is the retiree’s haven, the rich and famous escape destination, the ‘do-not-disturb’ person’s kind of place to go and relax.  Driving in the countryside at night along the winding, narrow, hills and valleys with no street lighting other than the stars and moon was rather perturbing.  Scarborough, the city, was not much to talk about at that time, however, this little island possess some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the world.

Among our many firsts in T&T here are three experiences you may find hilarious as I still do today.

After spending the day sightseeing and walking around in Port-of-Spain, we tried to hail a taxicab to take us home and were shocked to see others jumping into the cab ahead of us.  We couldn’t understand why total strangers wanted to share our ride.  It took a few taxicabs leaving us behind before it became clear that this was a transportation sharing method to keep the fares low.  To back-up our belief, written on a wall in big, bold letters not to far from the taxi depot were these words, “Taxi men keep your fares low or blood will flow.”  Those words were indelibly written on my mind for fear of impending violence, also it was my first introduction to graffiti.  I know by now you’re probably wondering where was I living all this time.  LOL.  A sheltered life no doubt.  A family friend eventually rescued us and we were able to ride home in the cab that we wanted.

Another first occurred in Tobago while we were staying at our host. The island had  experienced a few earthquake tremors and, I don’t know if the two were related, but the houses in the neighborhood, including ours, had no water.  The problem existed for about two days, but it felt like a lifetime to me.  The locals were going down to the river to bathe, but would soon return saying, “De river come down.”  I didn’t understand this statement.  Aren’t rivers suppose to flow downwards?  Well, again I learned that due to the heavy rainfall high up in the mountains, the riverbanks would usually swell and overflow, bringing with it mud, debris, rock, etc., making the river inaccessible for bathing, washing or catching clean water, hence, de river come down.

My final recollection was new to both my friend and I.  It was our first sighting of the gecko, a white version of GIECO’s green lizard.  For the entire night we stayed up watching the ceiling to see where those lizards would go.  We huddled in the middle of the bed and didn’t get a wink of sleep, for fear that those lizards would come near to us.  When we told our host the next morning we had lizards in the room and described what happened, they laughed so hard we could only join in and laugh too as they explained about geckos.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t give the geckos any further thought for the remainder of our stay.

In retrospect, Trinidad and Tobago lived up to our expectations and more.  We were young, impressionable and enjoyed every minute of our stay in that Republic.  I’m sure much has changed since our visit but the adage is still true, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”  If you take a trip there today you will certainly find roti, callaloo, buss-up-shot, carnival, calypso, soca, hummingbirds, cricket at the oval, and many other interests that help to make up this vibrant destination.  I enjoyed looking back on this vacation and recounting it to you, so don’t hold back on your comments.  Who will be the first?

To Check Or Not to Check Electronics


Today new security measures are being implemented for all inbound flights to the USA.  The travel process includes: screening passengers, checking laptops/electronics, thorough questionings, etc.  What does it all mean for travelers in terms of safety, packing, and check-in times?

Obviously safety is the number one priority that is driving this new demand.  Airports and airlines in every country around the world, like it or not, are scrambling to make the necessary adjustments to comply with these US demands.  These new measures, considered by many to be a direct outpour of the travel ban against several predominantly Muslim countries adopted earlier this year, will enhance security.  It is therefore needless to say, that every passenger, anywhere in this world, would undeniably agree that when flying, their safety is paramount.

Packing is a sore spot of contention for me (especially traveling to see relatives) when my bags always weigh more than the allotted 50 pounds.  Still, I am well aware there are rules to be followed and I usually fall in line.  After today, I will now have to consider how important it is for me to add my electronics, laptop, iPad, etc. to my checked luggage.  I don’t know how comfortable you feel about that, but I believe most people don’t like the idea of packing their electronic valuables into there checked bags for fear of theft.  Yes, this is a reality.  I’ve seen enough hidden camera’s exposé on the subjects of “baggage tampering” and “missing valuables” not to be fearful of a similar likelihood happening to me.

What is one to do if one’s electronics are missing from their checked bags?  Is the answer more insurance coverage?  Will we see a proliferation of missing electronics insurance claims?  Let’s wait to see what happens on that score.  To avoid packing electronics, maybe this could be a new entrepreneurial “Amazon International” opportunity (short-term electronics rental stores) for travelers to and from the US.  Contact me for the details (being facetious).

Airport check-ins as it stands can be a hassle at times.  You must be checked-in two hours prior to boarding for international flights.  Some countries are already requesting travelers bound for the USA to check-in up to three hours ahead of their flight schedule.  This course of action must be taken to expedite the newly adopted screening  process, and on top of that, passengers are warned to expect delays.

My plans to carry my favorite electronics on my upcoming trip will now be pared down to one or two items.  I suppose that by the time I’m ready to return to the USA from my travels abroad, I will not encounter much delays or processing hiccups.  It will have all become a seamless process, much like taking off my shoes, belt, jacket, etc. at the TSA check point.

What are your thoughts on these new measures?  Drop me your comment on “to check or not to check electronics.”

As always, thanks for reading.

Ecuador and Peru Pre-travel Checklist


The countdown is on!

On my projected vacation page ‘coming to a place near you’, I have selected Ecuador and Peru as the destinations to close out my travels for 2017.  I am now 43 days away from fulfilling that plan.  I have chosen Ecuador specifically to visit the Galápagos Islands, and Peru to visit Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley.   I can barely wait to see nature’s wonders in this part of the hemisphere.

I can feel the pressure building as I start to compile a checklist and gather all my must-haves to take with me.  So, to help me manage my anxiety and excitement I will follow a simple plan.  I’ll prioritize what I need to focus on each week as the departure date draws nearer.  Here is my checklist of all that I must complete prior to leaving.

Week 1

  1. Purchase round-trip airline tickets
  2. Plan budget for travel expenses, namely:  food, tours, entrance fees, etc.
  3. Research mandatory medical requirements, if any i.e immunizations
  4. Pre-purchase entry tickets for Galápagos Islands and Machu Pichu

Week 2

  1. Plan detailed daily itineraries for each country
  2. Research local transportation – bus, train, plane, donkey (Lol)
  3. Choose tour operators in both cities
  4. Book lodging (AirBnB/hotel)

Week 3

  1. Arrange for a house sitter
  2. Pay all bills coming due in my absence
  3. Shop for items (raincoat, bug spray, hat, light jacket/sweater, etc.)
  4. Gather maps, guide/reference books

Week 4

  1. Pack travel bag
  2. Confirm flights
  3. Check weather conditions
  4. Give copies of itineraries to family members
  5. Print boarding passes

Did I leave anything out that may be important to this trip?  Tell me if I did in the comment section, and I’ll let you know if it has been added to the list.

 

 

 

Flying by the seat of your pants


Choosing your ideal seat on-board an aircraft is still a big deal, at least to some people.

We all know that whether you sit in first class, coach, right side or left side of the plane we will all arrive to our destination at the same time. So what makes one seat more prized over another?  One may never know the answer to this question since all answers would be subjective.  Aircraft seats are made of the same materials.  Therefore whether you are in first class or coach you can rest assured your derriere is sitting on the same floatation device that makes up your seat.

Then, what is it that makes the difference?  Barring all the individual amenities that now come with the average seat (TV screen, device outlets, entertainment, Wi-Fi access, etc.), there are still some basic irritants that still exists.

I asked a few friends who travel for leisure and business of their seating preference and the ensuing discussion led to varying points of view.  All agreed though, and I’m sure you Seating5would too, that the supreme preference would be a window seat in first class.  Well, only those who could afford these pricey seats on the passenger list would sit in those enviable spots, leaving the other seats up for grabs.  Being first is always a highly desirable position and every seat in first class is easily coveted by those sitting in coach.  As you pass through this section, these privileged passengers may already have drinks in hand,  laptops/tablets or books opened, appear to be relaxed and ready for takeoff.  Agreeably they paid a higher price and deserve to be treated to the best service, space, comforts and luxuries that money can buy.

So, lets look at the pros and cons of the seats in coach.

  1. The window seat is the number one choice of seating preferences.

Seating1Pros:  Being able to have an aerial view of the landscape at takeoff and landing is what every passenger loves to do.  You can prop to one side if you fall asleep without disturbing your neighbor.  Your control of the window shade is another privilege.

Cons:  The down side comes when the passenger next to you leans in for a better view too.  At inopportune times you have to disturb two persons to go to the toilet.  You have to reach across and invade your fellow passenger’s space to accept your food or hand over your garbage.

2.  Second runner up is the aisle seat.  This position has some benefits to it.

Pros:  More leg room if you nonchalantly extend your legs out to the side.  A clear path to the exit. You do not have to obstruct or disturb the sleeping ones next to you when you want to get up.

Cons:  You are always reached over, allowing the stewardesses’ body to possibly come to close to your face.  You may have to periodically get up from your seat to accommodate those heading towards the lav.  You may be bumped by a passing passenger, banged by the drinks cart or smacked in the head by the dangling foot of a toddler in arms.

3.  The middle seat is that seat everyone loves to hate.  Here are some reasons to support this.  You may have more.

Pros:  There are none!  Except if you are sitting among family or friends.

Cons:  You are sitting in close proximity between two complete strangers. This uncomfortable position can be further exacerbated when one or both passengers on either side begin to subtly fight you for the armrest space. Another is the neighbor who falls asleep and encroaches on your already limited space.  Sitting in the middle presents the likelihood that you will have to disturb your aisle seat-mate at some point in the journey on your ‘I had too much to drink’ relieve run.

I have had the privilege of sitting in first class, on both international and domestic flights but not as much as I would like. Of course I relished the luxury afforded me there, but whether in first class or coach, my ultimate choice is always the window seat.  I may not always get my desired seat, so no matter where I sit, to make my trip a positive experience and an enjoyable one, I practice these simple techniques:

  1. Smile.
  2. Assess my neighbors.
  3. Smile again.
  4. Introduce myself.
  5. Keep chatter to a minimum.
  6. Be friendly and kind.
  7. Offer help to a struggling passenger.
  8. Relax and enjoy the ride.

As an itinerary planner I am always interested in learning the seating preference of my clients.  It helps me to make solid recommendations so they too can have the best travel experience possible.  Please tell me in the comment section of your seating preference (aisle, middle or window) and why.   Mention a bizarre seating experience en route to your destination if you’ve  had one.  Would love to hear it all.

Safe travels!

Airport Peeves


Running through airports seems to be my thing.  No matter how early I arrive, I am always scrambling to get to my gate with just a few minutes to spare before boarding. There was only one time that I can recall, a thanksgiving day, when I leisuredly strolled to my gate and had the chance to sit and relax.  I guess everyone else was dining at their thanksgiving buffet while I was busy catching my flight.

What causes the delay?  Mostly the long lines I encounter at check-in.  I often feel afraid I will not make it through the lines in time for the flight.  I have witnessed instances where check-in personnel would come up to the line and ask if they were persons on line to Airport 2fast-track since their flight was about to board.  The up and down curving lines, sometimes three or four rows deep can be a bit daunting.  My theory is that the winding lines make you dizzy, and by the time you reach the TSA agent you are so confused from going around and around, if asked, you might just give them a wrong name.  Don’t read too much into this, it’s just a theory. 😀.

Seriously, I do hate the long lines.  Many airports have found the solution to this by using self check-in kiosks.  This is great, until you realize a few are broken, or there may be a cue for the few that actually work.  What a bummer.  Is it just me?  Do you notice these things too?  I am not painting every airport with a broad brush and certainly my suggestions below are not a one size fit all solution.

This year’s top 10 airports are truly wonderful (I have passed through half of them). They may be so ascribed for their abundant services, architectural beauty, preferred guest lounges, finest eateries, luxury retail shops, sterile clean restrooms (if there is such a thing), whatever.  These are all great, but since no one surveyed me, I would like to go on record to state what I would like to see at an airport when I arrive.  Nothing crazy or unheard of, but rather simple and should be a basic consideration at every airport:

  1. Airport 3Baggage claim should not be far away.  I shouldn’t have to walk two miles (exaggeration) to collect my bags before exiting the building.
  2. A local bus-stop or train station should be nearby for the budget traveler like me who may not be able to afford taxi or the overpriced hotel shuttles.
  3. Free welcome maps and booklets should be available.  I’m in your city, boosting your economy.  I shouldn’t have to purchase points of interest information in your city.
  4.  Information desk should be located near gates, and I am not talking about the Hudson News stores.
  5. Knowledgeable persons should be manning formation desk at all times.  Duhhh!
  6. 24 hour foreign exchange should be available for departing and arriving visitors.  And last but not least
  7. More pet rest-stops.  Man’s best friend needs to relieve themself too.  Do I need to say more?

My list can go on and on to the point where it may sound like I need a personal valet too. Lol.  I appreciate the finer things in life but I am not always in a position to afford them. However, I still need to give some credit to the check-in process, because I have always managed to board my flights for my destination on-time.

Fellow bloggers what are your airport peeves?  I may not have a solution for them but would love to hear them nonetheless.