It’s those shoes

Maybe men don’t have this problem but I am going to bet that a lot of women do.  How to take less shoes with you on holiday because you know they take up the most space in your luggage.  Now in the case of short people like me you just have to take a couple of pairs of heeled shoes – and they take up a fair bit of space.  Then you need walking shoes because you have to have something comfortable for all those steps and cobbled stoned streets.  Add to that the running shoes in case you manage to get in a run on your trip.  You cannot run in Sketchers.  If you are a runner you know what I am talking about.  For the non-runners I won’t bore you with tales of pronating and other running talk.  Suffice it to say that if you are planning to run outside or on the treadmill you definitely need your running shoes.  And if your running shoes look like my running shoes you don’t want to use them as casual shoes because they are ugly.


Honestly – my shoes have holes – really!

Then you need sandals – because it is going to be hot and it would look weird to wear high heels on the beach …. or maybe not


And heaven forbid they don’t match your outfit or colour scheme –
shoes matching

These shoes are starting to make quite the pile.  When I checked on my husband’s shoe plans he nonchalantly shrugged and said – “running shoes and sandals, that’s all”.

I wonder if anyone will ever invent a running shoe with a detachable heel that could transform in seconds into a trendy high heel shoe for evening wear?  Maybe with some crowd funding…. you never know.

Well what do you think … someone else is on it.  Not exactly a running shoe to high heel but pretty amazing really ….

Follow your family line

With the advent of services like Ancestry DNA people are discovering who they really are and where they really come from.  For those who study genealogy this is a huge boost to filling in the gaps of the family tree.  Travel plays a big part in this story and I have lost count of the people we have helped in their journeys overseas to check in on ancestral homes, villages and towns.

It is always interesting because usually the places people want to go to are generally off the tourist radar.  Small villages in Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech republic are just a few of the places where people go to visit church yards, scan birth, marriage and death records and see if anyone in the village still carries the family name.

St Columbus Church Outer Hebrides (2)

Now this can be tricky.  This is why some people don’t like the idea of DNA at all.  Imagine getting a knock on the front door and a complete stranger is standing there telling you that he or she is your fourth cousin twice removed and they have travelled across the world just to come and visit you.  Mmm.  Might make you think twice?

stranger at the door

The other downside of a genealogy search overseas is that because you are probably wanting to get to very small villages or out of the way places you are probably going to be travelling independently – driving a rental car – staying in very small towns that have never heard of Sheraton Hotels.  The best accommodation might be just the small village inn.   This can sometimes be a challenge for us spoilt North Americans.  Bedrooms in European hotels are smaller and in some of the smaller villages you might even find yourself sharing a bathroom (horror of horrors).

Remember there is a reason for this.  You are not a tourist – you are a sleuth on the trail of your great great great grandfather – who was maybe a shoemaker in the Swiss Alps, or the harbour security man on a small island in the Outer Hebrides.  Enjoy the challenges and enjoy the discoveries along the way.  You might be obliged to eat Haggis in Scotland, Black Pudding in England or Grilled Pig’s ear in Spain.  If that happens follow Anthony Bourdain’s advice – never refuse a dish prepared for you by a local.  And when you are struggling to get that food down – remember – this is your ancestry – so enjoy it!


A room with a view …or not

Where to spend the night on your travels? A hotel, a motel, a bed and breakfast, VRBO, Air BnB …. check out the hotels on Trivago or go with Expedia.  It’s bewildering for sure.

Of course as a travel agency our primary go to would be traditional style hotels through a wholesaler but even our industry wholesalers are becoming more imaginative with the selection by offering apartments and even bed and breakfasts.  All well and good.  You think?  Mmmm – not so much.

But why?

Traditional hotels are still my favourite choice because I usually know what sort of standard to expect.  A stay at a Taj hotel for example – I know it is going to be luxurious and I also know it is going to be expensive but perhaps worth every penny when staying in an unfamiliar and exotic location.  By the same rule of thumb I pretty much know what I am going to get when I stay at a Sheraton or a Holiday Inn Express and for value for money I really think you can’t beat the Novotel chain in Europe.  All known quantities.

It is a bit different with the bed and breakfast market.  We do have programs in the industry offering self drive with overnight stays at bed and breakfasts – mostly in Britain – and these usually work out OK but I have had problems with people arriving late in the day where the B&B owner has rented out the room and has protected that guest at another B&B property further up the road.  A bit annoying for sure but I guess the reasoning is that if they are offering 3 bedrooms and someone wants to rent the whole house then they are going to bump the reservation for just 1 bedroom for that night to one of their B&B colleagues rather than lose that big sale.

Personally I cannot stand a bed and breakfast set up.  I always feels as if I am staying in someone else’s house (which I am I guess) and I don’t like the lack of privacy.  In a larger hotel there is the anonymity that I prefer – but that’s just a personal choice.

Online hotel sites such as expedia, and trivago etc. ….well – where can I start?  First of all these are good reference sites for checking hotels and getting a general feel for price.  If you look at the reviews you find good and bad – as in any review site.  I always try to look at the big picture.

And then there is the new kid on the block – Air BnB.  Well not so new really as it has been around for 9 years.  Clocking in with revenue at 2.6 billion.  Wow – not bad!  This is how they started … (courtesy Wikipedia).

Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia (right)

Shortly after moving to San Francisco in October 2007, he overstayed with a friend for many months before he found an apartment. His roommates and former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft apartment. Chesky and Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast.[47][48] The goal at first was just “to make a few bucks”

I really can’t see myself going this route although I know my sister has scored some lovely places in Spain and Portugal with Air BnB.  I guess it all comes down to comfort level.  Speaking of which – a close friend recently booked on Air BnB somewhere north of San Fran …. sent me this picture of the house where they had rented a couple of rooms.

Air BnB

On a positive note – the owners were apparently very nice people 🙂  (yep…that helps I guess).  I think there is probably only one thing worse than ending up at an Air BnB like the above and that would be an evening at Fawlty Towers.



Overheard on a flight

Do you ever listen to other people’s conversations on flights?  Well sometimes you can’t really help it.  My experience is that if someone is having a conversation in the seat behind me it almost seems like they are talking right into my ear.  I am not sure if it is the pressurised cabin that creates this but this is maybe the reason so many people use noise cancelling headphones.

So yes – I do listen to other people’s conversations on flights – and I am not the only one it seems.  Lots of situations – some good – some bad – result from this.

Let’s look at a good one –  a young teacher from Chicago was on a flight in the US and started chatting to the next passenger.  She told him she taught at a school in a low income area and how the school community helped the kids by providing free breakfast, lunch and after school programs.  Her conversation was overheard and other passengers were moved to donate money – read the full story here  Read the full story here

That’s nice.  A happy ending.  Here’s a not so happy ending…. Have you ever been on a flight and felt fed up with the service.  Maybe you are delayed – stuck on the tarmac – frustrated.  You lean over and voice your dissatisfaction to your travel partner.  The flight attendant overhears you and you are kicked off the flight.  Sounds incredible?  But it’s true.  That’s exactly what happened to Whitney Miller and her father after hours of delay they were complaining to each other.  What they didn’t know is that the person behind them was a flight attendant with the airline.  She obviously was fed up about this and had them thrown off because she felt they were a “threat”.  Here’s the report AND some video

And what do you think would happen if someone sitting behind you tweeted out all the details of your private conversation to the whole world … well not exactly the whole world but 63.000 followers …Yep.  That is exactly what happened when a young good looking couple sat in front of Rosey Blair on a flight.  Now I have to confess that although Rosey has 63.000 followers I have never heard of her …. however.  I digress.  So the young couple started chatting and exchanging information.  They are both personal trainers and obviously were getting along famously …. too famously in fact because Rosey was tweeting live time about their conversation, how they looked at each other and even the fact that they both went to the washroom at the same time.  Really????  Over 630.000 retweets.  Goodness me.

The poor girl got totally harassed and insulted and had to delete all her social media accounts.

So there you go ladies – next time you get seated next to a handsome hunk on your flight  check who is sitting behind you and if you think they are tweeting about your private conversation maybe you just want to spill your coffee all over their phone!

spilling coffee

Now tweet that!

Who makes the rules?

I just had an interesting discussion with a journalist working on a story about the mis-spelling on a name on an airline ticket.  It is sometimes difficult to explain to someone not in the travel industry how convoluted airline ticketing rules can be.

A small spelling or typo in the first name on this ticket is causing a major headache for the passenger, the travel agent and I would imagine airline reps who have been called repeatedly by all parties.  The other confusing issue is that every airline has a different way of dealing with these situations.  Within the industry some airlines are known to be extremely difficult to work with – I am not naming any names but you airline people know who you are.

You would think that if you purchase a ticket under the name Fred Smith and by mistaken when you or your travel agent are typing in the name you put Frod Smith then anyone can see that this is clearly a spelling error – just one letter – in the first name.  Something that can be easily cleared up.  Well – not so easy depending on who you speak to.

Remember too that airline help desks are like call centres – probably tons of people working there – so you might get a different scenario depending on who happens to pick up your call.

Nevertheless – it is useful to do a double check EVERY SINGLE TIME – and never rely on anyone’s goodwill here.

Remember, the cheaper the ticket the more difficult it will be to change and discount airlines rely on not having to spend more man hours on reprinting and re-issuing tickets.  It seems easy enough – but trust me it is not.

really hard

So you took a selfie?

It seems weird to think how popular it has become to take photos of yourself – after all this technique has only been readily available for a short time – and yet it is not something new –

“The first selfie was taken by Robert Cornelius (USA) in October 1839, using a daguerreotype technique – an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapour. Cornelius was required to sit for between three and 15 minutes to allow the necessary exposure time as he posed for the self-portrait in the backyard of his family’s lamp and chandelier store in Philadelphia, USA. He wrote on the back of it: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”

The Oxford Dictionary recognized “selfie” as 2013’s word of the year, defining this as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”.  (Guinness Book of Records)

Since 2013 when selfies became more common (and easier to take) it seems as if the interest in the place or monument has taken second place our pictures of ourselves.  I wonder why?  Is it because we have to prove that we were there?  Maybe no one would believe us unless it was a close up of our very own mugs with one of the wonders of the world in the background.  Sometimes it doesn’t give out the impression of awe and wonder that we would like –

great wall of china selfie

Maybe he just wanted to show how him and his best friends were having fun at The Great Wall of China

Sure doesn’t make you feel like visiting the Great Wall does it?  Unless of course you can do it like this ….


But then we can’t always travel like the President.  But you know what – there is always photoshop …..

great wall photoshop

Yes – you are seeing right – she photo-shopped herself on a picture of the Great Wall …. but why not?

But getting the selfie sometimes comes at a price – as this broken statue found out.

Student Snaps Leg Off Statue W... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Things That Were Destroyed Because of Selfies

This broken statue is the Drunken Satyr statue in Milan.  A student wanted a picture sitting on the leg – one of the legs snapped off.  Now this is a copy of the original but still a valuable piece of work having been made in the 19th centurey.  Yep  –  the student managed to get out without being apprehended.   

Isn’t that terrible?  And here’s another selfie catastrophe –

Imagine that tourists trying to take selfies actually put turtles off their laying!!

Tourists Keep Turtles from Lay... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Things That Were Destroyed Because of Selfies
Photo: rupurudu/Tumblr

“In 2015, hundreds of tourists descended on the beaches of Costa Rica during the country’s sea turtle egg-laying season and, duh, tried to take selfies with the animals who were trying to get in the swing of their centuries-old birthing ritual. Due to so many tourists clogging up the beach, the turtles couldn’t lay their eggs, and now there are fewer turtles than there were before all of this selfie nonsense started. ”

Well I have to say – actually confess would be a better word – that I still haven’t mastered the art of the selfie.  And I have tried.  I get my thumb in the way or else I get the whole thing out of focus.  They say practice makes perfect so I guess I shouldn’t stop practising.  Mind you – there are a lot of other people out there who don’t take perfect selfies either and the proof is out there … online …. for the world to see – and it helps to have a sense of humour.

selfie sneeze



Just doing carry-on …. I did it once before and I am going to do it again.

Travel to Europe for two weeks just with carry-on.  Now you might be saying to yourself – big deal – I have done that tons of times but I know out there among you all there are those who cannot leave home without a whacking big suitcase (and that’s just for a weekend).

So first of all why am I going to do this?  Well a two-week trip to Europe comprised of hotel stays, a cruise, trains, taxis and ferries and a hotel on Lake Como that has 37 cobbled steps leading up to it….

Yup.  That sounds like a good enough reason.  I think it will be a good personal lesson in self-restraint.  Do I really need 6 pairs of shoes?  A different outfit every night?  Really?  The people I am travelling with are family. They have seen me at my worst …. Believe me.

The rest – strangers – ships that pass in the night.  They will never see me again and vice versa.

Next – how am I going to do this.  Packing cubes, wrinkle-resist material and Lululemons and more Lululemons.  A couple of colourful shawls – sparkly Croc flip flops and a good pair of Sketchers.  That should do it?

Oh – but I shouldn’t forget my running shoes just in case, and my swim suit and then maybe a rain jacket, just in case, and a warmer cover-up for the evenings – just in case.  You see what happens.  It just keeps piling up so I am going to have to work very hard at this.  It’s the “just in case” that prevents me from reaching my goal.  How many times have you unpacked unworn clothing after a trip.  You took it along – just in case – dragged it onto cruises, flights, trains and taxis and then brought it all the way home again – UNWORN!

My last carry-on trip worked quite well – two weeks in Ireland on a self drive vacation with a teeny carry on suitcase.  I was quite proud of myself but I also wanted to throw up when I unpacked my clothes at home.  I was so sick of the sight of them.


There is something so liberating about being able to walk off your flight and right out the doors of the airport into a taxi.  No hanging around waiting endlessly for the case on the carousel – just out the door and on my way.  I have also had the experience of travelling with a larger case on European trains.  Yes it can be done but if you are going to catch as many trains as we are then I would rather not.


So all I am worrying about now is getting on the plane in time to get an overhead bin (or two) and a place to put my hat!
travel lady hat