Tips on Handling Flight Delays

10 Jan

Flight Delays

If you’re a frequent traveler, it is likely you have experienced flight delays within your travel experience. You have paced an airport floor wondering why god did it have to be YOUR flight and not the one before or after you. You have thought or actually said a few curse words out loud at no one in particular, and had a simmering ball of anger grow within you due to the fact that your scheduled connecting flights and long layovers will become even more maddening due to this untimely delay.  I have experienced all of these emotions and more and have compiled a list of links to some great tips on how to handle your next flight delay with grace, a huge smile and Xanax (o.k. minus the Xanax).

How to handle weather delays and flight cancellations – Johnny Jet The Travel Insider

His tip on useful apps/websites incorporates pure winners. FlightCaster.com—which gives you a good idea of whether your domestic flight will be on time and TripIt.com which notifies you of delays, cancellations, gate changes and other flight details are now permanent staples on my smartphone.

How to Fight Back When Your Flight Is Canceled – Michelle Higgins

One of the listed tips was to tweet for help. Airlines are using Twitter to notify passengers of major flight cancellations and assist in rebooking passengers. The article included an example of a traveler disconnected on two separate calls with an airline after holding for nearly 20 minutes each time, and on the third try, they reached out to the carrier via Twitter and received a response. The Twitter team at the airline rebooked the couple on a new flight. Who knew that sometimes you could get a quicker response via twitter than dialing up customer service?

KnowDelay.com predicts flight problems 3 days in advance – Rob Lovitt, NBC News contributor

This article on KnowDelay.com was an eye opener. This website promises to alert travelers of weather-related flight delays up to three days before takeoff. The site is best suited for business travelers, elite mileage-plan members and others who can afford to change flights on short notice or do so without a fee. This site is also great for leisure travelers as well because they can still gain advance knowledge on delays to prepare themselves mentally and physically for those possibilities.

In the end, a positive demeanor and outlook with a side of patience will go a long way in getting through a flight delay. Remember that nothing is ever perfect, and all you can do is make lemonade out of lemons the best way you can. So smiles up and happy travels.

How to Make Your Staycation a true Vacation

6 Jan

Over the holiday I experienced my first staycation in over 5 years. I had no plans and nowhere I needed to be. Instead of booking, planning, organizing or dealing with a myriad of things to create “enjoyment” during my time off, I just stayed still, and let the daily winds take me to do whatever or nothing at all. It was glorious. It reminded me that we all need to insert a bit of a staycation into our yearly vacation routine.

The definition of a vacation is a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation. You can have all of what a vacation has to offer in your Staycation, and here’s how:

1 – Figure out what you need to make you happy while on Staycation

There are some people who need to keep busy at all moments of the day. Instead of running around doing busy work (i.e. running errands, cleaning, working), how about do things that will help keep the mind going instead. Learn a new language online, order a bunch of brain teaser games at amazon and utilize them, do home base projects with your kids, or the big one “HAVE FULL CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR FAMILY” distraction free! Oh what a concept.  Those same errands, cleaning and work projects will still be there after your staycation is over. Worry about them then, and enjoy your free time now. Or better yet, just chillax.

2 – Remember the route word of a Staycation – STAY

That’s right, stay put. With a staycation you need to be a little bit selfish and a little bit removed from your daily routine. It’s ok to say no to people who want to run you ragged with their errands, and it’s o.k. to tell the kids to figure out ways to entertain themselves while you sip your coolatta watching bad TV in two day old pajamas, and it is more than o.k. to unplug from technology. Believe me everyone will survive if they haven’t seen an updated status from you for a few days, and you will survive the disconnection to. Anything of true importance will find its way to you due to a wonderful invention called the telephone.

3 – Staycation and the Family

Even though you may have one definition of a Staycation for yourself, your family may have something else in mind. The wife may want you to finally clean those gutters, the husband may want a gourmet home cooked meal every night, and the kids may want to be chauffeured and catered to every waking moment. Before you take your Staycation, make sure you have a fun filled conversation with your family about what you will and will not be doing during your time off. Tell them when there is any confusion, you will have a sign for them called “talk to the hand”. You will gently and slowly bring your hand up in a stop position, pause with it for no less than 5 seconds, then walk away. That hand sign means their plans don’t fit with your plans and you won’t be entertaining, acknowledging or dealing with it while on your Staycation. It’s a simple gesture that can be wondrous in solving those pesky family problems.

Hope you enjoy your me time on your staycation.

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Disney Cruise – Top 5 Tips

2 Jan
English: Disney Dream at Castaway Cay

English: Disney Dream at Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always heard such wonderful things about the Disney Cruise line. Some comments include how great their excursions are, how they offer you peace of mind by being intuitive about family travel needs, the fact they don’t nickel and dime you about every little thing and that you never feel overwhelmed by the many, many kids onboard the ship. I heard about these wonderful things, but I thought surely they must jest. It’s a kids cruise line for goodness sake, you must hear the patter of many little feet, the lovely screams of many little mouths, and the repetition of “mommy I want, daddy I want, I want, I want, I want!”. So back in November 2012 I decided to submit to my son’s “I want, I want, I want”, and booked the Disney cruise he always wanted. I was going to make it this huge extended family affair with cousins, grandparents and all, so I booked it for November 2013 and slowly but surely had everyone pay off their package in the most affordable way possible. Welp, I must say that what I heard was absolutely right! It was one of the best family trips we ever had!

There were so many highlights and great things about our trip on the Disney Dream that this blog could go on for days. So I decided to condense it down to my top 5 tips when planning your Disney cruise line vacation.

Tip #1 – The Earlier You Book, the More Affordable It Will Be
As previously stated, we booked our trip exactly one year out from our trip date with our Liberty Travel Agent. I heard that the Disney cruise line was more expensive than other cruise brands so that the best way to get an affordable trip was to book early and book in the offseason (fall and/or whenever school was still in). So I followed these tips, and booked a cruise that was basically $300 less per person than what it would have been during the high season. Also instead of booking directly with the cruise line, I booked through an agent and was given 9 months to pay off the package with a highly affordable payment plan. This helped my family lock down the cheaper rate without putting all of their money in up front. Of course I made sure they had direct contact with the agent to make their payments directly so that I wouldn’t have any responsibility in chasing down people for money. In the end everyone took care of their bill and by August our cruise was confirmed for November.

Tip #2 – Once Your Cruise is Paid and Confirmed, Register Online for An Expedited Check-In Process
Once our cruise was paid and confirmed, a few days out from the cruise we were able to do our registration, check-in and booking of excursions online in advance of our trip. I cannot repeat this enough, this is a MUST for you to do when you book your Disney cruise. The Disney cruise holds thousands of people, and when checking in onsite the lines are monstrous. When you do everything online, even though you still have to deal with the line, the most you do onsite is get your picture taken, your room keys printed and you’re quickly given your ship boarding time (they board by group numbers). There is a lot of paper work to fill out and it’s best to do it early when you have the time to do it instead of dealing with it onsite. Plus it’s good to pick and plan your excursions in advance so you can put together a schedule that will work for you and your family. Those excursions sale out fast, so the earlier you book the better!

Tip #3 – Choosing Your Room
We had been on a previous cruise where we felt our room was smaller than a dog house. So room type was very important to us. Because we booked early and during the offseason, we were able to upgrade from a standard inside room to a deluxe ocean view room for only $30 more. That was a deal we couldn’t pass up. The deluxe ocean view room was much more spacious then the standard room and the large porthole that subbed as a seating space gave us a fantastic view and relaxation area. We also had easy access to book adjoining rooms which was a huge help as my spouse and I stayed in one room, and we had the kids in the adjoining room in their own space. It was absolutely fantastic. If you get the ability to do the deluxe ocean view room or higher, take advantage and do it. Their standard room was still more spacious then our previous cruise room but the deluxe was just perfect for us.

Tip #4 – Adult vs. Kids
I heard the kids clubs on the Disney Cruise was like heaven on earth and that our kids wouldn’t want to leave. Well that was not the case for us. On the Disney Dream, the Disney’s Oceaneer Club includes a mix of kids from 3 to 12 years in one big open space. My 10 year old hated the fact he was mixed with kids much younger than him and did not like his experience when he tried it out for exactly 1 hour. My 12 year old cousin had access to the Edge, a tweens-exclusive space but was too shy to stick around and make friends by herself. So in the end none of the kids utilized the kids club, which completely threw a wrench in our plans of having a little kid’s free time at least a few hours a day. But the great thing about the Disney cruise line is that they have a daily schedule that includes activities throughout the day for specific groups such as adults only, kids 3-11, kids 12-14, kids 14-17, and activities you could do as a family. So when you’re not doing an excursion outside of the ship, lounging by the pool, taking a million turns on the waterslide the aqua duck or eating enough food to feed a small village, there is always something to keep you busy as a family or individually. So we had the option to be thoroughly entertained throughout the day at every given moment. Because they have adult only restaurants, pools, bars and activities, if you were a grown up you were never overwhelmed by kids because they had so many things to do and so did you. It was great.

Tip #5 – It’s a Vacation, Not a Job
Even though there were so many options available to us on the cruise line, we never felt the need to participate in it all. We were on vacation and making sure we included downtime and rest time was a must for us. We only gave the kids limited options for activities the night before and we only told the kids 10 minutes before a character visit was taking place so that we weren’t tied to participating in it in case we were busy doing something else. We also made sure we hung in the room in the afternoon for at least an hour to unwind or decompress from the day activities. Getting our schedule together for the day ended up being more like a luxury then a chore or a must. We just decided what to do hour by hour and it was great. We truly vacationed, and that made the trip even more memorable.

If a Disney cruise is in your future, I hope these tips will be a huge help to you. If you have been on a Disney cruise and would like to offer additional tips, please feel free to share it in the below comments section for my readers. If you have any questions, feel free to ask there as well and I will provide you the best information I can from my experience. In the end the cruise was a dream come true not only for the kids, but for me to! Happy travels everyone.

Missing in Action!

1 Jan

As I was putting my prayer journal and 2014 vision board together, it dawned on me that I hadn’t just been lax on my travel blog, I completely abandoned it and was M.I.A (missing in action)!!! It’s unbelievable how something I was so passionate about at the very beginning I abandoned so easily once my busy travel and work schedule took hold. It shouldn’t be that easy to walk away from something that you love, but unfortunately It was. So thank goodness 2014 has rolled around and created a desire in me to hold on to a word that will help make my 2014 better than expected. That word is “completion”. Completion in continuing what I start, going forth with any vision I have for myself that will enhance my life, and getting the balls to be a trooper and do what is needed even when my schedule get’s busy, my body is tired or I just don’t wanna. I took stock in what was important to me and Justpackabag.com is very much important to me, so I am putting in the time, dedication, and love it needs to help make it blossom and grow once again. I can’t say that I won’t take a hiatus here and there due to a busy schedule (my day already needs 30 hours instead of the standard 24), but it won’t be for 3 months, or at maximum no longer than 2 weeks. Make sure you hold me to that promise!

I truly have a love of a travel, and nothing pleases my heart more than sharing, tips, tricks, ideas and new found experiences with family, friends, strangers and anyone who would like to listen. So I’m back!! In the immortal words of Michael Buffer, someone I truly admire, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” for 2014. Justpackabag.com is riding the 2014 wave and beyond and I hope you will continue to join me on this wonderful ride.

Michael Buffer

All the best,

M. “Mocha” Bell

Off the Beaten Path – U.S. Sites

26 Sep
Fort Jefferson is no longer in use and is curr...

Fort Jefferson is no longer in use and is currently part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been to a lot of  “must see” U.S destinations. From the packed streets of Time Square, to the craziness of the Las Vegas strip, to the wallet draining Walt Disney World, I have seen, conquered, experienced, and spent my way through all those and more. But there are a few cool U.S destinations that you may not see on top 10 lists that should be experienced. My three top selections include:

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Hawaii is a well-known tourist destination but the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park displays the results of at least 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution in the Hawaiian Island. Mauna Loa’s summit rises 4169m above sea level but continues for another 5000m to the ocean bed, making it higher than Mt Everest. With black-sand beaches, ancient lava tubes and pyroclastic flows waiting to be discovered, this is one national park that you don’t want to miss.

Dry Tortugas, Florida
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands located at the end of the Florida Keys. Here you will find a mix of marine life and military history. This destination harbors some of the healthiest coral reefs remaining off North American shores, and encompasses an enormous sea fortress. Scattered around the seven coral-reef islands are shipwrecks steeped in piratical history and nearly 300 species of birds. Whether you find yourself camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing, or just enjoying a view from the top of the massive Fort Jefferson– you will quickly realize how magical this place can be.

Taos Pueblo, N.M
Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark; containing the largest collection of multi-story pueblo dwellings in the country. The multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years and some of the 2,000 Tiwa-speaking people who live on an adjacent reservation continue to use this six-century-old settlement for ceremonial rites. You can also experience local artists and vendors selling items made with specific techniques passed down from generation to generation. The Taos Pueblo will provide an uncommon insight into the culture of the first Americans.

I hope you will get to check out some of these great destinations, and if you do, drop me a line and tell me how it went. Happy Travels!

Bucket List Friday & Mo’s OMG Deal of the Week

20 Sep
Six of the 15 Ahu Tongariki Moais

Six of the 15 Ahu Tongariki Moais (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our bucket list addition for today is… (drum roll please)……

The What:
Easter Island, Chile

The Why:
Designated as one of the most isolated places on earth, this land is blessed with an extraordinary collection of archaeological sites, including the iconic moai. This mind-boggling open-air museum incorporates Ancient Ruins; Volcanos and Historic Sites; Beautiful Bodies of Water; Geologic Formations and ancient Monuments and Statues. Flights to Easter Island operate between Santiago, Chile and Papeete, Tahiti.

The When:
The hottest months are January and February, and the coolest are July and August. The peak tourist season runs from January to March where prices are highest and accommodations are scarcest. The rest of the year is less crowded and at times you’ll have the whole island to yourself.

NOW ON TO MO’S OMG DEAL OF THE WEEK!

OMG Deal of the Week:
Aer Lingus Flight Sale – Roundtrip air from NYC to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Geneva, Paris, Rome
What You Get:
Travel roundtrip from NYC JFK airport to these destinations starting at $799. Book by September 30th for travel between Nov. 6, 2013 – Feb. 28, 2014. Also can fly to Dublin starting at $539 or Manchester at $759.

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