A Checklist Before an International Trip

We are less than a month away until our international trip.  I still haven’t researched things to do in the country we will be visiting, and I have a few things to take care of before jetting off.  I thought I’d share my checklist of things to do before our trip to hopefully help someone else with their own travels.  Thanks for stopping by!

Notify Your Bank of an International Trip

Make sure you tell your bank and credit card companies of your trip or else you may find your cards not working abroad.

Double Check If You Need a Visa to Enter the Country

I’ve double checked and we are okay.

Do Currency Exchange in Advance

I like to use Travelex so we don’t have to deal with currency exchange at the airport.

Figure Out Transportation from the Airport to the Hotel

I still haven’t researched how to get to our hotel once we land.  We may just pay for the convenience of a taxi.

Pay Rent and Other Bills Before You Take Off

Since we’re leaving on May 1, we need to make sure we pay rent.

 

 

 

 

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8 Tips For How to Travel With Your Spouse or Partner

If you hate traveling with your spouse, then you’re probably doing something wrong.  Traveling is supposed to be fun and adventurous, and not one person dragging their feet because of a trip he/she doesn’t want to go on.  Marriage and relationships are about compromise.  We all should know this, but sometimes we forget.  Without compromise though, there’s failure to bring joy to a relationship that then becomes one-sided.  My husband and I have been traveling together since 2011 and some tips we’ve learned from our own trips and from friends and family would be:

  1. Don’t guilt your partner into doing a trip just because there’s an ‘opportunity’.  Let’s just say maternity leave is not meant to be an ‘opportunity’ for travel.
  2. Pay for the trip yourself.  Who can get angry at their spouse for an all expense paid trip?  It’s free for them so obviously there will be less complaining.
  3. Agree on where to go.  My husband has dragged his feet a few times on some of our trips, and I’m learning to include him in the planning process.  Most of the time he likes the activities that I pick, but there have been a few moments when he’s expressed disapproval.
  4. Make the travel days as painless as possible.  Book direct flights and avoid layovers as much as possible.  Also, book your accommodations to places that are walking distance so you don’t have to drive.  The point is to make travel days as painless as possible to get your spouse excited for the next trip.
  5.  Pick a destination that includes activities for the both of you.  My husband and I love being together 24/7.  We are peas in a pod.  However, I realize other couples aren’t like this so I suggest picking a destination that incorporates activities for alone time.  If someone loves shopping and the other surfing, then maybe Waikiki is a good spot to visit?
  6. Visit friends or family.  Another way to not be together 24/7 is to visit friends or family.
  7. Go to a destination you know will make your spouse happy.  Just take one-for-the-team and compromise.  You know the cliche saying, “It’s always better to give than to receive” and it’s true.  I find so much more joy making my husband happy than seeing him grumpy.  My husband also feels the same way.  He’s done a lot of things for me because he knows it’ll make me happy. “Happy wife is a happy life.”
  8. Don’t put your travels on credit.  Save, plan, and make sure you can afford your trips.  Otherwise, traveling becomes a contentious issue with debt stressing the relationship making the next trip hard to look forward to.  It’s just not worth it.

Places to Visit in California

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There are so many great places to visit in California.  Below is our list we recommend you visit, and the other a list of places we have yet to explore.  California is definitely a vast state with lots of things to do and sites to see.  You can visit the state in multiple trips by first seeing the north or south separately, or with a road trip.  I would recommend a road trip and start from San Diego working your way up along the coast to San Francisco or even to Napa, this way you see a huge chunk of California on your fist visit.  Otherwise, seeing the state in segments is probably a good idea.  Hope this sparks ideas for a trip to California!

Places we recommend you visit:

  1. San Francisco
    1. Golden Gate Bridge
    2. Lombard Street
    3. California Academy of Science
    4. Fisherman’s wharf
    5. De Young Museum
    6. Painted Ladies
    7. Golden Gate Park
    8. Cal Academy of Science
  2. Disneyland
  3. Universal Studios
  4. San Diego
  5. Napa / Calistoga
  6. Yosemite National Park
  7. Sequoia National Park
  8. Santa Barbara
  9. Monterey / Pacific Grove
  10. Carmel
  11. Big Sur
  12. Lake Tahoe
  13. Muir Woods
  14. Big Basin
  15. Berkeley
  16. Santa Cruz / Capitola
  17. Point Reyes
  18. Solvang

Places we have yet to visit, but want to go to someday:

  1. Alcatraz
  2. Palm Springs
  3. Channel Islands National Park
  4. Catalina Islands
  5. Death Valley
  6. Joshua Tree National Park
  7. Twin Peaks in San Francisco
  8. Lassen Volcano National Park
  9. Avenue of the Giants to drive thru a Redwood Tree
  10. Safari West in Santa Rosa
  11. Disney Concert Hall
  12. Griffith Park
  13. Hearst Castle

Getting Plane Tickets for the Price of One

I’ve finally accumulated enough mileage points with Alaska Airlines to book an international trip for me and my husband.  Boy did it take long to do it though.  I signed up for the Alaska Airlines card back in April 2017 because the companion fare appealed to me, and also because of the 30,000 bonus mileage points initially offered.  Although you pay $99 a year for the card, booking a flight for 2 will be a fraction of the cost with the $99 companion fare.  So if you think about it, it’s $200 (companion fare + credit card fee) for the second ticket anywhere in Alaska Air’s network, which I think is still worth it because the other perk is Alaska Air allows you to earn mileage points if you travel with partnering airlines.  Score!  So by using my card for daily purchases and by buying additional miles in one of their many sales, I accumulated 140,000 points to book an international flight.

First, I don’t want to share the destination because I don’t want to jinx our trip, and second, I did pay $850 for additional miles and also $45 to transfer miles from my husband’s Alaska mileage account.  Despite the 140,000 points, I still had to pay an additional $140 for the tickets plus $50 for travel insurance. So in total, I paid just under $1100 for our international plane tickets, which is practically the price of one where we’re headed.

I hope this inspires you to make travel a priority.  There’s definitely a lot of ways to make travel affordable and budget friendly.  Please check out my other tips here:

https://travelsbygandr.com/2018/12/21/17-tips-for-affordable-travels/

 

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef And A Helicopter Tour

I’m so glad our friend convinced us to visit the Great Barrier reef.  When I told her of our plans to visit Sydney, Australia, she somehow got the idea in my head to see the reef.  I’m so glad we did because it’s a memory I’ll never forget!

There’s a bunch of tour companies to choose from, and we chose the one that included a helicopter tour, which was a package deal we found on Ozexperience.com.  The boat ride was a rough 45 minutes to the first snorkeling sight and lots of people weren’t prepared for it.  Should you decide to snorkel the great barrier reef, I suggest taking motion sickness pills so you don’t puke on the boat.  As for me, I was fortunate enough to make it through but only because I popped 2 Dramamine pills before leaving shore.

The idea of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef may sound romantic, but it’s definitely not easy to do.  I mean we did it, but the waters can be somewhat choppy and did annoy my ears.  Let’s just say it’s not like snorkeling the calm waters of Hawaii or at least Shark’s Cove anyway.

There’s also things that you should look out for like sting rays or jellyfish.  We didn’t wear wetsuits, but if you want to take extra precautions when you visit during stinger season, they offer wetsuits for coverage.

So with the boat we chose, we had 2 opportunities to snorkel at different locations.  We snorkeled the first time, got out of the water, forgot our towels, ate lunch, and decided to just dry off instead of going back for a second snorkel.  We only had a 30 minute window after lunch before our helicopter tour so we both didn’t want to miss our chance, and because we didn’t want to be wet and cold on the ride, we just decided to skip the second snorkel all together.

So things to remember:

  1. Dramamine
  2. A towel
  3. Extra clothes to change into.
  4. Don’t bring anything expensive.  There are no lockers.
  5. There’s options other than snorkeling like going on their glass bottom boat.  I kind of wish we did the glass bottom boat, but there just wasn’t enough time.

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My First Experience with Airplane Ear – A Travel Fail

I recently experienced airplane ear on my trip to Los Angeles.  I flew with a slight cold not thinking anything of it and on the flight’s decent, I felt my ears plug up with all kinds of pressure to them I’ve never felt before.  This was my first experience with the pain and yawning or swallowing didn’t work for me.  Actually, I was kind of scared something was going to rupture, and anything longer than 10 minutes of pain would’ve been unbearable for me to handle.  Luckily, this happened only on the decent.

So for anyone flying with a slight congestion from a cold or the flu, please be cautious and consider some of these tips according to the Mayo Clinic:                                https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/airplane-ear/symptoms-causes/syc-20351701

  1. Airplane earplugs – Amazon has some called, “Earplanes”.
  2. Try the Valsalva technique which is to pinch your nose and gently blow as if you’re blowing your nose.  Hopefully this relieves some pressure in your ear.
  3. Drink plenty of water before your flight to stay hydrated.
  4. Try sucking on candy if the Valsalva technique doesn’t work.
  5. Also, try drinking something.  Keep bottled water with you on the flight.

As for me and because I didn’t want to experience the same ear pain on the flight back home, we decided to rent a car and drive back to the Bay Area.  It definitely cost more to do this, but flying sick and infecting a whole bunch of people at the airport and on the plane is something I did not want to do.  Call it dumb, a waste of money, or not frugal but my thought was I’d be more comfortable on the drive back home since we could leave earlier rather than later.  It was definitely an unfortunate trip because we landed, checked into our hotel, ordered room service, and the very next day we left early.  We were supposed to do Disneyland’s California Adventure with my brother and his family, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.  Instead, we left early and headed home.  I’m glad we did though instead of ‘power through’ like my brother suggested because I’d probably be in worse conditions, and who knows how many people I’d have infected at the park.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about Disneyland’s California Adventure during the holiday season and I was supposed to take pictures and share them with you all, but unfortunately I got sick.  So I do apologize, and hope you’re all having a better holiday season than me.  Happy holidays and cheers to a new year!

10 Days in Oahu, Hawaii

It was my first trip to Hawaii and my husband’s second time back when we went together in 2010. We went for our friends’ wedding and stayed for 10 days on the island of Oahu.  We rented a car, drove around the island, hung out on the beach during the day, and ate so much Hawaiian food.  It was such a great and fun experience!

For first time visitors to Hawaii, I highly recommend going to Oahu first.  From what my Hawaiian friends tell me, it’s the most commercialized island, which isn’t a bad thing  because there’s a lot of things to do.  Whether you’re into shopping, surfing, snorkeling, or just wanting to lounge on the beach, there’s options.

Places that I recommend:

  1. Kailua Beach – this beach has gorgeous white sands that stretch for 2.5 miles.  This is our favorite beach on the island and we loved coming here to walk.
  2. North Shore – although crowded, we went for the shrimp trucks and Hawaiian shaved ice.
  3. Koko Head – this is a great hike if you want some physical activity on your trip.  For less intensity, there’s Diamond Head
  4. Boots & Kimo’s – banana mac pancakes.  YUM.
  5. Shark’s cove on the north shore – come here for an intimate snorkeling session.
  6. Ted’s Bakery – Haupia pie

Hawaiian food I recommend you try:

  1. Haupia pie
  2. Malasadas
  3. Shaved Ice
  4. North Shore shrimp trucks
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Kailua Beach
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Kailua Beach
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Shrimp truck
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Koko Head hike
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Koko Head hike
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Koko Head
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Shark’s Cove for snorkeling
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Bird’s nest
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Waimea gardens