General Travel Tips – Things to do before Leaving

There are always certain things I’ll do before leaving for a trip – either international or domestic.  Some you have to do, others will save you money or make your life easier.

Visas/Reciprocity Fees/Vaccinations/Safety/etc.

Most countries allow US Passport holders to visit the country for up to 90 days without having to obtain visa prior to arrival.  We have only been to one country that required you get anything before arrival – Australia, which requires a small payment for an electronic visa.

Some countries (e.g. Argentina, Chile) make you to pay a reciprocity fee.  Basically, these countries require that you pay whatever their citizens have to pay to visit the US.

I also always check if the countries require you have any vaccinations to enter or if you should receive any vaccinations for your own health.

The US government has a good site that summarizes most of these things.  I’ll also look at the UK Travel website and the Australian Travel website for second and third opinions.

Though, if you find yourself looking at all this and thinking that it seems like you don’t need to do much, don’t worry.  Many times you don’t have to do much.  Of all the countries we’ve visited, we have not had to get a single vaccination and have only had to pay one small fee (Australia).  That’s it.  Most places are visa upon arrival.

But one thing I know I’ve mentioned several times is to always have your airline/hotel confirmations printed out.  More than anything else, we’ve had to provide proof of onward travel and even that we had a place to stay once. Continue reading

General Travel Tips – Living out of a Suitcase

Another question we get a lot is “what was it like living out of a suitcase for nearly 3 months?”  Honestly, it wasn’t that bad because we were organized and didn’t overstuff our bags.


In the past, my philosophy was that if you could get the bag closed, you were packed just fine…Let future Justin worry about packing for the return trip.  That is not the philosophy you want when moving around a lot (or really ever). Continue reading

General Travel Tips – Luggage

We’ve been back for over 18 months since our big trip.  I always planned to go back and write some more on a couple topics, and I’ve gotten a decent bit of e-mail questions on many things.  So, I guess it’s better late than never to go back and finish up what I planned.

I’ve been asked “how/what did you pack for that trip” as much as anything else.  A lot of thought went into our packing decisions (carry-on bags, checked luggage, weight, etc.).  No one reading this should be surprised to find out that I weighed everything I wanted to bring and built a spreadsheet on the weight of my stuff.

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Chicago 2012 Retro Review

Chicago is a great location for a quick weekend trip.  It is very easy to get to from MSY (3 different carriers fly non-stop).  Plus, the flight is under two hours.  We left on the first flight Friday morning (flying United – we ended up getting upgraded to exit row seats for free which was nice) and were at our hotel by 9:00 a.m.

We just took a cab from the airport, which cost around $40-$50…Taking public transportation from O’Hare is supposed to be not too difficult and only $2.50 a person, so that is a definitely cheaper alternative.  Another positive with having a quick non-stop flight, you can leave your destination in the afternoon and still get back to town at a reasonable hour.

There is plenty to do in Chicago to keep you entertained for a long weekend.  There are many restaurants, ranging from the ultra high end to casual joints.  For entertainment, there are plenty of options…Museums, zoos, an aquarium, sporting events, shows, etc.  Chicago also has several Blues Clubs and Piano Bars for night activity.  We were pretty busy while we were there and still did not get to do a lot of stuff I would have liked to have done.

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New York 2010 Retro Review

As with all the retro review, I typed it up several years ago.  I’m finally getting around to posting it along with some other new stuff on trip planning.


We left on a Thursday morning and flew Jet Blue non-stop to NYC.  Alyce and I both really liked flying Jet Blue; you get to check one bag free, each person gets their own Direct TV free of charge, and you get unlimited free drinks and snacks.  Also, this was the first time I had flown anywhere non-stop in a long time, and it was very nice – especially on the way home.  I think from here on out, I’ll search for direct flights and pay the difference as long as it is not too much more expensive than the cheapest option.

We flew into JFK and had no trouble catching a cab to the city (which cost about $50 and took about 45 minutes).  We stayed at the Hampton Inn – Times Square North.  The hotel itself was nice enough and reasonably priced for its location.  If you’re looking for over the top luxury, look elsewhere; but the location could not be beat for what we did on the trip.  Almost everything we did was within close walking distance.

We got around in the city mostly by walking and subways with the occasional cab ride mixed in.  Finding your way is pretty easy as the streets are numbered from South to North and the avenues from East to West, so you can always get your bearings straight by walking a block if you get mixed up.  The subways were not confusing either – as long as you have your route planned out.  Also, neither of us felt unsafe at any point of the trip (riding the subways or walking around at night)…though we did stay in the more populated areas of Manhattan.

On the timing…We went a week before Christmas, and I think it is a cool time to visit NYC.  There were Christmas decorations everywhere, and we saw the big Christmas tree and skating rink outside Rockefeller Center (we went on our first day, Thursday, and it was infinitely less crowded than it was on the weekend).  NYC at Christmas is definitely something to see, especially if you are big into Christmas (which Alyce is).  Having said that, next time we go back it will probably be in the Spring/Early Summer.  It was very cold (20’s and windy), and we luckily missed out on the massive snowstorm that hit NYC a week later and screwed up flights/local transportation/seemingly everything in that area.  So that is obviously a risk you take going to the Northeast in the winter.


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