Archives for January 2008

Sleeping in airports

I found this website and I just couldn’t resist writing about it. It’s dedicated to the time old tradition of sleeping in airports. We’ve all done it due to flight cancellations and/or weather. Then there’s the times you can’t be bothered to find a hotel for a stopover that seems short enough to simply pitch a tent in the waiting area.

Sleeping in Airports was created with the budget traveler in mind, the person who chooses to sleep in airports rather than shell out money for an airport hotel, but I think it offers valuable information for anyone who needs to catch some zzz’s between flights. It includes an extensive international listing of airports and their sleep-worthy attributes and pitfalls. Many of the entries are written by a community of travelers.

Send meaningful postcards

Postcards aren’t big enough for long winded individuals like myself and are frustrating for unenthusiastic writers, but people still love to receive them. They are a stunning portrayal of a land far away where the recipient can take a moment to reflect on something far from normalcy. Simply put, it’s a nice break from another bill or advertisement in your mailbox.

Here are some tips on how to have an enjoyable postcard experience from purchasing to writing:

Purchase – Where to purchase postcards completely depends on your own style and taste. You can be a bargain shopper and find your postcards in a local convenience store, there is likely to be a good variety but not necessarily great style. Hotel gift shops typically have a good selection of cards and its a short jaunt from your hotel room. However they are likely the same ones that are at the convenience store at twice the price. I like to pick up postcards at places that I visit so that when I write about how stunning the Eiffel Tower is, I can say that I bought the card at the base.

What to say – A simple “Wish you were here” is a tried and true greeting. It says everything it needs to – I was here, I was thinking of you, and so I sent this card. However, I think it’s even better if you can take a moment to say why you wish that person was there. Perhaps it’s because you know they would have loved the food you ate last night, or the architecture in the Forbidden City, the lights of Paris etc.. Taking an extra sentence to personalize something you have experienced that they would appreciate. It adds an extra sentiment.

Conversation Starters – Another way to make a postcard last, mention something you did or are planning to do. It will open the postcard up for discussion so that next time you see that person, they can ask how the Louvre was, or whether or not you made it to the Taj Mahal as planned.

Addressing – True planners print out address labels ahead of time. It works well if you have 50 to send. I like to hand write the address on the spot just because it makes it look more spontaneous and I rarely send that many postcards at once. Also, plan to purchase stamps when you purchase the cards and stick them on right away. That way you won’t lose them and you’ll be more willing to take the time to write , after all, they’re already stamped!

Welcome to Ready to Roam

As a traveler you are inundated with websites, blogs, forums and journals telling you where, when and why to travel. For the majority of us those questions are already answered by work and family. I need to be in London next week for a conference. We are traveling to Barbados in November for a holiday. We aren’t looking for the place or reason to travel – we simply are travelers with expectations and ambitions. We want to acquire information, links and advice on making our trips remarkable.

I paired up with Brightroam to develop a blog where we share tidbits of knowledge on travel secrets for the person who already knows where, when and why they travel but is always interested in learning how to save time and money, improve their worldly skills and impress the locals.


Yes it seems simple, time zones are pretty straight forward. But when you’ve travelled 23 hours and have no idea what time it is, it can be difficult to know what time it is back home or in another country you need to call. I used to have a fancy little business card that had all the time zones on it and a moving circle to line up the zone you’re in and the one you’re calling. In today’s world of technology, it’s a lot easier to find the info you need online.

Here are some handy time zone converters:

Here’s how I keep track of it at home:

I have the time difference (in hours) between my home town and the time zones of my friends and family recorded in my Outlook address book. For example, my friend Ema lives in Bahrain, in her contact information, I have a note – 7 hours ahead of Toronto. That way when I look up her number, I always know what time it is in Bahrain. You can do the same thing on your cell phone address book.

Cruise ships and cell phones

In working with Brightroam, it has become very clear to me how much money can be saved by renting international cell phones or purchasing international SIM cards for your phone when you travel. I recently got a $300 phone bill that was a result of three days in Boston with roaming changes. However the question still remains – what if my trip takes me to the middle of the ocean? Cruise ship cell phone costs are still terrifying.

Cruise ship cabins come with phones but just like a typical hotel phone it can cost as much as $10/minute. The fact that passengers want to use their own cell phones have not fallen on deaf ears, many cruise ships are now are equip with cell phone antennae so that you can use your cell phone while at sea. However the costs are still huge because of roaming and long distance charges – expect to pay $5/minute or higher.

I still think your best bet is to get a SIM card for the area you are traveling and making your calls while at port. For example, a Greek Island tour = Greek SIM card or Caribbean Cruise = World SIM card. You can expect to make a few calls while at sea but if you get a local SIM card and schedule your long winded brag-about-the-weather calls for port visits then you’ll save a bundle.

Check out the international SIM cards available at Brightroam and their new World SIM Card that works everywhere you go.

Government travel advisories

How seriously should we take government travel advisories? I think it depends how familiar you are with the places you travel. I am always apt to check advisories for places I have never visited and of those that I know have whacky weather or political strife. Travel advisories offer information on important travel issues such as crime, security, laws, customs, entry requirements and health conditions.

If you aren’t on top of it, entry requirements can change in a heartbeat, like new airport fees or passport restrictions. I was just researching a trip to the Dominican Republic and discovered that upon arrival you are required to purchase a $10 USD tourist card when going through immigration. There is not a bank machine and they don’t take credit, so if you don’t have $10 USD in cash, you’re out of luck. Definitely a tidbit worth knowing.

Health checks are always a must, especially if you are traveling to regions with limited health care or unique diseases that you only hear about on late night TV documentaries. This website, Global Health Map, uses Google Map technology to pinpoint all sorts of health issues. It is very up to date, often more so than the official government sites.

At the end of the day, be smart and safe, don’t throw cash around or eat food off a dirty counter.

Government Travel Advisory Sites

Australian wines

Australian wines have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years. With over 2000 suppliers and 60 wine regions, it is Australia’s third largest export! Some of the notable regions include the Hunter Valley near Sydney, the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, and Yarra Valley near Melbourne. The major grape varieties in Australia are Shiraz (or Syrah), Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sermillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Reisling.

If you are traveling to Australia, there are many ways to enjoy their fine grapes from the table to the vineyard. Australia’s wine regions are increasingly catering to tourists and if a fabulous bottle of Shiraz isn’t enough to make you stay an extra day to visit one of the many wine regions, I don’t know what it is.
Read about some of the greatest wine regions in Australia and pick the one closest to where you are traveling.

Wine Tours/Regions in Australia:

Popular Australian wineries include: