Travel Smart

Beaune, France

Before I book my international flights, I often set up an alert for airfares on a couple of different sites. For instance, if I know I’ll be going to France in May, I sign up for an alert from my home airport to Charles De Gaulle in Paris. That way I have an idea of what fares are if I purchased them right now. Plus, I receive alerts when the fares go up or down. Usually these alerts come once a week.

One site I use is www.kayak.com and another is www.airfarewatchdog.com. There are others but these two will give you a good feel for what you will pay. You can either book from them or go directly to the airline once the fare is in your budget.

Plus, kayak will also show you where you can fly on your budget. List your home airport and how much you want to spend…they show a map with places you can go for that amount.

Another helpful tool is to know what airlines charge for additional services. Check out www.smarttravel.com for their downloadable chart of airline fees. It might come in handy.

TasteLive Wine Tasting



Last week I was fortunate enough to taste five French Sauvignon Blanc wines with a master sommelier and another wine guru.

The event was sponsored by TasteLive and included the following line up. 

2012 Domaine de la Charmoise (Henry Marionnet) Sauvignon Blanc Touraine – $13.99
2011 La Garrelière “Le Blanc” Sauvignon Blanc Touraine – $16.99
2011 Ricard “Les Trois Chenes” Touraine Blanc – $14.99
2011 Xavier Weisskopf Sauvignon du Touraine – $13.99
2012 Jean-Francois Merieau “Hexagonals” Sauvignon Blanc Touraine – $13.99

As you can see, these are reasonably priced wines. I wasn’t sure how much difference I would taste…but the variety of tastes ranged from not very acidic to much more mineraly to an even balance.

Great event…and I have some new favorites. 

Electricity, Outlets, and Travel…Oh My

Let’s say you are packing for your next trip overseas. One thing you need to make sure you have is the right equipment so you can use your chargers, tablet computers, etc.

Did you know that not all electrical sockets are created equal? If you want to plug in your laptop, phone charger, or hair dryer, you need to know what type of voltage is used in the country you’re traveling to and what type of adapter or plug is needed for the outlet. Otherwise, prepare for whatever you plugged in to become overheated.

The first thing to consider is which electrical appliances you really need to bring. I check with hotels to see if they offer hair dryers. But, I take my chargers for my phone, tablet computer, and camera batteries.
We pack a travel-size dual-voltage appliance that can run on both 110-volt and 220-volt currents. Make sure the switch is on the proper voltage for the country you are in before using the appliance. You will also need to carry adapter plugs with you to fit the outlets in the countries you’re visiting.

Converters
Most American-made electrical appliances work at 110 volts. Japan, most of North America, parts of South America, and the Caribbean use voltage between 100 and 125. The rest of the world uses 220 – 240 volts. Check before you start packing.


Also, check the label on your appliance before buying a converter, as it might be designed to work at both 110/120 and 220/240 volts. Many of the newer items do, especially those designed for travel.  If so, you’ll probably only need a plug adapter. If your appliance only operates at 110 volts, you’ll need to buy a voltage converter.

Adapter Plugs
Even if two countries operate on the same voltage, their outlets might not take the same shape of plug…which is why you need an adapter. An adapter will allow you only to plug your appliance into another type of outlet, but not change the electrical voltage.
 

Travel stores often sell convenient and inexpensive kits with five different-sized adapters that will work with nearly any outlet in the world. Note that these often won’t work for appliances that need to be grounded, which will require a more expensive grounding adapter.

Research where you are going and what you will need before you buy anything.


Travel Packing Tips

Everyone has their favorite packing tips…from liquids to clothes to valuables. Here are a few of mine:

When staying at a hotel, I check with them to see if they have hairdryers. If the website doesn’t tell me, I call them. If I don’t have to pack a bulky hairdryer…I don’t.

I pack several zip top bags of different sizes. They take up almost no room and come in handy for many uses.

Regardless of how long of a trip I’m on, I lay out my clothes before packing them. That way I can see how much I have to pack and what can stay at home. I tend to take black as a base for either pants or skirts and bring tops or scarves in colors.

If the trip is a longer one, I will do laundry. If staying in an apartment, I try to book one with a washer and hopefully a dryer. If in a hotel, I use the sink. Either way, you can pack less clothes and do some quick laundry. Take small packs of laundry detergent or put some powdered detergent in one of your zip top bags.

Place a scented dryer sheet in your dirty clothes bag. Your whole suitcase won’t smell like your dirty clothes.

Check the weather before you pack and definitely before you leave home.

Check which adapter you will need when flying out of the US.

I always pack a shawl or pashmina in my carry on bag. It has so many uses from a blanket to a wrap to a makeshift skirt to a pillow.

These are just a few…I’ll share more later. What are your favorite packing tips?