Category Archives: Travel

2 flights to go…

By the time this is posted, we will actually be down to the last flight, as I am writing this as we’re in the air on flight 2. 

Today is a stark difference from yesterday, only crossing one time zone, and surrounded by far nicer people than we were yesterday.

We didn’t care much for the Airport at Heathrow, too much space wasted on duty free shopping and not enough facilities and spaces to relax. People were rude and sat on top of you, the whole atmosphere was a restless one. Quite different from the rest of London in feel. 

Flight attendants were great during the flight, meals left a little to be desired. People around us left a lot to be desired.

Five minutes before the plane took off, the woman behind E went to stand up and grabbed the back of E’s seat (and a large handful of E’s hair) in doing so.  She didn’t notice, and it  was an honest mistake, so we tried to let that go.

10 minutes into our flight, I was trying to get something from the seat back pocket, with my arm between my tray table and the seat, when the woman in front of me decided to recline her seat back hard and fast, catching my arm between the seat and the table. This made me jump and I yelled that my arm was there and that she’d hurt me, she yelled back that she didn’t know, and proceeded to shove the seat back as hard as she could.  Every opportunity se could find after that to push the seat back a little harder, she did. She made eye contact with me several times as she did this, as if to dare me to say something. (I know you may be thinking I’m being a bit overdramatic in saying this, however this woman announced to her seat mate loudly halfway through the flight, upon returning from the lavatories, that there were several empty seats in the back but she was having too much fun in her current seat). 

Today, We’re surrounded by pleasant people. The 2 gentlemen behind us are friends traveling together, one of the 2 traded his first class seat with the woman originally seated there in order to sit with his friend. The man seated next to me is a Vietnam veteran who is very pleasant in the brief conversation we’ve had. He’s headed to vacation with his daughter and grandchildren. The 3 in front of us are an older woman and her 4 yr old grandson and a woman flying solo. The woman in front of E asked if we’d be bothered with her reclining…she did so ever so slightly. The little boy is in front of me, he’s sweet and very animated , we gave him and his grandmother a few mini packets of Haribo starmix just before takeoff. While not completely quiet, the flight is a pleasant one. 

We left our luggage at the airport last night, in a secure luggage locker. This made getting out the door far more pleasant at 3 am. Stayed at Hilton Garden inn, and much like the previous Hilton Garden inn, I am not inclined to want to stay there again. It was dirtier than I would have expected, and the beds were hard, still it was only for a night, or part of one.

Shuttles were efficient and the morning driver was sweet 

Currently listening to Spotify on my phone, E’s head is on my shoulder as I write. 

Map says we’re over the Appalachian mountains in Virginia currently. Can’t tell much from the cloud cover.

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It’s gone too fast

I will likely write in the next few days to catch you up on the rest of the trip, but for now, we are 98% packed (waiting on morning toiletries, our nightclothes from tonight and one load of laundry that is in the washer/dryer combo {can’t say I like those}).

Its been a full day, some good, a lot of bad today.  Got up early for church after I got little to no sleep last night due to a toothache. I’ve been grinding my teeth at night. 

Got to church within 5 minutes of it’s starting, my first time being late, E was proud.

Went to lunch in Camden Town while we were there, at a little Greek Taverna called Andy’s. They were very pleasant and kind, and though they had a full house and I didn’t have a reservation, they accommodated us and were very attentive.

After lunch, we came home, and began the process of packing (I was already maybe half packed). Talked to a friend I had been supposed to meet during this trip, got my feelings crushed as he broke the friendship off.  We don’t see eye to eye on things, he’s not the kind of person where anyone else’s viewpoint is a valid one it seems. 

Not a lot this evening, talked to a few friends, watched YouTube with E, packed.

In bed now, up at 7 to finish getting us packed and out the door. Here’s hoping tomorrow goes smoothly. 

It’s getting close!

Less than 2 months before we embark on our huge adventure!

Lots has been going on, but not a lot I have felt like writing about.

I joined a group on facebook to do with Cunard (seems to be their fan club). I have found it to be very useful, especially when asking advice on things like what to see while in London, for example.


They are not, however, friendly should you mention things like being unhappy about a price drop and hoping Cunard will make the difference up. I got an entirely different view of people when I ventured into these waters. These people would attack you with nothing to go on, and would not let up. I ended up deleting those posts as even messages when i was expressing approval, I got attacked on.

When I paid for and booked my cruise this past January, I paid $525 more for both my daughters and my ticket than I would have paid, should I have paid this week instead. Also, balcony rooms were out of reach costwise for me when I originally booked. This week I could have had one for less than I paid for our original booking. I wrote Cunard, and called their customer service as well. (Word to the wise, always book with Cunard and not outside sources, even if you save 25-50 dollars with the outside sources, if you choose to go to a third party, you wind up needing that third party to help negotiate for you, and let me tell you, they really don’t care about your issues enough to try to fix them).

so…6 phone calls later (with at least 4 other people) I took (I say took like I was given a choice)what Cunard was willing to give me. (they called it a goodwill gesture, I disagree with their perception of what “goodwill” is). They upgraded my room to a balcony room, (technically still 200+ dollars extra in their pockets, but hey!)

I learned a few things during this whole ordeal:

  1. Wait until the 60 day window to book if you can at all, you will usually get better fares if they haven’t filled up.
  2. Book directly with Cunard, as they seem to have more *goodwill* towards those who do. I may have gotten money to spend on board or at least some options on how their goodwill paid out.
  3. Don’t talk to fans of someone about the negative aspects…or you will not be happy with the results.

Does this mean I won’t travel with Cunard again…No.

But I sure hope that the trip isn’t a disappointment after all this fuss.

That might make a difference.

 

Let’s talk luggage…

What names do you believe in when it comes to Luggage? What do you look for when you purchase? Are you a hard sided or a soft sided? Do you buy a single piece or a set as a general rule?

As I was deciding what luggage to buy this year for our excursion, I decided to go with a brand I knew to be affordable, which was American Tourister. We had bought 5 sets of their luggage previously at Walmart for about 98 dollars a set, around 2009-2010, for a trip to Hawaii. We’ve used those sets until the wheels were falling off. (My family takes more road trip than any most, trust me). I wanted pretty and new for E and I for this trip, so I bought her a purple set, and myself a blue set.

Shortly after purchasing the new sets though, I decided to explore the fact that American Tourister, who happens to be a Samsonite company, had a really good warranty on their luggage. The old sets were less than 10 years old, and while they’ve  seen a lot of miles, and we’ve thrown several pieces away simply because they’d seen their day, I made a call.

Edgar, the rep I talked to on the phone listened to my concerns with the luggage and decided that the issue I was having didn’t require me to bring the luggage in, but could be *evidenced* easily through photos and emails with details. He sent me an email with the appropriate information to follow up with. A day after getting the email, I responded with all the info requested and after reviewing all info, they replaced the remaining luggage with 3 new 4 piece sets of similar luggage. (2 black sets, and one purple).

I have enough new luggage for a while, as we’d bought 3 full sets previously, and got the 3 free sets too. I am pleased overall with this company’s commitment to their customers though. If you’re ever in the market for luggage, please don’t discount them just because they have decent prices on their luggage. Its good quality and will get you a long way down the road!

just my 2 cents worth for the day.

 

a little more mundane details post

But let’s face it, sometimes the mundane details can be the factors that later on make the difference whether your trip goes smoothly or is a nightmare.

This weeks call was with Verizon wireless, making sure that we’d be able to connect with home as much as necessary during the excursion without breaking the bank. I got a pleasant customer service agent, Amanda,  who went over every aspect of the trip with me in great detail, then shot me an email when we got off the phone to cover all the details of what we had just discussed.

First hurdle, E’s phone is not compatible with their normal travel plan, which means either:

  •  She will cost far more and be very limited throughout the time we’re abroad…this makes for a very unhappy tweenager, and subsequently, a very unhappy mum.(she’s practicing for London and has been calling me that this week, I find it endearing)
  • We upgrade her phone to a compatible, which costs a bit more, but locks her into the more affordable price point on the travel plan. or…
  • She does’t get to use her phone during the trip, which I think sounds like the most miserable option of all.

We opted for the middle choice and brought her, and her brother (to be fair) up to a more compatible phone. Both phones should be here by the end of the month and hopefully we’ll be able to get their info converted to the new phones.

So, it seems on the Queen Mary, we will need to work to keep ourselves limited to just their wifi.

Amanda told me they charge somewhere around 3.25 a minute to use the phone onboard. She highly suggested that I keep both of our phones on Airplane mode the entire time and tether them to the wifi when able. I hope that I can keep E honest on this policy, as I really don’t want any surprise charges. I’ve tried searching the Cunard site to better understand the Wifi capabilities and costs, I can only tell so far that 120 minutes will cost me approximately 45 dollars, and that we cannot be on more than one device at a time, I will encourage E to let her friends know that she will be out of touch for that week and get email addresses if she absolutely needs to contact her friends. The good thing is the bulk of emails can be written offline (as can my posts) and only take seconds to a minute or 2 to actually connect and send. I will probably try to encourage her to understand that factor prior to embarking on our adventure as well.

In London, it seems we’ll be in good shape, I should approximate 20 dollars a day as an extra cost.

We have 2 phones at 10 dollars a day,  and for that 10 dollars, it keeps everything on our normal plan the same. Unlimited texts, unlimited calls, ability to call US and UK without any extra charges (in case we order takeout or something). Data usage will be same as it is in the US, and hopefully we’ll have some rollover data from previous months to make up for any extra we may use during that time. I will also have Wifi, unsure of whether it costs any extra as that hasn’t been disclosed, in the Apartment while we’re there.

only possible bump with the costs there is if we make a day trip to Paris. Then it will cost us 40 for the day if we happen to use the phones while in both countries. Amanda was very thorough on explaining this. I love Verizon’s customer service for this reason.

So, now I am in the know, with one less detail to fuss with…have a good one!

 

 

 

 

The dining conversation (Cunard- Queen Mary 2)

So, 3 days ago I called Cunard with a simple question about our dining options. My primary question was whether or not we could dine in the other 2 main dining rooms during meal times (I knew we had first seating in the Britannia restaurant, per request).

The pleasant customer service advisor  (I could not understand her name enough to share it here) not only told me extensively about the availability of the other main dining rooms (princess grill, queens grill and Britannia club restaurants) that have an open come and go as you please atmosphere, but proceeded to tell me about several other options available to us: 

  • Kings court is open 24 hours and is buffet style, they have an alternating availability of Asian, Indian, Italian and American (smokehouse) cuisines. 
  • The verandah restaurant has French cuisine, but I got the impression they were a separate, higher cost.
  • Boardwalk cafe may be a good option for a 12 yr old according to the agent, basically the offerings there have a fast food feel…hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and soft drinks. I’m not sure we’ll dine here, but we may try it one afternoon if we happen to get in a mood.
  • Carinthia lounge was mentioned, but not elaborated on, from what I can find, they have a varied, if not somewhat eclectic menu. 
  • Golden lion is the signature pub on the ship. They serve a classic British pub fare. I can see me hitting this a time or 2.
  • Queens room was something she was very excited to share with me, the ship has afternoon tea every day from 330-430, complete with finger sandwiches, pastries and scones with a wide assortment of preserves and jams. (I hope to hit this every day)
  • Room service has an extensive menu, and is also available 24 hours a day.

I look forward to this part of the trip almost as much as actually being in Great Britain for the first time.

Yesterday a post they shared made me want to explore something else about the ship…activities!

I definitely want to take the fencing lessons 🙂

154 Days! (It’ll get less vague, I promise)

Well, 153 technically…but who’s counting?

153 days until what? I’m sure you’re asking yourself, if you’ve found yourself on my blog. I have a trip planned with my little girl, E, in June of this year. She is 12 years old, and for us, this will be our first grand adventure without anyone else.

I’m starting this blog for several reasons. One is as a means of collecting ideas and resources to make the trip as successful as possible for us. Another reason is to help us pack effectively for the journey. More importantly though, the reasons I’m starting the blog is to memorialize the trip for my daughter to look back on  when she is older and to help encourage any of you considering a similar adventure to go for it.

I will start out by saying that this trip is in no way a ‘spontaneous’ trip, and it’s straining my budget quite a bit to be quite honest…but it’s something I really want to do and am willing to sacrifice to make happen.

If I can inspire just one person to try doing something new or go someplace they’ve always dreamed of…in the end, I will be glad to have shared this adventure.

I am not a blogger to be quite honest, but most motivational speakers will tell you that you don’t have to be good to start…but you do have to start if you ever hope to be good at something.

So…this is me…starting.