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Egypt, Prep, Travel

When Planning Goes All Wrong

February 12, 2016

When Planning Goes All Wrong

I have a secret to tell you. A travel secret…

I have never backpacked on a trip. Most of the travel bloggers I know have backpacked most of the places they have been. Of course, a few are luxury travel bloggers, and they probably don’t now, but they probably have at some point backpacked on a trip. I have done weekends away in large tote bags, but I have always traveled internationally with a rolling suitcase. So this trip to Egypt has proven challenging for me.

When signing up for the tour, I am going on; the packing list stated that I should pack in a backpack or a duffel bag. I immediately thought, oh great how I am going to do that. I own a backpack, but it is more like something you pack school books in, and I have only ever used it as a carry-on. At first, I thought, I will just buy a backpack, but then I realized that I knew I would never voluntarily pack in a backpack again and didn’t want to spend the money on one. So I borrowed one from a friend. It didn’t need to be a perfect fit as they only requested this because it is easier to pack a van with soft luggage than with hard luggage with wheels. Oh and I am going on a sailboat and who wants to roll a suitcase onto a sailboat.

When Planning Goes All Wrong

The weeks wore on, and I kept looking at the backpack thinking, I don’t want to pack in that. I will never find anything. My back will hurt. So last week, I convinced myself I needed a duffel bag instead. The hunt was on, but shopping in Qatar is difficult, to say the least. And apparently the market doesn’t call for duffel bags that don’t have wheels built into them. Then I got sick at the beginning of the week and the day before a holiday, in which I had planned to go looking for a duffel bag and write-up all my posts for while I am gone. (This is why there was no Monday post this week.) The day off came and I dragged my ill self to the mall and looked for a duffel bag. In the end, after wandering around for about an hour and feeling pretty awful, I bought a cheap duffel bag at Carrefour (the French version of Wal-Mart) and decided it would do. I am packing today and we will see how that turns out, as I am still trying to wrap my head around how it will all fit. Wish me luck!

The other issue with this has been the weather. For weeks, the weather in Egypt was going to be warm during the day and cool at night. That also means for me, cold at night as it rarely goes below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Qatar and I get cold easily. I had shopped for thermal underwear for the night on the boat and a suitable sleeping bag. Now, as of yesterday, the highs are in the 90s and the lows in the 50s! Why does there have to be a 40-degree temperature swing on my trip! It’s like I am back in Texas!  So now all the planning of what clothes to bring is out the window and the day before my trip, I am having to rethink this all. The real question is how do I fit all my layers for the different weather in a duffel bag!

Do you have any packing tips for us inexperienced backpackers? Leave a comment!

Blog, Prep, Travel

2016 Travel Plans or No Plans

January 11, 2016

2016 Travel Plans

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time now, you may realize that I am not much of an advance travel planner and usually decide where to go about six weeks before I actually go. I am lucky that I can do that. I live close to a lot of travel places on my long list of places to visit. 2016 is going to be no different. I do have a few places that will be going and one still in the works. First, the planned trips and the ones very loose in the making. So later on this year, I will give you an update. Here are my 2016 travel plans!

EGYPT

The picture above was a dead giveaway, but I am going to Egpyt for my first trip of 2016! I made this decision a few days ago when I realize due to work; I can’t go anywhere in March or April that is a vacation. This is when I looked at my work calendar and found a week with no appointments and decided that was a week to go somewhere. Initially, I was going to try to go away this coming weekend, but it didn’t work out. When I was discussing where to go with my Mom, she suggested Egypt, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Egypt has always been a place I have wanted to go; I just needed to be reminded. So in February, I will fly to Cairo and then go south to see more. This trip is unlike anything I have done before, so get ready! I can’t wait to share the trip with you when I get back. I will be shooting video on this trip, so hopefully you can see more of my trip that way.

SLOVENIA

I am fortunate that I get to travel for work-related events occasionally, and this work trip is to Slovenia. I am speaking at a conference in the eastern part of Slovenia. Unfortunately, I won’t be there for too many days, but I am hoping to get to Lake Bled at least. I still haven’t decided if I am taking a train across the country or driving.

ATLANA, USA

This is another work trip, but I am very excited to go. I have never been to Atlanta or much of the rest of the south. There is so many history related things to see and also Margaret Mitchell’s house. Most of the time I will be at the conference, but they usually arrange for us to have a few tours and I will have at least one afternoon where there is downtime. I will fit in as much as I can. The only thing is this trip is at the end of July/beginning of August and am not looking forward to the heat.

Now on to the trips that are still pending. I am trying to work out dates for these and some have to be approved by work. And of course, everything is subject to change.

OMAN

Oman was on my list last year, but I just didn’t make it. But after reading this article, that I featured in a Friday Favorites post, I now really want to go. Now I have to figure out how to get there between June and September. Hopefully, this will be easy as I have two Eid holidays that I currently have no plans for and Oman is a very short flight away.

SCOTLAND

My friend Kate and I have decided to go to Scotland this year. My schedule has gotten very full already, and I am trying to work out when. Hopefully, sometime this summer. The beautiful pictures of green hills and castles are the things that are drawing me in. I should know soon when this trip can happen and we can start planning. Luckily, Kate loves Scotland and know all the places to go!

That is it so far. I know I have at least  one more trip to plan for the second Eid holiday and of course, I will be going home for Christmas in December. What about you? Are you planning any trips in 2016? Share with us in the comments!

 

India, Passport, Prep, Travel

India e-Visa

September 24, 2015

India e-Visa

Did you know that most people need a visa to go to India? It used to be that you had to get to an Indian Embassy to apply for an Indian visa, but now you can apply online for a visa on arrival if you hold a passport from one of 113 countries. This includes the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, UAE, and the Philippines. However, it does not include Qatar. Click here to get to the website. This is a great option for so many people. Getting a visa at an Indian Embassy can be done, but can be a hassle if you don’t have the time, aren’t near an embassy or just want an easier way to apply.

Before booking my trip to India, I almost hesitated to go to India because I thought you had to go to the Indian Embassy to get the visa and I had no idea where that was in Qatar. When I lived in New York, I had applied for Indian visas for my boss and the process was long and you had to go two days in a row. I have no idea where the India Embassy is located in Qatar. I only found out there was an e-visa process when I googled India visa to see where the embassy was located.  The process was very straightforward once I found it.

You need a few things before you get started. You need a passport sized photo that you can scan in, your passport, and a credit card. The application form is long and requires you to recall where you have traveled for the past 10 years! My travel for the past two years wouldn’t even fit in the space they allotted. They also wanted to know the names and places of birth for my parents. You should also have reserved your hotel or have an address to give in India. You also need to know which airport you are flying into as that will be the only place you can enter to get the visa on arrival. You should only apply 30 days in advance, as you have to arrive between the time given to you on the approval form. I applied in the afternoon and by the next morning, I had approval.

There was some slight confusion when I arrived at the Goa airport. There were no signs for people with e-visas or signs at all! Once I got to the immigration counter, I could tell he was looking for my visa and I said I had an e-visa. He told me I had to go to another room. The other room was to the left of the entrance to the immigration hall arrival area. There were about 15 other people in there, but no staff. Someone when out and asked how long it would be till someone arrived and they said five minutes. Not a long wait, but it was about 3 am at that point and we were all very tired. Slowly staff came in to get us sorted. Print out your visa approval as they will ask you for this. I also had printed out my application just in case. You had to have your photo and fingerprints taken. It took some time as the fingerprint machines were not liking the sweaty hands. They stamp your passport and you are on your way! Once I arrived at baggage claim, my bag was already there. It might be easier if you did go to the India Embassy in your country if you don’t want to wait at the airport, but it might depend on the process at the India Embassy in your country too. I was glad I had it already, but might try getting at the embassy next time to see which process is easier!

Have you gone to India? What was your visa process like?

India, Prep, Travel

India Trip Jitters

September 21, 2015

India Trip Jitters

Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be in India. Due to some unusual experiences with my hotel, I am having some India trip jitters. My flight is arriving in the middle of the night there on Monday, so I am writing this in advance of the normal Monday post. The picture will, hopefully, be similar to my view from my room.

So far this trip as already stressed me out a little. When I tried to book the hotel online, the room I wanted was sold out. I called the hotel to see about booking the room. The room wasn’t available on the phone either. However, there was a better room available with a better price on the phone as compared to the website. Although hesitant to book a room on the phone, I did it to get the better rate. This is where I think I went wrong though and I won’t know until I arrive.

Once I booked the room on the phone, they said they would email me the confirmation. I didn’t receive one right away, but my friend who is coming to booked her room online and she received the confirmation the next day. I figured I would be patient and waited. My credit card was charged the next day, so I emailed the hotel to get a confirmation. I got no response. My friend, however, had emailed the hotel about getting the better room that I had booked and they emailed her right back. She gave me the direct email of the person she had received a response from.  I emailed that person to request my confirmation number, explaining that I had booked via the phone and did not get a confirmation number. She wrote back to say my reservation was confirmed, and I wrote again asking for the reservation number and she said it would be on my email confirmation I received when booking! At that point, I gave up. My credit card had been charged, work was getting stressful, and I figured I would try again later. Work continued to get more stressful, and I mostly forgot about it.

Last week it dawned on me that I didn’t have a confirmation, and I also needed to make sure that the hotel shuttle was at the airport to pick me up. Once again, my friend had emailed the hotel to have the shuttle pick her up; she was arriving the day before me. She got a response right away, and I got nothing. Now, I am beyond concerned. I have never had a hotel be so unresponsive to emails or not follow through. I called and was given the confirmation number and was assured there would be a shuttle to pick me up. The guy I spoke with said he would also email the reservation number, which of course, never came! Later that day, I took to Twitter and tweeted to the corporate Twitter at the hotel. They responded by the next day, and I finally got an email confirmation. Although that revealed that despite me emailing the hotel, they were typing my name out wrong in the email instead of replying.

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal to me. I am arriving in India in the middle of the night and want to be sure there is someone there to pick me up. I have already paid for this service with the hotel, and I really don’t want to pay for a taxi to the hotel. Also, the hotel is an hour away from the airport. Plus, I am a worrier and as I have mentioned before, a control freak! Hence, the India trip jitters I mentioned. As I am sure we all do, I want my trip to go smoothly so that I can enjoy every minute of it. Let’s hope the next post is me raving about the hotel!

P.S. I am not mentioning the hotel yet, in case it all turns out well in the end.

Have you ever had a trip go awry in the beginning? How did it turn out?

Picture courtesy of Jaakko Hakulinen, Flickr

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