Travel

Migraines and Greek Cats

August 13, 2018

Last Wednesday I arrived in Greece with little sleep and then caught the 7:25 AM ferry to the beautiful island of Naxos. Being a tourist the first day, I walked over four miles exploring the island and promptly got severely dehydrated and ended up with the longest running migraine of my life. I was in bed for a whole day and a half and barely left my room. It finally ended yesterday afternoon.

However, this meant no writing was done as I can’t see during a migraine and the computer makes them worse. So today I bring you a selection of my Greek cat photos, as cat photos make everyone happy and everyone is talking about the Greek cat sitting job. And no, I am not applying! 55 cats are even too much for this cat lover. I will stick to loving on the strays in Naxos.

Greek Cats

Greek cats are on every island I have visited. Here are a few of my favorites from my travels to Greece over the years.

Travel

Why I Choose to Revisit Countries

August 6, 2018

 

Revisiting Countries

The other day someone commented on my Instagram stories that I write about Greece a lot. His question was in response to my post stating I was returning to Greece on Tuesday. The person asked what I like about Greece besides the beaches. Of course, I responded to him the people and the food. Of course, after some deeper thought, the reason is much more than that.

Visit New Cities

One of the main reasons I choose to return to a country is to visit more cities. Most of the time, I stick to one city or place during a trip as I don’t like to change hotels multiple times. It also means I get to know the city better. However, this usually limits how many places I can visit in a country at once.

Italy is a great example, I have been four times and still haven’t visited all the major cities. I have even returned to Florence multiple times because there is so much to see. In Greece, there are over 200 inhabited islands, and I have only visited 14! Lots more to go.

Immerse Yourself in the Culture

It can be hard to immerse yourself in the culture if you are running through multiple places in a week or two. By returning several times, I can get to know a place much better. I make friends. I sit, and people watch because I have the time. I tend to pick up more of the language if I am there multiple times as well.

Since I usually stay in one place, I try to find accommodation I can cook in. This forces me to grocery shop. I have learned to weigh my fruits and vegetables in Europe and the Middle East. I bring my shopping bag to Europe, so I don’t get charged a bag fee. I watch what the locals are buying and translate labels. I try to understand what a local’s daily life is like.

While in Greece last year, I took the public bus one day in the afternoon. I was able to witness the local children go home from school this way. The public bus is their school bus, and the driver knew where to drop each one. The kids chatted with each other. What struck me the most is that all of the girls looked so similar with their sunkissed brown hair. I thought they could be sisters, but each one got off at a different stop.

Go Where You Love

We all have some level of fear of missing out, and I think that is why many of us continue to go to new places. However, I enjoy going back to the areas I have fallen in love with. They give me joy and peace. Going to Greece feels like going to my second home.

I am not a person that enjoys figuring out how to get from the airport into the city I am visiting. Returning to a place I have already been reduces the stress of travel planning. Of course, I know lots of people who enjoy that aspect of travel.

Sometimes going where you love is seeing people you love too and not so much about the place. I plan on returning to Qatar soon to visit friends. I know Qatar very well, so returning will not be about seeing sights, but about reconnecting with friends and visiting old favorites.

We should all travel for our reasons and not feel pressured to go somewhere new just because it’s new. Go where you want!

What country or city have you been that you continuously revisit?

Travel

Last Minute Reward Flights

July 30, 2018

Last Minute Reward Flights
Booking an award ticket last minute is sometimes the best way to use your points as you have either decided to go on vacation, you need to travel quickly without the added expense, or your miles are set to expire. However, it isn’t as simple as picking a destination and dates. Award tickets can be hard to find at the right mileage price. My goal is to save as many miles as possible.

Airport Selection

You might be thinking; I am don’t need to pick airports, I will fly out of my home airport and into the one at my destination. However, this may not save you miles or money. Recently, I was looking at booking a last minute reward flight to central Europe but to fly into the airport I wanted; it was going to cost me 27,000 more miles to fly into it. Instead, I booked an award ticket to London and paid for my second flight to my final destination!

If you live in an area with many international airports, you might be able to pick a different outbound airport as well. When I lived in New York City, I could choose between LaGuardia, JFK and Newark. This way you can find a flight that uses the least amount of miles. Of course, if it is going to cost you significant money to get to the airport, it may not be worth it.

Direct or Non-Direct

The direct flights with award ticket availability usually go first so you may have to look at non-direct flights. Many people do not care if there is a layover. For me, I won’t do it if the layover is more than 4 hours. That is four hours of my vacation or time with family.

Look at flying at very early morning flights if you want a direct flight. If you are traveling on the weekend, most people do not want to book a flight at 6:00 AM. However, this rule may not hold true if you are flying to a popular business destination on a weekday.

Be Flexible with Dates

When I booked my reward ticket to London, I wanted to leave on August 1, but there were no direct flights with award availability. Since I knew I already had to catch another flight in London, I decided I only wanted a direct flight. I decided to leave later so that I could have a direct flight to London.

I realize you can’t always be flexible with dates, but it can also save you miles. Flying in the middle of the week is usually easier as well. Just remember that many flights are overnight so that you might be arriving the next day. This is especially important if you have limited time at your destination.

Don’t Use Loss All Your Miles

Many of us have worked hard to earn miles either by flying, shopping, dining or applying for lots of travel credit cards and we want to use them but use them wisely. Most award tickets have some fees, so pay those fees with a travel credit card. I have an American Airlines card, and one of the perks is getting 10% of your spent reward miles back at the end of the year.

Some people have a travel credit card that allows them to use their miles on almost any airline. You have to transfer the miles, and that can take some time so it may not be possible to use them for a last minute reward ticket.

Use Points.com to transfer miles between programs. If miles are expiring, you may be able to transfer them to another airline with Points.com or use them towards something else, like a gift card. You can also use it to manage hotel reward programs. It is free to join.

Booking a reward ticket shouldn’t be stressful! It should be leading to a great getaway. What tips do you have for booking a reward ticket flight?

PS. Guess where I booked my ticket for after London?

Photo by
Simon Maage

Travel

Paying Entrance Fees to Religious Sites?

July 23, 2018

Paying entrance fees to religious sites

This post is a bit different than my usual posts. I started to write this as a pros and cons list and then concluding my opinion, but as I began to do some research and dug deeper into my own opinions, I realized it wasn’t so cut and dry. Should there be entrance fees to religious sites? I want to know your opinion. I am still going to give my opinion on paying entrances fees, but I also want to hear your thoughts!

Benefits

For many religious sites, this is a way to pay for needed conservation and repairs. This is important so that we can all continue to enjoy the site and so future generations can see it as well.

It also helps with safety. Religious sites can pay for staff to be there during opening hours. Unfortunately, we live in a time where some people would vandalize a church or a mosque. Having staff be present would deter this and allows the site to be open more than just during worship times. It also protects the worshiper to have staff present.

Visitors numbers can help an organization receive grant money to do things that are even beyond what the entrance fee would cover. It gives some proof that the site needs money to maintain the site so visitors will come.

Admittedly some religious sites are just charging an entrance fee to pay the electric bills, but it is still a valid reason to pay.

Disadvantages

It discourages people from wanting to pray there. It is hard to know if you can go in to pray without paying the free. Many places have signs saying this, but they haven’t always been easy to see. Many time you still have to wait in the ticket line to get in to pray.

If the fee is very high, I can’t go into every church as all those fees add up. Most of us have a budget to stick to and want to see as much as our budget allows. If I am paying $10 a church or mosque, I am going to run out of budget quickly.

The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is what sparked this discussion with myself. The entrance fee is €15. This does not include anything like an audio tour or entrance to the top. Many of you know there are hundreds of people trying to get into this church every day. The fee seems high considering how many people are paying to get in. Of course, they are also paying lots of staff. But I also wonder if the continuous building, that we may be financing, is a cycle of attracting visitors and having them pay. If it was in the US, I could probably find out the details of the financing, but I can only speculate here.

A few churches in Porto had free entry to the church and then you had to pay to get into a special part of the church, like a tower. I feel this is a great way to balance the need to raise money and still allow people access to the church.

If a religious site is paying for conservation and staff with the fee I don’t have an issue with it. When the fee becomes high and is unclear what they are using it for, I get wary. I also realize that there is no clear-cut answer to this question.

What do you think? Are you happy to pay the fee? Is there a limit to how much you will pay?