Archive for the ‘Airline Travel’ Category

Renting a car? Why are you paying full price when all you need is a code?

Monday, March 24th, 2008


Are you a frequent rental car user?  Do you do your research BEFORE booking a vehicle?  Or do you just book the first car you see on the first website you search. 

What a costly mistake!  You could be throwing away hundreds of dollars.

Read on. . .


Travel Accessories: Marking Your Possessions for Easy Return to YOU!

Monday, March 3rd, 2008


Do you like good service?  How about great new products?  Especially products that make your life easier?


Me, too.


And, if like me, you travel a great deal, you know that any product or service that will make your travel experience better, is very welcome.  I have found at least one.


Read on . .



New York City: Good-bye High Life! No More Park Lane for Me!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

It’s that time again; I’ve resisted long enough.  I must return to one of my favorite spots in the world: New York City.  Besides the fact I am addicted to NYC, I made a personal promise to myself that I would visit the Big Apple on every major holiday.  I’ve already done Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and St. Patrick’s Day.  So, now it’s time for one of the biggest hooplas of all:  Independence Day!

Airfares from Canada, especially if we fly on our own major holiday, Canada Day, are cheap, so now I must find a NYC hotel.  My husband and I took a liking to the Helmsley Park Lane (we’ve stayed there 3 times before), so I pulled up the hotel’s website, input our travel dates, and voila.  Yikes!  So much for the high life.

Read on…



8 hours to pack a suitcase? That’s just nuts! No, it’s WINE! No-fail tips for packing wine, and other liquor!

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Actually, it was more like 12 hours, but I had already experienced enough derision from my travel mates.  So, I didn’t fess up to the real amount of time.  But…

I had precious cargo to transport.  And I wanted it to survive the ravages of airline luggage wranglers, airline conveyor belts, and airline scales.

I was not about to leave my hand-selected New Zealand wines behind; but neither did I want to ship the bottles only to have them broken in transit.  And I didn’t want to pay an overweight baggage fee at the airport.  So, logistical plans take awhile.  Okay?

I have brought back many fragile things in my suitcases — with almost complete success.  Especially wine.  I haven’t lost a bottle, well, except one to an unscrupulous airport security inspector, but that’s another story…

A Quick and Easy Guide

Here is a quick and easy guide for the supplies you will need, and tips for how to pack your imported wine for safe and secure transport in your suitcase….


Sydney, Australia: I am Very ANGRY at YOU!

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

“It’s just not fair,” I wailed. 

I wailed because I saw buttery yellow sunlight creasing the clouds, and because it was disembarkation day for our 14-day cruise of New Zealand and Australia, and our last day in Sydney, Australia.

We had arrived in port two nights prior, but had only one rain-filled day to explore this massive port city, with its famous Opera House, gorgeous old heritage buildings, and infamous convict history.

But that’s beside the point ‘cause now I am just mad at you, Sydney.  And that’s very strange since we (my husband and I) had vowed we had no interest in visiting Sydney.  Ever.  And that makes me even madder.

You could have told me sooner that I was going to love your harbour, that I was going to love your city streets and your people, that I was going to adore The Rocks, and that you had so much to offer.  I would have made different plans.

And now it’s too late; we are leaving.  (Or so I thought.)

Things are never as they seem…read on…


Tips for Enjoying Your Cruise Vacation in Spite of Mistakes and Mishaps

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

My recent cruise to New Zealand and Australia was fraught with troubles from lost luggage to missed airline connections.  My husband and I didn’t experience any problems besides cramped seats on a very long Air New Zealand flight, but hundreds of our fellow cruisers really suffered.

Traveling and troubles go together; they just do. The way to cope with travel troubles is to plan for mishaps, as best you can.

Here are 12 tips to help cruise ship travelers prepare so they can enjoy their expensive cruise, come what may:


New Zealand: First Stop, Auckland

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Auckland, New Zealand: A Welcome Start to a Two-Week Vacation!

New Zealand was never a dream destination for us, but the Travel Zoo price was too irresistible, so we booked.

And here we are, somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, with no idea what time of day it is,  just that we’ve lost an entire day (our travel agent promises we’ll get it back when we fly west), and we are exhausted from a LONG flight from Los Angeles.

We are flying Air New Zealand, in economy class.  So, my larger-size husband sits cramped for most of the ride while the passenger in front of him domineers the seat space with his reclined chair, his noise-cancelling headphones keeping him from being pestered by any of our complaints.  Thank goodness forWinter Garden Conservatory - Auckland, NZ by Sheree Zielke the mini TV sets in the headrest; they offer recent TV shows and movies to help pass the time. 

My watch says 6:52 AM and we are about to go into our descent.  But what time is it really?  I have no idea, but I don’t care.  Right now bright morning sunshine is streaming in through the airplane windows, almost blinding in it intensity as passengers emerge from their mole-like state.

I am about to land in Auckland, New Zealand.  I barely knew where the city was a few months ago.  Now I know that it is on New Zealand’s north island (there is a south island, too) and that the correct Maori greeting to newcomers is, “Kia Ora.”

We are part of a large group of Canadians headed for the Mercury (Celebrity) cruise ship.  None of us have any idea what’s in store for us, so we are pleasantly surprised by all the attention we receive at the airport.

TIP:  New Zealand is hot and muggy.  Carry a quick change of clothes (shorts, Capri pants, sandals) in your carry-on, or wear the zip-off leg cargo pants, or you will be overcome by heat.  Change in a washroom on the plane, if you can, or in an airport washroom; things move very fast outside the airport as baggage and passengers are sorted and assigned to their respective coaches.

It is now 9:05 AM Auckland time, and I am already entranced by the organizational abilities of the cruise ship company.  Many greeters help us get from the baggage carousel, to the baggage truck, to our waiting buses.  No muss, no fuss.  It seems like we were on a plane one moment, and packed into a comfortable coach the next.

Now comes our next surprise — we are taken to a park area in Auckland, home to the Winter Garden Conservatory.  We pull up outside the Winter Garden Pavilion, a place of quiet enchantment where geese wander free on the lawns, and fat sparrows beg for morsels.  The chirping and twittering of birds fills the air; it’s a wonderful contrast to the sounds motor travel. 

We are invited to view the conservatory: Fernz Finery, Tropical House, and Cool House.  Celebrity has even provided a classical quartet for our entertainment.  The music entwined with the lovely flower gardens are the perfect transition from crowded airplane to vacation mindset.  And there is still tea-time.

Winter Garden Pavilion - Auckland, NZ by Sheree ZielkeAn elegant woman reminds us that we should go to tea.  Tea?  Okay.  What’s at tea?  Oh my…tiny cucumber sandwiches, tiny lobster pastries and mushroom quiches, lemon-drop cookies, and moist chocolate squares, oh, and yes, tea.  Spoiled fat sparrows eye our tasty repast (we are seated outside on a patio overlooking a garden).  Their fat bellies suggest they have dined on tea sandwiches before, and so I oblige and share a crumb of my sandwich.

I feel my anxiety and my fatigue drain away.  Is this a sign of things to come, I wonder?  Another sparrow shows up.  I acquiesce and part with a bit of my lemon-drop cookie.  I can afford to share; I have 14 days of cruise ship buffets and fine dining to look forward to.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures during my 14-day tour of New Zealand and Australia (Jan 2008) while a passenger on the Celebrity Mercury.  Watch for hi-lights of Napier, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, and in Austalia — Melbourne, Newcastle, and Sydney.  If you are a fan of the late Princess Diana, I will be covering a Sydney exhibit celebrating her, too.


Sheree Zielke

Fly Efficiently — Pack Your Carry-On Bag with Purpose!

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Flying Survival: The Art of Packing Your Carry-on Baggage

Has it happened to you?  A short 3-hour flight has turned into a marathon; your mouth feels as inviting as your cat’s litter box, or the trunk of your car, while your toothbrush is safely stowed in your checked baggage; the security line-up is a mile long, and as slow-moving as sludge.  And you desperately need to pee?

Here are some tips to help you survive the various aspects of your next airline adventure.

But first, be certain your carry-on bag fits the overhead bin or under-the-seat dimensions.  Or you’ll be asked to check this like you checked the rest of your larger luggage.  At the last minute. Not a pleasant experience.   When buying new carry-on luggage, check for those bags sanctioned by the airlines – it will say so on the tag.

Now for those tips:

1. Pack an emergency survival kit in a CLEAR plastic zippered bag. Keep this in a handy area of your carry-on bag, for easy retrieval when passing through security. At security, simply toss the bag and its contents into one of the plastic bins. Quick and easy. And nothing will go astray.

Here’s an A-Z list of items you might find useful to pack in your handy survival kit:

  1. Kleenex pocket pack
  2. Travel pack of flushable wet wipes
  3. Toothbrush
  4. Travel size toothpaste (under 100 ml or 3 oz)
  5. Or try Oral-B “Brush-Ups” (these “teeth wipes” are flat and very effective)
  6. Travel size mouthwash
  7. Dental floss
  8. Lip moisturizer
  9. Small washcloth (in its own small clear baggie)
  10. Travel soap bar (nab one from your hotel room)
  11. Travel size moisturizer (also usually available from your hotel room)
  12. Travel hand sanitizer (you’ll want this after visiting an airplane washroom after several hours in the sky – I’ve used this stuff to even wipe down the gross toilet seat)
  13. Cuticle clippers and/or nail file
  14. Gum
  15. Puzzle book and pen and/or Nintendo DS
  16. Dry eye relief drops (tiny bottle)
  17. Your medications (in their original bottles)
  18. Pair of clean underwear (wrap these in tissue if you don’t want them seen)
  19. Candy bar, granola bar, or any other packaged and labeled snack food (these will pass through any airport security check)
  20. Small bills and coins in clear plastic bags (in the currency of the countries you are visiting, or even just passing through.  I keep several different country currencies.  I just grab the bag with the cash that matches the country I am in. Very convenient for buying a soda pop, water, snack, or a sandwich before re-boarding. And you won’t get held up in security because you forgot the change in your pockets.)
  21. Reading glasses (I carry a cheap spare pair)
  22. A folded larger zippered plastic bag (as you approach security, drop all your electronics into this bag – no worries about something getting left behind)
  23. Photocopies of your passport and travel documents
  24. Notepad
  25. Your suitcase keys
  26. And…most importantly, an extra dose of patience (just wait till you stand in the security line in Toronto, or Denver, or Vancouver, or well, anywhere actually)

For detailed information on what can normally be taken onboard a plane, visit the TSA site.  It’s quite comprehensive and applicable for nearly all flights.

  1. When boarding USA flights, as you get closer to the security conveyor belt, untie or unstrap your shoes (yes, unlike officials in Canada Customs, Americans want to x-ray your shoes).  That way there’s no fumbling at the belt; just step out of your shoes and throw them into a plastic bin.
  2. Here’s one of my best tips for speed and efficiency when travelling.  After having forgotten those wonderful squishy neck pillows in security, and after having my jackets dirtied on the conveyor belt, I now put both my neck pillows and my hoodies, sweaters, and jackets into a giant Ziploc “Big” Bag. These 2 foot extra large bags are very durable, and so handy.  They zipper up just like their smaller cousins, and security officials can see everything inside, at a glance.  (The bonus? I have never had this bag counted as one of my carry-on pieces.)
  3. Carry a small cooler (I use one made by Igloo).  Airport security accepts this as your “lunch” much the same as carrying on a box or bag from a fast food restaurant. Besides being a great place to store snacks and your Nintendo DS Lite, a hard-walled cooler makes the perfect footrest for us short-legged folks.  It eases the pressure on the underside of your thighs, and the subsequent swelling of your ankles.
  4. And finally, the peeing part.  When making a connecting flight, especially if you must go through the local Customs, remember to relieve yourself before the pilot heads into landing mode, and turns on the seatbelt sign.  You have no idea how far you’ll be walking, or how little time you’ll have to make that flight, once you’ve landed.You might be collecting luggage, re-checking luggage, and then passing through security.  While there are washrooms available, you may not have the time to take a quick break.  So, do your business on the plane (no matter how gross the bathrooms have become in transit)

This may not be comprehensive coverage for making your flying experiences easier, but employing just some of these tips will make your experience a lot more efficient and a lot less frustrating, especially in light of canceled or delayed flights.

Sheree Zielke