Travel News Roundup for June 2017


Thought I would round you up a few articles to get you going thinking on your travel plans and those yet to be made.

How to get some really good flights, strategies to search for what is a deal:

France seems to be the trend for travel this year:

And my current favorite topic: Laptop Bans, Phone Access. Contact each airline and TSA.

You should have already done this by now, but visa changes are happening in many countries:

What to Wear and Not Wear

Please, Act Un American When Traveling. Try Canadian.

According to this article, I should act more like a snob, not so friendly. Don’t bother people. So, why is it when I am in Scotland I can just turn to someone and we both smile and the words just come out and we are both bouncing? I guess it’s just Scotland. The Irish I have encountered pretty much do the same. Oh, wait, the guy was in Sweden.


Travel, Data on Your Phone, and Other Sunday Tour Prep

IMG_0390I am sitting here in PDX at the cafe and listening to The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour with a smile on my face. I just spent an hour with my cell phone provider trying to make sure I had the right travel plan for the UK and not get caught unawares as last year. I have opted for the $10.00 per day unlimited and spent time going over what needs to be managed on the phone itself while traveling to keep things under control.

You see, here in Merica, we tend to supersize everything. It’s not just food we gobble. We suck up the data and really don’t realize we are doing it, and that’s what the providers are counting on. The fact that we don’t think like Europeans do about conserving resources can really hit your pocket when you return from your trip. So, let’s look at what you can do to manage your data use and still get around as you like in a big new city.


Roaming has always been an evil word in telecom, but since you will be physically wandering joyfully, try making it less painful. I have had cell phones for over 20 years now and still remember this is the most costly thing to deal with, borrowing another network while traveling. Only have roaming on when you are not in areas where you can get WiFi. Make calls when you can be in a WiFi zone. Using maps is tricky and will use a lot of data.

Map Apps

Guilty pleasure here. I do bring paper maps with me of places, but they can be a combersome nuisance. Although if I were traveling with children i would make them use and help with this, it’s becoming a lost art, the reading of a physical map. It can also make you stick out like a tourist target. But if you don’t know a city, it will have to be how you roll. Some map apps and tour guides apps have a offline feature. This may still access data but saves a big file on your phone. You can dump it later or course, but think about it.

How to Access Maps Offline

Warning: Some Offline Map Apps will cost you money. Some are free to try, but full features will cost you.

List of Offline Map Apps

eTips Around the world with specific destinations. Free basic app, more in depth with attractions and such will cost you.

Google  Maps the classic app. IPhone will come with Apple maps,  but this too can suck up data.

MAPS.ME will download a map for your area. Try doing this when you are in WiFi mode as it will go faster and cost less for initial download.

CityMaps2Go Operates off of saving map for area.

Offline – Currated Events and Things to Do in Your City. App grabs information from location on current events happening and has it ready for you.

For a full list see here.

Penny Lane was playing, and made me think what traveling and meeting people in their neighborhoods and communities really brings to travel. Enjoy your travels this season and share them with us. Hopefully with less data fees. Oh, it’s still okay to ask someone where a street is.

Tour Packages: Are They Worth The Costs?

glasgow-cathedral-and-infirmaryIt’s a month out from your trip and you are contemplating your very tight budget. Some of the considerations are that you really want to see a bunch of castles near where you are staying, but can’t do a hire car because of the cost. That will leave you with a tour option. However there are so many tours, how can you find one that fits your needs and well, isn’t too touristy?

Hint: For larger cities like London, you will always find a tour. But really good ones can fill up in advance. If a tour has really good ratings, also check for complaints against it in a search. You may want to book a few weeks out, especially in high summer, August.

I don’t know about you, but I really am not a fan of traditional tours. Tourists can be so distracting and well, in some cases, behave poorly when on a trip. When I am traveling, I usually avoid the traditional tourist traps if I can, or try to see them at off times, and visit spaces like someone who may live there might. However, if you really want to see a land feature or castle and it’s out of city limits, you may have to resort to a tour. Or do you?

Commercial Tours €£€£

If you really have limited time and want to pack in as much as you can, the commercial tour companies that depart from most city squares are your bet. You will pay between £30-50 for these tours on brightly colored buses from most metropolitan squares. Then you have to deal with densely packed buses. You can get to a great many sites in one day. I find if I do use these services, I will plan one day to be used up, and of course get back into town and head for a neighborhood I like, just to get some sense of people and community. They are noisy, smelly affairs.

Avoiding Commercial Tours: Compromise €£€£€

There are smaller, more intimate tours for the areas you may be visiting. These are usually smaller vans and smaller busses affairs. They will, however, cost more than the massive tour bus companies. You are paying for a smaller comfort and more intimate and personal tour. Sometimes these are run by smaller family businesses, groups of friends. You can even get specific tours that may follow a theme. Keep in mind that these can cost over €75-200 per person, but may be over several days. Also, check Twitter. Some smaller companies have accounts and you can check out their feed and see what tours are going on and what people are saying.

Walking Tours €0-10

Finding walking tours in cites whether guided or self guided means doing some research. If you check out a tour guide like Trip Advisor, you can get a good selection of these tours along with paying tours listed. There are tours operated by independents that may involve a small group that hires themselves out. These can be really entertaining as many of the guides are locals and you can contribute what you like and tip them. You may find that it is easier to meet groups of other travelers and then have a meal afterwards. Check for local online and hard copy community newspapers and magazines. They will have a good listing of these tours. Also, research alternative tours of the area.

Public Transport Tours – Self Guided £5-10

If you have a few days in an area, using public transit and getting around on your own tour can be done. Many local cities and towns even have tourist maps and bus route information on their city websites. There are also many touring apps that have city walking tours and tours that venture out. Now, these are free for the most part, and may not be up to date. There may also be roadworks and improvements going on that may delay you, you will need to check local information. I did quite a bit around Inverness last year via this route. You do not get as much packed in as an organized commercial tour, but it can be much easier on the budget.

There are many guided tours apps created by enterprising individuals or tourist boards. If you visit the App Store, you can find many of these. Also check online for local What’s On publications for the city. There may be an app they have created. And don’t forget local book stores. They carry these things called maps that fold out.


Trip Advisor/Viator are the same company, just different formats. One is the classic Trip Advisor green and the other is a bit more supped up and takes more bookings.

Tour Radar

City Specific



Cardiff Wales

Glasgow Tours

Edinburgh Tours

Dublin Tours

Belfast Tours

London Pass

Articles and Resources




When Your Travel Budget Takes a Hit, Retrench


Glasgow Street Art – Free things to do

You have been planning for 11 months a travel that will make up for what little you were able to explore the last time you went to the most spectacular country experience you could have imagined. When you attempted to master the travel experience of that country, you came back with the realization that you barely scratched the surface of its locals and people. You vowed to make it back and explore more than before, and take on an adjacent country to boot. And you were going to go for longer on the same budget because you learned a few travel budget things the last time. Speed forward a few months and you are prepping for the new trip becoming a reality. Tickets and bookings happened for great budgetary prices during the holidays. You have been setting aside a bit per month to buy currency. Then the shocker hits you. A disaster happens, like taxes. You have already invested so much, if you back out now you are at a loss. Can you still go on this amazing trip?

Such a wall of shock hit me this week. I spent 24 hours on one of the most stressful decisions all year: Call it a loss and stay in the US, miserable, or cut the daily travel budget in half and still have a wee bit of debt, but a wealth of experience. On day 2 I decided to go ahead and challenge my already challenged tight budget.

It’s an old term from the UK, meaning to get back into the battle. Recover from a loss. My brain had to wrap around how to get a daily budget for food and maybe the occasional fun thing to do paid for after taking a hit to an otherwise already tight travel budget.

Fundraising on funding sites won’t attract sympathy from anyone unless you’re traveling to do a scientific study, so how do you do it. It’s spring, it’s time for a garage sale. You need to clear it out anyway, look for items you can sell in a garage sale and or on eBay. You may be able to get a few days of meals out of it.

Hopefully you were smart and shopped at AirBNB or other sites and found the best rated spaces for your very limited budget to begin with. Think if you can about the type of place you are staying in. Part of a vacation is that you want to spoil yourself a bit if you can. Well, if you plan really well and read reviews, real time, real people reviews, you may find some great bangs for your travel buck. One thing to consider, if you are in a location for more than one night, find one with service or kitchen facilities in the room. Even a small fridge will do. You can pick up a few items of food or a bottle of wine, mix up a picnic lunch and save some money. If you save a bit, and some days you have a bit left over, you have money for a little splurge later. If you are lucky enough to travel and have patience with travel partners, room and other costs can be combined, and you can stretch your more. Just plan for some “me” time on your trip so you don’t get into a horn lock with your travel mates.

Decide how you can save daily expenses in a city. Cities are very expensive to live in, but if you have been a university student in a large metropolitan city like where you are visiting (Dublin), you can find the best places to eat for a tight budget. Think like a starving student. Chose where you stay to help with your budget. Is the place you are staying only accessible to high-end restaurants, and can you walk or bus it to where you can get groceries if you have a refrigerator at your disposal. Granted, one of the great things about travel is fantastic food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive restaurant in town that has the best. Again, think like a student. Amend look for pop up restaurants, great variety and smaller overhead can help your budget.

In the city, try to walk as much as you can. It’s the best way to experience it after all. I have been in training for the last two years with travel in mind, I sometimes walk 12 miles or more a day when I am visiting a city. Walking is free, but make sure you invest in good shoes before you leave. Cabs are very expensive, plus there’s the tip you should give. I usually only do them coming from an airport and getting to one if the bus is too difficult. Bus systems in most cities may seem an alien experience to you, but can save you loads of money and you can talk to locals. By keeping your transit to walking and buses, you can save money for a splurge on a tour maybe. Start by booking any train travel about a month out. Many trips can be purchased in advance and be really cheap with your fees being prepaid. If you wait too long, the prices double and treble. Most rain travel is accessible by internet booking now and you can set up an account with the train line that you can access later. Make sure you know where you can pick up your tickets, as not all railway stations have machines.

This year I am going for the festival experience. This means a plethora of overwhelming amounts of theatre and arts venues, and way too many choices. Shop ahead online before you go if you have a particular artist you want to see, or surprise yourself and load one of the festival apps with GPS. Venues with tickets still available will show, and if you are lucky, some days of the festival like Monday or Tuesday are cheap seats days. There are many free performances and street performers are pay as you like.

Set Your Daily Budget
The reality is if you only have so much money to take with you, budget the cash divided by days. Logical right. There are articles and books on doing cities and places on x $ per day. Many things can and will add up to an expensive day. Taxi rides to and from to the airport if public transit is a no go. Food. Food doesn’t have to be extreme. There are plenty of great priced places and great articles out there on top food choices on a budget. Don’t forget farmers markets, many towns have them and you are supporting locals v. Corporate farms. If you can get the breakfast at the inn deal, sometimes they are a bit tasteless.  Then you only have to worry about dinner. If you are very conservative and keep your big splurges down, you can save from your budget for a great treat at the end. Remember, really experiencing a place is all in the wandering. I keep a list of free things to do in each city on my phone. And warning, going to the pub is much more costly in Europe than in the US or Canada. So if you can get that kitchenette, it’s cheaper to buy bottles and stay in.

So, the budget vacation doesn’t have to be boring. True travel adventures don’t need to be costly if you plan ahead and think about real value. Avoiding high costs like car hires unless you have 4 people minimum will help keep your budget under wraps. Public transit and walking everywhere save money for food and the occasional theatre ticket. It can be done, besides, it’s what the locals do.

© 2017 photo by Alison McEwan

Suit Case Limits on European Flights: Check All Airlines Restrictions


downloadAfter months of keeping an eye out for suit case deals, reading articles and comparison charts by brand, a decision had to be made. I am flying in about a month and needed to get the reality check purchase made. Restrictions on size being the main criteria, small European flights are indeed small, like flying match sticks, and have no overhead room. So, how do you get that in that small but useful cabin bag size working for you and What features do you really need?

When I first started considering the small plane flights, I remembered one of my hops last year and how I barely made the size restrictions on that last leg of my Transatlantic  flight, and the fear and expense of having to track two bags in the hold. There’s nothing like getting to your dream vacation spot and your luggage takes days to catch up to you. I was using borrowed travel cases and learned so much about baggage “hate” that trip. This year I decided I had to budget for new cases and invest in sizes that fit the minimum or under in dimensions for the overhead bins in the cabins, and that they had to work for the smaller planes. After doing research on the internet, I decided I had better call the airlines for Aer Lingus restrictions on my tiny flight and was glad I did. The online references really weren’t clear, going mostly by weight. The case size was restricted to a 18 inch tall bag (length) and I had to research how to get the carry on under a good budget and afford the purchase of a second larger case. In my initial research, I found that if I bought cases according to maximum measurements, I was averaging a huge sum of money for specific sizes. I am sorry, I know there are people who love the designer thing, and some that are professional travelers, but most of us can’t spend $500.00 or more on luggage. That covers quite a few nights in a hotel. But what about buying cheap cases that may bust in the hold? How can you meet a tight budget and have cases that survive the trip? Check out reviews online and hope for the best. After some research and looking at some reviews, I made a choice that fit my budget and the size restrictions. I also went in with the mindset that if the cases made it through two Transatlantic trips, meaning two vacations, it would be a good investment. Why get a expensive set of luggage when size restrictions could change in the future?

Your carry on bag should contain all toiletries you will need immediately upon landing, and at the very least 2 changes of clothing. If your baggage is delayed you have something to work with while you wait for the cases to catch up with you.

Measurements for Consideration

55cm x 40cm x 24cm Cabin for Transatlantic, 18 inch tall for smaller planes.

90 x 75 x 43cm (35.5 x 29.5 x 16in) Checked Luggage size

Contact your airlines for intercontinental flights sizes before you board. The restrictions can vary per airline, but many airlines buy the same planes. The above is an average.

Luggage Restrictions for European Fights 2017



Hard-sided meeting European cabin luggage restrictions 18 inches tall, 4 wheels not 2, for smaller intercontinental and island hopping flights.

Wheeled, preferably spinner second case under 62 inch restrictions

Small travel backpack/day pack with iPad pouch and place to hide passport, etc.

Spend amount less than the price of one very expensive piece of luggage. Buy a set of2 for the price of one American Tourister.

Purchase Made: inUSA brand, Model: San Francisco, spinners( 4) on both cases, self locking TSA lock combo included (we’ll see about that).

imagesI finally made a choice after reviewing several cases on Amazon. I also chose a situation where shipping was free, since I was finding many of the cases were costing a great deal in shipping fees, thus adding to the price. My considerations were meeting the size restrictions and including spinner wheels height extension. After years of standard cases and lugging a case that was too bulky across Scotland last year, I decided it was time to scale down and streamline, bring less clothing and do more washing. Not something you want to have to do on your trip, but planning your trip to include space and time to do laundry unfortunately has to be done. I planned for laundry in Glasgow and Dublin Stops, with research on Yelp for reliable machines.

Other Considerations: TILE brand luggage and pets GPS tags, DYNOTAG permanent luggage tags. Osprey light daypack, featuring space for camel pack or laptop, tablet, and padding space, hiding space for passport.

Research Your Cases