Tag Archives: Travel

Finding Your Way

I thought for a long time about what I would use to guide our way on our mega 3.5 month trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Generally, I prefer the Google maps on my phone over our Garmin Nuvi GPS for many reasons:
1. Google Maps gives you multiple route options.
2. GPS only gives you one route and often the straightest line which involves small farm roads as opposed to major highways.
3. The GPS only allows an exact search. When I put in Phillips Track, it comes back with no matches because it spells the road “Trak”. So if you mistype one letter it won’t find your address.

Despite all of this, Google Maps requires the internet. This isn’t an issue most times in your home country, but once you take your iPad, iPhone or Android to another country you are “data roaming”. Data roaming can incur HUGE fees, depending on your carrier. We were fortunate that our carrier, T-Mobile, initiated free unlimited international roaming, a few months prior to our departure date.

When we were in Australia and New Zealand, we found that many of our apps on our Android phones did NOT work while we were roaming. This included Google Maps, Gmail app, Playstore and Facebook. I was finally able to solve the problem by downloading the Opera web browser, which has an “off-road” mode that works better with 3G and lower web speeds. I could access my Gmail and Facebook using Opera, where I was unable to access them from their installed apps. I was never successful with accessing Google Maps except when we were stationary and connected via a Wi-Fi connection.

It was a good thing that before we left home we opted to purchase Australia and New Zealand maps ($150 USD) on a micro USB card from Garmin for our Garmin Nuvi GPS. This was our SALVATION. Since Google Maps was simply searching and telling us it was unable to locate us, the GPS was our best friend. In two instances the GPS couldn’t find the places we were staying, but we had the owners send us the GPS location and then we were good to go.

Based on this experience, if you are planning an international road trip, I recommend having a GPS option, this can be your own GPS or rental of one from the rental car company. Since we were going to be in a rental car for over three months, the cost of renting a GPS would have been prohibitive, so buying the maps for our GPS was our best option.

That said, I also suggest paper maps to check the GPS routes. In New Zealand we found Jason’s Maps, which were free at any Visitor Information Center. The Jason’s maps also suggest things to see along the way. On several occasions, we turned off the GPS as it kept sending us down farm roads, instead of the main highway. The paper maps kept us on track.

In New Zealand, there is a rental GPS called Kruse. http://www.krusenz.com/. I have no direct experience but heard very good reviews from a fellow traveler. This is both a GPS and a travel guide, as it will suggest things to do in the area. They will deliver the GPS to your rental car location. Cost is $10 NZD per day. Had we been on a shorter trip, I think this would have been our best option.

Bags Packed

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Our bags are packed for our Mega Trip to New Zealand and Australia.  I bought new bags, which are purported to be the world’s lightest.  They were the lightest bags I could find. As usual I bought them through http://www.eBags.com.   Search for IT Bags. We each have a 22 inch carry on and a 29 inch checked bag. Image 

We packed using our favorite eBags packing cubes.  The packing cubes now come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns. I use small packing cubes for liquids (zipped into quart size zip lock storage bags) and medications. The medium packing cubes are used for clothing.  I also like the slim packing cubes to fill in the blank spaces in our suitcase. 

As I’ve stated in prior posts, I take three clothing cubes full of clothes. One cube goes in my husband’s checked bag, one in my own checked bag and one in my carry on, and vice versa.  For this trip I added a cube full of extra layers, since we will be crossing from fall in the southern hemisphere to winter in the tropics.Packing Cubes 
For this trip I used an REI compression sack, which is sold with backpacking equipment to compress my down coat. See the blue bag that looks like a sleeping bag in the photos.

 The last step is to put our itinerary on top of the packing cubes. We always do this in case our bags decide to take an unscheduled trip to China or some other exotic place without us. This will help reunite us with our bags. I also have tags on our bags from Okoban at My Stuff Lost and Found. These tags will assist the airlines with reuniting us with our bags. http://mystufflostandfound.com/Luggage with It

Colorado in Mud Season

The Perils of Mud Season

In the Colorado Rockies they will tell you there are three seasons, Winter, Summer and Mud Season.  Mud Season occurs twice each year and anywhere else would be referred to as Spring and Fall.  We have travelled to the Rockies in both Mud Seasons. 

The pros of Mud Season are all related to the lack of people.  No need for dinner reservations.  No crowds to fight off.  The paid parking is free.  Time share exchanges require minimal points.  Hotels and resorts can be booked at cheap rates. 

The cons of Mud Season are all related to business closures.  Many businesses close for all or part of mud season. 
Open and Closed for Mud Season
So while there is no wait for dinner, the choices are limited. 

There are, however, still many things to do during Mud Season. There are literally miles and miles of paved bike trails that can afford long or short walks or bike rides.  White water rafting can be booked in the fall Mud Season.  Jeep and 4×4 tours can be booked.  You can self drive a scenic tour.

Jeep Tour Mud Season
So, it is up to you. Personally I will continue to travel during Mud Season.

Museum Memberships Often Cheaper Than Buying Tickets

We recently spent the weekend in San Francisco, safely ensconced in our two bedroom vacation rental, with its own “free” parking space.  (http://www.flipkey.com/frontdesk/view/6281/taya+katz/)   But that is not the subject of this latest entry, the subject is memberships.

We were in San Francisco primarily to attend the a special exhibit, “The Masters of Venice”, at the De Young Art Museum and to also see the Pisarro’s People Exhibit at the Legion of Honor.  The Legion and de Young Museums are both a part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.  Since we planned to attend the exhibits on different days, we would be required to pay for two admission fees, but wait, there is another option, membership.

If your trip will include museums, zoos or aquariums, before you walk to the window and buy a ticket, check out the membership options.  It’s best to do this ahead of time, so you can see which membership will best meet your needs, but you can also inquire at the ticket window.  Also, most memberships are considered charitable donations and so they are tax deductible.  Tickets aren’t tax deductible.  Below are some membership options.

  • Bringing the kids or grand kids?  Buy them a Koala Pass.  The annual pass is only $7.00 or $11.00 more than a child’s one day admission ticket.
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco:  If you live outside California, an out of State membership is only $70 and includes free admission for the member and a guest.  There are other membership options if you are a California resident.  We purchase one Senior membership and that gets us both into the museums and exhibits and also gives us a discount on museum store purchases.   http://deyoung.famsf.org/membership-levels-and-benefits
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium:   One day tickets for two adults and two teenage granddaughters would cost $125.80.  An unlimited membership for two adults, plus all children and grandchildren is $175.00.  It is pretty much impossible to see the Aquarium in a day, so we’ll buy the membership and get the other member benefits.  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/md/join.aspx

I hope you can see the advantages from these few examples.  When our daughter and granddaughters lived in San Diego, we bought them zoo memberships each year as a gift, so they could go as often as they liked.   And don’t forget that the memberships are a donation and are tax deductible, while the tickets are simply an out of pocket expense.