Not that kind of gas! Gasoline. Fuel for your Ford or Fiat. Over the past few months, we’ve noticed that some of the best taquerias are those located immediately adjacent to gas stations. Combine your fuel stop with a food stop. Location, location, location!
Las Palapas Taco Grill
One such restaurant is Las Palapas Taco Grill in Yuma, Ariz. Our trips to San Diego recently have been more frequent and we have made it a point to stop in Yuma for gas. (It’s also a few cents per gallon less here than in California.) Next to the Chevron off of Interstate 8, on Fortuna Road is Las Palapas. It’s a counter service eatery and each meal is made to order. Expect a little bit of a wait during busy times, but we’ve always been very satisfied with the quality of the food and quick service.
We’ve been a patron of Las Palapas probably four or five times and all the tacos we’ve eaten have been delicious: Ensenada fish tacos, Baja shrimp tacos, pastor and carne asada steak tacos. There’s no scrimping on the fillings. The fish tacos are among my favorites. Although the menu says it’s Alaskan pollock, the fish tastes so fresh and is perfectly breaded and fried; it actually melts in your mouth! You’d think you’re sitting next to the Sea of Cortez eating a fisherman’s catch of the day. The salsa bar provides a variety of tasty hot and mild choices for both topping and dipping. Tortilla chips are crispy and fresh.
Don’t be discouraged by a few negative comments on some restaurant review sites. To us, Las Palapas Taco Grill never disappoints. We look forward to our next taco lunch!
El Salsas Taco Shop
Another taqueria we have recently discovered, is on the route from Phoenix to Las Vegas in Kingman.Just as Yuma is sort of our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and San Diego; Kingman is our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Immediately adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 40 and State Route 93 is El Salsas Taco Shop. If you can’t find it on the map, just look for the Chevron gas station. It’s next door.
We’ve been to El Salsas only once, but judging by some of the other patrons’ reviews, it’s among the best you’ll find for a quick and convenient taco lunch on your next trip through Kingman. The entrance is unassuming; you’ll find it tucked neatly next door to the Chevron’s convenience mart.
The time we stopped, I ordered the fish (my favorite) and Chuck opted for the carne. Our tacos were fresh and very tasty, and like Las Palapas, they also feature a well-stocked salsa buffet. Tasty tortillas and plenty of fresh meat (or fish), and veggie fillings made these tacos memorable. We’ll have to return or another meal here soon. Who’s ready for a trip to Vegas or northwest Arizona?
Next time you’re driving through Yuma or Kingman, Arizona, take a travel tip from me: Get gas and eat tacos!
Okay, maybe we weren’t ‘lost’ in the purest sense, more like disoriented. But in the Superstition Wilderness, there’s a fine line between being disoriented and lost. It all boils down to the quantities of confidence, water supply and daylight.
Always download the map to a GPS or phone. Don’t depend on cell phone service, as it’s usually spotty. Carry a paper map as a back up, as well as plenty of water, emergency provisions, first aid kit.
“We just came down this path the last time we were here a few years ago, right?”
“No, I think we came down from a different trailhead, but we’re still coming out in the same place… at least I think. It all leads to about the same place.”
“Yeah, I don’t remember this at all.”
“Doesn’t this trail go past Hackberry Springs… where we saw the mules last time?”
“I think so.”
“Wait, I think we’ve gone too far down First Water Creek! Aren’t we supposed to cut back up the hill toward Garden Valley?
“It all looks so different now, after just a couple of years.”
“It’s been more like six years… Yep, it’s way overgrown now. All the rain and snow melt.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to get turned around like we did that time when we started down into Boulder Canyon and thought we were headed to Hackberry. That would’ve been a long day of hiking.”
“Okay, this looks all too familiar now.”
“Yep. This is Garden Valley. I can see Weaver’s Needle.”
“Now we’re back at the intersection of Black Mesa and Second Water Trails. So, the First Water Trailhead should be up past that rise.”
“Should be. We have to cross First Water Creek again.”
“Hey, look! More poppies! Boy, I bet Lost Dutchman (state park) has a bunch in bloom right now!”
What was supposed to be a five-mile loop turned into a 7.5-mile loop. When we arrived at the main First Water parking lot, it was full so we were forced to turn back and park at the staging area. We began our Hackberry Springs/Garden Valley Loop from there, heading down toward First Water creek, unknowingly passing by the old windmill and corral area, and wallking along the creek on the west bank, heading north, and ultimately missing the turn heading east. When we realized our error, we reversed course, crossed over the creek and come up around the bluff at Hackberry, gradually along the ridge to Garden Valley. Not having gone this clockwise direction before, most of the territory appeared unfamiliar.
We recommend starting at First Water, completing the loop counterclockwise, with the only precaution to not overlook the turn to Garden Valley. Rock cairns usually mark the spot, but not always! After the sign to Black Mesa, look for a trail veering left. After crossing the “valley,” the terrain changes. Keep to your right (easterly), and the trail will lead you along a canyon ridge with sweeping views. After 1.7 miles, you’ll arrive at a sort of rocky roundabout, you may be tempted to take a trail to the left, but stay to the right, Once you’ve descended into the thickly-grown springs area, you’ll have the bluff on your left. Continue along the creek; watch closely and you may see a dripping pipe protruding from the rocks. You’ve made it to Hackberry Springs! Continue along the creek toward the windmill and corral and walk up the old road to the staging area parking lot/trailhead or the main First Water Trailhead and parking lot.
Travel sizes, trial sizes, samples, small regular sizes — so many sizes! What size do you pack for your trip? Do you simply toss into your suitcase your regular-sized, daily use products at the last minute? Do you make special shopping trips to the Target travel size aisle and stock up your supply for your vacation? Do you save up complimentary hotel products for future trips? Do you wait until you reach your destination and hope for the best? It seems there’s a different travel-size behavior for every traveler.
First of all, let’s talk about trial sizes and samples. The only time I pack trial sizes would be for a one or two-night road trip, because trial sizes and samples probably won’t provide enough for any longer stays. However, sample colognes, hair treatments and lotions may be a really nice way to pamper yourself while on vacation or at the end of a long day after that out-of-town business seminar.
Some travelers just have to use their own personal products. Of course, if you need specialized hair and skin products because of dermatologist’s recommendation, then you either pack your regular size products or buy refillable plastic travel size bottles to accommodate your specialized shampoos, lotions or soaps. I love my Cerave skin cream, but I’m not tempted to bring a five-gallon tub of it when I travel. My skin will survive a few days with a travel size Eucerin or Lubriderm or even a hotel product.
Some folks are like free spirits when it come to travel sizes. They pack their toothbrush and comb and then depend on the hotel or resort for shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion… and they’re good to go… and stay. If they’re staying at a fairly decent hotel or resort, there’s no problem. Nicer hotels often will provide better lotions and mouthwash. Some may even make available an entire dental kit, with brush, paste, floss, mouthwash and denta-picks. Some luxury resorts may also provide more kits: shoe shine kit, sewing kit, shaving kit, nail care kit and eyeglass kit. There may even be a kit for kaboodles.
Travelers may find some nice locally-made products such as lotions and candles in the hotel gift shop. These make wonderful mementos. Also, there’s a lot to be said for discovering great new lotions and potions when traveling. It’s part of that “ooh-ahh” resort-spa travel experience. At the Wild Horse Pass Resort’s Aji Spa shop, I discovered an excellent, aromatic exfoliating foot soak. I couldn’t leave without buying some “to-go.”
Some travelers like the luxury experience when they choose travel sizes. They will pack their expensive mini bottles of shampoos, conditioners, masks, rinses, mists and lotions in carefully packaged bottles from home. Some will shop onsite for the top local products. They may go to extra lengths to pack them — taping the bottles shut, wrapping in plastic wrap, putting them in waterproof bags then packing them in upscale, luggage-coordinated hanging toiletry bags and shaving kits.
Other travelers are more practical. These folks like to plan their travel size packing, comparing products’ weight, mass, volume, “leak-ability” and make purchases according to trip length. That’s the category I’m putting myself. (Okay, I may be a bit OCD when it comes to travel sizes.) Occasionally, I’m really happy with a certain shampoo I’m currently using, so I’ll buy a refillable container for that, and maybe one for a conditioner. Soaps and shower gels: I’m not so picky. I usually just use whatever the hotel housekeeping staff sets out on the bathroom counter.
For deodorants and anti-perspirants, it’s another scenario. I used to buy a “travel size” but then I realized: the regular size of my favorite deodorant is usually not much larger than the travel size. It doesn’t make much sense to buy a special travel size when the regular size is sold for much less per ounce. And the regular size weighs only two ounces more than the travel size. Next time I see my brand at CVS on sale two-for-one, I’ll grab one for my bathroom cabinet and the other for my travel bag. The same point can be made for hand sanitizer. The small, regular hand sanitizer isn’t much larger than the itsy-bitsy travel size hand sanitizer. Why would you need this miniscule orb rolling around in your luggage or carry-on? Items that small go into some sort of trans-dimensional portal in my bag and are never seen again.
With toothpaste, it’s a toss up. If you’re bringing only a carry-on, you’re required to carry the one-ounce toothpaste, rather than the small regular six ounce size tube. But if you’re checking your bags, a few extra ounces of paste may not make a difference. I could go either way. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can make a travel size tube of paste last a long, long time.
Now you can’t say the same for mouthwash. It’s a no brainer. Few travelers I know will carry a big jug of mouthwash with them in any kind of luggage. You almost have to get the travel size of Scope, Listerine or other brand. Refillable bottles don’t work well for mouthwash. You may need two or three of these travel size mouthwash bottles — since an ounce and a half of Scope mouthwash is probably only enough for a two mornings. Listerine has a 3.2 ounce size but, if you have a carry-on, what do you do with the 0.2 ounce? Gulp it while waiting in the security line just so your breath is minty fresh for the TSA agent?
Common sense will dictate your travel size product usage. Just ask yourself: Do I need to take my specialized products? How long is my trip? Can I buy items upon arrival? Can I use hotel products? Do I need to be concerned about additional weight and mass in my luggage?
Finally, some hotels have discontinued various complimentary bath and shower products over the years. Some of these I really miss. Holiday Inn used to provide a light but long-lasting hand and body lotion in some of its properties that smelled like a Creamsicle. Los Abrigados Resort’s Sedona Spa line of products at one time included a wonderful coconut-scented shampoo — and it was so rich and creamy. Fortunately most big name resorts often offer their products in online shops. That way, you can purchase that “ooh-ahh” spa experience for your own home.
Packing for your next vacation? What will you take? If you’re flying, there’s much to consider. Should you only use a carry-on or check your bags? You can find an abundance of tips online to help eliminate possibility of excess airline fees — and back strain.
When I was packing for my recent 10-day vacation to the United Kingdom, I decided to use the simplest methods possible — packing only what I thought was absolutely necessary — at least so I thought. I had not packed enough of some items, and had over-packed with other non-essentials. Packing for an international vacation is like any other trip. You want the least amount of weight in the smallest suitcase, but you want to take it all! Packing simply requires a lot of common sense and a little ingenuity. I know many of my readers who are experienced travelers have tons of tips. Feel free to add these to comments below and help me improve — for my next trip!
Make a list. Check it twice. (Sorry.) Categorize your list first by items such as clothes, outerwear, shoes, toiletries, medicines, hats, documents, electronics, etc. Then rearrange your list for each bag or container: carry-on, checked bag (if necessary), personal item, pockets.
Layout your items on a flat surface. See how much you’re really going to pack in your suitcase before actually start loading it up. This will avoid unpacking and repacking. If your suitcase has been in the closet, storage unit or garage, check it for stowaway critters such as scorpions. I was stung while packing for a Mexico trip a couple of years ago, and I’ve read accounts that passengers have been stung after boarding a flight.
Consider each item before tossing it mindlessly in your luggage. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? What happens if I don’t take it? Can I buy it at my destination? For example, I probably don’t need a full-size shower gel or a large bottle of Tylenol. I can survive with a smaller amount for a week long trip. Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, goos, pastes, gels — all of these pile on the luggage weight. Consider packing basics such as comb, toothbrush and paste, floss, deodorant, shavers, moisturizer and a little bit of makeup. You can probably purchase the remaining sundries at your destination.
Make good use of your shoes. Use Oxfords, sneakers and boots as containers for socks, belts, phone chargers and other small or even breakable items. I usually wear my heaviest footwear — such as sneakers — to the airport, just because I never know when I’ll be spending most of the day on my feet, or running through the airport. Then I’ll pack a pair of dressy shoes, boots or sandals, depending on my destination. My other only footwear is a pair of flip-flops which I pack in the outer, zip compartment of my soft-sided, zippered suitcase. Along with one magazine, these add some stability to my aging, worn suitcase.
If you can, try to eliminate the checked bag and only use a carry-on bag and personal item. I prefer a soft-sided rolling duffel, but currently for most week or 10 day trips, I use a rectangle case measuring about 20 x 14 by 6 inches. It’s small and light enough for me to lift on to the security check conveyor and the plane’s overhead compartment. Most airlines restrict the carry-on size to 22 x 14 by 9. Many passengers really try to push the envelope with those “expandable” carry-on bags. You know who you are.
My personal item is either a larger “hobo” bag or a smaller backpack which will fit under the airline seat. Personal bag contents: Wallet with one credit card, passport, cell phone, Chromebook, camera, sunglasses, headphones, tissues, prescriptions, mints, water and snacks. If I will need to check a piece of luggage, and I have room in my personal item, I will consider packing a change of clothing.
Consider getting rid of the “purse” and packing a small cross-body bag for use at your destination. I pack away small purse in my carry-or my personal item. I bought a small camera backpack in which I would put all my valuables and personal items. It’s a CaseLogic DSLR pack I found on Amazon that not only carries all my gear in neat and compact accessory compartments and zippered pockets, but also fits nicely under the the airline seat. This backpack also fits my Chromebook very neatly. Okay, it may weigh a few pounds, especially when I add a bottle of water, extra lenses and snacks, but I’d much rather tuck a bit of weight underneath my seat and carry it on my back, than attempt to hoist a larger, heavier pack above my head to the overhead bin and strain my back and shoulder pulling it in tow. (Sigh, I guess I’m either too proud or stingy to use a SmarteCarte.)
Carry-on (or checked bag if absolutely necessary) contents: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, sweaters, jackets — and roll them up tightly — even those unmentionables. I’m not sure if this is something to brag about, but I can fit 10 pairs of rolled undies into a quart size Ziplock bag. Rolls of clothes can wrap around every curve and cubbyhole of your luggage. If you’re unsure about your destination’s weather, plan to dress in layers.
Pack apparel that can do double duty. For instance, maybe a nice performance workout tank can double as a tankini swimsuit top. Or maybe gym shorts can substitute as swim trunks.
My goal is to save money, and save my back — eliminate the excess: Less to pack, less to tote, less to lose, less to worry about on your vacation.
Who has packing tips and suggestions? I would love to hear some of yours!
My recent vacation to Cambridge, UK was my first trip to England and with it, my first taste of dining and drinking at a ‘real’ English pub. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere of the pubs, I also learned some lessons the hard way about pub etiquette and I wanted to pass them along to readers.
Find an empty table, booth or place at the bar and seat yourself. When I first walked in to the Anchor Pub in Cambridge, UK I immediately assumed the comfortable looking couch and coffee table just inside the entrance was the place to wait for a host or hostess to show us to our table. Wrong! There are no pub hosts or hostesses – patrons just find a place and seat themselves. And ‘seat’ could mean any one of several options — couch, chair, bar stool, bench, patio chair. The pub’s interior furnishings look like it could be part of someone’s private home, and not a “public house” — hence the shortened identification form: pub.
Order from the bar
Not only are there no hostesses to show you to your seat, there are no waiters to take your food order at your table in an English pub. Patrons pick up a menu at the bar or at the table, and after having made their choices, one, some or all will go to the bar and place the order with the bar staff. (Best not to have all of you go to the bar, or you might lose your table.) You will also order your drink — and if you’re drinking a beer, it will likely be one of three or four Greene King beers or a “guest beer.” Greene King is a popular English brewery which distributes its beers to several of Cambridge’s pubs for draft service. Most pubs also seem to carry a variety of global favorites such as Guiness, Amstel, Stella, Peroni or Foster’s. You may even see the odd tap for Blue Moon or Corona. Another popular English drink is Pimm’s Cup — a kind of refreshing, fruity alcoholic drink often mixed with lemonade or ginger ale and splashed with fruit. It’s good for a warm English day when temps rise above 15 Celsius (which is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit — insert smiley face here). I prefer the ales and I found a couple from the Greene King brewery which I could ‘rather fancy’ — the Abbot Ale and the Morland Old Speckled Hen.
Pay up front, tax included and no tipping
After you’ve placed your food and drink order, and before you’re ready to return to your table, you will first need to pay. Everything is paid in advance. Cash is preferred and sales taxes at retail establishments such as shops, pubs and restaurants are already built into prices. This makes it handy, so you will know exactly what you will be paying. This also means you’re less likely — unlike in the U.S. — to threaten refusal to pay because of poor service or food quality. Also, tipping at pubs is not expected, in fact you may get some funny looks. Or they may just brush you off as another ignorant American tourist. Also, courtesy and etiquette are very much appreciated, even at the pubs so make sure you mind your manners. It’s only ‘proper,’ of course.
Kitchen or bar staff will serve your food
So by now you’re enjoying your pint of ale and the pub ambiance. A few locals who are done with their day’s work shift are sitting in the next room may have a couple of rounds’ head start on you. A few of their ‘mates’ could start singing old pub songs. Okay, you’d probably not see this much happening in the U.S. — at least not in this decade, or outside of an East Coast or Midwestern big city. But this is a great scenario, because you realize it’s another reminder you’re really in England. After your bar or kitchen staff serves your meal and returns to ask if you’d like anything else, what he or she doesn’t mean: if you’d like additional food. I guess they’re asking if you might need need a steak knife, some salt or more napkins… something like that. I made the mistake of saying, “Oh yes — we’d like some dessert.” Oops! Remember: If you want to order more food, another beer or dessert, you’ll need to head back to the bar.
Pub hours are a bit different
Some pubs may be open from lunchtime through the dinner hour until about 11 p.m., but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be serving food during all that time. In fact, many pubs (if they are open for lunch) tend to close up the kitchen from around 2 p.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. then close the kitchen again around 8 or 9 p.m. (Speaking of time, it’s helpful to get used to thinking in 24-hour — or military — time.) If you arrive during a time when the kitchen is closed, or you reach the bar to place your order and the bartender suddenly announces, “the kitchen has closed,” you may be able to order bags of ‘crisps’ to soak up those beers or Pimms.
And If you enter a pub and it’s crowded, it’s not considered courteous to stand around, lingering for a table or place at the bar to open up. Many patrons who come to the pub are there to drink, watch their team and may occupy their spot for a long while — much the same way we do here in the US at our sports bars.
Pub food and prices
Most of the menu items include the traditional English pub favorites: fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak and ale pie and burgers. Chips are fries, of course and they typically are the larger cuts of fries — what we would normally call steak fries or ‘wedges.’ Try some jacket potatoes (like our stuffed or twice baked varieties) or a side of mushy peas which is… exactly that. Some pubs have upgraded menus with more eclectic, innovative selections. For example, at the The Eagle, my friend and I split the pan fried salmon with chive polenta cakes and buttered cavolo nero along with a roasted beetroot, goat’s cheese and walnut salad with mixed greens and balsamic dressing. Most meals will run about seven or eight pounds ($11) and pints are about three or four pounds ($5). By the way, a pint in the UK is 20 ounces. It’s possible to order a half pint. Sunday ‘roast’ in the UK means a traditional noontime pub meal, but I missed my chance to enjoy that. Next time…
No doggie bags allowed
So you can’t finish your plate, eh? Well, don’t embarrass yourself by asking for a ‘doggie bag.’ It’s just not done in England. It’s one thing to go and order food for ‘take away’ (take-out) but it’s entirely different if you can’t finish what you’ve ordered, in fact it’s largely frowned upon. I couldn’t finish a plate of chips and a large burger but I wanted to take the rest of my burger back to the flat. (Yes, as a matter of fact — It was THAT good!) I was informed it would be more acceptable to wrap it in a napkin and sneak it out in my purse rather than to ask for a box.
Most pubs are family friendly – especially in tourism areas
I had heard a few years ago that children accompanying parents in pubs was not acceptable or appropriate, and in many locations, that may be still true, especially later in the evening. However, at many of the Cambridge pubs we visited, I frequently saw signs at the entrances, “Children Welcome” or “Family Friendly.” And I witnessed many a family at the pubs for an early dinner — ‘er, i mean ‘supper’ — after a day of shopping in the markets of central Cambridge.
Find more info on the Web
Naturally, these above items are based on my own perceptions after visiting five pubs over nine days during my stay in Cambridge. Like LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Find out more about English pub dining and etiquette on the Internet. Here’s a great site I found after I returned and I wished I had sought it out before my trip to the UK: Cambridge Pubs. It’s a comprehensive listing, but I’m not sure how up-to-date it’s kept, so combine the information there with review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor or travel sites like Lonely Planet and Frommer’s before you make your pub tour of Cambridge.
Don’t forget to say “Cheers!”
“Cheers” can mean “thanks,” “goodbye,” “agree” or “cheers.” The Brits seem to say it often. However it’s meant, it’s almost always said with a smile.
The Music Instrument Museum is “number one” among Phoenix area museum attractions on Tripadvisor.com. In December I had the opportunity to find out why. It’s like a Disneyland for music lovers; one could easily spend the entire day here, and still wanting more. I suppose if you absolutely hate music, maybe one day is enough. It’s not merely a museum for old folk instruments; and it’s certainly not just all about music. It’s more about global cultures and all forms of expression, communication – the total human experience. During our recent visit, I immediately began making notes how my next visit could be enhanced. Here are some things to know before you go:
1. Go early. Naturally if you haven’t been to the MIM yet, you’ll just have to trust me: Time will pass very quickly. I’d recommend getting there soon after the 9 a.m. opening and be prepared to spend a good chunk of the day. We arrived shortly after 10 a.m. on a Monday morning and before we realized what was happening, we had already spent three hours and we were still in the first geographic exhibit room.
2. Visit on a weekday. One drawback about visiting the MIM when schools are in session is you may be competing with field trip tours for quality listening space. You may want to steer clear of the school groups as you move about the exhibits. However, on the day we visited, the loud school groups were gone by lunchtime and we virtually had the entire second floor to ourselves. I found this advantageous for taking photos (non-flash) of the exhibits or spending extra time listening to various recordings. If a large family or school group is concentrated on one exhibit, simply move to another then circle back later.
3. Consider bringing your own wireless headphones. I didn’t really have any problems with the headphones given to me at the counter, but I had wished I had a pair to better cancel out extraneous, external noise. Sometimes it is a bit hard to find the “hotspot” of the streaming music at particular exhibits, and several times I was picking up streams from other nearby exhibits. I thought it may be a better listening experience to have premium equipment. But of course, the experience is only as good as the recording, in most cases.
4. Have lunch in the cafeteria. This is a special treat in itself. Much of the menu comes from local farms and food sources. Don’t miss this! Plan to take a leisurely lunch break and enjoy farm fresh and deliciously prepared menu items. Even the beer and wine are local. Kick back and enjoy the bright and airy lunchroom. You will need a lengthy lunch break to give your eyes, ears and feet a well-deserved rest. Portions are fairly large: we split a sandwich, salad and dessert.
5. Plan your self-guided tour. Next time we’ll know this: map out your route around the rooms before embarking the exhibition expedition. Each of the geographic galleries has its own merit. Because we started chronologically through Africa, the Middle East and Asia, by the time we got to America, we were already tired and hungry. On our next visit, I think we’ll start in Europe and North America with popular, contemporary music, then work our way back through time.
6. Don’t miss the special galleries. No matter where you start your tour of MIM, don’t forget the first floor galleries, including a “hands-on” experience gallery where you can pound on drums and pluck harp strings; a rotating gallery featuring a famous musical artist’s life and work; and a special exhibition gallery for traveling exhibits.
7. Watch instruments being restored and preserved. In the conservation lab, visitors can watch through a window as technicians preserve, restore and repair instruments for display.
8. Check the concert calendar. Because we visited during the Christmas season, the calendar included holiday music. These evening and matinee performances are fee extra, but well worth consideration. For example, Grammy winning composer-songwriter Jimmy Webb is in the house this week.
9. Consider leaving the toddlers at Grandma’s house. Although there are several instruments children can try playing in the Experience Gallery, most exhibits would simply not appeal to children younger than elementary reading age. I think most toddlers would simply be bored by visiting MIM. I’d recommend bringing them along when they are old enough to appreciate the listening and learning about music.
10. Know at least one more visit is required. Even after six hours, we still didn’t see it all, but we acknowledged that with the traveling and rotating exhibits, some instruments being repaired, there was no possible way to see everything. Just knowing that the geographical galleries were still being filled and expanded prompted us to anticipate our next visit to the Music Instrument Museum. There’s so much happening here, you’ll want to sign up for its newsletter and announcements, or even consider becoming a donor or volunteer.
We’ve all been there. Here’s the scenario: You’ve just completed your hotel front check in and you’re on the way up the elevator to your room. You suddenly think, “I wish I had asked about _____________.” You make a mental note, thinking you’ll go back to the front desk later, but after you get settled and start your vacation, later never comes and that question you had falls to the least important thing in your memory.
I’ve been jotting down some of those common concerns and questions many of us have wanted to ask before, during or immediately after we check in, but the vacation excitement of ‘first night syndrome’ takes over. To seasoned business travelers, these issues may be automatic but to the typical family vacationer who travels a couple of times a year — not so much. So here are some common items to consider when you check in:
1. Ask about the room itself. What’s the view like from your window? Which direction does it face? What floor is this on? Am I near an elevator, ice or vending machines, housekeeping closet or stairwell? Does my room overlook the roof air conditioning system? Does the room look out to a back alley or parking garage? If you’re concerned about noise or views, obtain or ask to see a hotel property map or room layout before the front desk staff runs your key cards. Many clerks usually will provide a map once you’ve completed registration, but not always. If there’s any doubt, ask to see the room first before you make your decision. A website and mobile app called Room 77 allows users to see the views from popular hotels in select U.S. cities. Think of it as a sort of a Seat Guru for hotels.
2. Ask about the property’s activities. Are there any construction projects happening during your stay? Are all restaurants, shops, services open and operating? Are there any major events occurring the same time – such as conventions, large weddings, etc.
3. Find out about extra fees and local tax rates. Are there daily resort charges? You’ll want to ask about daily parking fees, Wi-Fi or Internet charges, phone call charges and convenience charges for items such as bottled water, snacks and newspapers. Are there early departure fees? (Here’s an interesting item about resort fees.)
4. Special requests usually are made at the time of your reservation. A day or two before my arrival date, I normally will call directly to the hotel property and confirm my reservation. At that time I will also verify they have received any special requests I have made. Often special requests made on a website booking or through a toll-free number tend to get ‘lost in the shuffle.’ Popular special requests include room upgrades, connecting rooms, bed types, smoking preference, ADA access, views, specific phase, wing, room or floor location, early check in or late checkout. (At most hotels, bed type and room access usually are standard room rate preferences. Also, an increasing number of hotel chains are now smoke-free.) Obviously, a good time to request an early check in is at the time of reservation, with a follow-up when you call ahead to confirm your reservation. But if you want to make a special request such as a late check out, and haven’t done so during your reservation, feel free to do it at check in. And it’s best not to overdo the special requests. If you make too many, they may not honor any of them.
5. Room discounts probably should have been a choice when you’ve made your reservation but in case you forgot, it can’t hurt to mention your eligibility for an automobile club, rewards points membership, travel credit card, professional affiliation or senior, government or military discount at check in.
6. Here’s some additional miscellaneous considerations:
Check out time
Wi-Fi passwords or computer access instructions
Special dining features (such as free breakfast buffet or continental breakfast), deals or discounts at gift shops or on entertainment (especially in Las Vegas)
Express check out procedures
Public transportation options such as buses, shuttles, taxis, rental cars
This list of hotel check in questions includes only what I have jotted down from my travels in the past couple of years, so I’m sure there are many other items to consider. Readers: I’d like to know your tips. What do you want to know about at a hotel check in?
So your vacation condo listing advises: “just bring swimsuit and toothbrush” but I’m sure you’ll probably want to bring a few more items. We’re getting ready for another beach vacation to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico so I thought a post about packing for a beach condo would be apropos. If you’ve made several trips to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and have stayed at the condo resorts, you’re already aware of these tips. But even a seasoned condo guest may benefit from our list:
1. Extra coffee filters
Call me a control freak, but I like to bring extra filters from home. The condo may provide one or two, but if you need more, it can be a hassle. Forget to buy them on your back from town, and you’ll find yourself fashioning a makeshift filter out of paper towels or napkins. That’s why I bring a few both standard cone and basket filter types for most 12-cup coffee makers. After all, you’re on vacation — you shouldn’t have to work for your morning coffee.
2. Extra kitchen tie-type garbage bags
The condo or timeshare may provide a few bags, or your resort may provide daily towel and ‘tidy’ service. Nevertheless, trash has a way of doubling in size at check out time. Yes, you always could try to find a housekeeper with spare bags or maybe call up the front desk to send some up. It’s easier to just stick a few extras in your bag – they can always be used for wet swim suits, towels or sandy sneakers.
3. Small bottles of dish and laundry detergent, and liquid hand soap
Chalk this under the “why make an extra trip to the store this when you could be sitting on the beach and it costs three times what it’s worth at the resort mini-mart” column. I know, housekeeping is supposed to restock this stuff, but I think it’s just easier to bring small amounts to have on hand.
4. Plastic cups for the pool
With your own plastic cups or sports bottles, you can bring your own drink down from the room. You don’t have to worry about hiding a can or bottle under a Kan Koozie. (You wouldn’t bring glass to the pool anyway.) At the end of your stay, you can use plastic cups with lids for transporting home the kids’ seashells.
5. Insulated tote back or soft cooler
Resort management heavily frowns upon bringing your 120-quart ice chest down to the pool, setting it up next to the swim-up bar and serving 100 of your friends. So keep it classy and exercise a little decorum. For this reason, we love our small, soft cooler that resembles a backpack or beach tote.
At one condo we rented, the owner provided a spotting scope. It was great for viewing the ocean sights! Binoculars come in handy for those long distance views over the Sea of Cortez, keeping an eye out for early morning dolphins while you enjoy your coffee on the balcony. Bring a pair to the beach to watch kids on the banana boat, sailboats on the horizon, or to see if that crazy guy hanging out of the ultralight is someone you know.
7. Favorite foods and beverages
Although it’s not necessarily true of all parts of Mexico: some American products are really hard to find in Rocky Point grocery stores. So we often bring our favorite brands for wine, dark chocolate, club soda, English muffins, craft beer, apples, tea and cheese. Just about everything else is available at the Super Ley.
8. Folding camp chairs
Here’s why you may want to bring a few extra chairs: 1) Beach sand can get really warm! It’s too hot to sit on a little towel or even one of those grass mats for very long! 2) Chaises under the beach palapas can get very crowded during summer months and 3) poolside chairs also will be in heavy demand.
You’re apt to find an online packing list for every type of getaway, business trip, family vacation or around-the-world tour. And no doubt, there’s a ton of information and websites about healthy traveling and handy remedies for the traveler. Rather than packing a little of this or that for each and every malady, you may find relief for many common travel ailments in your kitchen canister – tea.
On a recent airline flight, I was bothered by an eye infection and I tried treating it with eye drops without much success. My sister-in-law had suggested using a cooled, used tea bag, placed over the eye. So on my return trip, after enjoying a cup of Earl Grey, I placed the warm bag over my eye for several minutes. “This is really working!” I remembered, thinking how soothing it was. And drinking a cup of the tea seemed to improve my general malaise.
This had me thinking: there must be lots of other ways tea can benefit travelers, so I consulted local tea expert and restaurateur, Glynis Legrand. Glynis, who owns Urban Tea Loft in downtown Chandler, has been a longtime advocate of the health benefits of tea. Glynis agrees: tea is perfect for traveling, and in addition to being a tasty beverage, can be used to energize, relax, relieve congestion, refresh from heat, calm stress, alleviate inflammation and soothe sore muscles.
As a pick-me-up, Glynis recommends Yerba Mate (pronounced mah-tay), derived from leaves of a Brazilian rainforest plant. It has energizing qualities that are different than the caffeine in black tea or coffee.
“With Yerba Mate, there’s no caffeine crash,” Glynis explained, “rather you step down gradually from the energy lift from Yerba Mate.”
The feeling of alertness would be perfect for business travelers trying to work on a long flight, but would still like to relax once they reached their destination, she added. Black tea, with caffeine is also beneficial. It’s the more palatable and popular of the two teas, and blends well with many different flavors.
According to Glynis, a variety of herbal teas will help accomplish relaxation after a long flight or road trip. Chamomile is the most popular. And to counter anxiety of travel, such as delayed flights, fear of flying or other travel stressors; a cup of calming, warm hibiscus tea will work.
Traveling can be hard on digestion too. Rooibos or other red teas will not only aid digestion but also act as an antioxidant. Rooibos has no caffeine and may be mixed with milk for children with stomach upset, said Glynis. Or it could sipped as an after-dinner drink. Mixing Rooibos tea with water in a small spray bottle is an ideal way to refresh the skin and hair.
With their antioxidant properties, warm green teas will fend off respiratory infections such as colds — extremely helpful for air travelers. And green teas will relieve accompanying congestion, too. They also provide relief for painful joints and muscles resulting from heavy suitcase lifting, stand in long lines or sitting for long periods on trains, planes and automobiles. Steeping green tea bags in warm water creates a soothing foot soak, added Glynis.
After your long flight, train or car ride, you’ve finally reached your destination and checked into your room. Again, consider tea’s advantages; nothing works better to relax and calm than a long soak in a lavender tea bath. Just the aroma itself slows the nervous system, promotes relaxation and a good night’s sleep — all very valuable to the frequent traveler.
Some teas pack better than others. For example, Matcha tea, a Japanese tea used in ceremonies travels well because it comes in a powder form, which can be added to water, or even stirred into lemonade.
“Matcha tea is very high in antioxidants,” said Glynis, “it has six times as much as other green teas.” Glynis advised green or black teas should not be packed in clear plastic bags, because sunlight and UV rays will degrade the tea. Instead, travelers can stow tea in a opaque, airtight container. For brewing tea ‘on the go,’ Glynis suggests a portable tea infuser like the Tuffy Steeper, a collapsible, packable strainer.
Readers: I would love to get your input about healthy travel. What items do you pack to keep healthy and stay comfortable while traveling?