I have always made lists. It’s the only way I can remember to do all the things I need to accomplish each day. Calendars are great for engagements, but daily lists are a necessity for me. I have pads all over the house so I can jot down my to-dos, and I often find old scraps of paper in pockets and purses, and have a little chuckle.
Now someone came up with the idea of bucket lists. There is even an online site called Bucketlist.org; all those things you want to do before you die. I find that a little maudlin, however, when you find yourself in your senior years, it is important to try new adventures because you never know what’s ahead.
For me this is travel. As the famous quote says: ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’ This is attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, although some scholars have disagreed. No matter who said it, I subscribe to it.
Charles and I have been taking trips since we met. We started with a trip to France, then bicycle trips to Vermont, and the Loire Valley for our honeymoon. Before we met, I had travelled to Europe and many places in the United States to perform in concerts and operas (see first blog), but that was different. Although I often stayed in one city for 6 weeks, I was working; rehearsing and singing, and had little time to explore. Now I do.
Riki and Charles travelling in France
If you have enough money, then it is really worth seeing the world. If you don’t have money for many trips, find one particular dream destination, and make it happen. You may not have another chance. I am spoiled, and get to travel in a classy way. This was not always the case, but there are methods to get as much bang for your buck as possible, and I will tell you about those that I know.
If a flight is over four hours I like to book business class and if I plan ahead I can find a fare that is called Business Class Lowest, or Business Class Non Flex, depending on the airline. Sometimes the price is even cheaper than full fare economy. Go figure. Many airlines are now offering Premium Economy, British Air, for example. More reasonable business type fares are offered on Air Transat in their Club Class. You get extraa legroom, food and drink, and a separate check in. Westjet offers a Plus fare where you spend a bit more and get prime seating. Jetblue does this as well, and also lets you board the aircraft first. Many airlines offer choice seating in Economy for an extra tariff. This is worth it especially on a flight over two hours. You can find good seating in exit rows and bulkheads. There is a website called Seatguru that basically lists all airlines and the pros and cons of the seats.
Not exactly business class; Riki in a Stearman
When I started planning my holidays 40 years ago, I bought guidebooks like Fodor and Frommer’s, (they can now be accessed online and are still informative), and many maps. I poured over them for hours and used a travel agent for my flights that mostly were booked on return fares, and you could book without paying until a specific date. I went by my own intuition about hotels and restaurants, and didn’t make many huge mistakes.
Nowadays, we have the Internet. Travel is so much easier with this fabulous tool. You can book your own flights. Most fares are booked one-way. Occasionally overseas flights are cheaper if booked on a return basis. If I am travelling to many destinations on one trip I will use a Multi-City fare, which has proven to be an incredible choice if you are using only one airline carrier. Look carefully at dates if you are travelling into a different time zone. I have made some costly errors here. I suggest that you do your choosing over a few days. Consider things carefully before you book/pay. Some airlines will let you book and then change it, no questions asked, within 24 hours. This is a way to grab a lower fare.
Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic, and a myriad of hotel groups like iPrefer, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Leading Hotels of the World, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Five Star Alliance, Secret Escapes, Tablet, (I am sure I have missed some others), are a great resource. For up to date travel info you can check out Travel +Leisure Newsletters. Many companies like Hotels.com, Magellan, Travelocity, Expedia, Trivago etc., will book your hotels and offer rates. The list is almost endless once you start searching. I have had some unpleasant experiences using Expedia, and found my self in a closet with no soap at one hotel, but that was a few years ago, and things may have changed. Finally, don’t forget Airbnb, or B&B’s in general and small Inns. These are particularly good for longer stays.
Inn at Fishers Loft, Newfoundland
I like to book my own hotels online, and will find some real benefits here; for example, if you are staying three nights you can often get the third free. High-end hotel chains offer this, in particular the Four Seasons and Rosewood, and many other major chains like Marriott and Hilton offer all kinds of packages. However, not all locations of the chain offer the same things. Check if Wi-Fi is extra, the cost of hotel parking, and if you can get breakfast included. You can phone a hotel and book directly and ask for deals, or for specific rooms. Using Skype is a good option if there is not a 1-800 number, or use a travel agent if all this seems daunting, even though I find it challenging, satisfying, and great fun.
In future blogs I am going to tell you about some fantastic trips that I have taken that just might whet your appetite for travel and exploration.
I am also going to talk about the challenges of travelling with a dog.