Going to Russia, you need a Visa

moscow

Due to the quick turnaround for my United States Passport Renewal ( two weeks!) I decided to find a place that I had never been and that was cheap. I also made sure it was be safe for a solo travel. Russia met all the requirements.

  1. Cheap  1 week, 2 hotels, all flights………………$1036 from Detroit
  2. No refugees. Just read a European paper and see the horror of the raping of women. It’s not just Cologne at New Years, women through most European countries are told to stay indoors and change their lives in order to not get attacked.
  3. Tourism is low in April in Russia, but the weather should be fine. Mid 40’s to 50’s. Perfect for layering.

What I did not know about my super cheap, yet exciting trip was that I needed a visa.

UGH!!!! More expense and time

This is what you need:

  1. Travel vouchers from your hotels. Email your hotel and they will send you a link. Put ALL of your hotels in the form and for around $6 you have your vouchers emailed to you.
  2. A Russian Visa  http://visa.kdmid.ru    This is the part that I didn’t know about and ended up costing $285. You need to fill out the forms, submit them electronically, then mail your passport, photo and other paperwork contained on the site to the proper Russian Consulate for your state. In order to get all of my paperwork done properly I did visit a friend who happens to be an immigration attorney. She advised me to send copies of my flights and hotels along with a copy of the paperwork that I submitted electronically.

I always worry when my passport is out of my possession, so I sent it via overnight and insured mail. I know that today it is in Washington DC and being processed. I did order a 3 year Russian Visa since it’s the same price of the 1 visit. Maybe I will love Russia and want to return.

 

Why It Could Be Impossible to Renew Your Passport Soon

Why It Could Be Impossible to Renew Your Passport Soon

Quick! Check your passport. Is it expiring anytime this year? If so, get thee to the nearest post office and mail off your renewal forms now. The State Department is anticipating a surge of requests–and subsequent delays–as millions of passports are up for renewal between this year and next.

Why the influx? Well in 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect. Under that new law, U.S. citizens were required to carry a passport when traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (aka everyone’s go-to spring break and honeymoon spots). As a result, 18 million passports were issued that year–and they’re all approaching expiration.

Cue backlog.

Renewals can take up to six weeks, so plan accordingly. Hey, at least the photo is finally in your control. Thanks to this nifty app, you can take as many selfies as you need before settling on the photo that you’ll carry around for the next ten years.

 

TSA To Stop Taking Driver’s Licenses from 9 U.S. States

UPDATE, Jan. 14: The TSA has responded to many questions about the changes, outlining answers to common questions on a new website. It says that until January 2018, if traveling by air, residents from ANY state are still able to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration.

In the fall, it was widely reported that people from four U.S. states may need a passport to fly domestically this year. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the list of U.S. locations not offering state driver’s licenses that comply with new federal regulations known as the Real ID Act.

The complete list now is:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Washington state
  • Puerto Rico
  • Guam
  • the U.S. Virgin Islands

Under the act, all licenses must be equipped with machine-readable technology, which typically comes in the form of a chip. The IDs being issued now are considered non-compliant.

Residents from these states would have to fly on another form of ID, most likely a U.S. passport or passport card. However, only about four of every 10 Americans have a passport, according to the State Department. Other acceptable forms of ID will include U.S. military ID, permanent residence cards or trusted traveler cards like NEXUS or Global Entry.

How To Prepare for a Flight

The deadline had been set for mid-January, but the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t set firm guidelines in place, it’s expected that travelers will have at least four months notice before the changes go into effect.

Click here for more detailed information about the Department of Homeland Security’s policies and updates.

Note: This information was accurate as of Jan. 4. Travelzoo will update our readers when there are updates to these new policies and new domestic air sales.

Photo by Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.comTravelZooAirport Lines

Game Changing Luggage

I am always on the search for the best possible luggage. I purchased what I thought was the best choice in 2015. I have an attic full of luggage and each piece is just another upgrade that I absolutely had to have.

I have recently discovered the G-Ro luggage. I have been studying it for months and have now made my the purchase. This is ingenious and will be so easy on cobblestones, uneven pavement and stairs. STAIRS EVERYWHERE IN EUROPE!!

It also can charge your phone, tablet and laptop. Oh yeah, right there on the top of the bag is a charging station. Seriously!

I am not paid for an endorsement of this luggage nor did I get it for free, I just think that it’s such an important part of future travel that I want to shout it from the rooftops.G-RO_header4G-Ro Luggage

I had bedbugs but you don’t have to

 

woman-in-green-scratching-throat

On one of my trips I had bedbugs. I didn’t know that I had them because I thought that it was some sort of super-mosquito that would bite me at night. I was an itchy, bumpy mess.

While traveling to another city I realized that it was bedbugs! I immediately called my hotel and they were mortified. I had been in a very exclusive property, I my clothes in a dresser and my luggage out of the bedroom, or my situation would have been worse. Also, since I am a light packer, I was constantly washing my lingerie and clothes often. I am sure that was a big help.

I never saw them,  I never checked for them when I got to the room, and it never dawned on me that they would be lurking. Below is an article from SmarterTravel.com laying out the details.

One Surefire Way to Spot Bedbugs in Your Hotel Room

Bedbugs are the ultimate travel nightmare, and you might not know you’ve brought them home with you until it’s too late. Spare yourself the mental and financial anguish of bedbugs by always doing this one thing as soon as you step into your hotel room.

It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in a low-budget hostel or the fanciest hotel in the world. Bedbugs are everywhere. As soon as you arrive in your room, drop your belongings in a safe place like the bathroom—where it’s hard for bedbugs to hide on tile surfaces. Avoid the luggage rack, where the bugs can stay after coming in on another traveler’s bag.
Next, inspect the bed. Start by pulling off all of the bedding until you get to the bare mattress. Use the flashlight app on your smartphone to get a better view as you check around the seams of all four corners. Be sure to check the box spring and headboard as well.

Now here’s the surefire way to spot them: You’re not only looking for the bugs themselves, but for signs that they’ve been there. Small, dark blood from their excrement is a dead giveaway (and super gross, too). Check all the furniture in the room, as well as behind any framed art on the walls, because bugs can lurk there, too.

If you find evidence of bugs, gather your belongings from the bathroom and ask the hotel staff for a new room—one that does not share a wall with the infested room. (Bedbugs can travel between rooms fairly easily.)

Make sure you do not bring the bedbugs home with you by immediately washing all of your clothing in hot water. You’ll need to vacuum out your suitcase as well. And to be extra safe, you should store your suitcase inside a large plastic bag to prevent any hearty bugs from invading your home.
Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

The Female Solo Traveler

travel alone

This graphic shows that traveling alone as a woman is more common than not. I love to travel alone and find that I remember my trips and experiences more than if I am with someone else. I also can rarely find a friend who can get time off at the same time that I like to travel.

I prefer November and the beginning of spring when I go to Europe. The costs are far less, the weather is usually in the 50-60s. and the tourists are no where to be found.

I do not travel to Europe in the summer. It’s a complete madhouse, but I do understand that if you have children or a job that only allows time off in the summer, it’s difficult to travel in the off-season.

 

Joyeux Noel from Europe

218_pe

 

This is the 2015 Christmas Tree from the Galleries Lafayette in Paris. Every year the shopping center puts up something fabulous and should not be missed. Also go to the rooftop for a great view of the City of Light. The decorations start going up in November, but if you want to see a European Christmas in all it’s glory, try to be there around Christmastime. Throughout Europe are Christmas Markets. They are usually in the main town square and there are small booths with unique gifts and food.

A couple of travel tips to keep in mind, the merchants at the Christmas Markets are usually cash only, so take plenty and be aware of shifty pick-pockets. Also plan accordingly for bringing your wonderful gifts home. Hotels, apartments, and airlines also take advantage of this magical time to raise their rates.

Walk around and enjoy the beautiful decorations and holiday spirit.

All Hail The Peanut M&M

M&Ms

This is a life saving ( or at least Tummy Saving) tip. Peanut M&Ms.

These are wondrous protein and chocolate self contained packets of deliciousness.

When you are stuck in the airport, on a tarmac, or just starving while you are wandering around, the peanut M&M is a perfect food.

I pack several small snack bags with me and so glad to have them when I am without food. Sometimes at night I am peckish before bed…………Peanut M&M. Stuck in an airport, snack on a couple and become human again.

I stick a pack in my purse and don’t panic when I can’t find any other food.

The best of all, give a friend their own pack as you sit on the plane and watch their eyes light up in delight.

There is a reason why the flight is so cheap.

SpiritPassengers on Spirit who think that they will actually fly home today.

Last week I tried to give my friend a great Christmas gift. I took her to Boston for the day so that we could see a famous museum and maybe see some sights. She had never been to Boston, whereas I know the town very well.

I accomplished all of this because I found an $80 round trip flight from Detroit to Boston. Great, fabulous, doable. I also rented a car, not cheap, unfortunately, but it gave us freedom in case we had time to venture out.

Let me warn you why this flight was so cheap. It was on SPIRIT AIRLINES. We flew out early in the morning, drove to Salem for some witchy fun, and then into town to see the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We then had a lovely meal and headed for the airport.

I did not check my email or I would have seen that my 9:30pm flight was postponed to 11:30. The gate crowd was light due to the change, so I went to the counter. I was able to find out that there was not a plane coming and that they would bring a special plane in the next day to take us back home. So many people missed their connections, they had babysitters at home……you know the drill, it was a mess.

Fortunately I know my passenger rights and was able to get a voucher for a hotel room and meals. They plane was supposed to come in at 2:14pm, so we would be ready.

The next day my friend and I took the train into town, saw another museum, and rushed back to the airport. When we got there, we were told that it would be late. I had heard that story before and finally got the confession that there would not be a plane.

I got on my phone, reserved a room at the same hotel, and booked myself a flight on another airline. SPIRIT broke their contract with me. I was going to fly home on another airline and they were going to pay. I managed a flight the next day and made it back home.

Extra points because I just survived 3 days in Boston without luggage. Always be prepared to wash your dedicates in the hotel.

I was prepared with my passenger rights. I wasn’t taking any excuses. There were people in line the previous night until 4:30am. When I left the second day, the line was still wrapped around the Spirit ticketing area.

Word of caution, check out the airline and their on-time rate. Don’t just take my word for it, here is a link for reviews. SPIRIT consumer reviews