Travel Tips

EXCHANGE RATES

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Traveling abroad is an exciting and wonderful experience. But the entire trip can become a chore if you are unsure on how your US dollars relate to another countries currency. It can be confusing when you think of all the different names for a foreign lands money.

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WHO RULES ON A ROAD TRIP?

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We all have been on a road trip with friends and family members. On some trips we are in control and we make the rules but on other trips it is a joint effort. On these highway journeys there could be some problems!

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GETTING THRU AN AIRPORT

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The last thing anyone would want is more stress while traveling. If you live in a major city dealing with traffic, parking and ticket agents is enough. Most people have a pre-existing negative thought about dealing with TSA in our airports. 

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OFF TO THE BEACH

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Going to the beach is one of my favorite things to do in this world. There is no doubt; I am a “water sign”. I love the water rolling up on the shore and then running back out to the ocean. I love the sand on my feet and between my toes.

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HOW TO GET A PASSPORT

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As I casually talked to people about my travels, I have come to learn that a large majority of the people I knew did not have a passport book. At first I thought, maybe it is just the people that I am talking too, I found out that was not the case. 

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Currency Exchange Rates

Currency Exchange Rates

Exchange Rates; Something you should know!

Traveling abroad is an exciting and wonderful experience. But the entire trip can become a chore if you are unsure on how your US dollars relate to another countries currency. It can be confusing when you think of all the different names for a foreign lands money.


Just try understanding that the Peso is the money of at least six different countries including Mexico, Dominican Republic and Colombia. But when you throw in the Costa Rican Colon or the Aruban Guilder things become so much more complicated. I was the guy in the Navy that knew the exchange rates of every country our ship visited.


There is a simple way of looking at this. It is not the numbers that are publicized for a product but more of the value of the service. People will see a large loaf of French bread at 800 colones in Costa Rica and consider that to be expensive but in reality the cost for that loaf of bread is only about $1.25 in US dollars. So don’t get hung up on the aspect of the exchange game, but pay more attention to the value of the service or product. If it seems worth it, buy it!


You will be able to watch your dollars if you understand what each US bill converts to and use that as a measuring guide.


For example:

  • $1.00 US = .91971 EURO
  • $5.00= 5985 EURO
  • $10.00=1971 EURO
  • $20.00=3942 EURO

In most countries you can exchange your US dollars right in the airport. Keep in mind that those same exchange centers will buy that extra currency back when you are departing or arriving into an international airport. The exchange center will NOT take coins, so try to spend all of your coins before you get to the airport.


Do your research before you get to that exciting foreign country and gain a comfort level in advance. You may not need to exchange your US dollars in some countries but understanding the exchange rate is still important because you will most likely receive your change in their currency. Check out a foreign-exchange rate converter to get a handle on your money and the currency of a country that you are visiting.

I use Exchange-Rate it is easy to understand and you can plug in different amounts of US dollars and several different foreign countries.


So get educated, learn about your money and enjoy your trip to a foreign place, the only thing left is book a trip!.

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Who Rules On A Road Trip?

Who Rules On A Road Trip?

We all have been on a road trip with friends and family members. On some trips we are in control and we make the rules but on other trips it is a joint effort. On these highway journeys there could be some problems!


If you are going on an excursion with people who you have never taken a road trip with then you need to establish some ground rules…in advance. But even with advance planning there could still can be some issues.


When you are on the road there are pilots and co pilots, of course the person sitting in the drivers seat is the pilot, they have total control over the vehicle. This means music selections and temperature in the car. You really want the pilot to be as comfortable as possible. Just think about it…they do have your life in their hands.


The co-pilot is there to make confront charges, like keeping the temperature right and playing the DJ and both of them are to suit the driver.


If the pilot is warm, the co-pilot must cool it off. Now the co-pilot may be cold, tough luck, put on a sweat or wrap up in a blanket. As far as directions go the co-pilot must be able to read the map and operate GPS system to keep the pilot on the correct course. The co-pilot cannot be a “passenger seat driver”, the pilot has the helm and that means the pilot steers the vehicle where their want too.


An issue that should be resolved long before the excursion begins is, how the driving time will be divided up. In my car, all valid license holders must put equal time behind the wheel. There is no speed limit requirement, you can go as slow as wish or try to get a speeding ticket if that is what you want to do. I don’t suggest throwing away money like that but that is on you! Of course if you are the only person in the car with license, then you are “A number one” in the car, your rules are supreme.


People fall asleep leaving the pilot solo and that can be a problem, the pilot may want to sleep as well. When I am the co-pilot I stay awake to keep an eye on the pilot. I’m not saying I don’t trust the pilot but “I don’t trust the pilot”!


Restroom breaks are another situation will also become a little tricky. I know you can’t control another person’s bladder, but sometimes you wish you could. That one person that does not have to go when you stop, but 10 miles down the road they have to go! And now it is an emergency! They read every sign that may have a restroom. Every gas station and every restaurant! You just want to squeeze the piss right out of them!


Depending on the length of the trip, snacks and food stops are going to be needed. Let me say group snack don’t work! Believe me, don’t try it, get individual snacks. Sometimes that bag of Cheetos never makes it back around to you, so don’t play…personal snacks. Now if you have to stop to buy more snacks and you just want to pay for your food only …I suggest you be last in line. Yep, wait your crew out. The Cheetos hoarded is hanging around to get some of your food or get you to pay for some of theirs. In other words beware of the moocher.


If this is a joint trip, split up the gas cost in advance. The best way is to split each gas stop up among the persons paying. If there are 2, 3 or 4, split the cost at the cashier. The whole “I’ll pay for this one and you get the next one”… sometimes someone gets the short end of the stick and that could be you. This happens because every tank will not cost the same due to how many gallons you purchase and the cost of a gallon of gas at that station. Do the math and split each tank, it is tedious but fair.


I’m just saying, set the rules at the very beginning and make those rules crystal clear before the engine is started. You may lose a riding partner or put that free loader in check, either way you may be better off!

November 19, 2015/Norman L. Payne/Up up up and Away!​

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Getting thru an Airport

GETTING THRU AN AIRPORT

Getting thru an airport with ease
The last thing anyone would want is more stress while traveling. If you live in a major city dealing with traffic, parking and ticket agents is enough. Most people have a pre-existing negative thought about dealing with the TSA in our airports. But it really does not have to be that way if you plan your transition thru the airport. Extra time and a positive mindset and you should be just fine.

One simple rule to go by when preparing to pass thru a security checkpoint is, “if you can do without it in the air, then do not try to get through security with it”.

This is what you may encounter going thru security at every airport:

  • You must take off your hat. So plan to show that bad hair day to all of the TSA staff and other travelers.
  • Jewelry must come off if it is made of heavy metals. Some necklaces, watches and bracelets may alarm when going thru a metal detector. Sometimes you float right thru but it is that one time that you can’t float that may tick you off a little.
  • All belts with metal buckles must come off. This may trigger a light pat down search. So just take that belt off before you have some strange hands rubbing on you.
  • All shoes even sandals, flip-flops, it doesn’t matter. Wear a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
  • All laptops, tablets must come out of your bag and be placed in a tote.
  • Empty everything out of your pockets, money, chewing gum, wallet, boarding pass, passports, everything! You can hold your valuables in your hand like money and passport but if it has metal in it put it in a tote or one of the bowls they provide.

Allow at least 45 minutes to clear security, this does not always take that long but to keep the stress factor down just arrive early. With a little preparation getting thru security will be a breeze.

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/July 16, 2015

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Off to the Beach

Off To The Beach

Going to the beach is one of my favorite things to do in this world. There is no doubt; I am a “water sign”. I love the water rolling up on the shore and then running back out to the ocean. I love the sand on my feet and between my toes. I also love snorkeling and exploring the life that lives under the water. I love just laying in the water, floating. But when you are going to a beach and your mode of transportation is an airplane you must pack a little differently than if you were taking a road trip to the beach. I have put together a list of some items that I must take in-flight in order to be confortable on the beach when I land. You may have some other items that you can’t live without but I think this list will get you started packing the right things.

  • Camera & charger/batteries: I like to capture sunsets, so if you do also, you must be ready for it.
  • Music player & speakers: music is a must when being lazy on the beach. Be sure to bring that iPod or for some people your phone will work just find.
  • Sandals/flip-flops: something you can kick off with ease. No shoestrings, this is a vacation. Laces are too much work!
  • Swimsuits: most beaches require you to have one. Now there are some that do not…that’s another blog!
  • Sunglasses: protect those eyes the sun and the bright white beaches can really put a strain on those pupils.
  • Hair accessories: Now I am bald, so it doesn’t apply to me, but ladies you know the deal.
  • Sunscreen: complexion doesn’t matter, the sun in the islands don’t play. Don’t ruin your vacation by getting burned.
  • Hat: at some point you may want to shade yourself from the mighty suns rays.
  • Sun Tan Lotion: If you are trying to get tan, a good lotion will help you get there.
  • Beach Towel: check with your hotel, most have towels, but be sure before you depart because it is a necessity on the beach.
  • Backpack/Beach bag: you need to have something to carry all your necessary belongings to your perfect spot on the beach.

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How to get a Passport

How to get a Passport

As I casually talked to people about my travels, I have come to learn that a large majority of the people I knew did not have a passport book. At first I thought, maybe it is just the people that I am talking too, I found out that was not the case. So I did a little research so I could understand this issue fully. What I discovered was that only 46% of the American population has a passport book. The percentage is a little higher when you include the less expensive “passport card”. The passport card is a start and I applaud anyone that has taken that step. But the passport card has its limits; you cannot travel to let us say Europe or Japan, you can only travel by sea or fly to countries that you could almost walk to. Meaning they have to be connected to the United States. There are a few Caribbean countries you can visit with the passport card, but why be limited? These amazing places like France, Italy or Dubai are only a dream without a passport book.

The time is now for the dream of traveling to a faraway exotic place to take shape. I am going to give you some information that will get you on your way to applying for and getting your passport book, after that it is up up up and away!

So this is how you apply for a New Passport

First Time Applicants

You Must Apply in Person If:

You are applying for your first U.S. passport; or if you are under age 16

Estimated Cost

To calculate the total cost of your new passport book you must select the method of processing you would like to use. I know that no one wants to hear this but the application cost is non-refundable and is retained by the Department of State whether or not the passport is issued. There are a few concerns that will get you denied; one is, if you are behind in child support payments.

  • Passport Book (Valid for all international travel) is $110

Why not get a Passport?

Processing Method

  • Standard Processing; No additional Fees Processed in 4-6 weeks
  • Expedited Processing; $60 Processed in 2-3 weeks door-to-door

I do not recommend the Expedited processing, save your money. The $60 you save will buy a lot of Rum punches in Jamaica. The standard processing will be fine and USPS Priority Mail will deliver it for all new passport book; and First Class Mail will return your documents you sent in.

Execution Fee

  • Acceptance Facility fee is $25.00.

The Acceptance Facility will most likely be your local Post Office. But not all Post Offices process passports so check them out before you make the drive. You can log on U.S. Department of State to get a list of post offices near you.

Collect Documents

When you apply, you must present an original document as evidence of U.S. citizenship (which will be returned to you after your application is processed), photo identification, and a photocopy of that identification. The Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency where you apply may be able to make the photocopy for you. If not, your local pharmacy store usually has the capabilities to take passport photos.

Why not get a Passport?

The application Information is very standard material and will not be very hard to acquire. Trust me this is painless.

Evidence of U.S. Citizenship; you must submit one of the following original documents as primary evidence of U.S. citizenship (photocopies are not acceptable):

  • Certified U.S. Birth Certificate (must meet all of the following requirements):
  • Issued by City, County, or State of birth
  • Lists bearer’s full name, date of birth, and place of birth
  • Lists parent(s) full names
  • Has date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth)
  • Has registrar’s signature
  • Has embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal of registrar
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship

Now you could have been born in the United States and cannot obtain a certified birth certificate that meets all the requirements listed above, you will need to submit a combination of documents as secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as:

  • Delayed birth certificate (filed after one year of birth)
  • Hospital records
  • Religious records (certificate of baptism, communion, blessing, family bible, etc.)
  • Early school records

If you were born outside the United States and have U.S. citizenship by birth to one or more U.S. citizen parents, or derive U.S. citizenship through the naturalization of parents, and do not have a Certificate of Citizenship, you will have to contact the U.S. Department of State directly.

Why not get a Passport?

Photo Identification

When you submit your application, you must present one of the following primary photo identification documents, and submit a photocopy of that document:

  • Valid Driver’s License (plus a second ID if issued in a different state than where you apply)
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Valid government ID (city, state, or federal)
  • Valid Military ID

If you do not have any of the above documents, you will need to submit a combination of secondary identification documents with a photo and signature, such as:

  • Expired Driver’s License
  • State-issued ID Card
  • Student ID Card
  • Employment ID Card

If your name or gender is different on your evidence of citizenship and/or ID, you may need to submit additional documentation and can get help with this by contacting the U.S. Department of State.

Why not get a Passport?

Take a Photo

Your Photograph Must Be:

  • In color
  • 2 x 2 inches in size
  • Printed on thin, photo-quality paper
  • Taken within the past 6 months, showing current appearance
  • Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
  • Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • Taken in normal street attire: Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily

Some Do’s and Do Not’s

  • Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hair line
  • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture
  • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)
  • A statement should accompany any articles worn for religious or medical reasons to that effect.

All of the outlined documents and photos are then submitted in person at your nearest Acceptance Facility.

Your passport application will not be processed until you follow the steps above and it is submitted in person at your nearest Acceptance Facility.

Do not sign the form until instructed to do so.

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