Thursday, March 21, 2013

Travel Tips for Things That Most People Never Knew

There are many things that most people aren't aware of in the world of travel.  Some of them I've mentioned in this blog, but there is a lot of trivia out there that can be helpful.  I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true.  So, here's a list of things that you probably never thought of, didn't care about, or would never have thought could be for real in the world of travel.

1.  You can travel by container ship.  It's a fact.  Check the GoNomads site for listings.  You get to see a ship in operation, travel to exotic locations pretty much anywhere in the world that has a port, and  it's less expensive than a cruise ship.  They only have limited rooms on the ships, so there are no excess crowds, and you can spend time with the crew and really learn and experience a lot.  The crews live on board while they're at sea, so they have dining rooms, lounges, theaters, pools and exercise centers and everything.  It's a great way to go.

2.  There are more ice hotels in Canada and Finland than there are in Norway or Sweden.  That's right, if you're trying to get a room at the famous hotel in Sweden and can't, because of the waiting list, then try one of the others.  They seem to be cropping up all over the place.  There are ice hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska; Montreal and Quebec City, Canada; Romania; Austria; and even in the Alps.  I presume that there are even more of them starting up around the world, because they are so popular.  So, if you want to stay at an ice hotel, check out all of them before making any decisions.  They range from hotels to castles to igloos.  They have all kinds and in all kinds of locations.

3.  Have you ever wanted to visit the Kremlin?  It's one of the most iconic places in Moscow to visit, and you'd be crazy to miss it if you're there.  But, do you know what a Kremlin actually is?  It's a fortress in the Russian world, and they have them all over the country.  If you like, you could also visit the Kremlin in Novgorod or Kazan.  There are a few of them around, and the one in Moscow is simply the most famous.

4.  Did you know that the best way to go on the Trans Siberian Railway is as a local?  There are several tour companies that take advantage of the idea that we don't have a clue how to take a train by ourselves.  It is true that to visit Russia as a tourist these days, you need to contact a tour company, but if you go with a local Russian company, you'll get a cheaper trip, and riding a train doesn't take any special qualities if you speak the language.  It's all about the culture.  Sometimes it's better to take a trip like a local, because you are more a part of the trip.

5.  Did you  know where the largest canopy zip lines in the world are?  They are at Banning Mills, Georgia.  That's right, thrill seekers.  You don't have to go to New Zealand, or Africa to find the best, because they are in Georgia.  They have 6 levels to choose from and over 9 miles of zip lines.  This place is in Carroll County Georgia, and they have a lodge to stay in and a historic area to wander through as well.

6.  Did you know that learning to fly a seaplane and getting an SES rating and becoming a bonded sea plane pilot is way easier than getting a regular land plane pilot's license?  Sea Plane Adventures has been flying since 1947, and has a three day program where you can learn to fly one of these super fun planes.  You'll get ground school, flight time and an okay to fly from an examiner in as little as three days.  You can't beat the time or the price.  If you don't want to learn to fly, you can just take a flightseeing tour and enjoy the scenery.  There are other flight schools of this type around, but they are the best known.

7.  Did you know that on the top 10 scenic drives in America, Skyline Drive and the Pacific Coast Highway, two of the best known drives in the world, are 9 and 10?  Imagine that.  There are better drives.  Of course, the Hana Highway in Maui is number one.  I'll give them that, but check this out.
Number 2 is the Turquoise Trail out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Number 3 is the Columbia Gorge Road out of Portland Oregon.  Number 4 is the Pig Trail Byway out of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Do not always go for the best known.  My favorites on the list are the Columbia River Gorge Highway, and the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys.  Always do research before taking off on an adventure.  Make sure you're doing what you really want to do.

Queen of the Mississippi paddlewheel river boat cruises
8.  Did you know that you can still take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River?  Most of the older riverboats along the Mississippi have been permanently docked and turned into floating casinos to get around gambling laws in the heartland.  While the casinos are a lot of fun, if you want to travel back in time a little bit, you still can aboard the Queen of the Mississippi.  This is a once in a lifetime style trip that you won't ever forget.  There are several cruises to choose from so you can go to the ports and areas that you want.  It's a great little adventure.

9.  Did you know that in most countries you don't really need anything but a driver's license to rent a car?  Most car rental agencies will let you rent a car with your American Driver's License as long as you stay in the country and don't cross any borders.  The best thing that you can do though is get an international driving permit, just in case of problems with the locals.  They come in handy even if you aren't driving as a form of identification that is easily understood in most countries.  There are several agencies that can help you obtain an international driving permit, but the easiest way to get one is to take your valid driver's license to the closest AAA office and get one.

10.  My last bit of advice for this little piece is to learn before you go.  If you just land in a place or a country, and you have no contacts, no education on the place and people, and no idea how to speak the language, then you are an idiot.  Do you need to take a tour company to a lot of countries, yes.  But, if you want to travel like a local to Spain or France, or many other countries, then just try to be prepared.  Book your trip way in advance, learn about the area through an insight guide or video.  Contact people who live there on Facebook or some other social website, and make a contact.  Don't give them too much information, because it's hard to trust people these days, but learn what you can.  Get a program to learn at least a little of the language.  Look on the government sites to find out local laws, exchange rates, and other useful information.  Do as much as you can to get a feel for the place before you go.  And, by all means, be open to trying new things.  That's why we travel.


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