Book a Vacation- The Right way

If you book a vacation the wrong way, your trip could be a disaster. That’s why it’s crucial to learn from other people’s mistakes – so your vacation can be the beautiful, fun, relaxing respite you deserve.

The benefits of booking a vacation with a travel agency are small in comparison to what you risk. Booking with an agency means you give up more of your hard-earned cash than necessary. You pay the agent’s commissions, booking fees, and you often purchase something more expensive just because the agency has an agreement with the provider. With the power of the internet, you can find great deals and you don’t have to pay the middleman.

Destination Tip For Traveling Abroad – - The Sapphire Town Of Chefchaouen, Morocco

I am a firm believer that when people travel, they have this subconscious desire to find a genuine utopia. However, they always come up short because their idea of utopia is flawed, not the place. For some reason, utopia has become synonymous with the “cookie-cutter idea.” Thanks to many of the sci-fi films, we now know many of the inherent flaws in this dissatisfying place. However, I would like to propose a place, a town actually named Chefchaouen, that is a utopia for a much more genuine reason.

Chefchaouen is a town located 110 kilometers southeast of Tanger. The reason I went there is a bit of an interesting story. First, on the bus from the port of Tanger to the city, a man was trying to hustle me into joining him at this party “full of cocaine and girls” and stay at his house for the night, free of charge (I really wanted to believe him).

I knew he was lying, as with anything that is way to good to be true. When I got off the bus, two men came and shouted at the hustler “Don’t trust him! He rips off tourist!” When I heard this, I thought these guys were safe and could help me out (first mistake). Anyways, he went with me to grab food and ordered twenty plates of appetizers before I could even speak (he makes me pay for the bill in the end). At the end of the dinner, two of his friends show up and sit down at the same table.

HE then suddenly brings up the topic of hash and how much I want. I reply “Uh..what? I don’t want any drugs man I just got here” and am shocked. He acts equally surprised (fooling nobody) and said that he did me a favor and called up his friend (a dealer) for some hash.

He continues “The dealer is upset he had to come here. What are we going to do with this?” in the kind of tone suggesting that he doesn’t like problems and prefers my money. They all sit back down, leaning in, trying to surround me, and the fear of what these guys would do, as well as the foreign country got to me and I gave them the money, left the drugs, and booked it to a hostel. The next morning I was looking for a place to go and found Chefchaouen on the destination list of the bus station. I thought “Why not? I like being spontaneous.” Little did I know how much this random decision had in store.

At first, Chefchaouen seems pretty plain and routine. These outskirts consist of the white, three to four story apartment buildings that are common in Tetouan. Once you make the climb up the hill, the beauty starts unfolding before you. You come upon an open square decorated with a few murals. This square is the entry point to the real beauty of Chefchaouen. After passing the square, you immediately become distracted by the Moor castle standing on your right. The left side of the street is adorned with unique storefront each coming from a different time period. Despite the urge to stop, the real beauty is still further up ahead. Once you enter the old town of Chefchaouen, your senses become so satisfied there is no need for an imagination.

There are kids running around, laughing and playing tag, seamlessly dodging the other pedestrians walking. People from an older tradition slowly trudge up the hill wearing their old traditions. Vendors sell small bites at every couple turns. All the while, you are caught in this peaceful atmospheric calm created by the sapphire walls of Chefchaouen. The walk further upward brings you to the old town square. This area was my least favorite because it was the only bit of the town that had a touristic feel. However, this can easily be escaped with a climb up to the Mosque. The panorama up here is quality, with a dome of mountains to the back of you and the wonderful gem of Chefchaouen beneath your feet.

As you walk down from the Mosque, back down the blue alleys of Chefchaouen, you start to feel like you are floating downstream a river as the downhill sweeps up your feet in a calm pace. Your thoughts quiet, and you you just simply observe everything that is happening in this utopia of a river. Then by chance, you get washed up aside into a side alley, away from the current. The silence wakes you from the peaceful meditation you were in earlier. In these alleys you find mothers peeling nuts, kids passing the soccer ball, or a man smoking a lonely cigarette.

In one of these side alleys I met a painter with his own gallery who offered me to some sweet tea and a discussion. We got to talking about Chefchaouen. Turns out, they painted these walls blue because it makes the suns reflection off the building much easier. Some other locals I met prefer a much more interesting story behind these mysterious walls. In the end, my words do not do justice to the magnificence of this true gem of a town. I strongly urge you to travel there for yourself and experience the harmonic beauty that will silence your mind and light up your face in blissful awe.

10 Essential Travel Checklist Tips

1. Passport 

- Is your passport up to date? The last thing you need is to book your flight without checking your passport expiry date. Many countries expect you to have a minimum of at least 6 months on your passport before it expires otherwise you will be denied entry. Some won’t even accept a damaged passport. So avoid rushing frantically to the nearest passport office to pay the high fees to rush your passport through when you are busy enough packing and planning your journey! Traveling with less than 6 months validity on your passport could mean that you are turned away at your departure airport, or worse at immigration at your arrival airport. This does vary by country, so if you’ve already booked your flight check with your arrival country’s Embassy or immigration office to see their Passport validity rules.

2. Weather - Be prepared, the weather isn’t quite as predictable as it used to be so firstly get ready to accept that it may rain or be overcast for a few days of your holiday! Don’t panic, it doesn’t mean your holiday has to be ruined, there is still lots of things you can do if you are forced under cover for a few days. Research one or two things to do on your holiday other than propping up the bar to make the most of these days. Many tropical locations will have sudden afternoon downpours so it is helpful to have a mini umbrella in your suitcase, because as much fun as it is cooling off in the down pour, you may regret having to sit down in a restaurant sopping wet in transparent clothes! You can’t go wrong with an umbrella as a bit of shade either, great for shopping around the markets and even on the beach in the middle of the day. There’s no point risking sunstroke on your first day just because you haven’t seen the sun in a few months. Sun stroke isn’t just sun burn, it causes migraines, sickness, dizziness and fever so keep an eye out for these symptoms. Sadly many of us will also need our umbrella upon arrival home! It’s also smart to check out hurricane and monsoon seasons before you book your travel, these seasons don’t always have to stop your travel but can make an obvious difference especially in transportation and delays.

3. Jewellery - Watches or expensive items, do you really need to take them on holiday with you? Your travel insurance may well cover these items, but losing them or having them stolen isn’t just heart breaking it can be a real inconvenience if they do go missing. Not least because you will have to report them stolen in your holiday destination to claim on your travel insurance, wasting precious holiday time and sending your stress levels sky-high at a time when you should be relaxing. So girls, if you don’t really need to take the diamond earrings then don’t, take bits of costume jewellery with you, and it’s a great excuse to pick up some cheap and pretty items in the shops while you are away. And guys, that watch you love, is it going to survive being thrown in the pool by the lads, or draw unnecessary attention if you are in more questionable parts of town? I know we all find it hard to survive without our mobile phones abroad, both for communication, entertainment and time keeping so if you are taking it with you ensure that your travel insurance covers it, as these days many insurance policies don’t cover it and you will need to take out gadget insurance, this will cover your laptop and camera too.

4. Phrasebook - most of us take it for-granted that we will be able to get by in our own language in the majority of countries that we visit. But now that we are visiting more far-flung destinations and we don’t intend on taking a language course before we go, it can be really handy to have some basic phrases to hand. Talking loudly and slowly in our own language isn’t always going to cut it! Often just the simplest of phrases on hand to get a taxi or find a hotel can be really helpful and leave you feeling just slightly more in control when you are completely lost and it appears that no one has the slightest clue what you want! These days there are plenty of translation and phrasebook apps available for our smart phones, so even if you don’t look at it once, just downloading it before you go is a good idea. And if you are a fan of the traditional hard copy phrase book there’s no harm in noting down a few important phone numbers in the cover, such as the Embassy number, the emergency services number and even a number for a friend back home incase your phone goes missing as I don’t know about you but remembering phone numbers these days is not something that comes naturally!

5. Travel Vaccinations - Some places around the world may have increased risks of infections and disease that don’t exist in your own country, meaning that as a traveller you are at a higher risk of contracting them and vaccinations can protect you. Ideally you should be checking for necessary vaccinations around 6-8 weeks before you travel. This will give your doctor or pharmacy enough time to order them in if needs be and often it may be that your vaccination or medication needs to be taken several weeks before you go in order to work in time. This Travel Vaccines site has handy tips to protect your health when travelling as well as vaccine information.

6. Currency - Do you need to change up money before you go? Unless you are going somewhere particularly remote you can often get away with just drawing out cash when you get to your arrival destination for a small fee, this way you are not carrying around wads of cash on your travels. If you are taking your own currency with you then changing it at the airport whether at your departure airport or arrival airport is going to be more costly than at a bank or bureau de change. What you may find worthwhile is to change a small amount, enough to cover your taxi and food on arrival and change the rest later at your destination. If you are going somewhere far from a town such as a remote island, it is more difficult to get cash, and you may have to travel a long way to find the only cash point on the island! So this is where you will find carrying cash handy. Don’t forget if you’ve got left over coins on the way home, you won’t be able to change them when you get back, only notes. So make the most of them and spend them if you don’t want them hanging around in a drawer for the next 10 years, or be cheeky and see if you can swap them for a note at the airport.

7. Travel Essentials - Sunscreen and Mosquito Spray. Don’t go without them, as buying them when you get there can be really expensive as well as the fact that it may take you a few days once you are there to actually get around to buying them. Waking up on your second day unable to move because you’ve burnt your back snorkeling can put a real damper on your vacation! Likewise if we are not used to having to look out for mosquitoes, an evening at the bar on the beach or restaurant can result in 20 extremely itchy bites and unsightly bumps on that perfect beach body you’ve worked so hard for! Looks aside, we all know mosquitoes can carry some serious diseases, so if you are in a country in which mosquitoes carry more than a sharp bite, such as dengue fever, Malaria, Yellow Fever and West Nile Virus to name a few; then you’ll really need to cover up and protect yourself from mosquitoes as much as possible.

8. Mini Medical Kit - our travel checklist isn’t supposed to instill doom and fear into our travels! But being prepared will make your vacation just that much better, especially if you are taking quite an adventurous holiday where even a foot blister can ruin your skiing, or hiking and even your shopping trip! So just a little bag of a few essentials such as plasters/band aids, anti-bacterial wipes, diarrhea tablets, Paracetamol and the like will save you searching for a pharmacy and having to buy whole boxes when you only need one or two of the above.

9. Travel Insurance - for the sake of the price of hiring a beach sun-bed for the day, investing in at least the most basic travel insurance is a no-brainer. Even if we think we are not going far, or not going for long, if it means an unplanned trip to hospital is going to cost you your life savings it’s not worth it! Likewise dependent on what your Insurance actually covers (read it well as many don’t cover what they used to such as phones or missed flights ) you could be paying an awful lot more than the price of travel insurance if you do miss that flight, or your flight is cancelled meaning you miss your connection, your case is lost or your wallet stolen. You’ll have peace of mind and you can forget all about things going pear-shaped as you’ll be covered.

10. Get to the Airport Early - Gone are the days where we can swan into the airport 45 minutes before our flight knowing that we’ve checked in online already. As we all know security can take so much longer now, and pushing your way through those queues when you are running late or only a little time to spare is no easy feat! Furthermore with security being so strict, it can be a veritable changing room both before and after the metal detector scanners, with people taking off shoes, jackets and belts, taking laptops out of cases and forgotten liquids adding to the time taken to get through security. At one time, having checked in online meant that you could avoid queues and just go to the bag drop section and whisk yourself through security smugly ahead of all the other people who hadn’t bothered to check in online. Now all it seems that you are doing is saving the airlines paper, and standing in a long queue with all the other people in bag drop.

So there you have it, all the boring bits out of the way, and it didn’t take you long! Now all you have to do is choose where to go on holiday and enjoy your time away. Happy Travels!

The Skyway-From Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and Back

One of Walt Disney World’s original attractions, the Skyway was a 5-minute long cable-car style ride that ran between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, passing over the Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel tent, and the Grand Prix Raceway.

The ride was listed twice on park guide maps – it was listed as the Skyway to Tomorrowland from the Fantasyland terminal, and as the Skyway to Fantasyland from the Tomorrowland terminal. Guests boarded the Skyway from a loading area themed like a Swiss chalet in Fantasyland, and from an area west of Space Mountain in Tomorrowland.

The ride was open year round until dusk, and closed temporarily during rain storms or high winds. The one-way ride required a “D-Ticket” and took an almost 90-degree turn as it passed near the Grand Prix Raceway. On November 10, 1999, the Skyway closed for good, joining its Disneyland counterpart, which closed exactly five years earlier. The Skyway in Tokyo Disneyland closed in November, 1998.

So, why did it close? Well, despite rumors that it had closed for safety reasons after a guest fell from a ride car, the Skyway closed for more practical reasons. First, it was a very slow-loading and unprofitable attraction. Second, it was also extremely difficult to accommodate guests with disabilities, unless wheelchair-bound guests left their chair on the loading area and took a round-trip ride. However, reports that there was a death on the Skyway were in fact true, although it was not a guest who lost their life.

Contrary to popular myth about why the attraction was closed, it was not a Guest who was injured or killed while on the Skyway. Instead, in February of 1999, an outside contractor, who was allegedly not wearing any protective equipment or safety harness, was working in the loading area when he accidentally fell to his death.

For more trivia and fun facts about WDW, check out the Walt Disney World Trivia Book or Ask Lou, where the author answers your questions about Walt Disney World and posts weekly articles with more in depth history, secrets and stories!