(Flash-forward to December 27, 2020)- Today is the day! You are leaving for a much needed 7-day Caribbean cruise to destress and relax after the holidays.
You've done everything to get ready for this big day: you hire a sitter to take care of your dog, your bags and sunscreen are all packed, and travel documents are safely tucked in your carry-on bag. . . now it's time to head out the door to the airport.
As you get ready to go through the TSA check point, your mind wanders to you sitting on the beach with a drink in hand!
You hand the agent your boarding pass and driver's license and he says,
"Sorry, ma'am, but I can't let you through with this ID. Do you have another form of ID, like a passport?"
You look stunned, because you just handed him the only ID you have. As you tell him this, he just shakes his head and tells you again he's sorry, but you have to have a REAL ID or a current passport to get through the checkpoint, now.
You are getting very anxious (and a little mad) because you had no idea you had to have a special Real ID driver's license to fly in the United States. (Now, if you had booked that cruise with a travel agent, you would have known!!).
You don't know what to do!
You do not have a passport or passport card and it is too late to get a new ID from the DMV.
You gather up your belongings, retrieve your luggage, and head back home crying. While driving, you start thinking about how to get a refund for your cruise, but then realize-YOU DIDN'T BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE! Now, your dream vacation has turned into a nightmare!
What could you have done differently?
Use a travel agent!
This terrible scenario can be avoided if you are aware that on October 1, 2020, travelers have to have a REAL ID to travel within the United States. If you do not have a REAL ID, or in some states an enhanced driver's license, you will need a valid passport. All of these changes have come about through the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005. What does this mean?
"Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act and implementing regulations establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibit federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes, such as getting through the airport security checkpoint to board a plane."
What do you need to do to get ready?
First, check to see if you do not already have the REAL ID. Does your driver's license have a GOLD STAR (see PDF below for other identifying marks) in the upper right hand corner? If not, either go to your state's DMV website and see what documents you will need to bring in to acquire the REAL ID or give your local office a call. Not everyone will qualify for this new form of ID. If that is the case, and you do not have a current passport, you need to begin the process of getting yours.
I would not wait until the last minute to apply for a passport. As more and more travelers realize they will need a passport to travel, and submit their applications, it will take much longer to get your passport sent to you. It normally takes 6-8 weeks (sometimes sooner during off season travel dates), but with the expected influx of applications before October 1st, I would send in your application as soon as possible if you are unable to get a REAL ID driver's license.
If you need to apply or renew your passport, check out the the Passport Renew link under the TRAVEL RESOURCES button above.
So, today I saw an interesting video on Facebook about when is the best time to fly if you do not like flying through turbulence. Paul Williams, professor of Atmosphere Science in the department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, states that to avoid turbulence you should not take the first flight out in the morning or an afternoon flight.
He says that pilots rely on the flight ahead of them on a route to determine how much turbulence there is to avoid it. So, the first flight in the morning will not have that convenience...I guess, in my opinion, you are the "guinea pigs" for the day! That was me flying to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for my KHM Crystal Conference and Awards cruise. My flight was the first one out at 6:00 AM, and yes, the pilot had to turn back on the seat belt light for part of the flight when we hit some rough turbulence.
Mr. Williams also states that weather systems and clouds seem to peak during the afternoon because of the warmer air, and that causes some turbulence.
So, it seems that if you would like to avoid as much turbulence as possible, then my suggestion would be to fly from mid morning, or at least not the first flight on a route, to noon, and then again in the late afternoon. Of course, in my experience, flying later in the day does increase your chances of having a delay, but at least it might be smooth flying!
If you would like to watch the video with Paul Williams, click here.
As a travel consultant, I am always learning about new suppliers, promotions, and destinations to share with my clients. My host agency, KHM Travel Group, has an annual conference to help their agents learn about new topics in the travel industry, help us network with our suppliers, and give us some one-on-one time with their agency leaders. The conference ends with an awards ceremony to honor the top agents for their hard work throughout the 2017 year. This year, the KHM Crystal Conference was held on board Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. The conference began January 27th, with four wonderful days sailing the Caribbean to the port of calls of Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.
This was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean, (I have only cruised on Carnival up til now), so I was so excited to see what it was like to cruise on another cruise line. Since this was a working cruise, I didn't get a chance to explore all what the Independence of the Seas had to offer, but I was able to explore the ship between my training classes. Since I have only cruised on Carnival up until now, my cruise expectations have been set with the Carnival Miracle.
RCCL's Independence of the Seas belongs to their 15 Deck Freedom class and carries about 3600 passengers. The only time I ever felt "crowded" was when I walked through the Promenade after dinner time, 8:00-9:00 PM. Think of trying to maneuver to the front of the stage at a Bon Jovi concert! Another congested part of the ship was mid-morning on Deck 11 where the kid's water park and other pools were located. Some mornings it was difficult to find a table in the aft Windjammer Buffet area, especially if you didn't get there when they first opened at 7:00 AM. Other than the evening time on the Promenade and around the pool areas, you would never imagine that you were with 3600 other passengers.
One of the first things I noticed onboard the Independence was the ambiance of the ship. The atmosphere on the Independence has a more laid back feeling than what I remember when sailing on Carnival. If I didn't have my daily PLANNER to read each night, I wouldn't have known what was happening on the ship the next day! Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of activities to participate in or watch, you just needed to know ahead of time what time these activities took place and where to be. The only time I saw the cruise director on this cruise was when she walked out on stage before the 8:30 PM show and introduced the dancers and singers for that evening's show. Now, remember, I was on a working cruise, so I could have missed some announcements since I was in classes most of the morning, but I don't remember hearing the Cruise Director coming over the loudspeakers with any upcoming activities.
The Independence's Promenade area is AMAZING! This 4 deck high open area is one of the main gathering places for meeting other people. On Deck 5, you have all of the shops and some eateries from Sorrentos and Ben and Jerry's to Dog and Badger (an English Pub) and Vintage wine bar. While walking through the Promenade, look up and what do you see? Staterooms with a view! Decks 6-8 offer staterooms overlooking the Promenade. These rooms are a little larger than an inside stateroom and although it's not an ocean view, you do have an opportunity to open your window and listen to some of the nightly entertainment.
The Independence OTS has quite a bit to offer its guests for entertainment. If you are adventurous, how about the FlowRider or Rock climbing wall? A round of miniature golf? Ice skating? An evening show or karaoke? From comedy to singing, I'm sure you can find a great way to pass the night away!
As with sailing on any new cruise line, learning the layout of a ship can be quite challenging the first day or two. Navigating the Independence was quite easy! Once you learn where the main activities and areas are on a ship, (which deck the casino or main dining room is on) it was easy to get from your stateroom to where you needed to go.
One thing I love about Royal Caribbean is their Autism at Sea program. They are one of the only cruise lines to offer this program. Families can be confident in knowing they will find autism friendly products, amenities, and TV programs available. You can find more information on this on the ROYAL CARIBBEAN tab found under the CRUISE LINES tab.
So, I highly recommend Royal's Independence of the Seas for both first time and the more experienced cruisers.
Check out photos for this cruise on the PHOTOS tab!
Wildflowers blooming in Crested Butte
John and I, along with Jasper the dog, took a day trip to Crested Butte to see the wildflowers that had bloomed. What a wonderful experience! With all of the rain Colorado has had for the past month, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the flowers, especially the state flower, the Columbine. We began our 4 hour drive by stopping at Joanie's in Woodland Park, for a cup of coffee, and then made our way to Buena Vista once again to cross over the continential divide. When we drove over Cottonwood Pass this time, we couldn't believe how different the scenery had changed in just a month's time. In June the Pass was covered with snow, and people were getting in one last skiing adventure before the snow melted. Now all we could see was green grass and beautiful yellow flowers (check out current picture of the pass in the photo gallery.) As we drove down the western slope we were lucky enough to see a marmot! We stopped at a ranger station along the way and met a very nice volunteer. We chatted for a moment while we admired some Lupines (Bluebonnets) and then made our way past Taylor Park Reservoir. What a beautiful place for some camping and fishing. We stopped a little further down the road at a picnic area and had lunch. Across the street from us we had the pleasure of watching some people rock climb some magnificent cliffs. We were then once again on our way to Crested Butte. The weekend we decided to go to Crested Butte, the Wildflower Festival was going on, so we were in for an extra treat. John and I decided to do our wildflower observing first, so we drove through town and made our way up to Gothic, a small town north of town. We passed through Mt. Crested Butte, the ski resort area, and came upon a little "park" with some flowers and great views of the mountains, so we decided to stop and look around. The park area was set up for a wedding that day. What a beautiful place to have a wedding with the view of the mountains and the flowers in bloom! The drive up to Gothic was amazing. I love Aspen trees, especially their white bark, so, I was in heaven when we drove through a "tunnel" of Aspen. I told John that we were definitely going to make the trip back in the fall when the Aspen leaves turn golden yellow. We also saw some beautiful, blue Columbines along the side of the road. One of my favorite sights was a meadow of red, yellow, and blue wildflowers set against the mountains. We then made our way back to Crested Butte and parked the car to walk around. We headed for the main street, Elk Ave, where everyone was gathered. We decided to eat a late lunch at Brick Oven Pizza. No, we didn't have pizza, but some delicious hamburgers. We couldn't take Jasper into the dining area with us, even though it was outside, so we put a bar stool on the outside of the dining area next to a wrought iron fence, so I could sit with Jasper. We finished just in time because all of a sudden a downpour started which lasted for about 20 minutes. We headed for cover to wait out the storm. When the rain stopped, and after walking around some more, and stopping to get some famous Rocky Mountain Chocolate Fudge, we made it back to our car and headed up Kebler Road to Lake Irwin. What can I say, another beautiful lake in Colorado. Not only did we see some wild irises and a flowering fern, but we also saw a beaver dam! The sun was beginning to set, so we decided to head back home. When we reached Taylor Reservoir, the sun had set, and we took some awesome pictures of the reservoir and sky. What a great way to end a fantastic day! If you ever get a chance to see the wildflowers blooming in Crested Butte during the summertime, I would highly recommend it.
I love going out on our Sunday hikes with John and Jasper. Our latest adventure took us to Buena Vista exploring Cottonwood Pass and Ptarmigan Trail. We started our morning having a coffee at Joanie's Deli in Woodland Park before we started our journey up the mountain to Cottonwood Pass. On our way, while traveling Highway 24, we had magnificent views of the Collegiate Peaks, Mt. Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. We made the slow and winding ascent to the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass. The views were breathtaking. We could even see where Crested Butte was! After letting Jasper explore some, we began our drive back down the mountain and stopped at Ptarmigan Trail to have lunch. We decided not go too far on this 7 mile trail because this was Jasper's (our two-year-old Shih Tzu) first hike. I can't wait to go back and hike this trail again! We then made our way to Chalk Creek Canyon where Agnes Vaille Falls is located. Before going up this half mile trail, you can get a wonderful view of Mt. Princeton. Jasper loved playing in the running water. We then headed off on a gravel road towards an old, abandoned mining town called St. Elmo. I loved looking at the old, wooden buildings and wondering what it was like to have been there when it was a bustling gold mining town. We then headed back to Buena Vista where we stopped for supper at Jan's. If you like home style cooking, then this is the place to stop. We made it back home exhausted but looking forward to our next Sunday adventure.
I am an avid traveler wanting to see as much of this world as I possibly can.