Tips to Surviving the Travel Zoo

I am sure everyone has been seeing the travel chaos in the news (media) lately. I thought I would share some first hand experiences as well.

It was like all the animals waiting in line to climb in/enter the Ark. I always arrive a few hours early to the airport, but…this time it was a blessing (no pun intended). I am not sure how anyone could get to the gate in 1 hour.

Tip #1: Arrive early and plan for long lines.

If you did NOT check in online and need to see agent, the line to see an agent was 4 hours. If you checked in online and has performed a self-tagged bag drop with SkyPriority, the line was only hour.

Tip #2: Check in online and do not wait to see an agent at the airport.

Tip #3: Take carry-on only. But many people travelling for vacation or internationally will need to check bags. If you do need to check-in a bag, use the self-tag kiosks to print your tag and then go to the shorter drop-off lines.

The airline (Delta) club was not too bad, but it was loud. There were a LOT of families and crowds that had encountered cancelled and delayed flights which created a lot of chaos and people look for a place to stay.

The Tough Decision

Now, here the hard part of the story. Just 15 minutes before my flight was supposed to start boarding…it was delayed by 2.5 hours due to a “safety check” on some of the seats on the plane. They needed to fly up parts from Los Angeles and that was going to take a few hours. Uggghhh,,,back to the lounge.

But the greater challenge for me was the fact that I was making a connection in Europe. Even if the plane had a tail wind and flew almost 700 knots, I would land after the connecting flight is supposed to depart. So I called the Delta Diamond hotline and connected with someone in 5 minutes. Nice!

However, it turns out due to the entire world travelling and everyone swarming the airports, all possible routes and connecting flights to Tel Aviv from Europe…were completely full for 2 days. I could fly to Paris or Amsterdam and put myself on standby, but I could be stuck in airport limbo for days. and where would my luggage end of? (hold that thought for a moment)

I made the decision to back out of the flight and work on finding an alternate flight/route/option. Easy enough, right? Well, it took an hour to reach a gate agent (since everyone is looking for help with their delays and lost connections). I notified that I was cancelling and would not be taking the flight (Delta canceled and refunded the flight for me). She then entered the details in the system to have my bag removed from the plane and returned to me. Great!

Waiting for the Luggage

Then came the next pain point. Waiting for my luggage. I went to the baggage claim office, and that took 45 minutes because there were so many people with lost luggage. Simple answer: they said it will come back to the main carousal by the office after the plane left. OK – the plane had not left. I caught one of the agents and asked, how long does it normally take? “Patience…just be patient. Everyone is challenged”. I waited another hour. I found some other passengers that also had left the flight and were waited for their bags. Two hours have gone by…

Time to be creative. The next time the “oversized luggage” door opened when they deliver golf clubs, strollers, etc. Hijack the worker and ask for help. They were nice. They asked for the gate and flight. They said they will go look. Another 30 minutes pass.

The door opens again. Hijack the worker again. This is when I used technology to help the situation. I had actually purchased and insert a “bag tracker” in my suitcase that uses GPS, cell service, wireless, bluetooth, etc. It is not perfect and not very precise, but it does work. It showed that it had been moved from the gate area and appears to have been put on a luggage cart and moved. I had an estimated spot. I showed the luggage worker…and then ah hah, they had an idea.

10 minutes later, the bag arrived!

Tip #4: Have a bag tracker. Even CNN recommended the use of AirTags to help with this problem. I am experimenting with Tracki.

Attempt #2

Learning from all the above circumstances, I planned a different route, airline, no checked bags.

Tip #5: Use CLEAR and/or TSA pre-check. Despite all the lines, you are usually through the security lines in 5-10 minutes max.

Result? In less than 40 minutes after leaving the house, I was through security and in the lounge.

Yep, this is not the Delta lounge, it is United. It does not look modern or updated, but it is actually decent. The staff was pleasant, the snacks decent and I have to admit, it did not feel crowded.

The United Domestic Experience

I must admit, despite all the naysayers, the United flight was very efficient, good service and departed on time. What a relief! When you board, you get a small snack pack and it met the needs immediately. Hint: short flights to San Francisco do not have meals.

But they will serve a glass of wine and offer it from a full sized bottle and use real glasses!

The downside is the seat power does not have enough voltage or amps to charge a phone. It just barely reduces the draw. Win some, lose some!

Tip #6: Have a battery charger for your phone. and don’t pack these in your checked luggage. The airlines do not like that any more.

The real treat is the Polaris lounge in San Francisco international terminal. They have tons of space, dozens of gender neutral bathrooms and even full service dining! I only had a short connection, so I really only had a chance to do some quick work.

Tip #7: Make sure to get a snack. Despite the flights appearing to be on time, there will be delays and that means the meal you were counting on will be much later than you anticipated

When boarding the new 787 to Israel, they used their new check-in procedure where you must look into a camera and it compares your picture to your uploaded passport. At first it went very slow and then people eventually caught on.

About half the passengers claimed they needed to pre-board, so even after the boarding began, you had to wait another 30 minutes in line to get the opportunity to get on the plane.

The United International Service

The seats and comforts were awesome.

The food was delicious, but…the service was not that friendly. It was so rushed. The flight attendants would run up and ask what you wanted to drink. They did not even bring the cart by. If you say red wine, they will run away, come back and splash the wine into a glass and leave. When they bring the food, they ask if you would like more wine, they would again quickly splash the wine into the glass and I would have to spend 5 minutes finding napkins to clean up the spilled wine so it did not get on my clothes. I did not want any more wine because I was afraid of getting stained with it!

I have to admit the Delta service in business class is much more careful and customer focused. It may not be as fast and the food not as good, but the experience is superior.

Final tip: Don’t stress. Sometimes the views can be incredible.

Summary: the Star Alliance routes appear to be much more reliable than other choices when headed to distant locations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But it does not mean the service is better on board the flight.

Posted in International, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Herodium – Israel

I wanted to share one cool site I recently visited was a national park in Israel known as Herodium.

I do not think many people know about this site and history. It looks like it is just a hill along the highway in the West Bank (Israel).

It was a fortress built by King Herod to highlight some of his victories.

It has a classic western facing outdoor amphitheater. This was only found in 2010 and was previously hidden for hundreds of years.

and my understanding that site has undergone some massive recent restoration which makes it a hidden gem that many have not visited yet in Israel. The tomb of Herod was only found in 2007!

The best part is actually listening to the audio/visual presentation inside of the rooms and learning the entire history. The Romans had destroyed the fortress around 71 CE.

There is so much history here, I highly recommend checking it out. It almost feels like you are in Rome when you get into the central top of the fortress.

It can get very windy though in some times of the year, so be ready to lose a hat when you hike up to the top.

You can also check out my other entries from Israel:

I am now on my way back to Israel for a business trip. I am not sure if I will have new or cool sites to share, but stay tuned just in case. If you are travelling to Israel for any of the upcoming conferences and events like myself and you need a visa, check out iVisa which is my choice when planning and booking my travel!

Posted in International, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Post Pandemic In Person Conference

OK – we have returned! The last conference I attended was the RSA Conference in 2020 which many feared would be a super spreader event (and it was not). Check out my posting from 3 years ago and compare!

And now we return to our first in person conference since then. Here is my experience this year.

The chaos at the airports was quite loud in the news and media, and I have to admit, it was not too bad. Yes, it was very crowded and it was hard to easily walk between gates due to the volume of people, but it was manageable. With CLEAR and TSA precheck, I was through security in less than 10 minutes. If you do not have have them, well… Plan for at least 30 minutes.

The airline clubs are full, but not too crowded and uncomfortable. Unless you want into the American Express Centurion lounge and that has very long lines. I will stick with Delta.

It was nice to see the Marriot Marquis being fully open again with all services. It was nice to get a free corner room upgrade for being Titanium Elite status, but the windows do not close very well…and at night the city sounds get to be quite noisy and distracting. I guess that is why they have noise machines in the room despite being on the 27 floor…

It was cool to see that the Elite club lounge was open again which was a delight for snacks, morning breakfast, etc. Score!

Only about 20% of the people anywhere are wearing masks. The conference is very strict about showing that you are “safe” and are vaccinated to get to registration or get your badge. I found the crowd sizes and the available space to be much more comfortable than previous years. Still I was paranoid and wear my mask everywhere and even wore a N95 when inside despite the painful straps on the ears.

The weather was great. I am not missing the waves of rain that usually came down every day when this conference was held in February.

The hall is still being built out

The expo hall was huge and packed with all kinds of vendors again. The cybersecurity market is always hot, desperate and evolving.

I did not see as many senior industry people on the Expo floor as previous years. I believe many focused most of their time in private venues and rooms and less time in the public spaces.

But the enterprise market is hot and you can evidence of this when Google has a booth at the conference when they refused for 10+ years to do so.

Of course I went running every morning to work off the snack foods and “beverages” that go along with conferences. It was a little chilly, bit was nice to be at a conference when it is not dumping rain like the traditional February RSA Conference schedule.

It was nice to see how many additional security conference attendees are making this part of their traditional morning routine in San Francisco as well 🙂

It was a delight to be invited to speak at a smaller audience meeting at the Olympic Club which was fantastic with great classic decor, amazing appetizers and wine service to compliment the discussion.

What was the major highlight for me? No, I did not go to any of the big, loud or crowded parties this time. It is just still too risky with COVID and my additional travel coming up in less than two weeks. It was the opportunity to attend and network with some other industry leaders at the Michelin star quality Saison restaurant. What an experience – food and wine pairing was 5 star!

Flying out was a zoo for sure. Many more people were wearing masks in the airport, but once you were in the airport lounge or plane, no way. Having CLEAR and/or TSA pre-check helps a lot with the lines. It is manageable, but definitely have patience and extra time to ensure you are not pressed for time to make your flight.

Stay tuned to this channel, the next international security conference is coming soon!

Posted in COVID-19, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exploring Famous Borders

One of the fun elements of exploration in international destinations is the interesting sites and observations that can only be seen at the borders of various countries.

I always love adventuring and exploring!

One of the most recent, on a side trip on my afternoon off on a business trip was to explore the border between Israel and Jordan. It is a bit of a delicate traversal and navigation. It is not the well marked in many locations outside of some minor and loose barbed wire and sometimes some fences. But you do need to look closely…

Do you see the black dots? No, they are not rodent or mole holes…

They are land mines!

With that said, there ARE safer places than the above. You can visit the famous site Qasr al-Yahud which is next to the Jordan River that has a lot of historical references and biblical attraction. There are several monasteries at the site on the Israeli side.

Many tourists love to visit where Jesus was supposedly baptized and many like to perform the same ritual themselves, but looking at the water this spring, it did not look like a good idea.

It was interesting to observe the differences between the Jordanian and Israeli military guards/police to protect the borders and tourists. First, the Jordanian side.

The the Israeli side. It was the late afternoon on a Friday, so…

In any case, exploring the border of various countries is quite fun and adventurous, you may never know what you may run into! Here is some interesting observations from some other borders around the world:

Posted in International, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Self-Care and Personal Growth: Starting a New Chapter With Care

This week, my guest author Justin Bennett has returned and shared the latest posting as part of his Healthy Fit routine.

Enjoy!

Image via Flickr

The thing about major life changes is that we sometimes forget to stop and take some time for ourselves. This, however, is one of the most important times for self-care. As your new journey begins, incorporate these techniques into your life to inspire personal growth.

Travel

Traveling doesn’t just get you out of town, it gets your brain out of its usual groove. You’re allowing it to rest from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life and letting it explore new places and experiences. Though you may use your phone to help navigate and take photos, for the most part, you’ll be able to break away from your electronic devices and really see the world. Keep the focus on relaxation and escape. This is especially important when you’re going through a dramatic life change; it’s a chance to rest and recharge before diving right into your new adventure.

Look for opportunities to get pampered while you’re away. Even if you have a partner to share the daily workload with, it’s refreshing to have someone wait on you for a change. Spa treatments, special dinners, and easy transportation are all ways to keep your mind at ease during your vacation.

Make “you time” a priority every day

As noted by the Checkup by SingleCare, stress is on the rise in America. 75% of adults say they face symptoms like insomnia and headaches, and nearly half say stress has affected their behavior negatively. Even when starting a positive, exciting new adventure, stress is going to tag along. These are just a few reasons why “you time” is essential.

“You time” will look different for everyone. Maybe it’s taking time each day to curl up with your favorite book, or perhaps exercise helps you burn off both calories and stress. Journaling, calling a friend to catch up, watching your favorite TV show, and even napping are great ways to take time for yourself. If you’re looking to challenge your mind, taking online classes to complement your job is another great option. Going virtual leaves you time for work and family duties and lets your brain operate and study in a new way. Just be sure that any online school you look at is accredited and offers competitive tuition rates.

Design a relaxation space in your home

This is a great idea for anyone, especially if you’ve recently moved. This should be a space where you can go for peace and solitude. It might be the spot where you go to read, meditate, or simply just be. You can go there after a particularly hectic day at work to clear your head or use it as a place to plan your next step in your new journey.

Your relaxation space can be an entire room or simply in the corner of a room. The San Francisco Gate suggests decorating with soothing colors like light purple, blue, green, and beige. This goes for both the walls and the furniture. Clutter creates stress so keep it simple. Aim for natural light when possible.

When you go to your special relaxation space, make sure your family knows not to disturb you. Turn off your cell phone — leaving it in another room is a great idea — and allow yourself to decompress and focus on whatever you need to.

Relaxation techniques for work

Whether you’ve started a new career or need some more self-care at your current job, there are plenty of relaxation techniques you can use at work. These include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Ear massage

Take five minutes to tidy up your workspace (again, clutter = stress), and then take some deep, relaxing breaths. Some people enjoy massaging the pressure point between their thumb and index finger. Others may feel their endorphins rise by stretching their arms, neck, and back. Try different techniques and figure out what really brings you back to your center.

Whatever your new adventure is, the stress of change will come along with it. Consider these techniques to reduce that anxiety and find personal growth.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ella Valley – Israel

For those who love history, this posting may be one of interest who like to explore famous for subtle locations in various countries.

I had the opportunity to take a drive and explore the Ella Valley. Why is this so exciting and interesting? It looks boring! Let me tell a story…

First, I recommend exploring the Beit Shemesh area in the spring is very pretty due to all the brightly colored flowers that bloom and will quickly disappear when the summer heat arrives.

There is some famous biblical history here in the small mountains and foothills, but what is the one secret that many people do not know about this area?

There are a lot of hidden/secret bunkers where the Israeli military (IDF) stores their nuclear warheads.

Moving on…the most interesting piece of history is not the military installations, it is the landmark that this is the valley that David famously fought and defeated Goliath.

I recommend exploring not just the valley, but also the higher level landmarks and great wineries where you can take a break for not just wine, but great coffee/cappuccino! Ella Valley Vineyards is highly recommended.

Also at the very top is the Lone Oak Tree which is almost 700 years old!

It is a great place to check out the views, take a break, pick up a sandwich or use the clean bathrooms which are sometimes hard to find when travelling. I really likes the topographical relief map nearby that shows all the villages, locations and trails over the entire Negev area.

You can also check out my other entries from Israel:

Posted in Hiking, International, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Running Around the NSA

I thought I would write a fun little blog today since my flight back to Seattle was delayed.

Many people may not know, but you cannot actual visit and take pictures of the headquarters of the NSA in Maryland, but you can run around it and the business park surrounding all the specialized contract companies supporting the NSA!

It is a gorgeous area with great running sidewalks beautiful park areas.

But you must pay attention and not follow all biking trails unless you are authorized.

or attempt to enter a gate that is not marked.

One thing I never knew before is that the main road for the NSA is named “Sentinel”. How appropriate/ironic 😉

Now here is one for all the watch lovers out there. If you are going to visit the NSA, I do think you need to choose your watch carefully and wear one that matches the theme of the facility.

For the non-watch experts, here is a hint.

Posted in Running, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

No Restrictions Travel?

Right after my recent international trip with significant restrictions, vaccination checks, PCR tests, rapid COVID tests, documentation, forms and mandatory masks…

the world changed and no more restrictions in less than 2 weeks.

Photo by Anna Shvets

Is it worthwhile to wear masks at all? CNN had a good article on the subject and I decided I was going to still wear a mask to stay as safe as possible in the crowded airport, lines and during my flight.

Results?

  • Ride share driver pickup for early morning transit to airport. No mask.
  • Seattle airport: it appears that around 20% of the people wore a mask including 20% of TSA agents. I felt comfortable wearing a mask and not being called out as a weirdo.

The Delta Skymiles lounge at 4:30 AM? Almost nobody wearing a mask. But at the same time, there are almost no people awake and in the lounge, so who needs a mask? 😉

When I arrived in the boarding area, it appeared that only 10% of the people were wearing a mask or planning to wear a mask on the flight.

When boarded, an interesting statistic I quickly calculated that 65% of the people in first class and Delta Comfort wore masks and most people in Coach did not choose to wear a mask. Only ONE attendant or pilots wore masks.

I do not know if this counts, but I will share a different restriction. If you do not sit in the front of the cabin in the first few rows, you will have no chance at the warm breakfast option. But…I have to admit this “picnic” plate was quite tasty and not a letdown!

Comparing the Seattle airport and airplane mask wearing to the Atlanta airport and airplane mask wearing, I would estimate 50% more people in Atlanta wear masks on the airplane. Why the difference? I think it would take Einstein to answer that one.

Another confusing ironic state at the hotel in Maryland. Nobody in the hotel is wearing masks, but at the same time they are not offering housekeeping services due to the risk of infection. Explain that algorithm to me!

Posted in COVID-19, planning, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming a Digital Nomad: A Brief Guide To Finding Success on the Road

Toda, Jesse Clark returns based on popular demand as a guest author to help people explore being a potential digital nomad. 

Image via Pexels

For as long as there has been humankind, there have been nomads. While the basis of the nomadic lifestyle has remained the same over the millennia, what people do to survive has evolved to align with societal needs and expectations. Whereas once upon a time nomads were hunter-gatherers, today they are digital drifters. What does that mean, and how can you become one yourself? The David Cross Travel Blog presents the following guide that can help would-be digital nomads answer some important questions.

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

A digital nomad is a person who works remotely while traveling to foreign lands. These people work in coffee shops, public libraries, parks, co-working spaces, and anywhere else they can get an internet connection. Like nomads of yore relied on their intuition, hunting prowess, and weapons of choice, today’s nomads rely on digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

With the working world quickly becoming more remote — according to surveys, approximately 55% of workers said they work more hours from home than their actual offices — the digital nomad lifestyle is not out of your reach. There are just a few considerations to make beforehand.

Consider Reliable and Practical Job Opportunities

First and foremost, identify your skills and start researching remote gigs. While you can do anything from consulting to graphic design remotely, some of the most reliable and lucrative jobs you can do online are:

  • Copywriting
  • Social media manager
  • Website developer
  • Virtual assistant
  • Affiliate marketer
  • Video producer/editor
  • Language teacher
  • Translator

You could also consider becoming a tour guide, which can allow you to earn a living and learn more about each place you visit.

Make a Plan To Financially Support Yourself

Ideally, your freelance job will help you earn enough to support yourself wherever your travels take you. However, a large part of the appeal of a nomadic lifestyle is the ability to see and do new things, which means you cannot work all the time. You need to prepare in advance by saving for your trip and paying down any lingering debt. Identify ways to save money on the road, such as by traveling in an RV or camping along the way.

Find Tech-Friendly Rentals

Tech-friendly rentals help you do two things: remain connected to your work and communicate seamlessly with your clients and customers. Both these points are huge if you hope to maintain a lucrative business on the road. It’s hard to know for sure if a rental will offer the tech support you need to operate a business. Fortunately, sites exist to help you streamline the search from any mobile device.

Develop a System To Stay Organized

As a digital nomad, you have two main priorities: to fund your lifestyle and to see and explore as much of a location as possible. You may find it difficult to balance business with pleasure without a solid organizational system in place.

While there are dozens of tools to help you keep your life organized, consider creating a calendar planner. A digital monthly planner template offers a 30-day overview of the tasks you want or need to accomplish during that period. You can individualize many templates with videos, graphics, and sticky notes, any of which can make staying organized and meeting deadlines more fun.

If you think the nomadic lifestyle may be for you, give it a shot, even if just for a month. Before you head out, though, keep these tips in mind.

By Jesse Clark from Soulful-Travel.com.

Posted in International, planning, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Negev

The Negev is wonderful place to take a break from the daily hustle and bustle and explore a new world that is heavily populated with Bedouin villages.

It is sometimes surprising to see wild camels that are in the desert and less than an hour away from Tel Aviv.

It is going to have a GPS map in the desert where there are roads. And it was great to have Google Fi coverage for my Pixel 6 Pro which even gets a (free) data signal from a Jordan mobile carrier when far away from the populated Israeli areas.

I went exploring (4×4) along some of the long trails and routes the Bedouin would take hundreds of years ago and you will come across cisterns which they used to store water in the rainy season. They needed this cisterns as they travel across the dry desert and rocks which get extremely hot in the summer.

They are pretty popular historical hiking spots to stop and have a “picnic” or a break in the long treks.

This is where the Breitling Emergency watch can come in handy…you never want to get broken, lost or injured on a trail when there is often no people around you for days (sometimes).

In this case, we did run into some people having a family picnic. They invited us to sit down and enjoy some tea with them (traditional culture in Israel).

Here is the best part, can you see where the hiking trails in the mountains will lead you?

Yep, the Dead Sea. Amazing views with you are looking down from 2,000 high hiking trails. The visibility was a little limited due to the winds and sand that was blowing that day.

OK – one final surprise. This was a gem when trekking out of the high canyons. Look closely at the picture and the rock formation. What image/creature do you see in the rock formation?

I never heard of this one before, so maybe I should name it for the world? 😉

You can also check out my other entries from Israel:

Posted in Hiking, International, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment