With the focus on staycations and naycations, there’s little reporting on important nuts-and-bolts issues affecting thousands still on the road.  Expect to hear about these only when they start causing major snarls for casual tourists unaware of the changes.

  • Flying to the United States this year?  As of January 12, 2009, all travelers to the U.S. from Visa Waiver countries (that’s Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom [and in the near future, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland  and Romania too]) will be required to submit their travel plans online 72 hours prior to travel.  Failure to complete ESTA authorization before travel may result in denial of boarding or entry.  Read the details about this change in the post U.S. to Require Online Registration for Visa-Free Travelers.
  • After January 16, 2009, you’ve got to use Euros when traveling in Slovakia.  They’re the 16th EU country to switch to the currency since its introduction a decade ago.  Later this year, expect the Czech Republic to finalize a date for their switch (expected early 2010).
  • Travelers transiting or changing planes within Mexico will now be subject to customs inspection before continuing to their next flight.  International travelers to the United States will be familiar with the drill:  claim checked baggage and proceed through customs, then drop off baggage again before heading to the connecting gate.  Flights from the Caribbean, Central and South America have already begun the procedure; February 1 is the date for flights from Canada, Asia and Europe; flights from the U.S. have until September 1 to comply.  Be aware and avoid tight connections.  And don’t forget to lock that luggage!
  • Starting June 1, 2009, it will no longer be possible to travel by air, land or sea without a passport to destinations in the Western Hemisphere, such as Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.  Children under 16 may use a birth certificate in lieu of passport.  This requirement also applies to Americans attempting to reenter the United States.  Details here.

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shoestring-jan2009Happy New Year!  Back by popular demand, January’s calendar desktop is ready for download.  Reader Paul requested this snowy scene from my last Photo Friday post, and I’ll never let it be said that I don’t aim to please . . .  Preview of the image at left.

If you’re not sure how to change your desktop wallpaper, follow the easy instructions in the For Your Desktop tab.

Making three different versions of the calendar each month was tedious, so I’m giving it a go with just one.  If you find that the calendar is cut off or the image is otherwise wonky, please send me a message and let me know.  Include your screen dimensions and I’ll try to create and post a version that works for you. 

Have you been missing the calendar too?  Leave a comment below.

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Monday Business

December 29, 2008

in Contest, Photos, Travel, USA, Web Tips

Hope everyone had a nice holiday and has recovered from and repented for any gluttony they may have participated in. :) Just two reminders and a belated photo this Monday morning.

First, it’s your last chance to get your suggestions in for the running Reader Tips Contest for New York City and Washington DC. I’m still waiting to hear *your* best tips and tricks before I take off on Wednesday, so please add your comments on the linked post.

Second, today is the final day to make your donation to the Passports with Purpose fundraiser/raffle for Heifer International. If you’re interested in winning, chances were best on the prizes linked here or here. The drawings will be held tomorrow.

Finally, a tardy Photo Friday entry from the chilly wilds of northern Minnesota:

snowy berries

Though the cold keeps us indoors and the ice and snow off the slippery roads, there are some mornings too beautiful not to appreciate winter, right?

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The LDS has made it possible for travelers with a layover in Salt Lake City to visit their Temple complex downtown:  they offer a complimentary hourly shuttle service from the airport direct to Temple Square (and back!).

In the months of July and August, temple shuttles travel half-hourly from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with returns from 10:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; in the shoulder season, the same hours are traveled hourly.  November through March and Sundays year-round, the shuttle runs a limited 9 a.m.-2 p.m. schedule, with returns from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  There is no service on holidays, and travelers are permitted only hand luggage on the shuttle.  The visit requires at least a two-hour layover.

LDS shuttle mapsThe Temple is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.  It’s also possible to visit the Tabernacle, home of the world famous Tabernacle Choir, or, if the timing is right, to hear a choir concert — Thursday nights from 8-9:30 p.m. or Sundays from 9-11 a.m.  Admission to all is free.  Find out more information for your specific date by calling their visitors’ center directly: 1-800-537-9703.

Thanks to Travel Tips from a Frequent Traveler for the tip and the map image!

Related posts

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Thursday Photo Friday #16

December 18, 2008

in Travel

In May, I attended an open house at Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (the local public broadcasting service).  They’re located just a hop, skip and jump from the convention center in Berlin in a beautiful brick segmented semi-circular complex.  In a quiet side alley, away from the hustle and bustle of studio tours, concerts and other entertainment available that day, I discovered this section of preserved Russian graffiti.

RBB Open House -- Russian Grafitti

The inscription (my translation from German) tells the story:

House of Radio (HdR) under Soviet control, 1945-1956

On May 2, 1945, Major Popov and a company of Soviet army troops took control of the House of Radio (HdR).  As a radio technician who had himself worked here as an engineering intern from 1931 to 1933, Popov knew the building well.

Starting May 4, the first calls and news programs were broadcast under Soviet leadership; on May 13, 1945, they reinstituted a regular broadcasting schedule.

After the city was divided into four sectors, the English, French and Americans began broadcasting their own radio programs from their respective sectors. The Soviets secretly removed the technical equipment from the HdR and transported it to the Soviet sector (Nalepa St.).  In 1950 the HdR ceased broadcasting.

Until the building was returned to the Berlin Senate on July 5, 1956, the Soviets maintained a 10-15 man watch commando in the empty building in 14-day rotation.  It is assumed that during this time the cyrillic grafitti was scratched into the facade.

This writing was discovered during renovations to the facade in 1998-1999 and was retained and preserved to document the mutable history of the HdR.

It is not uncommon to find Russian graffiti in buildings of historical significance in Berlin, though most (like that most notably found in the Reichstag) was left during the siege in 1945.

If you’d like to learn more about broadcasting in Germany’s capital, you can take an online tour of the RBB facilities here (German only).

  • Follow fellow Photo Friday participants here.
  • Related posts:  Berlin
  • Related posts:  Germany

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‘Tis the season to make a numbered shopping list!  Thankfully, the no-budget traveler is easier to shop for than you’d imagine.  If you’re still looking for ideas, take a look at last year’s list, then follow me after the jump for another 20 items for under $20 (18 under $10) your favorite travel fiend.

[continue reading…]

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Still doing your holiday shopping, or just need to pick up a couple last-minute gifts? Avoid the crush at the mall by ordering those items online — and, if you time it right, enjoy the benefit of free shipping, too!

Free Shipping Day logoHundreds of online merchants are participating in Free Shipping Day on (and only on) Thursday, December 18 — the last day most will guarantee Christmas Eve delivery on regularly shipped items.  (Click on the link above to see a partial list of participants.) Not sure if your preferred merchants are participating and can’t tell from their website?  Contact their customer support and ask!

Just because the offer is timed for the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of it for your own personal ends — to pick up that guidebook you’ve been meaning to on Overstock, for example, or to order some hiking boots or comfortable sandals for next summer’s travel adventures from Zappos.

Thanks to Frugal Hacks for the tip!

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Vicky Cristina BarcelonaTuesday is discount day at one of the largest English-language (i.e. not dubbed) cinemas in Berlin.  On tap this week was Woody Allen’s newest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  Though a sadder movie than I expected, what disappointed me most was the portrayal of one of those three title characters — can you guess which one?

The film is set in — surprise! – Barcelona, and while every review you’ll read will extol the gorgeous sweeping views of the enchanting city, it felt more like they spent a few days shooting at spots around town before retreating to other locations.  Would that Spain had been more influential in the plot.  As written, the film and its romantic intrigues could have easily been set in any other number of romantic, European, Mediterranean locales. 

La Sagrada Familia ceiling

One of the first things Vicky and Cristina do upon arriving in town is a pilgrimage to La Sagrada Familia, the masterwork-in-progress of architect Antoni Gaudi.  Vicky is pursuing a master’s in Catalan culture (without, I might add, much ability to speak Spanish), inspired by the works of Gaudi and the dulcet strains of the Spanish guitar.  If you’re not familiar with his work, Gaudi’s style was influenced by art nouveau and his whimsical architecture, like La Sagrada Familia, detail on door (Pontius Pilate)that of Hundertwasser, is usually fiercely loved or hated.  For lovers, it is easy to take in a great variety of his works in just a short visit to the city.

Making La Sagrada Familia unique is that it remains under construction, over 12 decades since breaking ground and eight decades after Gaudi’s accidental death; work continues despite setbacks from a civil war, two world wars, and the near-complete destruction of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, sculptural detailmodels and plans.  Workers hope to finish by 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s passing, though with any construction project of this magnitude, it is unclear whether or not they will achieve this goal.  If you could ignore the modern equipment, it would be like stepping back a thousand years, when many cathedrals across Europe were built, each taking hundreds of years to complete.

The church, open at 9 a.m. daily, is located near the subway station bearing its name.  Admission fee:  10 euros adults, 8 euros students.  Included in the admission price is entrance to the church and two on-site museums.  The site has two excellent gift shops with a variety of reasonably-priced Gaudi gear and a wide selection of postcards.

La Sagrada Familia stained glass

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Focused readers (and those feed reading rather than bellying up to the trough) may have overlooked two new elements in the sidebar.  Let me draw your attention to them now.

Further down the page I’ve added a “Crossing my Radar” box in which I share links to some of the most interesting and useful posts I’ve spotted across the blogosphere.   If you like what I’ve got to say, I think you’ll like these too.  This is constantly updated as the articles, ahem, cross my radar, so keep checking back to find the latest and greatest in no-budget travel news.  It is even possible to add these as a feed piped directly to your prefered feed reader, if you swing that way.

For the month of December, I’ve added a link to the Passports with Purpose project.  If you haven’t read about it yet, here it is in a nutshell:

Passports with Purpose is a travelblogger-driven fundraiser for Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to eliminate hunger and poverty around the globe.  I know many of you are kind-hearted souls who have probably given or received a duck or sheep or two with this organization and are familiar with their programs. 

If you haven’t given Heifer money yet this year, or if you’re still unsure what to give some of those hard-to-shop-for ninnies on your list, let me suggest you donate by purchasing a raffle ticket from Passports with Purpose.  All proceeds go directly to Heifer, but you (or your chosen ninny) are also eligible to win some amazing (and expensive) prizes, donated by travelbloggers across the globe.   You can find the full list of prizes here – there’s plenty for travelers and non-travelers alike.

All tickets are sold through 29 December over the First Giving site.  For each $10 donation you make, you’ll be entered into the raffle for the prize you’ve selected.  Be sure to enter your email address and the prize you want to win in the comments field.  The organizers will pull winners and notify them via email on December 30th.

For even better chances at a teensy-tiny prize, I’m still looking for reader suggestions for NYC and DC.  I’m surprised that no one’s left a comment on New York yet (meaning your chances of winning currently stand at 100%).  So click through and add your hard-won experience today!

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Tickets are purchased but plans are still loose:  the no-budget traveler is tackling the American capitals of New York City and Washington DC at the start of the new year.  Lincoln MemorialWith just 2.5 days for each city, time and money are at a premium.  What budget secrets have you uncovered for museums, transportation, or restaurants?  What are your favorite free sights and experiences?  What is best avoided at all costs?

Share your voice of experience and earn a modest prize if I deem your advice the best or most useful. Entering is easy: simply leave a comment below!

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