Friday, January 30, 2009

Roman Holiday

This week I reviewed William Wyler's classic film "Roman Holiday." I assumed I'd seen the film years ago because I recognized the still on the DVD cover showing Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on a motor scooter. To my surprise and delight, I hadn't seen the whole film. Eddie Albert is wonderful as Peck's confidante and photographer!

The film was shot on location, which was unusual at that time. It's amazing to see the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps with only a few tourists around! The sweet comedy shows how the magic of Rome can contribute to the memories of a lifetime. Thank goodness most of us who visit Rome have the luxury of enjoying the city for more than 24 hours! But we can trace the actors' steps and relish in the fact that fifty years later, the monuments shown in the film still earmark any trip to Italy's "eternal city."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cruise Great Britains Canals in a Rose Narrowboat

Not sure what to do with your summer vacation? Two years ago we had a great time renting a narrowboat and motoring along the Oxford Canal. While there are several companies that rent narrowboats, we were quite happy with the services from Rose Narrowboats. We rented the boat for four days. We didn't travel very far or very fast, but half the fun was listening to sheep, stopping at pubs, and generally kicking back. The hardest part was navigating the locks. Try to avoid passing through them in the rain!

Even though the narrowboats are small, they're quite efficient. Shelves are built into the walls, and the tiny bathrooms are perfectly serviceable. What we liked the most was that canal travel forces you to go at a relaxing pace. One of our favorite activities was watching all the different boats. They were gaily decorated with happy colors. Many had mascots, either live or painted. We did have one incident with intruders. When we came back from an excursion to Braunston, our boat had been invaded by ducks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Buy Those Tickets!

Since it's already mid-January, it's high time to buy summer air tickets if you haven't already. The biggest consideration might be your own flexibility. If your summer vacation dates are specific, you won't want to lose out on an extra day of vacation because you can't find a plane ticket for the day you really want.

I've also found that while it's convenient to shop around on Expedia or a similar service, it's best to actually buy the ticket directly from the airline. That way, if you do have trouble, you should be able to solve your problems a bit more smoothly.

After hemming and hawing I finally bought my summer ticket. Just as I did last year, I'm flying in and out of four airports: Phoenix to Rome, Zuerich to St. Louis. I considered flying to Chicago instead of St. Louis (my parents live in Springfield, which is closer to St. Louis), but it was actually more expensive to fly to Chicago instead, even though I have to fly through Chicago to get to St. Louis. Go figure.

By playing around I was able to get a little better price. For example, the 7am flight out of Zuerich was $25 cheaper than the 10:30 flight. The downside is that I'll be nervous about trying to catch such an early flight! Flying on Thursday was cheaper than flying on Saturday, and flights are usually less crowded during the week.

Don't delay! Get your summer tickets as soon as possible.

Friday, January 9, 2009

If You Haven't Made Summer Plans, Now Is the Time

Now that my Christmas vacation is almost over (I spent much of it playing with my niece!), it's high time to start thinking about summer. It seems that airline prices go up around the beginning of March and then climb steadily after that, so I always try to buy my ticket before Valentine's Day. With today's oil prices, though, it's hard to predict anything at all. Right now the best prices to Europe from Arizona are on British Airways. It's always a balance: knowing your plans well enough to buy the ticket, and buying the ticket before the prices go too high or the flight schedules become too inconvenient. (The BA change fee is now $200, so it's important to buy a ticket you can live with.)

Travel tip: It used to be quite expensive to travel any way but round trip. Last summer I actually used four airports for my transatlantic flights. I flew from Phoenix to Rome and then returned to St. Louis via Zuerich. The round-trip price from Phoenix to Rome was only $35 cheaper, but the "open-jaw" route saved me a long train ride and an extra flight.

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