East-West Global Traveler
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5 Tips for a Stress-Free Flight Experience

By December 20, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel

1. When in doubt, arrive early.

The last thing you want is to be running to catch your plane. Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need for connecting flights! With many large airports, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to navigate to your gate. I have written about other great ideas HERE.

2. Know the carry-on restrictions.

Save time when going through security by keeping in mind these important requirements for carry-ons:

  • Ensure all of your liquids or gels are in 3 ounce or smaller containers (more than 3oz permitted in checked baggage).
  • Place those containers in a 1 quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.
  • Place 1 bag only per traveler in the security bin for screening.

Also, be sure to check the maximum carry-on luggage sizes–they vary based on the specific airline!

3. Track your flight.

While no one wants to experience cancellations or delays, with weather conditions and unpredictable mechanical issues, it’s always a good idea to stay-up-to-date. Winter in the United States invariably will affect flights throughout the system, including those in the tropics. Just because you are vacationing near the equator, is no guarantee that you won’t have cancellations or delays.  Along with airline specific apps, I also recommend other apps and alerts to help you stay informed about your flight schedule.

4. Layers, layers, layers.

Since you don’t know how warm or cold it will be on the plane, be sure to wear layers so you can effortlessly adjust to changing temperatures. A scarf can double as a blanket or even a pillow. Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes that are easy to remove at security.

5. Have a travel ally.

Savvy travelers know they can book their own arrangements, but also know the value in having an ally in making those arrangements with a travel professional.  When flight schedules, lodging bookings, and other travel related issues arise, its very convenient to call your ally, and have them work some magic in your behalf. They can be fixing your cancelled flight, or getting your hotel room back on track, while you find lunch. Based on your airport and flight times, a travel professional can help you by making suggestions on necessary airport arrival times. Working with a travel professional before your flight, means they can be there for you during your travels if anything goes awry. That peace of mind can really help you have a stress-free flight experience.

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Travel Apps for Serious Travelers

By November 30, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Travel Apps

After installing, using, and deleting dozens of apps, a few have become “Legacy apps” that I’ve come to use while I travel. These aren’t booking apps, or itinerary apps, but apps I use while traveling and facilitating better travel.

I have not listed them in any particular order, but I would recommend that you install all of them, if  you are a serious travel.


Google Maps

This app is linked to the incredibly robust map data and satellite imagery with the famous online company – Google. The maps are highly detailed, major map information updates very quickly, and if you have data coverage, it will give you real-time traffic information. Since Google purchased Waze, even waze-user accidents are noted on Google Maps. Couple this with the excellent GPS directions, and transit details, Google Maps can get you anywhere. If you need to see specific details of a location, to check if your RV can fit etc, Streetview images and Satellite images are incredibly helpful. I love to use it with the wifi on a flight to see where we are flying and what is out the window.

So here are the specific reasons this app is outstanding:

  1. Real-time GPS Navigation.
  2. Real-time Traffic – with color coded severity.
  3. Real-time transit details for rail and bus services.
  4. Auto-rerouting in severe traffic.
  5. Easy search features for fuel, shopping and more.
  6. Quick restaurant search, with menus.
  7. Save places for future.
  8. Integrates with your Google Maps online.
  9. Streetview, Interior imagery, Building maps, and Satellite images
  10. Can be used offline!



Have you ever driven to a destination, and find your parking is metered, and you are out of quarters, or it requires you to walk half a block to secure paid parking? There is an app for that! Many municipalities are moving to app integration, where you can pay for parking from your phone. If you see the app symbol on the meter, payment is possible. The app is feature rich. Here is why I like it:

  1. Pay for parking from the app.
  2. Extend time from the app – no more walking back to add more money.
  3. App alerts you when time is about to expire.
  4. Locate available parking.
  5. Locate your car with the app GPS feature.
  6. More than one vehicle can be associated with the app.
  7. I have used it to pay for multiple spaces for an oversize vehicle.




There are times while traveling that people want to know where you are. Perhaps you have a teen driver and want to know where they are, and how fast they are driving. Coordinating the arrival of multiple people? this is the app for you. It does require gps and data. Here why I like it:

  1. Share your location in real-time, on a dynamic map.
  2. You can set the shared location to expire at 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  3. You can share with anyone – even if they don’t have the app.
  4. Runs in the background – Share and forget about it.
  5. Extend the time shared with a simple click.
  6. Use it to share your location with emergency personnel.
  7. Your location can be shared with anyone that has internet or data service.





This app has been incredibly useful to me both in travel and business applications. The app effectively turns your phone into a walkie talkie. No phone service is needed, as long as you have data, and will work over wifi as well as cell data. Speak to your friends and family from anywhere in the world.  Here is why I like it:

  1. Real-time Push to Talk communication.
  2. Missed messages are still available to review.
  3. If recipient loses data, they can still get messages later.
  4. one-one communication.
  5. Private or Public group communication via channels up to 1000 people.
  6. You can map the PTT features to specific buttons on your phone.
  7. Bluetooth compatible.
  8. Works over wifi and 2G, 3G, 4G + connections
  9. Great for use in theme parks, and on cruse ships.





With these 4 apps, you can be the master of logistics for your next big travel, or coordinating the reunion next year. I’m certain that you will find value with all of them, and once installed, they will be excellent resources for your travel.


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Traveling with Birds…

By November 28, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel Apps, Wild Places

Many years ago, I took a 400 level college course in ornithology. I figured it would be an easy extension of my love for birds, and the outdoors. While the course was not easy, and much to be learned about these fascThe Big Yearinating creatures, there was at least one major takeaway- maintaining an accurate “lifelist” or list of bird species sighted and identified.

Not too long ago, my family enjoyed watching “The Big Year.” Its an entertaining movie on the competition of three birdwatchers seeking the title of the most species sighted in one year. I wondered how many I could find in one year…

And with that, I decided to abandon my almost 300 strong list, to start anew. With all the traveling, and opportunities to be among the American fly-ways during migrations, it seemed like a achievable, exciting challenge. Could I get at least 150 in one year, without specifically going birdwatching? Could it be achieved as a casual traveling observer? Time to find out!

I did want to make some adaptations to this endeavor. No books, or paper field guides. No paper lists. If I discovered a species out of place, or rare, could I report it without making a call, or visiting social media? Tough expectations for birdwatchers!

I began doing some research on possible applications. Then testing and evaluation for a few months. Gradually, I narrowed my choices down to possibly the finest options available from my needs, and likely they will suit yours as well.


Far and away, the best app for bird identification within the United States was created by Cornell University. Any birder will appreciate the value of this product coming from Cornell, as it is highly regarded in avian research.

The app is called Merlin. Its a wizard of sorts, that is useful to bird watchers of any skill. While its database is limited to a total of about 400 species, that’s more than most folks will find in a lifetime, so its robust enough for many users.

Watch this video for details on Merlin:

Now the app is easy to use, has photos, range data, and even audio, but to take full value of its features, you should probably download and install at least one region – which will take almost 200mb of storage.

The app allows you to verify which bird you identified, and that information is geotagged and anonymously sent back to Cornell, to assist them in updating flight patterns, reductions in species localities, etc. But it doesn’t allow you to keep a list for your own records. Hopefully this will change in the future. You can install Merlin here.


Since Merlin does not yet have a record feature to allow personal sightings to be kept in a file, I had to do much more trials on software that would work for my needs.

Ultimately, I decided on an app, that has worked wonderfully. It allows me to log a wide range of information with each sighting, geotag, and I can even export my list, which could be used to save, or submit to other organizations such as Audubon, who are always looking for sighting information.

My choice is Bird Jar.

Bird jar can be used worldwide, as it maintains a list of 10,000+ birds, which you can narrow to regions you travel if you wish. It also allows  you to note the location, and details of a bird you cannot identify, so later, that information can be researched to make a positive ID.

You can download Bird Jar here.

Added value? Both apps are free!

I have been able to identify 120 species do date. All of them were confirmed through Merlin, and logged in Bird Jar. I hope that you will find value in these apps, as birdwatching can enhance travel to any destination. The species you will see just around a big city, or new state, will make your trip more enjoyable. And honestly – its more exciting than Pokemon Go.


Be sure to share your experience, or other information you might have on this topic. In the meantime, I have a few more birds to find!

Laughing Gull sighted in November 2016, Bimini, Bahamas

Laughing Gull sighted in November 2016, Bimini, Bahamas


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