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June 25, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Disclaimer, Disclosure, and Privacy Policies

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Bucket Lists, Goals and Improvements

June 17, 2016 at 9:09 pm
Swimming with pigs in the Bahamas is Definitely on the Bucket List!

Swimming with pigs in the Bahamas is Definitely on the Bucket List!

 

It’s funny how returning from a big trip leaves me feeling energized and excited to plan for the future. I’d think I would feel tired, content and satisfied that I had ticked off of one of my travel goals  When I got back from Japan all I could think about was my next trip! I have spent the past couple of weeks defining some goals for the blog and my future in travel. I don’t want to come here and portray myself as an expert when I have so much to learn. This trip cost much more than I would like and there were some clear mistakes that I plan to remedy before the next go round. I want this to be the type of place where we can learn together to make our trips affordable, enriching and memorable. So let’s get to the planning.

 

Bucket List

I have a travel bucket list that I have been working on for the past two or three years. Some of the places I have dreamed of going my entire life and others have just recently come to my attention. I am hoping to check off at least a few of these top 10.

 

  1. Greece
  2. Croatia
  3. Argentina
  4. New Zealand
  5. Norway
  6. Scotland
  7. Vietnam
  8. The islands in Thailand
  9. Montreal Canada
  10. The Caribbean specifically Curaçao  and the Bahamas

Domestically I’d like to visit at least one or two of these:

 

  1. New York City
  2. Portland Oregon
  3. Santa Fe New Mexico
  4. Nashville Tennessee
  5. Boston

 

Transportation and Luggage

 

On  our trip to Europe in 2014 we visited Ireland, England, France and then back to Ireland. We spent hours shuttling to suburban airports, getting through security checks, and then repeating the process at our destination. We all agreed that we want to simplify the process and save time to actually spend in the countries we choose. My answer for that in our Japan trip was to purchase a Japan Rail pass and take trains from place to place. It felt like a great idea at the time but I spent a lot of the trip cursing and wrestling my luggage. It turns out the train stations can be just as difficult navigate as airports. They just present different obstacles. Many had huge flights of steps which made my rolling bag a challenge to maneuver. I also had a lot of stress. In spite of the first class reservations, I was continually checking arrangements and making sure we were where we needed to be. Over the next couple of months I plan to work out solutions to these problems. I’m going to look into different styles of luggage that might be helpful and devise a plan for traveling from place to place that is less stressful.

 

The Affordability Factor

 

Yikes! When I look at what I spent for our trip to Japan I realize that we have progressively been increasing our expenditures over each vacation. I need to stop this and get my costs in hand. While this is not a blog about luxury or budget travel, in order to be able to continue the good times, I need to reduce costs. I plan to look at some of the different ways that other travel bloggers recommend and see if they are actually doable.

 

I’m going to investigate frequent flyer miles and rewards programs and see if I can work the system to save us on transportation costs. I’m also going to look into housesitting as an alternative to hotels and Airbnb’s. I think it will be a fun experiment to see if these frequently recommended travel hacks work for the average person. We’ve all read about the travel experts who have literally millions of frequent flyer miles and spend $10-$20 a day when they reach their location. I’m excited to look into each of these area in depth and share what my findings. Next vacation we’ll implement these plans. I hope you will stick around and see how we do!

 

Is it Safe to Swim in Our Vacation Rental Pool or Spa?

June 11, 2016 at 7:02 pm


On my last couple of trips, I discovered the joy of staying in a vacation rental house or apartment. I love shopping at the local markets and cooking unique breakfasts while we get a lazy start to our day. Nothing beats feeling at home in a new neighborhood and getting a private glimpse of how the local residents live. Many of these rentals come with amazing amenities, including swimming pools and spas. Hot tubs at ski chalets in Mammoth and private pools in Costa Rica offer great opportunities to relax and keep grandchildren entertained for hours. However, I am reading about more and more cases of outbreaks of illnesses attributed to unsanitary pools and spas. There is nothing worse than planning and saving for months to take that fabulous vacation you’ve  dreamed of only to come down with a mystery illness that derails the whole trip. Public pools are inspected by local health departments but how can we tell if a vacation rental pool is safe and clean? Here are a few tips to help you decide whether or not to swim.

Ask the owner or manager of the property how often the pool or spa is serviced and if it is done by a certified professional. Swimming pool water should be tested at least once a week to determine if it has the proper chemical balance and level of sanitation. Spas and hot tubs should be serviced between each set of guests. If the guests staying before you had a communicable illness and the spa wasn’t properly sanitized there is a strong possibility of transmission. Pool professionals take rigorous courses and must pass a comprehensive exam to be certified.

Carefully observe the pool before you jump in. Is the water completely clear? Can you easily see the bottom? Is the water line clean or is there a ring of scale or greasy buildup? Are there any unpleasant smells? A properly sanitized pool will not smell of chlorine. If you detect a strong scent of chlorine it is most likely chloramines which are present when ammonia from sweat and urine hasn’t been eliminated. Observe the drains and check they are covered to prevent entrapment. Is there a ground fault circuit interrupter to switch off the electrical current in the event of a fault when current is flowing through water?

Lastly, it may be wise to purchase some pool or spa test strips to tuck away in your suitcase. They will provide you with a simple measure of the sanitizer in the water. In this case chlorine is our friend. The CDC recommends chlorine to kill bacteria and viruses in public swimming pools.

By taking these simple steps, you can insure your family is swimming in safe, sanitized water.

 

 

A Comfy Seat  is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

 

A Guide to 5 Santa Barbara Beaches

September 20, 2015 at 11:13 pm


madewithOver

I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for many years and never get tired staycationing in this beautiful California coastal community. The Spanish architecture, temperate climate, and fabulous surrounding wineries, make this an ideal location for a fun, relaxing vacation. As a child, I remember swimming in the ocean on my Christmas vacation. I can’t imagine doing that now! Our water is quite cool compared to other more tropical destinations.  Santa Barbara has been dubbed the “American Riviera” and our beaches often make the top 10 lists of most renowned in the world. Here are a few of my favorites, along with why I love them.

East Beach

East Beach Santa Barbara

1. East Beach: This is the number one beach associated with Santa Barbara. East beach serves as training ground for many world-class and Olympic Beach volleyball players including Karch Kirali and Todd Rogers. A long stretch of light golden fluffy sand makes this the ideal spot for building sandcastle’s, basking the sun, and playing in the cool, refreshing sea. There is some available street parking and pay by the hour spots but using the Waterfront Trolley is the best way to get from a downtown hotel to East Beach. The East Beach Grill offers light meals and drinks and the Cabrillo Bathhouse rents beach toys and equipment. If you can only see one beach in Santa Barbara don’t miss this beach.

2. West Beach: Located West of the pier, this beach is a good choice for swimmers since it is protected by the harbor. It has fewer amenities but offer a wide, sandy stretch of beach that is a good choice for families with children. It’s fun to take a break and grab an ice cream on the pier when the afternoon gets hot. The Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club practices here from 5:30 to sunset on weekdays. Watch for the “sandcastle man” who creates works of art near the entry to the wharf and snap a picture in front of the dolphin statue.

3. Arroyo Burro a.k.a. Hendry’s beach: Many locals think of this as their favorite beach. In spite of being renamed Arroyo Burro years ago, we tend to call it by its original name, Hendry’s beach. We’re just stubborn this way. This is the beach for dog lovers! You will see almost every breed you can think of happily playing in the surf, chasing balls and making friends One of the best local restaurants, The Boathouse, serves up delicious meals and cocktails literally steps from the beach. The parking is free but in summer and on holidays it can be challenging to find a spot in the lot. Many choose to park on Alan Road the nearest small residential street and walk to the beach. This is a good spot to hunt sea glass and watch for Dolphins.

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Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara

4. Butterfly Beach: This beach is located across from the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel and is the place to see the luxury Santa Barbara has become known for. It’s not unusual to see a stream of classic cars heading to dinner at the Bella Vista Restaurant. The beautiful beach is somewhat narrow and accessed by a flight of stairs. Again, parking can be a challenge but is free on the street. There are no concessions so pack a picnic. This is a great place to view the sunset.

5. Leadbetter Beach: This is a great beach for surfing, paddle boarding and kite boarding. Many local surfers got their start at Leadbetter. Even if you don’t surf you will enjoy watching the crazy tricks the kite boarders pull off. There are very limited free parking spots. Again if you’re able to take the trolley from your hotel this is the best means of access. The Shoreline Café is a good choice for a light lunch or a glass of wine at happy hour. It’s located near Santa Barbara City College so many students hang out here between classes. For fun pick up some supplies at the grocery store and arrive early to snag a barbecue and picnic table.

East, West and Leadbetter Beaches are close to lower State Street where you will find rentals for surrey bikes, beach toys and boards. Natural oil seepage occurs in the Santa Barbara Channel so be prepared for tar on your feet. It’s easily removed with baby oil and most hotels and vacation rentals will have a removal kit available for you. Most importantly, be prepared to spend an entire day enjoying these beaches.

 

5 Tips for Your First Trip to Europe

September 11, 2015 at 5:28 pm


5 Tips for Your First Trip to Europe

On my first trip to Europe in 1980 I only visited London but made memories that will last a lifetime. I won’t lie, though, I had a bit of a rocky start. I got off the train from Gatwick Airport at Victoria Station and nervously hailed a cab. I read out my hotel address and the cab driver drove me the two blocks to my hotel! Clearly, I had a thing or two to learn. I settled in and was thrilled to visit the classic museums, hang out in the parks and shop in the iconic London department stores. I learned a trip like that can be a great introduction to travel abroad. You don’t have to have a crazy, adventure experience to make wonderful memories. While I am by no means an expert, in the last couple of years I have learned more about traveling through Europe and how to make it a comfortable AND fabulous experience. These are my quick five tips for a first European vacation.

1. Start in a small country. Often fares to Ireland, Denmark, or Portugal are less expensive than the biggest cities. These are great destinations to start out your trip. Small countries have smaller airports and the logistics of getting to your hotel or Airbnb are much simpler. Starting your trip at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris can be really overwhelming. I found the people in smaller countries tend to be friendly and helpful to first-time visitors.

2. Start in a country where English is common. Europe is wonderfully different from America even when you don’t factor in the language differences. If you begin your trip in Edinburgh, you will get a taste of those differences and yet still be able to manage the challenges of being in a completely new place. Again, Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland are great starting points. We struggled to find the Ice Bar in Stockholm and needed to stop at least half a dozen people to get directions. Everyone spoke perfect English and was incredibly helpful.

3. Explore your neighborhood first. Fight the urge to run to the Louvre the minute you hit Paris. After years of waiting to see the spots on your bucket list, it can be tough to hold yourself back but if you spend some time making your neighborhood a home base your entire trip will feel more comfortable and relaxed. Naturally the big sites are packed with tourists and can feel overwhelming. If you spend some time sitting in a local café, people watching and getting the lay of the land you will learn so much about the amazing European culture you came to see. Then see the Louvre!

4. Plan the important stuff and leave the rest to chance. We always make sure we know how to get from the airport to the hotel and what form of transportation we plan to take in a new city. We check online before we leave to see if our most important sites require advanced tickets or have unusual hours. We would have waited in a huge line at the Hamburg Minatur Wunderland if we hadn’t bought our tickets before we left home. This was an important stop for us so we made sure to plan ahead. Also leave some things to chance. The parks we just stumbled on in Hamburg turned out to be a highlight of our time there.

5. Meet the people. On the train from Copenhagen to Stockholm we chose to not sit together and this led to a lovely morning chatting with a Swedish gentleman headed to a month alone on his family’s own island. The times we got out of our comfort zone and asked for help or were just willing to start a conversation with a stranger led to some of our favorite memories. It really is about the people.

Do you have any tips for first timers?

 

 

 

 

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Copenhagen-So Easy to Love!

August 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm


Copenhagen from Hotel Window
When we booked our flight to Europe this May, we were only thinking about the lowest fare and not our first destination. We chose Copenhagen because the seats were cheap! Our original plan was to fly in and out of Copenhagen using it for a launching site to Sweden and Germany. When we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the night we conked out, exhausted from a long day of travel. I woke up at four in the morning and peaked out the window for my first look at the city. Just as I was taking in the lovely view, a group of young people sailed by on their bicycles after a night of partying. Each boy had a pretty danish girl perched on his handlebars or behind him and they were chattering away on their cool, early-morning ride home. This was just the first of many times I was thankful we chose Copenhagen as our first stop.

 

Denmark is fun. With such friendly outgoing citizens, how could it not be? If you are on holiday in Denmark it is perfectly acceptable to crack open a Tuborg beer on the train and relax and chat with your neighbors.  In the U.S., some might look askance at you, but in Denmark life is meant to be enjoyed.  We laughed and giggled at the Fish Kiss Spa, while tiny fish nibbled at our feet and gave us a pedicure. At the large outdoor beer gardens, we relaxed at a tiny table and watched the world go by. After a long dark winter, the Danes come out to enjoy life to its fullest in the summer. Having fun is high-priority.

 

Denmark is healthy. We’ve all heard this, but until you witness it first hand you can’t really understand how great this is. Everyone is out biking, jogging or kayaking. As we walked through the parks groups of grammas jogged by happily chatting with each other. Little danish children enjoy riding in the front of fabulous custom made bicycles. Even the dogs look healthier here!

 

Denmark is so clean. When you visit a country that takes such good care of the earth it is hard not to be inspired. Each little house has a beautiful flower garden in front   The streets are spotless and the water crystal clear. When we used a public bathroom in the center of town an attendant ran in afterward to clean the toilet after each use. This might seem a bit much, but it makes a traveler’s experience so much brighter.

 

Denmark offers good value for the expense. It’s no secret that Scandinavia is one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. This was hard to adjust to at first, but later we realized we would rather spend more and have such a high-quality experience. We stayed in a budget hotel, and that worked well because it was so clean and well appointed it felt luxurious. When you know the quality of food you are receiving is top notch, it feels perfectly reasonable to spend a bit more on a meal.

 

We left Copenhagen feeling blessed that a happy accident turned into a wonderful memory. We can’t wait to return and explore this tiny, fabulous country some more.

 

5 Questions to Ask Before You Take the Hop-on Bus

August 17, 2015 at 11:03 pm


Hop-on Image

Two years ago on the first day of our Europe trip, we enjoyed a fabulous day exploring Dublin with the Hop on Hop off bus. We didn’t realize how lucky we were until later in the trip when Dubliners kept telling us how unusual the warm, sunny weather was. On this beautiful day we explored Trinity College, Grafton Street, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Guinness factory. The pre-recorded audio guide helped us to see more of Dublin than we ever would have on our own and we were free to decide which sites we most wanted to view up close. This hop on hop off experience helped make Dublin one of our all-time favorite spots. Eager to repeat this fun day, we signed up for the hop on hop off bus in Paris a week later. Sadly, this was one of the worst days of our trip. It was sweltering and the crowds were very thick. There were long lines for all of the sites we wanted to see and The tour itself didn’t live up to our expectations. What made the difference? Here are our top five tips to help you decide whether or not to take the hop on hop off bus:

  1. How is the audio portion of the tour presented? In Dublin we listen to a pre-recorded broadcast in English. In Paris we were issued earphones and could connect to an outlet at each seat which broadcast the tour in the language of our choice. On a tour in Hamburg the next year, we listened to a young man who delivered most of the tour in German but occasionally provided English commentary. Sadly, his English was very poor and we missed most of the information about each stop.

 

  1. Could you purchase a city transport pass that would allow you to use their bus system for far less money? Hamburg offers an amazing pass that you can purchase online prior to your visit. We printed out our voucher and showed it to the drivers as we entered each bus. By using city buses we were able to make complete loops of areas that we wanted to see. The buses were clean and comfortable and we saved a bundle!

 

  1. What types of sites do you want to see? If you want a general overview of the city and to do a variety of small stops hopping on and off can be a great choice. However, in Paris you may want to spend all day at the Louvre, Notre Dame, or a side trip to Versailles. The Paris bus route highlighted epic sites that take all day to see. There really wasn’t a point in using a hop on hop off bus.

 

  1. What sort of day is it? Hot, July days sitting in a crowded bus can be miserable! Can you get an early start to make full use of your pass? If you are travelling in May or September the weather can be beautiful and the crowds are much lighter.

 

  1. What is included in the price of your ticket?  Will you be able to get into museums for free or at a dramatically reduced price? Is the bus system linked to a ferry or water excursion service?  Do they include a second day for free? When does the last bus stop running? These are all valuable things to consider.

 

When you only have a few days to see a city the Hop on, Hop Off Bus can make or break your experience. We would definitely hop on again but have learned to carefully consider these variables. Have you used the Hop On Bus?

 

About A Comfy Seat

August 8, 2015 at 5:21 pm

I love to take it easy. I started A Comfy Seat Travel Club after a wonderful trip to Denmark and Sweden with my two adult children. They had all the energy and enthusiasm in the world to take on adventures and it was fun to watch them explore and come to love new cities. They weren’t impressed with wheeled suitcases, Tempur-Pedic mattresses or seats near the bathroom. Getting lost in the Citadel in Copenhagen and adding a couple of extra miles to our hunt for the Little Mermaid didn’t faze them at all.  Quickly, it became clear that my priorities differed from theirs.

I found that I enjoyed people watching from the sidewalk cafes. I preferred taking the elevator instead of 6 flights of stairs(or even 3!). When I got home and started planning our next trip there seemed to be an information gap between the youthful backpackers vlogs and the all-inclusive tours for senior citizens. I’m searching for ways to take the stress, inconvenience and worry out of our vacations and I hope to share my findings with you here. I’m excited to rent a bike and cruise through Hyde Park, Paddle a kayak in Stockholm or drive a Trabi through Berlin; but when I’m done, save me a comfy seat!

I hope you’ll join me.

 

Melinda