Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Incomplete Thoughts

Things have been busy, even though it's still spring break and I haven't been working, per se.  Instead, I've been...well...working, in the informal capacity that involves household chores and book balancing and now, trip planning.  You see, we're headed on a couple of big trips this year - Alaskan cruise in the summer and Hawaii for Christmas - and though these seem a lifetime away, the fact is that booking needs to commence immediately on some things (e.g. hotels, flight) and confirmed on others (e.g. the cruise) in order to secure our transport and lodgings.  Add to that our Seattle day trips (which begin this weekend) with the prerequisite research on where to go and what to do, and you're looking at a trip planner-in-training.

Anyway, so I have travel on the brain, and I've been booking and shopping around for everything from interisland Hawaiian flights to Seattle tourist attractions; I'm Chinese, and I'm nothing if not a bargain hunter!  As I've come across different things for our various trips both big and small, random thoughts and questions have been popping up in my mind.  I thought I'd blog these out and see if anyone else can empathize.

** Why don't certain airlines serve meals on flights that are more than 5 hours long?  I wonder what we'll "pack" on board to eat.  I'm definitely not fond of the idea of soggy sandwiches or giant bags of chips or sucking down a protein shake during the flight, but what choice do I have?  I think hot meals will be out of the question at any rate.

** I have a weird sense of what it means to visit a city, I think.  The places I want to go to in Seattle are their Science Museum, their Burke Museum of natural history, and a Target store.  Maybe I might also want to shop the outlets, but that's lower on the priority pole.

** By contrast, there is nothing I want to see in Skagway or Juneau.  I think we might end up booking zero shore excursions and just shopping in the little downtown area.  If we are allowed to stay on the boat, I might even do that! 

** What is it about underground cities that appeals to me so much?  They're like the ideal setting for campy horror flicks (which I hate), and yet I am strangely drawn to them.  I loved the underground city in Beijing and now I'm tempted to take the underground city tour in Seattle as well.  At the same time, I do not understand the lure of these places; they're old and non-glitzy and "boring" by most standards, but I am fascinated by old toilets and ancient city streets.  It's like I'm time traveling back to a point in history that no longer exists, I guess.  Van has its own "underground" mall (in that the entire mall exists on a sub-ground level near the train stations) and Hong Kong was full of underground shops (connected to their train/MTR stations) but these haven't excited me at all as a tourist (though they excite me immensely as a shopper).   

** Is it more or less safe to fly on a smaller plane (e.g. the kind that doesn't have middle seats and only has rows of 2 on each side)?  Is Island Air, Go!, or Hawaiian Airlines the best way to fly between islands?  Which of these has the best safety record?

** I have no understanding as to why car rental is such a complicated process (insurance vs. no insurance, 4 different types of coverage, and on and on)?  And why so expensive?!?  The insurance and taxes really double the price, and make it extremely tempting to hole up and not drive whilst in Maui-dise.

** Which is better: the Vancouver Aquarium or the Seattle Aquarium?

** How realistic is it to see anything of substance on a day trip to Seattle?  I'm considering an over-nighter some point soon, just because I'm not convinced that those attractions I want to visit can be done in a day without a frantic rush.

** Is it better to buy US cash or to pay by credit card and get the exchange rate of the day on plastic?

** I wonder if Hubbs & I can spend without exceeding $150CAD/day on food while living it up in HI? We want to budget sufficient funds for our greedy appetites, but at the same time we're loathe to repeat the eating escapades of our honeymoon (during which we each gained about 10 lbs. of lard from non-stop eating and drinking).

** What's the bedbug situation in HI?  Of course I forgot to check this prior to booking hotels.  STUPID! 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of my random here-and-there-and-everywhere thoughts and questions.  You'd think that booking a trip would be fun and easy, but I don't believe that is possible when one is a Type-A control freak like me; I want to know what everything is ranked and reviewed at and I want to guarantee that I get the best bang for my buck!

Oh..and we're now starting the process of flat-screen LCD TV buying...looks like I have more work ahead of me ;)


karen said...

You're not alone - I'm also a Type A bargain shopper who plans our trips. I have to price everything out and set up a list of must see/do along with maps and admission fees. I drive myself insane.

Oh, and I never get the car rental insurance anymore. Instead, I got a credit card that includes rental insurance. And often, your personal insurance can cover damages too.

And for Hawaii food budget - Vinh and I slept in all the time, so we'd only end up eating two meals a day, ahahah! Hey, it's a vacation - it's practically a requirement to sleep in!

Mrs. Loquacious said...

I have a spreadsheet *and* a Word .doc for Hawaii already. I have a filing cabinet folder for Seattle, and a file for Alaska. I'm glad I'm not alone in this neurotic nightmare ;)

My VISA covers CDW but not personal liability, and I'm not sure if any of my other policies would have such coverage. I like the CYA coverage but nobody sells this type.

2 meals a day can add up fast, too, esp. if I'm eating gourmet seafood at the rest. and downing Lava Flows with my grub. We're doing condos to save $ and also having cereal for breakfast, and ahi poke for lunch. It's cheap and the market and Safeway are both just a few blocks from the hotel! Hopefully that shaves off a few $.

And when it's that bright outside, it's not easy to sleep in!

Vanilla Con said...

I don't think you are allowed to stay on the boat when it does dock as I think that's the time the staff takes to clean the boat...looks like you may have to shop "downtown" to kill time!

Sylvana said...

Can you bring shakes on a plane?

Natalie said...

You might want to check out It's just outside Seattle. It's not the cheapest place but would be great for a weekend getaway. Tony and I stayed there for a few days and it was one of the best times we have had.

As far as LCDs go. I am really happy with our Samsung series 7. I spent A LOT of time looking around and this one really had all the bells and whistles I wanted and wasn't insanely expensive compared to others of its size. I think they have a series 8 now though.

Since I work in personal finance I would say that paying by credit card and getting the bank rate is 9 times out of 10 going to be cheaper than coing to a currency exchange or something. you get much better rates with a credit card, even with ATMS but you have to be careful if your bank tacks on any flat fee rates for foreign ATM use.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

@Vanilla Con - well then we're stuck with the fam, wandering the streets of Alaska's big towns. :(

@Sylvana - first I read "snakes on a plane" which is a big no! ;) You can bring protein powder on a plane and then mix it with water post-boarding. The only thing with shakes is that they don't fill me up sufficiently over the course of 7 hours.

@Natalie - Yeah, if we do the spa/cabin retreat it will be over our anniversary. What is the contrast ration (true) on the Series 7? I've been considering a Sony W-series or one of the nice Panasonic Vieras but am willing to shell out big big $ for a TV. It also seems that regardless of specs, you have to watch the TV broadcasting sports before you can figure out which one is good and which one is slow on the pixels.

I also figured maybe the credit card would be cheaper, though we still have to get a bit of cash for our cross-border adventure. I hope the exchange is decent today!