Bringing you along for the ride as we travel, a lot of attention is given to how we go about it. Pre-cruise plans are detailed and strategies for handling everything from how to avoid jet lag to clothing, packing, getting the most out of our time on the road and more. But now it’s over and we’re back home in Orlando. The luggage is unpacked. The grass is mowed. We’ve verified again that most of our mail is junk and have started to slip back into a normal routine, cherishing ‘our shows’ that were recorded while away. Looking back, would we do anything differently? For those who have followed along on our journey with Viking River Cruises, this travel rewind could be one of the most helpful posts of the bunch.
International Flights Then Back To Work The Next Day
Lisa, who has a ‘real’ job with an office, cubicle, place to be on time and all that was a bit concerned about our return flight schedule. The 17+ hour travel day included flights from Lyon To Paris To Atlanta then back to Orlando. We left Viking Hermod at 7:30 am local time and arrived home at about 10pm our time with Lisa set to return to work the next day at 8am. It worked.
She was dog tired by the end of that first day back but survived and has gradually returned to normal, a process we think takes about a week for those who do not travel internationally all the time. I think that when we fly a great distance from East to West, chasing the sun also helps with this. It’s like the day never ends. That direction just does not seem to take as long to me.
The Pre Cruise Hotel Stay
Our default plan for traveling East from Orlando to someplace across the pond is to come in a day early, before the cruise officially starts. That gives us time to adjust to the time difference and wake refreshed and ready to go for the first day. We got in this habit when we lived in Kansas and would fly to Florida for a cruise. Then, it was (officially) to allow a buffer of time in case of a flight delay but (really) was more of an excuse to start vacation a day early.
In this case, we flew into Marseilles, France and spent the night at an airport hotel that I like which is easy to get to. The Best Western Aeroport Marseilles runs a shuttle around the clock so returning to the airport for dinner was easy and returning to meet our Viking greeter the next day was too.
Still, if I had this one to do over I would put that extra day on the back end, opting to spend the extra time in Paris, for a couple reasons. First, Paris is way cooler than the airport at Marseilles. Also, the way the itinerary is written, the first day is kind of a blow off day anyway, with not much scheduled as is typical of most Euro river cruises that source passengers from North America. On this particular itinerary, the first day was in Avignon and anyone who had their wits about them after the long flight could have gone on a ‘stretch your legs’ walking tour of the city, steps away from their Viking Longship. But the second day headed south to Arles then came back to Avignon on the third day for the official (and fabulous) tour of the city before continuing on North for the rest of the itinerary.
With that in mind, I believe it might have been better to be a little jet lagged, like everyone else, and put that extra day on the back end to see Paris (we never have) which would also make the final day of travel back to Orlando a shorter one, not having to go through Lyon first. That said, we would absolutely do this trip exactly like we did with no changes again today, given the time.
Travel Vests For All
On my last trip, also a river cruise but with Abercrombie & Kent, I tested and fell in love with the ScotteVest travel vest with RFID pocket protection. The capacity of the vest went a long way to enabling me to travel with just carry-on luggage. This trip, I bought one for Lisa too, a ladies version with a few less pockets and a bit more style for the same reason; to enable us both to skip checking luggage which at best would slow us down waiting for it and at worst would throw a wrench in the works if lost, as it had been a bunch lately.
The ScotteVest for ladies ($175) was a huge hit with Lisa because she did not need to carry a purse anywhere; did not even bring one along. She liked that and spoke of her new-found freedom like she had been let out of prison after being wrongly convicted of a crime. It was glorious. I liked too that the vests gave us bonus room to store other items, should the return airline in the foreign land be more picky about the size of carry-on luggage, something we have run into before.
Traveling Internationally With Just Carry-On Luggage
We did it. I started traveling with just carry-on luggage on my last trip after two different airlines lost our luggage on two consecutive trips. That was enough and off I went to figure out how to never let an airline have my luggage ever again. But Chris (a boy) doing this and Lisa (a girl) doing this were two entirely different animals so a bit different strategy was required.
The answer: Space-saving packing by rolling almost everything.
Lisa traveled with a standard sized roller-board carry-on bag that was not over stuffed and easily fit in the overhead storage of every aircraft we were on…and that was a number of different planes. Our flight itinerary took us from Orlando to Atlanta to Amsterdam to Marseilles on the front end and from Lyon to Paris to Atlanta then back to Orlando on the back end. Easy fit every time. Yes, it was a bit more work and a little worry hoping there would be space in the overhead storage. But checking in early for flights, insisting on plenty of time between connections to position us at the gate early and being aware when boarding to get on the plane efficiently made it work.
As mentioned above, a huge help in this effort were the ScotteVest travel vests. Wearing those not only eliminated Lisa’s need for a purse as her ‘small personal item’ but allowed her to use a more space-efficient briefcase type bag.
Huge benefits (other than no luggage being lost) included quick re-entry into the United States without waiting for luggage at the bag claim area, combined with our Global Entry Program membership (now just $85 for five years) that is one of the best things our government has ever come up with.
How big of a deal is this? The last time Lisa and I traveled internationally, for a Viking River Cruises Christmas Markets sailing, we each had a suitcase that was the largest size allowed by the airlines, nearly four times the capacity of what we did this trip with.
The move does require some hard decisions and looking back we would actually bring fewer clothes as we did not use all we brought.
- The weather in southern France, even in August, was lovely. We had temps in the 70’s with low humidity, even on the river while back in Orlando the sweat shop was running full force topping 100 degrees while we were gone. As a result, I never wore the three pairs of shorts I brought and Lisa did not wear some of her clothing as well.
- We brought light jackets in case of rain and never used them. It rained a couple days too but we were really not out in the open all that much.
- We took advantage of the reasonably priced laundry service on Viking Hermod. Doing it over, we would bring half the clothes and use it more. They do a really good job with laundry.
Rent A Lens
Working on my photography skills I was excited to try a great big huge piece of glass that promised better photos and more vivid images. For that I used a company called Lens Giant that rents cameras and lenses to people like me who need a special lens and don’t want to buy one or want to try before they buy.
I rented a Nikon 70-200mm AF-S f/2.8G ED VR II which my research indicated (and photo friends who actually know what they are doing verified) would be a good choice. Now remember, just a couple years ago every image you see here was coming off my ever improving iPhone which my skill level eventually caught up with. At that point I invested a little money in a decent Nikon camera and have been learning how to use it ever since. But it was during Holland America Lines Dancing With the Stars:At Sea event that I came up far short on the equipment scale, shooting thousands of photos to come up with some usable ones I was proud of. That was the most challenging photo situation for me to date: Low light, fast moving dancing people and flash photography not allowed. Yikes.
I was happy with the results that came from my big rented lens but often felt like people were looking at me thinking one of two things: “This guy is trying to make up for some inadequacy with that big lens” or “Rich American: Steal Camera”, making this not an option I will repeat. Well, that and Whitney’s helpful admonition: “Its not the lens, its the photographer that counts Dad.” What can I say? The clock’s ticking: I don’t have time for a lifelong learning process.
TripIt And Only TripIt
On previous trips I had a number of smartphone apps working overtime, basically doing the same thing but providing a bit of redundancy, should one fall short and a flight was delayed, canceled or some other problem come about while in transit. Invariably, TripIt was always the first to notify me of gate changes and flight delays, beating the other apps that promise the same service and even the airline apps themselves.
This time, rather than wasting the expensive cellular data of my International Data Plan with AT&T, I turned all of them off except TripIt. I know, gutsy move. Still the test proved once and for all that TripIt takes care of me on the road and no other help is needed.
Hover above (look up) over RIVER CRUISING, then VIKING RIVER CRUISES, then PORTRAITS OF SOUTHERN FRANCE for all our posts here at ChrisCruises.com (or click here) and/or LIVE EVENTS then PAST EVENTS above also (or click here).