Travel to the US Is Down

They call it the Trump Slump in the travel industry:

“[The travel industry is] currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income. It’s known as the ‘Trump Slump.’ And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.” —Arthur Frommer, Frommersdotcom, undated

European travel groups have pulled their plans, I’ve read. Flights from Australia to mainland US are the cheapest they’ve been in a decade, I’ve seen; they can’t fill the planes. Even our friends the Canadians are going elsewhere, the Washington Post says. The Toronto Metro says Canadian searches for US flights dropped 43 percent after the first trump travel ban. The state of Georgia expects the loss of tourism will have a $27 million impact. NBC notes that last year US tourism experienced a 4.6 billion dollar loss.

Four billion dollars is a lot. Forty thousand jobs lost in services and hospitality.

And it’s not just tourism: educational institutions are suffering too. Canadian CTV News reports that international applications to Canadian universities surged after the trump election. American universities are some of the most highly respected in the world, but now that children are shooting up schools with semi-automatic weapons (again), international parents are rethinking where they send their precious children for higher education. Applications to American boarding schools that court international students are down too.

After the Parkland, Florida, shooting, even Americans are staying away from Florida, which has virtually no gun laws at all.

More and more travelers are deciding to bypass the US for someplace … safer. On Twitter one reads comments like this: “As a Canadian, I will not spend my tourist dollars in US as long as the @NRA owns the lawmakers.” Or “I teach in South Korea right now. One of my students told me her family cancelled a trip to the States because they don’t feel safe travelling there. And she lives literally a one hour drive away from the North Korean border.” And “My partner lived in and loved the US before returning to UK, I’ve visited and would love to travel coast to coast. But right now, no thanks.” And “I’m Canadian. I don’t feel comfortable visiting the US anymore. I live 20 min from the border, used to shop across the line all the time. No more.”

It’s a shame, but seriously—would you come to this shithole country while the Shithole-in-Chief is in power? I sure wouldn’t. I’ve long wanted to take my immigrant husband to Washington DC to see the monuments (inspiring stuff!), but there’s no way I’m setting foot in that city until the trump stench has dissipated.

Of course, we’ve been a bit nervous about traveling abroad, at least until Gerry’s green card status becomes permanent—but as you know, last December we had no choice. (And also no hassle, thank goodness. The center continues to hold … at least for white folks. I’m not being flippant; we recognize our privilege. People of color always have it harder.)

I wasn’t raised in wealth, but my parents were big on driving trips. They wanted us kids to see things, and we did see a lot of the United States. Some of Canada and Mexico. I was a parent myself, though, before I got farther afield (England!). I’m no “elite” that the republicans delight in denigrating, and yet … I must be. Because even in my limited experience, I’ve become convinced that travel to foreign countries changes us in good ways. It opens our eyes and hearts to the notion that all of humanity is the same, no matter what color we paint our houses or what type of clothing we wear.

Still, I wouldn’t want to come here either.

 

Planning a Trip to Ireland? I’ve Made All the Touristy Mistakes So You Don’t Have To!

I bet you’re thinking Hasn’t Jamie already written a series of posts on planning a trip to Ireland? Well, yes, I have.*

But that was nearly four years ago. I’ve written more since then. So I’ve collected and categorized and linked every other article about traveling in Ireland right here. One stop. Not the travelogues; you’re on your own there. 🙂

That said, everything in that initial series is still valid and important, so you should still start with them:

Travel Daydreams (The best part is the planning.)

Getting the Backstory (Read about it!)

More Backstory. With Accents. (Or watch some movies.)

DIY Vacation (That is, no tour buses for me.)

Narrowing It Down (Plan a trip for your interests.)

Some Sightseeing Ideas (Don’t miss!)

“Official” Tourism (Get help here!)

Eating, Drinking … and Music (Ya gotta do it.)

Let’s Go Shopping (Oh, yes, let’s do!)

Finding the Magic (My favorite chapter.)

Last Thoughts (Lots of little tips, collected.)

But as noted, I’ve written other articles that drill down a little more (driving on the left side, for example), or answer questions you may not have known you had (where or how to get distilled water, for example). There are tips and things I learned sprinkled throughout the stories of my trips, too (the travelogues), but you probably don’t have time to read all that—so I’ve mentioned the most salient points herein. I’ve added a few bits of wisdom too.

And in the last few weeks, three friends have asked me about planning their trips to Ireland … so it’s time to pull it all together.

Planning Your Trip

Let’s start here: when to go, when not to go. You’ve probably heard that it rains a lot in Ireland, and you’re probably concerned. But don’t be. Pack a little rain hat (or buy one after you get there), and go. No, the number of tourists concern me more than the number of raindrops! So I like to go during the “off” season.

In Ireland tourist season starts in April and runs through August. This means a lot more tour buses on the road, longer lines, and so on. Also consider that once it begins to warm up outside, some older historic hotels might be a little stuffy inside, because they don’t have air conditioning. Mind, summer temps in Ireland will probably only reach mid to high 70s (Farenheit)—and outside that’s pleasant—but an un–air-conditioned hotel might feel hot to a Yank accustomed to a/c everything. So it’s something to consider. And check on.

My favorite months? September and October. Tourism has dropped off and the weather is spectacular.

I haven’t been paying much attention to news on visas and passports, but it would be wise for you to look into that a few months before your planned departure. Check with your airlines about baggage weight and carryons too (for example, you may not be able to carry a laptop onto an international flight these days).

There are other items to consider. For example, if I’m asked, I always say Everything takes longer than you think. Getting from Point A to Point B takes longer than you think. The line to get in takes longer than you think. The meal takes longer than you think. My advice is to slow down and don’t cram your schedule. The corollary to this is, Do you want to spend your precious vacation time driving—or doing? There’s so much to see! I get that. But if you’ve only got a week, I would recommend you pick a region and stay in it, rather driving 200 miles one way to see one sight. There are beautiful sea views, old mansions, ancient stone circles and sacred sites, and unusual geography everywhere in Ireland. Trust me. And often the less well-known sites are better.

However—and this is important—your trip is your trip. You may like driving more than I do. You may walk faster than me. Your trip is your trip—plan the one that you want to take.

Getting There and Back

No discussion of purchasing flights here. I’m talking about the actual slog of moving across multiple time zones. It’s hard on a body, y’all.

Many flights from the States are overnighters—arriving in Dublin the next morning, particularly if you fly through Chicago, Boston, New York, Newark, or Washington DC. So plan some low-impact activities—a massage, say, or a walk on the beach or around the neighborhood where your hotel is situated—so you can ease into your new time zone when you land. Here are lots more tips about dealing with jet-lag. If you’re visiting for a special reason—maybe you’re attending a wedding?—arrive a few days early so you can slough off jet-lag and fully enjoy the event. A day-of-arrival massage, I’ve found, is a must for me; Gerry has a cat-nap while I’m gone.

Americans flying home from Dublin for the first time may be surprised to discover that they pass through customs in Dublinbefore they ever get on the plane. This is so convenient, as we were recently reminded when my husband returned home from Dublin through London. When he arrived in Chicago, he had to—

  • get off the plane and collect his luggage
  • pass through US Customs
  • change terminals and go though security again
  • check in his baggage again

—which means one needs a lengthy layover, something the airlines seem to ignore. If there’s even a short delay (and when is that ever the case?), you could miss your connection.

Of course, Customs in Dublin adds to the time you need to allow in the airport on departure day. We like a relaxed, stress-free departure day, and here are some tips for that: Winding Down, At Last. Hint: turn in the car the day before you leave.

Getting Around While You’re There

Speaking of driving, Let’s Talk About Driving on the Wrong Side. This is the question I get asked more than any other. Is it hard? Is it scary? When I answer this question, I say: No, it’s not hard at all—because everyone else is driving on the left too.

There are other ways to get around if you prefer not to drive: bus, cab, hired car, Uber, train, DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), LUAS (tram/light rail). This link gives you bus, cab, and car options, with approximate costs. Look here for information on DART and Irish Rail options; here for LUAS.

I may have discussed this elsewhere—in fact I’m sure I have—but you can bring your portable GPS from home more cheaply than what you’ll pay to have one in your rental car, even after you purchase the map chip for Ireland and the UK. (Be aware that the GPS tends to choose direct routes, which in Ireland might mean an unpaved one-lane. You’ve been warned.) I know you all have smart phones now, but sometimes reception is slow or nonexistent. If you like a little adventure, great! If you don’t, plan on a backup: whip into a gas station or bookstore and pick up a detailed map book. There are planty of opportunities to be lost in Ireland; you’ll be glad you’ve got all the bases covered.

Here’s another option: private tours. I wouldn’t pay for a place I could easily get to and easily circumnavigate. But as I said in this post, Gerry and I tried to guide ourselves through Howth, in a car (with stops), and didn’t see much, so I have to say I think a tour guide would be a good investment. The links in this article are specifically about Howth, but these guides offer many other tours. (Here’s another corporate tour outfit based in Dublin.)

A Brief Aside About Lodging

A quick reminder that while B&Bs are often expensive in the US, they can be a relatively affordable alternative to a hotel in Ireland. And don’t forget Airbnb, which really opens up the opportunity to stay in a home—especially in a city like Dublin. We’ve stayed in B&Bs and hotels, and of the latter we’ve stayed in high end and (ahem) low end. During our 3-week honeymoon trip we experienced the entire range, and at the end of that trip I wrote up a Hotel Comparison, which may be of interest.

Quick Power Tips

What is VAT?

Tax—and as a non-EU resident, you can get a VAT refund on some goods. In fact, with the electronic system in place since 2012, you are never charged VAT at all, but are issued a card (by any retailer on the system), which is scanned every time you make a purchase. You register the card online at some point during your trip. However, you still must “check out” of the country, by visiting the Horizon electronic kiosk at the airport or from your own computer when you get home. If you fail to report the purchases added to the card within the specified period, all the VAT you avoided will suddenly appear on your credit card bill. Ooops!

Should I pay in euros or dollars?

You may be offered this option when paying with a card. Choose euros.

How do I keep everything charged up on a long trip?

First, purchase an electric plug with multiple USB slots to facilitate charging in airports, because what’s provided is never enough. I’ve also purchased multiple adapters—one each for camera battery, laptop, Kindle, and CPAP. No one has to share. And I have a good-sized zipper bag that all cords, chargers, and adaptors live in; when I’m packing, I grab and go.

I travel with a CPAP and have trouble finding distilled water in Ireland.

Me too. Bottom line? Things are just different, especially with retail. Where you buy certain things. Where you can’t buy things that are easily available in the US. Like distilled water. 89 cents a gallon in the US; 17 euro for a half gallon. Here’s help.

Why does my hair look like crap?

Because the water’s hard. Here’s what to do about it. You’ll never have a bad hair day again. 🙂

I may have over-shopped. Help?

Many retailers in Ireland are well equipped to ship your stuff home for you. Take advantage of it. Don’t carry something around your whole trip or, worse, forego it because you don’t have room in your luggage.

Doing the Special Things

Forget the touristy stuff; you don’t need it! And you really don’t need to kiss the Blarney Stone (ick). Incline your thoughts this way instead: Ireland has a long and proud (and occasionally tragic) history, as I’ve noted before. I cannot stress enough that it will enhance your experience to have a basic awareness of Irish history. Even if you just read Wikipedia. Even if history really isn’t your thing.

Culture is important too. Here are some miscellaneous articles about the “Irish way.” If you want to drill down, check the book list here.

That said, your trip is your trip! So plan to do the things that are meaningful and special to you, whatever they are. Love a junk shop? Afternoon tea? Indulge! Look for the magic. Here are three more miscellaneous articles that might be of interest.

Are you bookish? Ireland is famous for its writers, and if you love books, it’s a great place to soak up the literary culture (and to buy books—there’s a bookstore in every town). Here are some posts that might be of interest.

And that’s it, friends! Hope this planning page has been helpful. I’ll update it as I write more.

(*You have been able to access the first post by clicking Start Here in the menu above and then looking for “How to Plan Your Trip to Ireland.” And you still can. This page will be the Start Here link from now on.)

 

Oh, the Joys of Travel!

Oh, the joys of travel! To feel the excitement of sudden departure, not always knowing whither. Surely you and I are in agreement about that. How often did my life seem concentrated in that single moment of departure. To travel far, far—and that first morning’s awakening under a new sky! And to find oneself in it—no, to discover more of oneself there. To experience there, too, where one has never been before,
one’s own continuity of being and, at the same time,
to feel that something in your heart, somehow indigenous to this new land,
is coming to life from the moment of your arrival.
You feel your blood infused with some new intelligence,
wondrously nourished by things you had no way of knowing.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to a friend, 3 February 1923

Gratefulness Is a Habit. Kindness Too. And Love—Don’t Forget Love.

This is a great travel story—a great airport story. I’m one of those people who love the opening credits in the film Love, Actually. I, too, find airports to have a special energy, a festiveness you find nowhere else. The anticipatory excitement about the arrival—both the arrivors and those awaiting the arrivors—adds an undeniable frisson to the airport experience.

Not that I find air travel particularly fun, mind you. But even the we’re-all-in-this-slog-together atmosphere is a thing that unifies travelers, yes? That’s the nature of this lovely travel story from 2007, which was reprinted on the website of A Network for Grateful Living a couple years ago. As they noted then, it seemed decidedly relevant.

A woman, Naomi Shihab Nye, a writer (she is a year older than me), is in the Albuquerque airport (I’ve been there), having just learned that her flight has been delayed, and hears on the loudspeaker a plea for an Arabic speaker. There is an older Palestinian woman in distress, and she speaks no English. Nye speaks Arabic, though she is rusty; she learns the woman is simply worried, and is able to comfort her. By the time their flight arrives,

[the woman] had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered sugar.

I have had those cookies myself, offered to me when I was visiting the local Middle Eastern grocery, baked by the shop proprietor’s wife. (I must stop back in to see him; I haven’t been in a while.)

This is a beautiful story. Nye is a poet, and it shows in these words.

Not everything is lost, y’all.

In the News: The Joy of Flying?

I used to enjoy flying. I love airplanes. I love watching them fly. They remind me of my father, who was, as we’ve discussed, an air force pilot (and a special man altogether). He used to drive us out to the butt-end of the runway, when we were kids, and we’d park and watch the B-52s and KC-135s take off right over our heads.

KC-135s on the flightline, from Wikipedia.

KC-135s on the flightline, from Wikipedia.

Honestly, I have a thing for airplanes.

But I no longer love flying in them, for precisely the reasons cited in this article (which comes as no surprise to me).

Seats were 18 inches wide before airline deregulation in the 1970s and have since been whittled to 16 and a half inches, he said, while seat pitch used to be 35 inches and has decreased to about 31 inches.

Ugh. I have flown across the country all twisted up, trying desperately not to inflict myself on the passenger next to me, but unable to keep from touching. I am a chubby middle-aged woman; it can’t be helped.

Here’s hoping they’ll regulate a better seat situation soon.

Dealing With Jet-Lag

I originally had titled this collection of notes “How to avoid jet-lag” but I’m not sure it can be completely avoided, especially as we age. Couple that with the fact that airports and planes are crowded, flights are late or canceled, everyone’s rushed and stressed … the travel—the getting there—itself is not a pleasant experience.

And then you’re hopping across all those time zones. Heck, I have trouble with the change from standard to daylight savings and back, and that’s just an hour.

So let’s talk about what you can do to minimize the effects of the trip as well as the time change. These are just my personal experiences, nothing scientific.

  • Don’t wear yourself to a frazzle before the trip, getting ready for it. Start fresh and rested. If you live a long way from the airport, travel in to the city the day before and stay in an airport hotel so you don’t have to rush.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid the effects of dehydration (headache, etc.). I also carry Body Shop hydrating spray, which I spray on face and arms and anything else. Drink water as soon as you hit the ground too—lots.
  • If you’re the sort who can, grab some shut-eye on the plane. Bring and use noise-canceling headphones and remember that blue-spectrum light—from your phone, laptop, iPad, the seat-back movie screen—keeps you awake. Make yourself a little cocoon of quiet, as much as possible. Sleep is usually iffy for me; I read until I get tired and then doze, maybe. Again, it’s that little cocoon of quiet.
  • Bring your own pillow; it helps on the plane and once you arrive too.
  • I stay away from pills; no melatonin, no OTC sleeping pills. I’ve tried both—melatonin didn’t have much effect and sleeping pills didn’t help enough. But that’s just me.
  • Alcohol on the plane is not your friend. Rule of thumb on booze is 1 in air = 2 or 3 on ground. So take a pass unless you want to add a hangover to your jet-lag.
  • Also, stay away from junk food and processed food as much as possible. Eat the good stuff. I know it’s more expensive, but you just don’t want all those preservatives and additives in your system, especially if, like me, you’ve made a concious effort to “eat clean” in your daily life. It’s like taking poison.
  • Wear compression socks if you have trouble with foot swelling on long flights, as I do. It will help. Don’t worry about looking good; stay focused on feeling good.
  • Don’t collapse as soon as you arrive. Stay up and as much as possible go to bed when the locals do. When I go from Middle Tennessee to Dublin, I arrive in the early morning and just stay up all day. Maybe go to bed a little early.
  • Do get some sunlight when you land—a walk outside is not just getting some fresh air, it’s resetting your body clock to local time.
  • Schedule a massage for the day you arrive (or the next day). It will make a world of difference to the way you feel. Do this, obviously, before you leave home.
  • Soak in a hot bathtub before you go to bed. At the very least, soak your feet in Epsom salts.
  • Give yourself time. Don’t jump into a vigorous schedule right away, and don’t expect to recover in one night. If you ease into things, you’ll feel better faster.

You can find all sorts of advice online, some of it contradictory, so use caution with unsolicited advice. The best thing is to use your head, be kind to yourself, and take it easy.

Wrapping It Up: Venturing Further Afield

If you have time to venture a little further afield from Middle Tennessee, here are some ideas.

Memphis: We’ve covered Nashville pretty thoroughly, and I discussed Chattanooga here. But I think Memphis is an interesting place. This is a very brief list of my Memphis tourism must-sees.

There’s lots more, of course—not least of which is the barbeque. We’re partial to the Germantown Commissary. Central’s midtown (original) location is near enough the highway to stop for lunch if you’re headed west.

Small towns: Tennessee’s full of ’em, of course. But here are four that might delight you—perhaps paired with a night in a B&B …

Mississippi Blues Trail: I have never done this, but, man, I think it would be a fun vacation. This article mentions the “list of markers and locations was developed by a panel of blues scholars and historians”—one of whom was a graduate student at MTSU that I interviewed nearly a decade ago for the alumni magazine. Fascinating stuff.

Tennessee Whiskey Trail: Another interesting drive, I think, if you’re into whiskey. 🙂

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Here’s the thing—it’s the longest cave system known in the world. And it’s just a two-hour drive from Murfreesboro.

Finally, A Personal Itinerary

We had some family coming in from Ireland who wanted to “sample” the South. They thought about driving to New Orleans, but that’s eight hours in a car (one way, before breaks) and I don’t find it a particularly interesting eight hours. This is the alternate itinerary I suggested for them.

  1. Drive from here to Chattanooga (“Bluff City”).

It’s an hour and a half. They have a beautiful arts district (galleries, arts&crafts, called Bluff View Art District) near downtown, historic buildings; and a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that takes you over the Tennessee River from the bluff, and a fabulous world-famous aquarium. There’s also Lookout Mountain, which played an important role in the Civil War, and you can take an incline railway up (rather than drive) to “see seven states” (or at least four). Seriously spectacular scenery. Spend all day, have dinner, then drive on to Atlanta, which would be another 3 hours. Arrive late.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia.

This is a gorgeous city with great nightlife, lots of history, shopping … There’s the whole Atlanta History Center complex, the High Museum of Art, the Margaret Mitchell House (Gone With the Wind!), Coca-Cola museum, botanical garden and park, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Stone Mountain Park, and so much more. You could spend days. But maybe spend two nights.

  1. Asheville, North Carolina.

Drive up through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Asheville; it’s about four hours. It is a little hippie-ish town (let’s say it has a vibe like Cork) in the mountains. It is a foodie paradise—so many wonderful places to eat! But beautiful scenery, the North Carolina Arboretum (gardens), the Biltmore Estate (go for afternoon tea), great nightlife. Spend a night or two here, then head back to Nashville (four hours) after lunch.

  1. Nashville.

I know you’ll want to experience some Nashville nightlife. So check in to your hotel, have a little rest, then hit the honky-tonks on lower Broad.

• • •

This concludes (for now, anyway) my series for Tennessee visitors.

 

Did You Miss That Flight? Here’s What to Do About It.

These days it is not uncommon to miss a flight or a connection. Airports are bigger, flights routinely run late, and the minimum recommended connection time between flights seems to get shorter and shorter. Add travel in winter, and, well, it’s possible you could miss a flight. And gone are the days when the airlines will put you up in a hotel if you’re grounded for bad weather or because their own flight ran late.

If you miss your flight, do you know what to do?

Other than cry, that is. Or curse. 🙂

I recently happened upon this longish article from a travel blogger, read it (the whole thing), and decided to pass it on. Yes, this woman, Snigdha, flies out of Asia, and yes, this is based on her experience only. It still seems to be very thorough and wise.

Here’s just a little snippet:

>As far as possible try to book direct flights. If that is not possible, then keep at least a 2-hour difference between connecting flights. No matter what the airlines or travel agents say, never book a flight with less than a 2-hour lay-over. Also keep in mind that in some countries you may have to commute between different domestic and international terminals and airports (such as in India) so please be sure to consult someone before booking in that case.

>Add another 30–45 minutes if you are transiting through ultra-busy airports such as London Heathrow, JFK New York.

>In case you are traveling with a possibility of bad weather conditions, such as fog, snow, then do plan for a longer transit time (anywhere between 4–6 hours).

My husband likes to have the shortest possible connection time, but I can’t take the stress. I’m with Snigdha on this one. Give yourself some time.

And take some time to read and bookmark this article. You may need it.