Travel Planning Challenges: Madagascar

Remote, out-of-way, and hard to reach, Madagascar is quite a challenge for travel planning.

It’s Sheri’s desire to visit this unique home to lemurs and other exotic creatures, so I did a lot of research to find a way to make it happen. In the process, I came upon some interesting hurdles while trying to make flight arrangements for our trip to this large island in the Indian Ocean. Just like the characters in the animated film with the same name found out, it may be harder to get off the island than it is to get there.

Antananarivo (TNR) is the destination airport for international flights to Madagascar. Most flights connect through Paris (CDG), Nairobi (NBO), Johannesburg (JNB), or Seychelles (SEZ). Surprisingly, it’s easier to get a flight to one of the small islands surrounding Madagascar, such as Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, and Réunion. And sometimes, it’s even cheaper.

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Quick Tip: Clean Your Cookies

I spend a lot of time searching airline sites for the lowest fare. I often use Google Flights to get an idea of which locations offer the best savings and go directly to the airline web site. However, I started to notice that I would run a search at an airline site, find a great deal, and later, come back to show my wife and the deal would be gone. At first, I thought the low priced seats had sold out. This happened so many times that I was starting to think I was losing my mind, until I decided to go into my browser and clear all the cookies that the browser stores. Voila, those fares showed up again, and this time I didn’t take a chance and bought it. It would appear that the airlines want to encourage you to buy right away, so they offer the lowest price only on your first visit to their web site. They store a cookie in your browser that says you’re a repeat visitor so you won’t get the first-time deal on subsequent visits. Lesson learned: clear your cache and cookies in your browser to get the best deals.

RTW Camera Gear Finalized

d7200After several months of painstaking research and careful consideration of weight limitations and current equipment, I finally decided on my camera gear. If you’re not familiar with my criteria, you might want to read my other post on travel photo gear. My primary body will be the Nikon D7200. It’s bigger than I originally wanted, but is the best compromise between the functionality I needed, weight and image quality. The D7200 will work with all my existing Nikon equipment so I don’t have to go out and get all new gear specific to a new system. I’m also very familiar with the user interface so I won’t have much of a learning curve. It won’t perform as well in low light as a full-frame sensor camera, such as the Sony Alpha 7 series, but it’s a whole lot better than my previous D300 body. Plus, it has full 1080p video saving me from carrying a separate camcorder.

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Quick Tip: A Picture’s Worth…

In Asia, getting help to find all those places you want to visit is difficult when you don’t read or speak the language. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in a country where you don’t know how to say a thousand words, that picture can be even more valuable. When you arrive at your destination’s airport, make a quick detour to the gift shop and pick up a few postcards of the places you’d like visit and let the pictures do your talking. Quite often the name of the place is printed in the local language on the back. Continue reading

William Least Heat Moon

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”

—William Least Heat Moon
Born 1939, travel writer and historian

Quick Tip: Don’t Advertise Valuables

You’re a good vigilant traveler. You’ve packed your bags and secured them with a TSA approved lock to protect its contents. It’s all good, right? Keep believing that if it makes you feel better, but everything I just described could actually make you more of a target for theft. To begin with, locking your bag only provides you with a false sense of security. Unless you’re one of the few remaining travelers who still have hard-sided luggage with uniquely keyed locks on the latches, you’re probably more vulnerable than you think. If you have a bag with a zipper, it doesn’t take much to get into your bag and not even leave any evidence that it happened, all it takes is a ballpoint pen. By placing a lock on your bag, you’re telling thieves and unscrupulous baggage handlers there’s something worth stealing in that bag, even if there isn’t. But you also don’t want to just leave it unlocked and risk a zipper becoming accidentally opened or someone putting something in your bag. So what can be done? Continue reading