Sunday, November 05, 2017

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Review of SACRIFICE OF THE HYBRID PRINCESS here:...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Review of SACRIFICE OF THE HYBRID PRINCESS here:

...
: Review of SACRIFICE OF THE HYBRID PRINCESS here: The Horror Review --Elaine Pascale, Reviewer The book is available in ebook now and ...
Review of SACRIFICE OF THE HYBRID PRINCESS here:


The book is available in ebook now and print very soon here:


And here:


And here:


And wherever else you may be!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Travel Tips - Part 4 - The Final Instalment.This...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Travel Tips - Part 4 - The Final Instalment.

This...
: Travel Tips - Part 4 - The Final Instalment. This will be my last blog on travelling on the cheap. I've covered flights and accommodat...
Travel Tips - Part 4 - The Final Instalment.

This will be my last blog on travelling on the cheap. I've covered flights and accommodation in Parts 1 to 3.  Now for some of the other basics.

Food is obvious: you can either stay in a place where you can make your own, meaning, a kitchen is available, or research inexpensive restaurants in proximity to your destination. Sometimes just going to a supermarket to buy breakfast (if it's not offered where you're staying) and/or lunch items helps your budget tremendously.

Me, I'm terribly spoiled. I don't enjoy cooking and far prefer to have someone else make a meal for me, and I also like to sample local cuisine. Normally I stay in places where breakfast is included, when I can, which usually gets me through the day until dinner time.  Being on holiday, the last thing I want to do is cook! Googling inexpensive restaurants serving local cuisine is my way to go. However, having said that, others may feel differently about cooking and eating and may need to or want to save the money that preparing your own meals will engender.

There are many tips for travel and I highly recommend this site, which not only lists prices for flights and hotels and sends you alerts if you so desire, but their blog has a wealth of articles on just about every aspect of travel, for example, how to survive long flight, how to pack just a carry-on bag, and so on. I've found Airfare Watchdog the best site for useful info.


I often use a Base Location. For example, London. I frequently travel elsewhere, returning to London several times. Going back to the same place allows me to leave a large suitcase with the hotel or b&b or even airbnb so I can just have a carry-on for short trips of 3, 4 or even 7 days. A small and light suitcase is much easier to travel with than a large suitcase, which is a pain to lug around and usually requires paying a luggage fee to airlines whereas a carry-on is free.  Just make sure your carry-on is the right size--airlines give measurements. My suitcases are the 4-wheel spinner type--they are a LOT easier to move around because you can just walk it next to you, or pull it when necessary over cobblestones or carpet.

For a trip of 3 weeks, a carry-on won't give me enough clothes and other things I require.  I take my giant 28" suitcase, which I can check for free on overseas flights, and leave at the hotel when I go away on short excursions because I'm coming back. That way, I have clean clothes to return to. Still, doing some laundry is usually required for more than 1 week away from home. There are small packets of laundry detergent you can take with you to wash clothes in a sink or, if you find one, at a laundromat.  I've gone to laundries where you pay, say, 15 Pounds and can bring as much laundry as you can carry. It's washed, dried and folded for you to pick up later the same day.  I've also had a hotel wash clothes--once!  That is  extremely expensive as it's a set price per article for each type of clothing--definitely not a money-saver.

Timing. Travel to Europe, for example, is generally less expensive in early spring and in the fall.  Summer is high season.  Travelling to warm spots if you live in a cold-winter climate is most expensive during your winter months, for example Florida, anywhere in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Southern Europe and further south.  If your dates are flexible, you save money by going low season. If you must travel with the hordes during high season, expect to pay more so keep your eyes open for sales. The best are usually the all-inclusives where you get flight, hotel, food and drink for one price.

I've found that for me, a trip of 3 weeks is perfect.  I've done 4 weeks and I've done 5 months.  Now I feel a tad restless after 3 weeks so 4 is my max if I have a valid reason for extending the trip that extra week. You  may be constrained by finances to 1 or 2 weeks, but don't despair. Your frequent flyer points will aid you for future trips of a longer duration.

During 3 weeks I can travel from London to other places, for example, Germany for a weekend, then return to London. European airlines often have better prices than we are used to in North America so I can frequently get cheap tickets, or buy them with my frequent traveller points. Again, research is crucial.

People. When I travel, I like to be alone but I also like to be with friends. I like to plan and I like spontaneity too. If I know people in a place where I'll be, I alert them that I'm coming. Most of the time we will get together for dinner and, on occasion, I will be offered a room in their home, which I may or may not take, depending on how close I feel, how limited my time in their hometown is, and what I want to do and see.

I like to travel alone but I also like to travel with friends. My most recent trip, using London as a base, I travelled to Munich, Germany with a friend, then returned to London. Then I travelled to St. Petersburg, Russia with another friend, who returned to London while I went on to Estonia by myself. From Estonia I went to Prague and met yet another friend there and we travelled around the Czech Republic for a week by car and then spent a couple of days in Prague before we both flew to London on different flights.

This, for me, is ideal for a lot of reason. Travelling in countries where you don't speak the language comes with automatic stress. Most countries in Europe are so familiar with foreign travellers that they speak a smattering of languages other than their own, and can understand a bit of English. I've found people nice and very helpful, even in Paris, which is notorious for rude people--not my experience at all, and I've been there five times. But, for example, very few people in St. Petersburg speak a language other than Russian. Reading street/road signs and menus, exchanging money, figuring out maps, trying to find a place that is a block away, ascertaining a fare for public transit or a taxi, for all of this and more, it's helpful to have a friend with you, especially when the language uses other than the Latin alphabet.  But another plus of travelling with someone is being able to talk about (and laugh about!) the experiences you've shared, what you've seen, how you are both doing, and researching restaurants or places to stay; it helps a lot to have a companion to travel with.  And if one of you gets sick or has an accident, the other is there to take control.  But also, you save money.  That room you are playing $80 CDN for at an inexpensive hotel will suddenly cost you $40 CDN a night by sharing with a friend.  If you rent a car to see some of the places outside major cities, the car rental and gas will be half price for you. There are lots of benefits to travelling with a friend so if you have friends who like to travel and also like to save money travelling, suggest that you go on a (short to start) trip together.

I like travelling with people who are as independent as me, meaning, we are together some of the time, but we part ways sometimes when one wants to see this and the other wants to see that.  We do not need to walk side by side through a museum, stopping at the same object d'art but can move at our individual pace. It's a great arrangement for me and it might be for you as well. This, presuming you are not travelling with a partner, or family.

Exchanging Money from currency to currency is easier with the Euro than it was in the past when every country had its own currency. But not all countries use Euros. It's usually best to exchange at least some currency before you leave home because you will get a better rate at home than at, say, an airport exchange bureau. At your destination city or town, you may or may not get a good exchange rate. Banks are the worst, so avoid changing money there in any country, and forget American Express Travellers Checks--no one wants them. Bring a few US $$s and CDN $$s, especially the former, which can be exchanged anywhere--the exchange office in the Russian hotel would only take four currencies and Canadian wasn't one of them but the U.S. dollar was. The more money you exchange at one time, the better the exchange rate will be.

For my recent 4 week trip I needed Pounds for the UK, Euros for Germany and Estonia, Rubles for Russia, Euros and Czech Korunas for the Czech Republic (which takes both, but not everywhere). That's a lot of changing money. I took some Pounds with me and had a few Euros left from a previous trip.  I needed and bought more Pounds in the UK.  I exchanged Pounds to Russian Rubles on entering Russia, and then, on leaving Russia, exchange Rubles for Euros. Finally, I bought with my CDN $$s some Czech Korunas at the Prague airport exchange at a decent rate. It worked well and I didn't end up with anything more than one coin in Rubles and just a couple of coins in Czech Korunas, both of which are currencies I probably won't be using in the near future.

Having a Cellphone today is crucial. I used to  have a separate cellphone for the US and another one for the UK that allowed roaming to European countries, both phones pay-as-you-go. I would buy time in those countries and on the latter, roaming time for Europe. But carrying several phones around isn't my idea of light packing and also what worked in the past might not work now--I've had that experience.

Last year I bought a roaming package from my Canadian provider for $40. for my cellphone. When I got to the UK, my phone did not work and I spent hours calling the provider in Canada from Europe on a land line until finally I was connected to a tech guy who helped me get it going, the problems not obvious ones. That wasn't pleasant. Then, because of a glitch, I ended up paying $90 instead of the $40. This year I vowed to not have that experience.

If you use your home cellphone and buy a roaming package, you need to remember that when you are NOT using your cellphone, turn off the roaming. In fact, turn off the phone.  Otherwise, you are using up your time and data allowance.

Over the ocean they have wonderful and cheap cellphone service which we North Americans (especially Canadians) do not enjoy.  This year, I had options.

1 - A friend sent me a SIM card she got for me for free in the UK. By exchanging my phone's SIM card for that one, I could then buy very cheap time, which also included roaming time to other countries.

2 - Another option is what my other friend did in the Czech Republic. She arrived the week before I did so she was on her own in Prague. She brought two cellphones with her from home and took one into a local tech shop where she bought a Czech Republic SIM card that gave her calls, texts and oodles of data for $13 CDN. We used the GPS on that phone to drive for a week around the Czech Republic and she still had piles of time/data left at the end.

3 - Ultimately this year I decided that I would wing it. In London, I stayed in a hotel which provides a cellphone in every room that offers free Internet and free long distance calls, so I was able to get on the Net with their phone and also make calls home.  Pretty well everywhere I stayed during my 4 weeks overseas offered free wifi.  99% of the restaurants, shops, museums, train stations, airports, etc. where I was throughout Europe (but not Russia except for the hotel) offered free wifi.  I did not buy or use roaming from my provider but had wifi just about everywhere. In other words, you can get wifi for free so why pay a fee for what you don't need.

Lastly, a Reality check is not so bad. While you will be spending money travelling you are also saving money because you are not at home.  Let's say you spend $100 a week on food at home.  Travelling, you will spend money to eat in restaurants (or buy food to cook if you have the facilities).  The $100 you are not spending at home that week is used towards the roughly $25 to $50 a day you will spend on food travelling.  Taking the average as $30 a day for lunch and dinner, 3 of your 7 days are covered by your regular expenditure on food so you're really paying for 4 days worth of food when away or $100 to $200 a week (not $175 to $350).

If you have services you stop, like a newspaper delivery, water delivery, a cleaning service, all of that money is saved and used during your trip. You do not need a transit pass or gas for your car during your time away, and walking or using local transit in the city you're visiting is a great and inexpensive way to see the city. More money saved. If you can leave your pet with a friend or have someone come in to feed and be with your pet and not pay for boarding at the vet's, you save money.  Your home electricity and gas consumption is down for those 1-2 weeks.  These are just examples of money you are not spending which is diverted to the trip.  In other words yes, travelling costs money, but you also save money being away which pays for some of being away.

*

In the end, if travelling is in your blood, if you recognize the value of taking a break from routine and exploring new and exciting places, or even just lolling under a beach umbrella by the ocean and reading a cheesy novel, this is physical, emotional and spiritual refreshment. We all need it.  You can get it. And by taking the time to research the various aspect of your trip, you can save a lot of money and still have an amazing time away. It's not free, but it's cheaper than you think to invest in your well being.

Bon voyage!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Travel Tips - Part 3Accommodation Elsewhere vari...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Travel Tips - Part 3

Accommodation Elsewhere vari...
: Travel Tips - Part 3 Accommodation Elsewhere varies considerably. You can stay in a hotel, a motel, a b&b, an airbnb, a pension/hostel...
Travel Tips - Part 3

Accommodation Elsewhere varies considerably. You can stay in a hotel, a motel, a b&b, an airbnb, a pension/hostel, a farm house, a cave, a crypt, a prison, a tent, a tepee, a yurt, and you can couch surf.

The comfort factor of accommodation is personal. I look for inexpensive, clean, and well situated for what I want to see/do. And, of course, safe--that goes without saying.

Personally, I haven't stayed in a hostel--sharing a room with a stranger or strangers--since my backpacking youth. That might work for you, and couch surfing might be an exciting adventure. I veer away from those options and also from expensive hotels and motels.  Most people can find hotels, motels, inns and the like themselves on sites like expedia, booking.com, hotels.com, etc.

Hostels can be found here:


Couchsurfing here:



I like b&bs a lot because often you get to meet local people and have what they eat for breakfast.  In the UK and in Europe, it's pretty standard for hotels and b&bs to feed guests breakfast. That meal can range from what's called a 'full English breakfast' with meat, beans, eggs, toast, fried potatoes and tomatoes, all the way down to the simple Continental breakfast which might provide cereal, a muffin or toast, coffee and tea.  The first can offer a lot less food, the second much more.  In Europe, you'll often find the makings of sandwiches for breakfast, meaning, roles, sliced meats and cheese, etc. plus coffee, juice and so on. And of course some places offer no breakfast. Frequently for hotels, the price of the room is a bit lower without breakfast. (It's also usually lower if you prepay for the room).  If you are someone who doesn't usually eat breakfast, that's something to consider.  Most of the time the offered breakfast becomes a lunch as well for tourists, who snag a muffin or apple or make a little sandwich to take with them for later. I'm pretty sure most establishments are not surprised by such behavior.  Here's one b&b search site:


My favorite places to stay are airbnbs.


Airbnb offers a variety of accommodation and is frequently the most economical and the best situated.  Their website allows people to post available accommodation. Again, it's a range and can go from a whole house, an entire apartment, a room in an apartment all the way down to a couch in someone's studio apartment. Depending on where you're going, prices vary.  Airbnb offerings have reviews so you can see what others who have stayed there say about the place.  You also get a lot of detail about what is and isn't available and there are three types of  locked-in payments, from loose to firm. Prices are usually a lot lower than anything else you can find in most cities in the way of accommodation.  I've never stayed in a dirty airbnb--a cleaning fee is included in the rental price. And usually the people renting the accommodation are nice and also helpful with info you might need regarding their city. They may or may not be there. For instance, one place where my travelling companion and I stayed recently was in the house of a woman who had a child and rented 3 rooms as airbnb space.  It was a lovely, modern, clean room that could have slept 4 if we'd had two more friends travelling with us! She handed us the key when we arrived, and in the morning brought this to our room for breakfast:


The price for the room was $85. CDN or $42.50 for each of us for the night with breakfast. 

Another recent airbnb was in Prague. I'd been to Prague in 2008 with my then partner. We could not find a place to stay within our budget, which was about $100. a night, and certainly nothing in the old part of the city. We ended up driving almost 1 hr. to the outskirts to a place we found on expedia in a small 'hotel' of sorts and it cost us $120. for the night. The next day it was another long drive to the old city, which is what we were there to see. 

On my recent trip with my friend, we found an airbnb in the heart of the old city (one of several available).  It was a large city-block building on a very quiet street, a walk-up on the second floor, with people who lived in the building and also tourists renting.  One side of the hallway opened into an enormous space with 3 large rooms, one of which was ours. This was a kind of shared apartment, though all 3 rooms were separated (and locked, of course). It was a shared bathroom space, the toilet separate from the shower/sink, which is normal overseas. There was also a washing machine and a full kitchen.  By the time we reached Prague, we were kind of excited to be able to do some laundry. Breakfast was NOT included.  We stayed 2 nights. The price for the two nights was $139. CDN or about $70. CDN a night, $35. each.  This place was one block from the main square in Prague where you can find the Astronomical Clock, 3 blocks from the Old Jewish Cemetery, and in the midst of many other delights in the old city.  As a bonus, the restaurant in the basement of the building was both charming and cheap and the food excellent. We were given coupons for free drinks as well. 

In all the airbnbs I've stayed in I've been left alone and not in an apartment or even the building with the owner.  Many times I prefer that to a traditional b&b where there's often greater or lesser contact with the owner, who greets you and likely lives in the same house or apartment and makes you breakfast in the morning.

Personal mileage varies so it depends on what you like. A hotel may be the best choice for you. There are reasonably priced hotels everywhere, often around train or bus stations, which is convenient in many ways but might offer a less than pristine neighborhood. Just remember that 'reasonably priced' is of that city or town, not where you live. London and Paris, for example, are two notoriously
expensive cities by North American standards. You can find hotels for $100. CDN a night in both cities, but be prepared to sleep in a match box and/or haul your suitcase up eight or more elevator-less floors. Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

It's worth checking out a variety of sites of different sorts of accommodation. Sometimes you find a real deal on a nice hotel that's within your budget. Who doesn't want to stay in a well-located, nice hotel, with an elevator, toiletries, room service, a bar, maybe even a gym? Sometimes a hotel site will bring up a different sort of find. In another part of the Czech Republic, we were considering an airbnb apartment and found the same place, the same specifics, listed for $10 less a night on booking.com  Of course we booked it!

But one thing I've noticed: The most honest reviews on accommodation and tourist sites I've found are on Trip Advisor. I always review accommodation there because that site allows truthful reviews, unlike some of the other travel sites which seem to want higher star reviews and nothing too negative said. I once had the same review I'd written on expedia sent back to me several times to remove specific negative things I wrote about a terrible  accommodation that had an expedia rating of 4 out of 5 stars, completely unjustified in my view. I've also had the experience of reading reviews on the major sites expedia, booking.com and hotels.com which made a specific place sound pretty good, then checking Trip Advisor and at least once I saved myself from a scuzzy b&b by honest reviews I found on Trip Advisor, with photos of the horrors! Just my 2.5 Canadian cents on this.

As always, research is your friend and the more you do, the more savvy you become about the types of places you want to stay in and what the going rates are for what. In the good old days travellers relied on travel agents. Today, you have to be your own travel agent. Don't be afraid to take risks. The world is generally a lot friendlier than you might imagine.

Here's a site with recent statistics on airbnb which should reassure you if you're unfamiliar with this type of accommodation (scroll down the page):







Saturday, October 14, 2017

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Part 2 - Travel TipsIt's worth it to pay for a f...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Part 2 - Travel Tips

It's worth it to pay for a f...
: Travel Tips - Part 2    It's worth it to pay for a flight initially when joining a frequent flyer program (which is free to join). Using ...
Part 2 - Travel Tips

It's worth it to pay for a flight initially when joining a frequent flyer program (which is free to join). Using your shiny new points credit card buys you points. Paying for a flight gives you points and also the miles you travel on a paid flight give you more points.  Your credit card that gives you points may or may not be from a bank. For example, Aeroplan VISA is a points card.  TD offers one, and so does AmEx. Get the card and then join Aeroplan. Immediately your purchases on the card turn into points you accumulate towards free flights.  And, most points credit card providers give you a welcome bonus, which varies depending on the type of points card you select. Points credit cards usually require an annual fee for the card but ultimately it's worth the cost for the free flights you'll get.

There are two ways of thinking about flights you buy.  You want to go somewhere this winter, say, Honolulu, Hawaii. You're willing to pay with your new credit card that gives you points for the amount you pay and the miles you travel. When booking a flight, there are at least two schools of thinking which go like this:

1 - Your travel dates are fixed. You need to buy a ticket two to six months in advance. The minute an airline that flies to Honolulu has a sale, snag a ticket. 

2 - Your dates are flexible. You can fly this month or next month or next year, leave mid-week or weekends. You can wait to book. Eventually the price will drop and you can then pick dates that fit the sale parameters. Airlines want to fill planes and will offer cheap seats close to the scheduled flights.

Most often I go with #1, mainly because many of the events I travel for, like conventions, are fixed dates and since I've already bought a membership for the convention and booked the hotel, I need to make sure I am there then.

On the other hand, I have also had a lot of flexibility when travelling just for pleasure, in which case I could go to Honolulu in January, February or March. Sometimes, as the winter months approach and the planes are not full, sales happen and I can snag a flight for any two weeks I want that the sale covers.

The golden days of many choices of flight times each day seem to be over. Airlines are hell-bent on profit which means scheduling fewer flights each day and stuffing planes with passengers.  If you wait, you run the risk that the flight you want will be full. If you book far in advance, you run the risk of seeing your flight which is non-refundable drop in price, possibly by several hundred dollars.

What you decide relates to how fixed your time frame for travel is. Most jobs require employees to select their holidays in advance. In that case, since you know you have 2 weeks off from, say, February 1 to 14, start looking for and comparing flights the minute you know your holiday dates. You'll see the prices and as you watch over days and weeks you'll see them change.

The key to cheap flights is research.  There are multiple search engines that compare prices of flights with various airlines so you can see who has the lowest prices and best conditions for the dates you want. For example, I looked up return flights, Montreal to Honolulu, February 1 to 14, 2018 here:


Research is your friend. You need to research the costs of various flights and for several airlines that fly where you want to go so you know whether or not a sale is really a sale. Google is just one search engine and you can compare prices for flights on Kayak, Expedia, Skyscanner--there are oodles of such trackers available in every country. Some will alert you to price changes. You can also get flight alerts from specific airlines sent to your email when the price of a particular flight you're interested in changes (up or down).

The list down below is what came up for me typing in the Honolulu info on googleflights.ca. All are under $1,000 Canadian dollars. These comparisons (which change daily and sometimes hourly) give you a choice of airlines and also whether you want non-stop (more costly, usually) or 1 or 2 changes of plane, what time of day you want to depart and arrive, the overall length of the flight, etc.  And you can always check an airline of choice every couple of days to look for price drops. Just make sure that when you do a comparison search that prices are in your currency. Most of the comparison search engines let you change the currency to your own.

By the way, based on the list below, United (which is a Star Alliance member--Aeroplan) has the lowest price, a round trip flight Montreal to Honolulu - $558.  The distance of the round trip is about 9800 miles, each mile giving a point on Aeroplan. There are also points given for the cost of the flight, $558. Total points for this flight, about 10,358 points in your Aeroplan account. But if you are also charging your regular-life expenses of $1,000 a month (see Travel Tips 1), you would accumulate 12,000 points a year.  In one year by combining the trip you buy and the points you earn on monthly expenses you will have 22,358 points, enough for a free flight to New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles or Mexico City, or many other places. And if your monthly expenses are $1,500 a month, in one year you would have 28,358 points, enough to go to California!

And surprise! Your new points credit card will offer you a welcome bonus of points, the number varying on the type of card you select. For example, a TD Aeroplan VISA credit card will give you 25,000 welcome points. Combine those and in one year you have 53,358 in one year or more.  And guess what? If you love Hawaii, you can go again next year--on points!  Honolulu will cost you 45,000 points so you'll have 8,358 left towards the start of another trip!

Just a head's up: A round trip flight to the UK or Europe normally will cost you 60,000 points UNLESS Aeroplan has a sale.  In 2016 I only paid 14,500 points for that overseas flight. This year I paid 42,000 points.  At the moment, if you wanted to travel to London, England in November it would only cost you just 15,400 points because Aeroplan is having a sale. Life is good! 

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