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Faster and FREE US Re-Entry

Do you have TSA PreCheck? Clear? How about Global Entry? If you do, good for you. Keep reading!

I have TSA PreCheck which in most cases is really good for getting through U.S. TSA checkpoints without having to pull out my electronics, carry-on liquids, and take off my shoes.

This post is about international travel.

If you have ever re-entered the U.S. and stood in the Customs and Immigration lines after returning from an international destination such as Mexico, the Caribbean, or Europe; you are aware of the long line in which I like to call the amusement park line because of the zig-zagging.

However, here's a tip for re-entering the US from international travel without it costing you nothing more than a few minutes of your time.

Yes, you read that correctly. Although CLEAR and Global Entry offers the fantastic perk of getting through airport security quickly, no need to pay that annual fee of $179 for CLEAR or the $100 every 5 years for Global Entry when you can just download an app and get through Customs and Immigration faster than those in the regular line. LOL!

I recommend you download the app called Mobile Passport. It will save you time by allowing you to submit your passport details and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) questions in order to access designated lanes in the inspection area securely at most (not all) U.S. airports and cruise ports.

After completing the short form, you will be presented with a confirmation screen that will allow you to enter the Mobile Passport line. I live in Philadelphia so my home airport is Philadelphia International Airport and the regular line is always super long so when my travel companion said get out of line and download this app, I started telling any and everyone who would listen to do the same thing.

It saved so much time getting through CBP.

iPhone users can download it from here

Android user can download it from here

Top 5 Travel Essentials

Top 5 Travel Essentials

As an avid traveler, I want to ensure I have all the items for a comfortable getaway without packing my entire house.

For many years, I struggled with either overpacking or underpacking until I took the time to evaluate what it was that I truly needed.

That evaluation resulted in my Top 5 Travel Essentials for any trip:

  1. Backup battery charger. In most cases, my cell phone is my entertainment, camera, reference guide, holds a copy of my passport in the event I misplace or lose my passport while traveling, and means to communicate with my travel companions. So it is very important that I stay charged throughout the day so I purchased a portable charger that is similar in size and thickness to my iPhone 12 so it's very easy to carry.
  2. Travel Mug. I have a double-walled travel mug that keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for hours. My travel mug is one with a lid that closes and a reusable metal straw. It comes in great at all-inclusive resorts so my drink is put into my cup and since many resorts have done away with straws, I have one to use that is good for the environment.
  3. Hand sanitizer and wipes. Pre-COVID this was an absolute must because everything is dirty. Door handles, airline seats, buckles, and trays. The room remote control and phone receiver. The list goes on.
  4. Scarf. You might be thinking, does she travel with a scarf in the Summer as well. I sure do. Those airports and airlines can be very chilly so I pack a scarf large enough to wrap around my shoulders for flights. It also comes in handy when staying at properties that love to crank up the A/C.
  5. Snacks. I have been on plenty of excursions where I wish I had a cookie, a peanut, or something to hold me over until I was able to secure some food for my belly. When you are on a long flight and don't want pretzels or peanuts that are being offered; or you don't want to spend $5 dollars on a snack box, or you wake up in the middle of the night and don't want to wait for room service (for those properties with 24-hour room service), you have something you can munch on to satisfy that craving immediately. I like to pack mixed nuts, cookies, and small bags of potato chips.

Now, these are just my must-haves outside of my clothing, toiletries, and travel documents that I pack.

Let me know what your must-have travel essentials are. I have room to add one or two items to my list.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope to produce more content that you will enjoy.

CRUISE LINE: Holland America

In October 2019, I signed up for a Seminar at Sea where a small number of travel professionals get the opportunity to obtain first hand experience with a product they promote to their clients.

Holland America hosted us travel professionals for a week-long Caribbean sailing. We sailed on Holland America's Niuew Amsterdam ship which is has the music and arts them of New York.

We departed from Fort Lauderdale, FL to the islands of Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and the private island of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

After experiencing Royal Caribbean's embarkation process in Miami I was hoping to encounter a similar experience during this sailing but that was not that case. It took a bit of time to board the ship but once aboard, I was immediately impressed. The staff greets you with smiles, the ship is beautiful for the discerning adult, my room was ready so I was able to go directly their and drop off my carry-on bags, and the best of all was my first view of the bathroom.

If you are not familiar with cruise ship bathrooms or bathrooms that are not handicap accessible or even a grand suite in size, the bathrooms can be so small that you can touch the faucet of the sink and the shower door all while sitting on the commode. (laughing). I was so shocked at having a spacious area to shower and get ready for the day that I did a video and posted it on my YouTube channel.

I had a great time on each island with San Juan being my favorite. I signed up for the Taste of San Juan experience where the group were given the history of Old San Juan and experienced food and/or beverages at 5 eateries.

What stood out the most during my sailing with Holland America was the service and quality. Cruising is my absolute favorite type of vacation because you visit multiple countries/island on one trip but the food is usually hit or miss. Some dining venues are better than others but on this ship, I did NOT have one bad meal. I enjoyed dinner in the specialty dining restaurant, main dining room, the pool side restaurants (Dive-In and New York Pizza).

This ship is not made for those that used to the hustle and bustle you would get on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival cruises. It's laid back, more relaxing, with some activities. No loud music blaring on the pool deck; no belly flopping contests; no "pub" crawls, etc.

This sailing allowed (or better yet) forced me to relax. I am the hyper traveler where I want lots of activities, loud music, and a nightclub. This was not that cruise and I enjoyed it.

DESTINATION: Thailand

Thailand was amazing from landing to departure. Did you notice that I did not say from beginning to end? I have to be honest that the flight from Newark, NJ to Bangkok with a connection in Hong Kong was very long.

Ten of us traveled together on a flight that took approximately 21 hours with the layover to get from the states to Thailand but the journey was so well worth it.

During our layover in Hong Kong which is a huge airport, we found a restaurant that serves the best ramen noodles I have ever eaten in my life. So much so that on the return flight home, a few of us made our way back to the same restaurant to purchase some more noodles for the flight back home. So yummy!

We started off in Bangkok. An overcrowded city filled with people, tuk-tuks, mopads, motorcycles, and massage "parlors". The food was amazing. Our stay at Dream Bangkok was awesome thanks to the concierge YoYo and Ms. Jane in the Flavors Restaurant.

The buffet breakfast was not like any other we were accustomed to. Not only did they have the standard breakfast items but they also included a full salad bar, freshly made soup, fried rice, fish, and so much more. Everything was delicious.

We saw the beautiful temples that are most popular with tourist like ourselves. We went dancing at Sugar Nightclub where we were entertained. We had dinner at an interesting restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms and did some shopping at MBK Center; by the way they have a number of food vendors on the side with some delicious food to charge you up before you spending time spending money in the mall.

We wrapped up our trip with time spent by the beach in Phuket. Phuket is beautiful during the day and filled with lively entertainment at night on Bangla Road. This area is a bit "seedy" but if you are into trying and seeing new things, this is the place for you. There are tons of food vendors, a shopping mall, lots of places to grab a drink, and if you are into some rated R shows, they have that for you as well.

We spent a full day touring the Phi Phi Islands. We snorkeled, took pictures, saw lots of monkeys at Monkey Beach, and had lunch on a beautiful island.

Some of us spent a day getting massages and spending time at the beach while others spent time at a nearby elephant sanctuary feeding and bathing these amazing mammals.

Overall the natives of Thailand were amazingly helpful, friendly, and gracious. We encountered a number of foreigners who were just outright rude; pushing and shoving in crowds, cutting in front of you in lines, etc.

Thailand is a beautiful country that I would definitely visit again despite the 21 hour flight it took from Newark, NJ to get there.

TIP: You can not purchase alcohol in the duty-free shop in the Phuket airport if you have a connecting flight in Hong Kong. We were disappointed to learn this fact as wish we made the decision to make our purchases before heading to the airport.

 

DESTINATION: Dubai

Dubai was an amazing destination. After flying 13 hours non-stop from JFK we arrived. Taking a short taxi from the airport to our hotel located in the heart of Deira. Our hotel was conveniently located less than 10 minutes from the Metro station which took us to various malls with a stop at the beautiful Dubai Marina.

As you can see in our pictures, our clothing was pretty relaxed. We only had to ensure we were covered according to Islamic law when we entered religious buildings such as a mosque.

We saw a lot during the week we spent in Dubai such as visit the aquarium at Atlantis, The Palm located on the world famous Palm Island. We went to the top of the world's largest building. Went to one of the world's largest malls. We dined aboard one of their traditional boats, went to the Dubai Museum to learn more of how the city became to be. We also spent half a day dune bashing, riding camels, taking pictures with a falcon, had a bbq dinner, and watched a belly dancing show in the dessert.

Between the clean city, hospitality of the people we encountered, the delicious foods, and the safe environment; I would recommend this destination be added to your "Bucket List" "Travel List".

 

 

United Arab Emirates

DESTINATION: Jamaica

Jamaica is a beautiful country located less than 4 hours non-stop from Philadelphia International Airport. This was my second visit to this Caribbean delight and I had an amazing time. In celebration of a young lady with whom I went to high school with earning her Master's Degree I wanted to select a resort that was located on the beach, close to the airport, had nicely decorated rooms, catered to adults (18 and over), and located within a short ride from the airport and Riu Palace Jamaica won out.

Check-in to the resort went smoothly. The first thing we did after dropping our bags off in our rooms was book a couple of tours/activities for our 4 day trip. We enjoyed a few cocktails at the bar before exploring the property and stopping in the buffet restaurant. I had zero complaints about the food and the drinks were deliciously strong.

Our first night was spent at Margaritaville located in Montego Bay. The music and crowd was a fun time for the four of us. This popular nightspot is located on the water and large enough to hold a huge crowd. The music was mixed, the drinks were well priced, and it was located close to our resort.

Day 2, we were taken a little over away to Rick's Café located in Negril, Jamaica. This is one of the popular attractions where you can sit back and listen to music, watch the brave jump off the cliff, or order some drinks and bite to eat. After returning to the resort I met up with a driver the Jamaica Tourist Board set me up with so I could so a tour of some other resorts in the area. I did an inspection of Sandals Montego Bay (adults-only), Holiday Inn Montego Bay (budget-friendly), Hilton Rose Hall (beautiful property), and Hyatt Ziva (family-friendly)/Zilara (fantastic adults-only) All-inclusive Resorts.

That evening myself and one of the other ladies I was with ventured off the property to go to the ATM machine and a few steps from the bank was a restaurant that had live music. So we spent some time there before heading out with a driver to a local nightclub and danced to authentic reggae music.

Day 3, was spent climbing the Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. That's an activity for anyone who wants to join a "party" climbing up a waterfall. There is a photographer assigned to each group so they can capture many pictures of you and your fellow climbers during another one of the island's most popular attractions.

Day 4, after breakfast I changed into a bathing suit as we had a few hours before our transportation back to the airport was scheduled to pick us up. After printing our boarding passes, we checked into Club Mobay which is an added feature you can purchase which gives you a special lane to expedite your security line check in and a lounge to relax in while you wait for your flight to depart. I've used Club Mobay's Arrival and Departure service and highly recommend it. The lounge is clean, comfortable, and has tasty bites to eat and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

JAMAICA

DESTINATION: Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic (DR) has become my one of my top five favorite destinations. On a recent FAM trip for travel professionals I got to visit seven properties in three days which included my host property, Occidental Punta Cana. My first visit to the DR was in 2010 as a surprise birthday present for my now husband. It was our first time visiting this country and we were more than pleased with our visit. We never left our resort so during that trip I didn't get to see much of what the DR has to offer but that changed during my recent trip in September 2013.

As with most (not all) Caribbean destinations there are budget friendly, moderately priced, and well worth the extra $$ all-inclusive resorts in this beautiful wonderland. Barcelo Bavaro is one of my favorite resorts. This mega resort has an adult-only resort and a family friendly resort within the same complex. Each resort has its own lobby for check-in, restaurants, bars, entertainment, pools but allows the guests staying in the adult-only resort the freedom to enjoy all the additional amenities the Palace Deluxe resort has to offer such as additional restaurant options, disco, spa, and a few additional extras. Below are a few pictures from one of their beautiful rooms I got to check out. I wish I was there for more than a 10 minute visit but it allowed me the opportunity to talk up this resort from a personal interaction versus reading views or checking out pictures they selected to post on their consumer website.

Why I Love Cruising!

I love a vacation that provides a variety of activities without adding to my costs. For me a cruise provides the entertainment I enjoy from Broadway types shows to fun games like scavenger hunts and game shows. There are day and evening activities for the tots, teens, and adults. I enjoy the number of dining options from casual buffets to semi-formal restaurant styled dining. I love to look at the decor and artwork displayed through the what I refer to as a “city at sea”. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people from all over the world from the staff to the passengers. The best part of cruising is the transportation it provides to multiple destinations whether you are in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. Here are a few pictures I took of Norwegian’s Breakaway ship that launched this past April 2013.