Camp Start Up

In a few weeks, I am leaving for a camping trip that I help coordinate each year. It’s the culmination of a year of planning that starts back the previous August and comes to a fruition around the 1st of Aug each year…

….and while the planning can get overwhelming and the coordination of all the moving parts can be confusing, when we finally get into camp and a few days go by, I actually get to relax and let things roll. I do a lot of delegation and so by the time camp actually is underway, my responsibilities are light….

2016-07-16_234126363_02767_iOS…but I can’t look to that moment yet. It happens, but not for another few weeks. There are also several items at home and work that keep me busy – so adding camp into the mix is a bit of a circus.

  • Right now, I set up the gear, make sure it’s dry and watertight.
  • …but I need to make sure the stoves work correctly
  • ….and pack up the tools and make sure they are ready to be loaded
  • …and need to check our tarp bins – make sure they haven’t gone moldy over the course of the year
  • ….and have to check the fuel supply and buy any additional (which means hunting down the best deal)
  • …and have to check the camp lantern.
  • I need to grab the camp sign
  • …and sort out the rope bag and materials for shelter building
  • …and set up and re-pack tents.
  • I need to coordinate the acquisition of a trailer and make sure it’ll make the 20+ hours of road time it’ll see on this trip.
  • I need to tune my truck and change the oil – make sure it’s ready to roll
  • …and I need to clean the interior/exterior of my truck so my passengers don’t think I actually live like a bum.
  • I should check the spare tire pressure too.
  • Then I need to pack my own gear – then unpack and repack, eliminating items I truly won’t use….
  • …and pack camera gear, charging batteries and protecting my lenses.
  • Then I should pack video gear (GoPro)
    • Plan shots
    • Charge Batteries
    • Pack Mounts
    • Set Mounts in Truck

You get the point. The next few weeks are going to be busy, but the experience we share together on this trip will be worth all the craziness.

Here we go!

VLOG 2 – Camping Gear

Next VLOG post. Today I recommend a bag for camping – the Scully 100L.

Check it out!

Cruising – Questions You Might Have Before Leaving

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So of all the vacation ideas out there, what questions do you have about cruising? Well, here are some of the most common questions I see on sites and forums. Let’s have a little Q&A about this:

  • Q: Is Cruising for Me? A: Cruising is for specific people. Don’t kid yourselves, cruise lines would LOVE for you to think that there is a cruise vacation for everyone on the planet – but in reality, cruising is designed best for people who like to see a little bit of everywhere in a limited amount of time. You are usually only at destinations for a day or so, so planning what you want to see or do while you are there is important. 7-day cruises are currently the sweet spot between ‘price’ and ‘feeling like you had a chance to relax.’ Some like shorter trips, some like longer and some like Land-Sea vacations. You have to make that choice for yourself.
  • Q: Won’t I get bored being stuck on the ship? A: There are a few ways you can be bored on a cruise ship. The first is – you simply don’t try. Cruise ships are small towns, floating around with thousands of people on board. There is always someone new to meet, a show to see, a pool to swim in, food to eat, gyms to attend, free classes and educational seminars, gambling options (if you like), coffee shops to try, ice creme to eat and on top of all that: unbelievable views of the ocean and passing lands. The only requirement: You have to go do them. The other way you can be bored is if you travel with someone who hates all those things I just mentioned. You are on an adventure that you’ve paid a lot for. Go explore. There is lots to see, people to meet and events to experience. Use your room to sleep in, shower and recover. I love going on these trips with the mentality: “I will never see these people/clowns again. They don’t know if I’m an introvert or extrovet. I can be whoever I want to be.”
  • Q: Isn’t cruising CRAZY expensive? A: Not when you factor in all the things that are included in your ticket. Like I mentioned above, everything from entertainment, room service, endless food (seriously) and much more is included. If you were doing this on land and traveling to each of your destinations at the same time plus finding accommodations, you’d spend more. With that being said (and like I mentioned before): Get out and do some things ! you pay for it whether you do or don’t. You choose. Folks who choose to be hermits on a cruise (and I know several), pay the money to be hermits – and are ok with it. They prefer it. I read a lot on cruises – in a week I kill 3 or 4 books – and that’s just while my wife takes a little nap (each afternoon) and at night time on our balcony. Otherwise, we are out exploring.
  • Q: What if I get seasick? A: Are you prone to motion sickness? Does Dramamine work at all for you? Is it mild motion sickness or crazy-vomit sickness? This is one of the most mentioned side effects of cruising and rightly-so. Many people don’t like this feeling, while other thrill seekers enjoy it. Still others have no problem while on the ship, but can continue to feel it moving well after they have finished cruising. You’ll have to know your own body before figuring out if you can stomach this experience. One of my favorite feelings is eating in the evening dining room (at one end of the ship) and feeling the ship go up and down. Makes me smile every time.
  • 13461-its-a-dangerous-business-frodo-going-out-your-door-if-youQ: Isn’t it dangerous to go to some of these destinations? A: Yep. It’s also dangerous to get in a car, or bike without a helmet or invest in a retirement fund. Life is full of dangers – how to manage them is more important. Cruise lines have secured excursions with companies and folks at the destinations – so picking excursions and not “going-alone” for your adventures is a way to minimize risk unless you know the destination very well. Plus, if your excursion is late, they will hold the ship till you arrive back, whereas, if you go-it-alone, they will leave you if you don’t return on time. Excursions cost a little (or a lot, depending what you choose), but it’s worth it in the end.
  • Q: If I pay all this money, is everything included? A: Well, —  no. A TON of stuff is included and there isn’t much need to pay anything extra, but all the things that would classify as premium items – like alcohol or specialty drink, will cost more. Drinking is cheaper at your home. You’re not going to drink, you’re going on a vacation. If you like to drink while on vacations, cruise ships are not the cheapest way. Also, excursions are going to cost per person as well and there is a charge per passenger to your room, per day as cover for tipping — but the good news is — you don’t have to carry around a bunch of $1’s like a stripper. The tipping is already covered and is charged at the end of your trip to your registered credit card on record with the cruise line. There is an exception for bartenders on some ships – so read the fine print and google your cruise line’s tipping policy. There are also special restaurants (beyond the ones included with your trip) that cost about $20 a person and a reservation for the meal – but they do offer more than just the traditional dining rooms. If you want the “extras,” then you pay extra. There are also gift shops on board and your room card acts as a direct line to your credit card – so if you buy a (item) from the shop, it gets charged to your room and invoiced at the end.
  • Q: I am super attached to my wifi and iPhone – will I be able to connect? A: Why are you going on vacation? If you must, for a higher cost, there is internet services onboard in specific zones, but they are traditionally expensive or for reoccurring cruisers who have loyalty to one cruise line. My personal recommendation is – leave the rat race at home, get away and let the world turn without you for a change. There are destinations that are owned by your country or covered by your service provider – you could check in with the rest of the world at those locations (if you’re stopping by there. St. Thomas, for example, is a US Virgin Island and US Cell Service is available).
  • Q: I heard that cruising is for newlyweds and nearly-deads. Is that true? A: In the past, cruising was not really economical for everyone to enjoy, but many cruise lines make great efforts to accommodate and include activities that all forms of families (fr-amilies too) can enjoy. This will depend greatly on which cruise line you choose. Every cruise line has something they do AMAZINGLY. Some are low on price, some are full of fun, some are family centered. You need to assess your traveling companions and look accordingly. Personally, my wife and I travel on Princess Cruises. A little older crowd, but lots to do and fun people to meet – plus there is always that one rich old lady that busts out every jewelry item she has — super fun people watching.
  • Q: 3100 Passengers? Can you hear the people in the room next door? A: You are on board with 4500 (crew included) on most of these standard sized ships – not counting the mega or mini cruise ships. Yes – you will hear people around you. Personally, we only really heard people on our balcony (like the lady who spilt red wine on her white summer dress next door to us — I found out every detail about that accident….). At night time, I never noticed any noises – but I sleep heavier than most. Again, is the glass half full or half empty? Are you on a new adventure or focused on all the things you dislike? Be positive, be excited — it will make annoyances seem petty.
  • Q: Won’t I get fat with all that food around me? A: That depends. Do you have any self restraint? The answer to that question will directly dictate the answer to the prior.

Those are the ones I come across the most. If you have more questions, please comment and let me know. Thanks for checking out my blog. Snif around and see if there is anything else that interests you.

Keep your stick on the ice, eh?

New To Cruising Tips

DSC06359So, you’re going on a cruise and need some basic advice. Hopefully this blog will give you some direction as you prepare for a fun trip away.

First mention – they make and design cruise ships for all types of vacationers. You are welcome to have an opinion about if you prefer it or not – but they design the ship for many different styles of vacationers.

Cruising is not the cheapest way to vacation, but if you consider all that is included (which most don’t), then it is comparable to other vacations. All you can eat, included room service, live show’s and many activities all a part of the trip – all you have to do is show up.

Here are some tips I’ve learned from my trips on board a cruise ship:

DSC05851Tip #1: A balcony room has a benefit if you like to retreat to your room. It doesn’t mean it’ll be quiet (because you are also surrounded by other balcony rooms) but it your own personal spot when it’s time to send off or while docking/departing at your ports of call. If you plan to only sleep in your room – interior or oceanview rooms are cheaper.

Tip #2: Cruise ships make over half a million dollars every week-long trip they take on booze. I have a friend who, instead of buying wine on board, he takes a bag of boxed wine in his suitcase (vacuum sealed twice, of course) and drinks it onboard instead. He saves a fortune. He just asks for a glass at the bar and takes it back to his room. Now, if you really want to save some cash – limit or eliminate drinking on board. Instead – if you need something, spend the calories on soda. Most ships, before departure from their boarding port, offer “soda” cards/stickers for a lower price (overall). Each glass of soda can run up to 3$, but the soda card might be around $35-40 total (so 12-15 drinks). You can sign up for this benefit, have it billed to your ship card and enjoy endless soda the entire trip from any bar or dining room. An old lady told me that if you are travelling with a friend or spouse, you can get one sticker, go to the bar, get a soda, walk about 5 minutes, give it to your cruising partner, go to the next bar and get another. Money saved.

Tip #3: Keep a small notebook (moleskin). Not only is it a great place to write down things that happen, it also gives you a place to write down any purchases you make. Cruise ships LOVE to charge it to your room, swipe your card and slip the bill under your door on the last day. It can be shocking to find out how quick it adds up. Be careful and keep a running tab in your notebook so that you are aware of how much is being charged.

Tip #4: Casinos on board are for fun – not to get rich. The house ALWAYS wins. These ships are registered in Bermuda – not Las Vegas – or even the USA. The odds are not in your favour -> ever. They are built for one purpose – to make money.

Tip #5: Tipping. When I went on my first cruise with my new bride (honeymoon) – we had no idea what or how to tip. Thankfully, there is no reason to take fist-full of $1’s to cover all your services. Cruise ships know that people are clueless when it comes to tipping and now automatically apply a daily fee to your room per passenger ($11 per day per passenger). It might seem crazy – but the people on the ships are aces when it comes to service and there are about a dozen taking care of you each day. It’s money well spent. At the end of the week, you can tip someone who has helped you tremendously if you choose, but it’s not required. You can also go to customer services and increase your tip per day — if you’d like.

Tip #6: Your Bags. When you get out of the taxi or off the bus at the departure port, there will be people handling bags and putting them into cargo crates. This service is NOT from your cruise line. They work for a contracted company and work solely for tips to expedite your bags onto the ship – straight in front of your room. Be sure that they are doing this for all passengers. If you are unsure about this – you may take your bags on board by yourself. If you choose to use this service; I have heard all sorts of amounts about how much someone should tip – per passenger, per bag, etc. Cruise critic and I agree, $1-2 per bag is customary and acceptable. Don’t let guilt tell you differently.

Tip #7: Your Bags, part 2. If you choose to use the shore to ship baggage service – take a carry-on bag with your essentials in it – especially Medication (even Tylenol and Dramamine for motion sickness), identification, money, credit cards and all paperwork. Consider also taking a bathing suit. The rest of your gear will arrive – sometime during the evening. Visit your room every hour or so to see if it shows up. On our first cruise, we pulled out of port and I got worried – but it arrived after dinner – safe and sound. On our next cruise, we packed a carry-on and I didn’t worry at all.

Tip #8: Valuables stay in your on board safe in your room. They don’t leave until you want them and they go right back when you’re done. There are people coming and going from your room all the time (servicemen). Be safe, be smart.

Tip #9: Camera. The nicer camera you can get your hands on, the better. It’s SO important to take quality gear with you on this trip – because you might not get to go back for a LONG time. Having nice pictures will ease the pain – for a while.

DSC06020Tip #10: Turn off. This goes for devices but also for your work-brain. It can be SO hard to power down phones and let go, but it can and should be done. You’ll enjoy yourself much more if you allow yourself to let it go for the trip. Plus, I always found that reconnecting with Social Media after a trip can be refreshing. You’ll have stories to tell.

Tip #11: Make your excursion reservations before you board the ship. The earlier, the better. This will guarantee your reservation and get you on your desired time. These fill-up quickly but are worth it. Another note about excursions: although they cost more, they are booked by the cruise line AND if you should be running late, the ship will not leave without you. I’ve actually experienced this. We were out touring Grand Turk and came back 5 minutes after departure time. We were greeted by the staff, I walked up to our room and walked out onto our balcony to see the ship pushing off from the dock. If we went “exploring” on our own and were 5 minutes late – we would have been looking at the ship pulling away without us. You can either rejoin the cruise at your own expense at the next port – or head home. All for a few bucks saved — I don’t think it’s worth it.

DSC05980Tip #12: Reserved space on the beach. The first cruise we went on, we ate Breakfast and left the ship around 9:00 am for the beach. When we arrived – it was packed…. all day. Nowhere to sit, no shade (and I’m Canadian, so 90 degrees in the sun — na-uh). On our next cruise, we added an excursion for our beach day – a clamshell. It’s a reserved place on the beach. You present the ticket on the beach they set you up. Then you have a space to rest, two loungers and some shade. Ours cost $35 total for the whole day. Totally worth it.

Tip #13: Rain. If you’re headed for a tropical location – it might rain. It does that A LOT. Don’t go hoping for perfect weather the whole trip – but plan to make the most of it while you are there. Make it a part of the adventure and you’ll have stories to tell when you get home. Running in the rain with my wife on St. Thomas is one of my favourite memories. Also note, a dry bag is a God-send. It can really help – especially if you take that expensive camera with you. Sealine makes great bags – check them out on Amazon. If it starts to rain and your in the water, all your gear is safe and dry – and the beach in the rain can be fun.

DSC06092Tip #14: Dressing up. Every cruise line will ask you to dress up at least once – likely twice. Just plan on it. They typically want men to dress in coats and pants and women in dresses. Packing for such an occasion might be tricky – especially since you’re not allowed to iron your clothes on board. The solution: take some wrinkle-releaser with you. Available in travel size and on Amazon – it’s a great life saver. If you choose not to use this – get your dress clothes out as soon as they arrive and hang them up near the steamy shower. Remember to pack dress shoes (yep, I forgot those on our honeymoon – I walked around like a dork in black sandals – but I was travelling with the prettiest girl I knew – and she didn’t care).

Tip #15: Bring a power strip. There is probably going to be 2 outlets in the cabin – so if you need to charge camera batteries, devices and whatever else you bring, you’re going to want to have a power strip. Also bring extra SD cards in case one fills up or gets damaged – you’re not totally up a creek.

Tip #16: Bring your adventurous attitude. There are usually 3100+ people on board modern ships – but they do their best to spread you all out. It’s an adventure – go and explore. Don’t let others screw with your journey. The trip is what you make of it. I love the thought of holding my wife’s hand and stepping into parts of the world we’ve never experienced before.

I could go on and on. I might update this post when I think of other items – so bookmark this on Pinterest and come back before you leave. Otherwise, have a fantastic trip. I’m Cruising-Obsessed.