The Nines Portland Hotel – A Review

We go up to Portland, Oregon quite a bit and have stayed in many of the main downtown hotels.  We planned a last minute trip for the President’s weekend and this time chose The Nines as it was $50/night cheaper than the other contenders (though this is not always the case).  We had stayed here several years ago when they had first opened, but for one reason or another had never gone back.  While all the downtown hotel’s are very well located for shopping and picking up the MAX light rail, The Nines definitely has the best location of them all. Located in the Meier and Frank building, you can just walk out of the lobby and the entrance to M & F is right there.  Just kitty-corner is the entrance to Pioneer Place and Nordstrom is just one block up past Pioneer Courthouse Square.  The MAX light rail runs right by the hotel, a stop is just 1/2 block away, or you can walk just a few blocks up to the streetcar stop and get to The Pearl or NW 23rd. Read More →

Why We Travel – Dreams Do Come True

There are many reasons why we started traveling abroad with our kids.  To “see the world”, experience other cultures, see things we had read about or seen in movies and eat amazing food.  But there was one other reason as well.  I wanted to be sure my kids were not apprehensive or intimidated about studying abroad if that was what their dream would be to do.  When I was in college I had some interest in studying abroad, but having never traveled abroad I was fearful of the experience, and not sure my parents would have supported the idea.  Read More →

Need a Shower or to “Freshen Up” at San Francisco Airport (SFO)?

Great news! It is easy to take a shower or freshen up at SFO after a long haul flight or just a long day.  My daughter left Sunday morning from Oregon to San Francisco for her trip to study abroad in Rome.  While waiting for her SFO – Frankfurt flight she received notification via her phone that the flight had been cancelled!!  No attendants at the counter because her previous flight arrived earlier and it was still 2 hrs before the flight had to leave.  She finally found an agent who said she had to go outside of security to talk to someone.  In the meantime she also called United’s 1-800 number where she was promptly put on hold.  After waiting in an enormous line and being on hold for ever, she did eventually get rebooked on a Swiss Air flight but it was not leaving for another 6 hours.  Then she had to lug all her luggage on a cart (we estimated at least 100 lbs.) from the domestic terminal to the international terminal.

We are still not sure why they just left her luggage on the carousel in the domestic terminal, but I guess after the flight got cancelled that is what they do??

Anyway, after all this she called, and said “Mom, I’m drenched!!  Is there anywhere I can take a shower here?!”  I quickly googled and was happy to tell her that  yes, there is a place called Freshen Up located before security in the International Terminal, near the entrance for Gates 91-102.  For about $15 they provide you with soap, shampoo, conditioner, towel, and slippers.


Lauren said it was very nice and clean.  One of the reviews I had read about it said you could not lock the doors, but Lauren said her door definitely had a lock.  When she was done she said she felt 1000x times better and was now ready for the rest of her journey!!  There is also a place right next door where you can pay to store your luggage.

I tried to see if I could find out what other airports had a Freshen Up but they do not have a website.  Would love to hear if others know about places like this in other airports, in the US and abroad.


Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Grandparents

In front of the Louvre in Paris 2006

Interested in traveling with your kids and their grandparents abroad?? 

We have traveled with our kids, and their grandparents (my mom and dad) three times in the past seven years, and are planning our fourth trip for this March.  We are very lucky as we all get along quite well, and my parents are very easy going people.  My mom is not as adventurous as we are, so I do not include them to locations such as Morocco or Vietnam, but locales in Europe are always a good bet, though they did join us for an amazing trip to Israel and Petra.  Here are my Top Ten tips to help you get started and to have a trip the whole family will enjoy. Read More →

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Terrorism, Oh My! What to do when they affect your travel plans.

What do you do when natural disaster or terrorism affects your travel plans?  We have had each situation happen.  In 2007 I had planned a trip for us to go to Barcelona, Spain for five nights then eight nights in Morocco.  In Morocco, our plan was to visit Marrakech, Fez and the Sahara desert.  This was our first trip to a location outside of North America or Europe.  We were set to leave on Friday, and that Monday I read on the TripAdvisor forum that there had been a suicide bombing in Casablanca – YIKES!!  Here is a link to the article in the newspaper:

We were not planning on spending anytime in Casablanca, we would only be flying out of there.  I told hubby about it, and we decided to continue monitoring it.  Since we would be spending our first five nights in Barcelona we decided  if things ratcheted up we could just stay in Spain.  The next day the Moroccan authorities made a wave of arrests and after that there was very little additional information on the story.  Morocco does have a reputation for swiftly dealing with terrorists as they did after the 2003 Casablanca bombings.  We figured we could have been in London during the tube bombings or Madrid during the night club bombings… we decided to keep with our plans.

We were very glad we did.  We felt very safe and welcome the whole time we were there and I would not hesitate to return.  To read all about our trip click here.

A few years later, in 2011, I planned a trip for us to go to Japan.  We would be headed to Tokyo, Kyoto and an overnight on Miyajima Island.

This would be our first trip without Lauren as it was her freshman year in college, and Michael and Lauren’s spring breaks no longer coincided.  We had agreed that Michael could bring a friend with him and we were all anxiously awaiting our departure date.  We were scheduled to leave on Sat. March 19.  On Friday, March 11 we woke up to the devastating news that there had been an earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Of course I read everything I could get my hands on about conditions there.  A lot of controversy on TripAdvisor about whether or not people should be canceling their trips.  Our original inclination was to still go, but by Sunday night we had decided to cancel the trip.  There were so many unknowns at that point – blackouts in Tokyo, the Tokyo airport was a mess, and of course the instability of the nuclear reactor.  Some were advocating that people should still go to places like Osaka, Kyoto, etc. as they were not affected by the disaster, and people were worried that they would be negatively affected by the lack of tourism.  I did consider it, but since we were not traveling with our daughter, and we were traveling with a friend, we decided to be cautious and cancel the trip.  Our friend’s parents were in mutual agreement.

Many asked if we lost any money having to cancel.  We had purchased our flights with frequent flier miles.  United had announced they were giving refunds to those flying to Tokyo for the next three weeks, so we were able to get all of our FF miles redeposited.  Our friend was able to get a full refund on his ticket.  I had booked two hotels and one smaller ryokan (similar to a B&B) but did not need to make any deposits.  I notified all the places that we would not be coming.  They were very understanding.  I had booked train passes, and I did have to pay a $25 refund fee, but the rest of the cost was refunded.   I also still have my empty journal that never got used.   I look forward to using it in the future.

Now, of course, we had two weeks off of school and had planned on being in Japan, so what to do now??  How to plan a trip in less than a week?  If it had been all four of us, I might have bought tickets to London and just hung out there, planning on the fly.  However, the last time we were there at that time of year it was VERY cold, and we thought with the two boys it might be more fun to try to go someplace warm and just relax.  We considered Palm Springs, Atlantis (Bahamas) or Walt Disney World.  I contacted a friend of mine who is a travel agent who patiently listened to me obsess over where to go and how to get it organized in six days.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Florida right on the beach about two and half hours south of Orlando, so we decided to do five nights in Walt Disney World, five nights at the beach, and then three nights in Los Angeles to visit our daughter before heading home.  My travel agent friend, took care of booking the Disney World part and I took care of the rest.  The boys were fifteen, so they had a ball running around WDW and loved staying at the parks that were open until 1am.  Stephen and I enjoyed taking DisneyWorld at a leisurely pace.  We would meet up with the boys for meals, but otherwise they loved the freedom and we loved knowing they were in the “happiest place on earth”.  Hanging out at Japan in the World Showcase in Epcot, was not the same as actually being there, but we were all happy to be together and be safe.

In today’s world, there are all kinds of things that happen.  While it is smart to avoid planning trips during hurricane season, or a flooding season, and there are obviously certain countries that one might choose to not have on your travel list, we each have to make our own decisions about whether or not we are comfortable heading to a location.  Many natural disasters, such as earthquakes happen at all times of the year and without warning.  When disaster strikes you must think through the obstacles and decide what is best for you and your family.

Have you ever had your plans changed due to terrorist acts or natural disasters?

Traveling Abroad for Christmas

Are you considering spending Christmas abroad but wondered what it would be like?  What are the challenges? How do you bring the presents? Can you get a tree? Doesn’t this just make the holidays more stressful?  We have been abroad twice for Christmas now.  Once in Mexico in December 2008 when our kids were 16 and 13, and then this past December (2011) when our kids were 19 and 16 we spent Christmas in Vietnam. Read More →

Keeping a Travel Journal: How to remember what, when, where

I often get asked how I remember all those details of where we went, what we saw and even what we ate for dinner!!  It is easy if you are committed to keeping a travel journal for your trip.  Before we leave I always try to find a travel journal that has a either a travel theme or a design that goes along with where we are headed.  This gets me more excited to write in the journal! Read More →