By Michael Carignan
After every two or three travel articles I plan to look back on those previous trips and expound on some background information that may be helpful in planning future trips.
Great Britain & Ireland
Our trip to Great Britain and Ireland was pretty much planned all on our own with some help from watching a number of travel shows and reading several travel books about the area.
Planning one’s own trip to a region unfamiliar can be challenging. On this trip finding lodging was fairly easy as was the car rentals and ferry travel. For car rental or ferry connections recommend making reservations ahead of time in case some weird quirk of nature hits such as the volcano eruption we experienced.
One thing I would have done differently on this trip is I would not have driven myself. Roads are narrow, demanding a great deal of attention while driving. Add to that the driving on the opposite side of the road also takes some getting used to and t all can be very dangerous. If you do drive limit the amount of driving done each day to something reasonable. Do not push it. Remember you are there to sightsee and if your focus is on the act of driving you’ll miss much of what they came to see. Do not drive around big cities if tired. Remember traffic is heavy and driving on the opposite side can be confusing and if not alert, deadly.
If I were to go again I would hire a driver just like the ladies from Chicago did and then sit back and enjoy. Yes, you’ll pay more for the trip but the amount of enjoyment goes up double what you pay.
Another thing I would do differently relates to car rental insurance. Unfortunately we were involved in a minor traffic accident while in Northern Ireland and had to pay to repair the damage to the car. Auto insurance you have in the U.S. is only good for travel in the U.S. One thing that many people don’t realize is that if they have a Visa credit card they are covered under a policy Visa provides to its customers free of charge. Coverage, however, is not included when traveling in seven countries around the globe. I don’t remember all seven of the countries in which that applies, but I do know the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales are five of them. Do your research and know whether you’re covered where you travel and if not take out the insurance policy the car rental place offers.
We did find out one other thing while in Ireland. You cannot buy simple products such as ibuprofen over the counter at department stores in Ireland. We stopped at a Tesco to do just that, and discovered those kinds of pain relievers are only sold at pharmacies. Tesco is much like out Walmart in the U.S.
One final point on this trip: People are generally good and friendly. Most of them are just like you and I. Yes, there are bad people in this world and be on the watch for them. Be safe.
Washington’s Pacific Coast
Dawn and I are not big into staying in motels when we travel but would rather stay in a nice vacation rental. I am often asked how or where I find the places we stay in when we travel. We have used VRBO.com for several years now and last year, for the first time, used a site called flipkeyrentals.com. Both are very similar as to how they work.
VRBO stands for vacation rental by owner. People who own houses, apartments, condos, whatever, can list their properties as vacation rentals. Typically they advertise a nightly rate, weekly rate or occasionally monthly rates. They list the amenities available at the property, provide photos of the rental, and many provide a calendar which shows the dates that are filled and the dates that are open.
To find a property with VRBO click on the state you plan to visit on the map of the U.S provided. Next click on the region in the state where you want to find lodging. If you know which city you want to stay in, click on that city or just cruise around the area until you find what you like. There are a wide range of prices and sleeping capacities for the rentals. Once you find a place to rent, find out for sure when it is open. If it’s a fit, book it. Each landlord has their own particular payment requirements.
Some people have expressed concern over being ripped off when using one of these sites but we have never had any problems. In fact, everyone we have dealt with have been great.
Occasionally you may find a place you want to visit that does not have any rental property available, as we experienced at Neah Bay. In that case visit the Chamber of Commerce for the place you’re going and check out lodging they have listed. If you simply type in the name of the community you want to stay at in a search engine such as Google it will come up with options for you.
One other thing I want to discuss about Washington is the activity of gambling. Dawn and I both enjoy doing a little gambling now and then. Slot machines, and horse and dog racing are our pleasure and not table games. Washington is a good place to visit if you like to gamble.
I have been traveling to Washington state for almost 40 years now and as long as I have been going there gambling has been legal. Many of the lounges or bars have game rooms in the back. These are privately own and just have table games like cards, dice or roulette. More recently casinos have become a big item, at least in western Washington. If the casino is owned by the Native Americans it will offer a full range of gambling with slots and table games and off track betting. If they are privately owned there may be just two or three slot machines in the entire casino and they are set up differently than the slots in a regular casino. Private casinos are like the game rooms in the lounges only on a larger scale.
Over the years we’ve visited a half dozen or so casinos around western Washington.
We haven’t stumbled on any dog tracks yet but on this last trip we did discover a horse track near Kent. We rented our car from a place in Kent and after picking it up when we arrived we were looking for a place to eat and instead found the horse track. The name of the track is Emerald Downs and actually it is between Kent and Auburn, Washington.
With our main objective being lunch, we didn’t stay long. Five races I think. As a remember it, both of us held our own in betting. It was a little disappointing in that the field of horses was small, with only six horses per race. I prefer a field of eight or more horses so there is some challenge to betting. With just six horses per race the chances of winning a sizable pot is not good.
The food we had was decent and the stop was a good way for us to get our feet back on the ground after our flight.
Gambling is a fun activity as long as you find truth in the words of a David Bromberg song, “A man should never gamble… more than he can stand to lose… shoot the dice.”