Friday, August 1, 2014

Passport Renewal – the nightmare that wasn’t

Guest Blogger – Denise F. of Journeys

It was that time again, time to renew the passports. We were dreading it. We’d last renewed our passports 5 years ago and it wasn’t fun. The rejected pictures, getting there before they open, not enough chairs in the waiting room, lineups down the hall, the cranky federal servants. Not something we were anxious to repeat!

Our plan was to do anything and everything we could to keep our visit under 2 hours.

First, we were going to renew in summer. Definitely better than high travel season when half the city is trying to escape the cold.

Second, we were going mid-week. Although in peak season it might not make much difference, in summer I was hopeful.

Plus, we chose the Tuesday before a long weekend hoping people were preparing for other plans or already out of town.

Originally we intended to get there shortly after they opened but delay after delay saw us get there closer to 11am. I was not amused. This was really going to mess up our day.

I was not amused.
We drove around a couple blocks, found a parking spot and made our way in.

Several people in the elevator were also going to the passport office so we hit the button and up we went. (BTW – that’s probably the fastest elevator in Winnipeg!)

When we walked through the double doors it was as I suspected: lineups, people at the counters finishing their paperwork, and no two chairs together. We walked up to the gentleman who gives out the “deli counter numbers” and got our ticket. But what had he said? We thought we hadn’t heard him right. We were up in four??

We took a closer look around the room. Okay, so there were some chairs available after all, in fact a whole section hardly being used. And those lineups? Large families including two with strollers. At the counters, where people were putting the finishing touches on their paperwork, it was actually just 2 couples. But still, how could we be fourth?

Turns out, the simplified passport renewal is a get-out-of-line free card!

There are a few conditions to qualify for this method. First, you have to be over 18. You also have to have a current passport, or your last passport has to be expired for less than a year. You had to have been at least 16 when that passport was issued to you. And finally, you have to be in Canada. All pretty straightforward!

For a passport renewal you definitely want to fill it out online. This way, the system can tell you if you’re missing anything important. It makes things a lot faster at the window if they don’t have to ask a lot of questions, or worse, send you away to do it again.

So, with photos in hand and paperwork completed online we had walked into the passport office with trepidation. When you reach the person who greets and gives out your number in line they ask if it’s a simplified renewal, or new. Turns out if it’s a simplified renewal your number gets pulled from a different queue.
So while some people in the waiting room were going to be there for an hour or more, we were behind just three other people!

When it was our turn we headed to a wonderful agent, cheerful and friendly. She asked a couple questions, checked all our paperwork (which didn’t need any changing or clarifications), and we were on our way. The entire process was less than 20 minutes from lobby and back again.

Now that’s the way to renew a passport!

Playa del Carmen



posted by That Travel Guy @ 10:43 AM  |  0 Comments

Friday, June 6, 2014

Four Days in Pittsburgh Changed my mind

Amazing stay at the Buhl Mansion an hour and a half from Pittsburgh!
No one I know actually decides to go to Pittsburgh.

It is an out of the way place, it seems, whose image is dominated by steel and three major sports franchises.

But after my first visit the worm has turned.

The people seem extremely friendly, the rivers give it a nice feel, and the lush greenery of a city nestled below large rolling hillsides make it quite attractive.

It is a city loaded with culture. Some rich people keep while others give.

It seems that Pittsburgh has done well as its wealthiest citizens of the past for sure put back into their city in big ways.

There are lots of them but perhaps it is the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, that great turn of the 20th century industrialist who made the biggest impact by spreading his fortune around the city building icons of culture that last to the present day.

The art museum houses pieces of past and present.

The legacy lead to the foundation of the Andy Warhol museum and the displays of dinosaur bones seems as complete as anywhere.

The steel industry is gone but the city has reinvented itself and renovated the old broken down areas...turning them into a gathering strip for young and old.

Pittsburgh is also a city that will not break your pocket book. Golf is very inexpensive. Food and beverage prices are moderate and even hotel prices seem more manageable than other jurisdictions.

All in all a perfect first visit. Now I want to go back and explore other areas including Gettysburg where the great battle of the civil war took place.

On this trip I used both my PacSafe RFID wallet and my Eagle Creek Necksafe.

I golfed with my protective Tilley hat and wore two of my best ExOfficio shirts for half my days.

If your on the go take a look at the wide selection of travel products at the Journeys website at

If you have travel questions or travel comments email me at .

posted by That Travel Guy @ 5:21 PM  |  1 Comments

Friday, April 11, 2014

Make Sure Souvenirs Are All You Bring Back From Your Holiday !

There have been a number of recently publicized cases where returning travelers to their home countries, including Canada, have come back and gotten quite ill from diseases they have brought back with them.
A recent study states that many of these cases that developed could have been prevented.
Some of those diseases that returned with the travelers, such as malaria, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, along with typhoid fever and tuberculosis could have been prevented by a simple visit to a travel health professional.
Others could have been minimized by a visit to a doctor when the first signs of any kind of usual or unusual symptoms of illness were first felt after their return.
These cases are on an increase, not just because of vacation travel, but in an increasingly mobile population commerce is carried out in every corner of the world. Not your usual traveler adventure seekers are increasingly looking far off the beaten path of normal vacation destinations for satisfaction. It is therefore no wonder that contact with communicable diseases is growing.
The study pointed out the fact that two thirds of the patients in the study, which included over 4000 participants, did not even try to consult a doctor for input before departing on their journeys.
The study underscored that even for the most popular vacation destinations where we may take travel health safety for granted; some measures of caution and protection are usually advised.
These include vacations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Mexico, where the greatest numbers of Canadians travel.
At least 20 percent of returned travelers suffer some kind of illness or other.
Longtime immigrants to Canada often feel, because of their history and culture relating to the country from which they came, that they don’t need to take the same pre-travel health precautions. They believe because they once lived in the country, they are immune to diseases that the rest of the populations of visitors are susceptible to catch.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The facts are that those travelers who went back to visit friends and relatives require medical treatment in double the numbers of all returned travelers. And worst of all, this group also were in the lowest percentage of all those who chose to meet with a professional for pre-travel consultation.
The immunity that they may have had when living in the country is eroded more quickly than most expect when they start living under the standards in a health developed environment of Canada or the United States.
While pre-travel consultations are very important there are other actions travelers should undertake when they are visiting any country where health standards are not up to those here in  Canada.
If you are already under medication for medical issues you have had, the most obvious of recommendations is to be sure to check with your own physician before you even consider booking a trip to be satisfied he or she supports that decision.
Carry more medication than you will need, and whenever possible keep them in the original containers. Never store medications in your checked baggage.
Stay away from fruits that don’t need peeling and never eat raw meat, fish, or shellfish in countries or resorts where you are not sure of their storage and usage policies.
While it really is exciting to want to try foods sold by street vendors, safety first would suggest you avoid the desire to do so. It may seem like you are experiencing local life better when you do, but your innards may balk at the intrusion.
Stick to commercially bottled water, soft drinks, and fruit juices over tap water. There is a number of water purifying tablets and liquids that can be purchased as well.
If you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are prevalent be sure to take along insect repellent containing the largest amount of DEET you can find. The higher the concentration the longer the product will protect you. A repellent with 30% DEET should provide protection for about 6 hours.
Even during hot evenings long sleeves and long pants and socks are advised. Light coloured clothing attracts fewer bugs.
For traveler's diarrhea treatment and prevention, there are some over the counter products that can be taken to prevent or alleviate at least some of the symptoms.
To repeat my on-going precautions in this area always check and double check your travel health insurance policies to know inclusions and exclusions beforehand.
In Winnipeg you can book your pre-travel health visit with the Journeys Travel Clinic by calling 204 982-9489. Other places in Canada can be found at
For safety and other prevention and comfort travel accessory products visit  on line. You will find just about everything you need to travel anywhere in the world on that site.

posted by That Travel Guy @ 1:03 PM  |  0 Comments

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Back to Montreal.

This weekend I will head out once more, this time to what may be my favourite city in Canada.

Since I worked for an advertising agency whose head office was in Montreal many many years ago it has been a favourite.

While this trip is for business I will arrive on time to catch the Montreal/Detroit game at the Bell Centre. 
In the morning I will take my time getting up and head out to China Town for a dim sum brunch. And on Monday I actually go to work choosing luggage at one of the largest and best suppliers of luggage in Canada. 

The Holiday Group, as it is known, owns or has distributing rights to brands like TravelPro, Roots, National Geographic, Atlantic, Austin House, Swiss Wenger and a whole lot more. 

We'll work hard on Monday and celebrate our new buys at another great Montreal restaurant before I head home early Tuesday morning.

This is the one big city in Canada that is so different from the others.

While French may be the language that dominates the bars, restaurants, and shopping centres, it is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city with the voices of many lands commanding their own presence.

Don’t believe you will be insulted and not served because you don’t speak French. While you may occasionally encounter this rudeness, in my experience it just hasn’t happened to me. And if you really want a quick response, try speaking your broken French and they will quickly jump to your rescue with English conversation.

This is a major tourist city, and for the most part economics has no language barriers.

Old Montreal is worth a day’s visit unto itself. The casino, renovated a long time ago from the Expo 67 French pavilion, was one of the largest in the country for a long time.

And visits to the popular streets and neigbourhoods of Boulevard St-Laurent, Crescent Street, and the many substantive ethnic regions that dot the city make it a complete tourist package.

I won't take in much of the above on this trip but I will surely try Montreal smoked meat, likely at Schwartz's and take a walk around old Montreal.

A couple of weeks later I will be bringing in the brand selections I have made.

In the meantime if you are looking for great light-weight quality luggage go to where you will find a selection of our existing lines of TravelPro, National Geographic, Austin House

and Swiss Neo-lite, along with a wide range of others.

I am currently using the amazing new series of TravelPro Magna with the patent pending magnetic wheels and I love the set completely.

posted by That Travel Guy @ 5:27 PM  |  1 Comments

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Grand Canyon was as Grand as Can Be!

I knew I would not likely get back.

Being as close as I was to the Grand Canyon with only a two hour drive I had to go. Interestingly the most hair raising part of the drive was in the first 30 kilometres from Sedona with its never ending hairpin turns and up and down two lane portions that really took a while to complete.

The rest of the road was excellent and even as I got close to the Grand Canyon I thought I must have taken the wrong turn.

The road is mostly flat, even upon entering Grand Canyon National Park.

 Once the car was parked, still on flat land it was a short walk to the rim of the canyon. And that was majestic.

I was overwhelmed with what nature has provided and could not get enough of walking along the rim to keep etching more and more into my memory.

This was special.

Because I have to carry on to my real purpose for coming to Arizona, the International Travel Goods Association luggage show I will keep further comments until later and let this be a photo show of what I say.

If you get anywhere close on any of your future journeys, make a point to take in this spectacular offer from natures own paint book.

If you have travel questions or travel comments email me at and visit us for the best in travel products at

posted by That Travel Guy @ 9:04 AM  |  2 Comments

Friday, March 7, 2014

It was a Pink Jeep Adventure!

The story of how this company came to be called the Pink Jeep Company is interesting in itself.

The owner, after visiting a resort in Hawaii, was persuaded by his wife to change the name because of a similar branding exercise incorporated on the resort they visited.

And so it would become the largest tour company of its kind in the Sedona area with more than a dozen vehicles working all the time, noted by passerby tourists who cannot avoid seeing the bold pink vehicles pass them by.

They offer a variety of tours.

I took the one entitled Old Indian Ruins. It proved to be a fascinating journey through time as the history of the first natives was told to us by an excellent driver and guide.

While the area today is covered with trees the reason it became the settling ground was for the agricultural lands that product food abundantly for the tribe.

It is noteworthy that when the white men came and brought literally thousands of head of cattle the grasslands disappeared, trees grew and forever after it became abandoned land for whites and natives.

Like in so many areas the white settlers drove out the natives from the best lands and only recently have they achieved a small measure of compensation of sorts.

The natives, during their time left signs of an interesting society that is worth exploring today.


posted by That Travel Guy @ 7:00 PM  |  0 Comments

And Then Came Sedona!

So many had told me that Sedona was an interesting place to visit.

It had to be on my list for this trip even though I thought the reasons given for the enthusiasm about the area seemed sketchy.

Sedona is a long way up there. I don't mean in driving distance although the journey is an interesting one driving along at 75 mph plus on winding up and down roads, some of which are not the best in the state.

But the altitude of Sedona is 4500 feet above sea level with some of the surrounding communities like Flagstaff are 7000 feet above that same sea base.

As a result the weather we have had, while hot during the day is somewhat cooler than in the Phoenix area. I imagine during the other winter months the range could be even more with some pretty frosty nights.

What strikes you as you get closer to Sedona is the majesty of the red rocks, or should I say mountains that appear before you with every curve and hill you pass.

They really are majestic.

The centre of Sedona truly is a major tourist attraction with every shop and restaurant clearly catering to the tourist crowds.

We are staying at the L'Auberge de Sedona. This I am sure must be the best if not one of the best in the entire region.

Our accommodations are in one of the single units that dot the hillside looking down into a valley and winding river or creek and looking up into the majestic red rocks of the region.

Watching the effects of the color changes with the sun's movement has been captivating.

These units each have a large balcony, a living room style area in addition to the bedroom and a sauna room in addition to the great bathroom amenities.

This is a fascinating place that offer a wide range of daily complimentary activities from Mind/Body/ Spirit  lectures to stargazing, and Yoga stretch classes.

On this trip Rae and I both brought our brand new rust TravelPro Magna suitcases, and I also am travelling with my 4 wheel business case from Samsonite, which I really love.

I have been wearing my Tilley hat as the sun has been very strong, and Rae keeps taking along both her rolling Lug carry-on and her old Ameribag.

 I noticed she also switches to a small Derek Alexander carry purse when we go for dinner or similar outings.

 If you have travel comments or travel questions email me at You can see previous questions and httpanswers at  See our wide range of travel products at 

posted by That Travel Guy @ 8:02 AM  |  1 Comments