Photo Of The Day: A Rainy Day In Vancouver, British Columbia

We often think of warm, sunny days as the only optimal time to travel, but sometimes, bad weather gives us a completely different perspective of a new place. Such is the case with this photo from Doug Murray taken during a rainy day in Vancouver, BC.

As any traveler to the Pacific Northwest will tell you, rain is often inevitable, but wet weather is what makes this region beautiful. Plus a good wet day gives you the perfect excuse to check out the local coffee culture.

Traveled in inclement weather? Add your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool to be chosen for the Photo of the Day feature.

[Photo Credit: Doug Murray]

12 Ways To Ruin Your Vacation, And How To Avoid Them

flying When traveling, things won’t always go according to plan. However, sometimes you are actually the reason your trip goes south. To ensure you’re not the cause of your own demise, here are 12 ways to ruin your vacation, and how to avoid them.

#1: You Don’t Try Anything New

Traveling is the perfect time to try new things, as you’re already in a more open-minded state. Not trying anything new on your vacation can lead to regrets later on, especially if the people you traveled with were more adventurous. Remember, travel is the perfect time to face your fears, so do something you’ve never done before. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you need to go jumping out of planes and swimming with sharks as your first act of courage. Start small by trying a new food, or participating in a cultural tradition.#2: You Don’t Check A Country’s Entry Requirements

This is imperative when planning a trip. It’s not just your passport you’ll need to bring – which, by the way, you should check to ensure is not expired and has the necessary amount of empty visa pages – but possibly visas, medical records or vaccinations. For example, travelers are not permitted to enter the country of Ghana in Africa without getting a yellow fever vaccine. To prove you got the shot, you will need to carry a signed yellow card given to you by your travel doctor. Likewise, entry requirements vary for citizens of different countries. For instance, in countries like Brazil and Bolivia, it is not necessary for Europeans to get a visa, while it is for U.S. citizens.

To ensure you have the proper entry requirements for the country you’re going to, first make an appointment with a travel doctor to get the necessary medical attention. You should also visit the U.S. Department of State’s International Travel website to get up-to-date information on entry requirements.

sleeping #3: You Ignore Signs Of Travel Fatigue

When on vacation, travel fatigue is no laughing matter. If you begin to feel tired, cranky or just couldn’t care less about the trip anymore, that’s when it’s time to take action. Book a hotel, get a massage, call a friend or family member from home, write in your journal, exercise and do whatever it takes to get yourself in the right mindset again. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on really making the most of your trip. Click here for a detailed list of ways to deal with travel fatigue.

#4: You Focus Too Much On Things Going Perfectly

Before embarking on a trip, you should tell yourself right from the start that not everything is going to go smoothly. Things will most likely go wrong, and that’s okay; it’s all part of the travel experience. You’re going to miss trains, electronics will break, you’ll get ripped off, tours won’t run smoothly – it happens. Instead, when things go wrong, try to look at the bright side, or at least realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a big deal. When I was in the Galapagos Islands, I let the dive instructor borrow my camera, forgetting to tell him it couldn’t go lower than 10 feet of water. Needless to say, it didn’t work so well, or at all, when I got back on the boat. He apologized profusely, but I just laughed and told him I hoped he at least got some great shots. Not that I wasn’t upset about the loss of my $300 camera, but it didn’t change the fact that I was still exploring one of the most beautiful locations in the world.

jungle #5: You Let Bad Weather Keep You From Exploring

Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean your trip needs to be put on pause. If it’s something you really want to do and would still be worthwhile, do it anyway. Furthermore, you could also revise your trip itinerary to include some indoor activities, and some outdoor activities that don’t require viewpoints or slippery terrain.

During a trip to Banos, Ecuador, it rained almost everyday I was there. While I had planned to bike down a volcano and hike to the town’s viewpoint, those plans didn’t quite make sense with the weather. However, that didn’t mean I was staying indoors. I simply changed my itinerary to include adventure activities that went well with rain – canyoning, rafting and relaxing in the natural hot springs. Likewise, the one excursion I had really wanted to do, a two-day tour to the Amazon Jungle, I did anyway. Despite some rain, it ended up being really fun.

#6: You Try To Smuggle Drugs Or Other Illegal Substances

Think bringing back opium from Asia or cocaine from Colombia sounds like a good idea? Think again. Not only will you ruin your vacation, you’ll most likely ruin your life. Moreover, bringing back less serious but also illegal items, like coral from the Great Barrier Reef or baby tortoises from the Galapagos Islands, can leave you with heavy fines and possibly jail time.

The solution to this ordeal is simple – just don’t do it.

culture #7: You Disrespect Local Culture

One of the best parts of traveling is learning about different cultures. Even if something is different from what you’re used to, or if you don’t agree with a certain belief, at least respect it. Not only will you save yourself potential conflict – and possible punishment, depending on the level of disrespect – you may find yourself having an eye-opening experience.

#8: You Choose A Bad Travel Partner

Ending up with a travel partner from hell is never fun, and can be detrimental to your trip. Don’t just assume the person you go to happy hour with on Friday or sit across from at work will be fun to travel with. There are certain questions you should ask before embarking on a trip together. How thoroughly do they need the itinerary planned out? What is their budget? Do they like to relax, or are they more of an adventure traveler? Do they prefer staying in hostels, or do they enjoy luxury travel? How deeply do they wish to immerse themselves in the culture you’re visiting?

If you’re answers don’t align, you should find a new travel buddy, or think about traveling solo.

friends #9: You Don’t Interact With New People

If you’re traveling with other people, you’ve hopefully chosen travel partners you get along with. That being said, you should still open yourself up meeting new people, especially locals. You may not necessarily “ruin” your vacation by not doing this, but you will limit it. Befriending locals will not only give you cultural insight, it can also help take you off-the-beaten path to find new sites that aren’t in your guidebook. This also works with meeting other travelers, who may be able to give you tips on the destination. Likewise, there have been many times becoming friends with locals has helped me to get good deals on tours and transportation.

To help meet other people, you can use a websites like Couchsurfing or Tripping, where you can reach out to locals and other travelers to meet up. Furthermore, going to local hangouts or befriending tour guides are other ways to make new connections.

#10: You Go Way Over Your Budget

Going way over your budget can be detrimental, and can cause a lot of anxiety during the trip. Just because you’re traveling, doesn’t mean when you get home the bills will have disappeared. If you notice you’re consistently going over your budget, re-evaluate what you’re doing. Start keeping a journal of your purchases, so you become more accountable for what you spend. In addition, begin taking advantage of free activities, do more walking and take fewer taxis, dine in cheaper local restaurants and look for hostels and inexpensive hotels and guesthouses – doing these things can help get you back on track. By the same token, if you know you’re not good at sticking to an allowance, you may want to consider traveling to a budget-friendly country.

eating #11: You Don’t Keep Yourself Healthy

While you’re going to want to explore the nightlife, and your sleep schedule may suffer, it’s important to keep yourself healthy to be at your best for exploring your destination. When I was in Mancora, Peru, I neglected to reapply sunscreen when lying by the pool. It only took about four hours before I had huge blisters on my legs. By that night, I had a fever and was vomiting. I lay in bed for three entire days, trying to re-hydrate and sleep off the pain. Don’t be stupid, and don’t stretch yourself too far. Get a decent amount of sleep, drink a lot of water, eat right, stay active, wear sunscreen and take precautions when doing adventurous activities.

#12: You Obsess About Staying Under Your Budget

While sticking to your budget is important, it’s also important not to let the financial stress ruin your trip. You need to be able to have fun, while not fretting over every penny you spend. Give yourself a budget that’s lower than what you can actually spend, so that if you go a bit over you won’t be losing sleep over it. Also, arm yourself with as many budget-travel tips as possible, so you’re already in the right mindset. You may also want to think about putting a certain amount of money somewhere where you won’t have access to it while away, so it will be there when you get home.

Calling about your plane tickets? Clear your afternoon

Three hours into my phone call with the Delta Airlines Platinum desk yesterday evening, I started to suspect that something was awry. Wait times on this normally outstanding phone line are usually in the seconds, not hours, and for a delay of this magnitude, something must not be right.

Indeed, while Saturday’s weather at my Hong Kong flat was cloudy and balmy, the snow in the United States was continuing to fall, resulting in countless canceled flights, missed connections, buried airports and subsequent calls to customer service. Investigating the matter deeper, I found similar frustrations at other carriers, with some travelers reporting jaw dropping on-hold times and others saying that they had simply been hung up on.

In short, the airlines’ IT infrastructure can’t seem to handle the number of service calls this weekend. So if you’ve got immediate business, make some time. First, ensure that your issue can’t be resolved over the web or via your travel agent. If they can’t do it and if the need is immediate, call your airline, open a bottle of scotch and turn on the Olympics — it’s going to be a long, arduous journey — and you haven’t even left home yet.

But to the airlines: Has Valentine’s Day 2007 taught you nothing? The snowy debacle that stranded hundreds of passengers in airplanes and airports across the east has been heralded as the perfect model of airline incompetence. By now you should have a disaster-proof mechanism to communicate with passengers in the case of inclement weather — even if it’s outsourced overseas, it’s better than hanging up them. Get it together!

Hertz running out of cars in NYC

When the airports shut down, short-haul fliers turn to the rental car kiosks. They’re willing to brave dangerously slick streets to get home, causing a one-way drain for the lots. The rush of bad weather that cut through New York on December 19 and 20, 2009 left parking spaces empty and led to more than a bit of frustration, as Hertz was unable to deliver on rental reservations.

According to an e-mailed statement in Bloomberg News, Richard Broome, a spokesman for the company, said, “We have been moving in cars to Manhattan as fast as possible, but we are playing catch up.” He continued, “The unusually severe storm created a temporary fleet shortage.”

When 10 inches of snow were dropped on New York City, 1,600 flights were canceled. Over the past two years, Hertz has cut its rental car fleet, and it has fallen victim to the travel slump that’s raged around the world. Both factors put pressure on the company’s ability to fulfill. This quarter, however, it began to increase its fleet by 18 percent, because of an increase in demand it had already noted.

Who pays for rescue efforts when people are lost? Who should?

A few days ago, Kraig wrote about the three hikers lost on Mt. Hood. At the time of his post, one of the hikers had been found dead. The other two were still missing. Almost a week after they set out on their climb, they are still missing and most probably are dead. Because of this tragic situation, the question of who foots the bill for rescue efforts has come up once more.

Back in 2005, then Gadling blogger Erik Olsen wrestled with the question about who should pay–the lost hiker who hopefully is found–or tax payers? Olsen’s musings came about after a hiker hurt his ankle while hiking in Colorado. Several fire departments rescued the hiker after he spent a night on the mountain. The sticker price for the rescue was $5,000. In this case, the fire departments wanted the hiker to pay.

Usually, the people who are getting rescued don’t pay anything. But is that fair? Rescue attempts can be pricey. Consider this: From 1992 to 2007, the U.S. National Park Service spent $58 million on search and rescue efforts.

This recent Newsweek article echoes some of Erik’s points. As the article highlights, the hard economics question of who should pay for rescue attempts has as many facets to consider as it always has.

While one might say that people who take risks by heading up a mountain top or straying off a path should pay up once he or she is found, there are other factors to keep in mind.

  • One is a concern that people may avoid calling for help until it’s too late out of fear for what a rescue attempt might cost.
  • Some risks are unknown. A beautiful sunny day could go sour if the wind shifts, for example. Should people be punished when nature is at fault?
  • A large portion of rescue attempts are made by volunteers, therefore the cost is curtailed.
  • When fire departments and military units are part of rescue efforts, they often have hours to log towards rescues. A real live rescue helps them meet their quota.
  • Sometimes a rescue attempt may be launched even though the hiker is not in danger. A seasoned hiker may be holed up somewhere waiting for more favorable hiking conditions while a family member is frantic with worry.

With the knowledge that lost hikers are part of the outdoor scene, being financially proactive seems to be the best approach for handling costs before they occur. Colorado, for example, collects a small portion of the money from state recreational fees to put into a fund that is earmarked for search and rescue.

In Alaska, people who are mountain climbing up Mount McKinley pay $200 for the privilege.

Although planning for a tragic situation is never pleasant, it seems that in this case, planning ahead for the ” just in case” is sound. Otherwise, at the worst possible moment, people will be faced with the question, “How much is a life worth?