Graffiti Around the World

I am not sure why but my camera is drawn to record graffiti as we travel. Some of it is incredible street art while much is just a defacing of public and private property.

Historic fortifications, Vigo Spain
Housing project, Crete

I have developed some opinions about why some places are rank with graffiti while others are completely devoid of it. My first belief has to do with how attractive a place is along with a natural reluctance in most people to deface real beauty. The exception of course involves a subculture that sees destroying a places intrinsic value and even natural beauty as a form of expressing hatred for the very place where they live and even the people they live with.

My second conclusion involves regional and local authority. Some places are either overwhelmed by the task of trying to

Ho Chi Minh City

prevent or punish street vandals and do not think the vandalism rises to the level of a serious enough crime to warrant strong punishment. In these circumstances the result is usually a growing blight on the community where the locals just learn to accept the problem as part of life.

Stangeland, Norway

The counterpoint to that is a strong local government where punishment is quick and serious enough to cause potential “artists” to reconsider their chances of arrest, jail or worse.

Graffiti is not new but has been around for thousands of years. Examples of graffiti have been unearthed from ancient Pompeii and Rome. One of the most common forms has been for protest but more and more recently it seems to have no real purpose other than to desecrate.

There are places where graffiti has been channeled into a socially acceptable art form where artists are celebrated and whole communities get involved in decorating walls and fences.In addition to the above there are economies where tourism is a major source of income to the community and tolerance for graffiti has a serious economic impact.

Western Europe seems to be an increasing target for graffiti and many locations seem to be helpless to stop it. Unlike graffiti in many places in the world, the canvas in Europe has often become churches, historic sites and public buildings.

Stangeland, Norway

Often modern graffiti is becoming less political protest and more an ethnic challenge. It is becoming more and more common in the West to see Arabic writing as a major element of graffiti from Greece to Norway to Quebec along with counter graffiti.


Interesting that there are places in the world that are virtually graffiti free. It is rare to see it in rural areas of America, or in cities in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t say I noticed any in Amsterdam which is a very permissive culture  nor in Singapore. In the case of Singapore it probably has to do with a very harsh criminal code and strict enforcement. Even the fine for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore is S$200.

Graffiti on graffiti…

Anyone else a collector of graffiti? Care to share your thinking on this? Love to see what you found and where. E-mail us at


Airline Baggage Policies

If you are flying internationally you will probably get one bag checked for free regardless of what airline you are using (there are a few exceptions). Some allow a second free bag but most will charge for additional bags. If you are flying domestically you will probably have to pay, but how much depends on the airline. The major U.S. carriers include Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and Spirit Airlines. Only JetBlue and Southwest normally allow a free checked bag. Also Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air, offer no-frills fares where carry-on bags will also cost you extra.

Recently two major domestic air carriers (American and United) have added a new class of service designated “basic” or “economy basic” which is an attempt to compete with discount/no-frills airlines.. This service no longer allows you to bring carry-on bags on board and also puts you at the end of the boarding process. In addition they are charging the “economy basic” passengers for showing up at the gate with carry-on bags (right now the “fine” is $25 plus the checked bag fee). If you are traveling on Basic Economy, your personal item (must fit under seat) will be the only item you can bring on board.

Like most of us, airfare is a major part of our travel expense and we are always looking for opportunities to save money. Domestic travel for us is a minor event and we will put up with a few hours of inconvenience to save a few dollars. Twelve and seventeen hour flights are be a different story. Unfortunately calculating comparison airfare costs has become a bit more complicated with the ever increasing costs for checking bags.

More and more people are trying to carry as much on board as possible to avoid bag fees and that makes getting your carry-on into a bin a more difficult problem. I’m surprised that there aren’t more arguments than there are and trying to get near the front of the boarding line has also become a serious priority. I find myself paying for checked bags more and more often just to avoid this crush.

When shopping for the best airfare it is increasingly important to know the airlines baggage policy. Most domestic airlines allow you to bring on one personal item such as a purse or briefcase, as well as one larger item such as a carry-on suitcase or backpack. On average the maximum size of a carry-on item is 22 by 14 by 9 inches including handles and wheels. Additionally there is also a rule for personal items. The maximum dimensions for your personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.

Most of the major airline carriers, other than JetBlue and Southwest, charge a fee for checked baggage on domestic flights while some are now charging for carry-on bags. However, on most international flights, only Alaska Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and for some destinations, American Airlines, charge a fee for the first checked bag (American treats many Caribbean destinations, Mexico and Canada by domestic rules).

One option to avoid bag charges is to get a credit card affiliated with an airline. For example using an Amex Delta card will get you free checked bags on Delta flights. The following is a list of cards that offer free bag check with some airlines:

  • United MileagePlus Credit Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards.
  • American Airlines.
  • JetBlue Plus.
  • Platinum Card from American Express.
  • Premier Rewards Gold from American Express.
  • Citi Prestige.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve.
United Airlines Fees:

Checked Bags

1 – $25 to $30, 2 – $35, 3+ – $150

Overweight Bags 1 – $100 to $200

Oversized Bags 1 – $200

Carry On 1 allowed – Free

United Basic Economy Service- Full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted – You’re not allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, the primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or a Star Alliance™ Gold member. Everyone else who brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

American Airlines Fees

Domestic Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $35, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Mexico Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $40, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Caribbean Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $40 to $55, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Central America Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $35, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Brazil            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

South America Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Transatlantic            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $100, Bag 3+ $200

Transpacific            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3+ $200

US Airways Fees

(US) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee free. Carry-on should not exceed the following size and weight restrictions: 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels.

US domestic (including Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U S Virgin Islands):

  • First bag: $25.00 USD
  • Second bag: $35.00 USD
  • U S domestic (including Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U S Virgin Islands):
  • Third bag: $150.00 USD
  • Fourth bag +: $200.00 USD per bag

Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico:

  • First bag: $25.00 USD
  • Second bag: $40.00 USD
  • Brazil:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free
  • South America:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free
  • Transatlantic:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: $100.00 USD
  • Transpacific:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free


JetBlue Fees

Checked baggage

We offer fare options that include different numbers of checked bags. Should your plans change after booking a particular fare, bags may be checked online or at the airport for additional fees. Checked bags that exceed 62″ (157.48 cm) in overall dimensions (length + width + height) or exceed 50 pounds (22.68 kg) will also incur a fee.

Baggage fees for bags under 50 pounds

Fare option

Blue                         1st bag $25, 2nd bag $35, 3rd bag + $100 each

Blue Plus            1st bag Included, 2nd bag $35, 3rd bag $100 each

Blue Flex            1st bag Included, 2nd bag Included, 3rd bag+ $100 each fees

Size requirements: Bags that do not meet the dimensions and/or weight restrictions are considered oversized and/or overweight and will be charged as follows:

51 lbs (23.13 kg) – 99 lbs (44.91 kg) – $100 per bag.

63″ in (160 cm) – 80 in (203.3 cm)(including wheels and handles)– $100 per bag.

Delta Air Lines Fees

In economy, within Canada and the US, 1st bag $25, 2nd bag $35. To other destinations, prices vary by itinerary.

One of the best charts we’ve found that lists most airlines and their fees for checked baggage is HERE.

There is also a company, Lugless that is offering an option for you to ship your bags ahead and save money. While I have doubts I would love to hear from someone that has used this service?

Also see “Earning Frequent Flyer Miles



Insurance & International Travel

A recent incident involving an acquaintance and a conversation with a travel friend have highlighted the importance of international travel insurance. We will take this opportunity to offer our thinking on this matter along with the results of a little research. Please understand that this is focused on American travelers but we are also aware of similar plans offered in Canada and other countries.

There are a number of different categories of travel insurance and you need to understand how your specific travel plans should determine the insurance you buy. Generally, insurance is available to cover problems in five specific areas:

  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption
  • Theft of Property Loss
  • Health and Accident
  • Medical Repatriation
  • Life

In truth, we have maybe been too casual in selecting our own travel insurance. Our concerns have been focused in three main areas. First is a concern in having to cancel an expensive trip at the last minute and losing our invested money. The second is travel interruption causing us to miss difficult connections or a cruise sailing. Lastly are medical cost concerns while being out of the country.

We usually buy a cruise policy for longer cruises to cover us in the event we have to cancel or we unavoidably miss a sailing. Normally we forgo this insurance on shorter cruises because the potential loss in dollars is small and there is little likelihood of missing the cruise. In general, these policies provide medical cost reimbursement and property theft and loss protection. Some also, but not all, cover the cost of medical repatriation.

As a habit, we do not buy air travel insurance. The cost of these policies is mainly focused on the life insurance component and not on trip interruption, which, in most cases, is the airlines responsibility.

Our health insurance does have an international travel component that pays up to $50,000 with a lifetime cap of $50,000.

We have also carried a medical evacuation and repatriation policy for the past number of years that, to us, seems a reasonable expense. Less than $200 for an annual plan.

Situational Considerations

Cruise only – Let’s say you are taking a Mediterranean cruise with flights into and out of the sailing port, a cruise insurance policy probably provides the appropriate amount of coverage in most areas. We have at times been charged for medical services while onboard and had to submit documents to get reimbursed under these policies. We also had one occasion where a camera was stolen and we never seemed to be able to provide enough proof to get the loss paid but that is typical with many insurance policies. Most cruise policies also cover medical expenses if you need care in a local clinic or hospital while on the cruise as well as medical evacuation and repatriation. The same policy usually covers booked cruise/land packages.

Cruise with an extended land itinerary – If you are taking that Mediterranean cruise but then plan to go off on your own for a couple of weeks in Europe, chances are that a cruise policy will terminate on disembarking the ship. For that reason you need to understand that you will not be covered for medical emergencies above the limits of your American health insurance and, based on the incident involving our friend, that can be financially catastrophic.

Frequent international travel – If you are a frequent international traveler it is most important to analyze your risk concerns and how much you are comfortable paying. You have options of buying a complete medical plan (Geoblue) , a medical evacuation plan (EA+) or a complete annual insurance policy (Allianz, Amex) that offer some coverage in virtually all areas. Most policies however only provide coverage while on trips of less than 60 days each.

In our case we take a number of cruises and international trips a year and our biggest concerns are medical emergencies and evacuation so we keep an annual MedEvac plan in place. We believe our Medicare supplement offers adequate (we hope) medical coverage for now and will buy cruise policies on individual trips as mentioned above.

There are also complete annual travel policies, which should be considered if you travel internationally often. Generally they have lower limits on coverage, especially in areas like trip cancellation and property loss. For example most annual policies limit cancellation protection to $2,000 per year. Following is an example from a recent annual generic quote provided by Alianz for a typical retired couple.

Note: 26 European countries require health insurance to visit.

In early 1995 twenty-six European countries signed an agreement that abolished enforcing their borders between member states. As a result the area mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. Anyone from a country that requires them to apply for the Schengen visa to enter Europe must have international health insurance.

The 26 countries in the zone are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

A letter from your insurance company is required, and this needs to mention that you will be covered in Europe for any medical, evacuation and repatriation expenses during your whole stay. The medical expenses have to be covered for at least 30,000 euros.

Americans and Canadians along with a number of other nationals do not need this visa to visit. Because of the immigration crisis of the past years there have also been a number of Schengen countries that are again enforcing their borders on an emergency basis.




Santorini, Greece

This site is dedicated to all those people who have the time and resources to feed their wanderlust and are looking to enjoy a certain level of comfort.  At the same time are not inclined to waste money that could be put toward more traveling…

Visit Us On Facebook






With this site we hope to share some of our travel experiences and offer some useful advice. We are hoping some of our travel friends will help out from time to time as well. We are just getting started but hope you will check back often.

Please take note of a few features on this site. Any underlined blue text is a link to another website with additional information. The general menu has a search page entry that has additional links and a search bar. Comments are not generally posted in an effort to reduce clutter and avoid confusion but we do welcome comments and contributions. Please email us at:

Of specific interest are recommendations on hotels and restaurants and overviews of destination cities. We are also looking for details on getting around a city or if you experienced a particularly interesting event we would love to hear about it.

















Skagen, The Watch & Town

A few months ago when we started this blog we mentioned buying a Skagen watch in Skagen and we actually did. For a long time we have admired Skagen watches. Generally they are stylish, thin and not outrageously expensive. So when we found ourselves visiting Skagen, Denmark on a cruise it seemed a natural thing to do. Skagen (pronounced as if the g wasn’t there), Denmark is a smallish port located on the Jutland peninsula and Denmark’s northernmost town. Besides having a watch company named after it, Skagen is also noted for its scenery. On the northeastern outskirts, Grenen Beach is at the convergence of

Town Square

the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas. We walked into town and found THE Skagen watch shop along with a few hundred of our fellow shipmates. Maybe the shop isn’t accustomed to the number of people a cruise ship can deliver to their door, or at least that is how they acted. First you had to get the help of a sales clerk to answer questions and write up your order. Not efficient, but so far so good. Next you had to wait in line to pay at the counter and that is where things really broke down. Two or three hundred customers times ten to fifteen minutes divided by

Watches in the Skagen Store

two cashiers means you are going to spend the day here. At the time of the visit we really didn’t know much about the watches other than we liked them. We should have done our research. The watches are made in China and use a Japanese Miyota quartz movement. They have never been made in Skagen. Founded in 1989, the company has always been based in the United States. Started by Henrik and Charlotte Jorst, who moved from Denmark to the US in 1986. According to the Wikipedia , the company, Skagen Designs Ltd. was named for Skagen, Denmark , with the stated corporate aim to present honest, simple, purposeful designs and thus share Danish ideals globally. After locating the Danish-owned clock and watch manufacturer, Comtech Watches, a supplier that could manufacture watches at a lower price through its Hong Kong factory, the Jorsts began designing their own watches, Today Skagen is a subsidiary of Fossil, which agreed to

Welcome to Skagen

buy Skagen Designs and its international affiliates for about $236.9 million in cash and stock in 2012. While we can claim that we bought our Skagen watch in Skagen we discovered that we paid manufacturers list price. Since then we have also learned that we could have saved considerable time and money buying the same watch onboard ship or in duty free shops elsewhere.

Before leaving Skagen we did some shopping and discovered Glaspusterblaeser, a great glass blowing shop in an old post office building located at Sct. Laurentii Vej 13. We bought a number of hand blown Christmas ornaments for our tree and to give as gifts.


International Cell Service Options

Smart cell phones are one of modern life’s miracles but they also present multiple issues in international travel. U.S. based cell service is usually a costly option when traveling outside of America and, from experience, we’ve found it is often not the most reliable option. Before you leave on a trip, contact your carrier to find out what your options are and the potential costs.

CDMA vs. GSM, Prepaid vs. Contract Service.
There are three U.S. based CDMA providers: Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. While these companies offer international roaming, there may be countries where the service doesn’t work or is unreliable. It is also dependent on your specific phone (i.e. Verizon service is not available with iPhone 4). These providers offer special international plans but they are limited to specific countries and vary by cost. Again, we recommend that you find out your specific options before traveling.

All the rest of the U.S. service providers use GSM, as does the rest of the world. Because of this, phones from these providers  are more likely to work reliably while traveling internationally.  Their service costs can still be high so, again, we recommend that you find out your specific options and costs before traveling.

We would also recommend that you find out if your phone is unlocked or if it can be so that you can buy a sim chip from a provider in a country you are visiting. Often this can provide really inexpensive service for calling home. (See information on our Australia trips for an example of this).

Another recommendation is to buy an inexpensive dual-sim GSM phone. There are dozens of options for less than $100 and this would allow you to use your U.S. GSM service along with a foreign sim card in the same phone while traveling.

If you use one of the popular discount service providers (i.e. Straight Talk, Metro PCS) or use a prepaid phone plan, you really need to look into you options for using these services for international roaming. With a majority of these, international service just isn’t available.

International Service Providers
International cut rate cell service providers are also an option. They all work on GSM phones and most provide plans that don’t expire and only charge for actual usage. Some of the providers are Mobal, OneSimCard and Cellular Abroad. While all advertise free incoming calls in a large number of countries, they all require the person calling you to dial an overseas phone number. This shifts the cost to the person calling you. We have used One Sim Card service for a number of years and they offer the option of paying for a U.S. based second service phone number ($10 year) and than your account is charged 20¢ a minute for incoming calls. (See our article on our Asia trip for a review on this service as well as Verizon.)

T-Mobile service may be the one U.S. provider with the best international roaming service. This is probably because of T-Mobile’s international roots and the structure of their network. If you are a T-Mobile customer you can add international service for $25 per month (as of Jan. 2017) and your roaming becomes part of your regular service. That means unlimited text, calls and data for that one monthly fee.