Saturday, April 28, 2012

To The Moon! (The honeymoon, that is!)

Well, folks…fret not…the blog may be traveling to the other side of the planet for a couple of weeks; but, that hardly means you won’t get your fix of worldwide holidays! Below I have the list of days that I would be tweeting each day for the next week, were we not paradise bound! 

So, feel free to make stopping by the blog part of your daily routine, or get your holiday fix all in one go!

Sunday, April 29:
Shōwa Day (Japan)
Commemorating the birthday of Hirohito, the Shōwa Emperor who reigned from 1926 to 1989.

Monday, April 30:
Queens Day (Netherlands, Curacao, St Maarten, Aruba)
Honors the day Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard of the Netherlands succeeded her mother, and became Queen regnant.

Tuesday, May 1:
May Day
Spring festival celebrated in the northern hemisphere – dating back to pre-Christian days, when the first day of summer was May 1!

Wednesday, May 2:
Flag Day (Poland)
The anniversary of raising the Polish flag, after the 1945 ‘Battle of Berlin.’

Thursday, May 3:
Holy Cross Day (Mexico, Peru, Venezuela)
Similar to May Day, the Day of the Holy Cross has its roots in Celtic, Roman, and Druid celebrations of the beginning of summer. Pope John XXIII tried to outlaw this in 1960, but many cultures still celebrate.

Friday, May 4:
Indie Day (Latvia)
The full name of this day is the ‘The Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia!’ I mean, how could we not celebrate that mouthful?!

Saturday, May 5:
Cinco de Mayo (USA)
That’s right, kids! Cinco de Mayo is a US holiday! It commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla, in 1862. We Americans will use any excuse to pass the tequila!

Can't wait to share our content from Seoul and Bali!!! Coming soon!!

Catch you on the flip side,


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Have Passport -- Will Travel

On Saturday, March 10, the U.S. Department of State celebrated its 4th annual Passport Day in the USA and the holiDAYtrips blog was invited to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of New York’s main passport agency, located at 376 Hudson Street. How in the world could we pass that up! Well, luckily, we didn’t; and, here is the account of our day and the answers to some questions that we were excited to get to ask the folks in know!

The Passport Agency is located in the Greater NY Federal Building.

We were hyperaware all day that we were fortunate to be on the premises and to have this special access. And, there is nothing more exciting than walking into a government agency with a camcorder and a still camera (and permission to use them) and having the sign above be one of the first things you encounter!

Groovy Passport Day logo!
Our tour was conducted by Customer Service Manager, Kathryn Foss, and we were joined later by Regional Director, Michael Hoffman. Once the tour began, we headed first to where the passports are crafted. I was particularly excited to check out the inserts that we savvy travelers tend to send a away for, when our standard size passports start to get too full to accommodate our stamps. And, that’s when I got my first nugget of great news...

Listen up, this one’s good! When you fill out an application for a new passport, you can select the option to get the larger, 52-page book (with the insert pages already included) for NO ADDITIONAL COST!! There’s an additional box (to the right of the option for the standard size, 28-page book) and if you didn’t know to check it, you’d never know that you could save yourself a massive headache and some bucks down the road!
(I’m slapping you a virtual high five from here over this one!)

Sam Eagle is totally giving you the stink eye.

Ms. Foss even noted that the Department of State was surprised by how few of the larger books get ordered, being that they’re offered at no additional price.

Want a visual? Let me break it down for you here:

And, I will freely admit, I was angling hard for them to give me a free insert of pages -- to strictly make the video segment more informative, of course! (No dice! They were professional and probably extra hip to my game. Sneaky world travelers!)

Next we had a really satisfying Q & A. Here are a couple of particularly great gems that we sniffed out for you guys,  mingled in with some of my personal tips for passport etiquette:

  • The U.S. Department of State has a really handy app, called Smart Traveler, that iPhone and iPad users can utilize prior to and during their travels. Two of my favorite features are the “know before you go” section which includes country specific entry/exit requirements, up-to-date travel alerts, maps, and embassy locations; and, the “smart traveler enrollment” feature, which allows you to upload your itinerary directly to the state department. That way, they can better assist you in case of an emergency. (And, guys, whether you use an app or not, this should be a drill you are already implementing. Registering your travel with the Department of State is the smart thing to do – it’s safer for your government to know where you are.) And, if you don’t have an iPhone, the Department of State's mobile site is “compatible with virtually all mobile devices” – according to their official website. The only thing I wish the app included is CDC recommendations for any vaccinations and meds you might need when abroad. They do link to the CDC website, but it would be great to have all the info in one place.
  • You’ve heard this tale of warning many times, but I got firm confirmation that some countries WILL DENY YOU ENTRY if you don’t have a full 6 months before your passport expires. Could you imagine getting off a 16+ hour flight in coach, only to be turned around and sent back?! So, be keenly aware of when your passport expires. Better yet, subtract 6 months from that date and consider that to be your new expiration date.
  • Similar to the last one, make sure you check out how many pages the country you are visiting requires you to have unstamped. Some countries REQUIRE SEVERAL FULL PAGES for their visa, and will not permit you to enter if you only have one page left unstamped. 
  • This one is for the families who received passports at the same time. Typically, children’s passports expire before adult passports. So, if you got a passport to go on a family holiday when you were a teenager, don’t assume that you’re okay to book a new family vacation based on mom and dad’s passports having plenty of time on them. Check everyone’s passports separately.
  • Keep your immunization records with your passport. I have a special spot in my passport holder just for this. There are some countries that REQUIRE PROOF OF IMMUNIZATIONS before they will allow you entry. Once you’ve gone through the trouble to get your shots, make sure that you have visual evidence of the pain!
  • Steer clear of holidays! When you know you are going to need a new or renewal passport, avoid submitting your application right before seasons that many others will be doing the same. The best times to apply, should you want to get your docs back quickly, would be well before the spring, summer, and winter break seasons.

The US Passport Card...Good for Land or Sea
  • The US passport book vs. the US passport card. I’ll admit, I needed the skinny on this one. Basically, the book is used everywhere, at all points of exit and entry; and, if that is your only passport type, you’re covered. The card only works in places to which you are traveling by land or sea. Again, if you are flying, you cannot use the US passport card. However, the card is an especially good idea if you live in a city (like NYC) where you don’t drive. The card may then be utilized as your standard government ID, in lieu of your lack of a driver’s license.
  • Make a copy…or several. Whenever I travel, I make a photocopy of my passport and keep the copy on me whilst leaving my actual passport in the hotel safe. This way, I don’t risk getting it lifted and still feel secure in having my identification on me. Additionally, I have entrusted pdf versions of my passport to close family members; and, they can always forward that copy to whomever might need it, should I get into an unforeseen scrape!

Honestly, our tour of the NYC passport office was pretty thrilling. Everyone was exceptionally welcoming and willing to answer all of our questions – even when they were along the lines of “Why does it take so damn long to get my passport renewed?” And they were especially accommodating when we asked to see the “archive” of old passports, or “past”ports, if you will…

Overall, I was really impressed with our tour and the promotion of the event, as a whole. Reaching out to travel bloggers in order to let the public in on the behind-the-scenes activities of a government agency was a refreshingly modern concept for Passport Day! Kudos, Department of State! (If I was allowed to wear a hat in my passport photo, I would tip it to you!)

Happy Travels,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ground Control to Major Holiday

Hello there all! This is Ed, Ilana's husband and full-time travel companion. I'm usually the one holding the camera while Ilana shares something fascinating about diverse cultures celebrating joyously throughout our wonderful city.
Each week we have been featuring how cultures far and wide have come to settle into New York and how you can join in on observing the celebrations that come with them. It's only been a few months and already we've started to cover the globe pretty well. So far, Greece, Korea, India, Indonesia, and Japan have "come to us" via the holiDAYtrips blog.

But for today's holiday, we've set our sites on a culture that comes to us from not just far away, but far, far away.

To say that this holiday is a bit more controversial than our usual observances is an understatement. There are people out there that say it isn't really a holiday at all -- just a marketing ploy to get people to buy hand-made head coverings and exotic ingredients (more on that later). There are even people who suggest that the culture on which it's based isn't real. But we, here at holiDAYtrips, are not subject to those prejudices. We embrace all cultures equally and are willing to celebrate anything so long as it doesn't hurt. Much.

So without furthur adieu, we are happy to bring you:

The Intergalactic Day for the Education of Terrestrials about Extraterrestrials

Otherwise known as ETET, this day is fast becoming one of the most important days on the moon of Pontwan's lunar calendar, as it brings together the cultures of our planet and those from distant star systems. Ever since the Kepler Mission uncovered thousands of planets in our near universe, it has become clear to many scientists and astrologists that we are very much not alone. Even Stephen Hawking has taken the stance that we have intergalactic neighbors and may even have to worry about what they're up to.

You may be surprised to know that ETET has been observed for centuries by Incan and Egyptian kings and even the Founding Fathers of the U.S. That's because, due to people of power being the only ones emissaries from solar realms would contact, most folks in the general public needn't be concerned about inter-stellar relations.

Early ETET invitation
And even though their constituents may have been a bit in the dark, that didn't stop them from celebrating ETET with lavish celebrations, intended to pay respect and homage to peoples from other worlds.

Leftover grafitti from wild ETET party
Today, people celebrate much more openly as we come to know much more about our intergalactic brethren. Still, because of prejudices against "space monsters," most people still celebrate in their own homes.

One popular ETET tradition is the drinking of the Green Sludge. Green sludge is basically a milkshake that is allowed to ferment with alien spores from the Horsehead Galaxy. The spores are found in the craters of meteors and sold at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's. Here's our favorite recipe!

  • 4 Cups Squirrel Milk
  • 1 Tsp Antler Powder
  • 1 Shot Hot Sauce
  • 1 Pinch Dried Horsehead Galaxy spores
  • 4 Eyes of Newt

After extracting the milk of about 4 adult female squirrels, mix it with the antler powder and hot sauce (we prefer Texas Pete's but any vinegar based hot sauce will do). Sprinkle spores on top until they spread out over surface of the milk -- it will begin to react immediately. Again, make sure they're dried, as fresh ones are unstable and would consume all of the oxygen on Earth. BE SURE NOT TO INHALE ANY OF THE SPORES. Cover and rest on window sill overnight. In the morning the drink will be thick and slimy. Garnish each portion with eye of newt and enjoy! (Serves 4 humans and 2.5 valerians.)

Another thing that people will do is attempt to meet aliens from a nearby star system. To do this, one needs to attract an alien race, as well as prepare for the abduction. You can start by emulating one of the aliens you are trying to attract. The most popular way is to dress like that alien, such as wearing an alien headdress. Here I tell you all you need to know about trying to attract an alien abductor.

I am happy to report that our efforts were a success! And, it's a good thing that there's plenty of evidence of our alien adventure, as my memory is pretty hazy.

The Morning After
Alien Pedicure
Green Sludge...Great for Hangovers!

Oh! And, Happy April Fools Day! (If you believe in that sort of thing.)

Eep Op Ork Ah-Ah,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following: