Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shipping your pet with Pet Safe -- United Airlines

We recently moved from Washington State back to Texas. It was a tough decision, moving from breathtaking views that can match those in Ireland. But alas, my 3 adult sons still lived in Texas, and I couldn't take a moment more of being away from them. I mean... all 3 in the same State, that's lucky for a mom who has military kids!

Our car and our things had been loaded onto a trailer and all that was left was a couple of suitcases to pack and tickets to book.

I had assumed that our little dog would easily be able to travel with us. I was so wrong. When I read the fine print that a pet has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you (Unless a support dog), my heart sank. I then decided he would have to go under the plane with the suitcases, but no matter what airline I tried to book with, they no longer flew dogs as cargo in the summer, apparently there were several instances of animals dying on the tarmac while awaiting transfers.

You see... This guy... We love him a lot. He's part of our family.
He has been with us since he was a puppy, we love him dearly. How were we going to get him back to Texas with us?
I chose to blog about this post, because it was so confusing and so stressful when I found out that our pet couldn't fly with us. I know that many pet owners feel the same way I do, and that your pet means a lot to you. Rest assured, there is a company out there, that will put your mind at rest and your pet will be safe with.

I began to do a lot of research and I found one airline that would fly our Rocco to Texas. United Airlines. Not only would they fly him, they would make sure he was in a climate controlled building while he was awaiting his first flight, his transfer flight or after his final flight. He would never be left out on the tarmac in the sun that often reaches over 100 degrees here in Texas. The problem was, we didn't have time to get Rocco "ready" for our journey. So Rocco stayed with my brother, who later put him on his flight for us.

It's quite an ordeal, getting your pet on a plane using Pet Safe, but it's all for the welfare of your pet.

The first thing you're going to have to do is "request" a flight for your animal. You don't book a plane ticket like you might normally. You can request that your pet be on the same flight as you, but you have to make the request through Pet Safe with United Airlines and you MUST give the airline at least 5 days notice.
You do that at The United Airlines Website.

United Airlines will email you with the dates that your pet will be flying. The price of your pet to fly, will depend on it's weight and it's shipping container. You must use an approved pet travel container. Rocco weighs roughly 18 pounds and he cost $300 to fly. However, unlike regular plane tickets, you won't pay for your pet's reservation until the day he/she flies.

Rocco is a Miniature Schnauzer, but there are many breeds of pets that aren't actually allowed to fly on United Airlines flights. Any breed of dog that is brachycephalic (short or snub-nosed) or considered having a strong jaw are unable to fly. There are also a few breeds of cats that are excluded, this list is due to health concerns and the full list of excluded pets is on the United Airlines website.

After you have your flight reservation.
Make sure you have the correct travel crate. Your pet will have to be able to stand completely up and turn around and lie back down and you must be an airline approved crate. When I purchased our crate, it was through Amazon and it specifically stated it was airline approved.
You will also need to get a Health Certificate from your Veterinarian stating that your pet is healthy and able to fly. This certificate can't be any older than 10 days. 
 You will also need to print and sign a copy of this form from the United Airlines site
7 days before you fly, you will need to scan and email these two forms as well as a photo of your pet and a photo of the crate you plan to have your pet fly in to the Pet Safe office.
PetSafe/United Airlines will email you back and let you know if they accept your information. Once you're approved all you have to do is show up at the airport with your pet's health certificate, the release form, a photo of your pet and the money to ship your pet.
My brother's information was also provided, as he was the one that took Rocco to the Seattle Airport.
Your pet's photo will be put on the side of the crate. 
You won't be dropping your pet off where you check in for a flight, you will have to take your pet to the United Airlines cargo part of the airport. If you're unaware of where that is, you can call the airline and they will let you know. 
(Stock photo found with Google Search)
Rocco flew from Seattle, with a layover in Houston and we finally picked him up in Dallas
When we picked Rocco up in Dallas, he was standing in his crate and looked a bit confused. But when he heard our voice, when we opened his kennel (Which they zip tie closed) he was so excited. He wanted a drink and a wee... but overall, he was happy, he was healthy and he made it safely from one end of the States to the other!

All in all, it was a good experience. Every time I called concerned to United Airlines, and every dealing I had with them, was professional and they put my mind to rest about the safety of our dog. I would recommend United Airlines to fly your pet. Our experience was a pleasant one!

 Contact the PetSafe Desk at 1-800-575-3335 or 1-832-235-1541

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Paris to London... by Bus

It was a mother and daughter trip to Paris, we had been in Ireland, and decided to just hop over to Paris for 3 days. When in Europe, you can literally do that-- Just hop on a plane for a short journey to another country, sort of like we do here in the states, flying from state to state.

On our return journey, with a stop over in London, I decided it would be fun to travel by Coach (A long distance bus).

I thought what a wonderful way to see the French countryside, to soak in more of the french experience. In my mind, I pictured fields of Lavender and an educational and moving experience for my daughter. I thought since the trip is only around 6 hours. It will be fun!!

I booked the ticket with Eurolines. We departed from Roissypole - Gare, near Charles de Gaulle Airport and our destination was Victoria Coach Station in London. 

This was going to be so exciting! And going across the English Channel by Ferry, honestly, I knew my 12 year old daughter would love it.

The day our journey began, we arrived an hour early though we only needed to be 30 minutes early. 
Our Coach was 20 minutes late. Sending me into a slight panic, as I wasn't 100 % sure that I was in the correct place, even though I asked at least 6 people in broken french if I was at the correct bus stop. 

We were finally picked up, with a few people already on the bus, and off we went. We very quickly discovered that our promise of Wi-Fi was not even close to being a reality. I tried all of my travel tricks. Nothing. Looks of despair from my daughter started to ensue. 

The coach made a couple of stops on the way out of Paris for other passengers. On one of our stops, we were surprise boarded by a Police Force of some kind, about 4 men, asking for passports. Everyone on the bus, I guess about 15 people including us, all showed their passports and off we went again. I was eager to reach the french border, I wanted to enjoy the sea air as we crossed.

The beautiful Countryside? Well... Not what I was expecting.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not downing on France. But this particular drive, was not particularly stunning, it was mostly some homes and miles of farming fields. When telling people about this excursion, I have had many people chuckle. I mean how was I to know? Driving the countryside of England, Ireland or Scotland never disappoints. I have heard parts of France are stunning. But this drive, well, it really isn't one of them. I feel bad saying that, as I love greenery and seeing windmills always makes me happy!
Half way to the French border, we did stop at a large rest area that offered food, toilets and a gift shop. There is a toilet on board, but neither my daughter or I used it. We got drinks and a snack for the rest of the journey.
Right before the border, all passengers had to get off of the coach and go through security/passport control. It was a quick production, a lot quicker than any airport I've been through. Most likely because there were so few people on our bus.
This photo was taken in a stall at Passport Control in France.
We then headed for the actual border. (Me looking furiously for the channel water)

We stopped in a long line of Coaches/Buses. I was eagerly waiting, only to realize, we were going through the Euro Tunnel. An underwater railway also known as the "Chunnel" that takes about 35 minutes to cross. The Channel Tunnel is quite an elaborate operation. However, I was thinking we were going over water. Silly me. I also thought that a person (or bus), could simply drive through the tunnel for their excursion to the other side. I was very wrong. In fact, our big ole bus was put into a crate, a rather very large crate-- It was technically the train, but it looked like we were being loaded onto a crate in the train, a very enormous metal one. Oh boy.
I'm not fond of being underground. I can just manage the tube in London, or any underground system, because I try not to think about being miles under the dirt. You see, I'm ever so slightly claustrophobic. However, at this point, I couldn't exactly back out. I also didn't have the luxury of any kind of panic as I was with my 12 year old daughter. So ... with a great deal of hidden reluctance, I watched as workers closed the doors ahead of us. We were sitting relatively close to the front of the bus. I didn't actually time the trip, it was bumpy and I could see through the glass barrier that separated the buses on the train. All of us were synchronized in our bouncing, as the train carried us to England.
Once in England, we waiting patiently as the barrier doors opened slowly one at a time, letting each bus drive forward. Forward that is, towards another stop for border control and checking of all of our passports. Another quick check, as we were all released to re-board our bus.

The trip to London, was pretty much uneventful. However, once we were in the city, the driver had absolutely no idea where he was going, he navigated through most of the city, passing a lot of the beautiful monuments that scream "You're in London!!", but the closer we got to Victoria Station, the more the bus driver kept calling for directions (Google Maps anyone?). 

We finally arrived at Victoria station, just an average big bus station-- with a toilet you have to pay for and seats to wait in. Since we had to catch a plane to Ireland, I didn't stick around to see what was available for the traveler. We walked the 5 minute journey to the Victoria Train Station and made our way to Gatwick Airport. 

So a quick synopsis...

  • Such a cheap journey. For both my daughter and I, it was €48.00.
  • If time is not an issue, this is the best way to go, it took just over 7 hours, but if you're back packing or have time-- Why not? Enjoy that book you have wanted to finish. Catch up on emails. Do whatever.
  • When you purchase your tickets. They are both in English and French.
  • It's really a boring ride. I had magazines. But I was bored without internet, I was traveling light, and I expected to have Wi-Fi. Hannah did surprisingly well. She always brings things to do, and she did have some games on her phone that didn't require internet. 
  • As previously mentioned I couldn't get connected to Wi-Fi. Yes-- It could be user error. But, it's not like I don't know how to connect to the internet, it's not rocket science. They do advertise having Wi-Fi, but our bus didn't.
  • The bus arrived late, and we were very late into London. By over an hour. You must have a freed up schedule to travel by coach.
I wouldn't do this long of a journey again, but we are traveling from Rome to Venice summer 2019 and it's very likely this will be a way of travel again. I want to see the countryside, we might take the train too. Who knows. I'm still ironing out the details. 

Have you ever traveled long distance by bus in a foreign country?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Museum of Flight, Seattle

Do you have to force... bribe... your kids to get some culture in their lives?
I use persuasive coercion on my son, He's 16.

We had to travel from Olympia, WA to Seattle on many occasions so that my son could see specialist doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital. When we would go to the city, my 16 year old boy would complain about being in the city, he would say he wants to go to the hospital and then go straight back home. Now I don't know if you have ever been to Seattle, but we aren't talking about some huge metropolis with endless cars and streets, we aren't talking Manhattan here. Seattle is a small city, with the feel of being quaint, and with around 700,000 people, it's not too big. But the way my son see's things, I am torturing him with city life. He's a cowboy boot wearing country boy, but that didn't stop me from telling him we were going to do something, and that he needed to pick a Museum or tell me anywhere he wanted to go. Lucky for him, his 13 year old sister, who is obsessed with airplanes, said she wanted to go to the Flight Museum.
Plans Made.
16 year old continues to complain.
16 year old insists he will wait in the car.

When we arrived and my son started to see that this place wasn't just about airplanes, when he saw NASA and a 3D space movie offered. He was elated. Isn't it just funny, mom knows best. I knew that if I physically GOT him to the museum, he would go in, there was no way that kid was going to sit in the car for hours while we look around a museum.

I can only think of one word to describe this place... "Cool", I mean really really cool! The flight museum covers all aspect of flying, from Space Ships to Airplanes to Droids.
(I'm so glad that flight has improved from this one man flying apparatus!)
I really enjoyed reading about the first woman in space, and loved that my daughter was able to connect with this history, especially since she talks non-stop about being a pilot.
A representation of Valentina Tereshcova and the seat she would have sat in. Valentina was the first woman in space.
The kids loved riding in the flight simulator.
The simulator cost $9 a person, and $7 for a 2nd ride.
Above Photo borrowed from the Seattle Flight Museum Website
We sat through a movie about the nearly forgotten Cassini-Huygens -- Mostly referred to as "Cassini", Cassini was a collaboration between NASA, The Italian Space Agency & The European Space Agency. Cassini was a space probe that launched from Earth in 1997 and crashed in 2017 on one of Saturn's Moons. It took several photos, and it's actually quite moving and sad when Cassini ended it's journey. The photos the probe took during it's shoot around the sun and through our galaxy are breathtaking. Oh... And Earth is round y'all! 🌍🌍🌍🌍 Cassini got a lot of great shots. Not that I doubted the Earth was round, but you know, in case any Flat-Earthers read. 😁 The movie was only an additional $3 per person, and worth the 40 minutes.
For me, it was very surreal seeing a real helicopter from The Vietnam War, I can't imagine hanging off of the side of it, like you see in the movies. It's easy to forget our past wars until you're reminded with such a fierce realism glaring at you.
The museum is actually 2 MASSIVE buildings, they are opposite each other off of East Marginal Way S. There is a sky way that makes for easy access and connects both buildings. It's in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery that houses some of the most amazing large Airplanes, I get all giddy thinking about it. I love flight, and the idea of it... watching planes fly, flying on planes, reading about planes, being on planes-- You get my drift.
There is a replica of the Space Shuttle, as well as a lot of the equipment that NASA uses.
 I feel claustrophobic when I see what the Astronauts actually wear, fly in and work in.
For instance, coming back to Earth in THIS...
I have so much admiration and respect for Astronauts, but I could NOT get in this thing and shut the door!
Space Toilet... Use your imagination.
It was also neat to see The original Air Force One. President's Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all flew aboard this flying oval office. Did you know that it's only called "Air Force One" if the President is on board? Other wise, it's "SAM", Special Air Missons. It's currently on loan to the flight museum and you can read more about it on the Museums Website.
You are able to walk around inside all of the airplanes that are in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.
I'm pretty sure this was the best of the best back in the 60's, but I'm also pretty sure our recent Presidents don't sleep on a bunk.
And... THE CONCORDE! What a cool trip that would be, flying to London from New York in like, what? 2 hours? Of course, as long as it doesn't, you know, crash. Most likely why it's sitting here in Seattle, and not on the runway. Still very cool.
There are so many different planes to enjoy and walk in.
The Dreamliner is one of my favorite planes to fly on, It's easy to forget how enormous some planes are when comfortably sat inside of it. It still makes my brain mesmerized that they are even able to get off of the ground! The engines are huge!
The gift shop. So much Coolness! (Cool-- It's just the word you will be saying throughout this Museum). When doing a bit of research for this post, I just realized they have an online store, I don't know how it compares to the store in the Museum, but the kids got some great souvenirs like Astronaut food and Airplane Replicas.
Dried strawberry anyone?
I couldn't pass up one of the Coffee (Tea in my case) cups.
There was only one negative thing in this whole place. The Cafe. The food was disgusting. It was expensive and gross. The chicken wings were barely cooked, the baked potato raw and the fresh celery and carrots smelled of mold. I'm not even kidding-- Bring a lunch or eat before you go. $45 for food we didn't eat.
       Entrance free for the Museum is $22 a person (18-64), $19 (65+), $14 (5-17), Under 4 is free.
                                                            Museum of Flight
                                          9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA 98108

Expect to spend 4-5 hours at the Museum to see everything, more if you see a movie. There is free parking and the Museum is opened 7 days a week, 10am-5pm. There is free admission in the evening of the first Thursday of every month from 5pm-9pm

Needless to say, my 16 year old son that refused to go to a Museum, had the best time and asked to go back! My 13 year old daughter also wanted a 2nd trip. We have since moved to Texas, but we still have family in Washington, so I see another visit in our future. It was THAT much fun, not a museum that kids only want to visit once.

Aren't Museums one of the best things about travel?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mount Rainier, Washington State

There are many places across the globe that I would travel to, just to see one small part of it. 
For instance, The Rome Coliseum in Italy--The Louvre in Paris-- The crystal clear ocean in Fort Lauderdale--The Giraffe Manor in Kenya-- The Great Barrier Reef in Australia-- This list can go on and on! Mount Rainier in Washington State is one of those places. If you travel to Washington State to see only one thing, it should be Mount Rainier. In fact, if you traveled 5,000 miles to see Mount Rainier, I promise that you would not regret it. 

Mount Rainier is located about 59 miles Southeast of Seattle. We visited in July of 2018, though people do visit in the winter time, there are many roads that are closed off when it's cold. We saw many hikers and bikers, but we drove up the mountain. The roads are very well maintained, but many of them have very steep drop offs. My brother was driving a Mini Van when we went, and looking down off of the side, while he was driving, made my stomach flip more than a few times. My brother is a good driver, but that doesn't mean I didn't hold my breath on a few of the turns!
 This photo might look like a ditch, but I added this photo to show just how crystal clear the water is, this ditch is full of water. It's absolutely pristine on this mountain.
I have been a few places around this globe, and I believe it's fair to say, that Mount Rainier is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I have ever been. There are parking places on the way up the mountain, gift shops and visiting centers. So you don't have to just peer out your car window for a view. One of the stops we made, is called "Paradise"-- There is a reason for that. It's like a view from Heaven. 
I found the air a little bit thin and had to take a couple of deep breaths, but no one else seemed to notice. We were at one point, in the clouds, like actually surrounded by clouds. 
Mount Rainier is an active volcano, which hasn't been active since the late 1800's. It is the highest mountain in Washington and can be seen over a hundred miles away. 

I love the outdoors, I don't actually do things like fish or sleep in the woods, but I love a good hike and nothing can replace an extraordinary view. With the fresh air and pristine water, there are endless outdoor activities. We ran into a family that had been out hiking for 7 hours, they were returning to their truck, all of them had a backpack and their walking sticks, the youngest looked about 9. We were there all day as well. There is so much to do and see, you will want to spend hours exploring. Adults and children alike love this mountain.

As I mentioned we visited in July, and there was still a lot of snow on the ground. I suggest a hoodie, maybe even a pair of jeans, we stayed until about 10pm. It got very cold!
Sandals and snow... 
It cost $30 per car load to get on the mountain. A small fee for 6 of us. 
We took a lot of snacks and food as well, we had a cooler full in the van, it goes without saying, that outdoor activity leads to hungry teenagers, of which we had 3. 
Keep in mind, your cheetos will blow at high altitudes 😃
I took most of these photos, but my sister (in-law) took some as well. I love hanging out with my family and it was such a pleasure to explore the mountain side with them.
I encourage anyone that loves the outdoors or loves a breathtaking view, to visit Mount Rainier. A good location is never too far to travel to.

If you want to check out the weather on the mountain before you travel, you can look at the many webcams on Mount Rainier.
My dad, my brother, sister (in-law) and my niece still live in Washington, so I will be returning, and I know, that I will revisit this beauty again. She truly is spectacular.