Category: travel

New Orleans Bound

ALA is in New Orleans this year, and I’ll be attending once again. (In June. Not sure if that’s the time of year New Orleans would be the most pleasant to visit, but it’s the time I’ll be going.) Outside of Alaska, this is really the one part of the country I’ve never been anywhere near before. Checking out the map, the closest I’ve come to New Orleans in all my travels would be San Antonio. After that, it’s a layover in Atlanta, or all my vacationing in Orlando. So this is filling in a huge hole in my American Experience.

I’m planning on heading down a bit before the conference and/or coming back a bit after it, and I’m going to bring my family with me. (Again, not sure if New Orleans is the best family friendly destination, but it’s a huge area of the country I’d like my kids to have some exposure to. Very different from Maine, I’d imagine.) The good news is that I’m flying them all down for free on points. (My first time using points for anything other than cash back rewards.)

While we’re down there, I’ve already got a short list of things we’d like to do. That includes driving around outside the city and checking out the area some. I’d like to go to a jazz concert or a dixie concert. I’d like to eat cool new things. But I don’t have any real idea beyond that what we should be doing. (I don’t even know what I should be eating.) That’s where you come in. Any of you been in the area before? What are some things to check out in the city and within an hour or two around it? Any good beaches? Any and all suggestions would be welcome!

And if you’re going down to ALA this year as well, let me know. Maybe we can meet up!


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Ask the Internet: Best Place to Search for Lodging in Europe

Okay folks. My European plans are progressing. I’ve actually gotten tickets now. Flying in and out of Budapest this time, since we have yet to see that one. It’s through Zurich, but we won’t be doing a stopover, choosing to spend our time seeing Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Krakow, and Košice, instead. (In addition to Slovakia, of course.) It should be a blast.

But it looks like our travel dates are overlapping with European holidays, so a lot of hotel rooms are already booked. As I’ve been doing searches, I wondered what sites other people use to find lodging, particularly in Europe. Here are some of the sites I’m already aware of:

  • is a favorite. They have a wide variety of hotels, their prices are decent, and I like their interface. I also appreciate how well integrated they are with tripadvisor, as I rely on reviews heavily when I’m selecting a place to stay. I need to make sure it will be decent for my family. That said, sometimes they omit places, and I’m not sure how exhaustive their results are. I can’t help wondering if I couldn’t get a better deal somewhere else. (That’s where you all come in.)
  • VRBO is one I’ve used for North American trips, but it seems less robust in Europe. Particularly in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. (Sorry. I just can’t bring myself to call it Czechia.) Also, I sometimes worry about how reliable the places will be. Our stay in Paris was lovely, but it’s an added concern not typically there when I’m just going to check into a chain hotel. (Though the accommodations are so much nicer.)
  • Airbnb is another site, and it seems more popular in the places I’m specifically checking so far. (Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague) Same issues as VRBO, but definitely easy to use and worth looking into.
  • is one that was new to me, and I haven’t really liked it yet. I used it a bit, but the prices seem inflated from what I can find on other sites. I wonder if I’m using it wrong, or if I don’t understand the results properly.
  • Individual hotel sites are also always worth a shot. Marriott sometimes has the best deals directly from their site, for example.

And that’s the extent of what I’ve used. Anyone out there use anything else they’re really fond of? Please share. I’m all about learning new things.



Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $6/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

How to Decide How Long to Visit a City

In conjunction with my European travel post yesterday, I was wondering if I might ask the hivemind a question. I’m looking at going to some new cities on this trip, but it’s always a balancing act, trying to decide how much time to spend in one city vs. trying to see multiple cities. What is your general approach?

I think it boils down to two different mindsets. On the one, it’s fun to go see new places, check out the “best of” and then move on to the next. With this route, you don’t get to really *experience* any of the cities. It’s more like you consume them, like when you go to a restaurant buffet and try a little bit of everything. After the meal, someone might ask you what you liked, but you can only give a cursory summary of what you tried, and how they compared. You didn’t commit to a single dish, and so you don’t know any one dish very well. But you know a little bit about all of them.

On the other hand, you can spend multiple days in a city and really get to know it. (Well, as much as just a few days in a city will let you. In my experience, if you really want to get to know a place well, you need to live there at least a year or two. But since we can’t all go around moving to a place for a year or two . . . ) This route, you get to see the city at different times. Eat at several restaurants. Check out different areas. You don’t just see the “best of” sites. You get to hopefully go to lesser-visited places.

I see the advantages of both. If you’re never going to go back to an area again, it sometimes makes sense to rush through as much of that area as you can. But on the other hand, some of my favorite stories come from telling people about places I’ve seen and things I’ve done that most people never will be able to. It’s all fine and good to visit Vienna and see the Hapsburg palaces. But my favorite Hapsburg estate was the one at Svaty Anton. It’s a place hardly anyone has been, and I remember it really well. It’s different than any of the other palaces I’ve been to.

Then again, if you’ve never seen a Hapsburg palace at all, maybe Svaty Anton wouldn’t be as interesting.

Perhaps in the end it depends on what you want to get out of your trip. Do you want to be able to watch movies and remember the time you were at that location? Tell other people about the cool cities you visited? Or would you rather talk about the interesting, novel things you did? Or remember the unique experiences you had that perhaps no one else (or very few) have?

I might be going to Poland or Eastern Slovakia. What do I want to see there? How long do I want to stay? So what would you plan to do if you were going to a country for the first time? What’s your approach been? Please share.


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $3/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

European Planning

This summer will have been three years since our last trip to Europe, which means it’s high time we get over there again. If you’re new to the blog, Denisa and I try to get to Slovakia once every three years, so she can see her family and friends, and so the kids can be immersed in that side of their heritage. It’s not as often as we’d like, but it’s about as often as we can afford, realistically.

I love the initial planning stages of a trip to Europe. There are just so many possibilities. What if we fly through Madrid and do a stopover there? Or we could see Iceland, or Denmark, or Sweden. What if we do another big road trip, hitting some Eastern European countries this time? It can all get rather overwhelming, of course, as there are so many decisions to make, and so many unknowns to wade through. Will we be taking a car or the train? If we’re staying in new cities, where should we stay? How long? Who do we want to see when we’re over there?

Decisions, decisions.

So what I try to do is start nailing down a few specifics first. Exact travel dates for flying to Europe and coming home. Last time when we had my brother in law fly out to us, his airline (Air Berlin) went insolvent for the return trip, forcing us to buy a new ticket. Having been burned like that once, I’m now becoming more cautious with my flights. This time, I’m going to put them on my Chase Ink Preferred Card, which comes with $5,000 of free travel insurance. If something crazy happens, we can get that money back, so that’s a perk. We’re also looking at Denisa going with the kids earlier, and me following a week or two later. That gives them more time to just enjoy Slovakia without me having to take extra vacation days, which come at a premium.

Getting the specifics in place make other things easier to plan. For example, it’s looking (at the moment) like we’ll fly in and out of Budapest this time. If that’s the case, then I think we might do a road trip of Eastern Europe. We could show the kids Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Krakow, and Kosice, with maybe a quick jaunt up to Dresden, because it’s really hard to convince myself it isn’t worth going back to Germany, even for a day.

Of course, that leads to other questions. Hotels. Rental cars. How many days to give to each city. You’d figure with all those different variables, I’d get overwhelmed. But this is where the advice I give my freshman classes each year comes in handy: when you’re doing research, give yourself plenty of time. If you’re trying to wait until the last minute, it all gets to be too much. I have eight months to plan this thing now. Plane tickets first, since it pays to be on the lookout for them early on. Hotels and rental cars can come later. They aren’t as hard to get. Places to see can be filled in as we go. Passports, cannot. Denisa and I both need new ones, and I’ll be putting in those applications soon. (Really want to avoid the mess that happened three years ago.)

With enough time, any research project can be fun. But then again, I’m a librarian. It’s kind of my thing.

Anyway . . . anyone want to get a tour of Slovakia? August is looking lovely.


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $2/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

Moving Time!

Sorry for the absence Friday. I was off on a moving adventure over the weekend. I just got back yesterday, and my back and forearms are kind of on the painful side, but nothing was broken (on me, at least. A few pieces of furniture can’t quite say the same . . .), so all is well. I learned a few valuable lessons over the course of the move:

  • A 26 foot truck is very big. As in, very big. But at the same time, it’s kind of like a reverse TARDIS. Once you start filling the thing, it begins to feel smaller on the inside than it is on the outside. The more things you put into it, the smaller it feels. Ultimately, you wish it were bigger so it would be easier to fit all the stuff.
  • But then you drive the 26 foot truck (or act as navigator) and you wish it were smaller again. This is also true when you have to fill up the tank, which costs enough money that you have to put your credit card in twice, because it stops at $100 per gas transaction.
  • Back braces are a wonderful thing. I bought one just for this experience, and I’m very glad I did. My lower back doesn’t hurt at all, and my upper back mainly just creaks and groans like the rest of my muscles. For the record, I bought this one, and I really liked it.
  • Driver side seats in a truck are much nicer than passenger side seats. Though you have to drive the truck to be able to sit there, so I think it’s kind of a wash.
  • Moving things into a truck takes forever. Moving stuff out of the truck is much easier. Finding a place to put all the stuff when you move it out is a whole different story.
  • Moving trucks are very tall. Tall enough that you have to watch out for branches that you never would think about twice in a normal situation.
  • People in small cars don’t really care about how long it might take you to stop when you’re in a big truck. They zoom around you without a care in the world. I don’t think we ran over any of the small cars, but a few of those roads were pretty bumpy, so we might have clunked over one or two and just thought it was a pot hole. (Seriously. I’m going to be much more careful around big trucks from now on, until I forget this lesson a few months from now at least.)
  • Three people to load a 26 foot truck is not enough. Even when you have a fourth person for a couple of hours.
  • After moving for three straight days and traveling through 10 states to do it, you’re going to be very tired. But you’re not going to be able to sleep well.
  • Moving doesn’t burn as many calories as you’d think, so justifying that chocolate bar? Probably not a great idea.
  • You will be very, very glad to be home and done with it.

At least we didn’t have to go over any covered bridges.

“That’s not a bridge. It’s termites holding hands!”

%d bloggers like this: