Cy’s Suitcase: May/June 2017 Edition

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A Message from Shellie

There are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish and those who wish they were.

I am often asked about my favorite place I’ve visited. Each trip has been amazing and every destination has offered different qualities. I used to say Prague was my favorite spot, but last year Italy took the top. It was exactly like I had imagined: the landscape, the food. the wine. Then, in April, I was fortunate to take a trip to Ireland. I had never been and had heard so many good things about this magical land.  My expectations were high, which isn’t always a good thing. But it didn’t disappoint. Ireland is now up there with Italy as one of my favorite destinations. If you have never been, please make an effort to go. Why did I like it so much? It is so green (and wet, although the rain stops as quickly as it starts), the towns are charming, there are redheads everywhere, but mostly it was the people. They are so friendly and seem so happy. It also helps that they speak English. Like the saying above says, although I have no Irish in me (which, because of my red hair, surprises everyone to learn) after visiting there I WANT to have Irish descendants. So I am going to check my ancestry again.

I guess it is the scenery, the food, and the people that make trips for me. That’s my list, but it may not be yours. When I choose trips each year I of course put the passengers first and think about where they want to go. What is the “hot spot?” What is a tried and true location? What place is safe? This has never gotten easier over the years. We put a lot of time into choosing just the right destinations for our travelers. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t.

We must have done something right in 2017 because our traveler numbers have increased significantly. Either my selections were really bad last year or I did a really good job for 2017. I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credit to Heather Botine, my awesome assistant travel director who has done great things for the program since she began her new role last fall.

We are excited about the future of travel and we hope you are, too. If our 2018 trips aren’t going where you want to go, please let us know. We can maybe hook you up with one of our current travel operators to go on a separate departure — or maybe we will add it for 2019!

Have a great summer!

shellie

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long.” – old Irish blessing


Travel Tips

Be flexible
When traveling there are always delays and things that inevitably go wrong. Patience is extremely important when traveling. This is something I have had to work on myself. Since I can’t control the weather or the flight crew, I might as well just get a coffee and relax.

Make a list
About a week before each trip, I make a list of items I don’t want to forget. I now use my phone for this, but grabbing a notepad and writing things down as you think of them will work just as well. I know I have to write it down when I think of it, or I will forget it!

Pre-plan your outfits
It’s easy to just throw your favorite clothes in, but unless you figure out what you are wearing with what, you may end up with all black outfits. Remember, you will be wearing these outfits in photos that you will be keeping forever.

Learn common phrases in the local language
A simple “please” or “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in the local language goes a long way.

Make photocopies of important documents
Keep an extra copy of your passport with you. I have pictures of mine on my phone as well. I know of people who have lost theirs while traveling, so always be prepared.

Bring portable chargers and extra batteries
Nothing is worse than being out and about to take pictures and your camera dies, which for many is now your phone or iPad. Batteries drain quickly while on trips, so be prepared and have an extra with you. And on that note, make sure you have enough memory on your phone for pictures. I have had those instances where you are ready to take the best breathtaking photo and you get that annoying message that you don’t have enough storage. There are solutions to that. Ask your kids – or grandkids. They will know how.

Carry on essentials
I learned the hard way last summer why it’s important to have a well-packed carry-on. My luggage was lost for almost a week, so I hosted a cruise with one pair of underwear (yes, I washed them every night) and the same outfits. Keep underwear, a comfy pair of shoes (if you aren’t wearing them already) an extra shirt (I always wear a cardigan when traveling so I have a few items to interchange with if my luggage is lost), toothbrush, medications, and my laptop. I also bring lotion and lip balm, as plane cabins are very dry.


Shellie’s Shopping Secrets

Last year my luggage was missing for almost a week when I was hosting a cruise. I had very little in my carry-on bag because I hated carrying a heavy bag. Since then I have purchased this bag off of ebags.com. It not only comes in ISU colors, but you can stick it under your seat or above your head so you won’t have to check it at the gate. And it has wheels! I think this is THE most valuable travel item I own. I was recently boarding a plane in Chicago when we were told all carry-ons had to be checked to our final destination. But not mine, because it goes under the seat. It was very tight and I had nowhere to put my feet, but it was a short flight and my luggage was with me.

 

 

Lessons learned

From the October 2016 issue of Cy’s Suitcase, the official publication of the Traveling Cyclones

When you travel, you learn quickly that things are out of your control. There are delayed flights, cancelled flights, lost luggage, gate changes, and the list goes on. Typically, we experience one or two of these on a given trip. In July I was lucky enough to experience every single one of these on ONE trip. Having all of these happen to me taught me some valuable lessons I needed.

My adventure started in Des Moines, where my flight was delayed to Chicago. When our flight finally landed at O’Hare with only minutes to spare to make my connection, panic started to set in when I realized that if I missed this flight I may have to wait until tomorrow. This is never good, especially when you are hosting a group. I did the walk/jog through the terminals, caught the train, and made it just in time. I collapsed in my seat, relieved THAT was over. Little did I know my adventure was just beginning.

I landed in Copenhagen tired, but ready to go! I made my way to the luggage carousel and waited for my luggage. And waited. And waited. It never came. All the years I have traveled, this has only happened twice on the return, which is not a big deal. I went to the counter, trying to keep my cool. The gentleman there was very rude and not reassuring at all. I may have fought back tears at this moment, but I had to act like it wasn’t a big deal as I was surrounded by travelers. Once on the ship, I talked to the concierge and our GoNext program managers, who assured me this was common and that they were sure it would show up the next day.

white-teeHere is the part where I confess how horribly I had prepared: I travel a lot and know it is a common rule to pack an extra outfit and toiletries in your carry-on bag, but I gambled and lost. My carry-on was jam packed and there wasn’t an inch left for anything else. Plus, this sort of thing never happens to me, so I felt confident. That night I slept in a white t-shirt that the airlines had given me, washed my face and put Jergens hand lotion on my face, as that is what was provided to me. I washed my underwear and hung them on the clothesline in the bathroom and got into bed.

Lesson 1. Pack extra clothes and toiletries in your carry on.

Notice I didn’t say I slept. Because I didn’t. I was worried about my luggage as they had told me it hadn’t been located yet. My mind raced as I thought of everything that was in my suitcase that I may never see again.

Lesson 2: Don’t pack anything of value or anything you will miss.

Another confession: I had forgotten to purchase travel insurance. (In my defense, my life at work was crazy insane as I was covering for two additional employees who had left the ISUAA, so that explains a lot — right?)

Lesson 3.  Always buy travel insurance.

The next morning, we were off to Berlin. With some extra time while there, I found an H&M clothing store and bought some things. I didn’t buy a lot because I was sure my luggage would appear soon. When we got back on the ship later that day I was told there was still no word on my luggage. Now I was worried. That night when I went to dinner my passengers noticed a change of clothes and were excited for me. No, I told them. No luggage. Just a shopping spree in Berlin. Again, no sleeping that night. I was living on 4 hours of sleep in two days. Not good. I was soon told by a fellow host that Zzz-Quil works wonders. I took one that night and will never travel without it again!

Lesson 4.  Always have a supply of sleeping aids with me.

Finally, I received a text in the middle of the night telling me they had located my luggage.  What a relief. Although it had been located, now we had to figure out to which port it should be sent. I soon became known as “the lady without luggage.” Word travels fast on a small ship, and before I knew it I had strangers asking me if I had gotten my luggage. Or people stopped me to tell me their own horror stories. If you have ever been pregnant, you know how moms stop to tell you all about their labors; it was like that. You really don’t want to know, but you are polite and smile. Day 3 passed, then 4 days. . .I started frequenting the ship boutique, which is not an economical place to shop for necessities. I became friends with the boutique workers and they were sad when my luggage was located as I stopped visiting. After five days, I received word that the luggage would be at the Latvia airport. It was soon decided I needed to go get it as they wouldn’t release it to the ship porter. I left my excursion early to get to the ship and take a taxi to the airport. When I arrived I was told I no longer needed to go and could have a someone else pick it up. I was told it would be there by 2:00. You can bet that at 2:00 I was at the concierge desk asking for it. They assured me it would be there. I stood and waited. I am sure they loved me at suitcasethis point. Finally, a call came in that my luggage was there and, after a 30-minute wait which seemed like 30 days, my suitcase and I were reunited. When I got to my stateroom and opened that oversized suitcase and looked at all that I had, it was like looking at a buffet after you had already eaten. It was pure gluttony. I had so many clothes packed and I had been living on three shirts and one standard evening outfit for five days. I felt guilty.

Lesson 5: I can pack much lighter.

I enjoyed the remainder of the trip with all the clothes I hadn’t yet worn and never did unpack. What was the point with only four days left?

On the trip home my adventure continued. We had landed in Chicago after leaving Stockholm but were stuck on the tarmac for about an hour while a storm passed. Again, precious connection flight minutes were ticking away. Once we were able to deplane, I now needed to rush through Customs, rechecking my bag (which I will add was another scare as the attendant said my flight wasn’t showing up yet and he placed a sticky note on it. I told him, “Hold on. This suitcase and I were just reunited, please make sure it doesn’t get lost again. He assured me it would be fine. I felt zero confidence in his words.) I had no time to argue as my flight was leaving in less than 30 minutes and I still had to go through security. I made it to our gate out of breath. After an hour of delayed flights and many gate changes, it was announced that our flight was cancelled due to storms. I headed to the gate agent and rebooked a flight out the next morning. I grabbed a cot, pillow, and blanket and laid in the dark next to strangers, trying not to worry about my luggage with the yellow sticky note on it and where it may be. After hours of hearing a wind turbine video play over and over above my head, the lights came on and we were on our way. It was 4:00 am and we all trudged to the nearest chance of coffee (FYI Starbucks is not open at this time in O’Hare). At 7:00 am I checked with a gate agent; the next flight to DSM was cancelled, so I waited for the next flight at 10:00 am. You can imagine how desperate I was to get out of this place and get home! We did board the plane for our 10:00 am flight, but it was taking a long time to leave. It was soon announced that a ceiling panel had fallen from the plane ceiling so we had to call maintenance to come fix it. Between finding the right tools, parts, etc., this took more than one hour. I was ready to rent a car. GET ME OUT OF HERE! They finally fixed it but now we had to refuel due to being on the tarmac too long. I can’t make this stuff up! When that plane took off, I may have shed tears of joy. Once we landed I went straight to the lost luggage counter. She asked if I had looked on the carousel yet. I told her no; you can imagine her look of surprise. So I went back to the carousel and waited and there she was: my taupe, beaten, but not broken, luggage. I grabbed that baby and rushed out of there and smiled all the way home.

Lesson 6: Don’t ever stop believing in miracles.

Safe travels,

Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association

 

 

Cy’s Suitcase: June 2016

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A Message from Shellie

Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.

How many of you like to look through your passport? I do! It tells the story of all the places I have been. Each stamp holds different memories. One of my new favorite stamps is from my recent trip to Italy. I traveled with a group of colleagues from around the country to the Northwest region of the beautiful country, including a stop in Florence. I have always wanted to go to Italy, probably due to one of my favorite movies, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

shellie_june2016The day we arrived, we went up to the terrace of the hotel and the view took my breath away. I instantly fell in love. I could have left right there and been completely satisfied. It was everything I had imagined. I have been in a lot of different countries, but this one was special. As we traveled through the Cinque Terre area and the Chianti and Tuscany regions, the scenery never disappointed. The Cypress trees and poppies were exactly as I had seen in photographs. In addition to the scenery, the food and wine was amazing. I have never tasted fresher tomatoes, and the bruschetta was the best I had ever had. In one hotel, I slept with the window cracked to hear the sound of the locals speaking Italian late into the night. I savored every moment I spent in that country.

That experience is what I hope for each of my travelers. I want them to be transformed by their surroundings, the food they eat, and the people they meet. I want them to remember how they felt while they were there. I want them to remember how the food tasted. I want them to build memories that will take them back instantly to that place in time. We all travel for various reasons, but escaping our everyday lives has to be on the top of the list.

In 2017, I have chosen an array of trips that will hopefully help you escape — trips that will transport you to another time and another way of life. We all have different bucket lists, but hopefully we have a trip that you can cross off your list.

Safe travels,

shellie

Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association


Travel Tips

How to keep your passport safe while you travel:

HAVE TWO (OR THREE) COPIES
Before you even head out on your trip, you should make multiple copies of your passport. Copy the page that has your photo and full name on it, and keep these copies in separate places – at the bottom of your bag in different pieces of luggage, or even with different people who may be traveling with you. Leave one copy of your passport at home or with coworkers if on a work trip. (Also: Don’t forget, when traveling your passport must not have an expiration date that is less than six months from your departure date.)

HIDE IT
When traveling, keeping your passport concealed is almost a no-brainer, but of course that doesn’t mean just carrying it in your pocket and hoping it stays out of sight. Instead, look for a flat money belt, which can be worn around your waist and neck and concealed under your clothing.  If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, try a travel wallet or passport cover. Both conceal your passport (and nationality), while the travel wallet also has room for other valuable, including credit cards and emergency cash. (Note: Avoid carrying your passport and spending money together if you can, as taking out cash will alert potential thieves.)

LOCK IT UP
Most hotel rooms now have room safes. It’s a good habit to start to store your passport in your safe.

PROTECT IT
When most people think of passport safety, they think of safeguarding it from theft. Weather, however, is another consideration. To prevent water damage, travel with a waterproof cover.

Cy’s Suitcase: March 2016 Edition

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A Message from Shellie

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.

– Edith Wharton

shellie_marchI have traveled to a lot of different countries. I have seen scenery that looks like postcards. I have eaten some very interesting food – some delicious, some not so much. I have swum in some of the most beautiful waters on Earth. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and ziplined in Costa Rica and crawled through narrow dark tunnels in Turkey. Despite all that I have experienced, it is the people I meet who have changed me the most. It is often  in the countries that have the least that the people are the nicest. They aren’t caught up with the latest fashions, the greatest technology, or who said what to whom. And with each person I meet in some of the poorest countries, you know what I hear each time? “Please come back and visit us.” I love that. There are so many reasons I love to travel, but discovering how many kind people are out there restores my faith in the world.

I was recently fortunate to travel to Cuba and Egypt. The people in both places were so hospitable. I am not sure what I was expecting, but not that. In Egypt, everyone was so excited to see us. There hasn’t been any tourism since the Arab Spring over four years ago. The locals were ecstatic to see a tour bus! I felt completely safe the whole time I was there. I urge you to visit each destination. You won’t regret it.

I am currently putting together our trips for 2017. Be checking our website at www.isualum.org/travel for many exciting places for you to visit. And meet some of the kindest people in the world.

Safe travels,
shellie

Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association

Oceania wins top ratings

marinaMany of you have traveled with us on an Oceania cruise. For those of you who haven’t, you may want to give it a try, especially after they ranked high in an award program through CruiseCritic.com.

Two of the large sized ships, the Marina and Riviera, placed 4th and 6th, respectively, as overall winners. Other categories in which Oceania received awards were cabins, dining, embarkation, fitness, public rooms, service, and value.

Travel tips

1) Patience is important. Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control, like flight delays and cancellations. That is a perk of traveling with us; we help you make those annoyances much easier to deal with by having the tour operator on your side!

2) Stash extra cash. Just in case you lose your card or your wallet gets stolen, stash some extra money (maybe $200) somewhere in case of an emergency.

3) Meet local people. Start conversations with local people. Amazingly, basic English is spoken all over the world — so it’s easier to communicate than you might think. I love talking to the locals to find out how they live. It makes the trip so much richer for me.

4) Pack a scarf. This simple piece of cotton is one of the most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It is great to cover you up in the cold airplane or to use as sun protection.

5) Take lots of photos. You may only see these places and meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a tourist. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

6) Take good notes. My memory is horrible. I often think I am going to remember everything about a trip, but a year later, I don’t remember many of the details. I regret not writing down the people I met, the food I ate, or what I felt in the new experience.

7) Don’t be afraid. The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. When you travel with the Traveling Cyclones, your guides are locals and will know when a situation is sketchy. Do you know you are more likely to be hit by falling furniture than to die from a terrorist attack? A CIA agent at a travel conference told me that.

About Zika…
Check out some tips from ISU’s Thielen Student Health Center about protecting against Zika virus when you’re traveling this spring.

Interested in alumni travel? Contact Shellie:
(515) 294-9310
(877) 478-2586 (toll-free)
shelliea@iastate.edu

The joy of group travel

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By Carole Gieseke

One of the true joys of group travel is the intensity and speed with which you become friends with your fellow travelers.

I returned to Ames last week after hosting a two-week trip to South America with a dynamic group of Iowa State alumni and their friends and spouses. We were a compact group of 17 – we could all fit at one big table in a restaurant if we put our minds to it.

In those two weeks we went from being total strangers to becoming lifelong friends. We shared so many things: food and wine, of course, but also hiking sticks and rain gear, Immodium and sunscreen…and lots of stories and laughter.

Together we traveled to two of the absolute wonders of South America: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Together we climbed along the ancient civilizations and shared the delight of spotting yet another blue-footed booby.

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At the end of our journey, our biggest surprise was not that we’d eaten and drunk so well, that we’d stayed in charming and unconventional lodgings, that we’d made it to two of our “bucket list” destinations – no, our biggest surprise was how much all of these things had been enhanced by each other’s presence.

Here’s to a very special group of ISU travelers and my new friends!

For information on upcoming Cyclone Travel opportunities, click here.

Cy’s Suitcase Travel News: October 2015

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A Message from Shellie

shelliecubaI just had the opportunity to travel to Cuba on an inspection trip through one of our tour operators, Go Next. We offered a 7-day trip this year to Cuba and sold out immediately. We ended up putting passengers on any departure where we could find room. For 2016 we have already sold out one departure and are on our way to filling the second date.

Going on these types of inspection trips is invaluable for travel directors so we get to see what our passengers have to do: at the airport, customs, and the hotels; we eat the food, see the buses, meet the guides, and more  It is key to selling a product – to actually experience it ourselves.

I was excited to go to Cuba, but wasn’t sure what to expect. My colleagues who had been there told me there was something about it that leaves you wanting to go back. Now that I have been there, I get it. The people are so kind. The food is good (not spicy like I thought it would be.) The architecture is amazing. The buildings are so big and grand, though they need some love and care. The people have very little and it really makes you realize how blessed we are.

I have been to a number of places in my career as travel director and I will say Cuba moved toward the top as one of my favorites. I am not even sure I can tell you exactly why, but I do know this trip changed me. When you travel to a foreign land, you bring a part of that place back home with you and I believe you leave a part of yourself there.

I hope when you take one of our trips you will feel the same. It’s always nice to be home, but there is always sadness about leaving this magical place you just became part of. That is what travel is all about: hearts are changed, relationships are made, minds are opened, and spirits are renewed. The ISUAA Traveling Cyclones are so glad we can offer a variety of trips that will change you forever.

Safe travels,

shellie

Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association

There’s an app for that!

If you have a smart phone, there are so many useful and fun travel apps!

  • Airline app – I fly Delta a lot so I am familiar with their app. It tells you if a flight is delayed, a gate change and even where your luggage is.
  • TripIt – personal travel agent
  • Weather+Free – your own metereologist
  • Postagram – send personalized photos and messages from your phone to relatives and friends and they will receive an actual postcard for .99
  • Free Wifi finder by JiWire
  • Gate Guru- maps of terminals and reviews of restaurants within an airport
  • Google Translate – rapidly translate whole paragraphs of text or even the spoken word.

Travel Tips

water1) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the air inside planes has anywhere from 10-20 percent humidity, which can dry out mucous membranes and make people more susceptible to germs. Staying hydrated throughout the trip can prevent nasal passages from being irritated, so load up on water and skip the carbonated beverages and alcohol. Sipping on water assists with immune function, and in some cases even helps with jet lag. For longer international trips pack electrolyte-friendly snacks, a banana, nuts, or a small bag of fortified cereal to keep drowsiness at bay.

2) Never carry your wallet in your back pocket, and never carry your purse on just your shoulder.

3) Take notes. As much as you believe the contrary, once you get home you will not remember your tour guide’s name, the name of the artist whose work you loved so much, or even the city where you stayed. Write it down.

4) If you suffer from motion sickness on a plane, ask for a drink that is half ginger ale and half club soda.

5) Stay connected, but follow these cell phone tips:

  • Call your cell phone provider to see if where you are traveling can be included in an international call plan
  • Plans can be pro-rated for when you are out of the country
  • Keep your phone on airplane mode or shut off roaming
  • If you are unsure, visit your cell provider to have them assist

Cy’s Suitcase Travel News: June 2015

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Travel Tips

1) Make sure your cell phone number is on your luggage tag. If someone grabs your bag by mistake and discovers it before they leave the airport or the parking ramp, they can call you before you get too far.

2) If you have a copy of a valuable document, it’s easier to replace the original. In fact, make two sets of photocopies of your passport or driver’s license. (For debit and credit cards, just record the numbers, rather than photocopy them.) Pack one copy and leave the other with a friend at home to be faxed or emailed to you in case of an emergency.

3) Get your shut eye: Some people have trouble sleeping in a hotel room because the drapes won’t stay overlapped enough to keep the sunlight out. If you don’t have anything to keep them shut, head for the closet and a pants hanger that clamps together, and stick them on the drapes.

Time to Shop!

Upcoming trips

  • Passage to the Patagonia & the Antarctic
    (Jan. 26-Feb. 15)
  • Mystical India
    (Feb. 14-March 1)
  • Tanzania Wildlife Safari
    (Feb. 22-March 4)
    Shellie says: “I was fortunate to host this trip last year and it was amazing! We slept in luxury tents, heard the sounds from the African plains at night, and had elephants visit us at our camp! The guides were so amazing. They truly love their country and what they do. They are knowledgeable, considerate, and have a great sense of humor! Seeing all the animals, including the big five, was beyond words. Truly the trip of a lifetime. I recommend this trip highly!
  • Atolls & Islands
    (March 25-April 4)

Please go to www.isualum.org/travel for a complete listing of our trips.