Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Gabreeeeeeel!

07.08.2012 00:29

I just got around to save myself a seat for a stand-up show with Gabriel Iglesias on his trip to Norway this year. More specifically, when he comes to Oslo on November 16. That’s a Friday.

Last year, I found out about his trip to Norway a little late, and too late to find an affordable flight. In essence, I missed out.

This year, I don’t plan on missing out. When I found out that “Fluffy” was coming back to Norway, I looked at the list of performances, and I felt I had only one single choice to make: Which show do I attend? He would be performing in Oslo on a Friday, and in Bergen on a Saturday. Later on, another show in Norway was added: Trondheim on a Thursday. All shows were in the same week, and since I’m at least one flight out from either location, I had to restrict myself to one of the locations, and maybe make a weekend out of it.

Looking deeply into my options for flight and hotel package at Expedia, I found out that the least expensive option would be in Oslo. Also, a good friend of mine lives in the Oslo area with his wife, which helped tip the scale in favor of Oslo as my destination.

I made sure I booked my show ticket first, since availability would definitely not last. The sections at the very front of the stage were already sold out, but I got a seat in the section right behind it. I’m not too happy about the seats, but I still don’t know what my view will be, so I’m happy I at least got a ticket for the show.

I’ve yet to book the travel package (flights and hotel), though, but I plan on doing that next week, when my paycheck comes in. I’ve already picked out a hotel possibility, if it’s still available and still as affordable as the last time I checked it at Expedia.

In any case, I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

Have a safe vacation, everybody!

20.06.2012 15:31

It’s nearing the time when people go on vacation. I originally planned to finish an extensive article with my own travel advice, but considering how close it is to when most people go on vacation (July and August are some of the most popular vacation months), some of my safety tips and preparations will come too late for most of you. Especially when I do have a list of things that should probably be done at least two months before departure. Safe to say, I’ll just finish writing the article (both in English and Norwegian, mind you), let it sit in my drafts folder until next year, and then do some last-minute updates on it before publishing it in, say, March or April 2013.

In the meantime, I did find an article with most of my safety tips for travelers in a list called Before you Go. The article is mainly targeted at backpackers, but most of the suggestions apply to travelers in general.

In addition to the tips listed in that article, I can give some key points from my own article:

  • Get a document folder in plastic or cardboard where you keep all travel documents and confirmations while on the go.
  • Make copies of your passport, travel insurance and credit card numbers (along with phone numbers to cancel these credit cards); carry one copy with you in your document folder, and leave another copy at home, in case something should happen.
  • Check coverage maps and roaming charges for your mobile phone before you go; consider getting a pre-paid SIM card or phone while abroad if you plan on a longer stay or plan to make a lot of calls.
  • Keep the software on your tablet (iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc) or laptop – whichever you choose to travel with – up to date, and make backups before you go.
  • Don’t leave your electronic equipment where it might get stolen; make use of the room/hotel safe or other lockable storage when your equipment is not in use.
  • Make a small “route planner” to maximize time spent on attractions and museums, but don’t over-plan things (you’re supposed to enjoy your vacation, after all), and include plenty of breaks and cafe/restaurant visits in your plan.
  • Before you go, pre-check average taxi fares and safe taxi companies to use, and what public transportation is available.

I do have more advice on my list, but these are among the more important ones. I plan to follow my own advice when I go on vacation later this year, and I hope you will, too.

Have a safe trip!

I’m going to New York!

03.06.2011 16:17

When I checked my account this morning, the funds I was looking for had finally arrived.

I ordered travel insurance, booked the flights and hotel to New York, confirmed my attendance to the fan meeting, and even booked additional flights, hotel and tickets for a detour to Winnipeg to catch two Blue Man Group shows on their North American tour, which has their absolute latest material. The stop in Winnipeg was their only tour stop within a two-week radius of the fan meet in late July, and I really wanted to experience it.

So there you have it. In case someone wants to hook up, I arrive in New York on the evening of July 16, then hop on the early morning flight the next day for Winnipeg (not a direct flight, though) to catch the 1 PM show (and the one at 8 PM), return to New York on July 18, and fly out on my way home on August 1. And, there’s the fan meet on July 30. To sum it up: Winnipeg on July 17, New York from July 18 to August 1.

Assuming, of course, that there are no problems when crossing the border (and I don’t expect there will be any problems – it’s just that little insubstanciated fear that lives inside me).

Now I really have something great to look forward to!

See you around!

I’d like to go to New York… (another follow-up)

03.06.2011 04:06

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the second auction fell through, so I won’t be going on vacation on a sponsorship. At least not fully sponsored. And as you’ve probably noticed, I recently made a blog post in Norwegian containing links to casinos and betting sites. If you could read Norwegian, you’d also see that it was paid advertisements.

Yes, it has come to this. I have nothing against casinos or gambling myself, though, as long as you don’t overdo it, so it didn’t feel like I was selling my soul. My soul is very much intact, thank you. It is, however, a way to add a little extra cash to my account, for things like vacations.

It would also mean I have to force myself to write more, just to avoid my blog looking like some link farm for ads, which it isn’t supposed to be. I do have a couple of subjects lined up in the near future, though.

As for both auctions being a bust, they did bring my mood down for a while. Looking back now, I can see yet another reason for these auctions failing: Wrong crowd. I just don’t see any businesses acting as customers (only as sellers) on that auction site. Plus, the Norwegian auction site would probably have too small of an audience willing to give my auction as much as a second glance. The only direct responses to both auctions, using the “ask a question to the seller” feature, can be counted on a single finger for each of the two auction. In both cases, they were merely derogatory comments on the fact that I was looking for sponsors for my vacation, and were along the lines of “get a real job” and “what happened to saving up money”. Frankly, I don’t need that. If you’re so much against my inventive attempt of finding financing for my vacation, just ignore my auction, like the other couple of hundred people who only viewed the auction information.

But, like I said, it was the wrong crowd for those attempts. If I had started out a month or two earlier using something more global, like Ebay, I might’ve had more luck. Too bad it didn’t occur to me until it was almost too late.

On the brighter side, it would seem like a loan I applied for might get through (I was getting it for both some refinancing and possible vacation financing). If it does, I’ll be able to make it to New York after all. I’ll know something more definite in another working day or two. I know it’s cutting it rather close, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. Given the short time before the actual vacation trip, an unusual late order for me, the prices are already on their way up.

At least I’ve done a lot of research into the whole thing already, so once the funding is in place, I’ll be able to materialize my plans in a very short time.

Fingers are crossed.

Not quite there yet

02.05.2011 17:21

One thing’s for certain: I’m up top again now, considering last week’s bad start. But it did take me a full three days to get back on track. Monday was the day of the blowout and being flat out in bed, while Tuesday and Wednesday were used to recover from the whole ordeal. I finally got well enough to go to work Thursday and Friday, even though I could feel my digestive system wasn’t completely balanced (no runs, though). Today I can truly say that I’m fully recovered.

Later this week, my sister’s boyfriend’s (can I still call him “brother-in-law” if they’re not married?) family comes over from Sweden to celebrate my niece’s first birthday, so that could be fun. They’re always a joy to hang with, so it’s all bound to run smoothly. Two of them are even going to be guests at our house, simply because accommodation elsewhere isn’t always affordable and/or available. But hey, it’s family, right? 🙂

In other news, early yesterday, it became clear that my auction was a bust. No takers. I can see two reasons for the auction failing. One, I started the auction that close to Easter, and most people take the Easter week off in Norway (since there are only two and a half workdays that week, anyway). That would put a dent in the possible attention it could get during its two week run. And two, the price was simply too high for a single sponsor. Taking this into consideration, I waited until today to run a second attempt on the auction (NOTE: Norwegian text only). This time, I divided the sponsorship into 4 parts, which would hopefully be a more suitable value for smaller sponsors. The auction runs for 14 days, ending on the 16th. If it doesn’t happen this time around, it will never happen that way.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky this time around… (Of course, if anyone else would like to contribute, I’ll accept.)

Also in the news, Osama Bin Laden has finally been taken out. As someone I know pointed out, Obama did in 2 years what Bush couldn’t in 7. Then again, it has been a long process in the making, I’m sure. All this mess, and in the end, it ended up with a shoot-out in a villa in Pakistan. A small tactical team was what it finally took to get him. Not huge airplane fleets dropping bombs, not convoys of tanks, but good intelligence and a group of specially trained soldiers (fine, I suppose they did have the support of several tanks and other heavy equipment, but still). What it really takes, is good and solid intelligence with sensible leadership behind it all to do a good job. Not acting on a whim, like Bush did with Iraq. Not to mention bombing the hell out of Afghanistan. Sure, Afghanistan and Iraq had leaders rotten to the core who ignored everything about human rights, but it would still pay off in the long run (both in reputation and in actual costs) to have intelligence reports people can count on as well as people who know what the hell they’re doing.

Like I said when the US started dropping bombs in Iraq, I asked myself several times: Why couldn’t they just gather enough solid intel to take out Saddam Hussein and his cohorts with a small tactical team (or a few assassins)? That would be much quicker and painless than attacking a bunch of civilians. It would have been much cheaper, too. And with Afghanistan, “he must be hiding in a cave up in the mountains” is not a solid enough lead to start bombing the landscape.

We (as the whole world, more or less) can finally start rebuilding the messes we made in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and turn over the keys to the sensible leaders actually elected by the people so they can continue on their own.

Now, who’s next?

I’d like to go to New York…. (follow-up)

18.04.2011 11:06

So it’s done, then. My auction is up (Norwegian text only). I’ve even taken time to draft a preliminary sponsor contract (PDF, 14 pages, Norwegian only) where I make a whole lot of promises (which I plan to keep) in exchange for this sponsorship.

I finalized the auction post yesterday morning, with the best promotion packs they had, and already I’ve gotten 84 views, 2 of these were visits through my Twitter message (where I used a link shortener, the visit count is from them) regarding my auction. No bids (or other messages) yet, though. But still, fingers are crossed.

The auction itself will last for another 13 days, so there’s still plenty of time. I’ve also put up a “buy now” price somewhat higher in case someone wants to bank the deal straight away (I have absolutely no hopes for that to happen though). And not to worry, I’ve already set my expectations for any type of response very low, just to prepare myself for possible disappointment so that I don’t fall down too hard if/when the auction runs out without any bids or responses.

So there you have it. I do have a glimmer of hope that the trip will happen, though, one way or another.

I’d like to go to New York….

14.04.2011 15:04

About two months ago, a date was set for the 20th anniversary fan meet for Blue Man Group in New York. That’s right, Blue Man Group has had their show in New York for 20 years now, and the arrangers are hoping to fill the entire theater on the 30th of July this year. I hope to become one of them.

My vacation plans in recent years have revolved around getting to see Blue Man Group in one form or another. In 2008, I went to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a stop on their How To Be A Megastar international tour, which is more of a concert experience. In 2009, I went to Las Vegas and Orlando to see their theatrical show for the very first time, and to experience the Orlando fan meet that year. I ended up seeing three shows in Las Vegas and two shows in Orlando. In 2010, last year, I went to Stockholm, Sweden, for their more or less travelling show (lasting two months in Stockholm), and managed to catch 7 shows during that week’s stay (meaning, all of that week’s shows). It would have been 8 shows if the Wednesday show hadn’t been cancelled (due to low sales, and no room for advertising due to the Swedish elections).

But, due to my current economy, I can’t quite get it to stretch for the flight and hotel as I would like for this year’s trip. And that’s even the cheapest flight + a full two weeks at a 3 star hotel. And time is running out, at least for the best priced plane tickets.

Last week, an idea turned up. What if I can get the trip itself sponsored somehow? I would already have enough for spending money (including tickets to see several Blue Man Group shows) by that time, it’s just the trip itself that’s biting my bum.

A sponsored trip would take a large chip off my shoulders for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But how would the best way to get a sponsor for this?

Then, it struck me: online auctions.

Tomorrow, when my paycheck comes in, I plan to put up an auction ad on QXL.no, a Norwegian branch of a large European online auctioneering service (comparable to eBay), with additional highlighting and the works. It’s a certain cost, I know, but it’s a lot easier than finding funds for this vacation elsewhere.

In exchange for the sponsorship, I plan to offer advertising on this blog (inside the the blog posts themselves, not just hidden away in the small Google AdSense space below my navigation meny), and going to various tourist attractions in and around New York as a walking advertising board. That is, clothes with visible logos in large print, both on T-shirt(s), backpack, baseball cap, and if needed, pants. In case of rain, I will also have a poncho or an umbrella, also covered in logos. And if my sponsor wants to, I can hand out various effects (buttons, T-shirts, whatever) to random strangers.

I plan to catch everything on camera, both as photos and as video (using my digital camera), and post these on my blog, on Flickr and on YouTube, both to increase the sponsor effect, and to provide a form of proof that I’m keeping my end of the deal.

And, like I did in Stockholm, I also plan to post a daily summary of my experiences, and this time, the sponsor will get exposure in every summary report.

I plan to take a flight out of Ålesund on Sunday, July 17, and leave New York on Monday, August 1. That’s a full two weeks for sponsor exposure, and 15 nights at a hotel. Nothing has been booked yet, but I hope to get this in order barely after the Easter holidays this next week (that is, if I manage to get a sponsor).

I’ll be hammering out the details in a agreement document hopefully by the end of today. I already have made a spreadsheet to calculate the final value price that QXL.no will invoice me from the winning bid, which shows me what I have to set as a starting bid to get the funding I need for flights+hotel (which will be booked either through Expedia or Travellink, another online travel agent that’s in the same price range as Expedia – these two alternate on who’s better priced).

My preliminary queries say that I’ll have to expect a low-cost (but user-recommended) three-star hotel and matching flights will cost 20,000 NOK (or, with the current exchange rates, about $3,700 for you Americans – yes, the Norwegian krone has a big advantage over the US dollar these days) and up. That’s after the winning bid commission is withdrawn, though.

Unless someone else steps in and wants to bypass, I’ll go ahead with the action tomorrow.

Fingers crossed!

Stockholm 2010, day six (final), going home

05.10.2010 23:54

Final day, and time to just wake up, pack up the last few things before I check out of the hotel and start my way towards the airport.

I was a bit worried about getting the spin art from the day before with me home, but after a few tweaks to my suitcase (if I open up a special zipper in the lid, the suitcase can contain about 2-3 cm more stuff), I was able to carefully squeeze the frame into the lid. I was already looking up options for mailing it home or cost for extra pieces of luggage on my flight (the first piece of luggage is free with SAS, anything beyond that costs extra), but the fact that it managed to fit into the lid made me relax a whole lot more.

I had been up almost all night surfing the web and didn’t get around to really turn in for the night before closer to 6 in the morning. I already had my phone’s alarm clock set to a 8:30 wake-up call, since they stop serving the breakfast buffet at 10, with an additional wake-up at 11 (final check-out is at 12, or noon). I woke up just slightly at the first wake-up call, and decided I could just catch a few more hours of sleep and find something on the way to the airport instead.

I’m thankful for almost eternal repeat (the app I use for my phone’s alarm clock makes me solve mathematical problems to completely shut off the alarm) – I didn’t get my ass out of the hotel room until it was closer to 11:55, which is really pushing it. I took the bus the usual three stops to where I can switch to the subway. There’s a Burger King right next to this stop, and I had originally thought about grabbing me a burger menu (I didn’t have to be at the airport for another 2 hours at least), but I decided to just travel all the way to the airport, get myself to the baggage drop and be done with it. The subway leads about 4 stops to T-Centralen, which is where just about all public transportation in Stockholm meets, including the Arlanda Express, which takes me to the airport in 20 minutes or less.

Yes, this little folder

Arriving at the airport at about 13:10, I felt I had all the time in the world, and after walking about 5-10 minutes around the check-in area to find my airline’s check-in terminals and baggage drop-off counters, I suddenly realized I had forgotten my folder aboard the airport express train.

Now, this is where I kept a written copy of the booking reference code, one of my credit cards (more specifically, the credit card I used to pay for this trip), and last but not least, my passport.

You can imagine the sense of panic I felt at that moment. I rushed downstairs to the airport express trains and waited for the next train to arrive. I tried looking in through the windows around where I sat, hoping it was the exact same train I arrived on myself, but without luck. Finally, one of the train staff noticed the slightly confused and worried person that I had become at that point, and approached me. I explained the situation, and he managed to call up the train central for more information. The train he was operating was at its last stop, and would be switching tracks to leave for the city about 5 minutes later, but he would meet me again at the track at the other side of the platform to give me an update.

Sure enough, the guys at the central had found my folder, and the person now holding my travel folder would be on the train arriving at 14:10, about 40 minutes later. I patiently waited at the platform until the time came, and I finally got it back, with an immense feeling of relief.

I rushed back upstairs to check in my baggage (SAS lets you check in to the flight and select seats up to 22 hours before the flight, so I did just that the night before), first via one of the check-in terminals (for a baggage attachment), and then over the the drop-off counter. When I had dropped off my suitcase, I looked at the clock up on the wall; it was now 14:30. The flight takes off at 15:35, and baggage has to be checked in no later than an hour on international flights (this was for a flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Oslo, Norway). So much for that relaxing extra time I was hoping for.

Next up was a quite long walk through the security checkpoint and to my gate (which was probably as far away as you could possibly get – if you’re on an international-bound flight at Arlanda airport outside Stockholm, try walking the distance to gate 10A, you’ll see what I mean). I managed to grab me a cinnamon bun and a croissant along with an orange soda (Zingo) when I had found my gate, just to eat at least something (and those were the only things I found tempting at the time).

The transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight at Gardermoen airport (outside Oslo) was no picnic, either. I now remember what I hate about travelling internationally, especially if the first airport I arrive at on an international flight isn’t the airport of my final destination. I have to walk a long way to the baggage pick-up, take my luggage, haul it through customs and outside the security checkpoint, where I have to check-in my baggage again (I can go directly to the drop-off counter this time, though) and go through the security checkpoint all over again. I don’t think I’ve walked that far in a very long time.

Good thing the next flight of my trip wasn’t leaving for another 2 hours or so. After finally finding some decent food (the choice finally landed on a heated ham and cheese ciabatta), I found the right gate for my flight (which wasn’t up on the boards yet when I first arrived through the checkpoint) and sat down for some eating time. The flight appeared to be slightly delayed, and seemed to be the last of the 19:10 flights to start boarding, but this slight delay allowed me to finish my ciabatta and soda before the boarding started.

Some flights can really be tiresome. I just hope the flight portion of my next trip goes more smoothly. I don’t know when or where my next trip will be, though, but I hope it won’t be too long.

And for those who are interested, I’ve uploaded all photos from this week to my Flickr account:

Flickr photoset: Late Summer Vacation 2010

Stockholm 2010, day one

30.09.2010 00:10

My first day is just about over, and not much has happened.

My day started with the airport bus at 10 am, lift-off to Bergen at 11:05, and touchdown in Stockholm around 2 pm, the Arlanda Express arriving in the city center a little before 3 pm, getting a little lost trying to find the right subway track going near my hotel, and finally checking in at 3:45 pm.

I was originally going to the first Blue Man Group performance of the week at 7:30 pm, but I got an e-mail from the ticket agency on Friday letting me know that the Wednesday show was cancelled. To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed. Still, there’s always the other 7 shows, starting with the 7:30 pm show tomorrow (Thursday).

I spent the left-over time using the free Wifi connection at the hotel (for hotel guests), wasting several hours. The fact that there’s a supermarket next door to the hotel comes in handy for snacking supplies, though. I finally got my ass together around 8 pm to get some dinner.

Today’s dining choice became Stockholms Matvarufabrik, about 1 block away from the hotel. The menu was limited, the dining area was a bit so-so (but clean). I’m not a big fan of the deliberate worn-down interior designs, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere too much.

My choice on the menu landed on venison with pumpkin, duck liver, black currant and liqourice ( hjortrygg med variation på pumpa, halstrad anklever, svarta vinbär och lakritsrot hjort med gresskar, andelever, solbær og lakris). Delicious!

And now, for a shower and it’s off to bed for me…

Blue Man Group coming up!

20.09.2010 16:50

It’s settled!

I’m going to Stockholm next week to catch some of the Blue Man Group experience! I can’t wait to see them again! I’ve actually had the trip itself planned for about a month now, it was only last week I could secure the final tickets for a full week of shows. They’ve already been playing in Stockholm since September 8, and they will keep it going in Stockholm until October 24, which is when they pack up and move to the next city of their European tour, which will be Vienna. Although they already have a more permanent show in Berlin, it will be much closer with the show in Stockholm. It could only be better if they set up shows in Oslo, which is only a single flight away.

I’ve bought myself a ticket (only myself, I’m afraid) to each show while I’m there; one on Wednesday, one on Thursday, two on Friday, three on Saturday and one on Sunday. I plan to return the following Monday.

Thinking back, I did notice that my last two foreign vacation trips were also planned around specific Blue Man Group events. In 2008, I went to Copenhagen in October specifically to catch the How to Be a Megastar 2.1 international tour, and in 2009 (last year), I went to Las Vegas and Orlando in mid-July, planned around the Blue Man Group Monster Fan Meet in Orlando. I specifically chose hotels close to Blue Man Group venues (The Venetian in Last Vegas, and Loews Royal Pacific in Orlando, which is one of the three hotels connected to Universal Studios and CityWalk).

And once again, this year, my “main” vacation is planned around a Blue Man Group event, which is the short show run in Stockholm. This will be the closest it has been so far (although for the Megastar tour, I did fly on a direct flight between Ålesund and Copenhagen). Stockholm, by comparison, is two flights away. I’ll be travelling via Bergen on my way to Stockholm, and via Oslo on the return trip.

Show times I’m booked on:

  • Wednesday @ 19:30 (7:30 PM)
  • Thursday @ 19:30 (7:30 PM)
  • Friday @ 19:00 (7 PM) and 22:00 (10 PM)
  • Saturday @ 16:00 (4 PM), 19:00 (7PM) and 22:00 (10 PM)
  • Sunday @ 16:00 (4PM)

I imagine it will be quite the experience. The 19:00 show on Friday and the 22:00 show on Saturday is in the mid section of the theater, while all the others are in the poncho section (where you’re given a thin plastic rain poncho to protect your clothes due the possibility of stuff spraying off the stage). My last show (on Sunday) is even in the very front row! The mid section tickets were by choice, though, just to make sure I get a slight variation in my experience.

If someone wants to meet up while I’m in Stockholm, feel free to contact me through my website. I’ll be checking my e-mail periodically while I’m there (but not as often, so please let me know before the 27th so I can give you my direct number). I only have dinner plans before the Thursday show and after the Sunday show, otherwise I have no specific plans.

See you there?