Sunday, June 28, 2009

Does Your Passport Expire Too Soon?

You’re booked for that trip of a lifetime, have made sure that your passport is still valid and you’re ready to travel. Right? Perhaps not!

A passport is required for U.S. citizens to fly into another country, is one of the few documents allowed to prove citizenship when driving into Mexico or Canada, and is mandatory for some of the cruises departing from the U.S.

In many cases, it’s not good enough to have a passport valid only through the last day of your trip.

In fact, some countries will deny admittance if your passport is not valid for a specific minimum amount of time past your expected departure from their country. For instance, some online research turned up that Costa Rica requires a passport be valid for at least 30 days past your arrival, the Philippines requires validity for at least six months and Germany requires it to be good for at least three months past the expected end of your trip. Six months is the longest I've ever seen.

The reason behind this requirement is for you to have a valid proof of citizenship in case you are delayed in their country. Most often a delay is because someone opts to extend their trip, gets sick or injured and is hospitalized, or gets detained because of a legal issue.

Who is responsible for advising you of this requirement? I’ve never heard of an airline offering the information. Online blogs and message boards may not offer current or accurate information. Travel agents will typically research this, but ultimately it’s up to you--- the traveler--- to know.

The best source is the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting. Google the country name along with consulate and embassy to obtain contact information. Another terrific source, but not responsible for accuracy of another country’s requirements is our own State Department which you can find at There’s a ton of helpful information on the site. Another great spot, but again not the definitive answer on passport expiration date requirements is the World Travel Guide at

A good rule of thumb is that your passport be valid for at least six months past your trip. Do that and you'll not have to worry.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shopping Seattle Style

The Alaska cruise season is in full swing with many of the ships sailing from the Seattle. With so many exciting places to visit in this friendly city, it’s a great place to stay for a few nights before your cruise.

One unique attraction, Pike Place Fish Market, has quite the fan club and there’s a recipe to their success. They are one part Cirque du Soleil with the way they entertain their customers. Add in a piece of your favorite wacky teacher because they know their seafood and are happy to teach you about your dinner. Throw in a pinch of that “goofy big brother” because of their way of having fun, but also being a part of the community. Mix all of these ingredients and you find why Pike Place Fish Market has become an “experience” which has also made it into one of Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions as well as everyone’s favorite place to buy seafood.

I’ve visited their store twice when I’ve been in Seattle, dragging my teenage sons with me the second time a few years ago. I say “dragging” because, well, sightseeing in a marketplace wasn’t rating as high as the Underground that they had just toured. However, flying fish and the largest crab legs they’ve ever seen in their life gave my sons an experience that they still talk about!

The guys at Pike Place Fish know the essence of “community.” They interact with their guests (customers) and are active with local events. And in this time when businesses are learning about “social network marketing”; they’ve learned it, embraced it and have marked their presence.

Their website is fun and which matches the personality of the business, complete with a webcam, photos, online store and blog. They tweet on Twitter and they have the most fun Facebook group I’ve come across. If you get to visit Seattle, visit the marketplace. But if you aren’t lucky enough to see them in person, you can get to know them further and order from them online at their website.

While you're at the Pike Place Market, you'll find lots of other stores as well. In fact, if you are visiting friends, you could pick up wine, bakery goods or flowers as a gift for your host. Shopping with friends? Chat with the venders about their foods to pick up tips for recipes or trying something new. Or go antiquing, check handmade crafts or even get a massage! And if you are there with "that someone special?" Well, contrary to popular belief, it really doesn't rain that much in Seattle. So if it's a sunny day, pick up some smoked salmon from Pike Place Fish Market along with some cheese, fruit or baked goods and some wine from other shops in the market and have a nice picnic. But if you don't think ants fit in with romance or it's not the perfect picnic weather, enjoy being treated at one of the many restaurants. Depending on your interests, you can spend the entire day wandering here. For more information, visit the Pike Place Market website for its history and complete list of stores.


P.S. Get free smoked salmon from Pike Place Fish Market- Book an Alaska cruise for 2009 or 2010 through our office between 6/17/09 - 7/31/09. Send an email to Connie with the header "Flying fish blog" and, in the email include the names of the travelers and the name of our agent who is working with you. Your salmon will be sent ot you upon return of your trip.