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How To Update GOES

If your bucket list dreams involve foreign travel, you need a passport and a GOES card. The passport is essential if you want to be able to re-enter the US, and the card takes away some of the hassle of coming home. I just got a new passport, and needed to update the profile for my GOES card with my new passport information.  That’s the “Global Online Enrollment System” that I signed up for a few years ago.  I fretted when the new passport arrived and I realized that my new passport number is not the same as the one on my GOES profile. I thought it would be really difficult to make my enrollment match my passport.  I need not have worried. Nothing could be simpler than updating my profile with my new passport number.  And, I don’t need to get a new card just because I have a new passport.

The process of updating your GOES card assumes that you already enrolled in the program.  In an earlier post, I tell you how to enroll.

Here’s What You Do

1.    Log in at US Customs & Border Protection website.

2.    Click on “Update Documents” in the left panel. UpdateGOES

3.    You will see two sections, one for updating your passport and the other for updating your driver’s license.  Click on the UPDATE link to open the sections for editing.  Make your changes then click NEXT to have the changes saved to your profile.  You are done.

4.    If you wish to order a new card, reflecting the changes, then you will need to order one through your GOES account and pay a $25 fee.  However, YOU DO NOT NEED A NEW CARD.  See the box (below).

Benefits of GOES

If you don’t already have a GOES card and you are a US citizen and you expect to travel outside of the US, then you should consider getting one.  It allows you to skip the long customs and immigration lines when you come back to the US by air or sea.  Instead, you go up to a kiosk, scan your passport, and answer a few questions on the screen.  It takes no time at all to be out of the international arrivals hall and on your way. Plus, with GOES you are also entered into the TSA Precheck program.  That means that when you pass through the TSA security area, you don’t have to take your gadgets out of your bags, don’t have to take off your shoes, and don’t have to stand in such long lines to go through the body scanner. Definitely worth it for the TSA Precheck alone! Click here for the official answer to how to update your GOES enrollment with your new passport info.

You do not need a new GOES card when you get a new passport.

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Wild Wolves and You?

Seeing wild animals is a favorite bucket list item for people with a sense of adventure. Usually, that means going on safari to Africa or visiting national parks in the US, such as Yellowstone or Denali in Alaska, or in other countries. But here’s an idea to inspire your bucket list dreams: Stay at a luxury resort in Arctic Norway and live with wild wolves!  That should get your adrenaline flowing…

Is getting up close and personal with wild animals on your #bucketlist? If so, check out this opportunity in #Norway to…

Posted by The Bucket List Creator on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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You “goes” to the head of the line with GOES

I’ve had my GOES card since December 2013 and have really appreciated how it expedites not only coming back into the country after foreign travel but also being able to go through the TSA lines at the airport with minimal hassle.  It’s the perfect add-on if your bucket list dreams include foreign travel.
GOES TSA TSA PreCheck

With my GOES ID card I am able to skip the long lines at customs and immigration whenever I come back into the country. The application process was pretty straight forward: apply online (http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about), go for an interview with a ICE agent at a designated airport (Sacto isn’t one of them so I had my interview at Salt Lake City International the day before Thanksgiving while I was in Utah to be with family),  Then you wait for the ID card to arrive in the mail.

When you return from a foreign trip you go to a kiosk in the customs/immigration area where your ID card and passport are scanned and your photo is taken. Then you pick up your bags and leave the airport. It works as advertised and is a real time and hassle saver.  Just think: when everyone else is still standing in endless lines waiting to go through passport control and customs, you are on your way out of the airport.

By the way, the other part of the process is the TSA-precheck which will expedite you going through security check points regardless of where you are flying to (domestic as well as foreign destinations).  With that, you don’t have to take off your shoes, take your laptop out of your suitcase, carry liquids in small bottles, etc. To opt-in for the TSA-precheck, you have to add your GOES ID number to your profile for each of the airlines for which you have frequent flyer numbers. You can do that online by going to the website for each of the airlines you have frequent flier numbers for.  From then on, anytime you have an airline ticket with one of those airlines,  your GOES ID will be added to your record and you will go through the precheck line at the TSA check points. Cool…

Here’s what the card looks like.

GOES Card
For a list of enrollment centers—where you go for the mandatory GOES interview—see http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/enrollment-centers.  Sacramento is not on the list but other airports and stand-alone enrollment centers are.  There are even some outside the US.   Just remember, you have only 30 days from the time you apply for the program and pay the nonrefundable $100 application fee to the time you go to your interview appointment.  So choose from the list wisely if you don’t live near one of the listed centers.

To apply for Global Entry you must first fill out the online application.

Once U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reviews your application, you will be contacted to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers listed. At that interview a CBP officer will ask you questions, take your photo, and collect biometric information, e.g., scan your fingerprints.

Note: the GOES card costs $100 and is good for 5 years.  You can get a TSA-Precheck card for $85 for 5 years, but it doesn’t give you the benefit of skipping the lines at passport and customs control when you re-enter the US.  But if you get the GOES card, you automatically have TSA Precheck membership (as long as you register your GOES number with the airlines you travel on).

List of links:
GOES                    https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes
TSA                       http://www.tsa.gov/
TSA Precheck       http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck

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Christmas Thoughts on Bethlehem

I visited Bethlehem as part of a pilgrimage to Israel I took in 2007.  The weather the day I was there was overcast and rainy—I was there in February—so the photos I took are less than wonderful.  But when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (likely in March rather than in December), Mary and Joseph probably faced similar inclement weather.  As my Christmas gift to you, here are a few photos from my visit.  I hope you enjoy them.

Bethlehem is 6 miles south of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Depending on traffic, the drive takes about 12 minutes plus a stop to change vehicles when you pass through the West Bank Wall to enter Bethlehem and the area controlled by the Palestinian National Authority.

Landscape outside of Bethlehem

Mar Elias Monastery is a 6th c Greek Orthodox monastery in south Jerusalem, on a hill overlooking Bethlehem and Herodion. Photo taken on the Hebron Road.

Just outside of Bethlehem is the Mar Elias Monastery.  At the time of year I was there—during the rainy season—the grass was fresh and green and wildflowers were beginning to bloom.  Perfect for grazing sheep: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8)  Also seen in this photo are some of the many olive trees growing in the area around Bethlehem.  Since the 4th century artisans in Bethlehem have been crafting articles from olive wood to sell to pilgrims visiting the newly constructed Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  To this day, production of items from olive wood to sell to tourists remains a major staple of the local Bethlehem economy and source of employment.  For more about this industry, see http://www.bethlehemfairtrade.org.

Approaching the "Separation Wall" (a.k.a. the West Bank Wall) where visitors must stop to change vehicles before entering Bethlehem.

Approaching the “Separation Wall” (a.k.a. the West Bank Wall) where visitors must stop to change vehicles before entering Bethlehem.

When visitors finally reach Bethlehem they must stop at the separation wall and change from Israeli transportation (in my case, a tour bus) to Palestinian transportation in order to enter Bethlehem.

 

Bethlehem across from the Hebron Road.

Bethlehem across from the Hebron Road.

As you drive towards the Church of the Nativity in the center of Bethlehem, you see the “little town of Bethlehem” spread out on the hills and in the valley below the road from Jerusalem.

 

 

 Mosque of Omar at the end of Manger Square opposite the ancient Church of the Nativity.

Mosque of Omar

Seventy years ago, 85% of Bethlehem’s population was Christian; today that percentage has shrunk to less than 20% Palestinian Christian.  In the center of Bethlehem is Manger Square.  At one end of Manger Square is the Mosque of Omar (Umar), built in 1860 to commemorate the Caliph Umar’s visit to Bethlehem.

The Church of the Nativity at the end of Manger Square in Bethlehem.

The Church of the Nativity at the end of Manger Square in Bethlehem.

At the other end of Manger Square is the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. The church was originally built by the Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, in AD 339 to mark the place where tradition said that Jesus was born.  Fire destroyed that building which was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian I in 565.  This version of the church remains today with modifications made by Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries and repairs by European interests in the 15th century.

On Christmas Eve, Christian pilgrims from around the world gather on Manger Square to sing Christmas carols before Midnight Mass inside the church.

The Door of Humility.

The Door of Humility.

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity is through the so-called Door of Humility.  As you can see in this photo, the door was originally much larger.  The square shape above the door marks the entrance built by Justinian.  Below that you can see the outline of the earlier Romanesque doorway built by the Crusaders.  Under Ottoman rule the doorway was blocked to just this short opening.  The reason given for the smaller doorway was to keep raiders from riding their horses into the church.      The more popular reason is that anyone entering the church is force to bow low in humility.

 

Remnant of the mosaic floor of the original 4th c. Church of the Nativity.

Remnant of the mosaic floor of the original 4th c. Church of the Nativity.

Inside, you can see mosaics from the floor of the original 4th century church.

Crusaders decorated the 4th c. columns in the Church of the Nativity with pictures of the saints.

4th c. columns in the Church of the Nativity decorated by Crusaders.

There are 30 of the original 44 columns from the original 4th century.   Crusaders decorated the columns with pictures of the saints. The columns are made of polished pink limestone.

 

Pilgrims descending into the grotto where Jesus was supposedly born.

Pilgrims descending into the grotto where Jesus was supposedly born.

The Grotto of the Nativity below the altar is the focal point of the church.

Inside the Grotto of the Nativity

Inside the Grotto of the Nativity

Inside the Grotto of the Nativity can be wall-to-wall pilgrims.

 

 

 

A silver star on the floor of the Grotto of the Nativity marks the spot where Jesus was born.

A silver star on the floor of the Grotto of the Nativity marks the spot where Jesus was born.

Pilgrims come to touch or even kiss the silver star on the grotto floor.  The star marks the spot where Jesus was supposedly born.  The theft of the star in 1847 by the Ottomans was one of the contributing factors leading to the Crimean War (1854-56).

 

 

 

Much of the Church of the Nativity is Eastern Orthodox in style and worship. Adjacent to it is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine and Franciscan monastery.

Church of St. Catherine

Much of the Church of the Nativity is Eastern Orthodox in style and worship.  Adjacent to it is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine and Franciscan monastery.

Someday, I hope to be able to celebrate midnight Mass at this altar in Bethlehem.  It’s on my bucket list.

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7 Winter Travel Ideas for Europe

Winter can be a great time for travel in Europe.  Every autumn I receive emails from readers who have decided to travel to Europe during the winter and who want to know if that will be okay.  Or, they want to know where in Europe they should go so cold weather is less of a problem.  This is a version of the question, “When is the best time to go to Europe?”  My reply is always the same for winter as for any other time of the year: where and when to go depends on what you enjoy doing.  Here are a few winter travel ideas for Europe.

Decide what kinds of things you want to do while you are in Europe.  For example, if you want to ski, then you have to go in the winter (January and February are best).  If you want to see the Northern Lights, then you need to be in northern Scandinavia or northern Russia during the dark of the moon closest to the Spring Equinox (on March 20, 2015, for both the equinox and the new moon).  If you want to see beautiful scenery and visit Mediterranean lands (southern Spain and France, Italy south of the Alps, most of Greece) then you should be there in the Spring (e.g., April) when the grass is still green and there are wildflowers everywhere.  If you want to include hiking, such as in the Swiss Alps, then you need to go in the late spring through summer.  If you want to spend time at the beach and swim in the ocean, then you need to go to a Mediterranean destination in September or October; the ocean will still be warm but the hordes of tourists that make being there a miserable experience in August would have gone home.  If you are mostly interested in urban and cultural activities, such as visiting museums, shopping, people watching, sightseeing at churches, castles, forts, and other historic places, then any time of year will be fine except I would avoid going to any major city in July or August (too crowded, too expensive).  So, tell me what you fancy doing, and I can give you personalized advice on when and where to go.

Specifically for winter, I offer the following ideas of where to go and what to do during a winter trip to Europe:

Christmas Markets – The most celebrated Christmas Markets are in Germany, but you can find them everywhere in Europe from the end of November to the end of December.  If you like, you can visit several Christmas Markets while on a river cruise (e.g., on the Main River between Frankfurt and Nuremberg in Germany or on the Danube River between Nuremberg and Vienna with an extension to Prague).  Or how about enjoying a medieval Christmas Market at the Tower of London or a Victorian one at Charles Dickens’ hometown of Rochester, England?

Polar Nights – Experience what it is like when days are really short.  Be dazzled by starlight reflected off snow.

Northern Lights – the best time to see Northern Lights is during the dark of the moon near the Spring Equinox.  In 2015, the “new moon” is on March 20, the day of the 2015 equinox.  To increase your chances of seeing the northern lights, plan on being in Arctic Europe a few days before and after that date.

Skiing – You can enjoy downhill skiing in the Alps of Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, and Slovenia.  There are ski areas in mountains from Spain to Scandinavia.  Cross-country skiing can be enjoyed throughout Europe wherever there is an accumulation of snow.  A special cross-country ski opportunity is the hut-to-hut skiing of the Haute Route in the Swiss and French Alps.

Fancy dress and masks characterize the Carnivale of Venice.

The carnival in Venice is the oldest in the world. Photo courtesy of Carles Lopez.

Carnival – the oldest celebration of Carnival is the Carnivale di Venezia which dates from the 13th century, but there are carnival celebrations in many other cities in Europe, such as in Nice, France; Barcelona, Spain; and Cologne, Germany.  Carnival always ends on Shrove Tuesday (the day before the Ash Wednesday beginning of Lent) but might start three or more weeks before then.  The term, carnivale, comes from the Latin for “farewell to meat.”  For 2015, Carnivale in Venice begins January 31 with the main events from  February 7 and to February 17.

Paris Metro sign.

Art Nouveau sign for the Paris Metro.

Museums, concerts, high culture – If you stay in major cities, such as Barcelona, London, Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, which have well developed subway systems, you can go to indoor attractions without facing inclement weather too much.

Winter is a great time for going to museums when the hordes of summer tourists are not there.  Imagine not having to look at the Mona Lisa over the shoulders of a mass of tourists?

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles.

Photo available from Myrabella under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Or being able to see the mirrors in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors without having to hold your camera above your head to see them?

And it doesn’t matter what the weather is outside when you go to a concert, the opera, or the theatre.

Staatsoper (State Opera House) in Vienna

Renaissance façade of the Staatsoper (State Opera House). It was built in 1869, badly damaged during WW II, and restored to its former glory. It sells out to capacity for most performances.

Do what the locals do – spend a cozy evening in a pub or high have tea in the afternoon.  In the winter, other pub patrons are more likely to be locals rather than tourists.  One of my personal favorite European experiences was on a rainy/snowy March Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I had high tea at the Balmoral Hotel. Outside it was blustery, but indoors I dined on hot tea, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam while a string quartet played classical pieces.  I and most other patrons read The Scotsman newspaper: no one rushed us; it was just fine for us to spend the afternoon relaxing over the Sunday paper.

The bottom line: don’t be put off by cold weather, rain, and snow.  You can have a wonderful time in Europe especially in the winter.

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Need help getting travel insurance?

Send me an email with the following information, and I will try to help you buy travel insurance. Note that I can only help travelers living in the US.

  • Each traveler’s name as is shown on a photo ID (when a passport is not necessary) or passport. Include only those travelers who will be traveling together during the entire trip. If there are other travelers who will be traveling with you during only part of the trip, provide the same information (below) for them as if they were on a separate trip.
  • Each traveler’s date of birth.
  • The departure and return date for the trip. The return date should be the date the travelers finally reach home.Travel insurance for medical emergencies
  • The name of the cruise line or tour company, if any.
  • The name of the principal airline to be used, if any.
  • The main travel destination (city, state, or country if outside the US). (If you will be in several destinations, indicate the one you will be at the longest or the one you will be staying in first or last.
  • The cost of the trip for each traveler. Include only those costs that are at risk; for example, if there is no penalty if you don’t pick up the rental car that’s booked for you, don’t include it as a cost that is at risk.
  • The date when the initial payment of at-risk money was made for the trip.
  • Your email address.
  • Your phone number and address.
  • The best time to call you with a quote.

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Protect your bucket list dreams with travel insurance

Trip insurance is strongly recommended. Period. It’s for your protection.

  1. Some or all of the monies you pre-pay for a trip are at risk of not being refunded if you have to cancel your trip because of illness, injury, or death of you, your traveling companion, or a family member.
  2. If you become ill on your trip or a family member at home becomes extremely ill or dies, it could be very costly if you have to interrupt your trip to return home early.
  3. It is also very costly if you need special accommodation because of an illness or injury while traveling. For example, if you end up in a body cast, you may need to occupy two seats when you fly home or even be put into the larger seats in first or business class. You would not want to have to pay that extra cost yourself but you would have to in an emergency if you don’t have the right travel insurance coverage.
  4. If you need emergency medical assistance on your trip, you will have to deal with the expense and bother without any help if you don’t have trip insurance. Remember: Medicare doesn’t cover medical expenses when you travel outside the US.
  5. If you miss your flight for no fault of your own—as when you are involved in an accident on the way to the airport or the connecting flight you need is cancelled or late—your whole trip can be ruined if it means you won’t be able to get to the cruise ship before it sails or to the tour before it starts. It could be expensive to do what it takes to “catch up” with your trip.
  6. If your luggage stays behind and you’ve gone to Paris, you will have to deal with the airline to help you get a change of clothes so you can start enjoying your trip. And the airlines really limit how much help they are willing to be in such a case.
You need travel insurance to protect your trip investment if you become ill.

What happens to your bucket list dream trip if you become ill or have an accident or if a close family member becomes ill or has an accident before you go or during your trip? Do you lose what you have paid if you have to cancel the trip? Can you afford the extra cost if you have to return home unexpectedly?

You can get insurance at any time up to the date of travel. But sooner is better because you don’t have protection until you buy the insurance. Also, the best level of protection occurs when you buy early enough to have a “pre-existing condition waiver” as part of the policy. A delay in buying trip insurance just reduces the value of the insurance to you.

Travel insurance companies protect you against loss due to unforeseen and unforeseeable situations. Obviously, if you buy a trip knowing that you probably will need to cancel, the insurance company won’t want to insure you because you are a bad risk for them. But if the situation is just one of possibly needing to cancel, then they will insure the trip provided you buy their insurance soon after you make your first payment on the trip; that’s the way they recognize that you and they are willing to share the risk. It’s their incentive to get you to buy their insurance.

Pre-existing conditions. The travel insurance company will allow cancellation due to illness that is part of a “pre-existing condition” as long as the insurance is bought within a given number of days of the initial deposit on the trip. For example, an insurer may require the insurance be purchased within 15 days of the initial trip deposit. This is called a “pre-existing condition waiver.” E.g., if you have been treated for a heart problem in the past, that is a pre-existing condition. If you have a heart attack and need to cancel your trip because if it, ordinarily the pre-existing condition would disqualify you from getting a refund of the money paid on the trip. However, by getting the insurance early enough to qualify for the pre-existing condition waiver, you would be entitled to the refund.

Do you need insurance if you are not spending much money on your trip?

Let’s say you are using your frequent flyer miles to get to your destination and you are staying with friends when you get there. Or that your lodging reservations have lenient cancellation policies. You still should get trip insurance. That’s because you still need the medical assistance provisions and the help with lost luggage. And, since the cost of the insurance is based on the amount of trip cost at risk (hardly anything in this case), you can get those medical and luggage benefits at much reduced cost. Why would you not want trip insurance?




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The Fun Is in the Chase: Learn French in 2 Weeks

English was not my Grandpa Brow’s first language; French was. Rather, I should say a version of French spoken by French Canadians was what Grandpa spoke at home growing up near Lake Leelanau, Michigan. His French was like hillbilly English, considered uncouth. He found that out when he was in the army on the Western Front during World War I. Real francophones in France and Belgium laughed at his accent and funny way of speaking. The experience embarrassed Grandpa so much that he refused to speak French anymore, and he refused to teach it to me.

Grandpa Napoleon "Paul" Brow didn't need to learn French. It was his language at home.

Ferdinand and Ellen Gauthier Brow and some of their children in front of their house in Centerville, south of Lake Leelanau, MI. Grandpa Napoleon Brow is the 4th person from the right, in the back row.

That’s why when I was a child and asked him to teach me French, the only answer was “va coucher.” That means, “go to bed” which is not particularly useful for normal French conversation. But it did leave me wanting to learn French.

Fast forward almost 60 years to early August when I spent two weeks in Montréal going to language school to learn French. It turns out you can’t actually become fluent in French in just two weeks but it was a start. I can follow the news on French TV reasonably well. I can read articles in French Newspapers well enough. But I’m still at a loss for words speaking French.

I went to a language school in Montreal to learn French

Vacation Language School in Montreal

Which brings me to a point about bucket list dreams: often achieving your dreams has to be a work in progress. It would have been wonderful to come home from Montréal speaking French fluently. Likely I will never be mistaken for francophone no matter how hard I try. But that is still my impossible bucket list dream. I intend to keep chasing it with more French classes locally (e.g. at the Learning Exchange in Sacramento), by listening to French radio online (e.g., http://www.rfi.fr/ ), and maybe going to a French language meetup. This bucket list dream is a work in progress.



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Hello and Welcome to My New Travel blog!

On this new blog I will be sharing helpful travel tips and insider secrets with you.
To make sure you don’t miss out on this valuable information, enter your first
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You’ll get instant access to some of my best tips, plus I’ll send you a quick insider
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