TRAVEL with pat and lew

* Preparing for year 3 (2008)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 24, 2008


We’ve spent a delightful and quite busy winter season in Key West, with no travel except two trips to New Jersey and Manhattan to visit with children and friends. Now we’re looking forward to our third summer of European travel adventures. 



Once again, we’ll be based in our apartment in Collioure, France. So far, we have trips scheduled to Sicily, Paris (3 times for a total of 4 weeks), Amsterdam, and Prague. We also plan to continue our explorations of France, including visits with our friends in the Loire Valley, and will probably add some time in Vienna to our Prague trip.

Plus, whatever else occurs to us or comes along.

Maybe we’ll even do our fantasy Ryanair trip, where we go to the Girona airport, with carryons and passports in hand, but no destination chosen, looking for a one cent flight to somewhere we’ve never been. And without a guidebook!

Here’s an overview of our preparations for year 3 …

Home Exchange

Pat has been productive arranging home exchanges, for all three Paris trips and for Amsterdam. We tend to start looking for exchanges earlier than most, but during March the floodgates opened and it seemed we got an exchange request almost every day. Some excellent exchanges have been “stockpiled” for 2009.

We’re very pleased with our decision last fall to continue our membership in , a conclusion we reached only after carefully looking at many other home exchange sites. We like the quality and quantity of the listings on, as well as the ease of editing our own site.

Preparation for travel

Reading – guidebooks, travel essays, history, and novels – is an important part of our preparation for travel. Some books we read in advance, others we’ll take with us to read just before each particular trip. We’ve been buying books ever since our return to the ‘new world” last fall, mostly from but also including two wonderful trips to Barnes & Noble, in Manhattan and Fort Lauderdale. Amazon offers incredible selection and search capability, but there is something very special to us in wandering the stacks of B&N, actually touching the books. This is the best way to compare travel books to see which best fits our needs.

Financial arrangements

All of our bills, in Key West and France, will be paid automatically or via electronic pay –  the same as in prior years. (There are several articles on this site which provide details of how we do this, and I’ll be happy to respond to any questions you have.)

Medical issues: HTH and AARP

We’ve purchased the same travel HTH TravelGap Excursion policy as in prior years. The policy provides 100% coverage for all medical expenses during our trip, including pre-existing conditions. It requires that we continue to maintain our underlying US medical insurance. For more details, you can check out the HTH site at 

Getting six months prescription medicines to take with us was every bit as difficult as in prior years. We have the AARP Rx plan, and it was a nightmare.

I started in February, anticipating aggravation, and I was not disappointed. The policy of AARP allows a 3 month vacation override. We need 6 months, and in one case 7 because the “month” supply for one of our medications is actually only 28 days. When we explain this to AARP clerks, they mindlessly repeat that only 3 months is possible, and offer no suggestions. We tell them that we did obtain 6 months’ supply in each of the last two years, but they don’t listen. “It’s not possible,” they repeat. I get someone to try, and she finally gets back to me that all is arranged, but when the pharmacist tries to place the order, it is rejected.

I spent 6 frustrating hours on the phone before I reached someone high enough in the AARP management chain to be allowed to actually think. She directs me to someone who she says will solve the problem.

But they don’t. The resulting email suggestion is infantile and unresponsive. More phone calls. Another wasted hour. Finally, I find Chad, and he does what the others couldn’t or wouldn’t. We have our meds for 2008.

I ask Chad to place a note in our AARP file that the 6 month vacation override is permitted. And to send me a copy of his note by email so I can refer to it next year. It takes four more phone calls and another two weeks, but finally it’s done. Maybe next year will be easier.

Skype and Slingbox

We have continued our Skype connection, renewing our Skype-In phone number which allows our children to call us in France by making a local call in the US. We also got all the web cameras working so we can see our children and grandchildren (5 and another on the way).

Slingbox continues to be an important part of retaining our connections and following the US presidential election campaign while abroad. Just think … “Morning Joe” live (at noon) in Collioure!

Movies, movies, movies

Last November, I purchased a 150 gigabyte external hard disk. In addition to backing up our regular computer files, the external hard disk, which we will take with us, is now the repository of 50 movies and numerous travel shows.

The movie process involved a sequence of steps: (1) download from Comcast via DVR; (2) copy from Comcast DVR to DVD’s, using our new DVD recorder; (3) upload from the DVD’s to the hard disk, using 1-Click DVD software.

Time to pack

We’ll be posting articles about each of our trips this summer, and also about any new experiences in Collioure. Right now, however, it’s time to pack.





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