Alaskan Cruise Days 1 and 2 (departing to Vancouver)

Day 1: after an amazing graduation party with friends and family, I stayed at the Best Western near Disneyland with Beau and his family. His mother is a hard-core Disney fan, so she had us all up at 5:30 AM for breakfast and to be there at the opening of the park. I have never been to Disneyland at the opening, but we made it on every ride before lunch. While at the park, his boss called him requesting a last-minute write-up (right before a 2-week vacation). We had to leave for him to work on it while his parents stayed for the fireworks. He, of course, had to finish it before we had to get up at 5 for LAX.

;

Day 2: We arrived at LAX early without a hitch. Thankfully we checked in the night before and printed our passes so we were first in line and very quick. The flight was quick and relaxing, and the arrival in Vancouver was lovely. The airport has beautiful native artwork, a small pond upstairs with a recreated canoe, and lovely fountains. It was beautiful. The line for customs wasn’t terrible, but still tiring. Unfortunately, our customs inspector was a surly lady with a bad attitude.

“What are you doing in Vancouver for 2 days?”

“we are taking a cruise to Alaska”

“who is paying for this trip?”

“we are…”

“how?”

“excuse me?”

“what do you do?”

“we just graduated…”

“if you just graduated, how can you afford a cruise?”

“um, we saved?”

“how did you save? What do you do?”

Mental note: when dealing with customs, always have answers ready and sound confident. Now I can understand what it is like for foreigners to enter America.

When our luggage arrived, Beau’s wheel was broken off. After trying to secure it, he could barely drag the bag. I told him to pack lighter before we left, but oh well. Thus, our affordable plans to use the Skytrain were voided, leaving us with a $40 cab ride. Fortunately our driver took US dollars. Our hotel was very reasonably priced, near Chinatown with prostitutes on the corner during the evening. Even still, the homeless mostly kept to themselves and left us alone.
The Patricia was clean enough with helpful staff, just very small rooms with no view and a less-than-comfortable bed. We booked the cheapest room they had so it was expected. For lunch, we grabbed Pho and a place across the street (the hotel’s pub was not really what we had in mind after a day of travel). We found a cheap suitcase in Chinatown for $40 that was even larger than his old suitcase (unfortunately, the wheels are already starting to bend in). Vancouver has a beautiful downtown but is very expensive. Sales tax was a big hit to the budget.

How to: Travel Alone (what to bring and what to do!)

What to bring:

  • 3 copies of passport (always cary one copy safely in your pocket)
  • 1+ copy of each credit card
  • credit card (safer than debit)
  • original passport (or whatever ID required for the country)
  • the equivalent of about $50-100 USD cash in a money belt on your person
  • money belt (avoid getting in and out of it in public- it is supposed to be secret!)
  • detailed directions to your destination, including all train stops, bus stops, and ticket shops
  • emergency phone (not absolutely required but a REALLY good idea)
  • local dictionary (not required but useful when asking for directions)
  • walking map for how you get from the train station to your destination

What to do:

  • pack as light as possible
  • do not have any valuables visible
  • blend in (avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible- at least look like a ‘local tourist’)
  • eat in safe places
  • avoid large crowds while carrying luggage
  • do NOT carry anything in your back pocket
  • buy luggage locks and USE THEM!
  • for smaller zippers, use plastic zip ties (use nail cutters to snip them off- just don’t lock those in a pocket you zip-tied)
  • NEVER leave your luggage, even for a minute
  • never carry more than you can easily carry yourself!
  • travel in daylight- avoid arriving at night (if you must, walk straight to your hotel)
  • walk with your eyes ahead (looking down or around or looking nervous makes you a target)
  • get to know the locals and ask advice, but be careful with who you trust
  • dress appropriately (especially in conservative countries… but anywhere, be careful with shorts!)
  • do NOT get drunk when you are alone!
  • keep in touch with someone at home (in case you don’t make it to your destination)
  • register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (or equivalent if you are not American www.step.state.gov/step/)
  • trust your instincts! AND HAVE FUN!