About Jane Wooldridge

I'm a travel fanatic (and professional travel writer/photographer) who has visited more than 100 countries -- most more than once. I haven't done it all -- I'm still trying! -- but I have wandered the world in a wide variety of styles, from 5 Stars (say, the palace hotels of Paris) to Under the Stars (camel trekking in Australia.) I'm a member of the Society of Travel Writers, co-author of "100 Best Affordable Vacations'' (National Geographic Books) and a winner of the coveted Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year award. In my current day job, I am Executive Business Editor of the Miami Herald, where I was travel editor for many years. As a Jane-of-all-trades, I also oversee the Herald's coverage of Miami's vibrant visual arts scene. Want to know more? Check out www.janewooldridge.com.

Farewell to faithful friends: Our rolling backpacks

You have carried us around the globe more times than we can reckon,

You were our perfect bags: Lightweight, rollable, presentable enough for a decent hotel, equipped with sturdy backpack straps that allowed us to haul you up the stairs of a Santorini cave house on our honeymoon and into a raw wood hut on our trek through Cameroon. When flights were delayed, you served as backrests, card tables, pillows. Your dusty exterior belied your value, thwarting theft.

From Irian Jaya to India, Mali to Mongolia, Uzbekistan to Alaska, you were our unfailing companions. In your caring folds you hauled eaglecreekbagstrekking boots and little black dresses, underwear and socks, dry sacks and charging chords, carpets and ceremonial crowns from Tibet and and Ethiopia. The handicraft gifts so carefully chosen from far away places came home in your canvas holds; you kept them safe despite the knowledge that the relatives who would receive them would scratch their heads and wonder, why?

Airlines did their best to rend your wheels, your straps, your handles. You held steadfast, with the aid of rare visits to the Eagle Creek infirmary. When Eagle Creek declared that your lifetime guarantee was not a warranty for our lifetimes but some arbitrary “lifetime of the bag,”  we were forced to relegate you to storage. There,  humidity and mildew wreaked the irreparable damage that no chicken plane or baggage conveyor belt ever delivered.

Today you go to rest, For decades of dreams and miles of memories, you have our enduring thanks. Fare thee well.

Great vacation Tip No. 3: Get ready to pounce

January generally brings a new round of sales: Travel sales.

The last-minute deals of years past are largely gone, swept away in the desire by businesses to book as much business as they can early in the year. For cruise lines, hoteliers, packagers, tour operators — and even airlines — this often means January deals.

Some of those special prices will apply only through spring. But others might be good far later in the year. Since you’ve already identified your free-travel spaces, you already know what works for you time-wise.

Now, you just need to prioritize your wish-list.

If you don’t have one, it’s time to make one. If you do, it’s probably time for an update.

I keep two lists, one for once-in-a-life trips (polar bear watching in the High Arctic) and other for that-could-be-fun places and return visits. (Colorado’s Broadmoor, Brussels). As you move places up and down your list, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Jerusalem, Israel.

    Jerusalem, Israel.

    How much time do you need for a reasonable visit? (Five days in Paris or London is a decent little trip, but anything less than two weeks in China isn’t really worth it.)

  • Are any of the places on your list at risk? The glaciers of Alaska are receding. Relations with Russia have been dicey; now might be the time for that visit to St. Petersburg. Is Myanmar becoming too popular, making it a  now or never trip? Are you longing to go to Cuba during this historic change?
  • What’s in recovery? During the Ebola crisis, even unaffected destinations far from the disease suffered tourism losses…meaning this could be a year for great deals.
  • Are your traveling companions aging or, alternatively, about thinking about getting pregnant in the next few years? You might want to book that trekking trip while you know you can.

When the deals appear, you’re ready to pounce!



Getting the 2016 vacation you want: Tip No. 2

Tip No. 2: Identify free time.

When you factor in work schedules, school commitments, parents and spousal priorities, getting away for a trip might seem like an impossibility.

Jaipur, India, 2011, during the Holi festival.

Jaipur, India, 2011, during the Holi festival.

Alex V., a busy executive married to another busy professional, suggests matching schedules the old fashioned way: On paper. On a paper calendar, she wrote in all her out-of-town and committed dates in one color, then did the same  with her husband’s schedule in a different color. They quickly were able to spot a few weeks when neither was booked, and reserved that time for travel.

And don’t just depend on what’s written in the calendar. Check with your partner and other critical parties to be sure there aren’t any floating issues out there, like that college reunion my husband said he was hosting “sometime this July.”  Even though the dates aren’t set, I know not to get my heart set on going to some out-of-town festival that month — at least not with him.

Tips for getting the 2016 vacation you want: No. 1

May, 2009: Canal barge cruise through Burgundy, France. Photos by Jane Wooldridge / ONE TIME USE ONLY.

May, 2009: Canal barge cruise through Burgundy, France. Photos by Jane Wooldridge / ONE TIME USE ONLY.

Tip 1: Update your 2016 travel datebook. 

Family wedding? Conference? Business trip? Get the dates and places onto the calendar.

Once you know when and where you’re already going, you can figure out if you want to add additional time to any of those trips, so you can leverage your travel time and airfare.

Or not. If you’re of the school that fish and family both have a three-day limit, or your annual professional conference is in West Boringsville, you can save those precious vacation days for a trip that really makes your heart sing.


Vacation values: Tips for getting the 2016 vacation you want

Where are you going in 2016? That question has been on the lips of nearly everyone I’ve spoken with in the past week.

For travel addicts, the reason is clear: A trip — or just the prospect of one — helps ease the difficulty of getting back to work. Even if you’re not a total travel fanatic, the idea of a great vacation can give you a little purr.

On the royal lake in Udaipur.

On the royal lake in Udaipur.

Ah, but there’s the frisson of potential discord: How do you GET a great vacation?

For the next several weeks, I’m posting a tip a day for getting a great vacation in 2016. The goal is 30 Tips, 30 Days. But I’m hoping friends and followers will kick in with more ideas beyond those already on my list, so we can keep going.

Can we make 365? Maybe. With breaks, of course, for travel.


Return from Antartica’s Big Ice

ushuaiaUshuaia appeared on the Beagle Channel, calm and lulling. Our trip ended where as all such trips should: late at night, in a raucous Irish bar.

It was barely fortification for the day to come. We know now why penguins don’t fly. And while that’s a bad joke, so was the two-hour wait in line for the sole person working the security computer at the Ushuaia airport and the additional two-hour line for check in at American Airlines in Buenos Aires, for which there is no excuse. If executives and board members had to suffer the long queues, insufficiently staffed counters and hard seats in coach that their customers are tortured with, American — and other companies — would clean up their act. It ought to be written into the FAA code.

If there was one rosy side to the frustration, it was the attention it diverted from parting with new friends. Most of those you meet along the way are simply bypassers, but a few strike close to your soul. We hope to see you again on the next journey into the unknown.