Chick Corea, Together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, sets the night on fire in San Diego

One of the major jazz piano voices of the last 50 years, Chick Corea, together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, lit up the hallowed halls of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego in March, 2018 with an exciting repertoire of free jazz and jazz fusion selections.

Since a video is worth 1,000 words, enjoy this 90-second clip of an exciting performance by this jazz piano great, accompanied by the titillating Jazz at Lincoln Center instrumentalists.

One of the major jazz piano voices of the last 50 years, Chick Corea, together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, lit up the hallowed halls of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego with an exciting repertoire of free jazz and jazz fusion selections.

Joanne's Travel Tips: The Perfect Travel Wrap, Internet Hotspot Heaven, & More

It's A Wrap

A few months ago, my husband Tony and I spent the entire month of October traveling in Europe, with just one small carry-on and backpack each in tow. I’ve written about how to travel carry- on only in several posts, and each time I return from such a trip, I find a few more items to recommend to my readers.

 A travel wrap is an essential if you go the "carry-on only" route.

A travel wrap is an essential if you go the "carry-on only" route.

Shoulder-season travel is a special challenge, as you have to prepare for every weather condition that might arise. Since we were traveling from Germany to Greece, I knew I had to have an outer wrap that would adjust to the fluctuating temperatures along our route.

I found just what I needed on the Mer Sea website—a classic travel wrap that would serve as a blanket on our chilly plane trip over the big pond, as well as a welcome companion on Europe’s city streets and on our cruise ship voyages.

Not only does this wrap look quite elegant, it is very well made and drapes beautiful in a variety of configurations over the body.  It provided great protection and warmth during some chilly rain storms in Bavaria and on a drafty vaporetto ride in Venice. It washes and dries well, even without access to a dryer (I draped it over our ship’s balcony to dry overnight, which it did despite the humidity in the air).

As an added bonus, it comes with a matching bag that, when stuffed with the wrap, serves as a comfortable travel pillow. This means you can carry it on the plane without packing it in your carry-on, saving space and weight for other items.

Thumbs up to this product! It is going to be my staple on all my future trips.

Internet HotSpot Heaven

Having a reliable internet connection while on the road is important to any traveler, especially for journalists. While many tech pundits claim that free Wi-Fi is available all over Europe, we had just the opposite experience during our previous trip last year. That is why, this time around, we decided to give RoamingMan, a global, pocket-sized portable Wi-Fi hotspot that works without SIM cards or cables, a try.

 You're connected all over Europe (and many other countries) with a RoamingMan hotspot. The only way to go.....

You're connected all over Europe (and many other countries) with a RoamingMan hotspot. The only way to go.....

It became our best friend as we traveled through 8 countries in four weeks. Just switch it on and you will be able to connect your phone and laptop for instant internet gratification. It offers unlimited global data in 68 countries around the world.

This device connected to the strongest 4G networks available, and is capable of simultaneously connecting up to five devices. The cost is $9.95 per day for this comprehensive service and the device will arrive at your door one or two days before your departure. You’ll return your device via a pre-paid shipping label.

While we were only two people on the network, you can imagine how ideal and cost effective this would be for family vacations, trips with friends, or business trips with colleagues, since one device can keep five people connected.

As working journalists, it was such a pleasure to be able to effortlessly access the internet to download maps, research web sites, email, and upload to our social media and websites in any situation. Whether we were on a bus, train, or walking along Europe’s city streets, we had internet access. We were in Internet heaven throughout our long trip!

 

Record Your Travel Memories Just Like in Past Centuries

Journal Images.jpg

Okay, it may be cool to take travel notes these days by talking into your cell phone, but my husband is old school and loves to chronicle our adventures the old-fashioned way, with a travel journal.  This gorgeous leather-bound diary looks like something right out of a Masterpiece Theatre episode—and is fine enough to be put on permanent display on our bookshelf when its pages are full. Check them out at Soothi.com.

 

Knit Kicks

 LOVE these shoes for all sorts of activities!

LOVE these shoes for all sorts of activities!

I realize this travel column is about items that make traveling more comfortable and less stressful, but when I come across a product I love, I take the liberty to report on it. These slip-on sneakers from the folks at Zenzee have certainly made the hours I spend in front of the computer more comfortable. The cushioned platform provides arch support and after a few wears, they stretch and form to your feet for the ultimate in comfort.

I only wish I could tuck these into my carry-on during our press trips, but I’m afraid their size (though they are lightweight) makes this unpractical. You can’t have it all.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

 

 

For a travel in"VEST"ment you won't regret, consider a ScotteVest

My fascination with the ScotteVest began after one of those travel horror moments you like to think would never happen to you.

My husband and I were touring Paris in early May, on a national holiday. We boarded a packed bus that brought us to the Louvre, but our “magical” afternoon took a turn for the worst when, in the middle of the square, my husband realized his wallet and passport had been “magically” stolen by quite an accomplished thief during our transit!

We spent the next four hours in a Parisian police station, filing a report which actually yielded us no benefit, even with our trip insurance in place. Much of our trip to Paris was ruined because of this incident, as you can imagine.

Bottom line is, it is YOUR job to protect those precious belongings, so upon our return home, I made it my mission to thoroughly research all the travel vests out there to ensure this would never happen again.

Hands down, the ScotteVest won out over all the competition!

My husband doesn’t like heavy vests (and we often travel in warm climates), so we opted for the featherweight vest for men. Since he waxed poetic about the vest during our recent trip through Switzerland, I am quoting his remarks directly:

"On my recent travel to Switzerland, there’s no doubt the ScotteVest, with its 14 convenient pockets, played a huge role in making my entire travel experience worry-free.

The benefits were instant when we went through security at our home airport in San Diego. The items I normally carried in my trousers and jacket pocket were transferred into assigned pockets in my vest. This included my wallet and passport (which were placed in the RFID pockets for security) and several miscellaneous items such as phone, keys, pens, eyeglasses, and wristwatch.

It is so convenient to have all your items safely nestled in your vest, with no need to use  those TSA item trays and worrying about whether you will walk away and forget them in the stress of the moment.

Everything is packed right there, in the vest. There’s even room for an IPad or tablet. The zippered pockets and special RFID area bring a secure aspect to this vest. Nothing will fall out, plus you will be protected from scammers with the RFID feature.

As a photographer and a writer on the go I had a convenient pocket for my journal and pen and pencils that I use to chronicle my travel adventures. Other items such as camera SD cards and batteries all tuck away in the vest within easy reach when needed.

 Tony wore his vest every day during a recent Swiss press trip. It served him well as a photographer's vest when it wasn't protecting his belongings in crowded cities.                                                                                                                       © Joanne DiBona

Tony wore his vest every day during a recent Swiss press trip. It served him well as a photographer's vest when it wasn't protecting his belongings in crowded cities.                                                                                                                       © Joanne DiBona

If you love listening to music on the road, there is a convenient internal route through specially designed channels for headphones/bud wiring. The feature eliminates the clutter of wires often experienced when operating player devices externally.

The vest was extremely comfortable in all weather conditions we encountered. It took me through unseasonable, scorching heat one day as we hiked through the mountains, and protected me from a chilly wind another day, when the zipped front of the vest served as a windbreaker.

The ScotteVest has become my constant traveling companion and there’s no way I would ever leave home without it."

 

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

 

 

 

In Award Miles Booking Hell? Juicymiles.com Just Might Save Your Day

I just returned from mileage points hell.

For years, my husband and I have been happily charging everything we purchase on a handful of different credit cards that stuff our wallets, saving up for “that big day” when we would blow our mileage wad on the trip of a lifetime.

Well, that trip materialized--in the form of a month-long grand tour of Europe.

With almost a million mileage points under our belt, we naively thought we had the skill set to easily book business class seats to our destination. After all, how difficult could it be?

The answer: EXTREMELY!

 © Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

Thinking we could easily do this on our own (especially because our travel dates were off-season), we started a week-long journey into the endless quagmire of mileage sites in our quest to redeem our points for an actual ticket. Our first problem was the fact that our dates weren’t flexible, as we had booked two separate cruises and had to tailor our schedule around the embarkation/debarkation dates for each. Our location on the West coast also compounded the problem, as mileage flights out of San Diego seemed to be non-existent, at least to our untrained eyes.

Finally, I came to my senses, and realized we needed help-- big time.

Thus began my search for a service that helps those mileage holders (who have no clue as to how to redeem their miles) translate their points into an actual ticket. I did my research and, based on some stellar online revies, decided to go with Juicymiles.com. The fee of $125 per itinerary booked seemed reasonable, seeing we had just exhausted a week of our communal time in this quest.

To say that our assigned agent was a mileage angel from heaven is an understatement. He worked diligently from the get-go, and through all sorts of frustrations, such as flights disappearing the moment we were ready to book them!  

When you start working with a Juicy Miles agent, you will receive enough information to make a decision on the flights (#of stops, time of day, etc.) without seeing exact flight details. Once you pay your fee and are ready to book, the flights will be revealed to you. They won’t book any flights until they receive your acceptance and no payment is required unless you are completely satisfied with your proposed itinerary.

It doesn’t get better than that.

If you feel comfortable having your Juicy Miles agent book your flight for you (as we did), even more stress is removed from the process.

Our happy ending:  we got our lie down seats in business class with a combination of miles and cash, but at a fraction of what these business class seats would have cost us had we purchased them outright.

Trust me, it will be the best $125 you will ever spend!

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. I paid the fee for the Juicy Miles service, and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

Edelweiss Air Launches Non Stop Service from San Diego to Zurich Switzerland

 

If you are a frequent flyer, the news of the addition of non-stop service to international destinations departing directly from San Diego's Lindbergh Field is music to your ears.

That music might now come in the form of a yodel with the start of direct service from San Diego to Zurich on Edelweiss Air, which began early June of this year.

I had the recent opportunity to experience this flight, both in the economy and economy max class, and am happy to share my experience with readers who are contemplating a visit to the land of magnificent scenery and warm hospitality—either for business or pleasure.

 Flights leave in the evening from the Terminal 2 International departure area at San Diego International Airport.   © Tony DiBona

Flights leave in the evening from the Terminal 2 International departure area at San Diego International Airport.   © Tony DiBona

First of all, shaving off hours of travel time between the two destinations is incentive enough to consider booking a flight on Edelweiss Air. Gone is the hassle of having to fly to a major hub to connect to a direct flight to Zurich, and with it the possibility of lost baggage and missed connections.

At this point in time, flights depart Friday and Monday evenings out of San Diego's quiet and comfortable international departure area in Terminal 2 and arrive in Zurich the next afternoon. With the precision anyone visiting Switzerland will learn to respect (i.e., trains arrive and depart on the second), the flights were right on time and boarding was quick and effortless.

 Business class seats transform into a lie-down bed at the flick of a switch. © Joanne DiBona

Business class seats transform into a lie-down bed at the flick of a switch. © Joanne DiBona

The Airbus A-340-300 seats 314 passengers in three classes: business, economy max and economy. Business class seats convert into fully horizontal 6.5 ft. beds at the press of a button, with the capability of adjusting bed firmness and adding a massage feature.

Bright, fluffy pillows in red cases and a fresh blanket welcome passengers in all classes. State-of-the art entertainment systems, featuring a wide variety of options, are also standard and ear buds are also provided. You can also choose to connect your mobile device to the system (install the app before your flight to access even a wider variety of entertainment options). USB power ports are available at all seats in every class.

 There is no lack of quality entertainment onboard, available in all flight classes  © Joanne DiBona

There is no lack of quality entertainment onboard, available in all flight classes  © Joanne DiBona

The Economy Max class offers 5” more pitch between seats and a deeper recline, in addition to free alcoholic beverages and an amenity kit. That being said, the seats in economy were quite comfortable with ample leg room to allow even a taller person to stretch one's legs during flight. Adjustable neck supports in both economy classes were also a welcome touch.

 Swiss-themed meal     © Joanne DiBona

Swiss-themed meal     © Joanne DiBona

Both a main meal and smaller snack are provided (using Swiss products when available). Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase in Economy at industry standard rates. Edelweiss also offers a large selection of special meals to cater to diverse culinary wishes. Note that special meal requests must be submitted at least 4 days in advance via the airline website.

Friendly and gracious flight attendants stood ready to accommodate the passengers’ every need. The plane’s interior was impeccably clean (I found the scented wipes available in the lavatories a pleasant touch) and there was definitely a calm atmosphere in the cabin that made the long journey as relaxing as possible.

 Our gracious Edelweiss flight attendant     © Tony DiBona

Our gracious Edelweiss flight attendant     © Tony DiBona

Our disembarkment at the Zurich terminal was equally as speedy and effortless as in San Diego. My final destination was Lake Geneva and the picturesque cities of Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne.  Once again, thanks to the efficiency of the Swiss rail system (trains to Swiss and other European destinations depart directly from the airport) within 20 minutes I was speeding along the glorious countryside on route to my next visitor adventure.

When flying internationally, it’s not often you can say that getting there was half the fun. But in this case, Edelweiss definitely provided a perfect start to my glorious travel adventure through Switzerland.

 Leaving San Diego on route to Zurich   @ Joanne DiBona

Leaving San Diego on route to Zurich   @ Joanne DiBona

IF YOU GO

Edelweiss currently offers non-stop flights to Zurich International Airport from San Diego Lindbergh Field Fridays and Mondays through September 18, 2017.

Edelweiss flights from San Diego can be booked at swiss.comlufthansa.com or through any travel agency. For more information on the Edelweiss product please visit flyedelweiss.com

 Welcome to Zurich!    © Tony DiBona

Welcome to Zurich!    © Tony DiBona