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Best and Worst airports in america

I have certain airports that I will not use, no matter what. My most loathed airport in the USA is Chicago O’Hare, largely because in all my years of flying I have never had a successful connection through O’Hare. On the occasions I have had to fly through O’Hare something always goes wrong, whether its delayed flights, planes not arriving, missed connections. Its a nightmare! (If you want to really screw up travel plans, fly United through O’Hare. They are the devil’s duo). No matter how many hundred dollars I can save by flying to Europe through O’Hare I never ever do it.

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I do disagree with Smarter Travel about some of the items on this list though. I think LAX Tom Bradley terminal is just fantastic. I am thrilled to route any flight through there,and often I start my international flights at LAX. One thing I always notice when using the Bradley terminal is that the workers smile at you. They are polite and friendly. A couple of years ago I flew from Rome to JFK, where everyone was rude and angry, shouting at travelers and being as difficult as humanly possible. Four days later I flew to Australia from LAX and thought I was in a different country! None of the TSA agents or airport workers were hostile, everyone had a smile, and I watched them being friendly and helpful to everyone.

Phoenix Sky Harbor should also be on the good list. Apart from the fact that its my home airport (I live in Phoenix), Sky Harbor is an incredibly efficient, easy to navigate, very well appointed, thoroughly modern airport. I always consider myself very lucky to have this as my home airport.

I do use Philly frequently too, routing out to Italy via Philadelphia, but unfortunately I usually get routed home via JFK. In my experience Philadelphia has a pretty modern facility, is functional, and I’ve never had a problem.

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If you do have travel on the horizon, especially international travel, check out this article before you book your flights. With international travel you often have options on which airports you want to route through, and having a little knowledge ahead of booking your flights can be incredibly helpful, and save you a massive headache. If you do have to use one of the bad airports when flying internationally make sure you have travel insurance to cover you for lost luggage and missed international connections. I use Allianz insurance for all my international travel.

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The 10 Worst Airports In America

By Tim Winship for Smarter Travel

As any road warrior worth his or her rollaboard will tell you, the country’s airports are no friendlier than its skies. Ancient terminal buildings, threadbare carpets, stinky restrooms, poorly designed crowd control, sparse seating, unappetizing food concessions… the list of travelers’ gripes is a long one.

And that’s on top of last year’s results, which showed the average traveler-satisfaction score rising from 725 in 2015 (on a 1,000-point scale) to 731. Even that modest uptick was encouraging, given the 5 percent increase in airport traffic and the sky-high wait times at security checkpoints earlier that year.


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The study scored airports on a combination of six factors: terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and terminal shopping. Based on those criteria, the 10 highest-rated airports were as follows:

  1. Sacramento International Airport
  2. Indianapolis International Airport
  3. Anchorage International Airport
  4. Jacksonville International Airport
  5. Palm Beach International Airport
  6. John Wayne Airport
  7. Tampa International Airport
  8. Southwest Florida International Airport
  9. Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  10. Dallas Love Field

And the bottom 10 (worst first):

  1. LaGuardia Airport
  2. Newark Liberty International Airport
  3. Los Angeles International Airport
  4. Philadelphia International Airport
  5. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
  6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  7. Honolulu International Airport
  8. JFK International Airport
  9. Boston Logan International Airport
  10. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

It’s worth noting that the three lowest-ranked airports are currently undergoing massive construction projects, which can’t help but impede traffic and generally make navigating those airports a frustrating and time-consuming experience.

Of course, when the projects are completed, flying to or from those airports—and indeed most airports—will still be frustrating and time-consuming, just less so.

 

What are your best and worst airports? Tell me in the comment section below!


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The best way to travel around Italy is by train.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Italy has the most amazing train network, it runs like clockwork, connects all the major cities and gives you high speed access to the entire country. If you are traveling in Italy the train system opens up so many opportunities to you – you can buzz around and take quick day trips that would otherwise take hours to drive. The fast trains have comfortable leather seats that allow you to sit back and enjoy looking out at the majesty of this gorgeous country through huge panoramic windows.

How To Travel Italy By Train

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The fast trains in Italy are amazing. Super clean and efficient, they glide you in comfort across the country at 280 kph. (Why don’t we have trains like this all over America???) The fast train from Rome to Florence, which is roughly the same distance as Phoenix to Las Vegas or maybe Phoenix to Los Angeles, takes an hour and 15 minutes.

There are two main train companies operating across Italy. Trenitalia and Italo. Both are excellent, but if given the choice I use Italo.

 

How To Use Trains In Italy

If you can plan your train travel ahead of time you can make it super simple and save yourself lots of money.

I normally buy train tickets as soon as the online ticketing is available, 3 months ahead of the travel date. I use the Rail Europe website, because although it costs an extra $7 per ticket I find the website to be less glitchy and easier to maneuver than the Trenitalia and Italo websites. Also Rail Europe is all in English.

The trains have various classes – Executive, First, Second etc and are priced accordingly, although sometimes it makes no sense. I’ve bought first class seats before that have cost less than second class seats. Train travel is really quite inexpensive though, and is such a genius way to get around. It is much faster and much less expensive than renting a car or flying, and just so easy.

If you buy your tickets online you can just print out your boarding pass and it doesn’t need to be validated. (More on validating ahead.)

If you are purchasing your ticket in the train station you have 2 options, the self-serve kiosk or the ticket counter.

How To use Trains In Italy

The kiosk is really easy to use, but will either just serve Trenitalia or Italo. You can select English and then just follow the prompts. If you are unsure of what to do or don’t know which train company to use you can go to the counter and get help. There are also representatives of each train company in the concourse, and they are always happy to help you use the kiosk. They are always in uniform – don’t get help from non-uniformed folks hanging around, they may be nice folks or they may be pickpockets. (I actually learned the Italian train system by random people helping me in train stations  )

Once you have your ticket in hand you need to figure out which Binario or platform your train is departing from. Your ticket will have the train number on it. In this picture it is train 9521. You can look for that train number on the departure board, and  next to it will be the name of the final stop.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Let’s assume you are in Rome and are traveling to Naples, and you just bought a ticket on the 9521. Using the picture above it tells us that the 9521 starts in Milano and ends in Salerno. Even though you are traveling to Naples (Napoli) the departure board won’t say Napoli, it will say 9521 to Salerno.

How To Use Trains In Italy

The departure boards will be easily visible, and will be in several places in the station.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to look at the board that says Partenze this means departures.

Arrivi means arrivals. Don’t get them confused!

How To Use Trains In Italy

Remember that the name of the city will be in Italian, not English. Naples is Napoli, Florence is Firenze, Venice = Venezia etc.

In some train stations you need to show your ticket as you pass through from the main concourse to the platforms side of the train station. Others you need to show your ticket as you pass through security on the platform itself.

If you bought your ticket at the station, either at the kiosk or at the counter you will need to validate it before getting on the train.

The validation machines are all over the place and look like this.

How To Use Trains In IItaly

 

It’s a good idea to go ahead and validate it as soon as you buy it, just in case you end up running for your train and don’t have time. The train conductor will check your ticket while you are en route. If you haven’t validated it you will face a heavy fine, tourist or not.

If you bought your ticket online and printed out the boarding pass you don’t need to validate it.

Your ticket has some other important information on it. It tells you which carriage number you are on (Carrozza) and what your seat number is. (The little local trains don’t have assigned seating but the fast trains trains do.)

How To Use Trains In Italy

 

10 minutes before your train departs the departure board will tell you which platform it is departing from. Now as you make your way along the platform there will normally be screens along the way telling you where each carriage/coach number will be stopping. Your train may already be on the platform, or it may be arriving any minute. Find the number that corresponds to the carriage number on your ticket.

When the train pulls in you will see that each carriage has a door at either end. On the door it will tell you rows 1- 13 or 14 – 28 (or whatever row configuration that carriage has.) It doesn’t matter if you get on at the wrong end, but if you are dragging luggage around it helps to get on at the end your seat is on.

Rail Europe – Train tickets

When it comes to luggage there are different options. Some trains have a luggage bay at one end of the carriage. Europeans travel much lighter than Americans do, so the luggage areas often aren’t designed for giant American suitcases. That means you need to hustle and get on the train quickly before all the space is gone!

There will be overhead racks for your carry on bags, and many trains have a space between the rows of seats where your suitcase can slide in.

In the picture below you can see the large overhead space for luggage, and if you look behind the conductor’s legs you can see the wheels of a suitcase poking out from between the space between the seats.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to move quickly and get you bags put away, because the train will get moving right on time. It is super annoying when you are trying to get to your seat and there are tourists in the aisles with their bags, putzing around, not knowing which way is up! Get to your seat, put your carryon on the rack above, slide your suitcase into the space between your row and the row behind yours, and get out of the way.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Keep your ticket on hand. The conductor will move from carriage to carriage checking all the tickets.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Sometimes these dudes are just ridiculously handsome!

You will be served a coffee or cold drink plus a snack on most intercity trains. There will also normally be a buffet/restaurant carriage on the train. The bigger trains stations have really good food options, so we often buy a panino or a salad to eat on long train trips. If you are in the executive or club car they will serve you a meal on longer trips.

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I really hope you will use the fast-trains in Italy to travel between cities. It is such  fun, easy and efficient way to get around the country.

If you have any train tips that I may have missed, please add them to the comments section below.

If you felt the information in this post was helpful, please share it on your Pinterest and in your social media!

XO

Eiffel Tower at night

Let’s talk about picnics. I love picnics. And I love Paris. And when I’m in Paris I love to have picnics. It just so happens that Parisians enjoy le pique-nique too. I love seeing the locals sitting on the banks of the Seine, taking in the view with a bottle of wine and some snacks, or picnicking in one of the lovely little parks around this beautiful city.

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Sometimes we’ve even had picnics in the pouring rain, sitting on the floor of our apartment with the ceiling to floor windows open wide and the still staggering views of the city taking our breath away.

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It’s fun to have an impromptu picnic in Paris, and a quick run through Monoprix can have you completely sorted in just a few minutes. You can even rent a bottle and fill it with vin rouge or maybe a rosé for a mere €2.50 if you don’t want to spend €7 on a bottle of wine!

Monoprix wine dispenser Monoprix wine machine

I’m obsessed with these machines and the cool looking bottles! As if I didn’t want to run away to Paris anyway…

I’ve done many last minute Monoprix picnics in Paris over the years, and loved them all, but today I want to tell you about the perfect picnic in Paris.

How To Plan The Perfect Picnic In Paris

 

In the 7th arrondissement there is a wonderful little food shopping street called Rue Cler. This is not only one of the best market streets in Paris (in my opinion anyway), but it is also an authentic market street, much loved by local Parisians and relatively unknown to the bulk of the 30 million tourists who make their way to the City of Lights each year. Rue Cler is full of specialty food shops and lovely cafés. It is mostly a pedestrian street, freeing you to wander aimlessly from side to side, taking your time to look in any store that takes your eye, when it takes your eye.

Rue Cler, Paris

If you rent an apartment in the 7th, a daily wander to Rue Cler would be magnifique. I’m actually thinking about renting an apartment in the 7th next time I go, so I’m just projecting my shopping plans on you right now..

Anyway, back to the picnic. I had this particular picnic in mind before leaving home on this trip, so packed a red and white checkered table cloth (clichéd, I know, but it was so worth it!), some paper plates, paper cups (because I couldn’t find my plastic champagne glasses. A touch gauche, but who cares?) and matching napkins, along with a Vera Bradley Havana Rose Market Tote bag that I could put everything in and walk around still looking chic.

We headed over to Rue Cler to buy our picnic provisions, and it was not only fabulous and fun, but it was also such an experience in and of itself. When I travel its always the experience that I am craving. Whether you are shopping on Rue Cler for a dinner party, lunch, or in this case a picnic, make a point of telling each vendor what the event is that you are shopping for. They will help you with pairings, and make everything so much more fun!

The perfect Parisian picnic has to have some charcuterie meats, some cheese, fruit, wine and of course a baguette. I like to start the shopping process with the charcuterie meats.

Rue Cler Charcuterie

I went to Charcuterie Jeusselin first and was looking at their outdoor stand at different canapés they had on offer. I told the guy behind the counter I was shopping for a picnic for two, and he threw his hands in the air, canceled everything I had asked for, and said no, it must – absolutely must be a small quiche. It was hilarious! Then he came inside the store and talked to his counterpart, explained that there was a picnic happening and that there needed to be a few slices of cold meat for the picnic. They went back and forth at length deciding what would go best with the quiche, then decided on a few slices of white ham.

Rue Cler Fromagerie

The next stop was a couple of doors down at the Fromagerie. I wanted one hard cheese and one soft cheese, told the man behind the counter that it was for a picnic and asked his advice. He wanted to know what I had bought so far, and then both the fellows working in the store dove headfirst into a huge conversation about which 2 cheeses it should be. There was much gesticulating, chin rubbing, deep thought, passing me samples and further discussing the picnic and its cheeses, “because Madam, it must be perfect!”

I saw they had baguettes in the store so asked for one of those as well, at which they threw their four hands in the air and said NON! You must get your baguette from Ronde des Pains down the street on the corner of Rue Champs du Mars. No question – the picnic would be a disaster if I bought the wrong bread!

See what I mean about the experience?? I was having the most fun ever! Our picnic was tiny but the shopping experience was huge.

Quiche, ham and cheeses bought I crossed the street to NYSA Vins et Spiriteux to buy some champagne. I told the lady it was for a picnic, and the whole crazy fabulous routine started over! She looked at everything I had bought so far, was enraptured with the cheese selection, and immediately chose the most perfect champagne to go with it all. It wasn’t the most expensive, nor was it the 4th most expensive, instead she told me about the notes in the champagne that would sing when paired with the items purchased so far. She was absolutely right too!

Rue Cler Les Floralies

Next up the flower shop. Why not have some gorgeous roses to go with this affair? At Les Floralies they asked if the roses were for a gift. I said no, they were for a picnic to make it look pretty. Ah! they said. Then your roses must be wrapped just so, to coordinate with your picnic plates and look just right. The picnic must be perfect!

The last two stops were for the baguette and then across the street to Top Halles for some fruit and we were ready to go.

With the perfect picnic purchased, and it wasn’t expensive at all, it was time for Uber to take us to our picnic spot. We could have walked but I had visions of the quiche getting broken, so we caught a ride to the Champs de Mars.

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Eiffel Tower at night

I absolutely love evening picnics at the base of the Eiffel Tower. You want to sit far enough back that you can take in the entire view, and you want to time it so that you arrive just before the tower lights up. At the top of each hour the sparkling lights go off for 5 or 10 minutes.

So here is the mini picnic that was the source of so much fun:

picnic in paris

The quiche was still piping hot, and we got there right before the sun went down.

Every single thing about buying a picnic on Rue Cler and then having your picnic at the Eiffel Tower is just amazing.

paris picnic

We were surrounded by Parisians doing the same thing, although it seemed that most of them just had a bottle of wine and some potato chips.

No one was drunk, no one was badly behaved, everyone was just enjoying the view and the soft, balmy night.

Eiffel Tower picnic at night

Everywhere we went in Paris women were wearing this Adidas shoe. I bought this pair on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais because I wanted to wander Paris in them too. They are substantially cheaper at home on Zappos.com, so I am ordering a second pair (cream and white) when I get home.

Eiffel Tower picnic at night

Eiffel Tower at night

I hope that if you are in Paris you will take the time to at least wander along Rue Cler, and even if it’s just a bottle of wine and some chips, take the time to have yourself a picnic with a view.