Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tips on Budget Travel This Week on Get Packin'

Russell Hannon on vacation.
(Probably got there really cheaply)
If the cost of travel is keeping you from seeing the world, our guest this week on Get Packin' has some money-saving travel tips.  Russell Hannon (@Russellhannon) is a self-described ultra-economical travel expert and the author of "Stop Dreaming, Start Traveling".  From things to do in preparation for travel to money-savers at your destination, Russell will share some of his best suggestions when he joins us this Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM & 950 AM and streaming at

No, not even The Rock makes
a fanny pack cool.
Our Top Ten list this week is How to Spot an American Abroad.  Spoiler Alert: fanny packs are involved.  You might as well wear an American flag t-shirt and a 'Make America Great Again' hat. Tune in to hear the other nine.  Long lines at TSA checkpoints at U.S. airports are making headlines. We'll have the latest.  And once you get through those lines, which airline has the best frequent flier program?  You'll want to know the answer.

Royal Caribbean is about to launch the world's largest cruise ship, the Harmony of the Seas.  This thing is HUGE!  We'll give you the dimensions and what you'll find on-board.  Finally, a Memphis-based flight attendant has been indicted for stealing from her workplace.  But wait til you hear exactly what she stole.  All that and more this week on Get Packin' on Freedom 95.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

This Week on 'Get Packin'

In more than 30 years of broadcasting, this Saturday's edition of Get Packin' may be the first time we've had the phrase "Full Pig Experience" used in an on-air interview.  It comes courtesy of Mark Newman, Executive Director of Visit Indiana, during a discussion of Fair Oaks Farms, just one of the great places to visit around the state of Indiana.  Mark will explain that and touch on many other Indiana highlights on our show this Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM & 950 AM in Indianapolis and streaming worldwide at  Did you know "landlocked" Indiana boasts one of the best beaches in America? Mark gives us the lowdown on that, too.
Full Pig Experience.  Mmmmm, experience.

This summer is expected to have the lowest airfares in more than five years.  We'll have the Top Ten best airfare deals to destinations around the world.  To haggle or not to haggle? That is the question. Or what about giving to panhandlers?  These are just a couple of common moral dilemmas we face as tourists to foreign lands.  We'll have advice on what to do when confronted with these potentially uncomfortable situations.

You'll be surprised to find out how the TSA made more than $765,000 last year.  You may have contributed to their windfall.  And speaking of falling, a tourist in Lisbon, Portugal climbed a building facade in an attempt to take a selfie with a 126-year-old statue.  Spoiler alert!  It didn't end well.  All that and more on this week's edition of Get Packin'. Tune in Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

When it Comes to Rental Cars, Size Matters

What might have been.  (That's NOT us.)
As told by John.

When people who have never been outside the U.S. ask me where they should go as an introduction to international travel, I always suggest England.  The common language, familiarity with British history and highly recognizable landmarks like Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and the queen's ever-present purse make it fairly easy to acclimate to their culture.  Then they ask about the driving.  Yes, that whole driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road thing does take some getting used to.  But you also have to be careful what kind of rental car you're getting.

My first time to Europe was a trip with Ann to France and England in 1996 for our first anniversary.  After a few days in Paris - sans auto - we made our way to London.  First stop: the car rental counter at Heathrow Airport.  Like the good travelers we are, we had already made our rental car reservation well in advance.  But in an effort to save a few pence, and since it was just the two of us, we reserved a compact car.  We approached the rental agent - a good-natured young Brit - and handed him our reservation.  Without a word, he gave us the once-over; looking at our two oversize suitcases, two carry-ons and my substantial six-foot three-inch frame.  Moving his gaze back to the reservation and spotting the word "compact", a wry smile came across his face.  Still looking at the paper, and with a chuckle in his Monty Python-esque voice, he said, "Oh, one of THOSE."

Much the way clothing sizes vary from country to country, a "compact" car in the U.K. isn't what you know as a "compact" car in America.  If you attached a telescoping handle to the front bumper of a British compact, it would make a perfectly suitable carry-on and fit quite nicely in the overhead compartment.  The rental agent immediately realized there was no way I was going to fit into the four-cylinder Samsonite, much less all our luggage, and was nice enough to give us an upgrade.

Our first vehicular tragedy averted, it was time to tackle the left-side driving... with a manual transmission!  Oh great.  Not only do I have to sit on the right side of the car, drive on the left side of the road and navigate the crowded, narrow, unfamiliar streets of London, but I have to do it with the gear shift in my left hand.  Sheesh!  Why didn't they just give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice in it?  OK, it wasn't that bad.  Ultimately, we got the hang of it and soon were enjoying the freedom of being able to travel around southern England at our own pace.  That's probably the best part of having your own transportation; not being beholden to train schedules, not having to tip a cabbie, not having to walk to the nearest public transit station.  Just get in the car and go.

And go we did.  Across the nearly-deserted country roads of the Salisbury plain where Stonehenge appeared on the horizon like a rocky mirage.  To Anne Hathaway's house (that's Shakespeare's squeeze, not the Hollywood actress) in the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon where William may have found inspiration for his love stories. And to Dover on the southeast coast, where we stumbled upon the unexpected gem of Dover Castle, on our way to view the magnificent white cliffs.  You never know what you'll find when you're able to get yourself off the beaten path driving through a new land.  Just don't get yourself stuck with "one of THOSE."

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

US State Department Talks to "Get Packin'"

When the U.S. State Department issues a 'Travel Warning' or a 'Travel Advisory' or a 'Uh, uh, uh. Don't go there!', what exactly does it mean?  We get to the bottom of it when Rachel Crawford, Citizen Services Officer with the State Dept. joins us for Get Packin' this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM and 950 AM or streaming worldwide at  She'll help us navigate the often confusing and sometimes vague warnings issued for international travel.

What are the happiest countries on earth?  We have the results of a recent in this week's Top Ten. Spoiler alert:  America didn't make the top ten.  The good news, we didn't make the bottom ten, either.  We'll have that list, as well.

Our travel tip this week is to make you aware of some common scams that you might fall victim to. The "Chatty Cathy" scam?  The "Friendship Bracelet" rouse?  The old "Switcheroo"?  You need to know the details and what to look out for.

May marks the beginning of the Alaska cruise and travel season, so we'll have more info about travel to Alaska as our Hot Destination.  Airline profits were WAY up last year, so what does that mean for you?  We'll tell you.  All that and more on Get Packin' this Saturday afternoon at 4:00.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Our "Hot" Destination Will Leave You Glowing

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred 30 years ago this week.  Days after the accident, the 50,000 residents of the nearby town of Pripyat were evacuated, never to return.  But three decades later it's tourists that populate what's known as the Exclusion Zone, a 30-kilometer radius of contaminated land around the power plant.  Is it safe to visit?  What is there to see?  We'll answer those questions and more this week in the "Hot Destination" segment of Get Packin', Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM and 950 AM in Indianapolis or streaming worldwide at

There's plenty to see and do in Indianapolis this Spring and Summer.  We'll get a rundown of all the fun stuff from Lisa Wallace of Visit Indy, including miniature golf at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Speaking of museums, the home of the late artist Prince is set to become a museum.  We'll have details on that and who's leading the effort.  The world's oldest message in a bottle has been found. We'll tell you what the message was and who sent it.

Quite possibly his first salad.  Ever.
And one London restaurant is taking the idea of a "natural" dining experience to the extreme.  Maybe we should call it an au naturel experience.  The Bunyadi is said to be the first naked restaurant in the British capital, where diners will have the opportunity to have dinner while wearing nothing at all. ("Do you have reservations?  Yes, but we're eating here, anyway."  Ba da BING!)


All that and more on this week's (clothing optional) Get Packin'. We hope you'll join us.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cuba, Iceland, and Drones This Week on Get Packin'

Carnival Cruise Lines' new ship - the 704-passenger Adonia, that will do "voluntourism" cruises to the Dominican Republic and Cuba as part of Carnival's Fathom brand - is supposed to make its maiden Cuban voyage on May 1st.  Well, despite the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba in recent months, there is still one little-known rule about travel to Cuba that could throw a wrench in those plans.  That's just one of the stories we'll be talking about on this week's edition of Get Packin', our weekly travel radio show you can hear Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM and 950 AM in the Indianapolis area and streaming worldwide at

Ann and her Grand Tetons, one of the
Top Ten Most Visited National Parks.
Also on the show, we celebrate 2016 as the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by giving you the Top Ten Most Visited National Parks.  Think the Grand Canyon is Number 1?  Think again. It's a very distant second place.  We'll give you the surprising #1 and the rest of the Top Ten,  We'll even throw in #11, since it's fairly close to Indiana.

We're going to talk to Alex Pinelo of Norwegian Cruise Line about the history of the cruise line and how cruising has changed since Norwegian introduced the first modern cruise ship 50 years ago. (Hint: that first Norwegian ship could fit inside the engine room of today's Norwegian mega-ships!)


If you're planning a trip to mainland Europe, Iceland Air has a great offer.  It's essentially a FREE layover in Iceland.  We'll explain when we talk about Iceland as this week's Hot Destination.  There was a midair collision between a British Airways plane and a drone above London's Heathrow Airport.  The plane and passengers are OK.  The drone, not so much.  All that and more on Get Packin', Saturday at 4:00 p.m. on Freedom 95.

Be sure to Like the Ann & John's Excellent Adventures Facebook Page  and Follow each of us on Twitter.  You can find our Twitter links at the top of the right column here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get Packin' for Saturday, April 16

Each week on Get Packin' we feature a "Hot Destination", a location that has seen a marked increase in interest from travelers because of the time of year, a specific event, or because it's been in the news.  We've had obvious locales, like Cuba (in the news) and ironic ones, like Iceland ("HOT" destination, ICEland. Get it?).  Anyway, this week's Hot Destination may be our most surprising of all.  Iran.  Despite the U.S. State Department's warnings about traveling to Iran, apparently Americans aren't listening. According to the director of one North American travel agency, "Iran really does appear poised to become the next Cuba."  And like Cuba, it's the lifting of sanctions that has opened the flood gates of tourists to Iran.  We'll talk more about it Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on Get Packin' on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM and 950 AM in the Indianapolis area and streaming worldwide at www,

Walking Naked In Tehran
No, that's NOT Ann
on the cover.
Iran has been on what Ann calls her "Extreme Bucket List" for a while now, hoping to return to a place she once called home.  Ann lived in Tehran, Iran for a year-and-a-half back in the mid 70s as a 19-year-old newlywed, a time she recounts in her memoir, Walking Naked in Tehran.  (Shameless plug alert!)  You can get the book on Amazon or at  Now back to our show...

We'll welcome back Scott McCartney (@MiddleSeat) to Get Packin'.  Scott writes the Middle Seat travel column for the Wall Street Journal and he will help us navigate the sometimes confusing world of airplane seat categories.  Just when you thought you had figured out the difference between First Class and Business Class, along comes Premium Economy and Last Class.  Scott will lay it all out for us.

     Click here to see if water really does go down the drain differently
     in the Southern Hemisphere from the Northern Hemisphere.

A French tourist in Rome found out the hard way why you SHOULDN'T try to photograph the Colosseum with a drone.  And two Chinese women were shocked at the kind of hotel room an airline put them up in after their flight was cancelled.  Details on those and other stories this week on Get Packin', Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

This Week on Get Packin'

Brussels.  Paris.  Istanbul.  Not long ago these names conjured images of classic European architecture, iconic tourist attractions, unique cuisine, and centuries-old culture.  Bucket-list destinations all.  But now when those names are invoked, tragically, the first images that come to mind are an airport in ruin, blood on the floor of a nightclub, or tourists running for their lives.  Thus is the world of travel in the age of terrorism.  That is one of the topics we'll discuss this Saturday, April 9 at 4:00pm on Get Packin', our weekly travel radio show heard in the Indianapolis area on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM and 950 AM or streaming worldwide on

The Brussels Airport reopened on April 3rd with limited service.  We'll have more details on that, as well as the frustratingly vague travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department for all of Europe. And we'll chat with George Hobica (@airfarewatchdog) of Airfare Watchdog about what this all means for travelers.

Click here to read about our latest Excellent Adventure to Europe

Donald Trump
Make America Stay at My Hotels Again
On a sunnier note - literally - this week's Hot Destinations are the cities of the world that see the most sunshine year-round.  Number one on the list is right here in America.  If you're tech-savvy, you'll be interested to find out which airline is now making it possible to get your boarding pass via Facebook Messenger.  And finally, what effect is Donald Trump's presidential campaign having on his hotel business?  You might be surprised by the answer.

All those stories and more this week on Get Packin' with Ann & John.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Get Packin' for Saturday, April 2nd

Get Packin' is our weekly travel show heard Saturday afternoons at 4:00 on Freedom 95 Radio (95.9FM and 950AM).  If you're outside the Central Indiana area, you can stream it online at  This week we're joined once again by our friend Scott McCartney (@MiddleSeat), Middle Seat columnist for the Wall Street Journal.  We'll chat with him about the rapid growth of discount airlines, like Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines, and what that means for you. And while Scott points out, "They (Spirit) lead the world in consumer complaints," it's not all bad news.

SCOTTeVEST.  No, it's not really see-through.
X-Ray is for demonstration (and TSA) purposes.
This week's Travel Tip is about how to make your luggage tamper-proof.  The key is making your bags too much of a hassle for thieves bother with.  And certainly never pack valuables in your checked luggage.  But then how do you carry all those valuables with you?  We have just the thing: the SCOTTeVEST.  It has 42 pockets to carry everything from your sunglasses and passport to headphones and full-size tablet.  It's like you're wearing your carry-on.

We'll tell you the story of a British woman who tried to swim to her cruise ship after it left the port. She'll recovery from the hypothermia, but maybe not from the broken heart.  All that, along with the latest travel news, Hot Destinations and more.  Tune in Saturday afternoon at 4:00 to Get Packin'.

To hear past episodes of Get Packin', click this link.  Be sure to scroll down the page to "Get Packin' with Ann and John."

And please Like our Facebook Page and Follow each of us on Twitter:
Ann - @TravelinAnn
John - @JohnCinnamon

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Shower Cap Travel Tip

Oh, YOU'RE the one.
Does anyone use shower caps anymore?  For those that do, the free shower cap amenity in hotel rooms (along with the cotton ball and four Q-tips) must be like manna from Heaven.  But for the rest of us, the otherwise useless shower cap is actually even better.  So before you toss it aside with the three-inch emery board and makeup-removing swab, let's take a look at at least two travel tips for the humble - and FREE - shower cap.

1 pair size-12 sneakers.
1 shower cap.
For years, we've collected our hotel room shower caps and used them to wrap our shoes for packing. This keeps the dirty bottom of your shoes away from your clean clothes in the suitcase.  If you really want to splurge, you can use one shower cap per shoe.  But generally, one standard cap will cover the pair.

Cover your fudge.  (That's not a euphemism)
A more recent use we discovered for the shower cap was as a food covering.  The elastic band holds the cap snugly in place around the food bowl or pan, and you don't have to fight with an unruly roll of plastic wrap (is there any other kind?).   Granted, we're probably not the first to use a shower cap like this.  In fact, you can buy colorful versions of essentially the same thing at the grocery store in the Saran Wrap aisle.  But why pay for them when you have access to at least one per day per hotel stay?

Oh, and one more travel tip in relation to the shower cap: while you can reuse a shower cap over and over to wrap your shoes or cover your food, do not use the same cap to cover your food that you used to wrap your shoes.  And vice versa.

We welcome your inventive uses for hotel room shower caps or any other general travel tips.  And we invite you to Like our Facebook Page.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

This Week's Edition of Get Packin'

You're in a far off land, walking the streets of an unfamiliar city.  It could be the very Westernized boulevards of Paris or the more exotic, dusty avenues of Marrakech, Morocco.  Either way, you're bound to encounter food vendors selling the 'delicacies' they've cooked right there on the street.  It might be something as innocuous as corn on the cob.  Or it might be some kind of animal on a stick.  The question is, Is any of it safe to eat?

Fish sticks?
We'll get the answer from our personal travel doctor on this week's edition of Get Packin', Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on Freedom 95 (95.9 FM/950 AM and streaming at  Dr. Jeffrey Jones is a physician with St. Francis TravelWell and has been our travel doctor since 2006 when we first traveled to Kenya.  "Indiana Jones" - as we like to call him - has since been our go-to doc prior to trips to Southeast Asia and in preparation for our climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  He'll have some good advice about what to eat, what not to eat, and what to look for in good street food.

Speaking of Marrakech, that city made the list of TripAdvisor's Top Ten Travel Cities of 2016.  We'll give you the other nine as our Hot Destination(s) of the Week.  We'll also let you know the best mileage programs for frequent fliers.  And we'll have the story of a flight attendant who bolted from a security checkpoint at LAX, leaving behind her Gucci high heels and her carry-on bag filled with... well, you'll just have to tune in Saturday afternoon to find out.

While you're here at our blog, please take a couple of minutes to read about some of our excellent adventures, like the singing cab driver of Quito and what it's like to spend a day exploring the ancient city of Petra.  And if you'd like to plan your own excellent adventure, call Ann at Travel Leaders: 800-525-1570.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Equator Drain Experiment

Equatorial selfie.
Ann in the Northern Hemisphere and
John in the Southern Hemisphere.
You are no doubt familiar with the theory that water spirals down the drain in opposite directions, depending on whether you're in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.  But like the vast majority of the population of the Northern Hemisphere, you've not had the opportunity to travel south of the equator to see for yourself, so you pretty much have to take science's word for it.  Well, we're here to give you the visual proof.   

Would you like a
little head?
During a recent trip to Quito, Ecuador, we visited the Museo de Sitio Intinan (literal translation: Museum of the Site of the Path of the Sun).  It's an interactive open-air museum featuring ancient Ecuadorian culture, including thatched huts, totem poles and a shrunken human head.  Yes, you read that right, a shrunken human head.  That may be a post for another time.  Suffice it to say the shrinking of heads was not always done for malign purposes.

Anyway, back to the drain thing.  The main reason for the existence of this museum is that it's located directly on the equator.  A red line painted on the ground (and a sign) indicates the exact mitad del mundo (middle of the world).  There are various demonstrations done to show the effect of being at the middle of the world has - or doesn't have - on balance, strength, and physics.  Of course, the highlight is the water draining experiment, which you can see in the two-minute video below.  We'll let the video speak for itself.  Just a couple of things to point out: the small leaves are used to help visualize the direction of the water as it drains.  And, Ann's mind was blown.  But don't take my word for it.  Listen:

If your mind is blown, as well, please Share, Tweet, Like, Re-Blog, +1, Pin, etc.  Thanks for sharing another one of Ann & John's Excellent Adventures.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

This Week on Get Packin'

Get Packin' is our weekly travel radio show that airs Saturday afternoons at 4:00 on Freedom 95 in the Indianapolis area (95.9 FM, 950 AM, and streaming worldwide at  We run down the latest travel news, talk about the week's Hot Destination, pass along some travel tips, count down a fun Top Ten, interview travel experts, and generally impart our travel wisdom.

In front of the Treasury
at Petra during our
G Adventure tour.
On this week's show (3/19/16) we talk to Sean Simmons of G Adventures (@GAdv_SeanS).  G Adventures isn't your typical travel provider.  As the name implies, their tours are of a more adventurous nature: hiking, snorkeling, animal encounters, cultural immersion, and more.  We've had the pleasure of traveling through a G Adventures program twice.  Our February 2016 trip to the Galapagos Islands was through G Adventures and its partnership with National Geographic.  And in 2014 we toured Jordan with G Adventures, seeing the amazing sights of Petra (right), Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea.  We'll talk to Sean about G Adventures' multitude of itineraries that span the globe.

Would you like some
meth with your decaf?
In our Top Ten, we'll countdown the ten best TV & Movie-themed Bars and Restaurants around the world. They're not where you'd expect them to be.  A Greek restaurant based on the film Mama Mia! in Stockholm? A Breaking Bad-themed coffee shop in Istanbul?  We'll have more details on the show.

Having your neighbor mow your lawn while you're on vacation is one of several travel tips we'll have about how to keep your home safe while you're away.  Tips on how to convince your neighbor to mow your lawn? Well, that's up to you.  And finally, we'll have the shocking story of a woman who tried to smuggle a child onto a flight in her carry-on luggage.

All that and more on this week's edition of Get Packin'.  You can hear past episodes on the Freedom 95 Podcasts Page.  Be sure to scroll down to the Get Packin' links.  And to plan your own 'excellent adventure', call Ann at Travel Leaders in Carmel, IN, 317-573-6666 or 800-525-1570.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcome to the Hotel Quito

It was our last night in Quito, Ecuador.  We had spent the week touring the Galapagos Islands where we saw the famous giant tortoises, as well as land and marine iguanas, sea lions, and all manner of boobies (the red- and blue-footed flying variety, for those of you with your mind in the gutter).

The Boobies!
Nazca, Red-Footed, & Blue-Footed.
But it wasn't until this night that we encountered Eagles.  I'll explain the capital E in a moment.  After dinner at Mama Clorinda, a Quito restaurant where guinea pig is featured on the menu, we hailed a cab for the short ride back to our hotel.  We said to the driver, "Hotel Quito,"  He nodded politely as we climbed in the cab.

Before pulling away, he removed the Spanish-language music CD that had been playing in his car stereo and replaced it with something that we assume he assumed would be more amenable to his American riders. "Hotel California" by the (capital E)agles.  He was right, we did find the song a welcome piece of Americana far from home.  But that wasn't the best part.  As Don Henley belted out, "On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair," so did our driver!  In the best English he could muster, our cab driver sang along with the American classic rock standard.  So we decided to make it a trio.

NOT the Hotel Quito.
About the time we reached the entrance to the hotel, the three of us had reached the first chorus.  "Welcome to the Hotel California!" we sang together.  As we paid the fare and started to get out of the car, it was clear our driver wanted the sing-along to continue.  "Plenty of room at the Hotel California.  Anytime of year, you can find it here," he sang.  Had it not been so late, and with an early flight the next morning, we might have stayed to sing with him to the end. Instead, we gave him a smile and a wave and got out of the cab.  He drove off into the night with the sound of the Eagles fading into the distance.