Who hasn't done some online shopping only to find "Suggested for you" link popping up on their Facebook page a few days later? This type of tracking seems pointless. If I already bought the shoes, why would I need another pair? But in planning a short stay in London before traveling to Jordan, the otherwise annoying prompts have proven useful.
The latest was a post about the new Elizabeth Line, opened in May of last year, providing Heathrow passengers a new public transport option for getting into the city.
"Twenty billion pounds. Two new tunnels, bored for twenty-six weaving miles, under the streets. Ten new stations, with platforms and trains twice the length of standard Tube trains, excavated and somehow placed alongside or under the existing network," according to a New Yorker description.
It's been three years since I've been to London, and I'm finding the usual sources for information - guide books and Trip Advisor reviews - outdated due to the Covid pandemic.
|Gilbert & George|
That's where the Facebook links to news outlets such as Time Out London and CNBC and others have come in handy. I now know to take the "Lizzy Line" (£12.80 vs. £25 for the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station) directly to a tube stop closer to our Airbnb. Also new on my radar is the Gilbert & George Centre, a just-opened free museum featuring the Andy Warhol-like art of a well-known duo, now in their 80s; the Uber Boat, a commuter boat stopping at 24 piers along the Thames River that doubles as a budget sight-seeing cruise for travelers-in-the-know; and Secret London, a website filled with ideas for new discoveries.
Finding ways to keep up on the latest trends and changes can be challenging when it comes to diving back into international travel.
Airbnbs, for instance, have replaced traditional bed and breakfasts as affordable alternatives to hotels, but you won't find reviews or information on them in guidebooks or on Trip Advisor.
Blogs, Youtube videos, and yes, even Facebook posts, have become more useful tools. AI sites such as ChatGPT will evolve once they begin to include more current data. Posts by young travel bloggers helped me uncover the latest info on paying for transport with contactless credit cards or mobile systems such as Apple Pay. A few years ago, the pre-loaded Oyster Card was the preferred way to pay for London transport. Most locals no longer use it. This post explains why.
Here's a few more new resources and tips I uncovered while putting together our upcoming trip.
Avoiding non-refundable reservations
Travel insurance is tricky and expensive, but sometimes necessary if you're booking a cruise or other non-refundable types of travel. Check to see what type of coverage your credit card might offer (some, such as Costco, are dropping coverage) before buying an independent policy, but better yet, avoid non-refundable bookings when possible. Covid showed us how quickly things can change.
I searched for an Airbnb rather than a hotel or bed and breakfast in London, not only because they are often more affordable, but because many have a liberal cancellation policy. Our $125 room with a private bath near Victoria station offered a full refund within five days of arrival. Most B&Bs wanted at least a partial non-refundable upfront payment at the time of booking.
Post-Covid, most U.S. airlines have retained a policy of allowing cancellations and/or changes with no penalty. You won't get a cash refund, but most offer a credit that can be used another time.
This doesn't apply to some foreign airlines. Our round-trip flight between Seattle and London, booked on Delta, could be changed or cancelled without a penalty. But a separate ticket on British Air between London and Amman, Jordan was non-refundable. On the other hand, our hotel in Amman, La Locanda Boutique Hotel, took no deposit. A three-day van excursion from Amman to Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, booked through Get Your Guide, was fully-refundable up to 24 hours ahead of departure.
Youtube videos put together by tech-savvy travel bloggers can help travelers get the lay of the land before arriving. I'm hooked on blogger Mark Wiens' food and city video tours available on his Migrationolgy website. His in-depth reports cover destinations such as Amman, Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, Lisbon and Mexico City, each with multiple videos beginning with his arrival in a city and ending with his last meal.
Free or low-cost tours
Looking for a day-trip or short excursion away from a major city that would normally require renting a car? Consult Get Your Guide, a clearinghouse for short and inexpensive van or walking tours in cities all over the world. No payment is required upfront, and nearly all can be cancelled within 24 hours of departure with no penalty.
Private guides can cost $100 or more for a few hours of time, but there are many free or low-cost alternatives if you don't mind going with a small group led by a student, teacher or sometimes even a professional guide hoping to drum up business on the side.
We booked an afternoon food tour in Amman with GuruWalk that combines a historical walking tour with stops for traditional snacks along the way. It ends with a meal fixed by the guide in his home. There's no charge for the tour. Guests pay for whatever food they order. As always, a tip is expected, but there's no obligation on the amount. You'll find similar walking tours offered by Freetour.com in various cities.
|Snacks on the GuruWalk food tour in Amman|
The walking tour I'm most looking forward to is a meet-up in London with Julia Gay, a volunteer with London Greeters. The group is part of the International Greeters Association, volunteers who love showing visitors favorite parts of their cities. We'll meet up at the Liverpool Street train station for a walk around London's lesser-known East End, with stops in Spitalfields and Brick Lane, known for its Sunday market and Bangladeshi community.
This is so exciting, Jordan is on my bucket list! Can’t wait to follow along 🤓ReplyDelete