Why Long Layovers? 3 Important Reasons

It seems like people always search for the most direct route to their destination. No one likes to wait. Direct routes make sense if you are in a time crunch. It works just fine if your travels are short and sweet, and great if you are a single traveler. But let’s face it, almost every traveler will experience some kind of layover en route to their destination. Once we hear “long layover”, we cringe at the thought.

I, personally, enjoy long layovers. Why long layovers? Let me give you 3 important reasons. But first, let’s go over what exactly is a layover.

What is a Layover?

The most basic dictionary meaning of layover is “a period of rest or waiting before a further stage in a journey”. Layovers are usually connections between flights. They can be as short as 30 minutes and as long as 23 hours depending on the travel itinerary.

Time to Catch Your Next Flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first important reason for a long layover is to ensure that you have time to catch your next flight. I highly suggest that when booking a travel reservation with multiple flights that you try to schedule at least 3 hours in between each flight most especially when traveling internationally and/or having to change airlines.

A long layover will give you time to disembark the aircraft, pass all immigration lines, claim any check-in bags, get through customs, locate the check in counter for your next flight, get through TSA security, and locate your next departure gate. A long layover will allow you to do all of this in good time with less hurry and with more ease.

Time to Stretch Out

The second important reason for a long layover is that it gives you time to physically stretch out. This is especially important with travelers with children of all ages. A long layover can bring respite to the entire family from being cooped up sometimes for too many hours in an airplane. During a long layover, you are able to freshen up and recoup yourself for the next flight. Utilize the many restrooms and sometimes shower rooms available at the airports. Many international airports might have areas where you can take a nap and rejuvenate.

Layovers also give you time to catch up on your texts, messages and emails because many airports offer free WiFi service. You can have time to download movies to watch on your next flights. You can make phone calls to tie any loose ends that may need to be made.

Enjoy the Surroundings

The third important reason for a long layover is that you can enjoy the surroundings of a place that you might not have ever visited or will ever visit again. If you have an extra long layover of more than 4 hours you might be able to go outside of the airport and do a little sight seeing. Think of it as an added ultra mini vacation. All you have to do is plan ahead if you know that you’ll be having a long layover. Research things to do near the airport.

If you aren’t adventurous enough to explore outside of the airport, then take in the scenery at the airport. Some airports have museums and exhibits and gardens that you can enjoy. Or you can just take long walks around and just get lost in the hustle and bustle of the airport. If you’re like me, grab a cup of coffee or two and just people watch. It’s also time to eat a good meal and maybe indulge in something authentic to the area that you are in. Then, there’s also all the duty-free shopping you can enjoy.

Whichever you choose to do, just simply enjoy the moment.

Conclusion

So, there you go….3 Important Reasons for Long Layovers.

Sure you can always book the most direct flights to your destinations and rush on through your travels. OR you can enjoy your travels even more and be a citizen of the world by engrossing yourself in the places you travel through and embrace the moments and make even better memories.

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Visit Neo Park Okinawa

I have recently returned from a trip to Okinawa, Japan and I just have to say to all world travelers and adventure seekers to visit Neo Park in Okinawa. Sure there are many other things to do in Okinawa but I highly recommend adding Neo Park to your list of things to do.

Overview

Neo Park is a simple botanical park and zoo that also features a train ride that takes you around the entire park. The admission is totally reasonable. When my family went there the admission plus train ride came up to around $10 per person. We were all adults. There are children’s prices as well. If you have children, they will surely appreciate spending some time at this park. In addition to admission into the park, you can purchase food to feed the animals for $1-2 per bag and the bag lasts pretty long if you use it wisely. There is also an optional petting area that costs $3 to enter. However, even just paying for regular admission will guarantee a great time strolling through the park seeing the animals.

There are vending machines around the park to purchase drinks and there is a snack stand about half-way through the park. So, be sure to have yen on hand if you think you’ll be purchasing snacks and drinks. I’m not too sure if you’re allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. There are benches and tables throughout the park to take a break from the walk around the park.

I am also going to be honest and say that the maintenance of the park facilities is a little sub par but still worth the adventure. Seeing and interacting with the animals and the train ride makes up for the park’s inadequacies.

Entrance

The first thing to do is purchase your admission at the park entrance. There are restrooms in the area and it would be a great idea to make a quick “bathroom break” before you begin your walk around the park. There are restrooms around the park as well though.

If you purchase train tickets, you have the option to do the train ride before you walk around or you can do it after. The train begins and ends in the same place so it is up to you. We didn’t know this so we took the walk first and the train ride last which was fine with all of us. The train station is located on the second floor of the building.

Before I continue on, I would like to let you know that there are signs all along the trail that give information about all the animals and plants in the park. You will also notice that you’ll hear the sound of the birds all through the walk. My husband and I were debating about whether it was a recording of the birds or were they sound of the actual birds all around. So, you can be the judge when you visit Neo Park.

Flamingo Lake

The first thing that you see as you exit the building to begin your walk through the park is Flamingo Lake. It is amazing! What makes it more incredible is you get to feed all the birds! There are pelicans, cranes, storks and flamingos. You are surrounded by the lot of them and they feed off your hand. It’s so exciting that you end up staying in Flamingo Lake for a few minutes not realizing that you have just started your trek around the par

Amazon Jungle

Although you want to stay and feed the birds, you continue to walk along the trail and come into the Amazon jungle. It’s so quiet and serene. You ‘ll see a few turtles, fish, spoonbills, scarlet ibis, and more flamingos. You can feed them as well if you haven’t finished the bags of animal food. Before you exit the jungle there is a picture board where you can place your face into one of the animals and take some photos.

Underwater Tunnel

Next, you’ll go through the Underwater Tunnel. Here you will see huge pirarucu in their natural amazon environment. Pirarucu is the “prized fish of the Amazon”. It is one of the world’s largest fresh water fish.

Friendship Square

As you continue to walk on, you will come across Friendship Square which is the petting zoo area. However, to enter you will have to pay around $3. We opted not to pay the extra fee. This is the area where you can play with the dogs, horses and goats. I believe this is where the giant tortoise was to be found but we never came across him and we figured he was no longer available at the park. We also figured, after riding the train, that there is also a fishing house where you are able to go fishing.

African Savannah

After the petting zoo is the African Savannah. Here you will be entertained by the ostriches and storks. I have never see a live ostrich before so this was a treat for me. They are quite huge birds!

Parlor Baobab/Lemur Island

Half way through the walk through Neo Park is a snack bar called Parlor Baobab. You are able to find lots of convenient snacks and drinks. Across the way is the restrooms and a nice covered area to sit and give your legs a break. There is also a separate smoking area. You can enjoy the plants and cool breezes here and appreciate the view of Lemur Island.

Peccary Ranch

By the time you reach Peccary Ranch, you probably have run out of animal feed but no need to despair because you can buy some more at the ranch. You are able to continue to feed the peccary. I’ve never really heard of peccary and so at first I thought they were wild boars or pigs. There are so many of them and they love people.

Llama Hill

After seeing and feeding the peccary, you come across Llama Hill. They is the cutest ever but be careful because they are known to spit. So, be sure not to get too close.

Oceanian Flora and Fauna

Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand are well represented in the Oceanian Flora and Fauna. Here you will see wallabies, peacocks, cassowaries. There are also baby wallabies that shy away from the crowds but seem to accessible for feeding. This is by the way the last chance to feed any animals. There is a sign that reminds you of this before you exit.

Species Survival Research Center

Lastly, you come across the Species Survival Research Center building. This was an unexpected treat because there cages upon cages of so many different animal species. You can either view them from the outside or inside which we choose to do because it was a really sunny day. The Species Survival Research Center is a facility to study the breeding and protection of rare wild animals in the world. Some animals included is the great horn bill, squirrels, monkeys, and sloths. They are all a delight to watch. The center took a few minutes to get through.

Lemur Terrace

The last thing you’ll enjoy watching is the two monkeys who have their own little island in the middle of a lake oblivious to all the people watching them.

Okinawa Light Rail

After the long walk through the park, you come across the train station for the Okinawa Light Rail. The train runs every 30 minutes. If you weren’t able to purchase tickets at the entrance, you are still able to purchase tickets at the train station. While you wait, there are vending machines that provide snacks and drinks. There are also nearby restrooms and an area for kids to keep entertained while they wait.

The route of the train…

Nago Train Station – Flamingo Lake – Bridge – African Savannah – Bridge – Llama’s Hill/Peccary -Oceanian Zone – Amazon Jungle – Multi Purpose Field – Nago Train Station

It is a wonderful train ride.

Towards the end of the ride you will notice a little amusement park area for kids. There are other rides for them to experience. We didn’t go there so I’m not able to tell you prices for the amusement park rides.

As you exit the train station, there is a little air-conditioned rest area and gift shop to purchase souvenirs of your time at Neo Park.

Fun-Filled Day

It was a fun-filled day at Neo Park. It really brought out the inner-child in each of us which is such a joy. If you haven’t been to a zoo in years then Neo Park is the place to be.

Click here to check out how you can visit Neo Park in Okinawa.

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Experiencing Okinawa in 4 Days

We have recently returned from our trip to Okinawa, Japan. Experiencing Okinawa in 4 days was so amazing that I want to go back soon. There is just so much more to see and do. Although the primary reason for this trip was to attend our daughter’s graduation from leadership school, we were able to experience a little of what Okinawa has to offer.

Experiencing Okinawa Day 1

We arrived at the Naha International Airport at 1:10 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. Our daughter and her boyfriend were there to greet us. Once we exited the airport we were met with nice cool breezes and sunshine. We got into the car and were on our way to experiencing Okinawa day 1.

The drive there was already an experience for us because Okinawans drive on the left side of the road and the driver sits on the right side of the car. That was definitely a first for us. The cars there are a great deal smaller than American cars and with good reason. The back roads are quite narrow and only 2 lanes. Plus, people are allowed to park along the sides of these narrow roads! There were many times when it looked like our car was going to hit the other cars but our daughter is well-versed in the way the locals drive in Okinawa. On the way to our daughter’s house there was just so much to see and the two things that stood out was the amazing view of the ocean on the drive and a giant ferris wheel. From the airport to Chatan where our daughter lives is about 30 minutes, probably longer with traffic.

Upon entering the Chatan district there were so many buildings and houses built so closely together. What looked like a simple residential area is actually a mix of family homes and businesses or homes that have been transformed into quaint family businesses. So, it is very likely that if you live in a home or apartment in Okinawa there could be a little coffee shop or tire shop or restaurant just a few houses down. It is quite delightful actually.

We finally get to our daughter’s house which is a 2-story home. The first floor has been recently vacated by her landlord probably for renovations while she lives on the second floor. It is a surprisingly spacious 2 bedroom 1 bathroom complete with air conditioning, appliances, and washer and dryer. She also has a patio and a roof top balcony. It is close to Kadena Air Force Base where our daughter is stationed. Her home is also just a 5-minute walk to the sea wall and you can hear the sound of the ocean when you go to the roof top.

The first thing on our agenda was to attend our daughter’s graduation from leadership school. So, almost immediately after arriving to the house we prepared to get ready to go to the air base where the function was to take place.

Since the event began at 6 and we were to be there by 5, we were on a time crunch to get all dressed up and ready to go. We actually made good time and arrived at the Kadena AFB visitor’s center to get our passes but then things went a little awry. We left our passports at home and they are the only form of acceptable identification to obtain visitor passes. Mind you that it was the end of the work day and traffic in and out of base was just insane. So, we stayed at the visitor’s center while our daughter’s boyfriend dropped her off to the event so that she wouldn’t be late. Then, he drove back to the house to pick up our passports to bring them to the visitor’s center so that he could sponsor us onto the base. Lesson learned…always have your passports ready.

Well, we made it right on time to the graduation and needless to say, the graduation was wonderful! Once again, we were very proud parents. Ironically, our first meal in Okinawa was an American dinner. We had a choice of teriyaki chicken or prime rib served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

We got home after the ceremony and hung out on the patio just catching up with our daughter and enjoying the moment. We also arranged our schedule for the next 3 days. Originally, we had planned to attend the Naha Festival which includes the world’s largest tug-of-war but because we arrived a day later than we were supposed to our plans changed. The plan then was to do grocery shopping on Friday for the BBQ we were having on Saturday. Sunday was to go do something fun. Monday was just to have morning coffee before we leave that afternoon.

Experiencing Okinawa Day 2

 

We woke up early Friday morning to start experiencing Okinawa day 2. Before anything, we had to have our morning coffee. Our daughter took us to American Village which is a “large, American-themed outdoor mall featuring shops, restaurants, a cinema & a ferris wheel”. American Village is right along the sea wall and it has gorgeous views of the ocean. We had coffee at Zhyvago Coffee Works and their coffee was absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend going there. They also serve pastries and sandwiches.

After coffee, we went to do our grocery shopping. We were looking to buy some choice meats for BBQ among other items. So, I asked our daughter to take us to a local market to see what types of meat they had before checking at the base commissary. She obliged my request and she took us to Mega Don Quijote.

 

 

 

 

 

This store has EVERYTHING you could possibly need and much, much more. Don Quijote is known as the ”Palace of Amazing Prices”. It is Japan’s biggest discount store. The Mega Donki, as it is known by locals, is twice the size with twice as many products. This store is so overwhelming we had to return another day to see things that we missed on the first trip there.

With all the excitement we had at Mega Donki, we were ready to have lunch. So, we decided to go to Coco’s Ichibanya. Coco’s is a Japanese curry restaurant very popular with Americans and with very good reason. If you haven’t tried Japanese curry, then put it on your bucket list. It is absolutely delicious!

Experiencing Okinawa Day 3

 

 

 

Our whole day of experiencing Okinawa day 3 was just hanging out at home. Well, to start our day we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Coffee Casa. It is a charming, family owned and operated little coffee shop with excellent coffees and caramel macchiato. For such a quaint little coffee shop there is quite some traffic in and out of the place.

We walked back home to start preparing for the BBQ later in the day. It was an absolutely perfect day for a cook out. My daughter invited some of her friends from work and we had a beautiful time together.

It was a magnificent Saturday spent in Okinawa just making memories.

Experiencing Okinawa Day 4

Our last full day and we continued experiencing Okinawa day 4. My husband and I woke up early in hopes of surprising our daughter and her boyfriend with some coffee from Coffee Casa. It was that good we had to have coffee from there again. Plus, it was walking distance from the house. When we got there though, we noticed a sign that said they don’t do take out coffee until 2PM which we thought was odd. So unfortunately, we went back home empty-handed, By the time we got back from the coffee shop, my daughter and her boyfriend were awake and we told them what had happened. It turned out just fine anyway, because they had planned to take us to try another coffee shop for coffee and breakfast.

The coffee shop was called Vongo and Anchor, located in American Village. The place has such an interesting interior design with a vintage bike theme. I believe that they even have bikes for rent to go around American Village. It was such a cool and hip place. We all ordered food with our coffee. The guys had sandwiches while the ladies had the breakfast platters. Everything was absolutely delicious. We also realized that it was a sister coffee shop of Zhyvago Coffee Works that we had tried on our first morning in Okinawa.

During breakfast, we had decided to check out this place called Neo Park which is basically a botanical park and zoo. I stumbled upon Neo Park while researching things to do in Okinawa. I knew that my daughter would enjoy Neo Park especially because there is a giant tortoise that people actually ride on. My daughter had never even heard of it and so I was happy about that, because it was something we could all experience together in Okinawa for the first time .

The drive from Chatan to Neo Park in Nago took about an hour drive. The day was nice and sunny and actually a little humid, definitely a great day for a stroll through a park. We arrived at just about 12 noon and the line at the entrance was just fine considering it was a Sunday and the children of Okinawa had just started their fall break plus it was a 3-day weekend. Admission to the park is around $6 for adults and $3 for children 4-18 years old. You can also purchase admission+train ride tickets for about $10 for adults and $5-$7 for children. Bags of bird food may also be purchased for something like $1-$2 per bag. We had such a wonderful time and it was a wonderful experience that I will be doing a separate post on Neo Park.

After about 2 hours at the park, we had contemplated to also check out the Pineapple Park which was also in the vicinity but we opted not to because we were pretty much spent already. So, we headed back home to Chatan. When we got there we took a little recovery nap so that we can go on our next adventure.

Since it was our last full day in Okinawa, we wanted to get some gifts and snacks for the people back home. Our daughter took us to Aeon Shopping Center where we visited a dollar store called Daiso. It was your typical dollar store that has almost everything you can think of. We were able to find a few items there. However, they only accept Yen for payment. We also checked out a novelty store next door to Daiso and there was so much to see. We didn’t buy anything there but it was worth the experience. On the way out of the shopping center we stopped by Mister Donut to grab a few donuts for later.

 

 

 

It was time for dinner. The kids wanted to treat us for our last dinner in Okinawa. We decided that we all wanted burgers and fries. So, they took us to a place called Jetta Burgers which was also conveniently found in American Village. It was a very cool place and the burgers and fries were amazing. What was even more pleasantly amazing were the onion rings. Personally, they were the best onion rings that I ever had. I would highly recommend this place to all who visit American Village and are burger enthusiasts.

After dinner, the kids wanted to stop by Sega World. I haven’t been inside an arcade for many years and well, Sega World is just mind-blowing! I have never seen so many “CLAW” game machines or as they are known there “Prize Games”. You can try your hand at winning things from expensive high-tech gadgets to candies and food items. The other most mesmerizing thing that I saw were these young kids playing these music and video games. You can’t help but stand around and watch them play because they are all zoned out with these games. Our daughter convinced me to try out this Japanese taiko drum game which I have to admit was super fun. I was so glad that I did it, too! We stayed there for about what felt like 45 minutes.

It was getting late but we still needed to buy a few more gifts and snacks. So, back to Mega Donki it was. I could spend hours upon hours in that store. Words could not express how much stuff there is to see there! Anyhow, we managed to complete our gift shopping and perhaps a little more. Mega Donki was my favorite store experience while in Okinawa, at least on this trip,

It was now time to head home and start packing.

Sayonara

We had our last morning coffee and breakfast time in Okinawa at Coffee Casa. There was so many people out and about
so early in the morning because it was an American holiday. Since we figured that the traffic would be a little more hectic, we decided to leave for the airport around 10AM, It was a good thing we did because it took us more than an hour to get there and our flight was leaving at 1:10PM. Now it was time to say “Sayonara” to our daughter who was the most gracious of hostesses in the world. It was amazing experiencing Okinawa for 4 days. Sayonara! We will be back soon.

Booking.com

 

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How to Save Money While Visiting Guam

I recently posted, on my Destinations page, an article about visiting Guam.

Where America’s Day Begins

One of my readers who is interested in visiting the island wanted to find out how he could save money while staying in Guam. He has heard that it could be quite expensive to visit this paradise island but I think that I could help him and many others planning their accommodations for a future visit to Guam,

So, here it is… How to Save Money While Visiting Guam.

Thank you, Jason!

Places to Stay

FAMILY OR FRIENDS: Many people might not like this idea, but if you are on a tight budget this is the way to go. Staying with family or friends that you know in Guam will help you save hundreds of dollars. Guam people are known for their hospitality and that extends out to people who have come from other places who have made Guam their home. Find out if you know anyone who lives in Guam and see if they are available to have you stay with them for a few days. They will probably help you with much more than to just offer you a place to stay.

AIRBNB: You will be surprised to know that Guam actually offers a variety of bed and breakfast places with AirBNB. These places range anywhere from $38 per night to $250 per night, Some provide just a room to change and sleep in with common areas such as living room, kitchen and bathroom. Others can provide a whole house to yourself and with the ocean in your back yard in the southern end of the island.

HOTELS: One thing Guam doesn’t have a shortage of is hotels. There are many hotels to choose from for such a small island. There are budget hotels which can cost anywhere from $62 per night to $100 per night. Some may even have kitchenettes where you can prepare your own foods. Of course these are your smaller sized hotels but many have pools and other amenities. On the other hand, you have the luxury hotels that can range anywhere from $150 per night to $350 per night. These include the larger hotel chains like the Hilton, Hyatt, Westin and Sheraton to name a few.

Places to Eat

FIESTAS: Because of its rich background in Catholicism, there is a village fiesta every month held at the village church. These fiestas are celebrations in honor of the patron saint of the village. At these fiestas, everyone is welcome to partake in the free dinner provided by the parishioners of the church. Dates of these fiestas change yearly and so I recommend searching “list of fiestas on Guam” to get a current schedule. At each fiesta you will find an array of local delicacies that you might not experience at other restaurants. I recommend going as early as you can to experience the mass and processions that take place before the dinner and to ensure that you are on time to eat because food will run out quickly if you wait.

CHAMORRO VILLAGE: Right in the heart of the island capital, Hagatna, is the Chamorro Village. There are many food vendors who sell box plates of local foods that you choose to your liking. The plates normally come with red rice, pancit or noodles and salad and cost between $6 to $10. You can choose to eat at the dining pavilion or take it to go and park at a nearby beach to enjoy your meal. Wednesdays at the Chamorro Village there is the Nigh Market. There is local entertainment and more vendors to choose from.

RESTAURANTS: If you are looking to dine in a restaurant, there are so many to choose from. Now, if you are looking for a restaurant that serves local food for a great price, then I recommend The Cafeteria in Harmon. It’s a little out of the way and you may need direction to find the place if you are a first time visitor but it’s so worth it. The portions are extremely generous that one order can feed two people unless you are seriously hungry or have a huge appetite.

FAST FOOD: if your tight budget call for fast food restaurants, Guam has enough to choose from. There’s McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Sbarros, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and many others.

Places to Shop

If you are a luxury shopper then there are many luxury shops and boutiques in Tumon. However, if you are a shopper on a budget, however, I would recommend shopping at the Guam Premiere Outlets (GPO) in Tamuning. The most frequented, budget-friendly store by locals and tourists alike is Ross Dress for Less. There is one also at the Micronesian Mall. There is also a Super Kmart that is opened 24 hours.

Then, every weekend you can check out the local flea markets found in the village of Dededo. There are two to choose from. At the flea markets, you will find many interesting things from clothing and souvenirs to street foods.

Places to Entertain Yourself

BEACH: The beach is as budget friendly as you can get. Bring your swim wear and lots of sunblock and you are good to go for a whole day. You can buy some fast food and bring it with you and eat on the sandy shore.

CAR RIDES: if you’ve had too much fun in the sun, you can rent a car for a day which can cost as little as $25 per day and take a stroll around the island and sight see away. Guam has many prewar and post-war historic sites you can visit. You can drop by any mom-and-pop store or gas station and buy a delicious and inexpensive snack off the counters to enjoy during your car ride.

WALK THROUGH TUMON: In the evening, take a leisure walk through Tumon and people watch and enjoy the energies of the night, This is one of my favorite things to do as a local. Window shop at the luxury stores. Visit all the different hotels and what they have to offer. You can grab a gelato or a Godiva ice cream cone to keep you cool on a warm evening.

Budget Guam

In all honesty, air fares to Guam can be rather pricey but so worth it if you like warmer weather and sandy beaches. So, of course, any world traveler would want to find means to save money in all other ways after spending most of the vacation budget on air fare. So, Jason, this is for you and for all other world travelers who may be hesitant to visit Guam because of the extra expense it might cost to visit. Here’s my version of “budget Guam”. This is for those, like Jason, who want to know “How to Save Money While Visiting Guam”.

 

Visit Guam soon…

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Where America’s Day Begins

Every travel that I take is usually by air. Each and every time, my final destination is “Where America’s Day Begins”. America’s day begins in Guam which is my home and where I am originally from. Guam is a United States territory and

“as the sun sets on this island the US Mainland is nearly a full day behind” which is why it is where America’s day begins.

Allow me to share with you a little about this place that I call home which is actually a paradise destination for many from around the world…. Continue reading “Where America’s Day Begins”

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