Helsinki, Steroids, and Punta Cana

You should be wondering what the three items in the title possibly have in common.  I will tell you.  They are three phases of my current life journey.  Helsinki is one of the stops on my last vacation in May/June.  Steroids are my current life travel recommended by my doctors.  Punta Cana is where I am off again for vacation in about two weeks.  They all relate.

First topic, in order is Helsinki.  The President was just there and you may have seen photos or videos of his visit.  You may or may not have noticed that it is still light out at 10:00 pm.  It is a weird feeling for those of us who live further south on the globe, but it is nice.  It is not so nice at other times of the year when the darkness prevails for so many hours.  It is my second time in Helsinki.  The first time we were flying to St. Petersburg and there was a long layover.  There was provided a free shuttle bus from the airport to “downtown”.  We spent the day buying fresh berries at the market, sight seeing, having a repast at a café, etc.  We then took the free shuttle bus back to the airport to continue our trip.

This time Helsinki was one of the stops on a cruise.  We didn’t want to do the standard sights while there, since we had already seen them.  One of the “tours” offered through the cruise line, Holland America, was to WinterWorld.  I looked into it.  I found that I could book the tour directly through WinterWorld.  I did it on-line.  They spoke perfect English in their emails and greeted us when we arrived in perfect English.  If you buy through the cruise line, it was more expensive.  You also have to come and go per their schedule.  Further, you are on a big bus.  I emailed WinterWorld directly.  For less $, they offered a private taxi/van pick up, tour of the city, and visit to WinterWorld.  Also, we did not have to pay in advance, but not until we arrived there.

What a great time we had in Winterworld!  It was adult fun in the snow, even though it was very warm outside.  It is an enclosed winter wonderland.  There were 4 of us.  Our driver/guide met us with a sign and a large private van at the dock.  The Holland America concierge in the Suite Lounge was kind enough to let me use his email/cell phone from the ship the day before to make sure all was in order.  Internet/email/cell phones on ships and in European hotels is another topic.

We took a photo of our driver and van when we returned to port.  We weren’t sure we would like it all in advance.  haha  Most taxis/transport services that we encountered throughout our multi country visit were more in the nature of vans than old fashioned traditional taxis.  We have found that in other countries also.

You see the big bus in the background?  That was not the way we wanted to go!  We opted to go to the fun first and the tour afterwards.  Most people do.  This place was so much fun!  There were so many things to do.  It was COLD!  After you check in, you are directed to a changing area.  You NEED a warm suite, boots, etc.  You don’t look pretty, but you have to be warm from the cold.  After you get all dressed up and enter, you get an alcoholic drink at an ice bar.  Yes, vodka…it’s Scandinavia.

Then on to the fun!  They have cross-country skiing (on flats) to get around.

They also had two igloos that you could go in.  One had furniture in it.  The other had
“artwork”.

 

Then there were the manual sleds, for two people.  I was the passenger and hubby was the propeller.  haha

Behind the second photo you will see a “slide”.  You get little pads to slide down on an ice slide.  We tried, but didn’t get good photos or videos of it, because it is so fast.  We have so many other photos and videos of this fun time.  You needed the protection from the cold!!!!!

The final fun for us was a dog sled ride.  The dogs are really friendly and quite at rest when not “working”.   I pet them all before our ride.  And, no that is not me with the camera in the photo.  I am seated in the dogsled.  That is hubby’s sister in law taking video of us on the ride.

This post is too long as it is.  I have so much more to share.  The steroids and other photos and videos from Helsinki and other ports will have to wait.  Doctors have put me on steroids for pain.  I have spent my life avoiding them.  I will agree to a short term of them, but am really pissed that the doctor told me he was prescribing an “anti-inflammatory” and it was a steroid.

Punta Cana is so close.  I am looking forward to total relaxation.  Europe was fun, but a lot of effort.  I live at the beach, but want a beach vacation!  We’re looking forward to that for XMas and New Years.

Then there is the next trip already booked for another cruise of the Atlantic to Amsterdam!…..with other stops in between.  I love to travel!!!!

FIFA Soccer/Football Finals and Cruising to St. Petersburg

I was lucky enough to be in St. Petersburg in May and see the new stadium they built for the FIFA tournament.  Tomorrow are the finals.  Everyone was raving about the new stadium.  Of course, it is always an international quandary whether to refer to the matches as soccer, as in the USA or football, as in most of the rest of the world.

We cruised to St. Petersburg.  We have been there before.  It has changed since we were there last in many ways.  It is a beautiful city.  The seaport is entirely new built on re-claimed land.  It looked to me like a work still in progress.

The first photo is of the new stadium.  You can see it like a flying saucer by the bridge that leads to it.  It is dead center in the photo.  This photo was taken from our wrap around teak terrace on Holland America’s Zuiderdam on the back of the ship.  It was a great suite!  I’ve also zoomed in on the photo so you can see it.  Good luck to whomever you are routing for tomorrow.

The entire seaport for cruise ships is new.  They have also built new semi-high-rise buildings at it for housing.  One of the most different things we have seen was the image of a ship on these housing units.  You could only see it in certain light.  These photos are also from our wrap around terrace showing this sight.  Unless you make the photo “bigger” you can’t see what I am talking about, so I have done it for you.  There has been a lot of building of housing since we were last there, but the wait list for it and the prices are still very high and the spaces very small compared to what we are used to in the USA.

Cruising is great to see many different places without having to pack and unpack.  It is not inexpensive, but has many advantages.  It is not all inclusive.  The extras add up quickly.  Some things in St. Petersburg have not changed since our last visit.  The views from outside The Hermitage on the river.  I post a photo of me nearing sunset, which is very late.  It was taken after a private tour of the Hermitage.  The new thing since we were last year is my earbud.  All of the tours these days have them so you can hear your tour guide without having to be up close and personal.  I post the same photo lightened up, so you can see me.  haha  I do this because the original photo looks great on my computer, but does not translate so great when posted.  The photo was taken by an iPhone.  I dropped our digital camera before this stop on our grand tour and had to resort to the iPhone camera.

St. Petersburg is a really lovely city.  I loved it the first time I went.  I loved it even more this time.  The first time we went, we fly there and then took a Volga River cruise to Moscow.  This time we went on a high end cruise that included an overnight there, so we got to spend another two days there.  The first time we spent so much time seeing the sights.  The second time we spent more time enjoying the city.  Some of that was because we had already been there.

Enjoy your travels.  Enjoy your soccer/football.

Another Trip in Less Than A Month, Last One Went Well for the Diet

Our last trip ended about a month ago and our next trip is in less than a month.  Our next one will be much less strenuous and involve fewer modes of transportation.  All trips involve multiple modes of transport.  Last time we were leaving from a very local airport.  We were supposed to take an Uber.  We each have an Uber account and neither of our phones were cooperating.   ARGHHH!.  At the last “minute” I am trying to call for or arrange for on-line a taxi or airport service and hubby is fuming.  We got it done at 3 times what the Uber cost would have been, but we did it.  Very not happy about that, but the “problem” has been resolved for the future.

This was our first time flying out of Palm Beach airport, our new home.  We were flying to meet relatives in Wisconsin/Chicago before going to Europe.  Our biggest mileage account was with United, so we chose them.  Them airport is only 20 minutes away.  It is a great airport.  I got a really cheap flight through diligence out to the Midwest.  I had been warned, through research, about the disadvantages of these cheap flight.  I wasn’t worried, because I was a “member”.  Oh, that didn’t work out well.  Our checked backs, one each, were free.  If you are not a member, you pay.  Then came the problem.  The biatch at check-in wouldn’t accept our one of our “personal” items, because it had wheels.  Another charge.

Our relatives had offered to pick us up in Chicago, but the same flight was cheaper to Pewaukee than getting off in Chicago…..so Pewaukee it was.   Several days later, it was private limo service for the four of us to Chicago for our international flight to Copenhagen.   Once in Copenhagen, it was private bus transport through Holland America to our hotel.  All went well, except they had changed our hotel!  We weren’t happy about that.  It was the same hotel group, but not the same hotel.  We did out thing for a few days in Copenhagen, and were then back on a private bus transport to the ship.

Once on the ship, our transport was at ease.  We had pre-booked many tours, most of them through Holland America, but not all of them.  One, in particular, we had booked directly through a site and were picked up via private taxi/tour guide.  Our travel mates had wanted to book private tour/limos for many of the sites, but the cost was prohibitive and inconvenient.  Entrance and camera fees were not included, so you would have to wait in long lines to get into the places you wanted to see.

One tour we were pre-booked for was to start with a private train ride to and fro.  We ended up cancelling that excursion.  We had pre-paid, but they changed the departure time to 6:30 am!….maybe earlier.  I’m not doing that on vacation.    During our travels about we took small group vans and buses, some free from Holland America and some part of tour we paid for.

Our travel to and from Europe was vis SAS “first class”.  The fully reclining beds were nice!  The cost was not.  I could spend weeks at other locations for the same cost as the air alone!

When we abounded the train trip in Germany, we changed to a multiple lake cruise for the day.  It was great.  We met locals and USA travelers and shared wine on a beautiful day.  Yes, even though we were on a cruise, we took a lakes cruise for the day.  You go with the flow of the area you are in.

After all of a great trip, that I will tell you more about later, it was back to Chicago via !st Class  air, private limo to Pewaukee, private limo back to the airport days later, and then air on Southwest to Ft. Lauderdale.  I have to say, I LOVE Southwest and its prices.  Once in Ft. Lauderdale, we took an Uber without incident,  to our car and then drove home.  Finally, our many modes of transport were over!

Travel includes many incidences of transport.  It takes a lot of planning.  Our next trip is in less than a month, to Punta Cana, DR, and will involve much less.    We booked our air through SouthWest……..love them….great prices.  We booked our resort, Majestic Mirage through Costco…..and it includes private transport to/fro airport/hotel.

One photo is attached today.  It is of me in Tallinn, Estonia.  What a jewel of a place.  We met a couple from here several years ago when we were staying at Majestic Elegance.  They did not describe how beautiful this place is.  Two very surprising things:  everyone speaks English…..more so than in Germany;  the entire country pays by cell phone for everything, including taxes.  Why do they not have a hacking problem when we do in USA?

Oh yeah, forgot to say, I modified my “new diet” while on the trip and came back home not gaining a single pound and yet eating and drinking all I wanted to.  Some of it was because of all the “exercise” of touring and some because I  watched it without sacrificing.   After I got home, resumed more of my “diet”,  but had less exercise,  I lost a few more pounds.

 

The Diet from Hell Doesn’t Stop the Travels

It was about 10 years ago that I developed a cholesterol problem.  It wasn’t until 5 years that my doctor acknowledged it and let me in on the secret.  It wasn’t until a few months ago that a new doctor started to help me to battle the problem through diet.  This is truly the diet from hell, but I am doing it for my health and to avoid taking statins.  Statins are bad!  I tried them.  Within one month of taking them, all my cholesterol numbers were normal.  They had been horrific.  However, within that same month, my liver enzymes had turned bad.  The doctor I had at the time told me he’d rather see me with good cholesterol numbers than good liver enzymes.  I disagree.  I am working with a new doctor.  This is the third GP I have dealt with specifically on this issue.  I started taking the statin about 4 1/2 years ago.  I stopped about 1 1/2 years ago.  This new doctor initially wanted to put me back on a statin after she saw my bloodwork results.  I was very adamant that I did not want to do that.  She then suggested an alternative medication that I reluctantly said I would try.  While I waited for the prescription, she changed her mind.  She suggested I try a special diet instead and see if that worked.

My doctor told me the diet would be very hard.  That is an understatement.  As I reviewed it with her tweaks, I immediately thought it was the diet from hell.  I’m getting used to it, but I’ve added some of my own tweaks so that it can be sustainable.  Sustainable is important.  If you cannot follow the diet for a long period of time (as in forever), then it will not work.  This is a diet for health, not weight loss, although I have lost weight too.  I am due to have my blood tested again to see if it helped with my cholesterol problems.

The good news for those who might be interested in trying this, is that the first step of the my doctor’s orders were for me to eat “more”.  It wasn’t volume that was directly addressed.  It was the frequency of eating.  There is no calorie counting or watching on this diet.  It is a matter of what you eat and drink.  Although that seems like a simple statement, what you should and should not eat surprised me.  I researched the information when I started this and continue to do so.  Avoiding foods high in cholesterol themselves is NOT part of this diet.  It turns out that you could avoid all high cholesterol foods and your body will still produce between 75% – 95% of the amount of cholesterol that it did when you were eating those foods!!!  Your liver produces most of the cholesterol found in your body.  When a doctor tells you to address cholesterol problems through diet, (s)he often forgets to tell you how.

All “proper” diet steps begin with hydration.  Yep,  you need to drink water!   It purifies all of your body.  It was the first, and hardest, step for me.  I always avoided drinking water, unless I was on vacation in a hot climate.  I knew I needed it then.  My doctor advised to drink 2 liters of water a day, with fresh lemon squeeze in it.  I have found this very hard!!!!  On the other hand, I have learned to enjoy it.  The 2 liters is tough!  There is no reason to buy bottled water!  There are many alternatives.  We have a new refrigerator that has a water filer.  I can fill that in a water filtration system like Brita or others that has an additional charcoal filtration.  Then I have very clear water.  I add my squeezed lemon.  I’ve “learned” to love it.  It is tasty and refreshing.  It has no sugar!  I used to think I needed sugar to enjoy “lemonade”.  I do not!!!  I started meeting the 2 liters a day.  I found myself devoted to my water.  You can get water from other sources in your “diet”.

Let me say, hydration, hydration, hydration!  It is so good for your health in so many ways.  Give up the sugars….both artificial and natural.  You don’t need them and they are bad for you.  If you decrease them, you won’t want them.  Don’t “substitute” with chemical “fake” sugars.  They are not good for you either.    Your internal organs, skin, hair, and overall bodily functions are better without sugar.  I’ll talk more about them in a subsequent post.  Don’t forget, even if you don’t “add” sugar” to things, they are there.  Fruit has a ridiculously high amount of sugar.  Packaged foods are abhorrent.  Carbohydrates are still sugars.

Some good news……This diet from hell did not at all interfere with my most recent travel.  I was away for about three weeks.  The majority of that was on a cruise in the Baltics on a Holland America ship, the Zuiderdam.  I have been on that ship before.  Here’s one photo of me and hubby taken on “our floor” by the elevators closest to our suite.  The ship is gorgeous.  The dress I’m wearing was new.  Hubby found it on-line and ordered it for me.  It is a Halston!!!!  It is my first Halston.   “good” clothes last forever compared to cheap clothes.  Beware…designer clothes don’t have to cost a fortune.  They go on sale!  Good clothes last forever!  Pick your wardrobe for your body.  Accentuate the good, whatever it is.    I’ve got large breast, have always had same.  It doesn’t mean I have to wear mou- mous.

Enjoy the photo, enjoy life.  There will be much more to come on the “diet” issue and my travels.

 

Shoes for travel

I love shoes!  I have always had too many!  I can’t help myself.  With the long distance move hubby and I did almost a year ago, I got rid of many of my old shoes.  Hubby started buying me many new pair once we got settled in our new home.  I have one major piece of advice on the topic…..DON’T buy CHEAP shoes!!!!!!  On the other hand, there are always shoes on sale.  I tend to buy very expensive shoes on sale.  Sometimes I by lesser prices shoes, but there is a comfort or quality reason for this.

I just got back from a more than 2 week and less than 3 vacation in the Baltics in Europe.  Hubby and I took a separate suitcase for our shoes.  This is not unusual for us.  His shoes are very heavy because he is a big size (14 US) and he buys quality also.  Our shoes add a lot of weight to our baggage.  Whether you are travelling or at home, reward your feet with quality shoes.  Your feet, back, and neck will appreciate it.  They also last a lot longer than cheap shoes!  You can build a comprehensive shoe stock that can last for decades, if you buy “good” shoes.

Travelling and life require both no heels and high heels, if you want to be fashionable and comfortable.  In the past I erred on the side of high heels.  I liked the way I looked and my outfit looked.  Also, hubby is a foot taller then I am.  We looked better together when I was taller.  I’ve abandoned that recently, but not without some problems.  It turns out that one of my legs is slightly longer than the other.  In high heels, the heels wore down to adjust to the same height.  Without heels, there is not adjustment and it gives me pain problems.

I post today front and side views of the shoes I took on our most recent vacation that ended a few days ago.  Some cost over $1,000 a pair and some cost less than $50 a pair.  Those are full retail prices.  I never pay full retail.  There are too many sales out there.  Can you tell which are the expensive ones and which are the  more affordable ones?

In a future update to this post,  I will tell you which brands these shoes are, the retail cost, and the sale costs.

 

 

The Tesla Experience

I have been very “bad” in not attending to this website.  I have over 62,000 unchecked comments.  They are mostly spam and trash.  Tonight, however, I post about the Tesla experience.

Hubby’s brother took out two deposits on the Tesla 3 back in March 2017 or was it earlier?  He was a previous/current owner of 2 Tesla vehicles…both model S.  Over time we discussed it, and I wanted the Tesla 3.  I wanted to be more green.  I wanted an electric vehicle.  We sold our home in NJ, which we had converted to solar and moved to Florida.  Guess what?  You can’t really have solar in Florida.   Thinking of the Tesla 3, we sold one of our vehicles before moving.  We have a 2nd vehicle available to us 24/7 because of family and love our other hard top convertible.

Finally, earlier this year we received an email that our Tesla 3 was ready.  Nope.  It was only the fully loaded one in Black.  We live in Florida.  I don’t want a black car.  We deferred.  We have again received an email that we have to choose our options in the next couple of weeks and that our Tesla 3 will be ready for delivery to us.

Finding a Tesla 3 to actually sit in is not easy.  Most that have been produced are delivered to customers and you will find few on any traditional show room.  Hubby is 6’6″, so it was important to us to make sure it was roomy enough.  Hubby’s bro went to a Chicago showroom to check it out.  Yep.  It is big enough.  We then went to Miami to check it out.  Yep, it is big enough.

I love this car!  On the other hand, getting specific info from in store Tesla personnel is tough.  All outside colors, other than black costs $1,000 extra.  No problema here.  I don’t want a black car.  Here are the colors we found.  I know, they are hard to figure out.  There is black shiny, black matt, really dark gray, really dark blue, light silver, white, and red.  I was leaning towards red, but hubby said “no”.  We will go with the light silver.  Much more to come.  Hope you enjoy our journey.  The interior color is still up in the air.  I’ll share photos of the actual vehicles next.  You know I posed with them.  Great car.  Great price.

“My” iguana is back home, so I booked another visit to our 2nd home

Hubby and I moved full time to Florida this past June.  We have had a huge iguana, as well as some smaller ones, living in our backyard.  We live on a small lake and “our” iguana loves sunning himself in the backyard and in the crook of one of our trees.  He is a shy one.  I have heard stories from others living in Florida that they can be aggressive.  Ours is not.  He runs away if we approach.  It is hard to believe how fast he can run if we approach.

We were traveling in December and January.  While we were away, my Mom told me that she had seen in the news in New York that the Florida weather was so unusually cold that the iguanas were falling out of the trees from it and not surviving.  Since we were away, we did not know.  We returned to our Florida home and, much  to my surprise, there were no iguanas around.  Finally last week, “our” iguana came back.  No, I don’t know if it is the same one.  It is just as large as the one that has always “lived” here.  “He” is back to his usual sunbathing in our backyard and lounging in our tree overlooking the lake.

Now that he is back, I booked our next trip to our “2nd home”.  Our primary residence may have changed in the last year, but our favorite 2nd home did not.  We are returning to Majestic Mirage in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for my birthday in August.  We will also celebrate our wedding anniversary while there, which is in September.  I post one video today, to show you why we had to return to Majestic Mirage.  It is of our suite there in November.  I have wanted to post it for awhile, but was hesitant.  The suite is gorgeous.  I had already been there for a few days and was looking bloated in my bathing suit.  Hubby was having a hand tremor while shooting the video.  It’s not the best video, but it was as tremendous an ocean front suite as you could ask for!  We had to go back as soon as possible.  We are also hoping to go back again for New Years.

We were spoiled in some ways living in New Jersey.  We had air available from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  They were all major carriers and set their schedules far in advance.  Where we are living in Florida, the best priced air does not set very far in advance.    We are used to planning multiple trips a year or more in advance.   That is not possible here because of the air schedules.  We will get used to it.  Every market and every trip are different.  Know  your market and plan accordingly.

For this trip we are traveling Southwest again.  Their prices are hard to beat with two bags free plus carryon and personal item.  We again booked the resort and private transfers through Costco.  For the last many years their prices were better than anywhere else.

Between now and then, we will be on another adventure to northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia by both air, land and sea.  That trip is not a bargain, but will be great.  The anatomy of booking any vacation is always different and serves different needs.

I hope you enjoy the video.  I wish it was better to show off how gorgeous this suite and resort is/was/will be again.

Making the Chocolate Cigar and Frozen Mojito at Majestic Mirage

I recently posted a video of me eating the chocolate cigar and drinking the Frozen Mojito when I was at Majestic Mirage in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving Day.  I promised I would post a video of how the two are made.  I am doing so today.  This video was taken earlier in the day, the same day I had mine after dinner.  This was a perfect ending to a great dinner.  No pumpkin pie for me.  I actually don’t like pumpkin pie.  I have no idea why not.  I love pumpkin soup, another dish I was exposed to in the Dominican Republic.

The videographer was my hubby.  He did a pretty good job and only wobbled a little bit, with a quick recovery.  It’s not easy holding a small camera for so long.  You will hear me commenting and laughing next to the camera, but the focus was on the food preparation.   The gentleman providing the explanations is the General Manager at Majestic Mirage, Jose-maria Gutierrez.  He was speaking to us in English, to another couple in French, and to the chefs in Spanish.  He is an amazing man with a passion and strong background in fine food and beverages.  He is hoping to have a weekly cooking workshop at Mirage later this year on its own internet video channel.  I hope so.

If you want to see me enjoying the final product, just view my previous blog post here entitled “Best Cigar Ever”.  If you have any questions about these two delightfully delicious items, post them to comments here.  No comment gets posted until I approve it.  I will gladly answer questions.  I’m a little slow because of the huge backlog of comments.  Right now I have over 42,000 of them, but I am working on reducing that.  Many take up my time that are spam or trash and I have to go through them.

Enjoy the video!  I enjoyed being there and consuming.  I have to admit, it was a very fun-filled day on this topic.  After the presentation, they served us all the items and then I had them again for dessert after dinner.  YUM!!!!

Because of the length of the video, I had to upload it to YouTube.  Here’s the link.

 

 

Best cigar ever, and you don’t smoke it!

Did I get your attention?  Are you wondering what I could possibly be talking about?  It’s edible!  It’s not a real cigar.

After the hurricane at home in Florida in September, with house guests who had to relocate with us and then company from New Jersey in October into November, we finally got away to our home away from home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  We’ve been going to Majestic Resorts there for about a decade.  A new one opened about a year ago.  All our moving and other family issues prevented us from getting there until one of our usual times, Thanksgiving.  The new one, Majestic Mirage, exceeded even our expectations.  It is all suites and all-inclusive.  It has a very high end Mediterranean feel.  The beach is beautiful and filled with palapas and Balinese Beds.  The resort itself is not big, but not too tiny.  There are so many open spaces.  There is butler service, but every staff member treats you wonderfully.  I could go on and on about it.  The best thing is that it is affordable!

Today, though, I am posting one short video of the end of my Thanksgiving meal.  It was in their “French” restaurant.  It looks like a cigar, but oh so much better.  The wrapper is chocolate.  The inside is cream filled with a slight taste of cigar smoke.  It is served in a glass ashtray.  What looks like cigar ashes in the “ash end” is sugar!  When I say this was delicious, I am understating it.

We were lucky enough to get a kitchen tour and see a demonstration of how these are made.  I will do a separate post of that.  It is a bit long.  I give you the short version here of me enjoying it.

It is served with a specially made mojito.  This is also shown on the upcoming video of how both are made.  What a great Thanksgiving dinner we had from beginning to end.  We are trying to decide whether to go back for Thanksgiving next year, as we usually do, or change it up and go for Christmas and New Years.  It’s a tough choice.

In case any of you fashionistas are wondering, the outfit I am wearing is a Halston.  It was new for this trip.  Hubby saw it on-line on sale and I had to have it.  It’s all his fault for finding it.  haha  I am a huge fan of on-line shopping, as long as you know what you are getting and how it will fit you.  This was certainly not a “cheap” item, but the price was great compared to in a fancy retail store.  It was ordered through the on-line site of a high end store:  Neiman Marcus.

 

Best coach international flight ever!

Once in awhile one gets very lucky with air travel.  It seems less and less a happening these days, but there are so many internet tools out there that with good research and some patience, you can find that deal a good amount of the time.  It gets more complicated with international air.  It gets even trickier with first class air.

The only true secret to decent first class international air is a good mileage/loyalty program.  For about a decade hubby and I have been flying from New Jersey to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Almost every one of those flights was first class.  We flew out of both Newark, NJ and Philadelphia, Pa.  There were a very few flights when we flew coach, only because the price was sooooo cheap we could not resist.

We recently moved to southeastern Florida.  I booked our next trip to Punta Cana before we had even moved.  It was over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Hubby and I agreed that the international flight was so short, 1st class wasn’t really necessary.  I came across a BARGAIN on Southwest.  It happens.  That is not the best part of this story.

First:  when booking a well-known trip, I know that air and resorts often go on sale at different times.  The resort dates are not that important, within a given range.  The air can vary dramatically.  Package deals usually offer the worst flights and I almost always book them separately.  There are, unfortunately, some places where you are a captive of the airline and have no choice but to book a package.  Luckily for me, that has never been a problem.

What made this air trip so exceptional, you might ask.  It was on Southwest, so you do not get to choose your seats in advance.  On our return from Punta Cana, there were only 6 people on the entire jet!  It was like flying on a private jet.  I forced hubby to take video……of me and the interior of the jet.  Yes, it was a fluke.  The surprising thing was that the plane down to PC was 100% full.  No one was going home that day.  Good for us.