Death/End of Life, Need to prepare, Support Group, What to consider

Planning for the end of Life

Time passing concept

Welcome back blog readers,

I realize that I have not been as active writing or spending as much time on social media this last week. That’s mainly due to feeling under the weather and also trying to make an effort of not getting sucked into all of the negative drama that is posted on social media.

While I’m still not feeling 100%, I am inspired to write about a topic that is affecting my family, some members more so than others due to the varying stages of grief that are associated with death.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages are all part of the grieving process for both the person that has received the news about their health and for the surviving family members. A person may go through these stages in a different order, they may also revisit a stage. There isn’t a timeframe as each person will grieve differently and in their own time, to which is perfectly normal.

To better explain these stages.

While we all start our life in the same way, one egg one sperm, our end of life varies. For the most part, we either have a bit of a warning that our loved one has limited time left or things happen so quickly that there isn’t time to prepare, just immediate shock, and devastation.

The topic of Death still seems to be taboo, and many people still find it very uncomfortable to talk about. Death is a natural part of Life, and at some point, we all will mourn the loss of a loved one, just as our loved ones will mourn over the loss of us. Not talking about death won’t make it go away or make your grieving phase any easier. Knowing what to expect can make the process easier to go through because there is nothing to fear.

We tend to seek out information and books about what to expect when we are creating life, but we don’t put that same effort in when it comes time to dealing with the end of life. Medically, there are many resources that share information to help us make sense of the process from a scientific point of view. I suspect that religion and our beliefs in spirituality are what make the end of life process difficult to come to terms with. Nobody really knows. It’s mostly speculation and theories when talking about our soul/energy and what becomes of that after it leaves our body.

Medically/Scientifically, here is what happens to the human body:

Read about it here-

Watch a short informative video here-

With spirituality and religion aside, it is important to talk with our loved ones about what kind of arrangements they want done after their death. Just as you should be voicing your concerns about you want done with your body. Often times the most difficult decision a family makes is coming to a decision about funeral arrangements, cremation, donating to science, or eco-friendly biodegradable options and where the money is to pay for these last expenses.

Having a Living Will or a Living Trust in place before your death will ease the burden on your family. Click here to learn more-

Most people have no idea about the costs associated with death are. In many cases, the costs are left up to the family to sort out at the last minute, and it puts a strain on their personal finances. The average funeral costs $7,200. That includes a viewing and burial, embalming, hearse, transfer of remains, service fee and more. It doesn’t, however, include the cost of, say, a catered luncheon with drinks after the memorial service or the copy of the death certificate.

If you are inclined to shop around, you might find this link helpful.

Interested in the cost of Cremation? Check out your options here-

Once you’ve decided on what you want to be done, you may want to consider either setting the money aside for those expenses or making sure that you have a life insurance policy that will cover the cost plus a little extra to account for inflation. Many life insurance policies don’t cover a quarter of the funeral/burial expenses, something many families are left scrambling to make up with the difference.

My point is this, While many of us prepare for the new life that we are expecting (baby showers), we should also take the time to plan for our end of life. What your surviving family members want is closure after we’re gone, not a burden of debt due to a lack of planning. With life there is death, while it’s not fun to talk about, we should take time to consider what our final wishes are and who we entrust to make that happen on our behalf.






Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience

Life Lessons 101: Subjects that should be taught in school.

Welcome back blog readers,

This is a topic that my husband and I have discussed in great length several times over the last 10 years. I thought it was worth sharing, so let’s get started.

I should preface by mentioning that I graduated high school in 1996, so almost 23 years ago. I don’t have kids, so maybe things have changed since then, but somehow, I think what may have changed has gone in the wrong direction.

Do I feel that my 4 years in high school prepared me for the real world? Not especially.

I did attend a Vocational High School (my choice) because I didn’t have parents, an older sibling, or an adult role model to learn from. I felt it was important for me to learn a trade skill and have experience in order to gain employment as soon as possible. Once I decided to enroll in the Automotive Technology program the curriculum was broken up into two alternating weeks. The academic classes that included trade-related math, trade-related science and automotive related classes that varied depending on which grade you were in. The “shop” week was our hands-on learning week where we spent time in an actual automotive garage with hydraulic lifts, a wheel alignment machine, several diagnostic tools, basically getting our hands dirty going from parts changers to diagnosing problems.

While the hands-on learning aspect did prepare me with experience needed to gain employment. I still wasn’t prepared to transition from graduate to functioning adult. While I was responsible, getting to work on time, showing up for my shifts, I felt so out of place when talking to human resources about tax forms, knowing what I could/should claim.

While we did have a short intoduction to balancing our checkbook, there was nothing that prepared us for personal taxes, learning about retirement plans, tax free savings accounts, stocks/bonds, 401K, RRSP, Unions, Unemployment benefits, Real Estate, Health Insurance, Home Owners Insurance, Vehicle Insurance, Renter’s Insurance, The Voting process and what the Electoral College is, Credit, credit cards, interest rates, bankruptcy and credit score. All of these things that I had wished I had been better prepared for, or at least had a basic understanding about before graduating at 17 years old.

A few other topics that should be considered and may go against popular opinion.

  • Sex Ed, reproductive anatomy, STD’s, Contraception
  • Nutrition, learn what a calorie is, learn to read nutrition labels, learn about food sensitivities/allergies, learn to prepare healthy meals.
  • Family Planning, learn how expensive it is to have a child, daycare, diapers, clothes, food, consider a single income, rent, utilities, co-pays for doctor visits.
  • Home Economics, bring back cooking, baking, reading recipes, sewing/knitting/crocheting, learning to use basic hand tools and learn basic first aid.
  • Driver’s Ed, should cover more than learning the rules of the road and learning to read traffic signs. Along with learning proper road safety, new drivers should also learn the basics about vehicle maintenance, which I previously covered here.

Give students what they need to make smart informed choices about their future. Many students babysit for us, they are friends with your kids. Wouldn’t you have a better peace of mind knowing that are better prepared and have acquired basic life skills if they are babysitting for you or they’re out driving around with your kid? What I tend to see from high school kids (because I work with many of them in the world of retail) is that there are some that have a good head on their shoulders and they have a plan for their future. The majority, however; are mindless zombies that are completely clueless and can’t function without a mobile device in their hand. You can bet that they’re not researching any of the above topics in order to better themselves.

I’m not suggesting that all high school students should have their future mapped out, most adults have yet to achieve that. What I am saying is start holding this generation accountable and stop giving out participation trophies for showing up and doing nothing to earn it. The idea of holding a graduation ceremony at the end of the school year for each grade is absurd and takes away from the actual milestone of completing 12 years and entering adulthood. So now a simple “congratulations, we’re proud of you” is no longer enough, we have to sit through 12 cap/gown graduation ceremonies. I just don’t get it. We have and continue to create a self-entitled, praise me for showing up generation. Where is our trophy?

That is all I have to say about that, for now. No fancy segway as I finish this post.



Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process, Part 2


Welcome back blog readers,

Here is the continuation from yesterday’s blog post. I left off just having received my Visa that was permanently affixed to my passport and I was getting all of my ducks in a row before making the big move across the border.

I feel like I have to make this point again, you can’t just show up at the border with your belongings and expect entry and start your life in Canada without having gone through the proper process.

Here’s the link that I shared in the previous post, it’s the link I highly recommend that you use as your main resource for information.

There is so much to consider when you now have the OK to move to another country.

  • Finding a place to live, establishing a permanent address.
  • Updating your address with the government, IRS, Banking, Social Security, Credit Card companies.
  • Having your mail delivery put on hold for a couple of weeks while you get settled/established.
  • PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS! I chose to consolidate all of my debts into one easy monthly payment. Back in 2008-2009 online banking and e-transferring was not as popular. I had to figure out how I was going to pay my debts in US funds while in Canada. I ended up creating two PayPal accounts, one attached to my US bank account and one in Canada attached to my new bank account. I was then able to transfer myself money back/forth until I no longer needed my US bank account (about 2 years later). I had to keep it open for pending tax returns and making automatic monthly payments to pay off my credit card debt in the USA.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover you for a few months as you look for work and wait 2 weeks for your first paycheck. Most jobs pay bi-weekly in Canada, something to keep in mind. My first job up here paid on the 1st and the 15th, that took a bit to get used to after being paid every Friday. You’ll also have to show proof of the funds in your bank account(s), so have a print out of your last statement handy.
  • Downsize, sell or donate items that you can live without. If money is no object, then rent a U-haul or POD. In any case you will have to figure out which is the best way to move your belongings across the border. As for me, I was on a super tight budget and chose to sell the bigger furnature items. Actually, my husband was down with me helping me pack during this process. While I was at work, he was at my apartment wheeling and dealing selling just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. In fact, I came home on day from work and found that he had sold my bed, curtains for the bedroom window, my microwave and the cart, my TV and my couch. While the extra money was needed, I still had 2 weeks left before I was ready to move. We ended up sleeping on a twin air mattress and a pile of folded bath towels on the floor.
  • Schedule to cancel your utility services, Internet/cable/phone and make sure you pay your last bill.
  • Cell Phone: While I didn’t own one at this time, I suspect that you may want to look into an International Plan or buying a new SIM card once you get into Canada. Roaming charges will add up quickly unless you’re using skype, magic jack or a messenger app.
  • Tax Returns: Make sure that you have a copy of your tax returns (going back at least 7 years). I didn’t have the luxury of having them saved onto a USB drive as they were paper copies from H&R Block. In any case, make sure you can access them as you will be asked for that information when you apply for any line of credit in Canada.
  • Important paperwork: Birth cerificate(s), Social Security card(s), Marriage Certificate(s), Adoption Certificate(s), Divorce or other court documents of proof, Driver’s Ed proof of completion, Diploma(s), A copy of your medical history and refill your prescription(s), Vaccination record(s).
  • Pets: If you’re bringing your pet(s) they also need to go through the Import/Export process. Have their Vet/Medical history, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and refill their medication(s).
  • Vehicle insurance: Get a copy of your driving record as proof of your driving experience as you will need to have vehicle insurance in Canada. If you have a Drivers Education certificate, make a copy of that as well as that will be handy when applying for your new Canadian drivers license. Inform your insurance company of your intention to move and coordinate with them as far as making your last payment, returning your plates and cancelling your policy once you’ve established yourself in Canada, especially if you plan on driving your vehicle across the border.
  • Import/Export: While I did my best to research this before I packed up my car, there is a lot of misleading information as well as information that was not clear at the time. Learn from my experience and take from it what you will. You will need a complete itemized list of everything you are bringing across the border. Keep a copy for yourself and you will turn in a copy to the Customs agent. I chose to pack small boxes and with each box, I numbered the outside. I wrote down the contents, on the outside of each box I attached a copy of the contents, the second copy I kept together with the rest to hand over to Customs. The same thing with any backpacks or luggage, I attached a copy of the contents to the bag for my records and another copy of the contents was placed in the packet of the other lists of contents to be handed in to Customs.
  • Import/Export of your vehicle: Please keep in mind that this took place in November 2009, so it’s possible laws may have changed since then. I was able to find information about having to IMPORT my car into Canada, but I didn’t find anything solid about EXPORTING my car from the USA. I learned quickly once I arrived at the border. Canada did not require that I EXPORT my car from the USA before IMPORTING it. I was warned that the USA prefers that I do EXPORT my car and the issue that may come up from not EXPORTING my car from the USA is that if I cross the border (driving) into the USA and happen to get an agent that specializes in the IMPORT/EXPORT of vehicles after they notice my US passport with Canadian plates on my car, I may get fined and may be denied entry into the USA until I follow the EXPORT process. So, I simply didn’t cross the border in that car, crisis averted.

Here is the website I was directed to use from the Canadian Border agent to properly IMPORT my car.

You may have more things to consider, especially if you have to sell your house, have other real estate or own your own business that you may have to dissolve. I can’t offer any advice on those concerns.

Now that we’ve successfully crossed the border and are ready to start our life in Canada, we’re not done yet. We still have to apply for a Permanent Resident Card which is mandatory to carry with you and have to show with your passport anytime you reenter Canada should you leave for any reason. This form of identification expires in 5 years and you will need to reapply/renew before it expires.

Being a permanent resident grants you all of the same rights as any Canadian citizen, with the exception that you can’t vote or be summoned to serve jury duty. You also can’t serve in the Canadian military and there are some government-funded benefits that you may not qualify for.

You also have to apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is the equivalent to the US Social Security card. You’ll need your SIN card to apply for jobs, open a bank account, apply for credit just as you needed your social security card for similar things. Keep your social security card as you will also need that, or at least the number to file your tax returns.

There is another important piece of information about filing taxes that needs to be clarified. Many Americans living abroad are under the misconception that they don’t have to file a tax return to the USA. This is only true if you renounce your American Citizenship and by renounce I mean you have to follow the process, file the paperwork pay the USA a hefty fee (close to $2,000 last I checked), and receive confirmation. Then and only then will you be exempt from filing a US tax return.

Now it’s not to say that you actually OWE anything. If you are like me (most of us, middle class income) and you don’t own property, you don’t work in the USA, you don’t live in the USA, you don’t conduct business that results in income in the USA, then all you have to do is file a ZERO return. Filing basically states just what I mentioned above, you made nothing, you claim nothing, you owe nothing. This MUST be done when you file your Canadian (T4) taxes as a means of keeping the IRS informed, keeping them off of your back and remain in good standing with the USA because you are still a US citizen.

You are still a US citizen even if you apply to become a Canadian and obtain a Canadian passport. You will still have to file a zero return for the USA and file your regular taxes for Canada. You are now considered a DUAL citizen and hold 2 passports. You can stop renewing your permanent resident card at this point, but as long as you hold on to your US citizenship, you will be expected to file a tax return each and every year and yes, it’s still due April 15th even though you have until the end of April to file with Canada.

Renouncing your citizenship is a lengthly process as the USA wants to retain as many tax paying citizens as possible, even those living abroad. So they make the process long, costly and brutal. It’s just easier to file a few extra papers along with your Canadian taxes just to keep the peace.

As for me, I have thought about applying to become a Canadian Citizen as it makes sense to me. I don’t have any ties to the USA (besides a few family that I can visit whenever), I don’t own property, I don’t have financial ties (besides filing a zero return). Yes, I can still cast my vote for US Presidential candidates, but otherwise considering the state of the USA under its currant leader, I don’t see the point in maintaining my US citizenship. On the other hand, I don’t see the point of paying $2,000 (more like $2,600 if you consider the conversion from CAD to USD at today’s rates) just to get out from filing a few pieces of paper once a year. Even the cost of renewing my 10 year US passport is cheaper ($110 USD) considering that I might renew it 4 more times before I die or stop traveling to the USA. I’d rather pay the lesser fee and become a Canadian citizen, but that is my choice and not one that you have to make for yourself.

If you are a US citizen living abroad and would like more information about renouncing your citizenship, what it means, what are the pros and cons for your situation, if you are behind on filing your US tax returns then I encourage you to click the link below and contact a representive there.

Since November of 2009, I have had to renew my Permanent Resident card once and renew my 10 year US Passport once. I am allowed to travel outside of Canada as long as I follow the same rules as Canadian citizens, we have to remain in Canada at least 6 months each year to maintain our status. I have to carry my permanent resident card with me along with my passport when I travel or when I expect to show proof of my status.

Now I have 2 US passports, both of which I have to carry as the first has my VISA and immigration landing document and the new passport, well it hasn’t expired as I just renewed it a few months ago. I will have to continue to carry both until I become a Canadian citizen; at which point I’ll only have to carry that one passport going forward.

That about sums up the immigration process if your going from the USA to Canada. I had no idea what I was getting into, what the process entailed or how long it would take. Knowing all of what I shared would have been super helpful because the not knowing was more frustrating than the waiting.

I’m happy to answer any questions or clarify if something I mentioned didn’t make sense. The link for the Canadian government website is truly a great resource to help you find work, answer questions about living in Canada and reassure you that not all Canadians live in igloos. That was a running joke from my former co-workers before I moved.

Actually most of the people live close to the border up to 2 hours away. Unless you live further North, then you better like the colder weather year round. Research the different Provinces, what the climate is like, what jobs are available, what the tax rate is (Ontario has a 13% sales tax while Alberta has a 5% sales tax) before you decide on which Province to settle in. Canada has so much to offer and if you have the means of coming up for a visit or a few visits, you should.

With that said, that has sparked another topic for a blog post… I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to come back to find out.

I hope that my experience has helped you to make your choice on whether immigrating to Canada is for you. At the very leas,t I hope that you have learned what the process is like for those of us that go through it legally and you know it’s an on going process to maintain our status. Please feel free to share, like, comment especially if you know someone that may be considering such a big move as they will have a better idea as to what to expect before going into this blind, like I did.

Have a great weekend!

Hannah, the international traveller.



Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process


Welcome back blog readers,

Today’s topic is about immigration, what you need to know and consider should you be thinking about immigrating from the United States to Canada. I will share my experiences and tips to help you get through this process. But first, here’s a link that will get you started. Most of your questions will be answered here, so please use this website as it is verified by the Canadian government and other websites may contain misleading information or may be a scam.

There is so much information that you need to know before applying as an immigrant. First, How do you plan to apply? Do you have family in Canada that are willing to sponsor you?  Are you married to a Canadian citizen that can sponsor you? Are you coming to Canada to study in which there is a special student/study Visa required? Do you have a special trade skill or work experience that may qualify you to be sponsored by an employer? Are you a refugee seeking a safe place for you and your family to live?

Again, I will refer you to check out the link above. I was able to immigrate by means of meeting a Canadian citizen and falling in love. I did look into the special skill process, but my set of automotive skills/knowledge wasn’t enough to qualify, even though I had an employer that was interested in hiring me.

The first thing I should make clear is that you can’t just show up at the border and expect to be allowed entry and start your life in Canada. There is a process, there is a ton of paperwork, there is proof and documentation that is required, there is a medical exam that each member of your family will have to go through, there will be fees costing up to $1,000 and most importantly, you need a valid US passport. Expect this process to take up to 9 months to complete, maybe longer.

There was a packet of paperwork that we printed off, one set for me (the applicant) and another set for my husband (the sponsor).  Both applications, various forms of proof, and payment were all sent in one large envelope to begin the immigration process.

Here are some things that needed to be answered or required more documentation (proof).

  • All names (aliases) I have used, last names, maiden names, legal names
  • All addresses where I lived for the first 18 years of my life
  • Copies of my birth certificate, marriage certificate, copy of the picture page of my passport
  • I needed to obtain a copy of my fingerprints, FBI clearance to prove I didn’t have a criminal record or any outstanding warrants in any of the 50 states.
  • I had to seek a doctor (one approved by Canada which ended up being 2 hours away) to clear the medical exam, which was basically a physical, blood work and a “womanly exam” to ensure that I was not infectious and free of serious diseases and not trying to abuse the Universal Health Care that Canada offers.
  • Proof of our relationship, the marriage certificate was not enough, we needed to include photos, chat logs from skype and MSN messenger (2008), copies of emails that we exchanged, proof that our families knew/had met the other person. We sent in boarding passes and ticket stubs when my husband came down to visit me. We sent in receipts to prove that we bought joint items or gifts that we bought for each other. All to prove that we were in a legitimate relationship/marriage and weren’t trying to scam the government.

I suspect that if the proof we provided wasn’t enough to convince the immigration officer, that we would have been asked to come in for an interview. We were able to avoid that part of the process. Once we finally mailed out the large application packet and it was received, we were able to check the status online. My husband was approved to be my sponsor within the first week. Going through the paperwork (which we put in order, using paper clips as they requested) took them about 4-6 weeks. I did get a notification in the mail asking for me to resubmit my fingerprints as the first set were smudgy and there was a hiccup on one of the dates on the application. I inverted the last two numbers by mistake and had to correct it. Once completed, I sent that back to the immigration office. Another 4-6 weeks would pass before we received another notification in the mail, I was to send my actual passport in so they could affix my VISA to one of the pages before mailing that back to me.

Ladies, here’s a tip: Make sure that your passport is updated with your legal married name (if you took your spouses last name or hyphenated it). You want to send that updated version to have your Visa attached. Also make sure you get the correct sized passport photos taken. My first set were not taken properly and I had to get them retaken, wasting more time and adding to my frustration.

If my memory serves me well, I want to say that we started (mailed in the application packet) in February 2009 and I received my full passport back with affixed VISA in early October 2009, so about 8 months. Once I received that, it was a sigh of relief but it also meant I had a limited time to get my affairs in order, tie up loose ends, sell my belongings, seriously downsize and pack before actually crossing the border to live in Canada.

There is more information to share, but sadly the world of retail insists that I show up for my shift. I’ll come back tomorrow (on my day off) to share the rest of my experience.

Happy Friday! ~ Hannah



Cruises, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, Vacation

Cruising 101, Part 3

Welcome back blog readers,

Here is a recap from yesterday’s post, Cruising 101, Part 2.

  • You’ve booked your flight, hotel stay the day BEFORE to cruise leaves the port.
  • You’ve made your way on the ship and explore what it has to offer and where the buffet is located.
  • You know about Drink Packages, Specialty Dining Packages, Excursions and Gratuities.
  • You know to get cash from the slot machines to avoid more petty fees/service charges.
  • You know to be aware of the time, any time changes due to time zones, and getting back to the ship on time to avoid being left behind.
  • You know which aspects are “Inclusive” and where you can expect additional charges onboard.


First time cruisers may be unsure as to what to pack as we see many passengers that over pack and bring way too much stuff. Here are my tips and suggestions for packing a cruise to a warmer climate like the Caribbean (even in December) and to Alaska.

First the Caribbean:

  • Clothes: Shorts, T-shirts, sun dresses, sleep wear, undergarments, socks, sandals/water shoes, dress shoes and comfortable walking shoes/sneakers, bathing suits/swim trunks, a fancy outfit/suit if you want to dress up for the Gala night, a light sweater as the theaters, dining areas tend to be cooler. Oh, and sunglasses. I tend to forget as I wear glasses with transitional lenses. If you are traveling from a much colder climate like Canada in December, then you will want a jacket to leave in and return in. Don’t worry about the scarf, gloves, clunky winter boots as they will take up too much space.
  • Travel sized toiletries: toothbrush/tooth paste, floss, shampoo, conditioner, body wash is recommended (while most cruise lines do offer them in the bathroom, Royal Caribbean did not, that was a lesson learned). Any medications for you and your family; make sure the prescription label shows your name and bring enough to cover you for the length of the cruise. Hairbrush/comb, razors, sunscreen, deodorant, feminine products should you be expecting a visit from “Aunt Flo” on your vacation. If you want to bring makeup or jewelry, keep it to a minimum.  Remember that you are on a cruise, you are a tourist that doesn’t want to attract attention from thieves/con artists/pick pockets at the ports with wearing flashy jewelry. All liquids should be placed in a ziplock bag. Hair dryers are available in your stateroom.
  • Cameras, Binoculars, iPads, Tablets, Kindle readers or other e-book readers are nice to have, but completely optional. If you do bring them, make sure you bring the charger/power cord. As for your smartphone, keep them set to AIRPLANE mode to avoid ridiculous roaming charges (unless you have an international plan).
  • Power strip, not to be confused with an extension cord. A power strip is a MUST HAVE as most staterooms lack enough outlets, especially if you are not traveling alone. There is typically one standard (120V) outlet and one European outlet in each stateroom.
  • Walkie Talkies, if you are traveling as a group of with kids that can use them. Yes there is a phone in the staterooms to get in touch or leave a message to meet up. Kids are often having fun at the kids only area, they may lose track of time or find it easy to get lost on the huge ship. It’s possible that parents may lose track of time as they lay out on the sundeck having a few drinks. Totally optional, but worth considering if you’re not using an app or other means to stay in touch while onboard. Norwegian does have an app *$10 per user that acts as a messenger for you and your party as long as you have a smartphone or device that can use it.
  • If you are travelling with small kids that still wear diapers/pull-ups you should look into the “Packages” that are offered, not only can you order strawberries and champagne to your room, but I’ve seen where you can have diapers sent to your room. Just one less thing to pack, considering how many you’d have to bring for the duration of the cruise, or incase you start running low.

Packing for Alaska: Pretty much the same except you’ll want warmer clothes and a windbreaker. We took our cruise at the end of April/early May, while the temperatures were averaging 50F-60F/10C-15C the Arctic air made it feel colder. The pools onboard were rarely used, the sundeck had plenty of seating as it was too cold to sit out for very long. What Alaska lacks in warmer temperature it makes up for in beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife.


Welcome To Alaska
Sign at Alaska/British Columbia border

On our first cruise, we over packed like many first time cruisers do. My husband and I each packed a full sized suitcase with our clothes, toiletries and to ensure we had extra space to bring home any souvenirs. In reality, we didn’t wear half of what we packed. There is laundry service onboard *for a fee, which is great to take advantage of by day 4 especially if you are traveling with kids. Honestly, we tend to wear the same 2 or 3 pairs of shorts mixed with the same 3 or 4 T-shirts throughout the cruise. Keep in mind that you will probably buy a few T-shirts or articles of clothing while you stop at the ports or browse the gift shop onboard.

The more luggage you bring means the more likely you are to be charged for your “Checked” bags (for larger suitcases) especially if they weigh more than 50 pounds. My only experience is with Air Canada, so please look into the airline that you are using to find out their fine print and what they will allow per passenger before charging extra.

My husband and I now travel with one full sized suitcase that we divide half for his stuff, half for mine. We each have one carry on, he brings his laptop and I pack an oversized “purse” that carries our passports, confirmations receipts for hotels, flights, cruise embarking details, cruise baggage tags and anything we might need like over the counter pain reliever, Pepto Bismol, hand sanitizer, tissue, earbuds for the flight. We never use the overhead bins to store our carry on, we stow them under the seat in front of us.

Here’s a tip for your carry on luggage: I know some of you don’t want to part with your carry on luggage and want to keep it with you. Carry on only what you absolutely need while you are in flight. Once you check your big luggage, you’ve cleared security and customs and you arrive at your gate chances are you will hear an announcement for passengers to voluntarily check their carry on bags. This doesn’t mean your laptops, your purses, your backpack. This means your carry-on travel suitcase with wheels, oversized duffle bags, or your luggage that is carrying your snorkel gear which will go directly on the plane for no extra charge.

Please for the love of god, take advantage of this if it applies to you. Your lap must be free/clear before take off and landing. This suggestion is made assuming that your flight is a DIRECT flight and you are not dealing with a connecting flight that departs in less than 90 minutes. If you have an immediate connecting flight, then I completely understand your situation.

While we are talking about airports, this scenario is something that happens when common sense is lacking. For first time fliers, please allow yourself to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. Why? Because every passenger has to clear Security and most have to also clear Customs after they’ve checked in, receive their boarding pass and checked their large suitcase. What if I have an early morning flight? Arrive at least 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. What if I have a red-eye flight? Arrive at least 2 hours before your flight is schedule to leave.

If you have never had to clear security at an airport, here’s what you need to know.

  • Your shoes have to come off (in most cases). So wear something that can easily be slipped on/off.
  • Your belt has to be removed. Better to not wear one or suspenders either for that matter.
  • You will go through a metal detector, so don’t arrive with your entire jewelry collection on, as everything will have to be removed, scanned through the x-ray and you’re just holding up the line as you put it all back on. Wedding rings are fine, simple stud earrings are fine. Don’t forget about toe rings, belly button rings, tongue rings, wear plastic ones until you arrive at your destination to avoid an uncomfortable pat down.
  • Cell phones, keys, wallets, loose change, watches, everything in your pockets has to come out, put in a bin to be scanned through the x-ray. Prepare for this while you are waiting in line, or better yet, wear pants without pockets.
  • Your jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts and hats need to be taken off and put in a bin to be scanned. While you’re in line place all of the above items in the pockets of your jacket and send it through together.
  • Laptops and C-Pap machines go through the scanner separately and out of the bag/packaging.
  • Everyone has to be processed, including infants, toddlers in strollers, people in wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
  • Food and Drinks are not permitted through security, including baby food, snacks, open packages. Chances are you will be asked to consume it before going through; otherwise the food/drink will be thrown out. Not to worry, once you clear security there are many food options available as you walk to your gate.
  • Keep your boarding pass and passport accessible as you will need both at this time. Have your passport ready to open on your picture page.
  • Be patient when you are coming up to the bins/emptying your pockets. Wait for the person in front of you to finish taking their things off and loading the bins. If you are traveling together, that is fine, you can share a bin for your shoes, jackets, hats. What I mean is, don’t jump in front of a stranger and push a bin of your things through before the person ahead of you is finished pushing their stuff through. Let them finish before snatching bins for your stuff. For one thing, it’s RUDE and two, it may look suspicious to the security crew as you jump ahead while the person in front of you has yet to be fully processed and cleared. We all want to get through as quickly as possible, these tips will assist in getting you processed efficiently.
  • While this tip has nothing to do with airport security, it’s about consideration. Please refrain from bathing in perfume/cologne or wearing heavy scented lotions before arriving to the airport. Yes, I know you want to smell great, but the truth is, nobody wants to smell you. You don’t know who you’re sitting in front of, behind of or may share a row with. Heavy scents can trigger a migraine which I can’t imagine is fun to deal with on a flight when you can’t escape the smell. Just be considerate, wear your perfume/cologne once you get to your destination.

As far as packing goes, try packing as light as you can if at all possible. If you and your spouse can share one full-sized suitcase and have minimal carry-on, great! If you require more than that, that’s okay too. You should be able to store a full sized suitcase under the bed in your stateroom and maybe another full-sized in the armoire/closet. Just keep in mind that the size of the average stateroom is equivalent to a 9′ x 9′ bedroom furnished like a studio apartment with an ensuite bathroom, so space really is limited when it comes to larger/bulky items.

There are baggage carts available at the airports and cruise ports to help carry your multiple bags. Don’t forget to tip the baggage porters, shuttle drivers, taxi drivers, uber drivers and your room attendant on the last day of the cruise.

This is all that I have time for today. I feel that is more to share about cruising to help you with deciding whether or not a cruise is the best way to spend your vacation.

If you’ve found my tips to be helpful in making your decision, please leave a comment and let me know. If I’ve mentioned something that doesn’t make sense or you have any questions, please inquire by leaving a comment and I’ll do my best to clarify or answer your concern. 🙂