with the bold text in the example below: The Skychi Travel Guide : March 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to speed through Customs & Immigrations?

Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico
Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico

At the airport in Cancun I met two American Airlines flight attendants who were also headed back to Chicago. While we were boarding the flight I overhead them talking about Global Entry, so I asked them about it. They told me they were international flight attendants so they cleared customs and immigrations at Chicago O'hare Terminal 5 on a regular basis. They recommended getting Global Entry to save time on the  line to clear customs. Global Entry is $100 for 5 years.

Vendors' children eating in Mexico
Vendors' children eating in Mexico

After we departed the aircraft and went down the escalator towards customs we encountered a line that was at least a mile long in the hallway before we even reached the customs hall. I had never seen the line that long. Now I understand the need for Global Entry. That line was at least a two hour wait. I can only image all the passengers who missed their connecting flights because they were stuck in that line not to mention they had to collect their luggage and recheck to their luggage to its final destination.

Museum of Art Ottawa, Canada
Museum of Art Ottawa, Canada

I just visited the Global Entry website at http://www.globalentry.gov to learn more about it. It seems that the government program is for U.S. citizens who are low-risk. There is a background check, fingerprinting and a interview. You do not need to travel a certain number of trips internationally. Families can apply for Global Entry and schedule their interviews at the same time.

Crew Eats at Sahib's in Montreal, Canada
Crew Eats at Sahib's in Montreal, Canada

Once you are aprroved and receive Global Entry you can enter the U.S. at major airports by using automated kiosks thereby passing the long lines for customs and immigrations. Global Entry users also have free access to other border entry programs such as NEXUS of Canada and SENTRI of Mexico.

Skychi in Chinatown at Victoria Island, Vancouver, Canada
Skychi in Chinatown at Victoria Island, Vancouver, Canada

There is also a FLUX (Fast Low Risk Universal Crossing)  border entry program for the Netherlands which allows Dutch and U.S. citizens to travel through fast lanes internationally. The Privium FLUX is a limited program with  fees of 220 Euros. The Privium Plus membership is an additional 66 Euros. These fees do not include the $100 Global Entry fee. The Privium Plus allows its members to have club lounge access, priority parking, and business class check-in even if you have coach ticket.

Arc de Triomphe Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe Paris, France

My observations of travelers that use the fast lane at the automated kiosks that the process is faster than a flight crew line clearance.

Flight Crew heading to airport from LAX Sheraton
Flight Crew heading to airport from LAX Sheraton

Next time you are waiting in line at Customs and Immigrations watching passengers zip through at the automated kiosks consider the pros and cons for yourself. Is the Global Entry program for you?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will the gods shine at Chichen Itzas Spring Solstice?

Skychi in front of Observatory

This has been an unusual vacation for me. I am accustomed to planning my own itinerary. Today, I went on a full-day group tour to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was a completely different experience for me. I had no clue of what to expect for the day, as I had not bothered to ask about the itinerary. So everything was a surprise to me. The bus ride was two hours from Cancun to Chichen Itza. We left the Sun Moon Palace Resort about 8 am and arrived in Chichen Itza about 11 a.m. because of one rest stop along the way.

Tour Guide Sylvia in front of Observatory

There were three motorcoach tour buses from the resort with about 50 people each for about 150 people. Once at Chichen Itza some people went off to explore on their own and others followed the tour guide. I decided to stick with the tour guide so I could enjoy the history of tour.

It seems that is is winter in Mexico but it is still 90 degrees. There are no mosquitos because it is winter. During the tour it started raining. I wondered why there were people carrying umbrellas. At first I thought it was for protection from the sun. Now I understand one should be prepared in case of rain too. Big tip it is spring so, carry an umbrella. It will protect you from the sun or possible rain.

Observatory at Chichen Itza

On March 21st is the Sun Solstice, thousands of people will gather at Chichen Itza to watch the sun pass from the front door to the back door of the Observatory. At the same time the sun will also pass through door of the main monument. The sunworshippers will wait for the snake tail to zig zag its way down to the snake head. That is if the gods are happy the sun will shine. If a cloud passes over or it rains then the Mayans believed that the gods had to be appeased with the blood of human sacrifices. It seems that men were the preferred to be sacrificed over women.

Chichen Itza

Evidently, the gods were not happy the day of our tour because we had a downpour that started at noon and lasted the rest of the day. Happily there were no sacrifices to appease the angry gods.

Will the gods be happy on March 21st for the Spring Solstice and allow the tail of the snake
to meet the snake head?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why are you solo?

Skychi at Sun Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico

At breakfast this morning the waiter asked me "Why are you solo? As a matter of fact I have been asked that question several times by male waiters. I understand the culture of Mexico is one of an emphasis on  "FAMILY". I  guess they cannot understand how I be by myself or eat by myself.

Watermelon Sculpture at Mexican Restaurant

My first day at lunch at the Mexican restaurant, the waitress did not want to seat me because  I was by myself. I thought it was interesting that the single gentleman ahead of me did not have that problem. They seated him immediately.

Chef preparing my Grilled Grouper

Why are you solo?
I answered that I am a flight attendant. I am used to traveling by myself. I don't think that answer was acceptable to him. He still looked puzzled. I am certain that I am not the only woman here traveling solo. However, this does not stop the asking of the question, Why am I alone?

Fruit Station at Buffett

This question has me asking and examining myself, Why am I alone?
Upon further introspection, there are other reasons for why I travel alone. I am divorced with four adult offspring. I have yet to meet my wandering soul mate.

Garnishments for Grilled Meats

Yes, I am "soloito". I am the little alone person.

Grilled Grouper, Cactus Salad and Shredded Beets

Churro with Ice Cream & Petit Fours

This morning, I was in line at the hostess station of the Mexican Restaurant of Sun Moon Palace waiting for a table. I ran into two women that I had met the last night. The hostess rushed to seat the three of us.

Skychi with one of the Chefs of the Mexican Restaurant

That's was my "Ahh! Moment". I realized I was choosing to eat alone and be alone. The question by the waiters of "Why are you alone?" was not due to their lack of understanding. It caused me to reflect upon who I was choosing to "be" which was alone. I had met many people but I had not sought their companionship during meal time. I finally got it. The question is not so much "Why are you alone?" but "Why do you choose to eat alone?". I did not eat all my meals alone. However, I got that I did choose to eat alone several times.

Breakfast in Room

Breakfast with my roommate

Thank you for the awakening moment. Now I can shift to not be "solo". Sometimes Travel can
 help you learn about yourself.

What are your thoughts on solo travel?

Related Articles:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Invest in traveling the world! You will be better!

Kier V.B. Matthews, CTIE

Vice President, Travel Industry Sales

Europe Express & Brian Moore International Tours

Kier Matthews

1. What message do have for students who want to travel?

 – The world is vast! Go explore! Even if you have to do it on a budget. It will make you a better citizen!

2. What are your childhood memories of travel ? 

-Traveling to Buenos Aries to visit my father who was working there. So glamorous!

3. Where did you dream of traveling when you were a child?

- England

4. Did you travel as a child?

 – Travel for me did not start until I was a teenager

5. What did you learn as a child about the expectation for black people to travel? 

– That we could only travel via car. We were not rich enough to fly.

Europe Vacation

6. Did you admire or know of any Black people that traveled when you were a child? 

– My favorite aunt used to travel all the time and I admired her desire to see the world and bring it back to us.

7. Why should Black people travel? 

– Traveling is the great equalizer! You learn more traveling that any college degree. But, get the degree!

8. What was your first trip? 

– NYC on an air plane. It was a Boeing 747 operated by PanAm.

Europe Vacation

9. How did you plan for it?

 – My parents planned it all. I just had to remember how to behave on the plane.

10. What was your experience there? 

– I just recall the vastness of the big apple. I was so excited.

Europe Vacation

11. Was your travel experience what you expected?

 – Yes. It was way more than I ever imagined

12. How is your travel experience as a Black traveler different from what you perceive as a White traveler? 

– I think people are VERY shocked to see me in first class and at luxury hotels. They think I’m a celebrity, rapper or athlete. Not a senior executive.

13. What is your voice as a Black travel blogger?

 – I blog about luxury travel, experiences, and products.

14. Where do you dream of traveling now? Why?

 – Australia and Asia – Because my wife wants to go! I want to take her to the places of her dreams!

Europe Vacation with Family

15. Anything else you would like to add? 

– Invest in traveling the world. You will be better!