Joanne Drummond Photography: Blog en-us (C) Joanne Drummond. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without permission. [email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:27:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:27:00 GMT Joanne Drummond Photography: Blog 120 80 Olympic Facts for Those Who Can’t Get Enough of the Games The 2012 Olympics offer an unprecedented amount of coverage, with programming running almost around the clock on several television 

photo of Mini keychain
Official souvenir of the 2012 Olympics

channels. In addition, fans can keep up online and with apps for smartphones and tablets. As the media scrambles to keep our attention, they continue to churn out obscure facts about London, the Olympics and specific athletes. Following is a list of some of the oddest and most interesting things I have learned during the first week of the Games. I'm not sure if it's all true, but it's what I've heard. 

  1. The London Tube is the oldest subway system in the world, dating back to the mid-1800s. It’s been around so long that a species of mosquito unique to the Tube has had time to evolve.
  2. London taxi drivers have to memorize the location of all of the streets and landmarks in the city, and they must pass a test to qualify for the job. The pass rate is only 50 percent.
  3. While tea is the most popular drink in England, with 156 million cups consumed per day, it was such a rare commodity in the 17th century that servants weren't permitted to touch it. The Brits give credit to the Duchess of Bedford for giving birth to the ritual of afternoon tea, but claim that the requirement of extending the pinkie is a myth.  
  4. The Olympic medals are stored in a vault in the Tower of London until they are awarded to the winners of each event. Legend has it that if the ravens leave the grounds of the Tower of London, the white tower will crumble, and the monarchy will fall. Therefore, London’s most popular tourist attraction is required to have six ravens on hand at all times. There are also two backups in case something happens to the official birds. A group of ravens is called an unkindness, not a flock. The opponents of Baltimore’s football team probably consider this an appropriate name.  
  5. Michael Phelps consumes 12,000 calories per day. That’s six times the recommended rate for the average man.
  6. London is hosting the Olympics for the third time, but Queen Elizabeth’s grand entrance in 2012 marked the first time she has attended the opening ceremonies.
  7. In another first, Wimbledon will not enforce the rule that tennis players wear predominantly white during the Olympics. Showing her true colors, Venus Williams is sporting a patriotic hairdo with red, white and blue braids.
  8. While, the governments of most countries fund the athletes who participate in the Olympics, the American government does not.
  9. The men and women who marched under the sign of Independent Olympic Athletes in the parade of nations at the opening ceremonies come from the former Netherlands Antilles and the newly formed South Sudan.
  10. While I can’t verify that volleyball is the only Olympic sport that has cheerleaders, I have not seen them at any other event in London, nor have I noticed them at a previous Olympics. Along the same lines, beach volleyball matches now feature dancers.
  11. Horses that participate in the equestrian events must have a passport and a microchip to travel. The American team’s horses were placed in huge containers and flown to London in FedEx planes.
  12. The marathon has been one of the most well-known events since the Olympics began, but the women’s event was not introduced until 1984.
  13. The Australian flag is red, white and blue, but the country’s athletes normally wear green and gold uniforms. The Australian athletic community adopted these colors after its country’s cricket team wore them during a British tour in 1899. Green and gold represent the golden wattle, Australia’s national flower, as well as the colors of the landscape.
  14. The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912. This year’s medals, designed by British artist David Watkins, are the heaviest and largest in Olympic history. 
    photo of Michael Phelps
    This guy needs no introduction.
The following story was not discussed during the Olympics, but I heard it several months ago, and it stuck with me. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens famously humiliated Hitler by winning four gold medals. His roommate Louis Zamperini, although virtually unknown, was also a hero. A member of the Army Air Corps, his plane was shot down in 1943, and he survived 47 days at sea before becoming a prisoner of war for two years. Captain Zamperini won several awards for his valor.  He wrote “Devil at My Heels” and is the subject of the book “Unbroken,” both of which tell the story of his remarkable life.  
Please share the interesting trivia you have learned during the Olympics. 
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) England London Olympics trivia Fri, 03 Aug 2012 17:42:47 GMT
Culture Club: Asian Pop Comes to Town
While most of the world was focused on London this weekend, there was a whole lot of activity in my neighborhood, too. With the Orioles in town, an army of orange turned out to support the team in its bid to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Down the street at M &T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, Tottenham and Liverpool drew a more international set for their soccer match. While it wasn’t always obvious which of these events people were attending, there was no doubt about who was in town for the third big affair, the Otakon convention.
I’m not really sure what Otakon is all about, but when 31,000 teenagers in strange costumes take over the streets around the Baltimore Convention Center every year, I know it’s time for the convention. According to the Otacon website, this event is for the otaku generation, honoring anime, manga, and all facets of Asian pop culture. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that the kids are well behaved, friendly and happy to pose for pictures, so they’re alright in my book.
You have to see it to believe it, so here you go. 
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[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Asian pop culture Baltimore Otakon otaku travel Sun, 29 Jul 2012 03:46:21 GMT
Get Your Art on in Baltimore
If you’ve never been to Baltimore, your impression of the city has probably been formed by the television shows Homicide and The Wire, 
Joanne Drummond Photography: Baltimore &emdash;
John Waters has made Baltimore
famous for its quirky characters.
two gritty series about drugs, murder and corruption. After living downtown for 16 years, I can tell you that everything you see is accurate–broken families, failing schools, political corruption, gang violence, teen pregnancy, STDs and substance abuse. We’re known to many as the City that Breeds, the City that Bleeds and a few other titles that are nothing to be proud of.
But there’s a lot more to Baltimore than you see on TV. There’s also the Baltimore of John Waters, creator of the hit Hairspray and several other quirky films that accurately portray the many loveable, offbeat characters with big hair and strange accents who have earned us the name Charm City.   
Art Lives Here
If you scratch off the grimy reputation, you’ll discover that Baltimore is a cultural gem. The city is filled with so many museums and other sites that feature world-class art, music, literature, history and theatre that you’ll never have time to see it all if you visit. In fact, after all these years, I still haven’t.
This weekend, Baltimore showed off its finer side by putting on Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the US. For three days every year, visitors from across town and across the country try to take in as much of Artscape as they can cover. The festival features every form of art you could think of and then some. The most popular attractions are the hundreds of booths filled with unique treasures created by local artists and at least five stages that offer music of every genre. This year’s national acts included Brian McKnight, Clutch and Rebirth Brass Band. Artscape also offers visitors the opportunity to find out about what’s new at local museums, pick up giveaways from national sponsors, enjoy street performers and take in short features by local filmmakers.
Welcome to Wonderland
Joanne Drummond Photography: Baltimore &emdash;
A walk down Charles Street is a surreal experience during Artscape. 
Artscape’s borders have expanded to include Charles Street, which was converted into a fantasy land. In strolling the few blocks, I felt like I was living Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. I passed three stages, one of which was made of pallets; a knitted port-a-potty; a houseboat topped by a guy wrapped in a snake and a band; a rock opera performed by a cast of medieval punks; a turkey breast children’s ride; an enormous crash-test dummy; a large drawing of John Waters’ head, an art car exhibit and a fashion show. My favorite was a human exhibit that I think was supposed to be an artful interpretation of some down and out folks.
The most impressive part of the festival was that it brings together people of just about every race and economic class, and everybody gets along. Funny thing about art. It always seems to melt away the differences among people, yet it’s the first thing that gets cut when budgets are tight. Perhaps if we started replacing guns with guitars, our streets wouldn’t be littered with bullets and drug paraphernalia.
Dance more, sing more, make art more, Baltimore.

Check out more of my photos from Artscape. 
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Artscape Baltimore art crime festival music tourism Tue, 24 Jul 2012 01:42:27 GMT
6 Rules for Finding the Best Airfare
Many travelers are staying closer to home or making the long drive to their destination these days as the cost of a plane ticket becomes more unaffordable. If flying is your only option, and you don’t have wads of cash or piles of frequent flier miles, try these tips when searching for your next flight.

Photo of Paris

Use these tips if driving to your destination isn't an option.
1. Know when to book.
Look for flights at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. This is when the low-cost airlines like Southwest publish their specials. The larger airlines follow suit within the next few hours. Prices tend to rise by the weekend. Rates can change quickly, and other travelers can snatch up the cheap seats, so if you find a good price, jump on it. Note that the Tuesday rule applies to domestic fares. International fares don’t seem to change on a set schedule.
Don’t book more than two to three months in advance. Rates usually fall a few months before the departure. 
2. Know where to look.
Websites like and search several sites to come up with a list of available flights and prices. They can also lead you to more convenient flight schedules you wouldn’t find on an airline’s sight because they mix flights with other airlines. Note that some airlines, including Southwest, do not appear on these sites.
At, users can enter their closest airport to come up with a list of the best prices for flights to cities throughout the United States as well as some international cities. Users can also sign up for weekly emails with the best flight prices, many of which are unadvertised. 
3. Be flexible.
I clicked the “My dates are flexible” option on the last flight I booked, and I ended up saving more more than $1,000 by changing my departure date by two days. I can’t promise you’ll be as lucky as I was, but you can often save a decent amount of money if you’re willing to change your schedule by a few days. Tuesday and Wednesday are usually the cheapest days to fly, and the old rule about flying more cheaply if you stay over on a Saturday no longer applies.
4. Be social.
Some airlines release special offers on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter before revealing them to the rest of the world. You can also learn about deals from your city by registering for the airline’s email list.
5. Check the schedule.
Many people buy the cheapest ticket without looking at the flight times. That’s a bad idea for a few reasons. Let’s say you want to spend a long weekend in New Orleans. You book a ticket that leaves on Friday and returns on Monday. Imagine all the fun you can have in four days in the Big Easy. In checking your itinerary, you notice that the flight arrives at 10:30 p.m. on Friday and departs at 7:00 a.m. on Monday. Add in the time it takes to travel to and from the airport, and you’ll arrive just in time for bed on Friday night, and you’ll have to be in bed just after dinner to make your early morning flight on Monday. That only gives you two days, not to mention that you’ll miss out on two nights on the town. After considering the money you’ve spent for a hotel for those two nights, it’s just a bad deal.
Transportation to and from the airport could be an issue depending on your flight times. You’re less likely to find a ride from a friend if you are flying early in the morning or late at night. That leaves expensive options like hiring a taxi or airport shuttle or parking in an airport lot. The tram near my house only costs $1.60 each way, so I try to book during its operating hours when possible. 
Direct flights are hard to find these days and are often priced much higher than those with connections.
If your flight has connections, beware of layover times. I’ll pay more to avoid a long layover, which costs me valuable time and often a good chunk of change on meals and snacks. I also pass on any itinerary with less than an hour between flights, even if they are in the same terminal, because if my first flight is late, I'll be mor likely to miss my connection and lose my luggage.
I have taken several international flights through JFK, which is the perfect storm for airport unpleasantness on the return trip. If you absolutely can’t avoid this airport, allow at least three hours between flights on the return trip. Since it’s the first port of entry in the country, all passengers must wait in long lines at Immigration, pick up their checked baggage, pass through Customs and check their baggage again. Then they must go to another terminal for their connecting flight, where they must pass through security. I have never spent less than 45 minutes in security, and they won’t send anybody to the front of the line for a flight that’s about to depart because everyone in line is facing that issue.
6. Add up the hidden costs.
Fees for checked bags, choosing seats and other services not included in the price of the ticket can add up, especially if you’re traveling as a family. Therefore, come up with a total cost before making your choice.
If you have any other tips for finding cheaper airfare, please share them here. 
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) airline prices budget travel flight schedule travel vacation Mon, 16 Jul 2012 21:30:52 GMT
My Memory of Lionel Batiste
When I was skimming headlines on last night, I was two stories down before my heart skipped a beat. Uncle Lionel Batiste is dead. Wait … what? I had to back up and read it again. Lionel Batiste. I know him!
To be honest, I don’t actually know Lionel Batiste, a huge figure in the New Orleans music scene, but he made a big impression when I ran into him about two years ago. As I was entering the courtyard of the legendary Preservation Hall to meet up with my jazz tour, he was finishing up a photo shoot.
Most of my family and friends know that I adore the music and culture of New Orleans. I’m also a huge fan of Tremé, the HBO series about the city, so I immediately recognized Uncle Lionel and his Tremé Brass Band drum.
All I could think of was getting a picture of that drum because I was certain that I would never come across anything that screams New Orleans like that beat up instrument. Had I known at the time that Uncle Lionel had used his drum to keep himself afloat in the post-Katrina floods, I probably would have passed out on the spot.
As I stood there trying to work up the courage to ask permission to take a picture, Uncle Lionel was packing up his things. I knew that he’d be gone in a few moments.
What if he thought I was crazy for asking? What did it matter since I’d never see him again? What if he said no? And why were the other few guests meandering around looking more interested in starting the jazz tour when a living, breathing musical giant was standing right in front of them?
photo of Lionel Batiste
Ah, what the hell? “Hi, do you mind if I take a picture of your drum?” I practically whispered, and my heart stopped as I waited for his response.
Slowly, he turned around and picked up his drum. Oh, no, you idiot! Why didn’t you just walk over and take the damn picture before he had a chance to move the drum? I can’t believe I upset him so much that he’s going to hide it. Now I’ll never get my shot!
Suddenly, he turned to face me and struck a pose with the drum. This was too good to be true! My heart resumed beating and began to pound furiously. I only had seconds to get the shot. I was looking straight into the sun. I was too close to get a full body shot.
He started to lower the drum, and I snapped as quickly as I could, praying for the best. Then, despite his age and frail build, he disappeared with his drum in an instant.
I spent the next few minutes willing my heart back to its normal pace, trying to look nonchalant about my run-in with a legend. Inside the tiny, dark hall, I struck up a conversation with the photographer, who explained that he was working on a book of photos of famous musicians posing with their instruments. He soon excused himself to shoot his next subject, Mardi Gras Indian chief Monk Boudreau, who was waiting patiently while we wrapped up our chat.
I don’t know whether it’s the Southern culture or the fact that musical talent is the norm in New Orleans, but it’s remarkable to me that musicians in this town mingle with the masses and don’t put on any airs. In any other city, they would be surrounded by an entourage and a throng of fans and paparazzi. Despite this unusual attitude, I preferred to focus on my success in shooting Batiste rather than pushing my luck with Boudreau, so I faded into the shadows to wait for the tour.
When the tour guide called us together and led us back into the light of day on St. Peter Street, he offhandedly revealed the identities of the gentlemen we had seen inside. The rest of the group, assuming the New Orleans attitude, seemed unimpressed. As for me, it was the highlight of my trip and a memory that will last a lifetime.
Rest in peace, Unc. Enjoy your second line.
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Lionel Batiste New Orleans Mon, 09 Jul 2012 17:59:49 GMT
Interrupting the Heat Wave with a Simple Writing Request Can it get any hotter outside? Yes, and according to, it could reach 109 today. That’s about 43 for anyone born outside the United States. I’m not even going to attempt to leave the house for fear that I will spontaneously combust. Instead, I’ll enjoy the air conditioning and plow through the stack of magazines that’s been growing on my coffee table.
For more effective writing, KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. It shows respect for your reader's time and increases the chances that he or she will read your document. 
My magazine-reading habits are like those of most people, according to what they teach in the communications seminars I attend. We prefer articles we can scan quickly and lots of white space, graphics and photos. When we come across long blocks of text, we tend to feel overwhelmed, unwilling to invest our time on long sentences that lead us down a long confusing path with no sign of reward at the end.
We feel the same way about insurance, legal and financial documents, pretty much anything you’d find in the business world. Don’t get me wrong; our preferences don’t mean that we’re stupid or illiterate. People are just really busy.
Don’t Forget to KISS: Keep Is Simple, Stupid
If given the choice, I’m sure that people would choose the concise, simply worded document over the long one filled with words you’d find on an SAT test. So why do people continue to churn out documents that look like they are a college essay? Is it because they believe they will look more intelligent? Actually, a Harvard study says that the opposite is true.
Although it takes practice, it’s possible to simplify your writing by using short words and short sentences without sounding like you’re talking down to people. You wouldn’t use those long sentences and big vocabulary words if you were talking to someone, so write like you are having a conversation with the reader.
How to Simplify Your Writing
Following are some suggestions from a writing bootcamp that I recently attended:
  •  Replace long words with short words that mean the same thing. For example, use instead of utilize, have or feel instead of experience, home instead of residence.
  • Cut words that would not change the meaning of the sentence if removed. Delete phrases like it is believed that, in my opinionand in terms of.
  • Don’t use a phrase when a word will do. Replace that point in time with then or when, cut because of the fact that to because; shorten in order to show to show. 
  • Use active voice instead of passive so the reader knows who is performing the action, and that the person or organization is taking accountability.   
  • Use bullets, subheads and graphics to break up your text.
  • Avoid referring to the reader in the third person. Write as you would speak, using you or the imperative voice. My city government should be fined for breaking this rule on a regular basis, constantly issuing alerts and instructions on what citizens or residents should do in various situations. Considering the low literacy rates where I live, most people probably can’t even read the words, let alone realize that the information is directed toward them. Please, Madam Mayor, just say you. Also, leaders, please stop referring to yourself in the first person. Geez, even the president of the United States says we, not I.
  • Avoid overuse of bold, italics, capitalized and underlined text because it overwhelms and confuses the reader, often making him feel like he is under attack.
  • Use spell check, but proofread afterward. Spell check will not notify you if you typed loose instead of lose because it’s still a word. 

What’s the Point?
Writing simply shows respect for your reader’s time. It also increases the chance that he or she will read your document and take the action you request, which is your ultimate goal.
Not sold? Research has shown that people overestimate the vocabulary knowledge of others by 30 percent. That means that your reader might not understand about a third of what you’re writing, which is sort of like trying to read a foreign novel after only a few years of language class. It doesn’t work. Trust me.
If you still need convincing, a study by the University of Baltimore showed that people at high literacy levels actually benefit more than people at lower levels when reading simplified materials.
The bottom line: For everyday use, try simple, concise writing. Save the big words for the New York Times crossword puzzle.
We now return you to the scheduled heat wave. 
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) grammar increase readership literacy simplify your writing writing Sat, 07 Jul 2012 18:42:58 GMT
Use Your Smartphone Wisely When You Travel
I recently attended a jazz concert sponsored by the city in my neighborhood’s park and decided to take pictures of the crowd enjoying the show for use on the community website. When I downloaded the photos, I was disappointed to find that most of them showed people who were more involved with their phones than they were with the neighbors or the music, hardly an advertisement for my exciting urban lifestyle.
While cell phones drive me insane when their owners use them to communicate with everyone but the people right next to them, I’m addicted to some of my iPhone apps, especially when I’m on the road, and I don’t have access to a computer.
photo of Sahara
A smartphone is handy, even when you don't have service.
If you travel overseas, you probably know that the first thing you need to do is turn off the data and roaming to avoid a huge bill. If you can find a café or hotel with Internet access, you can still take advantage of Wi-Fi to use your apps. McDonald’s offers free Wi-Fi, and the coffee wins awards in several countries, so it’s a good option in a pinch.
There’a an app for that. There are lots of apps, many of them free, that can simplify travel. Following are some of favorites: 
  • Most airlines offer apps that enable you to check in and get updated flight information. Some allow you to download a boarding pass for certain airports. I would still recommend a paper ticket after witnessing a TSA agent at JFK tell a passenger who had waited an hour in line for a plane that was due to take off in 15 minutes that the smartphone reader wasn’t working, so she had to go back and get a paper ticket.   
  • TripIt (available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7) enables users to forward their confirmation emails for plane and hotel reservations to the app, so all of the vital information is available in one place. If the information is a small hotel or other vendor not supported by the TripIt system, the user can manually enter the information.
  • If you will be in a city that has a metro system, MetrO is a necessity. Plug in the starting and ending stop or landmark and the time that you want to travel to find out which metro, tram or bus to take and where to transfer. Best of all it’s a downloadable database, so you don’t need WI-FI or a data plan. Just beware that some city names are presented in their native language, e.g., Prague is Praha, and Vienna is Wien.  Check the website for the list of smartphones supported, as the company continues to add more.
  • A foreign dictionary always comes in handy if you are going to a country where English is not the native language. There are free versions for many languages, but like most apps, the paid versions offer more. Before buying, be sure to find out whether Internet access is required if you won’t be using your data plan.
  • A currency converter is abig help when you are shopping and trying to figure out how much you are spending on a souvenir, or when you're at the ATM trying to figure out how much money you need. I use GlobeConverter Free because I can open it before I leave or when I have Wi-Fi access to download current exchange rates, and it will use the last rate downloaded to make the calculations.  
  • To stay in touch with the folks back home without spending an arm and a leg, download Pinger's free texting program. If you have Wi-Fi, you can text anyone in the U.S. for free. Pinger also offers free incoming calls from any U.S. phone and free outgoing calls to any mobile phone in the U.S. that also has this app.
  • Walking tours can offer advice on what to see and how to get there. Again, find out whether Internet access is required if you won’t be using your data plan. Rely on user reviews to choose the best guide. Some of the popular travel guides, such as Frommer’s and Rick Steves, are available for a fee, but they are cheaper than the printed books and certainly less weighty. Remember that most hotels and tourist spots overseas can provide a free map as well as advice on the best places to visit, so don’t rule out the locals as some of the most useful resources.
  • Foursquare, available for most smartphones, is helpful if you can use your data plan and you want to know what’s worth seeing in the vicinity. Although I don’t really care to be the mayor of any of the places I visit, I was happy to let it lead me through the Garden District of New Orleans to the homes of some celebrities and the resting place of Lestat, the main character in several Anne Rice books.
  • Living Social offers bargains in your town and throughout the world. PayPal also offers an app called Where that provides information on local offers based on your GPS location.

Know where to go. While a map app can be a great travel tool, it’s still a good idea to print out a map that shows the location of your hotel before you leave. While I’m on this topic, research the best way to go from the airport to wherever you’re staying by doing a search for “transportation from whatever airport to whatever town.” You can compare prices between shuttles, taxis and whatever modes of transportation available and learn how and where to buy tickets. You will probably be tired and disoriented when you arrive, so it won’t be a good time to start figuring out where you are and where you need to be, especially if you won’t be in an English-speaking country.
A photo of your luggage doesn't have to be a work of art. 
Take a picture. You’ve probably heard that you should keep a copy of your passport in a separate bag. But what of you lose your bag? What if you lose your passport and you just can’t get to your bag? As a simple safeguard, take a picture of your passport and email it to yourself. You can also take a picture with your cell phone. If the phone or the camera uses a flash, make sure your photo, the passport number and expiration date are still visible. As I mentioned in my last entry, use your phone to take a picture of your suitcase just before you leave for your trip. That way, if the airline loses it, you can show someone exactly what it looks like. 
I hope you get a lot of use out of your phone while you’re away, but I also hope that you don’t become so involved with it that you miss out on all of the exciting activities and scenery around you. And if you come across a must-have app, please let me know. 
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) iPhone apps smartphone travel Thu, 05 Jul 2012 22:55:20 GMT
It’s in the Bag: 5 Packing Tips for Simpler Travel Are you one of the masses heading out for summer vacation over Independence Day week? If you’re traveling by plane, train or another form of public transportation, you will be fighting for space to stow your bags and most likely carrying them a fair distance. These tips can help you keep your luggage safe and your sanity intact. 
  1. Reduce your baggage allowance. If you plan to get around by train or another form of public transportation, be sure to pack light. Instead of heavy jeans, ladies can pack lighter skirts or dresses along with tights for cooler weather. Remember, black goes with everything. Shoes are heavy and take up a lot of room, so limit yourself to two pairs. When it’s cool, I bring a pair of flat boots and a dressier pair with low heels, and they take me everywhere. In the warmer months, I wear a pair of black Mary Janes that take me from day into night along with sandals or flip flops for the beach or pool.Toiletries are also heavy, so pack travel-size bottles of shampoo, lotions and other products that your hotel won’t provide. To help prevent wrinkles and to make more room in my suitcase, I stuff small piles of clothes in clear vacuum-pack bags that flatten to remove the  air. If you can’t find them at Walmart, Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond, fold clear plastic shopping bags under for the same effect.
  2. Keep the weight on your back to take a load off your mind.Do you really need to be told to pack your camera, laptop, jewelry and other valuables in your hand luggage? Sure, it can get heavy, especially if your camera is as hefty as mine, but if you don’t carry it with you, just kiss it good-bye before boarding your flight. While you’re packing your carry-on, be sure to throw in any medication you will need for the entire trip, and add a little extra in case your return home is delayed.  Don’t forget aspirin and over-the counter drugs you may need, such as cold and allergy medicine because foreign pharmacies aren’t always easy to navigate.
  3. Bag it. The type of suitcase you use makes a big difference. Since I’m petite, and I usually take the train from place to place when I travel abroad, I have learned the hard way that a standard suitcase is not easy to load on and off a train and even more difficult to drag up the steps in the many metro and train stations that don’t have an elevator. Instead, I use a duffel bag on wheels. Not only is it lighter, but it’s not as deep, so you don’t have to lift it as high off the ground when you are climbing steps. Even better, mine has handles on each end, so I can use both arms to pick it up rather than lifting from the top.
  4. Stand out. After many hours of exhausting travel to your destination, you will look forward to reuniting with your suitcase. Make sure it stands out, especially if it looks a lot like everyone else’s bag. Colorful luggage tags and ribbons tied around the handle can help. I credit my dad, the cleverest person I’ve ever known, with the idea of painting distinctive marks on both sides of my bag. Any kind of wall paint will do. I’ve also used acrylic paint. While you’re making your bag easy to identify, be sure to write your name and the address of the place where you’re staying along with a phone number where you can be reached on a piece of paper and place it in the bag. I include my cell phone number, along with its country code, especially when I stay at a hotel. I always lock my bag with a TSA-approved lock, so I place the sheet in an outside pocket.
  5. Shoot it. Just before leaving on my trip, I use my cell phone to take a picture of my suitcase. That way, if the airline loses it – yes, it’s been known to happen – I can show someone exactly what it looks like. 

If you have any good packing tips, feel free to share.  
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) luggage packing travel vacation Fri, 29 Jun 2012 19:19:00 GMT
Cash or Credit? You Need Both for Overseas Travel It’s officially summer, and a lot of people I know are planning vacations that range from a budget-friendly week in their own town to a month in Europe. As a veteran of several overseas adventures, I know first-hand about the additional challenges that travelers encounter in foreign countries. One of the biggest concerns about overseas travel is money. By following these tips when preparing for your trip abroad, you can face a little less stress and save a lot of money when you’re on the road.
Take Credit. How are you going to pay for your hotel, meals, souvenirs and other expenses if the country doesn’t accept American dollars? Years ago, travelers’ checks were the only option, but many establishments no longer accept them, and there are exorbitant fees for exchanging them, so they really aren’t a viable option anymore. I know of some travelers who rely solely on a preloaded travel card that works like a credit card, but it’s not going to be of any use when you’re trying to buy a one-of-a-kind piece of art from a street vendor. In addition, a poor exchange rate and additional fees make this an expensive way to pay.  A credit card is still a necessity when traveling because it’s never a good idea to carry a large amount of cash. Most credit cards smack a foreign currency conversion fee onto each purchase, usually about three percent of the amount charged. Some can add an additional flat fee for each transaction. To avoid these costs, sign up for a card that doesn’t charge foreign currency conversion fees, like CapitalOne and certain Chase cards. Note that CapitalOne doesn’t charge an annual fee either.
Money talks. While credit cards come in handy, cash is sometimes the only option. Since many countries have an advanced smart chip feature, merchants may not know how to use the American cards with the magnetic strip, and some train stations do not accept these cards. It’s possible to get an American card with smart chip technology – Chase offers a few – but the annual fee is at least $95.
While many larger banks and AAA offer foreign currency, avoid the urge to buy it in the United States, even a small amount. Likewise, don’t buy it in change offices when you arrive at your destination. These places offer a terrible exchange rate and usually add additional fees. You most economical way to get cash is at an ATM. As long as you have a four-digit personal identification number that is all numbers, you should never have a problem. Note that the card usually has to be hooked up to your checking account rather than a money market or savings account. If your card is hooked up to more than one type of account, the money will come from your checking account, and you will not have the option to transfer money between accounts at a foreign ATM. You may be charged a fee for taking money from a foreign ATM, usually $5 to $7, so be sure to take as much as you feel comfortable with rather than using the ATM every day if you are trying to avoid fees. Check with your bank to determine your daily ATM limit and fees. Note that Bank of America customers are not subject to fees when using ATMs at its sister banks in foreign countries.
Before you leave, be sure to call your credit card company and your bank to let them know where and when you will be traveling. If you forget to do this, the company will put a freeze on your card the first time you use it in a foreign country. If that happens, you will have to call the company to straighten it out if you hope to use the card again. Save yourself the time and the cost of an expensive phone call and make arrangements before you leave. Be sure to take the international phone numbers to your bank when you travel just in case something happens.
Finally, do I really need to tell you to keep your cards and cash secure when you travel? Pickpockets can be clever, so think twice before you strap on a backpack that contains your wallet or stuffing your cash in your back pocket. You don’t want to treat a thief to a souvenir of your vacation.   
[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Thu, 21 Jun 2012 22:57:00 GMT
Introducing My First Stab at Blogging I heard that blogging is the way to wealth, so while I never understood why the average person would think that  random strangers would be interested in his or her thoughts and opinions, the lure of a pot of gold has drawn me into the bizarre world of blogging. That and an email promoting this free service. What the heck. At the very least, I can improve my writing skills. If things work out, I could become a force in journalism. I'll just take this one entry at a time and see what happens.

When reading other people's blogs, I often wonder what I'd write about if I were to start my own. What have I done that would make busy people want to interrupt their day to read about? Some friends have asked me about my travels, others have asked for advice on photography, printing and websites, so I guess I'll start with these topics. 

Comments welcome.

[email protected] (Joanne Drummond Photography) Mon, 30 Apr 2012 09:05:00 GMT