Don’t try out jokes on officials

“Why are you here?” asked the Canadian customs officer.

“Vacation,” I smiled.

“And you?” he asked my husband as he inspected his passport.

“I’m here to party!” he replied.

“Step aside,” barked the annoyed officer who proceeded to detain my husband from entering the country.

We’ve since learned that passing through customs is not the time or place to joke with officers performing their duties and this was before 9/11. If you are planning a trip to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean you need to be aware of some new travel restrictions.

According to Larry Habegger of World Travel Watch, Caribbean island nations are considering banning Americans without passports in response to recent amendments to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative passed by the U.S. Congress. The initiative requires all Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to have a valid U.S. passport and went into effect January 8, 2007. As Lamorindan’s cast their travel nets further a field, sometimes into dangerous territory, it’s recommended that travelers check with the State Department’s travel advisories and make sure your passports are up to date. An application for a passport and the rules can be found on the State Department’s Web site: www.travel.state.gov/passport/.

Habegger recently addressed the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club on the art of crafting a compelling travel story. I discovered his “Traveller’s Tales” books when I was tooling around the internet. Three of my favorite bay area authors, Anne Lamott, Frances Mayes and Pam Houston, had contributed to the anthology, “A Woman’s Passion for Travel.” These women inspire me to get out there and experience the world, but I can also join them in their travels while sitting in the carpool lane at school or in a lull between sporting events.

My latest foray into the travel world took place in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. I wasn’t lounging poolside, but I did see Blue Man Group and Phantom at the Venetian while rubbing shoulders with over 3,400 travel professionals at the Luxury Travel Expo. I learned about travel trends for 2007 such as Culinary Tourism, All Inclusive Resorts and Luxury Adventure Travel.

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I think Lamorinda is ahead of the travel curve when it comes to these trends. Lafayette’s Leslie Pease and her sisters went to Divina Cucina Cooking School last year to bond in Florence. Joan and Conrad Breece recently returned from the Galapagos, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, where they toured the environmentally conscious island. Arranged by Eco Adventures, the retired Camino Pablo teacher liked that they were in the Zodiac at 8 a.m. and hiking in natural habitat right away. “You need no less than seven days for this trip,” adds Breece.

I look forward to learning of your adventures, as well as keeping you informed on the latest travel trends. My family and I will be migrating south to Cabo to frolic in the sun and experience the all inclusive resort concept. We’ll see if a colored wrist band determines the success of our trip. I’ve heard that “Members” receive preferred treatment at the place we’re staying. Sounds like a visit to Trip Advisor on the word wide web is in order to hear what others are saying about this destination. There’s also Gusto.com where fellow travelers can reconnect on the web. With over six million visitors since its inception last year, the site can be used to view an online map of the world and keep abreast of friend’s travels. Finally, adventure travelers who like to preview their destinations before they board the plane might check out Tripmates.com.

Nancy Brown grew up in Moraga and lives in Lafayette with her husband and children. She looks forward to hearing of your adventures at NancyBrownConsulting@comcast.net

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