Finally, it’s my favorite part of my blog. I always end my travel journey with my takeaways. What will I remember most, what did I learn from this trip?
First of all, here are my quick stats:
- # of in-flight hours – 25 hours
- # of countries visited – 2
- # of steps -142,769
- # of miles walked – 63.56 miles
- # of calories burned – 28,543
- # of floors climbed – 323
- # of flight segments -4
- # of checked luggage – 1
- # of backpacks – 2
- # of hand carried bags -2
Pleasantly wow’d by WOW Air
Now that we’ve completed all our flight segments with WOW, I have since become a believer that if you do your homework, then you will gain the reward when it comes to knowing what to expect. While all the skeptics may have a very legitimate reason to not fly with WOW, I had to experience WOW for myself. Overall, despite the lost baggage, I am still rating WOW quite highly. Why? Everything I’ve read about them were all proven wrong. I did not fly them just one time. I flew them on 4 flight segments (LAX to KEF, KEF to ARN, ARN to KEF, and lastly, KEF to LAX). I was prepared when the LAX WOW Agent was about to charge me fees for my carryons. After reasonably explaining to her that I should not be charged for my carryons, she did not give me any more trouble. No one at WOW measured any of our carryons or personal items.
The only items that they weighed were the checked luggage, but even with that, I didn’t sense any “strictness” from them. This happened to all of my segments. No one else gave our hand carries and personal items a seconnd guess.
About my lost luggage that was eventually found, well, we were reunited with our luggage at LAX. We had a hunch that WOW would send our luggage on the same flight that we were on. I have to tell you that WOW ensured to stay in touch with me the entire time. It was a triple effort really…WOW Air, Menzies Aviation (the company in Stockholm Arlanda Airport), and the delivery company. I made sure that they were all on the same page that after many attempts to schedule a delivery with me in Stockholm, that it was best to have the luggage delivered in California.
I browse through quite a few travel forums and I shared my very favorable review of WOW. Someone asked me, “Is the $99 airfare an economy flight because I don’t know how I’d do in economy for 10 hours?” Then, if you’re one of those types of people, you’re not a good fit for WOW. If you need all the space, if you need everything to be handed to you on a silver platter, then you need to fly first class or business class. I honestly didn’t see much difference with flying WOW’s economy vs. the other airlines I’ve flown economy. Make sure that you do your homework. Don’t just take my word for it.
So, will I fly WOW again? You better believe it. Without hesitation….come on! It was $99 to Europe!!! Of course, I’d do it again.
So what did we bring on board the plane?
Prior to flying WOW, it was no surprise that we wanted to follow their baggage allowance down to the T. So we made sure we didn’t get bags that were out of the size limits. For weeks, Nancy and I shopped for the right bag, backpack, luggage.
For me, I bought this green Eddie Bauer packable backpack. It was light, and easy to carry around. My laptop, GoPro, and tripod fit here perfectly fine. It has lots of zippered pockets. I was also able to securely insert the Hydroflask here.
For my free carryon, Nancy bought this black bag from Kipling. Another lightweight bag. This was the bag that saved the day for me when our luggage was lost. I had my travel essentials here.
Nancy also bought this purple Tumi backpack. It was built well, so sturdy yet light. She also brought along this other blue bag that was so roomy should we decide to fill it with items.
Overall, I was very pleased with the fact that we didn’t have any further issues with our personal carryons.
MacBook Air, my favorite companion
I thought of just bringing an iPad Air along with me for this trip. But I just couldn’t do that. I love to blog and my MacBook Air allows me to do that almost realtime or shall I say, same day as the events happened. I’m so glad I brough the MBA, no regrets!
Camera – DSLR vs. iPhone vs GoPro
For this trip, Nancy and I brought our Canon T6i DSLR, iPhone 7 and 6 Plus, and GoPro Hero. I brought the DSLR for a chance of capturing the Northern Lights. But it was my mistake to not really understand how to work the dang camera. We took dozens of shots of the Northern Lights and will see how they came out when we get home. I’m not expecting beautiful images since we just guessed on the settings.
I do have to tell you that while my iPhone 6 Plus was the phone that guided us around using T-Mobile’s SIM card, when it came down to pictures, it was Nancy’s iPhone 7 that saved the day. It’s waterproof so it worked everywhere we went, especially at the Blue Lagoon and the waterfalls that we went to. Many of you know that I’m a big Apple believer, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I’ve not uploaded any DSLR picture from this trip, it was all taken mainly from iPhone 7 and a few from my iPhone 6 Plus.
The GoPro Hero 3 also got used more than the DSLR. I’m just hoping that I find time to put our GoPro footage together.
So the takeaway here, I might not be bringing my DSLR to any future vacations any time soon, unless, and I’m hoping this happens, that I take some serious DSLR for beginners lessons.
Driving/exploring on our own vs. joining tour groups
Many of you know me as someone who likes to get to the destination and then go off and explore on my own. That means that I’d usually take public transportation or rent my own car. However,I was fairly warned NOT to drive in Iceland during the heart of the winter. I took heed since I’m not much of a winter driver to begin with. I was a bit unsure how I would do with tour buses. I’m one to always drive ourselves around. I like controlling my own time. But, I had a change of heart after joining 3 tour groups for the Northern Lights, Golden Circle, and South Coast. Many were against the thought of being in a bus (big or small) since you have to wait for the other passengers. I actually didn’t have any issues with any sort of delays from the other passengers. Everyone was prompt in making it back to the buses on time.
As far as the time allowed per stop? Yes, that worked out quite well too. We were given 45 minutes to a little over an hour depending on where we were. That gave us just enough time to explore each stop.
We only joined tour groups to explore outside of Reykjavik. But once we got back in Reykjavik, we were on our own, exploring the city the way I normally would with other places. This time however, we didn’t feel the need to take a bus. Every place we chose to go to were near enough for us to walk to. On average, we walked 18,000 steps per day. There was one day when we walked over 20,000 steps.
I also had an experience with using a huge bus (for the Northern Lights), and mini-buses for the other tours. I didn’t mind riding the big bus. As fas as riding the minibus, here’s a tip. The way the mini bus layout works, one seat on the left side, and two seats on the right side. Since we were all going to be riding for 8-11 hours, we decided to fill up the single seats, therefore, we were sitting alone, and not next to one another. What’s so good about this? You have more space. That’s my mini-bus tip.
In Sweden, it was different. we were on our own. From the airport, we took Arlanda Express, a 20-minute train ride to the city center. Once we got to Stockholm, we bought an SL transportation card that was worth $27 and good for trams, buses, and trains. That’s how we explored. We used Google Maps and Tripadvisor Reviews a lot to help guide us during our way around.
I’m a huge advocate of making sure to wear the proper shoes. Knowing that we’d be exploring in winter-like conditions (rain, snow, and possibly extremely cold weather situations) I resorted to relying on boots by The North Face. I got these boots over 2 years ago and used it quite a bit during all of my trips to NYC, New Jersey, Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland. It’s waterproof, already broken in, tried and tested. On the days that it didn’t rain or snow, I used my Nike running shoes, so snug, so comfortable, and I enjoyed walking thousands of steps with them.
Nancy also used a couple of boots by Merrell. Both of them served her well, especially the Merrell boots were so light, she was able to wear them day and night without issues.
Do not underestimate the importance of wearing the proper socks, especially in the winter. Nancy shopped around and read many great reviews on People Socks. We bought their unisex Merino Wool socks and it kept us warm and comfy during the entire trip. I highly recommend them.
We still overpacked
Yes, as you know we lost one whole luggage (but it was eventually found by WOW). That luggage had 2-3 other winter jackets, gloves, scarves, underwear, layers of clothing, pants, etc. After learning that our Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here for more info)was going to cover our daily clothing needs for a total of $200/day, we bought a few things to get us through the next few days. But truly, and I mentioned this to Nancy, we survived without a whole luggage filled with clothing. Lesson-learned, bring less, travel smarter.
Travel Protection Benefits
I wrote about the importance of travel protection benefits (click here). Whenever we travel, there was always an option at the end of booking process to insure ourselves in case there are changes. I’ve never given it a second thought because the insurance cost at times are quite absurd. I know of folks who wouldn’t travel without such insurance. My lesson-learned here is not that I need to purchase travel insurance or protection, instead:
- Use the proper credit card with travel protection benefits
- Make sure there is NO extra costswith getting the benefits
- Learn the benefits, and if ever needed, know what you’re entitled to
T-mobile came through again
For my cell phone service, I used T-mobile again. It’s a service I used last summer during our trip to Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris. I paid around $60 to get 6GB of data and unlimited text message. If I’m in an area with a Wi-Fi, I can make phone calls to a landline or to another cell phone for FREE. If I were in an area with no Wi-Fi, the phone call charge was at $0.20 per minute which wasn’t bad, and I’ve had to make a few emergency calls. However, the most important of them all, besides the associated fees, the service was extremely reliable. I was on LTE or 4G speeds 85%
of the time. I was able to use Facebook Live, shockingly, and so clearly even when we were close to the waterfalls. It was so cool to be able to share a lot of this with my Facebook friends and family.
How were the Europeans toward Asians?
I took a selfie with a Swedish local and we pretended to look angry
A good friend asked me this question. It took me by surprise because I’ve never even thought about it. I’ve traveled to Europe many times and have not thought of myself as a Filipino or an Asian, or Filipino-American. I’ve never felt any kind of hostility towards my race or my ethnic background. I simply look at myself as a global citizen, someone who has a passion to travel wherever my US passport takes me, and I think if you the have opportunity to do so with your passport, travel to foreign countries that are out of your comfort zone.
We’ve now visited Europe for the 5th time and each visit has renewed our desire to keep traveling. Each visit has been just as exhaustive as the last one with lots of walking and strolling. Again, I know that Nancy and I will be doing more traveling in the future, and I’m glad that we didn’t wait for the “right” time.
Life is too short. If you have the opportunity to travel now, near or far….go! There is so much to see and we’ve only scratched a minuscule surface of the beauty this world has to offer.
The next trip is 40 days away, this time we bring the whole family. Where to? Just you wait.
For now, here are a few more pictures from our trip….thanks for following our journey to Sweden and Iceland.