Savvy Blog

Entries for December 2008


After watching endless CNN reports about hellish, weather-related holiday travel experiences, Savvy Navigator does some end-of-year reflecting on why he still loves to travel. This top-five list is actually part one of a two-part series, and as he sits typing in his comfortable mountain home in front of a roaring fire (happily nowhere near an airport) here goes:

#1 Coming home with exotic injuries adds to the glam factor – This year Savvy Navigator returned home from his reconnaissance and gay tour planning trip to Botswana with a broken ankle. While he would otherwise like to attribute this injury to being chased by a raging adolescent male elephant, the sad reality is that he tripped down a flight of unlit stairs at his over-the-top safari lodge in the Okavango Delta (Vumbura Plains). Nevertheless, the fact that the injury was sustained while on a luxury safari generates incredible interest and everyone seems to be so curious about how the ankle was broken.

And upon reflection of injuries and illness past — the parasites from Ecuador, the broken shoulder from Telluride, the allergic reaction in Buenos Aires, and the food poisoning from Bangkok – Savvy Navigator is amazed at he is still healthy despite bringing home all these, ahem, souvenirs.    

#2 It’s cool to be an American abroad again – For the past 8 years, Savvy Navigator has been playing Canadian when traveling overseas (well, there is some legitimacy, SN husband is from Regina, Saskatchewan). As the USA has systematically opted out of playing nice in the world community, there is newfound optimism and excitement about the general direction the United States. On the latest trip overseas, 100% of all those Savvy Navigator encountered were excited about the Obama election and what it represents. The purpose of this blog entry is not to be political, at all, but rather it’s about noticing that the underlying love for America, that has always been present, is starting to bubble to the surface again. 

#3 Visiting foreign vineyards means wine list literacy back at home – Savvy Navigator has spent many hours visiting boutique vineyards and tasting wine in places like Stellenbosch, South Africa and Mendoza, Argentina. As he manages to sniff out some amazing boutique vineyards, his wine knowledge has increased exponentially and his ability to be intimidated by a robust wine list has been reduced. Just last week, a sommelier was waxing on eloquently about a Bodegas Catena Zapata in Mendoza, and SN thought to himself, “Yes, I rode my bicycle over to that vineyard one afternoon last year…” 

#4 Achieving Platinum Status – Savvy Navigator and husband freely admit they are mileage whores. Whether it’s an airline, hotel, rental car, or frequent dining program, this family has top-tier status all over the place. While being a Grand Pooh-Bah is better in some programs over others (i.e. Starwood Platinum rocks), the slight-better-than-average the top-tier traveler receives makes moving about the world a heckuva lot easier. Plus, knowing that those points are on account out there, gives SN real piece of mind. Just last week, it only took 15k Air Canada Aeroplan points to fly down adorable nephew from Toronto (YYZ-DCA) to help infirm Uncle Savvy get ready for the holidays.      

#5 Watching Bizarre Foods on Travel Channel has new meaning – Many readers know that the Savvy Navigator household has a huge affinity for the Travel Channel. Over the past 18 months, the programming on the network has dramatically improved and one of SN’s favorite shows is Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Very often, he will watch Andrew ingest interesting epicurean fare in an exotic locale and Savvy Navigator is able to remember the exact same delectable experience. The joy of travel means broadening one’s food perspective and invigorating the taste buds.

Savvy Navigator will post part two of this series some time before the end of the year. In the meantime he and the SN team will you and yours a fabulous Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever your preferred winter holiday might be.

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Posted in: South Africa


Universal Packing List Tool

Universal Packing List Tool

Savvy Navigator is often asked about the optimal packing strategy. Whether it’s a gay tour and safari to South Africa or a quick getaway with the boys to the beach, the greatest fear of many travelers is arriving at their destination sans suitable stuff. And then what’s a boy to do?

One tool Savvy Navigator recently discovered is the Universal Packing List website. While it’s not 100% suitable for all gay travel, it does a mighty fine job of priming the packing pump. Using this packing wizard will eliminate the initial overwhelm of starting the lading process and get the ball rolling and that suitcase filled.

After entering your trip parameters into the homepage, drop-down menus, a comprehensive packing list is produced. The output is an extensive - suitable for printing - checklist, which includes handy pre-departure don’t forget to reminders.

It ain’t perfect, and Savvy Navigator would love to see this tool be further developed to offer greater options and details (such as as numbers of each particular item to pack). But lacking other web-based packing options at this point, this tool is a good start.

The key learning here for Savvy Navigator is that he needs to spend some time with the WhyFor Design boys to develop the perfect tool for his own website.


Attention all you airline geeks: this one’s for you. Savvy Navigator has found the perfect Christmas gift for that gay travel aficionado in your life. And it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for that on-the-same-wavelength nephew who happens to be in love with the airline industry.

Savvy Navigator recently met author Jennifer Coutts Clay, an icon in the airline industry, who recently updated her classic book, Jetliner Cabins. This book is an amazingly interesting resource covering the past (Concorde, Eastern, Braniff, Pan Am, etc.), the present (a comprehensive survey of U.S. and international airlines), and the future (Airbus A380, Boeing B787 Dreamliner, Bombardier C-Series, and the new category of Embraer Very Light Jets). You’ll read about everything from safety, seat design, and fabric selection to meal service, accessibility and maintenance in first-, business- and economy-class cabins. It also has really cool cabin layout diagrams.

Savvy Navigator chatted with Jennifer and she shared this, “In the past 25 years airlines have spent fortunes on interior upgrade programs – to comply with escalating regulatory requirements, to address individual customer needs and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. What do passengers get for their money? How are new products, such as sleeper seats and lounge bars, integrated into existing floor plans? Why do some cabin environments feel more welcoming than others? This book is where readers will find answers to some of these difficult questions.”

Savvy Navigator has ordered several copies to bestow upon his geeky, anorak-wearing friends. Shouldn’t you do the same?


OK, these places are typically not on the itinerary for the typical gay tour, but Savvy Navigator found this National Geographic adventure blogger’s posting on the top ten worst travel destinations ruined by tourism to be insightful and interesting.

Go ahead and click through to read the full post, but in a nutshell, we all should consider avoiding these places especially: Cancun, Orlando and the increasingly-vulgar Dubai.

Savvy Navigator is not so sure he agrees about Antarctica, but that’s probably because it’s still the one continent he’s not yet visited.



Savvy Navigator has been able to determine that there are no orthodontists in the bush. While on safari recently, he got very close to a breeding herd of female elephants and their offspring. He was most amused at this young mother with her crooked and deformed tusks. He wonders how this happened?

And in a future entry, Savvy Navigator will detail his adventures being charged by an adolescent male elephant, who had recently been cast out of the breeding herd.

Posted in: South Africa
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