Tag Archives: vacation

Solo Trip To Stockholm

People often ask me if I’m ever afraid to travel alone.  The short answer is yes and no.  It can be a bit daunting to jump on an airplane and travel half way around the world, especially when you’re going to a country you’ve never been to.  Certain places are off limits as a solo traveler, in my opinion.  There are places where I would not feel safe going by myself, and would much rather have a travel companion or go with a tour group.  For instance, I would not want to explore Egypt on my own.  There has been conflict in Egypt, and that part of the world, and I just wouldn’t feel safe going by myself.

Stockholm is definitely not one of those places, though.  Everywhere I went in Stockholm, I felt safe.  I was still cautious of my surroundings, but I felt safe and secure nonetheless.  I guess I’m a bit selfish when it comes to traveling.  I want to have the freedom to start and end my day whenever I please, eat when I want to, and stop and take pictures without inconveniencing a travel companion.  I love using my camera to soak in all the beautiful sights so I can feed my memories for years to come.  I also want to share what I’m seeing with my friends and family.

I did plenty of research before I left for Sweden.  I watched tons of YouTube videos of other people’s voyages to Stockholm, read blogs and books, and talked with people who had been before.  Everyone commented at how safe the city is, and I immediately noticed this first-hand while I was there.  People would ride their bikes to work, for instance, and they would just leave them unchained outside their buildings.  No worries or cares of someone coming along and snatching them up.

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The streets were clean, and the people were friendly.  Not overly friendly, but always willing to help when I had questions or needed directions.  They even seemed happy to welcome me into their country, and would flash a huge smile when they found out it was my first time there.

Public transportation in Stockholm was a breeze.  It was super easy to get around the city by bus, tram, and ferry.  It’s also very easy to get around the city on foot.  Most of the tourist areas are compact and close together.  Walking, you may be more inclined to pop into a shop or attraction that you may have missed had you been on the bus or tram.

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I even felt safe in the evenings.  There seemed to always be large groups of happy Swedes shopping and tourists soaking in the sights, no matter what time of day it was.  Police officials were not far from reach either, which made me feel even more safe.

Does anyone have any suggestions of other places that may be perfect for someone traveling alone?  I’m thinking Tokyo might be my next solo trip.

Norwegian Air Shuttle

My trip to Stockholm was full of firsts for me.  Not only was this my first trip to Stockholm, but it was my first 787 Dreamliner and first flight with Norwegian.  I searched high and low on the internet, looking for reviews and videos that would prepare me for my first Norwegian experience.

Departure

I had originally planned to only travel with carry-on luggage since my flight from Seattle to LAX was early in the morning, and my flight to Stockholm didn’t depart until the evening.  Now that LAX has a connector from Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), I figured I could sit in the lounge to wait out the 5 hour layover.  I was booked in Norwegian’s Premium Cabin, which granted me lounge access.  Norwegian, however, does not allow mobile or online check-ins for flights to/from the United States.  I had to leave the secured area of the airport and wait 3 hours for checkin to open at the TBIT.  There isn’t much to keep one entertained on the check-in side of the TBIT.

Once check-in was opened, I dropped my bag and headed through security.  I headed immediately to the Oneworld Business Lounge and waited out the remainder of my layover.  I had a lovely salad, glass of wine, and relaxed before the 11 hour flight.

ONBOARD: Having watched a few video reviews of Norwegian, I already knew what to expect when I boarded the aircraft.  The cabin is light and airy, and the seats give you plenty of space to stretch out for the long flight.  I have to say, the 787 is an amazing aircraft, and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to fly on one.  The giant windows were fantastic.  I liked that there are no shutters, and you can still see out when the cabin crew have them blacked out for sleep time.  We hit a few bumps over Canada and Greenland, but the 787 really made everything smooth.  The aircraft is quiet too, compared to the others I had been on.

The seats recline a lot further than economy, but nothing compares to the lie-flat beds you find on other airlines.  The IFE comes out of the armrest, and when the people in front of you are reclined you’re pretty much stuck in your seat.  That is, however, unless you know your seat mate well enough to climb over them.  If I fly Norwegian again, I will be requesting an aisle seat for easier access to the lavatory and to get up and stretch.

A meal was served after we had been in the air for about an hour.  I had the beef, which was a bit dry, but still edible.  I had definitely had worse.  I opted for the chicken option on the way back, which was borderline terrible.

The cabin crew were very friendly; always happy to help and always with a smile.  I even overheard one of the flight attendants telling a passenger what a great company Norwegian is to work for.  It’s always nice to see/hear when people are happy with their jobs.

Return

I had a marvelous time in Stockholm, but I have one complaint.  The airport is HORRIBLE!  The check-in area is small and congested.  It’s very chaotic trying to maneuver through the crowds.  I found Norwegian’s check-in area, but was faced with a very long line of people.  I could see there was a separate line for Premium, however there was no sign and it was roped off.  I couldn’t tell if they were not allowing separate Premium check-in or if I needed to just let myself in.  I finally found a staff member willing to help, and he said I could just go right through.

The airport is not easy to navigate.  I searched for about 30 minutes for the lounge.  I finally found it, far away from Norwegian’s dedicated gates.  This lounge was HORRIBLE!  No plug-ins for electronics like most lounges have.  The seating was not comfortable.  Also, the food and drink selection was very substandard, compared to other lounges I’ve been in.  I spent about 10 minutes there, and made my way back toward my gate.  I had to go through Passport Control, and once through there I was restricted from moving around the airport.

Thankfully, Norwegian’s customer service is top-notch, otherwise I would have been in a terrible mood the entire way back.  The cabin crew were just as nice as the first leg of the trip, and they took very good care of me.  I even had the row to myself, so I didn’t have to climb over anyone to get to the bathroom.

Overall Experience

I am giving my Norwegian Air Shuttle experience 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I think they should offer a better Premium product, even if that means raising the price a little.  The food could be better too.  I also believe they should cut ties with Menzies, the company that runs the lounge at Stockholm Arlanda.  That was a terrible lounge, and I won’t take advantage of that privilege next time I’m there.

Stockholm, Here I Come!!

The date is set for September 24th.  I cannot even begin to express how excited I am!  This trip is going to be full of firsts: first time to Stockholm, first flight on the beautiful Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and first flight with Norwegian Air Shuttle.  I booked everything through Expedia, which is where I found the best deal for the flight and hotel package.

FLIGHT:  Seattle has a decent-sized airport that handles many international flights daily.  However, I found a better deal by booking my trip out of LAX, and purchasing a cheap round trip ticket between SEA and LAX.  A word of caution if you do this: the airlines will probably not accommodate your connection plans if anything happens to your connecting flight.  So, if my flight from SEA to LAX is late or cancelled, and I cannot make my flight to Stockholm, I may be screwed.  I’m opting for an early flight out of Seattle, and a really late flight for the return, so that I have plenty of wiggle room  Booking this way, though, helped me shave about $1,000 USD off my trip package which will certainly come in handy later on down the road.

When traveling internationally, I usually like to spend a bit extra on my flight and purchase business class seats. Usually, business class gives passengers the ability to sleep with lie-flat seats and excellent service.  Norwegian does not offer such a class, but does have a Premium Cabin, which teeters somewhere between Business and Premium Economy.  I have seen some excellent reviews online, however, so it should be a lovely experience.  norwegian-premium-cabin

Judging by the pics and videos I’ve seen online, there’s quite a bit of space and the seats appear to have a decent recline to them.  I think I’m most excited about flying on the 787, which I have been dying to fly on since they were introduced into service.  boeing_787_of_norwegian_landing_at_osl

I should mention that Norwegian is a low-cost airline.  If booking in economy, expect to pay for each piece of luggage, as well as in-flight snacks and beverages.  From what I hear, you get the bare-b0nes for your ticket, but the service is still outstanding.  I’ll follow up after my trip.

HOTEL:  While shaving some money off my trip, I was also able to pick an upgraded room with my hotel.  This was all done through Expedia, of course.  The hotel I will be staying at is called the Elite Hotel Marina Tower.  I decided to upgrade to a Junior Suite, which is said to offer a sea view.  The hotel appears to be a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the major tourist areas, but has its own ferry station right out front.  elite-marina-tower-stockholm-fasad4I prefer to be away from the major crowds, and I hope this hotel lives up to the wonderful reviews I’ve read.  I can’t wait to share my experiences with you when I return (and while I’m there).  My one complaint thus far, though, is that I can only seem to find the spa offerings in Swedish.  I’m assuming they’ll have more information at the hotel, and I definitely plan on at least one spa treatment while I’m there.

ATTRACTIONS:  There are so many sights I wish to see while I’m there.  In order to save money, I’m going to purchase The Stockholm Pass.  This is offered through a company called Leisure Pass Group, which offered The London Pass that I purchased for my trip to London earlier this year.  The Stockholm Pass appears to offer a more robust selection of attractions than The London Pass, so I’ll surely be giving this a HUGE thumbs up when I return.  The person who thought up the Leisure Pass Group is a genius in my book!

I also hope to experience some Swedish nightlife while I’m there, and get to know the gay culture of Sweden.  From what I understand, the Swedes are much more progressive than we (Americans) are, so I look forward to meeting people and possibly finding a Swedish husband…I won’t hold my breath on the husband part, though 😉

I’ll certainly be snapping photos left and right, and sharing them here.  A bulk of them, though, will be housed on my Smugmug page, once I return and get them edited.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended in the use of these photos.

Staycations

I’m very fortunate to live in such an amazing place.  I’ve been in Seattle for almost two years, and I can’t seem to get enough of it.  Whether I’m exploring some place new, or hitting up an old favorite, all my troubles and cares fade away.

When I’m staycationing here in the area, I usually have my dog, Chloe, with me.  She’d much rather be running around an 0ff-leash area, but I drag her along with me on my adventures.  It’s like trying to travel with a moody teenager.  I’ll have a post later on about the Disneyland of dog parks.

I especially love staycationing, because I get to go home to my own bed at night.  When traveling elsewhere, I tend to go for the higher-end hotels that make me feel at home.

Back to Seattle…There’s always something to do.  I never grow tired of walking through Pike Place Market, but it can get a bit hectic in the summer when the cruise ships dock.  It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a beautiful park to explore; some big and some small.  Discovery Park is a great place to get lost.  Sunday’s, if you get there early, you can take a ride on a sail boat on Lake Union with the Center For Wooden Boats.  Sunny days are incredibly busy, and there’s only limited space.

Take a camera out and explore where you live.  Put yourselves in the shoes of tourists.  Go out and see something you may not have thought to go see.  The world is ours to explore.