How to Search a Whole Website Using Google

Tweet

The new 10.5”iPad Pro

Image Above: Abstract Art Using Photos of iPad Pro

Post Updated March 10, 2018

I originally wrote this post in November 2018. I don’t know how many people outside the WordPress community know about what’s going on here…so I’ll fill you in a bit. Because it also explains why I’ve not published anything new in a while.

In the fall WordPress introduced a new editor for us to use in creating the webpages and posts that compose our websites. Originally it was available as a sort of ‘beta option’ but I personally was forced to start using it almost from the beginning, because the 2 editors that we’d previously used, while still available, were incredibly messed up. Nothing worked when trying to use them and I’d spend hours and hours just trying to get a few paragraphs entered and formatted…much less get images, titles and everything else uploaded and polished too! The one thing I’m not certain of is if this has been so bad just for me because I only use iPads or if this has been everyone’s experiemce.

It’s been a complete nightmare!

Fast forward a few months and still the new editor is supposedly ‘optional‘ but it’s slowly being integrated into everything we do. It’s not that I don’t like the new editor…In fact I do like it rather a lot. But it’s been almost impossible to get anything finished and polished enough for publication because it doesn’t work very well on an iPad. In addition, I always try to review all my content and keep things up-to-date…but the new editor has made the job almost impossible! I’ve literally spent 3-4 hours trying to fix one or 2 tiny things like typos!

So, while I’m certain that the new editor will be great when it’s finally fully integrated…I have to say…from my perspective WP did a pretty awful job orchestrating it’s transition!

Last week I had intended upon sharing this post with my nephew. I went to update it first (as I typically would) and somehow during that process it was deleted entirely!!! Which is why I’m republishing it today. I actually thought I had already republished it. But when I went to add something to it today I couldn’t even find it! I suppose I should be thankful that I’m not monitizing my websites yet :-)

Introduction

One day last week my husband told me he’d searched a website for something. I’m the tech person now in our empty-nester 2 person household, yet I didn’t know that it was possible to search an entire website for one little thing. My own website for example has hundreds of posts and pages,,,.certainly no one could search through all that quickly and easily. That’s why I continue to house my somewhat unsightly but infinitely useful side menu system (which is in addition to the top menu…and also essentially identical to it!) Yet seeing how ungainly it’s become makes me cringe!

My husband and I argued for a while when I finally learned that he hadn’t really done that. I’m almost to embarrassed to tell you that was a big relief  for me because it means I continue to know more than he does about tech stuff. But the thought stayed with me.

Today I had occasion to need this exact capability so I decided to find out once and for all if this is really possible. And if it is possible, is it possible using an iPad?

That 2nd question is important because as many of my regular readers know, I use an iPad for pretty much everything I do online…which is a lot! Because of that I know for a fact that an iPad can never replace a computer…at least not easily, that is. Despite Apple’s increasing claims to the contrary.

Find a word on a webpage on iPad

What is easily done however using an ios device, is to search a webpage for a specific word or phrase.

I learned today that it’s equally easy to search a whole website for that word or phrase! Even more impressive is that this isn’t limited to just ios devices…

Anyone Can Do It!!!


Here’s How to Search a Whole Website for a Word or a Phrase

Simply pull up a Google search bar and enter this into the search bar:

site:

the site name

the search word or phrase 

It occurred to me that what this is doing is essentially Googling within a website…which is pretty cool I think!

Putting it All Together

site:the site name the search word or phrase


A Real World Example

Today I wanted to search my 93 year old Dad’s website for his story recounting the worst inflation his family had ever experienced. This occurred before he was born in post World War I Germany.

As you can see from the screenshot a little further down, the way that Dad’s site is organized is that he uses menus for main categories of information. That means that when I’m searching for something in his website I need to open each category’s menu and scan through it. This can be time consuming and oftentimes I scan right past what I’m looking for.

My 92 year old Dad's website.

You may also notice that Dad doesn’t have a search bar in his website. That’s something I’ve suggested to him…but let’s face it…at 93 years old he sometimes struggles just to keep creating new content and getting it posted to the right place!  So, maybe when I’m visiting during Thanksgiving I’ll try to figure out how to do that for him.

But I digress…lets get on with my search.

While on his homepage I just scroll to the top of the page where the Google search bar is located. Currently it has his homepage information preloaded into it which makes it super easy for me to add the remaining bits of information.

adding site: to Dad's web address

As you can see by the following Google search results I hit the jackpot.

The Google Search results for my query.

I’m pretty shocked to see how many search results are all from Dad’s site! Apparently he’s written quite a lot on the subject of inflation!  It’s the first search result that’s the one I need…a story called ‘Inflation at it’s Worst.’ 

Dad's article about the worst inflation he's ever heard of in modern times

When I click on it, it takes me to Dad’s fascinating article (shown below) on what may well be the worst inflation that’s ever occurred in modern times!

So it Works!!

I guess I need to give my husband partial credit for even knowing this was possible to do ;-)

The Screenshot Below Shows a Lot of Other Cool Things You Can Do with Google Search

Who Knew You Could Do So Much Using Google Search?
Who Knew You Could Do So Much with Google Search?

Comments

Please leave any comments or questions by scrolling a little further down the page.

Posted in ios, Tech Tips, Websites | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Where is Facebook’s Code Generator in Their New ios App?

Tweet

Use this link to jump right to the section where I talk about how Code Generator works now.

Facebook Introduced Code Generator to Improve Sign-on Security Many Years Ago

I discovered Facebook’s Code Generator in 2012. That was shortly after my Facebook account had been hacked…twice. Both times we were traveling out of the country and I was using public networks.

That was back before we knew just how insecure public networks were!

When I first discovered Code Generator I was thrilled because I use too many different types of devices to effectively use an Authenticator app like Google Authenticator.

When I saw in the App Store that my Facebook app had recently updated, I figured out the problem.
When I saw in the App Store that my Facebook app had recently updated, I figured out the problem.

I figured that Facebook must have updated the app, but not their support (Help) Pages.

We’d just returned home from another international trip and I tried to login to Facebook on an iPad using Safari. I received the message that I should enter the number generated by Code Generator…but when I opened the ios Facebook app, their Code Generator was nowhere to be found!

I tried things like generating backup codes and then using one of those codes in Safari…but that didn’t work. Nothing in fact did work!

That’s when I decided to try the whole process over again. Upon doing so the Code Generator did finally kick in and I was able to use it! But it’s no longer stored within the app. So I’ll explain how to use it now.

How to Use Facebook’s Code Generator in 2019

In order to use my instructions you must have Facebook’s ios app installed.

In order to use the code generator you must first attempt to login to Facebook by entering your account email address or your username…and then your Facebook password. Once you’ve done that the Facebook app should send you an app message…which is sort of like a text message. This message contains the Code that you need to enter.

To see this message, just drag your finger down from the top of your screen and all your most recent ios notifications will be displayed. Tap on the notification message that the Facebook app just generated.

Below: As soon as you tap on that message, Facebook will generate a code and open the app to display it for you.
 A screenshot of the code the Facebook app generates.
This is what Code Generator looks like when you open it in the most current version.

Memorize this number and enter it wherever you were attempting to log into Facebook.

Facebook’s Code Generator Support Pages Don’t Explain How to Use the Current Code Generator

Facebook used to include that information. Unfortunately, they still have the old support information related to using their earlier version of Code Generator within their newest ios app. See below for examples.

A help screen explaining Code Generator.
Here’s an in-app help screen that explains Code Generator.
Facebook's in-app support provides old instructions for using their Code Generator.
Facebook’s in-app support provides old instructions for using their Code Generator.

That’s why I’ve written this post. I spent way too much time trying to figure this out. I even messaged Facebook Support explaining the problem. So, hopefully they will fix it soon. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen!

One time Facebook started blocking my 90 year old Dad’s posts from his blog…stating that they were a security risk. I emailed them and it was a good year later when someone from Facebook actually responded.

The response I got was a canned message thanking me for letting them know! About another year-long wait ensued before Facebook finally fixed the problem…from what I remember. The irony was that…

In the meantime my Dad had quit Facebook because he believed it was insecure!!!


Which Version of Facebook Still Has Code Generator In It?

Below is a screenshot I took from another one of my iPads that still does have Code Generator on it. I found three different versions of Facebook on my iPads which are all pictured below.

This version doesn’t have it!

The iPad that does have Code Generator is using Facebook version 199.0.0.69.98.

Apparently there have been 2 app updates since that one.

Below is a Screenshot showing where you’ll find Code Generator in this older version of the app. You’ll arrive at the screenshot below by tapping on the ‘hamburger menu’ at the bottom right-side of the page. Then you open the ‘Settings and Privacy‘ section that’s shown below by tapping on the tiny little downward pointing arrow.

Where to find the old Code Generator within the ios app.
Where to find the old Code Generator within the ios app.

Facebook’s Cope Generator Support Information

Facebook has published some information online about Code Generator and how it works…which is different than the old, outdated information that still appears within the app. But this information looks like it was written by someone who didn’t fully understand how it works themselves…because this description really makes no sense!

Posted in Apple, Facebook, Social Networks | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Apple’s New 11” iPad Pro Has One Huge Design Flaw…

…and several minor ones too!

This man is making a big mistake with his iPad that will prevent it from working properly. Can you spot what it is?

Photo by Daniel Cañibano on Unsplash

Introduction

If You’re Buying the New 11″ iPad Pro You Need to Know About this Design Flaw!

There are a lot of things to love about the new 11” iPad Pro, which I won’t get into here. Be assured that I do love my new iPad. That isn’t the focus of this post however.

The focus here is on several design choices that Apple has made in the overall design of their newest iPad Pros. And how those choices impact users today, in 2019.

My Reasons for Writing This

A Little About Me

I’m an extremely heavy user of iPads (truthfully I’m a heavy user of all ios devices in general.)

Whenever a new one comes out I get it. Primarily so that I can stay on top of Apple’s newest mobile technology for writing vsatips. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to consider my opinion when it comes to reviewing Apple’s newest smaller of their 2 iPad Pros…the 11″ version.

This design flaw may also impact the 12″ version, but I can’t speak about that fact knowledgeably since I don’t own one.

Without question, almost every review that you’ll encounter is glowing or über positive in almost every regard about Apple’s new Pro iPads (and about most new Apple products that are released.)

An artsy picture of my new iPad Pro.

I’m not sure why that is, but I have my theories. It is clear to most people that things couldn’t possibly be as positive as they seem…always. That’s the primary reason I decided to write this review.

Many of the biggest review institutions in the US rely upon Apple and the other large manufacturers to give them models of their new products as soon as they come out (or oftentimes before they come out!) specifically for review purposes. It’s hard to look a gift horse in the mouth too closely! It’s also quite possible that in their haste to get their reviews out early (to beat other reviewers) they don’t test out new products as thoroughly as they could or as thoroughly as a real full-time user like myself would.

Whatever the reason, I buy (at full price,) almost every new Apple ios device that’s released and I write reviews or in-depth pieces like this one on single aspects when I think they are important enough to warrant it. Because I don’t rely upon Apple to give me this hardware I can be 100% authentic in my review.

In addition, I truly do use ios devices to conduct all my work. I write, photograph, video tape, edit videos and produce movies, create and use multiple notes archives and keep all my important documents and files for both work and personal life accessible in some manner to ios. Literally everything that I do in my life is recorded in some manner on some ios device! It would be a great tool for a stalker if anyone cared that much about my life…although Apple’s commitment to people’s privacy might make that somewhat difficult!

Phil Schiller introduces the new iPad Pros.

Both of the New iPad Pros are Without Question Apple’s Best Yet

But then that’s almost always the case. Apple doesn’t usually bother releasing new products just for the sake of pushing out new products alone. There has to be some compelling improvements for them to do so.

Consequently, there are a lot of great things to say about these new iPads! Without exception all of these positives have been written about or vlogged about numerous times already…so I won’t repeat all that here.

I watched and read a lot of reviews before making the decision to buy the 11″ model. I was extra diligent because I knew my husband was interested in replacing his iPad too. We ended up getting 2 of the 1 TB cellular models. I’ll include links at the end of the post to articles and videos that I found most helpful when making my buying decision.

Finally…Let’s Discuss The One Huge Design Flaw…

I have to temper my enthusiasm for my new iPad Pro somewhat by our somewhat marred user experiences. Both my husband and I are continually frustrated by one major flaw that appears to have been easily avoided, as well as a couple of minor ones which are daily reminders that Apple makes mistakes too.

Most Reviewers Don’t Mention This Pretty Significant Problem at All!

It seems like this problem has been missed by almost all of the reviewers! All except one that is.

The only reviewer who DIDN’T miss it is DetroitBORG. I took a tiny portion of his great video and added it here for a brief overview. Further down, (in the reviews section where I provide links, there’s also a link to his complete video as well as some additional insight about his reviews.)

Below: A Brief Clip from DetroitBORG’S Youtube Video Review of the New iPad Pros

A short clip from DetroitBORG’S video review.

Overview of the Problem

The main problem is this:

Poor placement of the ‘selfie’ camera (or the camera that faces you as you’re using the iPad,) which interferes with the functioning of Face ID.

This camera is the same one that you’d use for selfies, or for making video calls using FaceTime, Skype, Alexa Calling or you name it….virtually every video communication app currently available utilizes this camera.

The problem is that oftentimes when users need to utilize Face ID it doesn’t function at all because the camera is covered up by their left hand hand…or really their left thumb, because of the way that most people hold their iPads.

This is where the Face ID camera is located.
Above: The photo above shows where the Face ID camera is located on the 11″ iPad Pro.

Analysis of Why Face ID Doesn’t Work Well on the New 11″ iPad Pro

The problem emanates from another (poor?) design decision Apple made. Just in case you’re unaware, Apple removed the Home Button on their newly released iPad Pros.

With the Home button gone Touch ID is impossible. Therefore Face ID becomes the only method available for unlocking a device.

An additional aspect to note is that there is a bit of a learning curve for users who haven’t used one of Apple’s recent new iPhones which also no longer have a Home button. Really, the learning curved isn’t all that bad. And, almost everyone agrees that once they’ve tackled learning the new gestures, they like them better than having the old Home Button (except when it comes to taking screenshots on iPads…which is another design flaw that I mention further down!)

What isn’t necessarily loved is how Face ID performs on the new iPad Pros.

Another view of the new iPad Pros
Another view of the new iPad Pros

It’s quite obvious that Apple has devoted a lot of resources towards perfecting Face ID. Which is why it’s even more puzzling how they could have ignored such a blatant problem. But that’s not entirely unusual behavior for Apple. The company does seem to have a history of creating unique features that are less than perfect because of similar oversights. For an example please refer to the section a little further down the page that starts out ‘A 2nd Major Design Flaw….

The Worst Part About the Face ID Problem on Apple’s New iPad Pros May Be What That Really Means for All Apple Customers

When Apple removed the Home button, they also removed Touch ID completely as a method for securing your devices. Touch ID has been replaced 100% by Face ID.

That by itself wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The bad part is that Apple released Face ID before it was ready for Prime time! Apple does appear committed to making the necessary improvements to make Face ID work in the long run. In fact, their second iteration of Face ID does work much better than their first one did. The first iteration was really spotty for people who wear glasses (like moi!) and for a few other outlying exceptions. While Apple states that in general, most people have been pleased with the new Face ID feature…I suspect that may not necessarily be the case.

All Face ID Camera Specs at a Glance
All Face ID Camera Specs at a Glance

This whole situation seems to be one that is representative of a new kind of pattern I’ve been seeing lately. Where Apple releases a product or feature that has some pretty significant problems and they state that the problems don’t really exist. Or they may minimize the degree of the problems or suggest that they don’t really impact very many people. Then, behind the scenes, they work like crazy to get the problems solved!

The volume and severity of the problems that are impacting brand new products seem to me to be increasing at a fairly significant pace. So much so that it appears to me that Apple went from only allowing developers to beta test their software, to allowing anyone who wanted to, and then progressed beyond that to what we have now. Which seems to be a situation in which Apple appears to be beta testing all of their new software (and maybe even some of their hardware) on their entire user base!

•••••••••••••••••••••

Has Apple’s entire customer base become their beta testers?

•••••••••••••••••••••

A Recent Experience with My iPhone X & Face ID Uncovered Yet Another Problem with Version 2

We’ve Just Arrived Home From a Family Vacation for the 2018 Christmas & New Year’s Holidays

I was OK with the improvements to FACE ID version 2, up until our very recent holiday trip to Cuba. While we were there I discovered that Face ID caused me to repeatedly miss one great photograph after another, either because it was too slow or because it wouldn’t work at all. If my phone was upside down, or if my hand covered the camera, or who knows what other little aberration would arise when I’d quickly pull my phone out of my pocket or purse to capture something.

If Apple could improve battery performance enough to allow me to do so I’d leave my iPhone awake all day long. But right now that’s impossible without my battery completely draining. The rate of drain still seemed to be faster than that of my Android using companions. This was despite the fact that my iPhone X wasn’t using any kind of networking at all…be it cellular or WiFi or possibly even something else. My main point is that background tasks weren’t ever running. Just to make certain that I didn’t accidentally incur huge roaming charges I turned cellular off completely as well as individually for every single service on my phone.

So did the rest of my family. Oddly, we all experienced a few weird occurrences like receiving a text or in my case a phone call…even with everything off!

•••••••••••••••••••••

I mention my iPhone X problem here for a reason. Because the newest iPad Pro Face ID problem occurs for the same kinds of reason as those with my iPhone X.

The Problem?

The Face ID camera can’t find my face!

In the case of the iPad Pro, the location or placement of the Face ID camera is the main problem. In situations where I’m repeatedly missing out on tons of great photos with my iPhone X I think the problem lies more with Apple’s software not working fast enough to orient the Face ID system to the correct scenario that applies to that specific situation.

If you hold your iPad in the landscape orientation position like the images a little further down depict (and like most iPad users do,) your left hand completely covers this little camera.

A Few Examples of iPad ‘Grips’ that Will Cause This Problem

A few examples of problem grips
Some examples of some problem grips.
Another examples of a problem grip.
Even more examples of problem grips.

Why Is This Such a Big Problem?

Along with securing your device Face ID is also used for many other functions. Buying an app from the App Store (even if it’s a free one!) requires the use of Face ID. Using a password from either your Apple Keychain or from another password manager such as Dashlane also requires the use of Face ID. Using Apple Pay is one more tool that requires the use of face ID. Accessing your account in the App Store changing many settings in the Settings App are 2 more examples of situations where Face ID usage is necessary.

My main point then is that most users end up using Face ID a lot more than they initially realize! When Face ID doesn’t work very well, everything that you do becomes more cumbersome. Don’t even get me started again on how many potentially incredible Cuban photos I missed because of Face ID on my iPhone X! I’m still not quite over it.

One more example of someone who's going to have a problem with Face ID.
One more example of someone who’s going to have a problem with Face ID.
Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Above: Even one-handed holders will most likely cover the camera.

I disagree with DetroitBORG on One Important Aspect of the Face ID Problem

This other aspect makes the problem a little more serious for brand new owners of the iPad Pro. He suggests that when this Face ID problem occurs it’s a simple and quick fix. While the fix may be simple…it’s far from quick. Worse yet is that the problem completely confounds new users. Because, initially new users don’t even know why their iPads aren’t unlocking correctly!

No error message is provided initially and you’re left to just random, often futile attempts at unlocking your iPad. It’s definitely odd how both my husband and myself experienced the problem initially with no assistance for ios on how to resolve it.

Then around day 3 or 4 of our ownership we both began receiving error messages like the one shown below.

An error message telling you that the camera is covered.
This is the error message telling you that the camera is covered.

Unless it was some odd coincidence, once we began receiving error messages, we began receiving many different forms of this message depending upon the circumstances.

This is a true design flaw just like the design flaw that Apple made when designing iPhone X.

A 2nd Major iPad Pro Design Flaw Involves Placement of the Buttons Used to Take Screenshots

It used to be that if iPad users wanted to take a screenshot they would hold down the Power button and the Home button at the same time. This was pretty easy to do because you could hold down one button with each hand. But with no Home Button, Apple had to come up with an alternative option for screenshots.

The option they chose to go with is sort of a standardized one in the industry for Android users…which makes sense on some levels. It makes it easier for people using both platforms or for those who switch, to remember the correct procedure. The problem is that the way the buttons are pushed so closely to the edge of the rim…closer than on most Android tablets, combined with the different work flow that people now need to get used to, makes for very awkward maneuverings with lots of accidental ‘Power Off’ incidents too. Naturally powering back on requires Face ID which takes you full circle back to Problem number 1!

Some days I seem to find myself caught in this endless loop of failed Face ID’s, failed screenshots and very little work accomplished!

Popular YouTuber & Reviewer Rene Ritchie Published a Video Recently Speculating about the Return of Touch ID on iPhones…but its not what you think.

A 3rd Unrelated Design Flaw Which Also Occurred in 2018 Involves Apple’s iPhone X Button Placement

This problem with Apple’s wildly popular iPhone X is their placement of the Power Off button directly opposite from the button that’s used for screenshots. This lousy button placement causes most users to take a lot to of random screenshots of their device’s lock screen when they really intended on just turning their iPhones off (rather, they are really placing it into sleep mode.)

That’s 3 Major Design Flaws Involving Apple’s 2 Most Popular New Devices Which Introduced Brand New Problems in 2018!

I wonder how many people have really heard about these flaws? It seems to me, given the magnitude of these flaws, that the vast majority of reviewers who write about Apple mobile devices have a definite tendency to just talk about the positives and to ignore any negatives.

Apple really needs to test these things out before setting them loose upon the public.

A 4th Less Worrisome Flaw for the 11″ iPad Pro is it’s Tendency to Bend Easily

You can watch YouTuber JerryRigEverything’s brutal iPad Pro review below.

The reason I didn’t initially find this potential flaw all that worrisome is because I had the original ‘bendgate’ iPhone. I never had a problem with it. So either it’s tendency to bend was over-hyped or I don’t engage in the kinds of activities that can bring about the problem. In any event this wasn’t a flaw that I was seriously worried about.

Until I ran across this PC Magazine Article.

PC Magazine's article about bend gate 2 for iPad Pros
PC Magazine’s article about bend gate 2 for iPad Pros

The tally for Apple’s poor design decisions is growing! Which makes this next image I found on Unsplash very appropriate!

An ironic image I found at Unsplash while writing this post!
An ironic image I found at Unsplash while writing this post!

Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Best iPad Pro Reviews

AnandTech’s review will primarily appeal to geekier readers because it includes a lot of benchmark kinds of stats.

Marques Brownlee is one of my favorite YouTuber reviewers and I hope you’ll enjoy his review as much as I did.

The Verge’s review is actually a bunch of reviews rolled into one. A great video in which they say a ton of positives but ultimately aren’t very positive at all about the new Pros. Reason being, what I’ve said for years…despite the huge amount of raw processing power that these tablets have, Apple will never allow users enough control to actually use them the way a laptop is used. There’s also an extensive written review and a great video review of Pencil.

Cult of Mac is another favorite reviewer of mine. This review is interesting in that the reviewer obviously uses iPads as much as I do…yet he has very different takes on many aspects. I suspect it’s because he uses, as his iPad of choice, the larger Pro with a keyboard whereas I use the smaller Pro with no keyboard. But regardless of our agreement he presents many valid points in a sea of over-gushing reviews!

DetroitBORG’S Unboxing Video of both iPads is probably the best handed on overview for serious buyers.

In fact he’s the only reviewer I found who even noticed the design flaw! Sadly, what he states was not true for our experiences…both for my husband and myself. Initially when Face ID didn’t work we didn’t know why…or even that it wasn’t working. Our iPads just froze. But after a while we started to get the increasingly loathed…’Camera is Blocked‘ error message.

Comments

If you’d like to leave a comment, you can do so by scrolling down the page a little way until you see the small comments box.

Posted in iPad Pro, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Americans Can Travel to Cuba Without a Group in 2019

My family and I at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba which is one a the few government run hotels that the American government allows us to stay in.

My family and I on Christmas Day 2018 at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana. This is one of a very few government run hotels that the American government allows Americans to stay in.

Introduction

I’m writing this from the Plaza Hotel in Havana. I’m here with my family celebrating the Christmas holidays. We were supposed to have been on a Royal Caribbean Cruise because we believed that individuals couldn’t go to Cuba alone, without being part of a pre-planned group.

Through a series of errors and miscommunication we weren’t able to take that cruise, but those problems are for another, longer post.

What appeared to be a huge problem, causing us to lose all of the money we paid for the cruise ended up being the BEST THING THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED!

Here’s why. We discovered that it’s easy for individuals to travel to Cuba alone and we’re having a fantastic time! Much, much better than we would have had on the very limited and poorly managed Royal Caribbean Cruise.

Our Vacation Overview

We’re staying at an AirBnB that our adult son found. I’ll write more about how fabulous that’s been later…but for now I just wanted to share where, in case others are interested right now. Below is a screenshot of where we’re staying.

This is our host's marketing pamphlet. You can book all of his rooms using  a variety of methods. Either directly by emailing him, or through AirBnB or Bookings.com.
This is our host’s marketing pamphlet. You can book all of his rooms using a variety of methods. Either directly by emailing him, or through AirBnB or Bookings.com.

How to get to Cuba the Fastest, Easiest Way Possible

The key to getting here is getting a Visa, which you do via American Airlines. You don’t need to actually fly using American…but you do need to fly through the Miami airport.

You buy a ticket to say, Havana, via Miami. Once in Miami you need to leave your concourse and go to American Airlines ticket counter #7. There’s a little booth that’s sort of surrounded by American Airline’s kiosks, which has one or two officials standing there waiting to sell you a Visa. The cost is $100 and they will only sell you one if you already have your flight booked and can produce your boarding pass for them to stamp. If it’s an American boarding pass they will have already asked you at the ticket counter why you’re traveling to Cuba.

I won’t go over the 12 possible reasons because many other sites have covered that. We were advised that the best, and perhaps only reason to use is this:

“In Support of the Cuban People”

When the American Airline’s ticket agent asked us that question she included our answer within our digital travel record. So all we needed to do was present our boarding pass, pay $100 per person and get our boarding pass stamped. Then we were on our way!

I’m Not Sure of the Process for Other Airlines

I suspect that you may need to fill out some kind of form. What I am sure of is that regardless of the airline you’re flying on, you are able to procure your Visa this way. It’s instantaneous and so much easier than the longer, more typical method of going through the Cuban Embassy.

*Since we’ve arrived back in the states and have internet again (we’re in Miami currently for our last few days of vacation) I’ve finally been able to do a little more research regarding flights.

We met several other American families who were also traveling independently while in Cuba. We discovered that there are more alternatives available than we’d realized. See below under the ‘After Thoughts‘ section at the end for more information.

Our Arrival in Cuba

Once you arrive in Cuba you will need to present the Customs Officials with 2 forms. One appears to be a generic one that just reiterates the details and of your airline reservation. The other is a health form that supposedly is needed for arrival…but no one actually was asked to produce this in Cuba. We did walk past several tables with signs that appeared to be for this purpose during our arrival, but everyone on our flight was just waved through.

We were told that customs would tear off 1/2 of the generic looking form…because it repeats your flight information on both sides…but again, no one did. Later, upon closer inspection, we figured out that this document was actually our Visa. We were told the duplicate section would be torn off when we left Cuba. That did happen for all family members except me. I don’t know if they forgot or what…but no one tore mine off.

At one point during our arrival we did talk to a Customs agent too but no one remembers that conversation…it was unremarkable. The whole time we were half expecting someone to stop us and tell us that we had to turn around and fly back to the states…because we weren’t allowed to come as a private party with no organized entity behind us…but that never happened.

One reason we were so sure that we wouldn’t be allowed into the country was because several Royal Caribbean employees had told us that. We’d been told that we couldn’t fly there when we asked about boarding the ship in Havana. We were also told that if we somehow managed to make it there, we wouldn’t be allowed to board the ship because “Royal Caribbean didn’t have the appropriate ‘intake’ personnel onboard the ship.”

When we walked out into the main, open part of the airport, we breathed a sigh of relief, found our luggage, got a cab and proceeded on to our AirBnB. Even our son who booked the AirBnB didn’t really know what to expect. As we approached the somewhat rundown looking building in the even more rundown looking neighborhood, he said “Mom and Dad, if this doesn’t work out we can look for a hotel in the morning.” We were all pleasantly surprised when we received the warmest welcome we could have possibly imagined. Our accommodations, while sparse in comparison to US standards were more than adequate for our weeks’ stay. The hospitality more than made up for any slight inconvenience we might experience in the following days.

More About AirBnB’s in Cuba

I intend to (and will hopefully follow through) with writing much more about our AirBnB and ‘traveling to Cuba’ experience since it appears that there’s significant confusion amongst Americans about these aspects. We didn’t get all the answers while there, but we feel that our experiences combined with a significant amount of research once we were back in the states will help to shed light on many of the misconceptions most Americans currently hold.

Misconceptions like, that Americans need to be part of a group that participates each day in a full day’s complement of strict and narrowly focused activities in order to comply with some vague, oft-repeated but never documented ‘law’ that states this. I’ve searched high and low for days for any documentation like this…it simply didn’t seem to exist beyond the confines of the writing at many of the websites offering group paid tours and cruise lines offering pricey itinerary’s that comply.

At one point in time we believed that much of the misinformation that’s flooding the internet regarding American’s traveling to Cuba was fabricated by the companies who are profiting handsomely from it. But we now know that isn’t true because we were finally able to read a copy of the entire set of laws and restrictions, which I’m including here too.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL’S FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS RELATED TO CUBA

A Little Information About Our AirBnB Experiences

In the meantime I just want to say a few things about using AirBnB in Cuba and about our experiences.

  • First, we were pretty shocked to find that AirBnB’s even exist in Cuba…because it’s an American company. The hoops that Cubans have to jump through to be on AirBnB are considerable, but we found that there is a great number and variety of choices using them.
  • Most AirBnB’s in Cuba fall into one specific category of accommodation called casa particulares…which are essentially Cuban bed and breakfasts (although a true vacation rental can also fall into this category.) If there’s any truth to any of the current stated restrictions upon Americans then staying in a casa particular or a private rental is by far the best way to connect with Cuban people during your stay. The long, heartfelt conversations we shared with out host, his family and friends educated us far better than some organized educational group experiences ever could. Alongside our hosts, we shared (and ‘lived’) their experiences with the overwhelming number of product shortages that fulfill so many of people’s basic daily needs. We were equally frustrated when our brilliant ideas to address problems their businesses face were shot down, one after another, because of their unique circumstances.
  • It would be difficult to overstate how much better our experience was because of our accommodation choice. Eddy, the main proprietor of Dom Pepons, our casa particulare is AMAZING!!! He welcomed us with open arms into his family and they all made us feel like a part of their family too. Btw…Dom Pepon was the name of Eddy’s deceased grandfather.
Our room at Don Pepons
Our room at Don Pepons
  • Our accommodations included 2 rooms with 2 twin beds…both with en-suite bathrooms and some of the best air-conditioning units we’ve ever experienced while traveling!
  • Was everything perfect with our rooms? Not necessarily…but this was through no fault of Eddy’s. It’s because so few of the basic needs that we so heavily rely upon are even available there. Those that are available oftentimes require significant effort to procure. Eddy bent over backwards, as did his family, (his family is primarily his staff,) to fulfill our every need and request.
  • We were provided with meals upon request and given several meals just because. Our first morning’s breakfast and Christmas night dinner were superb and ‘on the house.’ In fact, Eddy invited us into his own home on the floor above us to dine with his family for Christmas dinner…and he did all the cooking himself! This was the night we arrived and our only regret was that we were all too exhausted to stay up late and enjoy all of their festivities. The mental strain of the last 24 hours finally overtook all 4 of us once we were safely and comfortably ensconced within Eddy’s wonderful home.
  • One kind of humorous note is that we asked for a box of Kleenex in our bathrooms. Our request was met with a blank look. The next day while on a previously booked ‘Overview of Havana’ tour, I asked our tour guide because his English was flawless. I did it at a point during the tour when we’d arrived at what we were told was the largest shopping ‘mall’ on the island. Using the word ‘Mall’ was a bit of an overstatement! I asked our guide if I could try to find some Kleenex. He too just looked at me with a blankness that indicated to me he had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain…but he truly was confused by my question. In the end I got my answer when I asked him what he used when he wanted to blow his nose. A look of enlightment spread across his face. He finally knew what I meant and he told me they just use toilet paper for that. Later in the week I talked to another family staying at one of the very expensive government run hotels (expensive because of all the additional charges that were tacked on at the end.) I was surprised to discover that they did have a small box of Kleenex in their bathroom. We decided together that their Kleenex was probably added just for the comfort of tourists.

Conclusion

That, in a nutshell is our experience about just how easy it was to travel to Cuba in late 2018.

Afterthought

A friend recommended to my son that we acquire WiFi cards because there are no cell service plans even just for calling for Americans. There’s no public internet to speak of either. The reason I’m sitting in the Plaza Hotel writing this is because they have, perhaps the only WiFI Card in Havana that works all across Cuba…as long as you’re in a Hotspot location operated by ETECSA. I’ll write much more about that in a later post too but for now, my WiFi time is up for now.

One additional thing I’d like to note is that our understanding of how these WiFi cards operate within their own networks is still puzzling to us. The fact that we used them successfully and had ample time to question people people about the various networks and how they operate, yet we still seem to lack good understanding of many of the basics is indicative of just how complicated so many simple things that we take for granted at home are in Cuba in late 2018. I’ve been told and suspect that it’s at least partially true, that the WiFi Cards we purchased at the hotel Plaza, which function everywhere within Cuba, aren’t really unique in that regard at all. And that any WiFi card purchased for that network will work anywhere within the country.

I still need to research that subject further to discover the truth and to be able to write knowledably and give proper advice for WiFi Cards.

More Information About Airlines & Visas

Scroll down in the Q&A’s to find this section.

A website I ran across while planning our trip has a great little blurb about Americans traveling to Cuba in 2018. You’ll find more information about which airlines fly to Cuba from the USA in the Questions & Answers section.

Posted in Cuba Travel Tips, Tech Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment