Vacation

Topics relevant to vacation

7 Photos to Take on Your Next Adventure

May 19, 2017

Landscapes

Set the scene for your adventure. They’re vast, colorful, and downright breathtaking.

Detailed shots

What makes the area unique? It’s all in the details.

Monuments and landmarks

For the history buffs. Check this one off your bucket list!

Locals

It’s not weird if it’s artistic. Get to know the locals. Have a conversation with them. Take their photo. Become as immersed as possible. Don’t be shy.

Family/group photos

Who all was there?  You think you will never forget this moment or this trip, but time has a way of blurring and blending.  Take the picture.

Selfies

No shame, you want to remember what you looked like when you visited, and you want proof you were there! If you don’t like the traditional front-facing camera style, give your camera to a friend and have them snap some shots of you.

35mm film/Polaroids.  Film is not dead! Whether you have just purchased a film camera or polaroid, or have a hand me down one from your parents or grandparents, bring it along to capture the moments the old-school way.

Personalize

It’s easy to get lost in the scenery, but what separates your photo from the person standing next to you? Beautiful sweeping landscapes are essential, but you don’t want to come home with your photo library looking like a the results page from google images. Reach your hand out like you’re grabbing the sunset. Dip your toes in the water. Even if you’re not into selfies, make sure your photo is personal to you.

If 1,000 people visited the Eiffel Tower and took photos of it, and you laid them out in a random jumble, do you think you could pick yours out from the crowd? Don’t be afraid to be different. This is your trip, and these are your memories. Get creative and capture those moments you can look back on for the rest of your life.

 

Technology - 5 Unique (and Helpful) Travel Apps

May 18, 2017

  1. AllTrails - uses your location to give you directions to the nearest hiking trails

 

  1. Yelp - search engine for restaurants, businesses, and entertainment



  1. Skyscanner - finds cheapest flights



  1. SpotHero - app that finds the best, cheapest, most available parking in your area



  1. Roadtrippers - finds fun activities along your route
    • Roadtrip route planner - build your own itinerary and share it with the other members of the group
    • “Weird guides” for unusual, offbeat places across America
    • Other options such as scenic drives, classic road trips, and lists of tips and tricks for road tripping to your next destination.
    • Discover millions of unique places like local diners, quirky roadside attractions, scenic routes, national parks, and more

Travel​ -​ Top 5 Reasons to Take a Vacation NOW

June 27, 2017

40% of Americans don’t use all of their paid time off in a year. Don’t be one of those people.

#5.Fresh Ideas
​Vacation allows you to experience a new culture and lifestyle. These inspirations can bring you better ideas for your job. 

#4.Relaxed Mind
​Daydreaming is good for your brain. Similar to sleep, your brain on vacation gets to take a break and revitalize basic health functions in the body.  With a balanced, clean bill of health, you can return to work after a vacation feeling  better than ever. 

#3.Stress Relief
​It’s no secret that vacations relieve stress. This great escape from  the mundane routine of a daily desk job can make you less apt to develop health  issues such as heart problems and hypertension. 

#2.Change of scenery
​Having a change in scenery opens the mind to new perspectives. Stepping away from the daily grind of your work can bring you back  feeling refreshed, happier, and more productive. 

#1.Getting back to the basics
​At the end of the day life is too short. Your happiness  matters, and that's the #1 reason to take a vacation ​now. You slave away every day at your job deadlines, school work, or just life's obstacles. You need a vacation now,  but better yet ​you’ve earned it!     

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” - Gerard Way 

5 Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Vacation

June 29, 2017

1.  Do research BEFORE arrival

Before arriving to a vacation destination, make sure to research the surrounding area. Pinpointing areas you would like to visit before arrival ensures the best use of your time and can maximize your overall experience.  Just remember you're on vacation allow for some flexibility if things don't go exactly according to your original plan.

2.  TRY NEW THINGS!

TRY NEW THINGS while on vacation especially in a destination with a culture that is different from your own! This is important because it will provide you with an opportunity to experience opportunities you could not experience anywhere else.  For example, don’t stick to the same food you could purchase anywhere.  Instead, try a dish that is part of the local culture.  This will help you get the most out of your vacation.  Other than selecting new meals, try selecting new experiences as well.  Take a chance and do something you’ve never done before.  This will make your vacation much more memorable!  If it’s culture related, it’s a must; who knows when/if you will return.  Therefore, don’t waste an opportunity to make the most of it.  

3.  Take LOTS of pictures

Although you may not want to take pictures, you will almost always be glad you did. Therefore, the more the better!  Capture the landscape, the night lights, your travel group and yourself, any animals, and everything else in between.  Having pictures to reflect on will insure that any memories on the vacation will remain unforgotten.

4.  Plan day trips and excursions

Planning trips and excursions will keep both you and your travel group occupied and will have something to look forward to. Take advantage of not just the town or city where you are staying but the surrounding area.  Plan things that re-energize and inspire you.  While it is important to plan enough activities to experience the trip and provide entertainment, it is also important not to over-schedule yourself.  

5.  Relax! You’re on vacation!

Perhaps the most important part of the vacation is to relax and recharge in a new and interesting place. Be sure to try new things, plan many activities, take lots of pictures.  However, be sure to find enough time to relax, reflect, and enjoy the vacation as a whole.  Take every moment in and absorb it.  It's likely you'll never experience another vacation exactly like this one.

7 Tips for Budget International Travel

July 05, 2017

      

  1. DON'T CHECK A BAG - Checking bags when traveling, especially in Europe, can mean hefty fees on the budget airlines. Also, be sure to get a durable suitcase in the right size for the airlines you're taking. Check out our video on packing for more help: http://bit.ly/PackMinimal

        

  1. USE ATMs NOT CURRENCY EXCHANGE - Most currency exchanges profit off of your exchanges, and having finding an exchange can prove to be difficult in many places. Though ATMs do normally have a fee, it's almost always cheaper than the currency exchange's fee. The convenience of ATMs is unmatched.  They are almost always close by and are instant cash.

      

  1. HOSTELS OVER HOTELS - Hotel prices can get expensive, especially if you don't plan on staying in the room much. Hostels are a great alternative to hotels and will save you a lot of money. There are some really fun hostels that make it a great and easy to meet people.  Beware though, there are some that are not so great. Make sure to check multiple reviews of the place you plan to stay before booking. Don't be afraid to pay a little more for a nicer hostel, because if a hostel is bad, it's really bad. If you're wanting to feel a bit more at home, consider using a house/apartment renting website for cheap or even free stays.

      

  1. PLAN TRAVEL TO AND FROM AIRPORT- An easily forgotten step of international travel is planning how you're getting from the airport to where you're staying . Instead of standing around on the sidewalk on your phone trying to use the slow airport Wi-Fi, have a plan so you can stroll right out of the airport and catch your ride to your destination. Public transportation is normally the best choice, but airport shuttles can be a good alternative. I would not recommend taking a taxi if you want to save money.

      

  1. DO ALL YOU CAN (BUT REST) - Touring cities is a lot of fun, but can get very tiring. One of the best things to do is to find a nice park or monument and just relax by it for a while. This is also a good chance to people watch, a favorite activity of mine. There's so much life going on around these places sometimes it feels good to slow down and just take a look around (and it’s free).

      

  1. MEET PEOPLE (AND EAT TOGETHER) - Meeting new people from other countries with new perspectives is one of the most rewarding parts of international travel. A great way to save money is to get a group of friends together and make some food. Or if you’re taking a taxi of some sort take it together and split the cost.

       

  1. PLAN AHEAD - This is the best advice you can get if you want your travels to be cheap. Getting flights far in advance will save you a lot of money. The deepest discounts will come if you book at least a year in advance. Sure, this is a big commitment to book so far ahead, but this can save you $400 or more. Many flight websites offer price drop alerts which can really help you snatch up the perfect tickets at the perfect price!

Why Everyone Should Travel to Barbados

July 07, 2017

Barbados is a beautiful country. 

 

Fun fact: Barbados is the only island in its region that was not formed by a volcano; it was formed by the collision of tectonic plates and the compilation of coral. Because of that, its white sand just melts into the Atlantic’s clear, blue water.  The beaches are visually breathe-taking.  However, word of caution.  Depending on which side of the island you travel to, some beaches can be hazardous.  The beaches on the west side of the island contain the calmest and safest beaches while the beaches on the east side of the island contain large waves that can be dangerous.  Only experienced surfers enter the water on this side of the island.  Along with beautiful beaches, there are also other sites and things to do such as the Flower Cave, Harrison’s Cave, the Fish Fry every Friday night, Safari Tours, Jetblading, the Rum distillery, Friday Night Lights (a must-see cultural experience), and countless other activities and wonderful destinations and experiences.

 

Another fun fact about Barbados: if you're from North America, every single thing you know about driving...consider it backwards.  In Barbados, everything occurs the opposite way including the repositioning of the driver’s seat to the right side, driving on the right side of the road, and the constant crazy traffic flow.  Speaking from raw experience, if you have not been driving on the right side of the road with the wheel on the right side of the car for at least a small portion of your life, I would strongly advise ditching the rental car and sticking to other means of transportation.  I know it doesn't sound hard, but it proved more difficult than you think.  Taxi services, buses, and/or walking which can be paid for in Barbados dollars or U.S. dollars; one U.S. dollar equals two Barbados dollars.  Along with utilizing taxi services, it allows you to meet some kindhearted people.

 

The friendliness on the island of Barbados is charming.  Locals are not afraid to say hello and have a nice conversation with you because they want you to feel welcome!  The people of Barbados love their country and its culture and the way in which they describe it is as if they are telling their favorite story they’ve been told repeatedly since they were children.  Barbadians love everything about their country from their history, to their own close connections with their people, to their jobs, way of life, and even tourists.  Why would they love tourists when there are so many in their country any given month of the year?  For a few reasons.  First, they love to hear about your home country.  Many Barbadians are born and raised in Barbados and love to hear about the different cultures of the people staying on their island.  Second, they enjoy sharing the beauty of their country with as many people as possible; they love answering questions about their country because it shows that you are interested and have respect for it.  Third, tourism is the TOP INDUSTRY for their country.  In other words, without visiting tourists, their country would not have such a successful economy.  Therefore, Barbadians are grateful you chose to visit and spend your money on their island!!

 

While Barbados is only 21 miles across, the island has a lot to offer and is a must-visit destination.  The beauty and uniqueness of the island is something that should not be overlooked.  Next time you decide to take a vacation, check out Barbados as a possible destination!

Travel​ - ​How to Experience a Destination Like a Local 

July 13, 2017

Live in the area
​  → Instead of a hotel room, book a short term rental in a house or apartment in your  dream city. This will make you feel more at home, and will immerse you in the  lifestyle of the locals.  

Chat with the people around you
​  → The most obvious and effective way to go  about it. It could be daunting, but start with someone who works at a  restaurant. Or maybe someone who runs a local shop, or art museum. Ask  them about their experiences in the town, or simply ask what their favorite local  restaurant is. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from breaking the ice with one person. 


Don’t bring everything from home
​  → Don’t go on vacation and never leave  your house. Go shopping for clothing or food, and observe the different ways  of life. Not bringing every single necessity from home forces you go get out of  your comfort zone and learn more about the area in which you’re visiting.  

Turn off Google Maps
​  → If you want to learn and experience more, you’ve got  to try something new. Take an afternoon and just go. Drive, walk, or hike  somewhere without the use of any guide map. You never know what you’ll  find!  

Don’t think so much
​  → Sure, logistics are essential for anything in life. But,  when traveling, don’t be so hard on yourself. Go with the flow and let go of  your “to-do” list for at least a day. You might find that you prefer living  spontaneously rather than ticking items off a list.  

Visit the visitor’s center or local nature park​                                                              → The people who work at  these locations are getting paid to help you find cool things to do in their city.  If they only tell you the top tourist-traps, dig a little deeper. If that is their  place of employment, they live in the area and will have an opinion on their  favorite spots around the area. Also, these folks are probably pretty  adventurous to work this job. It is more than likely that they’ll be able to recommend some great local spots.  

Do a ​little research beforehand​                                                                        → Try to not get too consumed in this, because living in the moment is the best way to go. However, ignorance is not  bliss when it comes to being informed about the place you’re traveling to. Use  apps like Yelp, Twitter, or Facebook to look at reviews for locations. 

  “Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” - Ibn Battuta 

How To Stay Active While Traveling

July 20, 2017

Have you ever had trouble staying active while traveling? It happens to many of us.  There are many different ways to change up your exercise regimen while traveling so you stay active.

  1. Mix things up – Try a drop-in class, many programs offer a free "try it" session.  It will most likely shake up your normal routine while keeping you active. Traveling, especially in a new place, is the perfect opportunity to try something new.  Most instructors are very welcoming, while some even facilitate introductions.  You never know you may love it or find a new friend.  If you haven't yet, I recommend trying an outside gym if there is one in your destination's area.
  2. Take time off – One thing you can do so you don’t have to worry about staying active while traveling is take the time you are traveling off. It is always a good idea to take some time off from exercise to give your body some rest.  If the thought of something new stresses you out, or you just accomplished a big milestone or goal, maybe it's time to take a breather.  Plan accordingly and take this time off.
  3. Explore – Many people will use public transportation to get from one area to another while traveling, but if you have the time, consider walking, running, or biking from place to place. These are great ways to stay active while not having to set aside specific time to exercise. If you can find a block of time try hiking, surfing, or skiing. These activities enable you to enjoy your new scenery while potentially using new muscle groups.
  4. Miscellaneous – There is always the obvious options.  If you the place you are staying at has a gym, use it. If not, bring resistance bands with you.  They are light and can pretty much be stuffed into any luggage easily.  If you are staying over a weekend, many places have 5k’s or other races that accept registration the day of the event.

Don’t let exercise stress you out while traveling.  If you are struggling like many of people do, these are some options to consider.  In the end, you have to find the desire and motivation.  Whether you travel often or very little, keep trying different approaches until you find the right combination for you.  Your health is worth it.  

How to Pack Like a Minimalist (Tips for the Overpacker)

July 26, 2017

Minimalist packing is one of the number one ways you can simplify your travel  experience. It could be intimidating for a first-timer, but after a bit of packing  practice you can be traveling lighter and happier in no time. Simplifying this aspect  of travel can make it easier to be more spontaneous without being weighed down  and stressed out by your suitcase. 
 
The first thing to remember is that ​humans aren’t perfect.  You’re inevitably going to forget  something along the way at some point.  As long as you’re sure you’ve got your absolute  essentials (glasses, medicine, and other must-haves), you can buy anything else locally that you didn’t bring.  
     

What to pack:

A. Accessories
​  Try to keep these limited. Although they don’t take up much space, they can be a headache trying to decide what you want to wear when. Maybe bring a simple watch or hat to add a little character to your outfit.

B. Basic, versatile clothing
​  This look of layering basic pieces can help you focus on making  memories on your vacation instead of stressing over crafting the perfect outfit each  morning. Think about it, 4 shirts and 4 pants make 16 outfits. If they all coordinate, you can  have a tiny suitcase with a multitude of options. Also, don’t forget socks and underwear for each day. 

C. Comfortable shoes
​  You really only need a maximum of two pairs of shoes for any trip. A  comfortable, trendy pair of sneakers should be enough to get you through any length of trip.  If travelling to a warmer climate, add in a pair of sandals and call it good. 

D. Daily toiletries
​  Only pack what you’re going to use. It’s not necessary to bring an item that  you haven’t used recently “just in case” you feel like randomly using it. Chances are you can  live without that product or item, and once you leave the house you’ll never even remember  you considered packing it. Unless you’re traveling for business or for a special event, don’t  bring a ton of beauty or grooming products. Embrace your natural look and, again, focus on  immersing yourself in the culture of your new area. 

E. Electronics
​  This one can be tough, because we’re all about capturing memories. However,  try to condense all of your needs into 1-2 devices. Some examples include saving all of your movies and travel documents onto your phone, and also using the phone to take photos,  videos, notes, etc. If you’re more serious about photo and video, bring along your camera  and a few SD cards. There’s no need to bring a phone, laptop, iPad, kindle, etc. 

What are your tips for minimalist packing? Share them with us!  

Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all” 

The Ultimate Guide to Zion National Park

July 31, 2017

Pick your preferred time of the year

Summertime in Zion is unpredictable because of frequent flash floods and monsoons, not to mention the daily temperatures climbing over 100 degrees. But if you choose to visit in the more temperate seasons of spring and fall, expect denser crowds. Either season you choose will bring you the year-round stunning views that Zion has to offer. The risk of The Narrows and other intense hikes being closed during summer is high, so choosing the temperate seasons will most likely guarantee that you’ll be able to hike your desired trails.

 

Dress Accordingly

When you visit a national park, you’ll find people dressed in all sorts of gear. Some wear denim shorts and a nice shirt for more casual hikes, and others wear full-on athletic wear, complete with tall socks and hiking boots. Look into the details of your trail for the day to figure out what will work best for you. In either case, wear shoes that are supportive and have a lot of traction. Most trails at Zion are covered in sand, mud, or are wet, even the paved ones. If you arrive to Zion and realize you forgot something, or are dressed improperly, there are several outdoor outfitters right outside the park in the bustling town of Springdale, just a few minutes from the front gate.


Walking sticks are almost essential

Sure, you can get by without them, but walking sticks can aid your hike incredibly. When hiking upwards, they can help with stability and keeping your momentum hiking an incline. If you lose your balance, or need extra support, the hiking sticks can keep you from falling. When hiking downwards, the sticks ease the pressure of the joints in your ankles, knees, and hips. This is incredibly important for the longevity of your hiking ability, and your level of comfort for the remainder of your trip. Spraining your knee on the trek down from your first hike on a week-long adventure would be a huge bummer. When hiking in water, like the Narrows trail at Zion, hiking sticks are incredibly beneficial. Since you’re trekking through the Virgin River for miles at a time, the sticks can keep you from falling into the rushing river current.

One major complaint about walking sticks is their portability. However, a small investment into retractable sticks will benefit you for a lifetime. TIP: If you arrive at the parks early, there are often lots of natural sticks propped up against walls or rocks near the trails that you can use, left by hikers from previous days. You can also rent hiking sticks at a local outfitter, or purchase them at the visitors center.

** It is also important to note that hiking sticks can cause damage to the pristine park lands. To continue the preservation of these natural landmarks, be sure to stick to the marked trails. Don’t stabilize your walking stick off the trails, and don’t reach outside the boundaries with them.

Know the risks and your limits

Each hike at Zion is labeled, either easy, moderate, or strenuous. The easy paths are normally paved, or very level. Moderate paths can be sandy, rocky, or have considerable inclines. Strenuous hikes can include switchbacks, chains, or free-climbing over rocks. The elevation changes on the strenuous hikes are significant, and can range up to 3000 feet in elevation change from the canyon floor to the peaks of mountains. Don’t be discouraged if you’re unable to trek certain hikes. Know your limits, but don’t sell yourself short either. Be willing to try new things! A great way to get all of the knowledge about the trails, and whether or not you’re fit for them is to talk to a park ranger at the visitor's center, or ones dotted around the park.

The staples of hiking

These few items are staples for any hike, and will make your experience at Zion so much more safe and comfortable:

  • A lightweight hiking backpack - It is convenient, easy to carry, and can hold all of your essentials.
  • Lots of water - I suggest getting a water bladder to put in your pack (some even come with them). All of the parks have water fill-up stations, so bring your water pack and utilize it. It is posted on signs in the park that 4 liters of water per day is the minimum you should drink while there. Dehydration and heat strokes are huge problems that can simply be solved by listening to your body, and fueling it properly.
  • Sunscreen - Even on cloudy days you can get a nasty burn.
  • Chapstick with SPF - Your lips will get extremely dry in any season.  The extra sun protection never hurts either!
  • Snacks - They call it trail mix for a reason.  Be sure to pack a few small snacks each day, as some hikes can take from morning until evening. Items like granola bars (that won’t melt), trail mix, nuts, or portable fruits are great.
  • Hat - The sun is powerful, and protecting your head, neck, and face will keep you cool and dry. A bandanna is also a popular addition to hiking attire here, providing a barrier for sweat.

 

Follow these tips to be smart and safe when traveling to Zion! Most importantly, enjoy being in the presence of stunning views, historical landmarks, and the timeless natural landscape.

Fashionable Travel- 3 Tips for Men

August 10, 2017

There are loads of articles out there for staying fashionable while traveling, but many are for women.  With that said, here are my 3 general tips for men to stay comfortably fashionable on your next trip.

  1. Weather/Climate/Terrain – The first thing that you need to figure out is what you will be dealing with depending on where you travel. Whether or not it is going to be hot, cold, rainy, hilly, or somewhere in-between. Once you figure this out then you will be able to make better decisions on what to wear, because you do not want to be the person wearing sandals where it is snowing.
  2. Comfortable – Once you figure out the climate you will be traveling to then the next thing you should make sure of is that the clothing you bring is comfortable for extended wear. Sometimes you may want to sacrifice a little comfort for a bit more stylish item but you do not want to miserable during a run to catch a plane or taxi, a long walk exploring the area, or a night out dancing because you wore those pointed oxfords instead of the monk-straps that have more toe room.
  3.  Basic/Fundamental – Now that you figured out the climate you will be in and have discarded the uncomfortable items from what you are considering on taking, let's get to specifics. One of the most important tips for staying fashionable just in general is stick to basic and fundamental clothing items. For example, having plain colored t-shirts and polo’s or that staple suit.  If you stick to one general color palette usually browns, blacks, navy or white and coordinated basic items then they can be mixed and matched easily, which saves you from packing extra bulkier items like shoes. If you have trouble deciding on what clothes to choose try to think of what James Bond would wear, he is known for his basic but yet clean and timeless clothing.

5 Worst Travel Tips

August 16, 2017

People love to give advice when they hear you are traveling, especially if it's a place they've been. While much of it can be useful, there are some parts you should ignore. Some unforgettable memories come from trying new or different things.  Remember, it's your experience so make sure it is tailored to you and not just things that have been told to do, or not to do. Here is the worst advice given to me.

 

  1. "Go for the cheapest place to stay" - Sure you will be saving money and enjoying the city in the same way, but you will dread going back to your sad excuse for a room. Now, some people really do stay out all day and just go to their accommodations to crash.  But the truth is most of us need a little more from our accommodations.  For me, it's work a little more money to stay at a place that is known for cleanliness, privacy, and good showers. on my list of priorities, a good shower is very important.  Think about your priorities and the options here before just booking the cheapest place.
  2. "Schedule a full day plan" - For longer distance or once in a lifetime type trips, this is really tempting.  You're probably only going to be there once right?!  So, take in everything you can.  However, completely planning out your travel days and attempting to stick to a time schedule will result in many problems , mostly unnecessary stress and anxiety.  There will be some places that deserve more time than others. New places may also pop up on the radar as you go about the day and those can be hard to fit in when pressed for time. Getting a short list of things to do for a day is a good idea, but don't be afraid to wander around and discover something you might have missed in the guide books.  Plus, there's really is nothing like giving yourself time to take in the feeling of a new place.
  3. "Don't meet people" - Meet other travelers. This is one of the most rewarding experiences of travel. Hearing a perspective of life from a different place than your home country opens your mind to new things. These people want someone to hang out with just as much as you do so don't be afraid to start a conversation with them. Be wary of meeting people in the city who are a bit overzealous to talk to you, they may be trying to sell you something or take advantage of you in some way. The biggest thing is using common sense when meeting people, if they rub you the wrong way at any time always have a plan to get out of that situation.
  4. "Be careful" - Now this is actually good advice, if you don't take it too far.  Don't do anything to get arrested or killed, but live a little.  Know the general safety of an area, trust your gut in unknown situations, and don't overindulge in things that impair your judgement.  But adventure off the path now and then, find the cool places tourists rarely go.  Part of traveling, is exploring.  Have a good time and enjoy the time you have.    
  5. "You have to do this..." - Do what you feel like doing. Read reviews and descriptions, if it doesn't sound interesting to you just don't do it. I made this mistake. People told me that I HAD to see the Vatican if I'm in Rome.  Now, I know that many, many people enjoy visiting the Vatican and I understand its significance, but it was probably one of my least favorite places I visited.  I had read some reviews saying it wasn't worth the time and money, and truthfully it didn't sound that interesting, but....everyone said if I'm in Rome I HAD to visit the Vatican, right?" Moral of the story, do what interests you.  Don't waste time on things you "have to do" and do what you want to do.

Unplug and Enjoy These 6 Activities

August 22, 2017

With summer drawing to a close, many people are staring to think about fall.  Traveling in the fall is one of my favorite things to do and one of my favorite destinations is a cabin.  Whether you are looking to relax, reconnect with nature, regroup as friends or a family, clear your mind, unplug from the daily digital bombardment, or a combination of it all, you will find a cabin rental is a great option for recharging.  You may be wondering how you'll fill your time, especially if you have made the bold choice to "unplug." Here are 6 fun, mostly free, and easy things you can do if you unplug and get out this fall.

  1. A Campfire

While camping or staying in a cabin, one of the most relaxing things to do would be to sit by the fire.  If there is a fire pit outside, lighting a campfire is a great activity for groups gatherings.  Singing, telling stories, and just recounting the events of the day are all better by the fire.  If you're traveling alone, curling up by a fire to read a book is relaxing as well.  

  1. Water Activities

If there is a lake nearby, make sure to bring a swimsuit for water activities!  Also, make sure to bring fishing poles, kayaks, or games to play in the water to make the most out of your stay.

  1. Hiking

If there are trails nearby, use them!  Use these trails to explore your vacation destination and experience nature.  Warning: be sure to check the weather before embarking on your hike.  No one wants to get caught in a storm a few miles away from shelter!  Nonetheless, taking in the sights and sounds of the area and it's creatures is one of the best ways to get the most out of your experience.

  1. Play Games

If you are embarking on your adventure with family or a group of friends, bring games.  Having a few decks of cards, some board games, or a football can enhance your overall vacation experience.  Starting a friendly wiffle ball tournament or playing a simple card game can provide vacationers with hours of entertainment, even those not participating.

  1. Make Crafts

If vacationing with children, at times it is important to keep them entertained.  Bringing simple crafts for them to do such as painting pictures or making bracelets can go a long way.  Encourage the children to collect and use materials in your new environment such as twigs or leaves.  Bring glue and other simple craft components for children to use for their new creations.

  1. Make Treats

Who doesn't like treats?!  These treats do not need to be elaborate or time consuming.  Simple treat ideas include s’mores, no bake cookies, or fruit salad.  Often times making these treats together becomes part of the experience, a fond memory, or even a tradition.  

 

6 Tips For Pulling Off A Last Minute Weekend Getaway

September 01, 2017

With the Labor Day weekend here, I suddenly realize I have no plans.  None. Nada. Zip.  Now this may sound terrible to most people with the travel bug, but for someone with 3 kids whose schedules are now starting to eclipse mine, it’s a bit of a relief. 

Yet, I find my inner travel bug saying, “We need to do something.  Let’s take a short trip!”  And so, the madness of packing a family of 5, arranging care for 3 pets, and figuring exactly where we are going begins.  If you’re contemplating pulling off a last-minute weekend getaway, here’s a few pointers to help keep you sane. 

  1. Pet care.  Sounds crazy, but if you have pets that need cared for, start there.  Many shelters or caregivers fill quickly over weekends, especially if it’s a holiday weekend.  Even if you rely on family, friends, or neighbors to help care for your loveable pooch, they may have plans too.  Start this one early in case you need to move to Plan B, C, D, or E.
  2. Be flexible! Last minute bookings could be pricey or a screaming deal.  If you let the natural course of things unfold and are open minded, you’ll be more likely to find the steals.  One last thought here, don’t forget the tried and true staycation concepts.  So many of us focus on traveling somewhere else, that we forget to “visit” where we are.  Don’t discount the day trips and activities at your fingertips…which leads me to my next point.
  3. Closer is better. If you’re planning a 2-4-day trip, consider locations that you can get to in 4 hours or less.  If you max out at 4 hours to and 4 hours from that is close to one whole day of your precious time in transit.  Would you rather be in an airplane or van playing mediator between the kids or out experiencing something together?
  4. Pack light. No really.  Try keeping it to a backpack sized load or less each.   This means less time packing and unpacking and less time corralling clothes on the trip.  This also means everyone, little ones included, can carry their own load as well, which is extremely helpful.  If you have trouble with this, my trick is to pick one neutral color palette, usually tan, black, navy or gray.  That tends to minimize the bulkiest items like shoes, jackets or sweaters, and pants.
  5. Get creative! Don’t forget there are so many options when it comes to travel and accommodations. You can travel by car, train, boat, RV, or bike, depending on your level of adventure.  When it comes to places to stay there are cabins, hotels, vacation homes and condos, campgrounds, houseboats, and homes of your friends and family.  This isn’t a comprehensive list, but you get the point.  There are a lot of different options out there.  In my opinion, a short block of time seems perfect for trying something new.
  6. Keep it simple. I personally am not a big planner.  I like to let things unfold and allow time for discovery and relaxing.  However, I know there are planners out there.  So, here is what I mean by simple.  Do what makes you comfortable, but don’t OVER due it.  If you’re a planner, know your options, plan a couple of things if that makes you happy, but don’t pack the whole day full of activities to the point that you stress if things go awry.  If you’re a non-planner like me, don’t just show up.  Again, know some options, timing, and availability.  Make sure you get out and appreciate what makes your destination a destination. 

Electronics-Free Vacation: 5 No-Screen Games for Traveling with Kids

November 07, 2017

Do electronics-free vacations exist anymore?

If you’re traveling with kids, you already know what a saving grace a few apps can be. Movies, games, music, and plenty of battery life can keep kids of all ages happy until you arrive at your destination. However, vacation is about breaking away from the ordinary and exploring new things, which is hard to do when you’re glued to the same screen as the one you stare at for hours at home.

Help your kids to get the most from their vacation by ditching the road trip screen time, and opt for an electronics-free vacation with these five fun car games:

1. Travel Bingo

A fun twist on the classic game, you and the kids can spend time gazing out the window looking for items on your Bingo cards (think waterfall, firetruck, a field of cows, etc). Find some printables online or make your own.

2. Storytelling

Everyone loves a good story, but creating your own can help spark big imaginations in little ones. Each person can craft their own tale, or you could each take turns contributing to the same story.

3. Food Math

When you have kids, a little food bribing goes a long way in gaining cooperation. Stock up on healthy snacks, then throw in a few math problems to let them earn their reward. Depending on your child’s age, you could have them count how many crackers you’re holding or break a banana to teach about fractions.

4. Card Games

From magic tricks to rummy, there are seemingly infinite things you can do with a pack of cards. For younger kids, use the cards for counting and recognizing numbers. For older kids, teach them some basic games like War or Crazy Eights.

5. I Spy

An “oldie but goodie,” this iconic game gets everyone in the car excited about looking out their windows. One person finds an object, gives a hint, and the others must try to find what the other person saw. Aside from passing time, the game helps kids experience the area they’re traveling through.

From travel apps to navigation, smartphones and tablets have become a mainstay in the traveler’s pocket. However, if you’re traveling with kids, keeping your device in your pocket can help your kids discover parts of the world they never knew existed – even if they’re cruising by at 60 miles per hour.

Survival Tips for Holiday Travel

November 14, 2017

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you can be sure you won’t be alone. Nearly 100 million people (or nearly a third of the US population) are expected to take flight or hit the highway during the holiday season. Crowds alone can make even the most wonderful time of the year more stressful than it should be. These survival tips for holiday road travel can help you keep your holiday spirit (and sanity) intact:

#1 – Don’t Be in a Hurry

Sure, we all want to see our families, and we certainly want to arrive before the turkey comes out of the oven, but trying to rush will only add to your travel frustration. If you’re driving, plan on the roadways being crowded and give yourself extra time. Getting stuck in traffic is no way to spend the holidays.

#2 – Travel at Night

If you have children, or simply loathe traffic, try planning your travel at night. Pack some sandwiches and hit the highway around 9 or 10 pm when most other travelers are settling down for the evening. Just make sure you have a full tank of gas so you don’t get stranded in the wee hours of the morning.

#3 – Don’t Wrap Presents Before Your Trip

Whether you’re driving 100 miles or 1,000 miles, you can bet that pretty paper and glittery bow won’t make it to your destination. Save yourself the hassle and buy gift wrap when you arrive. If you’re worried about someone seeing the goods too soon, hide your gifts in black trash bags and tape them shut.

#4 – Stock Up on Emergency Supplies

Hopefully you won’t need them, but having the right emergency supplies can help you weather a bad situation. Save some room in the car for a first aid kit, flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, non-perishable food, rain poncho, jumper cables, and kitty litter (for icy spots).

#5 – Use Travel Apps like GasBuddy and iExit

GasBuddy is a free app that helps you find the cheapest gas stations near you, perfect for fillups and finding a restroom when you need one. iExit, another free app, can help you find ATMs, food, and other pitstops based on your location. These and other apps take the guesswork out of travel. Plus, you won’t waste time and mileage circling unfamiliar areas looking for a place to stop.

How to Enjoy Winter Travel, Even When You Hate Cold Weather

November 20, 2017

Enjoy Winter Travel, Even When You Hate Cold Weather

If you forgo traveling during the colder months because you loathe freezing temperatures, you’re missing out on some of the best travel times of the year. Winter travel is usually much lighter in traffic than warmer days, which means you can expect lower prices on airfare and hotels, fewer crowds, and more time to enjoy your destination.

You simply need to learn how to enjoy yourself despite the lack of warm, sunny beaches.

Beat the cold weather blues with these four tips that teach you to love traveling in winter:

1. Don’t Skimp on Packing

If you prefer to travel light, that might be the main reason why you don’t enjoy winter travel. The reality is this: if you’re going somewhere cold, you need to dress the part or suffer the consequences.

Having all the right gear and apparel at arm’s reach can make a huge difference in how you enjoy your trip. Spare no item in your suitcase if it means keeping you warm, even if you have to pay for checking baggage. It’s better to be out an extra $40 than be miserable because you didn’t bring the extra coat and boots.

2. Let Someone Else Handle the Driving

If you fear driving in winter weather conditions, let someone else do all the driving. Traveling in snow and ice can be dangerous for anyone, but especially for those who aren’t used to it. Opt to fly to your destination, then use public transportation or Ubers to get where you need to go.

As an added bonus, you can relax and enjoy the scenery stress-free.

3. Go Abroad

Just because it’s frosty in your home state doesn’t mean the rest of the world is frozen, too. Use your winter chills as an excuse to explore new countries that won’t leave you numb while you sightsee.

4. Find Experiences that are Best Enjoyed Cold

Skiing and snow tubing are obvious winter activities, but there’s much more to winter. For instance, some folks swear that Dollywood is at its best during the Christmas season. The lines are short and you don’t have to sweat in the heat for two hours for your turn on a roller coaster.

If you’re into theatre, find out where your favorites shows are playing and book your vacation there. You’ll be inside, so no need to worry about the cold.

In Closing

Don’t let the cold weather keep you from adventure. With the right activities and destinations, you’ll be too busy enjoying your trip to notice the temperatures.

Top 4 Things to Do on a Winter Vacation That Don’t Require Skis

November 27, 2017

Top 4 Things to Do on a Winter Vacation That Don’t Require Skis

Though most folks who travel in winter spend their time on slopes, you’ll be glad to know skiing isn’t your only option for an eventful vacation.

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean your winter travels have to be filled with snow and ice. Discover the best things to do on a winter vacation that doesn’t involve ski poles and snowsuits:

#1 – Embark on a Caribbean Cruise

Though the weather outside may be frightful at home, the sun is typically shining warm and bright in the Caribbean year-round.  Even better news is that cruises to these evergreen paradises are typically much cheaper during the winter months than the summer.

This option is perfect if you’re looking to escape the cold. If you want to swim and loll on sandy beaches during your cruise, avoid the Bahamas and head for destinations like St. Thomas or Labadee. The further south you travel in the Caribbean, the more likely you are to feel the warmth you’re craving.

#2 – Relax in a Hot Spring

The U.S. is chock full of hot springs, perfect for defrosting after a cold day’s adventures. If you love wine, head to Calistoga, California in Upper Napa Valley to visit the vineyards during the day and soak in the hot springs at night.

#3 – Take a Dogsledding Tour

This one requires you to brave the snow and cold, but it’s too unique an experience to skip. States like Maine, Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska offer authentic dog sled tours that let you take the reigns and sightsee with faithful canines leading the way.

#4 – Visit the Crystal Ice Caves

A hundred feet beneath the surface of Lava Beds National Monument lies one of California’s best-kept secrets – a sprawling ice cave fit for Queen Elsa herself. The temperature in the cave stays right around freezing year-round, creating some of the coolest ice curtains and other formations you’ve ever seen.

And, since it’s in California, you’re likely to find your fill of concerts, sports, and other events to complete your vacation.

Winter Travel Packing Tips

December 08, 2017

Packing light seems almost nonexistent in winter. Clothes are bulkier. Jackets are necessary. Cold weather accessories like hats and gloves make freezing temperatures more bearable.

That doesn’t mean you have to spring for the XXL suitcase to accommodate all your winter gear. Though tricky, it’s possible to pack lightly for winter weather with a little careful planning. Take advantage of these top winter travel packing tips that can turn your packing nightmares into warm, toasty dreams:

Tip #1 – Opt for Versatile Layers

You don’t necessarily need a thick coat if you can stay warm with smaller pieces. The trick to this is to pack articles that can be mixed and matched or worn individually to satisfy different activities (such as wearing the same thing to a theatrical show or shopping), weather, or temperatures.

For example, you might bring a few base layers, like a thermal shirt or tank top, then add statement pieces, such as a flannel shirt or tunic. From there, you can top it off with a thin jacket that doesn’t take up your whole suitcase, yet will still keep you cozy.

Tip #2 – Wear Your Bulkiest Shoes During Your Travel

Winter boots are great for keeping snow and water off your feet. Unfortunately, they also easily fill up a suitcase. Whether you’re flying or driving, wear your boots (or whatever bulky pair of shoes you’re bringing) during your travel time to save bag space.

Tip #3 – Stick to a Simple Color Palette

When all your clothes are in the same color palette, it’s easier to mix and match them.  This means you get more options with fewer pieces. Plus, you can settle for one set of winter accessories (hat, scarf, gloves) that will look good with every outfit.

Tip #4 – Use Compression Cubes

If you’re finding it hard to weed out unnecessary items, stash them in a compression cube or sack. These bags can help you save on suitcase space while helping you stay organized.

Traveling in winter might mean taking an extra bag to carry everything you need, but you’ll be glad you did if it means staying comfortable during your trip.

What to Look for in a Winter Vacation Rental

December 15, 2017

What to Look for in a Winter Vacation Rental

Booking a winter vacation rental isn’t quite like finding somewhere for your summer vacation. Braving the winter weather alone takes careful considerations that don’t exist during warmer months.

If you want an enjoyable winter vacation, you can’t settle for just any roof and four walls. Take a look at the top three features you should look for in a winter vacation rental:

Generous Cancellation Policy

Mother Nature in winter can be unpredictable. Flights get delayed or canceled. Roads become impassible with ice or snow. You may elect to cancel your trip so you don’t risk getting involved in an accident.

You shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a winter vacation rental you never used. Before you book a site, make sure they will allow you to cancel in the event of bad weather or other conditions out of your control.

Warm Amenities

The best winter vacation rentals are the ones that know your needs. Things like a fireplace, hot tub, or other amenities to keep your warm make for an ideal spot to cozy up.

Proximity to Area Attractions

As they say in real estate, location is the most important consideration for a property. During the summer, you might not mind walking a few blocks to a sporting event or show or driving 15 minutes to a restaurant. However, depending on where you’re visiting, a 15-minute drive on icy roads might be out of the question.

Consider how far away you feel comfortable being from area attractions, especially if the weather turns bad. If you loathe the cold, you won’t want to walk for any length of time. Instead, perhaps look for an all-inclusive resort so you won’t have to leave the property unless you truly want to.

In Closing

Booking the right winter vacation rental can determine the success of your entire trip. Choose wisely.

For more tips on winter travel, check out our other blog resources.

How to Prepare Your Home Before You Travel in Winter

December 22, 2017

How to Prepare Your Home Before You Travel in Winter

You made your travel checklists and itineraries, packed your big suitcase, and booked your transportation and lodging. You might think you’re ready for a winter vacation. But your home might not be so ready to see you leave.

Whether you live in an apartment, condo, or house, your home needs special attention before you leave on your winter travels. Although disaster can strike any time of year, the wintertime typically sees some of the worst home disasters, and they may very well happen while you’re away.

These three tips can help you take care of your home so you can have peace of mind during your trip:

#1 – Unplug Everything You Can

Small appliances, electronics, Christmas lights, and unnecessary items will still suck power even when you’re not using them. In addition, leaving these things plugged in can make them susceptible to lightning damage.

Unplug everything you can before you leave to reduce your risk of fire or other damage.

#2 – Keep the Heat Low

You shouldn’t turn off your heat completely, but you won’t need much if you’re not home. Since heating and cooling your home accounts for about 48% of your energy bill, lowering your home’s temperature will make a noticeable impact on your next month’s bill.

#3 – Wrap Your Water Pipes

No one wants to come home to a soaked home because of a busted water pipe. Cold weather can freeze your pipes, leaving them vulnerable to bursting. Help your pipes suit up for winter weather by wrapping them in pipe insulation. (By the way, this is a good idea even if you’re not traveling.)

If wrapping your pipes isn’t an option, draining the pipes can prevent pipe breakage while you’re away. You’ll need to turn off your main water supply and open a faucet to let the water drain.

Not only can turning off your water help protect you from disaster, it can also save you a decent chunk of money.

For more great tips on winter travel, check out our blog resources.

How to Get the Best Winter Travel Deals

December 27, 2017

How to Get the Best Winter Travel Deals

Traveling in the winter may not seem ideal, especially if cold weather and snow aren’t your strong suits. But there’s arguably no better time to travel, especially if you’re looking to save big on hotels and activities.

Knowing these top three money-saving tips will help you get the best winter travel deals:

Tip #1 – Travel to Popular Summer Destinations

Booming summer tourist destinations like Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and the Outer Banks are most expensive during peak season. Winter, however, usually means fewer tourists and rock-bottom prices. For example, you’ll likely be able to score an oceanfront hotel room in Myrtle Beach for well under $100 a night. There’s still plenty of things to see and do, despite the cooler temperatures, so visiting during the off-season should be a no-brainer.

Tip #2 – Watch for Bounce-Back Deals

Most folks use online booking websites, such as Travelocity or Expedia, to find the best deals on rental cars or hotels, but you can get even better deals to come to you. Visit a couple of these sites and act as though you’re going to proceed with your reservation. Opt-in to receive email offers from them, but stop short of booking your trip. After a few days, you’ll likely receive email offers from the site to encourage you to finish booking your trip. These offers are usually substantially lower than the original price quote, giving you more ways to save.

Tip #3 – Look for Holiday Deals on Activities

Restaurants and attractions are known for offering special holiday deals that are good long after the new year has come and gone. If you’ve already booked your winter trip, you may be able to scoop up some savings on things to do on your trip if you purchase them before the holidays.

For example, you might check restaurants near your hotel and see if they’re offering any holiday incentives on gift cards.

Sites like Groupon and Living Social offer deals throughout the year, but may extend additional savings on Black Friday or during the holiday season.

Find more great winter travel tips on our blog.

 

3 Amazing Valentine’s Day Getaways for Couples

January 16, 2018

The most romantic day of the year is almost upon us, and couples everywhere are feeling the itch to get away and enjoy some R&R with each other. It’s not too late to book a weekend or overnight getaway at these three romantic escapes, but don’t wait too long – you might miss your chance:

Château Elán, Braselton, GA

Though nestled alongside a major thoroughfare in Northeast Georgia, this charming vineyard and resort is a well-kept secret. Château Elán is part winery, part spa, and part upscale hotel, offering couples just about every amenity you could want. The resort offers a wine tour and tasting, along with several restaurant options on-site so you can enjoy your vino without transportation issues. Their day spa features a variety of couples services, everything from massages to full body exfoliations, along with rejuvenating steam rooms, saunas, and a saltwater pool. Then, go relax in your in-room jacuzzi to cap off the perfect Valentine’s Day celebration.

Hotel ICON Autograph Collection, Houston, TX

Downtown Houston provides a perfect backdrop for a romantic mini-vacation at the Hotel ICON Autograph Collection. This hotel puts you in the center of everything the city offers, from fine dining to the theater district and more. The boutique hotel offers plush rooms, some with an in-room whirlpool, along with amazing city views and no shortage of style.

The Cliff House at Pike’s Peak, Manitou Springs, CO

This mountaintop resort is bathed in splendor. With breathtaking views at every angle, gorgeous Victorian architecture, and ultra-sophisticated accommodations, you may never want to leave the Cliff House at Pike’s Peak. Each room is unique, offering luxurious romantic amenities like fireplaces, two-person spas, steam showers, towel warmers, and all the privacy you could ask for. Plus, the hotel is just a 15-minute drive to Pike’s Peak Center, where you and your date can catch an evening performance of Broadway’s sensational Kinky Boots.

Make Your Valentine’s Day Unforgettable

Valentine’s Day will be here soon, and you won’t want to wait until the last minute to book your escape. Find your perfect getaway today so you’ll have nothing to do but enjoy it later.

5 Tips for Staying in Touch While Abroad

April 23, 2018

While traveling, it’s important to keep in contact with those you love!  Providing them with updates on your latest travel adventures will relieve their stress and give you something to talk about.  Keeping in touch with will also allow you to know what they are up to!

 

It’s important for travelers who leave for extended periods of time to keep in contact with their loved ones.

 

  1. Schedule a routine time to call before leaving

Before beginning travels, sit down and look at all of your schedules.  It’s important to be on the same page before leaving to ensure consistency while away.  This eliminates all confusion and allows everyone a decent idea of when each other has time to catch up.

  1. Recognize and acknowledge any time differences

THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!!  Different areas of the world operate on different time zones (obviously), so it’s important to recognize that.  Before traveling, do some research on the time difference so that you are fully aware of any changes.  If you are backpacking, time zones might change.  In this case, research ahead of time and plan accordingly.  There are websites available as time zone converters.

  1. Have each other’s mailing addresses (unless backpacking)

Before traveling, make sure to trade mailing addresses with your loved ones.  Depending on the length of your stay, you might want to send souvenirs back home to those you love!  It’s also important for loved ones to know where you’re staying in case of emergency.

  1. Provide updates on activities

While traveling, it’s important to communicate with loved ones at home so they know what you are doing and where you are.  This will give you something to talk about while you’re away and will be a way for you to share your experiences while you go!

  1. Be understanding of each other’s busy schedules

This is VERY IMPORTANT!  In order to enjoy your exciting travels and keep the peace, it’s important to be understanding of each other’s busy schedules.  While you’re traveling the world, your loved ones could be having a busy day at work or exams coming up.  It’s important to communicate and be understanding of each other’s always-changing schedules.  Being flexible and understanding will prevent arguments and misunderstandings.

When in London

May 01, 2018

London, England.  I’ve never thought of myself as a city person, but London was different.  Walking around London, I found it easy to navigate and just run into things!  Going into the London trip, we had zero expectations.  We knew it was going to be an amazing and fun trip, however, we never expected it to be quite as awestriking as it was.  We began our day walking to Trafalgar Square.  We then walked and took a boat down the Thames River (complimentary of our tour passes we had purchased) to the Tower Bridge passing the Globe Theater (on accident).  We toured Tower Bridge, walked to the London Eye (which was under construction unfortunately), saw Big Ben (which was also under construction and covered in scaffolding), walked through the British Museum, saw Westminster Abbey and Parliament, and watched the changing of the guards while pressed up against the gate.  We spent lots of time in Piccadilly Circus as well.  All in all, London is a city where it is not necessary to plan every aspect of the trip.  If something looks like fun at the moment, splurge!  The whole city is a site worth seeing, therefore, you could never go wrong by choosing a direction and following your instincts!

 

There are endless opportunities to explore London and its culture.  Just walking around is a large part of it, however, it’s important to explore and take in the city in other ways as well.  Plays are also a must-see while in London.  There are many opportunities and varying prices to see theater productions and I recommend doing so.  Also: the night life in London is great.  Definitely recommend going out in London at night.

 

Transportation:

Transportation is abundant and useful.  The underground system is cheap and user-friendly.  Purchasing an oyster card was probably the best investment of the trip.  The tube system can take you anywhere you want to go quickly at an affordable rate at any time you need transportation.  My travel group and I purchased a ticket for a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus that we could use for the two days we had to explore.  This made transportation easy and sightseeing even easier.

 

Accommodations:

While my group and I stayed in a hotel with a complimentary breakfast, it is easy to find other accommodations at even cheaper rates in conveniently located areas.  Staying outside of the city will typically be less expensive and it is easy to get into London.  Travelers can stay in hotels or hostels for lower prices if planning ahead (this is a must).

 

Hannah is a second year student at the University of Evansville majoring in marketing and management.  She is studying abroad this semester. 

How To Spend A Day in Edinburgh, Scotland

May 10, 2018

If you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in Edinburgh, Scotland, you won’t want to arrive without knowing where to start! Whether you take a long trip or only stay for a day, Perfleek wants to make sure you enjoy every step you take along the way.

 

Hike Arthur’s Seat

The best way to start your trip to Edinburgh is to wake up before sunrise and make the trek up Arthur’s Seat. The hill is the tallest of the surrounding hills of Holyrood Park, standing 822 feet over the city of Edinburgh. The view from the top is beautiful with snow and without, but is especially beautiful as the sun rises over the city. Be careful if it has been snowing or raining, though—it’s slick! Be prepared to wipe out on the way down.

 

Edinburgh Castle

As much as you want to nap after waking up before the sun, remember you only have a day and fight through it! After catching your reservation for a full Scottish breakfast at The Scottish Café & Restaurant , it’s time to head to the historic Edinburgh Castle for a tour. Buy your tickets in advance to skip the line (and save a few pounds)! You can use their suggested itineraries depending on what time of the day you go and how long you’re looking to spend there. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the view of Edinburgh and your morning feat, Arthur’s Seat, in the distance!

 

St. Giles Cathedral

As you head down the Royal Mile, stop in one of the United Kingdom’s beautiful cathedrals. St. Giles’ Cathedral was founded in 1124 but was rebuilt after a fire in the 14th century. Much of the interior dates back to this time. Inside you can see stained glass windows and the beautiful ceiling of the Thistle Chapel. Visit the gift shop on your way out and see if you can find your Scottish ancestors’ last name on any of the souvenirs inside!

 

Visit The Elephant House

For Harry Potter fans, visiting The Elephant House is an absolute must when visiting Edinburgh. This café is where Harry Potter by JK Rowling was born on a napkin. On your way from St. Giles’ Cathedral, take a stroll up and down Victoria Street, the alleged inspiration behind Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (who also lives in Scotland!). Stop in the Elephant House for a latte or for lunch—and don’t leave without going to the toilets!

If you’re a Harry Potter superfan, don’t forget to talk a walk through the graveyard behind The Elephant House, where JK Rowling used to talk walks while writing the series. You may see a familiar name on one of the tombs.

 

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland was one of the most memorable locations I visited in Edinburgh. It was highly interactive, so it is great for children and adults alike. You can find everything from animals to technology to fashion (and everything in between). You can even see if you weigh as much as a penguin or an ostrich, design your own clothing item, or run in a hamster wheel! But beware! You can only get down from the 6th floor in the elevator, and sometimes the elevator can be slow. Be patient—you’re not trapped forever.

 

Eat at Nando’s!

After spending a few hours in the museum, you will have surely worked up an appetite. There’s only one place to You can find Nando’s all over the United Kingdom, but the best one I’ve found is in Edinburgh, right around the corner from The National Museum of Scotland and across the street from The Elephant House. Do me a favor and order a 1/4 chicken hot with a double order of peri-salted chips, would you? For my vegetarian friends, I’ve heard the supergrain salad with no chicken may be the best salad you’ll ever eat. No matter what you order, I can almost guarantee you’ll leave with a craving for the Afro-Portuguese food that will never end.

Haunted Tour

If you like getting spooked, you’ll want to make sure to book a haunted tour through Edinburgh! There are underground tours and walking tours (and even one that takes you into the Greyfriars Kirkyard the Harry Potter superfans walked through earlier in the day). You can find a mix of paid and free tours, but make sure you book in advance either way!

 

Nightlife

Once you’re done exploring the city, don’t forget to stop in one of Edinburgh’s many bars and nightclubs where you can find great cocktails and live music. There is sure to be a pub for every personality, so find one that suits you and party the night away!

Now that you know how to fill a day in Edinburgh, Scotland, we hope you have a fantastic trip—and don’t forget to tag Perfleek in your photos!

Make The Most of Your Trip to Athens, Greece

May 17, 2018

While visiting Europe, I was able to see places like Barcelona, Spain; Budapest, Hungary; and Edinburgh, Scotland; but the place that amazed me the most was Athens, Greece. From the mountains that surround the city to the strawberries that are sold in the city center, the beauty of Athens doesn’t seem to end. If you’re planning a trip to Athens, follow these tips to make your trip that much better!

 

 

Visit the Acropolis

The number one tourist attraction in Athens is the Acropolis, and for good reason. If you’re not sure what the Acropolis is, you will need to know when you get to Athens! When you look at the Acropolis, you will see a hill and old structures that overlook the city of Athens. It was once the city center of ancient Athens and houses several historic buildings including the Parthenon. Other remains on the Acropolis are the Old temple of Athena, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It costs €20 to enter during summer months (April 1 – October 31) and €10 during winter months (November 1 – March 31). Don’t forget to take advantage of discounts*!

 

On the way to or from the Acropolis during warm seasons, you may see people walking around drinking slushies. You need to buy one from the concessions across from the ticket stand. They are a little pricey, but they are perfect on a hot, sunny day. I drank the strawberry lemonade one, and I strongly recommend it!

 

See Athens from the Aeropagus

Close to the Acropolis is a large rock called the Aeropagus. The rock overlooks the city of Athens, and it was once used as a judicial court. In biblical times, it was the place in Athens where the Apostle Paul preached the Areopagus sermon. The Aeropagus has a beautiful view of Athens and is free to climb up on. To get to the top, there is a set of rock stairs and another set of stairs that were added more recently. It is pretty slick, so you’ll want to wear shoes with some grip and be careful where you step!

 

When leaving the Aeropagus, I recommend going down to the left (if looking towards Athens) and taking a mini nature walk. The city is beautiful, but it’s good to see some greenery and get a little bit of fresh air!

 

Shop in the Flea Market

Once you make it back to the city center, make sure to take a walk through the flea market that runs down many different streets. You can find tons of Greek-themed clothing items, antiques, and handmade items to take home as souvenirs for you and your friends! In the city center, you may find stands selling olives and strawberries. Buy some and eat them while you walk around (after washing them, of course)!

 

 

Eat Authentic Greek Cuisine

When you’re ready to eat, I recommend stopping at Savvas for a traditional Greek rooftop meal overlooking the Acropolis. The staff is incredibly friendly and the food is delicious! Get an order of Twister Chips to share with the table, then order your Greek dish of choice. The roof includes a cocktail bar, so feel free to stay a while and enjoy the view!

 

 

Visit the First Modern Olympic Stadium

If you are able and spend more than one day in Athens, I recommend walking to the Panathenaic Stadium, or the location of the first present-day Olympic Games in 1896. By walking there, you’re able to see more of Athens from ground level, including modern buildings as well as things like Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. For €5.00*, you gain entry to the entirely-marble stadium and a mini museum under the stands. You can walk all throughout the stands, run a lap around the track, and take pictures on an awards podium. Afterwards, head into the tunnel in the back left corner that leads to the Olympic torches from every Olympic Games since 1896 (including this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea)!

 

If you have ever been to Athens, let us know what you liked most about it! If you’re about to visit, we hope you enjoyed our tips and have an incredible trip—and don’t forget to tag Perfleek in your photos!

 

*Half-priced/Free Admission with valid ID:

  • Over 65, and Greek or EU citizen
  • Under 18
  • Accompanying a blind or disabled person
  • Students of University and higher education institutes

5 Best Day Trips to Take in London

May 17, 2018

When in London, it is important to spend time experiencing the hustle and bustle and exploring England’s most famous city. But when you need to escape the hectic traffic and busy streets, take a day trip to one of our favorite areas on the outskirts of London!

 

1. Windsor 

Windsor is the home of Windsor Castle, the British Royals’ family home for over 1,000 years. The Castle takes up 13 acres of land and almost seems like it is its own town once inside the castle gates. Inside, you will find gardens, historic state apartments, a dollhouse-sized replica of Buckingham Palace, a church, and gift shops. The beautiful Windsor Castle is set to be the location of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding this Saturday, May 19th.

 

Aside from the castle, the streets of Windsor are perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of London for a day. There are many shops worth stopping into, and you don’t want to miss out on the many antique shops in town! There is someone for every member of the family, including LEGOLAND and authentic afternoon tea. While you’re there, be on the lookout for the Royal Standard flag at the castle—that means the Queen is inside!

 

 

 2.South Kensington

South Kensington is another beautiful and history-rich area that is just a quick Tube ride from London with your Oyster card. South Ken has free museums to visit, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

 

Don’t miss the beautiful Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, or Kensington Palace, the current home of the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton. While walking through the Kensington Gardens and and Hyde Park, make sure you look for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground next to Kensington Palace.

 

 

3. Kingston upon Thames

Just south of London and on the Oyster Card route, Kingston upon Thames is the perfect place to stay or visit on a trip to London. Kingston is a historic place and has seen quite a bit of British royalty in its time. Now, you can walk along the Thames, visit the Kingston Museum, see a show, and shop in the markets. When looking for something to eat, we recommend The Antelope and The Boater’s Inn!

 

 

4. Wimbledon

If this town, nestled between London and Kingston upon Thames, sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the home to arguably the most famous professional tennis tournament in history! While Wimbledon is known for tennis, that is definitely not all it has to offer. From the moment you walk out of the train station, you get a feel of what Wimbledon is like. It is busy, but it is beautiful and there is so much to do!

 

If you are a tennis fan, take the bus (or, to see more of the town, take a walk) to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum & Tour. There are a few tour options, but you have to take a tour to see Center Court! Remember, tours do not run during The Championships, Wimbledon tournament during much of June and July.

 

If you aren’t a tennis fan, there is still a lot to do! Take a nature walk through the Wimbledon Common, visit the free Museum of Wimbledon, and see the Wat Buddhapadipa Buddhist temple. You can also visit markets and shop at the boutiques and stores in Wimbledon Village!

 

 

 5. Notting Hill

For a colorful escape from London’s busy streets, use your Oyster card to take the Tube to Notting Hill. This town may also sound familiar if you’re a fan of Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant—it’s the setting of their 1999 film Notting Hill! Portobello Road, where much of the movie was filmed, is also the main event in real life. The Portobello Road Market is open daily, selling clothing, antiques, fruits and vegetables, and other items. If you want to see the entire length of the street filled with stands, visit on a Saturday!

 

While walking down Portobello Road, don’t forget to take minor detours down some colorful roads! The houses in Notting Hill are famous for being painted all different colors—there are pastel streets, bright rainbow rows, and bold, dark green and purple-colored homes. Stop into the beautiful 3Bis Gelateria on Portobello Road for your fix of chocolate and ice cream, and enjoy the lovely staff!

 

If you’re visiting in August, make sure you are prepared for the Notting Hill Carnival!

 

What is your favorite place to visit in London? If you haven’t been, what would you most like to see? Let us know, and don’t forget to tag Perfleek in your photos!