Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Things have been quieter than usual on the blogging front these days… mostly because I started a new job (yeah!!) and am focusing on my home life. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been traveling. Since February, I’ve squeezed in trips to San Diego, Victoria, Calgary, Bowen Island, and this weekend I’m flying to Montreal for my first-ever trip to Quebec!

I know that I’ll never have as many vacation days as I would like but I’m not going to let that stop me from achieving my travel goals. And my key to success is the Weekend Getaway. I’ve briefly written about this before when I explained How I Travel the World with a Full-time Job but I feel like it’s time for a more detailed analysis.

Here are my tips for Mastering the Weekend Getaway

1. Explore your Own Backyard

I am spoiled because I live in the ridiculously good-looking Pacific Northwest with a plethora of gorgeous islands, lakes, and mountains to explore. But no matter where you live, I’m certain that there are places worth exploring nearby. I am slowly working my way through a lengthy list of local wonders and weekends are the perfect way to start checking them off. It doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to spend time close to home rather than in more exotic destinations. I want to see the world and that includes my home province. It’s also SO easy to pack a small bag for two nights and scoot out of the city on a Friday evening.

Vancouver Skyline

From City…

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To relaxation in an hour

2. Don’t be afraid of the Red Eye

I may not suffer from jet lag when I travel, but sleeping on planes is not one of my strengths. For this reason, I’ve always been intimidated by the red-eye flight. But, I tried one back in 2014 on route to Boston for a long weekend and it was really great. Not only did I avoid a night of accommodation expenses, but I gained an entire day in the city. It was so successful that I used it again in 2015 to fly home from Maui, heading straight from the airport to work to save a vacation day. Might seem extreme but it’s a small price to pay for a weekend in paradise!

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Hello Paradise!

3. Have a Plan but Don’t Plan too Much

I’m a planner by nature so coming up with a detailed trip itinerary actually brings me joy. However, restrained planning is actually key to making a weekend getaway successful. If you jam pack too much activity into a short amount of time, it can leave you exhausted. On the flip side, no planning can mean that you end up in a town where everything closes at 5pm and you have nothing but bad cable TV for company.

I like to do my research and then come up with a couple of things that I really want to do while factoring in relaxation and exploration time. There is nothing worse then returning to work on Monday morning, needing a weekend to recover from your weekend. Have a goal for your trip and make choices that will help you achieve it. If the goal is relaxation, choose a location that is easy to get to and a little bit off the grid. If your goal is adventure, plan a road trip or visit an action-packed city.

 

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Lazy days in Snug Cove

 

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Always something new to see in Seattle

 

Getting out of town for a long weekend or even a mere two nights may not seem like enough time to see much, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Every weekend away has been worth the effort and has truly made it possible for me to travel the world while maintaining a full-time job.

My office is closing early and I’m off on yet another red-eye flight tonight. Tomorrow I will wake up in Montreal! Bring on the poutine!

Where are you going to explore on a weekend getaway?

 

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How to Survive Long-Haul Air Travel

How to Survive Long-Haul Air Travel

I’ve taken a lot of International flights over the years, some of them, very long. I’ve already documented the best flight of my life when I got upgraded to business class on British Airways from London to Seattle. But, that was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Every other time, I’ve flown in economy, which can sometimes feel like a cattle car in the 1860s. But, even still, I love air travel.

I’m posting this just as I’m about to head to YVR International airport (aka the happiest place on earth!) where I am about to board the longest nonstop flight that I’ve ever taken – 15 hours and 40 minutes! This got me to thinking about the ways in which a fresh air loving, long-walk taking, yoga practicing person manages to make this experience bearable, and dare I say it, enjoyable.

Here are my survival tips for Long-Haul Air Travel

1.Plan Your Entertainment

International travel is definitely easier because most planes these days provide a personal TV with dozens of movies, TV series, and games to get you through the sleepless hours in the middle of the night. I for one, LOVE movies and see this as the perfect opportunity to catch up on films that I missed throughout the year. But even a binge watcher like me, may need a break from 15 hours of constant streaming.

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So, I also make sure to curate my iPhone music to include my go-to travel playlists and load a few e-books onto my Kobo Aura (my new must-have travel accessory). I often treat myself to a magazine as well, which pretty much only happens when I fly these days.

2.Prepare Your Snacks

Now this is going to go against all of my previous advice on How to Avoid Jet Lag but seriously, you cannot depend on airplane food. Nobody wants to be stuck in a little box in the sky with your hunger needs left in the complete control of a cost-cutting airline. I’ve been so thankful in the past for my stash of snacks on many an overnight flight when I had no idea when the next meal was being served. I also love using air travel as an excuse to dig into some of my favourite treats… it doesn’t count when you’re on vacation right?!

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3.Dress for Success

When I travel domestically, I usually dress exactly the same way that I would at home. Sometimes I even kick it up a notch because I just love the 1960s era when air travel was this glamourous, special occasion where people brought out their finest fashions. But, when it comes to international travel, I dress as comfortably as humanly possible short of wearing my pajamas. Some key wardrobe staples are long scarves that can also serve as blankets and wearing LAYERS. I find that most airplanes are sweltering hot during boarding and freezing cold during mid-flight. No matter what my destination, I pack extra socks and a warm sweater. Extra clothes can also turn into make-shift pillows in a pinch.

Scarf or Blanket?

Scarf or Blanket?

4. Reserve Your Preferred Seat

Maybe you’re a crazy person who enjoys sitting in the middle seat of the middle row of a 3 – 4- 3 formation, but I am not. I scored a window seat for this flight, which is absolutely necessary if I’m going to get any sleep at all.

We are smiling but we really wish we were not in the middle row.

We are smiling but we really wish we were not in the middle row.

5. Drink Water

It’s so important to take care of yourself while travelling. Your body is going to be confused and your immune system is going to be put through the ringer. The best thing that you can do during a long travel day is stay hydrated with clear fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine. That glass of wine at take-off might help you nod off quickly but it can seriously interfere with your crucial REM sleep. And I don’t think I have to tell you why coffee is a bad idea. I’m guilty of enjoying a pre-trip Americano on the regular but then I have travel super powers. For those of you who struggle with jet lag, avoid the stimulants and stick to water.

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6. Take Preemptive Cold Remedies

Unfortunately, I often get sick on airplanes. All of those germs being recirculated endlessly just breaks me down, even though I like to think that I have a pretty solid immune system. My cold remedy of choice is Oil of Oregano. I pop these suckers like candy before, during, and after all air travel to prevent or lessen the potential cold symptoms. Whatever you find helpful is what I recommend… but don’t mess around. Nothing ruins a trip more than being sick.

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What did I miss? How do you prepare for a long-haul flight?

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

While I’m currently gallivanting around Europe, I thought it might be apropos to provide another dose of packing advice.

It is my travel mission to pack as light as possible (hello carry-on!) while still managing to look stylish. I look back at the photos from my 8-month back packing trip to Europe in 2005/2006 and I cringe at the outfits I put together. I wore a ski jacket in 80% of my photos and couldn’t have looked more like a tourist if I tried. Since then, I’ve learned that comfort and efficiency does not have to sacrifice style. With some strategic choices and some handy tools (read: packing cubes!) I am travelling in Europe for 2 weeks with less than 20 lbs on my back!

Here is the breakdown of what I packed in my bag:

CLOTHING AND SHOES

  • 1 pair of walking shoes (BOBS with memory foam)
  • 1 pair of dressier sandals (Clarks)
  • 1 pair of flip flops (Flojos with arch support)
Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

  • 1 pair of jeans (for the plane and chilly evenings)
  • 1 pair of loose fitting hippie pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 skirt/dress (convertible)

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  • 8 tops (3 t-shirts, 5 sleeveless)
  • 2-3 cardigans (for the plane, chilling evenings, hot air balloon)

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  • 1 bikini
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 12 pairs of underwear + 3 bras (excessive maybe)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of bandelettes
  • 1 belt
  • 1-2 scarves (for the plane or to use as a shawl)

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Note: Packing Cubes!

All of my clothing easily fits inside three small packing cubes. The larger blue one is for all of my bottoms and dresses, the medium red is for tops, and the small red is for underwear. These packing cubes make it insanely easy to pack and repack quickly when living out of a backpack. Read more about my packing cube obsession here.

TOILETRIES & ACCESSORIES

  • Stella & Dot Hang On Travel Case (toiletries/make-up/jewelry/sunscreen)
  • Norwex Cloth
  • Small Medicine Bag (Kleenex, band-aids, medication, hand sanitizer, wet wipes)
  • Travel Flat Iron
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses
  • Tote Bag (for beach use/extra stuff for airplane)
  • Cross-body Bag (Lug – Moped Day Pack) – The best travel day bag that I’ve found!

ELECTRONICS

  • iPhone 5C
  • Headphones
  • iPhone Charger
  • Camera + Charger (Canon Powershot SX700)
  • Spare Memory Card
  • Portable Charger
  • E-reader (Kobo Aura)
  • Voltage Converter
  • Adapters

DOCUMENTS & MISCELLANEOUS

  • Passport & Visa
  • Wallet
  • Travel Documents & Insurance
  • Sleep Sheet
  • Pillow Case
  • Ear Plugs
  • Travel Journal / Pen
  • Travel Umbrella
  • Luggage Locks

This was my first time bringing only a carry-on to Europe. Do you find it difficult to travel light?

7 Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

7 Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

If I could have any super power I would choose teleportation. The ability to instantaneously transport myself to anywhere in the world is a wanderluster’s dream come true! Unfortunately, I do not have a genetic mutation and I do have to take planes, trains, and automobiles just like everyone else. BUT, I do have a super power: I never get jet lag! And, I’m going to let you in on my top tips and tricks to help you avoid the cursed time zone tailspin.

1. Book the Best Itinerary

I know that most people are simply looking for rock-bottom prices when booking air travel. But that often means a milk run set of flights with horrible stopovers and ungodly departure/arrival times. Who wants to start their long awaited vacation with a 4am wake up call? My solution… do your research and spend a few extra dollars. Look for non-stop flights or itineraries with only one layover. Try to avoid long layovers wherever possible (1.5 hours is perfect!). If you can cut down your total travel time that will be a huge benefit. But the absolute most important aspect of your flight is the arrival time. I always try to book flights that arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. This means that I won’t be arriving in the dark and will have time to get through customs and to my final destination at a decent hour. AND, it means that I can pretty much go to bed as soon as I get to my accommodation. There is nothing worse than arriving in a new city after being awake for 30 hours and it’s only 10:00am local time. TORTURE! If you arrive in the evening then you can spare yourself so much pain and suffering and significantly reduce your risk of jet lag.

2. Pre-Trip Preparation (Work on your Sleep Schedule)

Again, if you can manage to book a flight that doesn’t leave at the crack of dawn, then you can give yourself the gift of a really good night’s sleep in your own bed. I know that sometimes the excitement can get the best of you making it hard to sleep the night before a big trip. That’s what sleeping pills are for :) If you’re only crossing a couple of time zones then it’s also worth trying to adjust BEFORE you leave. For example, if you’re flying east (like from Los Angeles to New York City) then start going to bed an hour earlier. Similarly, if you’re heading west then going to bed a bit later on the days leading up to your trip can make the transition a breeze.

3. Take a Nap on the Plane (if you can)

Personally, I can’t nap on planes. I can sometimes get a few winks in if I have a window seat or get upgraded to business class (!!!) but otherwise I just tough it out. That being said, a brief nap on a long flight can give you the extra boost you need to make it to your final destination. Just be careful not to sleep too much and risk not being able to get some shut eye when bedtime rolls around.

4. Stay Hydrated (Skip the Booze/Caffeine)

It’s so important to take care of yourself while travelling. Your body is going to be confused and your immune system is going to be put through the ringer with all those international germs floating around. The best thing that you can do during a long travel day is stay hydrated with clear fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine. That glass of wine at take-off might help you nod off quickly but it can seriously interfere with your crucial REM sleep. And I don’t think I have to tell you why coffee is a bad idea. I’m guilty of enjoying a pre-trip Americano on the regular but then I do have a super power. For those of you who struggle with jet lag, avoid the stimulants and stick to water.

5. Eat Healthy

Vacation and traveling is often about indulgence. Exercise routines are suspended and healthy eating is completely abandoned in favor of a week (or more!) of overeating. It’s important to remember that while your mind may be on vacation, your body still needs proper fuel. This is not the time to start carb-loading like you’re running a full marathon. I am all in favor of sampling the local cuisine and enjoying yourself (A gelato a day keeps the doctor away – right?). The key here is balance. To have a great vacation it truly helps to feel good and all that junk food is going to make you feel sluggish and irritable. Now I don’t need to tell you that airplane food is the worst. So, instead of relying on some corporation to give you what you need – plan ahead. Your first defense is to bring food from home: bananas, apples, nuts, carrots, and energy bars are all great airplane snacks. Once you get to your destination, try to incorporate local fruits and vegetables into the frenzy. Personally, I am looking forward to many fresh and delicious Greek salads on my upcoming trip to Greece. Just remember the old adage… you are what you eat!

6. Don’t Fall Asleep at Your Destination

If you heeded my advice in Tip #1 and booked a great itinerary, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. But, if your options are limited (like when the only return options from Hawaii are red eye flights with 7am arrivals) then your will power needs to kick into overdrive. I know it’s hard. Trust me. I’ve had to stay awake for nearly 40 hours before to avoid jet lag. I cannot stress this enough. It is so important not to sleep if it isn’t night time. The only way to save yourself from spending the next few days (or weeks!) waking up at 3am is to tough it out for one day. Avoid dark spaces and plan something fun to do that will keep you awake. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, and avoid operating heavy machinery or making any important life decisions. Then, go to bed at a normal time (9pm) and get a good night of sleep. You will wake up refreshed and jet lag free!

7. Plan an Active First Day

If you’re still feeling groggy when you wake up, I suggest jumping right in. Resist the urge to laze around all day napping. Plan a first day with heaps of activity and fresh air. Don’t let your body realize that it’s tired… you know… fake it till you make it! This might seem counter-intuitive but you’re going to have to get used to it sooner or later. Don’t waste any time. You’ll thank me later :)

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Do you have any other tips or tricks for avoiding jet lag? Leave a comment below.

In My Bag: Hawaii Packing List

In My Bag: Hawaii Packing List

Packing is one of those topics that people surprisingly seem to love. After my last packing-related post was a gigantic hit I vowed to start sharing more of them (since you know I’m making these list anyways).

This is my packing list for a four day girlfriend getaway to Maui in April.

This will be my third time visiting the Hawaiian isles so I already have an idea about what to pack. The real challenge here is fitting everything into my trusty carry-on suitcase and an over-sized purse. The only reason that I am able to travel as much as I do is by cutting extra costs wherever I can… and the last place I want to spend my money is baggage fees. So here’s how I packed for a carry-on only vacation.

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I like grey and black… apparently even in tropical destinations.

CLOTHING AND SHOES

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  • 1 pairs of jeans (for the plane and volcano summit)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 beach cover-up
  • 4 tops (1 t-shirt, 3 sleeveless)
  • 2 cardigans (for the plane, chilling evenings, air-conditioned restaurants)
  • 1 fleece jacket (for the top of the volcano)
  • 2 bikinis (following the wash one, wear one rule)
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 4 pairs of underwear + 2 bras
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 pair of bandelettes
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 long scarf (for the plane or to use as a shawl)

Note: I used three packing cubes for my clothing: 1 for dresses/bottoms, 1 for tops/cardigans, 1 for underwear/swim suits IMG_3351 TOILETRIES & ACCESSORIES

  • Stella & Dot Hang On Travel Case (toiletries/make-up/jewelry) – mine is sold out, but click the link for a similar version.
  • Norwex Cloth
  • Small Medicine Bag (kleenex, band-aids, meds)
  • Travel Flat Iron
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses

ELECTRONICS

IMG_3352 DOCUMENTS & MISCELLANEOUS

  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Travel Documents & Insurance
  • Tote Bag (for beach use)
  • Small Purse (for day use)
  • Ear Plugs
  • Travel Journal / Pen
Everything you need to know about Packing Cubes

Everything you need to know about Packing Cubes

If you read my last packing tips post then you’ll know that packing cubes are my new best friends.

Word is definitely spreading! Over the past month coworkers, friends, and family have rushed out in droves to purchase these handy packing aids and the verdict is in: AMAZING!

I’m still getting a lot of questions so here is a simple guide to help you through this packing cube craze!

What are packing cubes?

By definition, packing cubes are “cube-shaped bags designed to fit inside luggage and hold and protect clothing, shoes and other small or large items. Packing cubes are great for preventing wrinkles, keeping organized, and fitting more clothing in each piece of luggage,” according to the eBags blog.

The concept is really quite simple and doesn’t seem revolutionary at all. Oh but it is!

Why should I use packing cubes?

It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organization. But, it is such a challenge to stay that way on the road. I hate living out of a suitcase – and worse a backpack! – so when I discovered these amazing, light weight travel accessories, I knew I had found my perfect solution. Packing cubes are an incredible way to keep your clothes organized and reduce the amount of space they take up in your suitcase. They come in all different shapes and sizes so they fit into just about any bag. By rolling and compressing your clothes into packing cubes you can squeeze in so much more! And with checked bag fees on the rise – this is a major cost saver! I am a huge proponent of carry on only travel and packing cubes make it so easy.

When should I use packing cubes?

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My co-worker’s suitcase – packed for New Zealand!

To cube or not to cube? It’s true that packing cubes are most useful on slightly longer trips where you will be heading to multiple locations and required to unpack and repack frequently.

That being said, packing cubes are also useful for single destination trips. My parents recently went to Thailand and stayed in a gorgeous resort where they had hoped to unpack but alas their hotel had no dresser drawers. My mom had wisely chosen to use packing cubes and found them to be the perfect way to keep her clothes organized while living out of suitcase. My father, on the other hand, did not use packing cubes and boy did he wish he had. He was continually fussing with his bag and spending way too much time searching for the right item. By the end of the trip he was completely converted!

Personally, I prefer to use packing cubes on any trip longer than 4 days. If I’m just going away for the weekend, then it doesn’t seem worth the effort to roll and strategically pack my clothes. I’m probably only bringing a couple of things and it’s just easier to squish it all into a backpack or duffle. But, for longer trips the benefit is truly incomparable. Packing cubes all the way!

What kind of packing cubes should I buy?

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The rule of thumb here is to use multiple small cubes. Most packing cubes come in sets with various sizes. I find that I never use the largest size because sometimes they don’t even fit inside my suitcase. I try to look for small to medium cubes that I can arrange like a jigsaw puzzle inside my bag, using all the little nooks and crannies. In this case, good things come in small packages :)

Other details that I look for are mesh tops and secondary compartments. The mesh top allows you to see exactly what is inside an individual cube (ie. shirts or pants) at a glance. I also like using cubes that have a second compartment where I can shove dirty laundry.

How should I use packing cubes?

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I encourage you to use packing cubes however works best for you. That being said, if the motivation is to stay organized then I have a few tips. I usually travel with 3-4 cubes. One for tops, One for bottoms, One for bulkier clothing, and one for delicates (read: underwear). I also prefer to roll my clothes because I find that it is easier to see each item and it fits better.

Where can I purchase packing cubes?

You can find them almost anywhere at this point. I usually like to check out my local travel store – Wanderlust (can’t beat the name!) but they probably don’t have the cheapest prices. Eagle Creek is a great brand and you can find them online. I know that Wal-Mart sells packing cubes and I even scored a set using my credit card points.

So that’s what I know. Send in any more questions you may have in the comments.

Take my advice… If there is one thing you purchase before your next trip, let it be packing cubes!

How to Travel the World when you have a Full-time Job

How to Travel the World when you have a Full-time Job

One of the most common questions I get asked these days is “Where’s your next trip?” Those around me know that I’m always planning my next escape and I love that they want to hear about it (or at least they do a great job of pretending). Travel is without a doubt my favourite topic of discussion.

The question that typically follows is almost always some variation of “How do you do it?” I understand the curiosity. I work a totally normal 9-5, Monday to Friday, office job and live in the 2nd most unaffordable housing market in the world. I’m not a high powered business executive with access to a corporate jet and I’m certainly not a backpack toting nomad on a round-the-world adventure. Some days I’m not even sure how I do it. I usually stumble my way through some sort of reply but I know that I can do better.

Here are my Top 7 Tips for Traveling the World when you have a full-time job:

1. Utilize Long Weekends

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As a Canadian, I am fortunate to be given 12 statutory holidays in my place of employment. I rarely let a long weekend pass me by without getting out of town. Sometimes I even go one step further by taking an extra day, and turning a 4-day weekend into a fantastic trip. If you’re always waiting for big chunks of time to take a vacation then they are going to be few and far between. You’d be surprised by how much you can see and experience in just a few days. In 2014 my favourite long weekend getaways were to Boston, Las Vegas, and Tofino.

2. Add-on to a Business Trip

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Travel is not a big part of my job, but when something comes up, you know I’m making the most of it. This past September I had to travel to Prince George for work and made sure to head up a day early to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather with my friend Melanie who was living there at the time. I was able to get a local tour of the town and even spend the afternoon hiking in the Ancient Forest instead of simply going straight from the airport to the hotel and back. I was pleasantly surprised by my first trip to Northern BC and the best part – the flight and accommodations were totally free. Many people have to travel for work and adding on a couple of days is a great way to save money since the flights are already a business expense.

3. Go Away for the Holidays

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Christmas is one of my favourite times of year and I absolutely love spending it with my family. But I also know that we can see each other whenever we want since we live so close together. So when I get a big chunk of time off work over the holidays I choose to get away. It may not be the cheapest time of year to travel but it is about making the most of the time you have and choosing wisely. I spent this past New Years in Spain where I was able to take advantage of the low season crowds and prices. The flight may have been expensive but everything was fairly cheap once I got there. In fact, it’s a goal of mine to celebrate the first day of the year in a new city every year!

4. Stay with Friends & Family

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A major money saving tip is to visit people you know. In the past 12 months, I was able to get free accommodations in Boston, Kelowna, Portland, Prince George, San Diego, Victoria, and Winnipeg just by staying with friends and family. And in the past, I’ve visited friends in such far flung destinations as Bogota, Colombia; Marseille, France; and Frutigen, Switzerland. Many of my friends also have a serious case of the travel bug, and I am always happy to join them on their adventures. At present I have open invites to Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa just to name a few. Sometimes I even make new friends abroad who end up hosting me and traveling with me in the future.

5. Explore your own Backyard

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Okay so I don’t literally mean your backyard because if you’re me that would be a back alley. But, I do mean explore destinations near your home. I am outrageously fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest which is a real-life playground in the summer months. This summer I was busy every weekend either camping, or hiking, or festival hopping. I travelled to the Central Interior, Coastal Mountains, Okanagan Valley, Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver Island. These are all popular vacation spots that I was able to visit on the weekends, making my summer feel like one nonstop party!

6. Think outside the Hotel

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Accommodations are often one of the most expensive parts of travel, especially in North America. I have stayed in my fair share of luxury and budget hotels over the years but it just isn’t feasible anymore for the amount of traveling I do. I’ve saved a lot of money in the past by staying in hostels or guest houses while backpacking around Europe and South America. This was such a fun way to travel and a great option for young people but the older I get the more my travel-style has shifted. Now I prefer a calmer, more private place to crash after a long day of sightseeing. Enter THE VACATION RENTAL! I’m sure some of you have tried this before but for those of you who haven’t… you are missing out. I almost exclusively stay in house or apartment rentals when I travel now. Not only are they cheaper than hotels but you can stay in some great neighbourhoods and really get a feel for the local experience. I stayed in a 3 bedroom apartment in Barcelona with my friend Megan and we each paid only $25 per night. Great location. Free WiFi. Full Kitchen. All the amenities of home. We booked through Airbnb and if you are curious you can get $31 off your first stay if you use this link. I have also stayed in great places in Rome and Lake Whatcom booking through VRBO. I’ve already booked a couple more rentals for upcoming trips and I can’t wait!

7. Don’t Buy Stuff

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Okay so I’m kind of kidding on this one but also kind of not. The motto that I try to live by is Collect Memories, Not Things. I prioritize spending my money on experiences (read: travel) rather than material possessions. I still have to buy “stuff” from time to time but you won’t often hear me talking about my latest shopping splurge. I’m human and I do want things but most of the time I want travel more. I don’t own a home. I don’t have debt. I don’t have children. I live below my means so that I have leftover money to spend on travel. Nothing makes me happier than travel so I’m quite content to put my money there for now. I realize that my priorities might change someday but for now this is what makes me happy.

I wish that I had some magic formula to increase the amount of travel in your life but when it really comes down to it… you just have to want it. You have to want it more than all the other stuff. If you’re waiting for more time or more money then you might be waiting a lot longer than you’d like. My someday is today because we aren’t guaranteed a lengthy retirement or even tomorrow. I have never regretted one dime that I spent on travel and I’m not going to start now. What are you waiting for?

Packing Hacks: 10 Items I Always Bring Traveling

Last night I was busy packing for my next quick trip to the States and it got me to thinking about items that I like to bring traveling. I actually really enjoy packing (I know… CRAZY!) and I have acquired some knowledge in this department over the years… so since I also love oversharing… here are 10 items that I always bring with me on a trip.

(Note: I will not be including super obvious choices such as camera, swimsuit, flip flops… because I’m hoping everyone knows that by now)

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Ear Plugs

I have heard some mixed reviews about ear plugs over the years. Trust me, I know they are uncomfortable. But, do you know what’s more uncomfortable? Not sleeping because your dorm mates are snoring as loud as humanly possible. All. Night. Long. Ever since I backpacked around Europe in 2005/2006, I have never travelled without ear plugs. And although I may have more money these days to elevate my accommodations from crowded hostel dorms to private rooms or apartment rentals,  noise can still be an issue. For example, in many parts of the world, the only form of air conditioning is opening a window. And if your room is on the ground floor in a busy neighbourhood, you can be sure that the street noise will get to you. Or what about when you’re trying to get some rest on a long flight surrounded by screaming infants. Forget sleeping. In that moment, I just want to avoid going insane. I’ve lost count of the number of nights I have slept with ear plugs while traveling but I never forget how grateful I am.

Journal

I am sporadic at best when it comes to recounting my life’s adventures. Lately, I can’t be bothered to write much on paper when I’m pre-occupied with keeping up a travel blog. But, there is something SO beautiful about a journal. In fact, I have a drawer full of them (some full, some half-full, and some waiting to be filled) at home that always bring a smile to my face. Even though I’m not great at daily diary entries… when it comes to travel, I always make it a priority. I actually do go back and look at my travel journals from time to time and I’m sure I will be glad I wrote it all down when I’m 80 years old.

Packing Cubes

Have you heard of packing cubes? If you haven’t then you are missing out because they are my new best friends. It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organization. But, it is such a challenge to stay that way on the road. I hate living out of a suitcase – and worse a backpack! – so when I discovered these amazing, light weight travel accessories, I knew I had found my perfect solution. Packing cubes are an incredible way to keep your clothes organized and reduce the amount of space they take up in your suitcase. They come in all different shapes and sizes so they fit into just about any size bag. By rolling and compressing your clothes into packing cubes you can squeeze in so much more! And with checked bag fees on the rise – this is a major cost saver! I am a huge proponent of carry on only travel and packing cubes make it so easy.

Plastic / Ziploc Bags

You just never know when you are going to need a plastic bag. Your clothes didn’t dry in time – plastic bag! Your shoes are covered in mud after a sudden rain storm – plastic bag! You shampoo exploded in your suitcase – plastic bag! I could go on but I think you get the idea… it never hurts to be prepared.

Long Scarf

Disclaimer: I am generally obsessed with scarves and wear them pretty much all year long (even in summer). But, mild addiction aside, I truly believe that they are an important travel accessory. They do SO much more than keeping your neck warm and looking gorgeous. When the air conditioning starts blasting during a flight, a long scarf becomes a warm blanket. When touring a mosque on a hot summer day, a long scarf becomes a modesty robe for your exposed shoulders. When spending a day at the beach, a long scarf becomes an easy cover-up. Winter, spring, summer or fall – there is always a reason to carry a scarf.

Luggage Lock

Knock on wood… but I have never been robbed or pick pocketed. I have, however, heard enough horror stories to make me carry a combination lock wherever I go. Peace of mind is priceless and if having a lock on my bag can take my worries away (or at least one of my worries) then I’m sold.

Costume Jewelry

So this may not apply to my gentleman readers as much, but ladies… what are your thoughts on traveling with jewelry? Personally, I don’t travel with my most prized jewels or anything incredibly sentimental but I always bring jewelry. I refuse to believe that just because you are traveling, you have to dress like a traveler. You know what I’m talking about… fanny packs, cargo pants, running shoes. Jewelry is an extremely practical way to change your look when traveling with a limited wardrobe. A couple of funky earrings and a cool necklace barely take up any space in a bag and can totally reinvent that white t-shirt you’ve been wearing for the past three days. Or, if you really don’t want to bring your favourites from home, then consider buying some on your trip. Jewelry is one of the cheapest souvenirs you can buy and will be a great reminder of your amazing trip back at home.

Smart Phone

This may seem obvious to iPhone addicts like me, but I actually get this question a lot. Should I bring a phone? My answer is yes. Even if you aren’t planning to buy a SIM card you can still use your smart phone to connect to WiFi which is something I cannot even fathom traveling without. Not only do I like staying in touch while I’m away but I often need to look up important info. And… TRAVEL HACK: When you are in a new city and have access to WiFi, open up your map app on your phone and preload the city. When you inevitably lose your WiFi again during the day, your new city will stay loaded on the map so you can use it to guide you throughout the day. My phone even tracks my exact location (without WiFi!) so that I know exactly where I am on the map. I cannot tell you how many times this feature has saved the day! There are also so many fun apps to use for travel. Try using a step counter to track how much walking you’ve done or share your adventures on a great travel app like Trover. I am also eager to try out Triposo which my friend highly recommended. It is also an app that you can preload and provides maps and sightseeing tips for the city of your choice.

Washcloth

I don’t always travel with a  towel but I never forget my Norwex Antibacterial Microfiber washcloth. For starters, it takes off make-up and dirt with only water and does a better job than any wipe or solution I have ever tried. It dries super fast so I can repack the next morning and it doesn’t create any waste. That’s me… clean and green! In my experience, most accommodations will provide a bath towel but washcloths are not guaranteed (I often stay in apartment rentals or guest houses). Plus, there are many times I have been on an overnight train or a bus or a long flight and the ability to wash my face made me feel like a new woman.

Ereader

Okay, I am cheating a bit with this one. I only just got a Kobo Aura in December. But, I plan to bring it on every trip from this moment forward. I was far from an early adopter on this one but I am fully converted now. Even though I will always love the look and feel of reading a real book, e-readers just make travel so much easier. For example, my Kobo is so small and lightweight that I can easily toss it in my cross-body bag. While traveling in Spain last month, I carried it with me during the day so that I could read on the train or during a lovely afternoon in the park. The battery lasts for weeks and can carry an endless stream of entertainment. I even take it with me to work everyday because I can read on the bus to and from the office. My e-reader has restored my appetite for reading… in short, it is making me a smarter human or at least hopefully better at trivia ;)

What items do you always bring when you travel?