Month: May 2017

Travel Tips #3: Pack from your Kitchen

You may or may not have heard this, but there are some wonderful travel products right in your own kitchen!

The first is a tried and true traveller’s tool: Baking Soda (aka Sodium Bicarbonate).  It can be used for:

  • brushing teeth
  • washing your face (yay exfoliant!)
  • washing your hair (be careful though, it dries it out)
  • washing dishes or laundry or vegetables if you are camping
  • deodorant (under your arms or in your shoes!)
  • dry shampoo (be sure to brush it out else you look gray!)

It’s unscented, safe, kid and animal friendly, bio-degradeable, cheap, and easy to obtain anywhere in the world.  Best of all, it’s not a liquid and therefore totally carry-on friendly.  And powders weigh less than liquids in general as they are more condensed.  If you can’t get behind this trick, or prefer something with a scent, checkout solid shampoo/body bars.  There’s some great ones by LUSH and they too are fairly multipurpose (except brushing your teeth maybe).

Another item you may have in your kitchen is Coconut Oil.  Many people have already raved about this, but here are some of the many uses to travellers:

  • hair conditioner (especially if you wash it with baking soda)
  • health supplement (a teaspoon a day!)
  • body moisturizer (especially in extreme cold or after a lot of time in the sun)
  • light scent (most people enjoy the scent of coconut, I am not one of them)
  • cuticle cream (keep that mani-pedi fresh after hours of sightseeing!)
  • makeup remover (works like cold cream)

And, like baking soda, it too is relatively cheap, easy to find most places, natural, safe (unless you’re allergic to coconut), biodegradable, and not a liquid (it is solid at room temperature).  Plus a little goes a long way, so you needn’t carry huge bottles of lotions around on your travels!

The last useful thing you might find in your kitchen is ziplock (plastic) baggies.  Small ones can be used for separating different toiletries or protecting valuables in a moist environment.  Larger ones can act similar to packing cubes (though if you travel a lot, I really recommend investing in a set of proper packing cubes, you and your dorm mates will thank me!)

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Things To Do: Waterparks

Growing up in Florida, I had never been to a water park (why pay when the beach is free?!) When I was 22 I got a part-time job in a theme park, which gave me free entrance to the adjoining water park. Since then I’ve been hooked! My job on a cruise ship has brought me many places, and many of those places have water parks within metres of the ship’s terminal. What better way to relax, relieve some stress, and have fun with your co-workers for an afternoon? I mean, there are only so many temples, marketplaces, and bars you can visit in the world. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the most fun water parks I, or my colleagues, have been to around the world.

Adventure Island

Located: Tampa, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50, valid all season
Favorite Attraction: Key West Rapids

Being the first water park I ever visited and so close to home, Adventure Island is the standard for which I measure others against.

Located 20-30 minutes from both the port and airport, this park is more for the locals. It has nice beaches for relaxing and they allow you to bring in small coolers with bottled drinks and snacks (and maybe a Publix Sub if you’re lucky!). There are picnic areas and also a few places with food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) available for purchase.

To provide fun for the whole family, there are both toddler and children’s areas as well as slides of all thrills, including the newest and fastest – the Colossal Curl. There is also a large lazy river, racing slides, corkscrew slides, and mega drop slides. There is even a large beach volleyball area for a little waterless fun. And, one of the things I love the most is that they play real pop music instead of cheesy theme-park elevator music. You can enjoy a day at the “beach” without having to bring your own stereo!

The park is only open seasonally, from Spring Break until Labor Day. In the heart of summer, they extend their hours until sunset in an event titled “Summer Nights” with extra music and dancing on the beaches. A one-day pass can be a bit pricey, but it lets you in every weekday for the whole season (again gearing it more towards locals).

Vinpearl Land

Located: Nha Trang, Viet Nam
Last Visited: March 2014
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30USD
Favorite Attractions: Space Hole, Family Rafting Slide, and Wave Pool

Probably one of the coolest parks on this list. You get to the park via a cable car, which, if you came by cruise ship, passes right over your ship!

While the park has no theme, per se, it has some of the most unique rides of any park on the list. Rides include a “half pipe” Tsunami slide you can ride in with a one-, two-, or three-person tube – Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub! There is also a wave pool where you sit in (or flip out of!) inner tubes instead of the usual treading water. There are the usual racing style slides and a few tunnel style ones. There’s one that dumps you into a “UFO” bowl before you drop another 3 feet through the middle. Lastly, there is a family style rafting slide where you carry your own raft to a hook and pulley (hey, it IS Vietnam!) For the less adventurous, there is also an aquarium and dolphin show in the park and a beach with access right to the sea!

Admission costs around $20-30 USD (depending on exchange rates) and there are plenty of bars with snacks and beverages for purchase at a reasonable (by Western standards) price. Best of all, admission gets you into the regular amusement park as well (you have to go through it to get to the water park) where you can check out the toboggan ride. There’s usually a DJ by the entrance and last I checked, the park also held monthly Full Moon Parties. Definitely worth checking out if you’ve already done the standard temples and markets deal.

Aquatica (Sea World)

Located: Orlando, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50 USD
Favorite Attraction: Roa’s Rapids

In the land of theme parks, this on isn’t so much to write home about, but it does have some major thrill slides. It is most known for it’s Dolphin Plunge slide, where you slide through a clear tube and if your timing is spot on, a dolphin swims past you. There are also slides which you enter via a trap door dropping out from under you – not for the feint of heart! My favorite attraction is Roa’s Rapids, a “not-so-lazy” river (the actual Lazy River is less than relaxing and more like an LA Freeway at 9am). Downsides are that there are no real “beach” areas to relax, and it is always crowded with long lines. That being said, it’s still possible to go to Aquatica and SeaWorld in one day.

Maya Lost Mayan Kingdom

Located: Mahahual (Costa Maya), Quintana Roo, Mexico
Last Visited: January 2017
Approximate Admission Cost: $89 USD
Favorite Attraction: Hurricane

This park is one of the better themed ones on my list. Everything centers around a giant Mayan pyramid – of which the bottom level is lockers, restrooms, juice bar, and elevators or stairs to the attractions.  (You read correctly, ELEVATORS!  They definitely gear towards cruise ship tourists)

There are lots of slides – some with mats, some with tubes, some body ones.  The nice thing is that there is plenty of good signage giving you a picture of the slide’s layout, safety information, and thrill level (in English!) so you know exactly what you can handle.

They also have two zip-line courses and a “Zip Coaster” (zip lines aided by a metal track) – all of which end in the water.  The lazy river is an Expedition style, salt-water lazy river with lots of photo ops.  There are lots of photo ops on every ride and photos are very reasonably priced (for 4 people for the day, it’s $39 for all your photos on a USB stick, or $5 to have one photo delivered to you via email).

There is also a really nice pool area with loungers and beds – for free.  They also offer massages and a snack bar with reasonably priced Americanized Mexican food (think Moe’s Southwest) and delicious smoothies and juices (no alcohol in the park though!). They also have free WiFi (a perk for cruisers!)

The park is really clean and well maintained, with a focus on safety (there’s safety briefing before each ride!) All staff are well-trained and speak perfect English.  The admission fee is a bit hefty – $89 for adults and $79 for kids and it is definitely geared towards cruise ship passengers as it is right outside the port. They sometimes make a deal for ships’ crew though!

Scandinavia doesn’t have a lot of water “parks”, per se, but they do bring a whole new outlook to the community pool.  An honorable mention to a couple water “parks” I visited in Norway (they’re more like indoor aquatic complexes, but they have water slides!)

Pirbadet

Located: Trondheim, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20 USD

Right next to the cruise terminal, this indoor aquatic complex features three water slides, a rock-climbing wall that falls into the wave pool, diving platforms, large inflatable rafts and icebergs, a lap pool, a rapids river, and of course a sauna and steam room.  And like most Scandinavian pools, free showers! (Be prepared to get naked though!)

Aquarama

Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30 USD

Similar to the above park, but slightly newer.

Finally, a few other parks that friends have recommended, but I have yet to make it to:

Aqua Fantasy – Kusadasi, Turkey

WaterPark – Rhodes, Greece

Blizzard Beach (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida

Typhoon Lagoon (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida

Also be sure to check out this list of some of the world’s best water parks!  Perfect for summer travel plans!

Reading List: Wanderlust

Part of my job the past few years has been leading book clubs of travel or regional based literature.  I thought I would carry some of that over and share it with you in a series of reading lists.  I will only include books that I myself have read, but please use the comments section to add your own recommendations!  Also check out this great list.

This first list includes books covering world-wide travel – to inspire the wanderlust in all of us.

  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne – This book was my earliest inspiration to travel.  It has also been the inspiration of numerous books, movies, TV shows and games.  Challenge accepted, anyone?
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Cliché, I know, but isn’t the reason most people start travelling to “find themselves”?  Or to find love.  In any case, it gives three distinctive reasons to travel – food, spirituality, romance.  It certainly inspired by ‘I’ travel list. Also, the book is way better than the movie, as always.
  • One Year Off by David Eliot Cohen – This is an older, little known book about a family with three children who sell everything and embark on a year long journey around the world.  It’s done in that time just before the internet blew up when reservations were still made by fax and phone. It’s a true testament that you can travel no matter how many things you think you have “tying you down” if you really want to.
  • It’s Only the Himalayas by S. Bedford – I read this book when I was, how appropriate, trekking in the Himalayas.  But don’t let that fool you, the Himalayas is only a small chapter, the book also includes tales of Africa and Southeast Asia.  More importantly it’s a tale of how everything probably will go wrong on your travels, but that’s half the fun of it!

And finally, one of my favorite books of all time….

  • The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner – The tale of a journalist’s search throughout the world of what makes people happy.  It’s an interesting outlook on travel, because ultimately aren’t we all on a journey towards true happiness?  Plus he’s very witty and snarky, so it’s an entertaining read.  I am currently reading his sequel, The Geography of Genius.

 

So there you have it folks, the first of what I hope will be a few book lists!

Click on the book covers to get more information on any of the titles.
If you purchase them through their links, I get credit 😉

Experimental Travel

Have you ever heard of experimental travel?  It’s essentially a collection of ways to travel based on method over destination – many don’t even require you to leave your hometown!  A few years ago, Travel gurus Lonely Planet published a book on the subject.  It is now out of print, but remains a hot topic of travel conversation across the web.

Here are some of my favorite “travel experiments” (though I haven’t tried them all!)

ABC Travel – This blog’s namesake!  Pick a letter of the alphabet and go around town doing only things that start with that letter.  Good choices are ‘B’ or ‘M’.  Alternatively, you could go through the whole alphabet in one day/trip but doing things that start with the next letter of the alphabet.

Lucky Number – pick a number and use public transport based on that number.  For instance, take Bus or Train line number 5, get off at the 5th stop, walk to the 5th building and go in, etc.

Barman’s Knock – Look through TripAdvisor, a guidebook or the yellow pages for a nearby (or far away) bar.  Go in and order your usual drink.  Then, ask the bartender where their favorite place to drink is and what they typically order there.  Go there next and order the recommendation.  Repeat until inebriated.  If you are staying for a while in one city, you coud also do this with restaurants – giving yourself a local foodie’s perspective of the city (obviously spacing your meals at regular intervals still).

Travel by Night – Travel somewhere so that you arrive in the evening.  Spend the entire night exploring the city and then depart at daybreak.  Good cities for this include Las Vegas, Paris, and Buenos Aires.

Tourist at Home – Stay in a hostel or other shared accommodations in your own city. Make friends with other people staying there and go along with them to do whatever they want to do.  A great way to get a new perspective on your town!

Sector of the Map – Predetermine a sector of the map (ex. D2).  Travel to the edge of that sector and spend a day doing everything in that section of the map.  The next day you can pick a different sector if you want.

Travel by Chance – Use a die (a D-20 is useful for this) to decide where you go and what you do.  Roll first and use that number to pick a train or bus line or street number.  Roll again to determine which building to go into.  Roll again and order that item off the menu, etc.

Last Minute Deals – great for extended travel – travel only by last minute deals.  Specify a time period for travel, and the week before you leave, book a last minute flight/train/bus ticket to the cheapest destination.  Once there book last minute tours. When you’re tired of it, book a last minute deal to another destination.  And so on, until you have to go back to “the real world”.

These are just a few of my favorites that are pretty versatile.  For more ideas, check out some of the sites below:

 

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post on Budget Airlines around the world (and particularly for trans-Atlantic flying).

Now check out this updated list from Travel & Leisure: http://www.travelandleisure.com/flight-deals/cheap-airlines

I have flown on quite a few of them, and know people who have flown on others.

Learn to Love Layovers

Many people stress over trying to find a direct flight (and the cost of some of those direct flights).  I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t.  Embrace layovers.

As you may be aware from my previous post on finding bargain airfare, most of my flying had previously been booked by my company – who would fly you the wrong way around the world to save $5.  I learned to use this to my advantage though.  They once flew me from Florida to Amsterdam to Hong Kong – but with my five hour layover in Amsterdam, I was able to take the train into the center and meet up with a friend for a canal tour.  When I got to Hong Kong, I also had less than a day before I was leaving again, but I managed to go out with some friends.  The second time I had less than 24 hours in Hong Kong, I used it to go to Disneyland and Victoria’s Peak.  My job working on cruise ships was often like a bunch of long layovers strung together – a few hours in this city, a few more in that one.  With the right mindset and a bit of research, you can use layovers like a bonus mini-holiday! And you don’t even have to pay for a hotel.

A few years ago, Iceland Air started a “stop over” campaign (stop overs being more than 24 hours between flights) – allowing you to spend time in their country before travelling on to Europe or North America.  Finland’s Finn Air announced something similar last year.  There’s an entire websites, such as layoverguides.com and sleepinginairports.net with guides on what to do with long layovers in airports.  Or you can download the Smart Layovers App.  Some airports, such as Korea’s Incheon-Seoul Airport offer layover specific city tours based on the length of your layover.  (Check out this blog for a list of cities offering FREE layover tours.) A new site called airwander.com actually lets you pick your flights based on where you can stop over and tells you how much extra it will cost – and in many cases it’s cheaper to stop over (hotel not included)!

The key to utilizing layovers (which are less than 24 hours) is to give yourself enough time to get into the city, do something, and get back through security before your ongoing flight.  This site will tell you some of the cities in the world with the closest airports (and this is a good one for Europe).  If you have time and energy, try planning for 8-12 hours layover, particularly during the day (then you can sleep on the flight!) Do your research in advance (so you don’t waste your precious layover hours!) Know the best option for getting to the city/attraction, and allow double time for getting back, plus time for security lines.  Also be sure to research visa restrictions for leaving the airport!

As I said before, I easily did this in Amsterdam, where the city centre is about a 15 minute train ride from the airport.  It’s a similar situation in Copenhagen, which if you fly Norwegian Air (again, see my previous post) you will likely find yourself with a few hours in Copenhagen.  In Hong Kong, it’s about 15 minutes by Taxi or 35 minutes by metro to HK Disneyland.  In San Diego, I managed to take a taxi from the airport to the renowned San Diego Zoo, where they even provided left luggage facilities, and enjoyed a lovey day at the zoo before flying on.  There is always something to do with a few extra hours – even if it’s just to go get a local lunch!

My rule of thumb is that you cannot check a place off if you never even left the airport (or cruise port for that matter!).  I know many of you are on strict time constraints, but consider a long layover on your next holiday – you’ll feel like you’ve seen so much more and it won’t have cost you anything extra!

Has anyone else had that moment where you get in the shower after a long day and realize that…. your face wash is from Curaçao, your body wash from Germany, your scrub from Korea, and the boots and sweater you just took off you got in Chile, the soaked through raincoat was from Scotland, and your earrings you just took out are from American Samoa.  And I don’t mean imported, you actually bought them there. Anyone else? Just me? #worldnomad #cantstoptravelling #souvenirideas #showerepiphanies