Tips for Choosing the Right Travel Partner

Tips for Choosing the Right Travel Partner

 

Every time I return from a trip, I get a ton of messages from people asking me to let them know when my next trip is.  I’m always flattered that people want to travel with me, but I how do they know I’m a good person to travel with?  They don’t!   One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while following my passion of wanderlust is to be careful who I choose as a travel partner.

Today I’m giving you tips on things to consider when you’re choosing a travel partner and I’ll also share a few of my horror stories.

 

Check Their Temperament and Their Manners
I’m a pretty go with the flow type of person so I like to travel with people that are the same way.  I do not enjoy having an itinerary when I’m on vacation. I’m down to do maybe one or two excursions but after that, I want to do things at my own pace or do nothing at all.   I have an itinerary Monday-Friday so I don’t need one on vacation okurrrr.  Some people love having their whole vacation planned out.     If you’re not a turn up and go clubbing type of person, you may not have a lot of fun with a person who is that way, and vice versa.  This is extremely important to consider.

You’ll also want to consider your travel partners manners. Do you really want to travel with someone that is mean and rude?

Story Time: On two recent trips I traveled with people that were a bit on the rude side.  Everywhere we went they were nasty and rude to the locals.  While you shouldn’t be rude period, I definitely think it’s important to not be rude when you’re visiting a new place (especially another country).

 

Make Sure they are Open Minded
You may find yourself in some pretty unique situations when you’re traveling.  This is especially true when you are traveling internationally.   Make sure that you’re traveling with people that are comfortable with being outside of their normal environment and know when and when not to make comments about what they see.

Story Time:  On a trip to Mexico we did a tour through the forest.  The tour guide was excited to show us the Mesoamerican tree.  This tree produces a gum that is often used to make chewing gum.  Each person in the group grabbed a piece from the tree and we were encouraged to try it.   I have to admit the gum was pretty gross, but we all knew not to make comments about it.  However one woman proceeded to yell that the gum tasted like (insert expletive) and she spit it out.   Her friends were pretty embarrassed and the tour guide was definitely insulted.

 

Hang Out with Them First
You’re going to be in close quarters with your travel partner for an extended amount of time.  So, before extending an invite to someone to travel with you, think about how it is to hang out with them.   Ask yourself: “Do I like spending time with this person?”  or “Are they prone to get on my nerves?”  If it’s someone you’ve met on social media, try planning a casual meet up see to how you vibe with them first.  Chances are, if they get on your nerves at home, it’s going to be even worse on a trip.

Story Time:  I took a trip with someone that kind of got on my nerves.  I can be kind of moody, so I thought it was just me trippin’ and she probably really wasn’t that bad.  Nah bruh, sis was REALLY THAT BAD. When other people told me they caught the same vibe, I sighed in relief because it wasn’t just me!  She really showed her true colors when we took a trip half way across the globe! Man sis was needy, bougie, pretentious and just plain old irky.   I found myself getting ready to spend $2000 just to get home early because I couldn’t deal.    Lesson learned!

 

I’m Ready for My Close Up
This is going to sound vain but, in order to be my travel partner you need to know how to take a GOOD picture.   As a travel blogger, snapping the perfect shot is important to me.  So, ideally I like to have a travel partner that:

  1. Doesn’t mind taking my pic until I get the right one
  2. Understands the art of capturing the right picture (I gauge this based on peoples social media pics LOL)

The only time I don’t post pics of my trips is if I didn’t have a good photographer. One of these days I’ll invest in a tripod so I can take my own… but until then I’m relying on my travel partner.

If photos aren’t a big deal to you, then this doesn’t matter.  But, if you want the right snapshot, test out your future travel partners photography skills.

 

Money Matters
Money isn’t everything, but it can definitely make or break a trip.  When planning a trip with someone you want to make sure that you’re on the same page when it comes to the budget for your vacation.   You don’t want to lower your standards for your accommodations because the person you are planning to travel with is being cheap.

Money can also be an issue when it’s time to pay for a trip.  As a rule of thumb, only book travel when you have everyone’s money in hand.  If they don’t have the money when it’s time to book then they’ll have to catch you on the next trip.   You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ve paid for everything and you’re chasing someone down to get your money back.  Plus, if they don’t have the money when it’s time to book, then they probably aren’t going to have money on the trip, and that will take you down a whole other rabbit hole.

Story Time:  My relationship with one of my family members is pretty much non-existent after a girls trip gone bad due to money matters.  We went out of town and she waited until we got to our destination to let me know she had limited funds.  She asked me to cover her and promised to pay me back when we returned.   When we got back, she stopped answering my calls and texts and I haven’t seen or heard from her since.

 

Patience is a Virtue
Think about your patience level while traveling, this is especially important if you are traveling with someone that doesn’t have much experience.   When traveling with a newbie, there are going to be a ton of questions and you are going to have to explain a lot.    Traveling can be really overwhelming at times, but if you’re traveling with a beginner it can make things feel even more chaotic.   Take a minute to analyze your own patience levels and if you don’t think you can travel with a beginner, then save yourself a headache and don’t!

Remember, all travel partners weren’t created equal!  Choose wisely!

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Beautiful Curacao

Beautiful Curacao

 

Bon Dia!

Last month, I took  an amazing trip to Curacao!    Did you know Curacao is one of the cheapest islands to travel to during the winter?   Airline tickets drop as low as $300 and hotel accommodations start at $96 during the winter months.   If you’re on a budget like me, it’s the perfect travel destination!

Curacao is the most colorful island in the Caribbean, it is known for its brilliantly hued buildings and beautiful beaches.   You’ll fall in love with just exploring and learning more about the culture.

 

The Weather
Curacao is beautiful all year round!  It’s not extremely hot, they have the perfect weather.   One of the best things about Curacao weather is that the island is generally not affected by hurricanes, the hurricane frequency is about every 28 years.  The last hurricane to hit Curacao was Hurricane Felix in 2016.

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The Culture
Life in Curacao is just as laid back as it is on any other island in the Caribbean.  I had to remind myself when service was slow, that I was used to everything being so rushed back home.

Most of the people on the island are Afro-Caribbean, however there are also many Dutch, French, Latin American and Asian people on the island as well.  It’s a melting pot just like America!

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Curaçaoan man outside of Kokomo Beach

While English is widely spoken on the island, we took time to learn the local language Papiamento, it’s a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch.

Some of the phrases we learned were:

Bon Dia – Good Morning
Bon Tardi – Good Afternoon
Bon Nochi – Good Night
Ayo – Goodbye

We also learned the term “Dushi”, which sounds like a bad word but it actually has a beautiful meaning:

dushi

There’s very little crime on the island, the local jail only has 75 inmates.  Clearly, a huge difference from here in the US.

For the most part, the people are friendly.  We did run into a bit of racism in the Jantiel area of the island.  Nothing too extreme, just a lot of pointing, staring and laughing.   We brushed it off and continued to have a great time.

 

Exploring
The Punda District in Willemstad is known for its’ colorful buildings.  Buildings in the area used to be all white.  Word on the street is, the Governor of the island suffered from severe headaches which he believed stemmed from the brightness of the sun hitting the stark white buildings.   He ordered that all buildings be painted any color but white.   It was later discovered that the Governor had a large share in the islands only paint store… #shadyboots

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Colorful buildings in Willemstad

 

Street Art is EVERYWHERE… every corner we turned we found beautiful murals

 

One of my favorite things about Willemstad was the shopping.  There were so many cute shops and restaurants in the area.   I highly recommend stopping past Bamali, it’s a cute accessory and apparel shop in the middle of the Punda District.  It’s owned by a woman name Marjorie and she makes everything in the shop by hand.

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The hat I had made by Marjorie, designer and owner of Bamali

 

While you’re in Willemstad be sure to buy a Chichi.  Chichi’s are symbolic in Curacao, they represent the older women in our lives that we hold in high esteem, like mothers, grandmothers, mentors, aunties etc.  The Chichi statues are curvaceous and beautifully painted.  I didn’t buy one, but I def took a pic with one… and I may or may not have checked to make sure she didn’t have breast cancer.

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Me and the Chichi

 

Oh and be sure to stop by the Punda Love Heart to “Love Your Love”  before you leave Willemstad!  The Punda Love Heart was created to celebrate the local artists in the community.  But, love locks have a deeper history.  Over 100 years ago a school mistress and a Serbian army officer wrote their names on a lock and placed it on the Bridge of Love in Serbia.  This tradition spread throughout Europe and people have “locked their love” on bridges all across the continent including the Ponts de Arts Bridge in Paris.

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Punda Love Heart
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Locking our love

 

As I mentioned before, the beaches in Curacao are amazing.  We were fortunate enough to get to two of the beaches, Kokomo and Mambo beach.  The most popular and most beautiful one is Klein Knip beach.   I can’t speak for Klein Knip beach, but be sure to bring water shoes with you to the beach, the rocks in the water are slippery and kind of painful to walk on.

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Panoramic view of Mambo Beach

 

Kokomo Beach has the cutest swing in the water that is perfect for snapping a pic for the gram.  Unfortunately, my lack of upper body strength and coordination wouldn’t allow me to get on the swing.  I’m determined to able to get on it next time!

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Sunset view of the Kokomo swing

 

Food in Curacao
Food is a major part of my decision to travel to Curacao.  One of my foodie friends told me how good the food is in Curacao and she was right! Everything we ate in Curacao was absolutely amazing!  It’s a big difference from the junk so many of the restaurants here in the US serve.  I didn’t see one McDonalds while we were there, but they love Subway – I saw quite a few of them.   I highly recommend Zest Beach Grill in Jantiel, Mistral Bistro in the Punda District in Willemstad, and De Visserij in Piscadera Bay.   Fresh seafood is incredibly inexpensive and will not disappoint.

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Shrimp basket, fried tuna, french fries and “funchi hassa” (fried polenta)  – De Visserij

 

Here are a few things I wish someone told me before I left:

  • Taxis are expensive, rent a car it will cost $40 per day. We spent $250 on taxis in just three days. (someone actually told me this but I thought I knew what I was doing)
  • Racism is Alive and Well – Certain areas like Jantiel seem to not like persons with highly melanated skin. It’s nothing too extreme but it’s definitely noticeable.
  • DO NOT stay at the Floris Suite Hotel, they have cockroaches, the rooms smell like mildew and the customer service is terrible. Even TripAdvisor will make you think this hotel is beautiful… trust me it’s not!
  • If you like to partake in libations, bring your own alcohol, the majority of cocktails we had were severely watered down.
  • Don’t leave without visiting Klein Knip beach… the locals call it Kinippa
  • Bring mosquito spray, the mosquitoes are definitely hungry down there. Oh, and beware of the flies… there are a lot of flies!
  • When you go to Mistral Bistro, ask Robert to make you a Rum Punch… its BOMB!
  • Stay at the BijBlaw (pronounced BAY-BLOWWWWW),  the hotel is beautiful and the food is bomb!
  • Bring cash with you, they accept US currency everywhere!
  • Oh, and remember “Dushi” isn’t a bad word!

 

 

I really hope you’ll check out Curacao!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ayo Dushi!! (Goodbye Beautiful)

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9 Tips For Surviving Your First Flight

9 Tips For Surviving Your First Flight

 

So you’ve booked your first trip via airplane and now you don’t know what to expect, right?  Well, I can help you with that!  First things first… calm down and take a deep breath!  Flying is a breeze and there’s nothing to worry about!  You’ve got this!

 

Secure Your Travel Documentation

In order to board your flight you’re going to need various travel documents like a driver’s license or a passport.   Personally, I like to put my passport in my personal bag I take on the plane months in advance.  One of my biggest fears is not having my passport when I arrive at the airport.  It’s also a good idea to print your airline and hotel confirmations. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Verify Baggage Information

The first time I had ever planned a group trip, I didn’t realize that airlines had started charging for checked luggage and I didn’t account for that cost.    Many airlines charge for checked luggage and carry-on bags, so before you head to the airport make sure you know what to expect when it comes to baggage restrictions and costs.  Skyscanner.com has a great feature where you can find baggage restrictions and fees here.

 

Be Patient

I cannot stress this enough.  Flying takes a lot of patience.  There are lines EVERYWHERE, lines at the check-in desk, lines in the security line, lines to board your plane.  Remember that everyone at the airport has the same goal… and that’s to get to their destination.  If you find yourself stuck in line at any point, take a deep breath and remind yourself to be patient.  You’ll get to your destination, don’t worry.

 

Arrive Early

As I mentioned previously, there are lines everywhere at the airport so ensure you arrive early so that you don’t run the risk of missing your flight.   Some airports like Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare, are known for having long lines to get through security.  Even after arriving early, I’ve come VERY close to missing my flight at these airports due to the long lines ( this, prompted me to get TSA pre-check cuz I ain’t missing no flights honey).

Here is the method I use:

  • If I’m not checking a bag, I arrive an hour early
  • If I’m checking a bag, I arrive 90 minutes early
  • If I’m traveling internationally, I arrive two hours early

This method has yet to fail me!

Note: Many airports provide information on their website regarding wait times at the security checkpoint.

 

Check-In First

When you arrive at the airport the first thing you should do is check-in at the airline desk, so that you can get the documentation you may need, like boarding passes.    This is a better method than checking in at the Skycap because you’ll be able to ask specific questions pertaining to your flight as well as get any updates.

Note: download the app for the airline you’ll be flying with so that you can obtain an electronic copy of your boarding pass.  This lessens the amount of paperwork and documentation you have to carry in your hand.   

 

Go Through Security

When going through security remember that there may be lines, so please be patient.   Be sure to bring socks, you will have to take your shoes off and it’s disgusting to put your bare feet on airport floors.     Be sure to pay close attention to the direction of the TSA Agents and things will go smoothly!

Note: If you see the TSA Agents with their dogs, this indicates that you don’t have to take your shoes off!

 

Head to Your Gate

Once you get through security, before you run to the bathroom or grab a bit to eat, head to your gate so that you know exactly where you are going.   There will be large screens throughout the airport that air flight information, including gate information and departure status.    Take a minute to check the screens to ensure your gate Hassan not been changed.

Note: many airports are going silent and are not announcing gate changes and updated flight information over the intercom.    Be sure to check the status of your flight via the airline app or flight status screens throughout the airport. 

 

It’s Time to Board

Planes are boarded by zone, you can find your zone on your boarding pass.   Once you board the flight, look for your seat number.  You’ll find it right below the overhead bin.   Once you’ve found your seat be sure to quickly put your personal items away as others are still trying to find their seat and get settled, you could be holding them up.

 

On the Plane

When flying, due to the change in atmospheric pressure, your ears will pop.  It’s not really painful, but it is pretty uncomfortable.  To avoid the discomfort of ear popping you can do things like, chew gum, use filtered ear plugs, or taking a decongestant.  Additional tips can be found on the Mayo Clinic website

Flight attendants will come around offering complimentary snacks and beverages (depending on the airline).  If you’re feeling a bit fancy or want a little more than pretzels and peanuts, many airlines offer other menu items at an additional cost.  Cash is not accepted, so be sure to have your credit/debit card handy.

 

Happy travels… and congratulations on getting your wings!

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Benefits of Traveling with a Tour Group

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Recently, I returned from an absolutely amazing trip to Antigua.  One of the coolest things about this trip was that I went with a travel group.   Now that I think about it, this wasn’t the first time I had traveled with a group, but it was one of the best tour group experiences I’ve ever had.  All fun and no drama… just 22 women with the common goal of exploring the world and having a good time!

There are so many benefits to traveling with a tour group:

Everything Is Planned For You

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Catamaran boats

Planning excursions when I travel has always been really overwhelming for me.  There are always so many options to choose from.  But in most cases, when you’re traveling with a tour group, everything from meals to excursions is planned for you.  For this particular trip, our excursions and accommodations were all planned for us.

Our trip was kind of short and our only excursions were a day trip to Barbuda (I didn’t go) and a catamaran cruise to private beaches, which were absolutely stunning!  As a special treat, our coordinator even hired a professional photographer to document our experience on the catamaran!

Our accommodations were at the brand new all-inclusive Royalton Antigua resort and it was absolutely beautiful.  I’ll get into my experience at the resort in another post. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.

 

Great Way to Organize Travel with Friends

When it comes to planning trips with friends I often find that people just don’t want to split up the duties that come along with planning a trip. That either leaves one person to plan it all or no one at all.   Since everything is already planned for when you travel with a tour group, you can eliminate the anxiety that comes along with planning a group trip and have a stress free vacation with your friends.

 

Someone to Show You the Way

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Wes, our amazing coordinator

You don’t have to worry about getting lost or finding the pickup point for your excursions because your guide will show the way.   Many tour group trips come with a guide to lead you on your journey.  They can translate for you and answer any questions you may have.  They can even order food for you (I definitely had to get my guide in Morocco to order pizza from pizza hut for me because my French was TERRIBLE)

On this particular trip we didn’t have a guide, but our coordinator had visited the island a few weeks before we arrived, to ensure that everything was in place for us.  Seriously, Wes was the best coordinator ever!

 

 Your Parents Can Relax

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Day one, and we were already feeling like old girlfriends

 

My mother is the epitome of a worry wart, so when she found out I was going to Antigua and didn’t know anyone on the trip she was definitely nervous. But, she didn’t really need to worry.  When you’re traveling with a group, it’s completely safe for you to go without knowing anyone.  You’re literally never alone until it’s time to go to bed (unless you share a room with someone).  There is always someone to go exploring with, have dinner with, or lay out on the beach with.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about going on this trip alone.   I’m not even sure why I felt that way.  I go to concerts, restaurants, and festivals alone all the time when I’m at home.   I just knew that I would spend my entire vacation alone and doing my own thing.  The truth is, from the time I arrived at the resort until I landed back in the U.S., I was never by myself!

 

Photographers Everywhere

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Mini photo shoot in the pool

I know I get on my friends nerves always asking them to take my picture.   When you’re with a travel group everyone is willing to stop and pose for pictures and be tagged in them so that their friends and family back home can see.  Of course, they’ll take great pics for your personal collection too!

We were regularly taking each other’s pics, and we took it seriously too!  We were constantly telling each other which way to pose, and ensuring each pic got the right amount of lighting.  It was pretty fun and absolutely hilarious!

Some of the most epic pics that depict group travel can be found on social media pages like Melanin Globe!

 

You Leave With a New Group of Friends

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Melanin Globe should feature us! #travelgoals

After sharing so many memories and hilarious moments… how could you not leave a group trip without a set of new friends?   You’ll develop a network of friends from all over the country!  It’s an awesome way to stay in touch with the new people you’ve connected with to visit them or even travel together again!

From the start of our trip we were all already feeling like we had been friends for years.  We laughed, and some of us even shed a few tears.   By the end of the trip, we were all already thinking about a trip together in 2020.

Keep in mind that your experience with a travel group all depends on the group you’re with, but having a good attitude about it will make all the difference. You’ll get to meet some cool people and make a lot of awesome memories.

If you’re interested in traveling with a tour group, here are some of my favorite people that plan frequent group trips:

 

I really hope you’ll make your next trip with a travel group!

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Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

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If you’ve got big plans to go to that amazing destination that’s on your bucket list, chances are its going to require a long flight. Personally, I love long flights.  But for some, long flights are the absolute worst!  They don’t have to be though,  long flights can be really comfortable and a breeze to get through as long as your are prepared.

Here are a few tips to get you prepared for your long flight:

Wear Comfortable Clothes
Nobody wants to be stuck in restrictive clothing on a long haul flight.  So be sure to wear loose and comfortable clothes that you won’t mind being in for 10+ hours.   My go to outfit for travel is leggings, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a long cardigan.  It gets cold in the cabin so it’s important to dress in several loose layers so that you are as comfortable as possible during your flight.  

Make sure your footwear is loose and not too snug since your feet may swell at high altitudes.   Those hideous slide sandals everyone is wearing these days are perfect plane shoes and they definitely come in handy when going through security.

Oh yea… and wear compression socks to help with your blood circulation.  When purchasing your compression socks, be sure to get the right size because if they are too small, they can be painful to wear.  I’ve gotten the wrong size before and ended up with painful bruises on my legs. 

Reserve a Comfortable Seat
Mannnnnnnnnnnnn! I remember when I was flying back from Sydney two years ago, I picked the worst possible seat ever.  I misunderstood what I was seeing on the seating chart and selected the seats in the middle of the plane, so there were four people sitting with me.  I got an aisle seat, but the woman next to me ordered a beer every time the flight attendant offered beverage services.  Needless to say, I got up six times during our 15-hour flight to let her go to the bathroom.  I tried to switch seats with her but she refused.  The lesson I learned, pick a seat you can be comfortable in and not have to move around much.  I’ve gotten a window seat on just about every long-haul flight I’ve taken since then.

A few other seating tips:

  • If you want to avoid children, don’t sit at the front of the plane.  The front of the plane is typically provisioned for families with small children and infants on international flights.
  • If you feel you’ll want to move around a lot, be sure to get an aisle seat. 
  • For more leg room, opt to sit in an exit row.  Be sure that you understand the responsibility that comes along with being seated in an exit row before you select your seat.

Prepare for Sleep
If you’re on a long haul flight, most likely you will be on a plane for half a day or more.   For this reason alone, you’ll want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.  Be sure to pack a light blanket (I’m scared to use the blankets provided on planes), ear plugs, an eye mask and make sure you invest in a really good neck pillow. 

You may also want to consider buying some form of a sleeping aid in case you find yourself having trouble sleeping.  My go to is Zzzquil, they have a medicated version, as well as, an all-natural vegan supplement. 

Bring Your Own Snacks
You’re guaranteed to get a meal on a long-haul flight.  However, you may not get food when you really want it.  On my most recent flight, I had pasta for breakfast and hash browns w/ tofu scramble for dinner.   You may find yourself attempting to sooth the pains of hunger and silence the loud growls of your stomach.  I always try to pack a few snacks for the flight just in case I find myself getting hungry while waiting for the food trolley to come down the aisle.   When packing snacks, opt for foods that can easily fit in your carry-on luggage and can be reached easily like cereal bars, trail mix, or granola.

Stay Hydrated
The air in the cabin is very dry and there is a high chance that you may become dehydrated during your flight.  It may be a good idea to bring an empty water bottle on the plane with you so that you can fill up when the food and beverage trolley comes around.  This way, you can stay hydrated in between food breaks.  You should also make sure that your skin is hydrated as well, so be sure to bring some form of moisturizer with you.  Avoid using sprays like rose water and hydration sprays as the cabin air mixed with the sprays makes the skin even drier.

Charge Up
Make sure all of your electronic devices are charged up.  While many airlines offer outlets to plug up electronics, it’s been my experience that the outlets don’t provide the best power.  The last time I plugged my phone up to a USB port on a plane, my phone was at 26%. Cut to a few hours later, my phone was still on 26%.   You don’t want to find yourself bored on the flight because you forgot to charge up your iPad.

Select a Good Airline
This probably should have been the first tip.  There is nothing worse than an uncomfortable international flight.  So, be sure to research airlines before booking your ticket.  The cheapest airline may not always be the right choice; depending on your needs.  I selected Ethiopia Airlines for my flight to South Africa and I quickly regretted my decision after boarding.  

While there were awesome food choices, there was no Wi-Fi, the legroom in each row was less than any other airline had flown before, and the seats were old and raggedy.

The mistake I made was going with the airline that had the cheapest rate, without researching the airline.  Lesson learned.

By following these guidelines, you are sure to have a comfortable experience during your long haul flight.    Have you taken a long flight before?  How did you survive?

 

Jennifer

 

Skiplagged

Skiplagged

We all know flights can be super expensive, but there are a ton of tips and tricks to finding flights at cheaper rates.   One of my favorite ways to find cheap flights is “Skiplagging” using the website Skiplagged.

What is Skiplagging?
Skiplagging may be a new term to some, but the technique has been around for many years.  It was something that just wasn’t spoken about. Kind of like an underground travel technique that wasn’t to be spoken of in a public forum.

Skiplagging, is a cost saving method travelers use by booking their flights through the place they intend to go and departing the trip early, at the through point.   Make sense?   Let’s say you want to travel from DC to Atlanta but the flight is $400, however, a flight from DC to Miami with a layover in Atlanta is $200.  The customer, would simply book the flight to Miami via Atlanta and depart the plane in Atlanta, skipping the flight to Miami.  Using this technique saves the customer $200.

Airlines HATE Skiplagging, and in 2015 United Airlines tried to sue the creator of the Skiplagged app claiming that the technique was illegal.  Don’t worry, a judge through the case out and the app is here to stay!

The Rules
There are a few rules and tips for using Skiplagged.  Take my advice and don’t break them because you WILL ruin your trip.

  • Don’t tell anyone you are skipping a flight, especially the airlines. They will cancel your trip
  • Skiplagging only works one way. So, you’ll have to book two separate tickets.  One for your departure and one for your return.
  • Once you miss a flight, your reservation is cancelled. That’s it, that’s all – no exceptions.
  • You cannot check a bag when Skiplagging. Remember, you are getting off at your layover so checking a bag means your luggage will not be with you at the layover point. Pack wisely and take a carryon.
  • Do your best not to abuse this technique.
  • Don’t use your frequent flyer miles when Skiplagging. You can try, but it may cause issues in the end and it’s probably not worth the hassle.

By the way, United Airlines tries to be a big bully when it comes to Skiplagging claiming they’ll come after anyone that uses this technique.  It’s highly unlikely that they’ll follow through with their claim however, I suggest not Skiplagging with United.

Do I use Skiplagged?
Anytime I travel I check Skiplagged first.  I may or may not have recently purchased a ticket to Atlanta for $102 using Skiplagged and I may or may not be traveling to Mexico in a few weeks for just $220 using Skiplagged.

Don’t Think Your Clothes Can Fit in a Carryon?
Packing everything in a carry-on bag may sound like a chore but I promise you it’s not. I’ve become an expert at packing enough clothes for up to a weeklong getaway with just a small duffle bag and a cross body purse.  It’s possible, trust me.  Maybe I’ll do a pack with me post before I leave for my next trip! In the meantime, check out one of my favorite YouTube videos on how to pack for 12 Days in Europe in a Carryon Bag.

Check out Skiplagged and let me know what you think!

Book Now, Pay Later

Book Now, Pay Later

When it comes to planning a trip, finances play a HUGE part.  For many, paying the full amount up front for a trip isn’t always feasible.  I totally understand; I am on a strict budget and can’t always pay up front for my vacations.  Over the last two years I’ve stumbled upon several vacation services that allow customers to “Book Now, Pay Later”.

 

Airfordable

Airfordable is a service that allows customers to put their plane tickets on layaway.  I first used Airfordable in 2016 when I traveled to Sydney, Australia.   The process to use Airfordable is simple:  find your desired flight (Spirit Airlines is not eligible), choose the frequency of your payments; bi-weekly, tri-weekly or monthly and lastly, make your deposit.  Each booking is assessed a service fee that is based on the cost of your ticket.

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Sydney, 2016

 

Carnival Cruises
In 2016, I took a cruise to The Bahamas on Carnival Cruise Lines.  Many cruise lines allow customers to book their cruise with a small deposit, sometimes as low as $20.  When I booked with Carnival, my deposit was $20 and I had until about a month before the cruise was to set sail, to pay off the remaining balance

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Nassau, 2016

 

Book It
Bookit.com is another excellent website to book travel.  Depending on the destination, customers can book hotel and resort accommodations for just $5 down.  Book It, also allows customers to choose the dates they want to make their payments; as long as a payment is made each month.  I used Book It for a trip to Mexico earlier this year.   I put just $5 down and split $487.50 over three payments!  For this particular trip, I was splitting the cost of the resort between myself and two other people, for a total of $162.50 each.  Book It is definitely an affordable option.

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Mexico, 2018

 

Fun Jet Vacations
In 2017 my cousin planned a trip for her birthday to The Dominican Republic using Fun Jet. With Fun Jet, customers can book all-inclusive trips to various destinations.  For this trip, I made an initial deposit of $200 and then had about 4 months to pay the remaining balance.

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Dominican Republic, 2017

 

If you’re on a budget but still desire to travel, check out these Book Now, Pay Later options and let me know what you think!

Traveling to South Africa? Here’s What You Should Know

Traveling to South Africa? Here’s What You Should Know

As many of you may know, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa two weeks ago.  I know I say this just about every time I travel, but South Africa is my favorite place and I cannot wait to be able to go again!  I posted a few pictures on social media and I got a ton of messages about my trip.  So, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few things you need to know before traveling to South Africa

Take Time To Give Back
The main reason for my trip to Cape Town was to participate in a mission’s trip.  While there we served within the township of Masiphumele, serving at a child care center, providing assistance to the six amazing female teachers, who ran the center.  Many of the townships in South Africa are extremely poor and have limited resources.  Just $35 a month is enough to feed 50 people! Thanks to donations provided by our family and friends we were able to provide the child care center with food, toys, school supplies, electricity, cleaning supplies and much more.  I wish I could have captured the level of gratitude that came from the people we served.  The smiles on the faces of the children of Masiphumele will be something I will never forget.   There was one day that we blew bubbles for them, and even the teachers got excited! They had never seen bubbles before, something we have seen so many times.  Serving during this time was definitely an eye opener and taught each of us to be thankful for everything that we have.

Our last day with the little ones in Masiphumelele

There are many other townships that are in need of support, take the time to do your research to see how you can make a difference.

There May Be Water Restrictions
Cape Town is currently coming out of a a severe water crisis.  While there, we were notified that there were limitations on how much water we could use per day.  In an effor to conserve water, it is requested that residents and visitors take no longer than 3 minute showers, refrain from taking baths, only flush when absolutely necessary and to opt for hand sanitier instead of using water to wash hands.

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A local hotel’s attempt to encourage patrons to use less water

 

There Are Requirements When Traveling With A Minor
If you’re traveling with a minor (under the age of 18) you must have the birth certificate of the child as well as an affidavit from the parent(s) of the child with their consent for the minor to travel.   For further information, please visit the US Embassy & Consulate in South Africa site

The Exchange Rate
Things in South Africa are pretty cheap for users of the dollar, pound and euro.  A three course meal can be had for about $40 per person.   During one meal my friends and I had burgers, non-alcoholic beverages, and some had wine.  The total bill for the five of us was about $52, including the tip.   Other times we would go out to breakfast and have avocado toast with fresh squeezed orange juice and our bill would be about $8 each.

$8 avocado toast breakfast w/ fresh squeezed OJ

Not only is the food cheap, but other goods and services are inexpensive as well.   I was able to get a gel manicure and pedicure for a total of about $30 for both.  That’s impossible in the US!

South Africa Is A Tipping Nation
Unlike other countries I’ve traveled to, South Africa is a tipping nation.  This means that when a service is provided to you, it is expected that you tip.  Due to the low cost of goods and services in South Africa the tip is not astronomical, but you will get a side eye if you don’t provide one.

South Africa Is Very Laid Back
Being from the Washington, DC area, we are always rushing.  So when you travel to a place where people are laid back, your first thought is that there is no sense of urgency.   That couldn’t be further from the truth.  In South Africa, being slow and laid back is just their way.  Eventually you’ll learn to love it, and when you return home you’ll wonder what the rush is all about.

Take A Safari
The Safaris in South Africa are absolutely amazing!  We traveled three hours from the home we were staying in to the Aquila Private Game Reserve.  For $182 we had an up close and personal tour of the reserve and where we were able to spot a hippopotamus, giraffes, lions, zebra’s, elephants and more.   Our trip to the reserve also included lunch.  Don’t worry my vegan friends, the lunch had some amazing vegan options including a cinnamon pumpkin dish that tasted better than grandma’s sweet potato pie!   The reserve also offers a sunset safari which looks to be absolutely beautiful.

Uber Is Your Friend
Some will tell you not to take an Uber in South Africa for safety reasons.  However, we heavily relied on Uber throughout our stay.  The Uber rides in South Africa are extremely inexpensive.  The price for our rides cost anywhere between $3 and $21 and the average tip for an Uber driver is less than $1.

Exercise Safety Precautions.
Do your best not to walk around alone.  In certain areas, people target tourists and will try to rob you.  We experienced this in one of the townships when we went back to pick up some goods we were having made.  If you’re going to an ATM, don’t go alone, and don’t allow any of the locals to “help” you with the ATM.   When a local asks if they can help you with the ATM, they do not mean you well and are actually trying to rob you.  This didn’t happen to any of us but it is still something to be aware of.

Keep Your Receipts
In South Africa, they charge a VAT tax for certain goods.  Many times, the items that are charged a VAT tax may be eligible for a refund.  When you get to the airport to return home, don’t immediately check your bags.  Go over to the tax refund counter to show your receipts and the goods you purchased.  The agent at the counter will determine how much of a refund you are eligible for and will give you a ticket to redeem after you check your bags and go through security.   Depending on the amount of your refund, you may be able to receive your refund the same day or you may have to wait.  I got about $52 back but I have to wait three months in order for it to be available.  The refund is loaded onto a pre-paid master card and has to be used within two years and cannot be used in South Africa.

Local Shopping is A Must
If you’re in Cape Town you must go to Kalk Bay to do a bit of shopping.  The boutiques all carry hand made goods from local designers in South Africa and other countries in Africa.  I got so many unique pieces while there including genuine leather purses, jewelry, and other souvenirs I bought back for my family and friends.  One thing you won’t find here is a souvenir shop with products that have “Made in Taiwan” on them.  Just about everything you see is either handmade or manufactured in Africa.

Super cute leather bag I found at a local shop for only $20

Take a Trip To Table Mountain
Table Mountain is one of the 7 Natural Wonders and is definitely a great trip to take if you’re in Cape Town.  The views are absolutely amazing and the cable car ride up to the top looks like something out of a movie. Be sure to wear good sturdy shoes, if you’re like me and want an epic pic, you’ll be climbing on top of rocks in order to capture the fantastic views, so leave the sandals at home.  You’ll also want to take advantage of the gift shop on the top of the mountain.  The gift shop has a ton of hand made and unique items to bring back for your loved ones, and the prices are extremely affordable.

View from table mountain

Vaccinations Are Not Required (In Most Cases)
Unless you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is prevalent, you won’t need vaccinations to travel to South Africa.  If you are traveling from a country where yellow fever is present, you’ll need to show proof that you have gotten the vaccine.

You also don’t need to take medication for Malaria unless you’re planning on sleeping in a lake with a hippo!

Be Prepared To Dress For All Seasons
The weather in South Africa is really unpredicatable.  Many times, we experienced all four seasons in one day.  The best advice I can give is to dress in layers.   It may be 80 degrees one moment and then 50 degrees the next… be prepared!

As I said earlier, South Africa is my favorite place so far!  I can’t wait to go back and I hope you guys have an opportunity to go as well!

Vegan While Traveling

Vegan While Traveling

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Many people think that maintaining a vegan lifestyle while traveling is difficult, but honestly it doesn’t have to be.   Today I’m going to share a few tips on being vegan while traveling!

When You’re at the Airport

Ok this is probably the hardest part of traveling while vegan.  Many airports are not vegan friendly and if they are, the food can be pretty expensive.   Typically when I’m traveling I like  to bring my own snacks to eat while I’m at the airport and on the plane.  I’ll bring things like an oatmeal cup from Trader Joe’s and I’ll ask the flight attendant for hot water or I’ll stop by a cafe in the terminal and get some hot water so I can have my breakfast on the go.   I also try to pack things like bars, crackers, trail mix and chips.

Vegan.com is an excellent resource for all things vegan.  They even have a post about the most vegan friendly airports in the US.  Now, it hasn’t been updated since 2014 but it is still a good tidbit of information.   Caitlyn Shoemaker (one of my favorite YouTuber’s) also has a few videos on how eat at airports and how to pack snacks as a vegan.  Checkout my Vegan While Traveling playlist on YouTube!

While You’re on the Plane

If you’re flying domestically, airlines like Delta and American airlines offer Biscoff Cookies which are vegan friendly.  You can also call your airline ahead of time to let them know that you are vegan and sometimes they will make accommodations.  Please don’t try this with Spirit, they will laugh and hang up on you (I’m lying… I’m just bitter from that stunt Spirit tried with me back in May.   If your airline doesn’t have any accommodations check out Oh She Glows post on vegan travel snacks for your flight.

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Vegan goodies I took on the plane, cuz Spirit Airlines is WHACK!!!! – Cancun 2018

If you are traveling internationally on a flight that is more than 5 hours,  most likely you will be offered meals and snacks on your flight.  You can contact your airline and let them know your dietary restrictions and they will accommodate.   I’ll be traveling internationally later this month on Ethiopian Airlines and I was floored when I saw all of the meal options they had.  They had options for every type of dietary restriction like pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, low sodium etc.  Airplane food usually isn’t the best, but it’s always nice to know you have options available.

When You Get to Your Destination

While traveling abroad, I have yet to have difficulty with finding food to eat as a vegan.  Honestly I feel like finding vegan eats in the US is a lot harder than it is around the globe.

Here are a few tips:

  • Download apps like Happy Cow and Vanilla Bean.  These apps are kind of like FourSquare and Yelp, but for vegans and vegetarians.  You can look up restaurants around the world and see what food spots fellow vegans like and don’t like.
  • Look up hashtags on social media such as #veganinbangkok or #veganinlondon to see what other vegans in those countries are eating.  You can also reach out to other vegans on social media for insight on where to eat.  When I traveled to Iceland last year, I reached out to several local vegans to see what their favorite spots were.
  • Research the area you are traveling to.  There are a ton of of vegan travel blogs out there like The Nomadic Vegan that share food chronicles for fellow vegan wanderlusters.
  • Chat with your friends that have already visited the places you are going.  When I went to Sydney two years ago, it really helped that the friends I was visiting were vegan because they knew everywhere to eat, plus all of the restaurants there had a plethora of vegan options (Dear America, please take notes!!!)

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Me looking like proud mama with my lentil burger – Sydney 2016

Honestly, I’ve never had any vegan food I didn’t like internationally.  Oh wait, I’m lying!!!  While Amsterdam had a smorgasbord of vegan options, the food was GROSS and flavorless!  I told someone that the best food I had was french fries because everything else was edible but super bland.

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This coconut yogurt bowl I had was flavorless- Amsterdam 2018

While traveling domestically, I’ve experienced a little bit of difficulty but I have found that websites like Spoon University and Veganuary make it easy to find vegan food wherever you are.   Last year, YouTuber Sweet Potato Soul traveled from New York to California and stopped at a ton of amazing vegan friendly restaurants across the US. She documented her journey and spotlighted several amazing vegan friendly spots.    I’ve actually had the opportunity to try a few of them, so I know you won’t be disappointed.

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Breakfast at The Southern V – Nashville, TN 2017

Websites like Veg News have information on the most vegan friendly restaurants in the US and abroad.  Veg News also provides frequent updates on restaurants that are offering more vegan options.   I like to save their posts on Instagram when they post about new restaurants and new menu options just in case my travels take me to those areas so that I know exactly where to go.

See, it really can be easy to maintain your vegan lifestyle while traveling both internationally and domestically.  I’ll be sure to document great food places I try during my adventures.  I’m actually heading out-of-town this weekend so, if I find any cool food spots I’ll be sure to share!

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Travel Tip: Using Spare Change to Pay for Trips, and Other Unique Ways to Pay for Travel

Travel Tip: Using Spare Change to Pay for Trips, and Other Unique Ways to Pay for Travel

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Two years ago I was not in the best shape financially, I wasn’t broke broke but I had to start paying my student loans back and it was taking all of my coins.  Even though money was a bit tight,  I still had the itch to travel.  I was working on paying down my student loan debt quickly,  so there really wasn’t any extra money to spend so that meant that anywhere I traveled would need to be super cheap.   My cousin told me about a five day cruise to the Bahamas that was $600.  At first I thought to myself… I can’t afford this right now.   Then I thought about it…what if I can find a way to pay for this without taking a hit on my finances.

Continue reading “Travel Tip: Using Spare Change to Pay for Trips, and Other Unique Ways to Pay for Travel”