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Travel Bucket List: Best Light Shows Around the World

Travel Bucket List: Best Light Shows Around the World

I didn’t necessarily set out to see some of the most renowned light shows around the world, it just sort of happened.

I first knew that I’d write this blog post when I was visiting Dubai late in 2016 not long after a visit to Singapore, two of the more famous places to see light shows on a grand scale. And that was after another memorable light show I took in earlier that year.

But something was missing.

VEGAS.

Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the more famous places in the world to catch a light and fountain show on a grand scale, and is well visited by Americans and foreigners alike. I just hadn’t been. Yet.

With my recent trip to Las Vegas late last year, I feel like I’ve now completed the main places you can enjoy the collective entertainment of the outdoor spectacle that is the light show.

And the best part?

All of these are FREE and open to the public.

Many of them even have fountains putting on a show with colored lights and music. And all are worth seeking out when you’re on the road!

Best Light Shows Around the World

Barcelona, Spain

Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

I was debating including this one on the list, but it is beloved by so many and the only spot on this list in Western Europe, so here it is – the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. This is a comprehensive light display with a wide range of colors and fun, themed medleys to go along with the show, that both children and adults can appreciate. Showtimes can be found HERE.

TIP! The Magic Fountain only runs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings (Wednesday – Sunday in summer), so plan your visit accordingly!

     READ MORE: How to Make the Most of a Weekend in Barcelona

Dubai, UAE

Dubai Fountain Dubai Mall UAE Best Light Shows Around the World DSC_0060Dubai Fountain Dubai Mall UAE Best Light Shows Around the World DSC_0064

If you’re visiting the Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building, you’ll already be up close and personal for the record-breaking show at the Dubai Fountain that you can view with the looming skyscraper as the backdrop. The nuance of the choreography of the fountains is mesmerizing and the shapes and light are quite the spectacle. Most shows take place during the evening hours, every 30 minutes. Details about the relatively new paid viewing platform and exact showtimes are HERE.

TIP! Viewing spots fill up quickly so get there early to stake out a good vantage point on the show.

     READ MORE: Top 10 Things to See & Do at the Dubai Mall (That Aren’t Shopping!)

Hong Kong

Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

The Harbour at night

The Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong only runs once a night at 8:00pm, but it is worth seeking out because it involves over 40 buildings across Victoria Harbour! There is also music to accompany the show, which you can hear live at two designated spots or you know, listen on your phone because there’s an app for that. I enjoyed catching it outdoors with the live music at the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) waterfront, which has the same communal feel you’ll get at the other light shows around the world.

TIP! You can also watch the show in all directions by taking a ride on the Star Ferry across the Harbour during the show.

     READ MORE: How to Make the Most of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Bellagio Fountain Las Vegas Nevada Best Light Shows Around the World DSC_0317Bellagio Fountain Las Vegas Nevada Best Light Shows Around the World DSC_0318

You’ll have plenty of chances to see the Fountain Show at the Bellagio, which repeats multiple times every afternoon and evening, with different choreography and musical accompaniment. Although the Bellagio Fountains perform more often than the other light shows on this list, the length of each show is shorter – typically under 5 minutes for the length of a single song. But there is nothing like the rush of being close to the power and force of the fountains during the show, which can impressively shoot jets of water nearly 500 feet (over 150 meters) into the air!

TIP! If you want to see the show more than once, aim for an evening time when it repeats every 15 minutes.

TIP! Stand a bit to one of the sides for the best angle on the show and if you’re close be wary of the spray when the wind catches.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Singing Fountains Plovdiv Bulgaria Best Light Shows Around the World 20160826_221312 (2)Singing Fountains Plovdiv Bulgaria Best Light Shows Around the World 20160826_221743 (2)

This is probably the least well-known town on this list, but one with an incredibly impressive and lengthy light and fountain show that kept me mesmerized for a good part of the evening. Known as the Singing Fountains, the water and light show that ensues does not disappoint. Plovdiv has also been named a European Capital of Culture for 2019 and CNN thinks it will be the next big European destination, so get there soon before the rest of the crowds do!

TIP! The Fountains only run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, so plan your visit accordingly!

     READ MORE: 11 Incredible Reasons to Visit Plovdiv, Bulgaria – in pictures!

Singapore (Gardens by the Bay)

Gardens by the Bay Singapore Best Light Shows Around the World 20161106_195922

The ‘trees’ of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay have solar cells to gather power during the day to fuel each night’s light and music spectacular. Showing twice nightly at 7:45pm and 8:45pm, I only caught this my last night in town – had I been earlier, I would have come back every night of my trip! The musical theme rotates every two months, and as someone admittedly obsessed with live theater and musicals, I was lucky enough to visit when the show was Broadway-themed:

Singapore (Marina Bay Sands)

Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore Best Light Shows Around the World 20161103_200649

You may know the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore more for its iconic rooftop infinity pool, but the light show there is just as impressive – and open for all. There is some serious technology involved in creating the Spectra Light and Water Show here nightly, and it is so massive it can be seen from high vantage points all over the city. It is also one of the longest shows on this list, providing 15 minutes of color and wonder.

     READ MORE: 11 Ways Singapore is Like Hong Kong – And Why You Should Visit Both!

Light Shows to Check Out Next

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and now that I’ve enjoyed so many, more light shows are definitely on the horizon for me. Also on my radar for future travel:

Haifa, Israel

Okay, so this one doesn’t even exist yet, but a light show is coming soon to this city on the Mediterranean. I was less than impressed with the nightlife options in Haifa when I first visited nearly 20 years ago, and this latest investment is in part to extend the evening entertainment options in the city. This is planning to launch in late 2018, so stay tuned!

     READ MORE: Insider Bucket List – Top 20 Experiences to Seek Out in Israel

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I didn’t even know this one existed until I recently saw a photo on Instagram! Another Asian metropolis joins the ranks of Hong Kong and Singapore in the race to outdo one another when it comes to their city light spectaculars. I’ll definitely seek this one out the next time I’m in Asia.

What light shows have you seen around the world? Which ones stand out most? Any that are missing from this list? Share away in the ‘Comments’ below!

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Travel Bucket List - Best Light Shows Around the World

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Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination

Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

I honestly didn’t know a ton about Nicaragua before my recent 9-day trip besides there being warm weather and beaches, the perfect combination for a winter getaway.

Nicaragua wowed me on so many other levels, though, with lots of outdoor adventures and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

More than other destinations I’ve visited recently (including others in Central America, like Belize), friends and colleagues warned me to “Stay safe!” and “Watch out for Sandinistas!”

Like with much of the travel I’ve done though, the reality on the ground is quite different from those pre-conceived notions. Of course, use common sense like you would even in your home city – don’t wander aimlessly with all your luggage or intoxicated late at night – but beyond that your safety is not something to actively worry about.

As I was told numerous times during my trip, Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America.

Which was great, because it meant that I could relax, let my guard down (mostly), and soak up all of the culture and beautiful natural surroundings.

Here are the highlights of my time in Nicaragua, the top 13 reasons that you should head there next:

#1 | Sunsets

Sunsets Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180115_174421Sunsets Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180119_173752

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Go outside of rainy season (which runs from May until November) and there is no shortage of great places to watch the sun set. You’ll get a show of lovely pink and orange hues every night, with the color changes lasting a half hour or more. It’s great to watch sunset from wherever you are – whether over the water on Nicaragua’s lakes and beaches or atop one of the great viewpoints in the cities.

#2 | Colonial Architecture

Colonial Architecture Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0658Colonial Architecture Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180114_093444Colonial Architecture Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0045

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The main cities of Nicaragua were founded by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s, and it shows. Spanish influence is apparent in the red tile roofs, interior courtyards, and covered walkways you’ll see all around. Buildings also have incredible architectural details in the woodwork and designs that have been preserved throughout the centuries. You’ll get an even better sense of it all with the many towers or roofs to climb for sweeping views of surrounding city and almost always, volcanoes in the distance.

#3 | Volcanoes for Days

Volcanoes Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0014Volcanoes Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0428Volcanoes Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0596

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Yup, Nicaragua lies right on a fault line between tectonic plates along the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire’ and there are loads of volcanoes to explore and ways to enjoy them. During my visit I hiked Volcán Maderas, peered at the bubbling lava of Volcán Masaya at night, and boarded down Cerro Negro – all standout activities from my time there! There are also plenty of other hiking and camping opportunities at Nicaragua’s volcanoes, including the opportunity to watch sunrise or sunset (or both!) from the slopes of a volcano.

#4 | Natural Springs

Natural Springs Laguna de Apoyo Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0139Natural Springs Ojo de Agua Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0883

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The water of Nicaragua’s many lakes doesn’t always look inviting, but fortunately there are plenty of natural springs for some pristine swimming. Close to the city of Granada, I spent a leisurely day at the Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake at the site of an extinct volcano where you can swim and relax as waves lap the shores. On the island of Ometepe, there is the Ojo de Agua, a spring that is fed by an underground river from a nearby volcano. Although these are not hot springs, the water is said to possess the same healing properties.

#5 | Bright Colors

Bright Colors Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0497Bright Colors Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0190Bright Colors Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0133

Granada in particular rivals Burano Island in Venice, Italy in terms of the bright and varied colors you’ll see street after street, block after block. It’s something I’ve noticed throughout my Central American travels, but especially in Nicaragua from iconic bright yellow churches to hues of turquoise and magenta on residential homes and local businesses.

#6 | Wildlife

Wildlife Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0818Wildlife Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0928Wildlife Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180116_140320 (2)

There are plenty of nature preserves in Nicaragua where you can see large mammals like jaguars and cougars, but you’re also likely to encounter quite a bit of wildlife just walking around. Some of my sightings were on hikes in nature, but my best monkey encounter was along a paved road. In addition to the monkeys, I also spotted many cows and horses and donkeys, bluebirds and parrots, and an armadillo.

#7 | Street Art

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Street Art Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0206Street Art Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0219

Nicaraguans have a pretty dramatic history, and this is reflected in the wide variety of scenes you’ll see depicted in various murals, mostly in the cities. There was a mix of narrative scenes and political statements, all in bright colors to catch your eye walking around. For me, it was a great way to understand a bit more about the Nicaraguan people and mindset.

#8 | People

People Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180114_213447

Nicaraguans are so nice and helpful to tourists, even if you don’t speak any Spanish. I had wonderful encounters with locals myself and also heard many stories from fellow travelers like one who ran out of gas on a motorcycle in a rural area and managed with hand gestures to get directions to the local spot to buy emergency fuel by the liter. Especially as a solo traveler, I appreciated the warm welcome I received everywhere I visited.

#9 | Delicious Food & Drink

Food and Drink Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180118_072305Food and Drink Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180120_200914Food and Drink Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180115_194435

Food in Nicaragua consists of some Latin American staples like rice and beans and plantains, mixed in with some specialties specific to Nicaragua. Cuajada is a locally-made cheese you’ll find as part of most typical breakfasts, either served fresh or pan-fried like you would do with Greek haloumi cheese. Quesillos are probably the most common street food, and is like a vertical version of a Salvadorean pupusa with a thicker cheese and liquidy crema along with pickled onions inside a tortilla. And if you can find it, there is a special flavor to the pelibuey type of goat that thrives in hot climates. All this can be washed down from the ubiquitous batidos (fruit shakes) or an ice-cold Toña or Victoria, the local beer options.

#10 | It’s Cheap!

Many people commented to me that Nicaragua is like what Costa Rica was ten years ago, and I can’t disagree. It’s just starting to see an uptick in tourism, which will likely lead to higher prices down the road, but for now Nicaragua is eminently affordable. Staying at a top-tier hotel was around US $100 per night, while I stayed in comfortable accommodations with hot showers and a pool for a mere $30/night in the cities. And food is quite inexpensive, with most meals costing between $1 and $3 at local comedores, and not much more than $10-15 at upscale spots.

#11 | Coffee

Coffee Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0946Coffee Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination DSC_0940Coffee Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180119_094945

There is a rich flavor to Nicaraguan coffee, grown in local volcanic soil. You’ll find good coffee everywhere, including espresso and espresso-based drinks like the Spanish cortado or cortadito, with just a touch of warm milk. Several coffee plantations are open to visitors, including tours of the property and demonstrations of the coffee-making process. Even if you’re not a coffee lover like I am, it’s a wonderful window into local production, with more land area in Nicaragua devoted to growing coffee than any other crop.

#12 | Beautiful Beaches

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With long stretches of both Caribbean and Pacific coastline, there is a beach for everyone in Nicaragua. From surfing meccas to protected enclaves to plenty of islands, isletas, and cayes, you can find the right size wave to match your picture of paradise. And even on some of the more popular beaches, you don’t have to stroll far to have a stretch of sand all to yourself. And if you’d like luxury – even for a night or two – there are plenty of luxury resorts out there.

Click to check out Nicaragua’s Top Luxury Hotels!

#13 | Adventure Around Every Corner

Adventure Travel Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination 20180120_125643

Nicaragua is probably best known on the adventure front for its world-class surfing along the Pacific coast, with Las Salinas making it on the National Geographic list of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns. The adventures don’t stop there. From horseback riding to ziplining over the forest canopy or a volcano, the options seems endless. The Somoto Canyon wasn’t even formally discovered until 2004, and now offers canyoning adventures that several fellow travelers raved about.

Check out other top outdoor Nicaraguan adventures HERE.

Have you ever been to Nicaragua? What else is on your list of top reasons to go? Anything else you’d want to know before visiting? Share away in the ‘Comments’ below!

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Top 13 Reasons to Make Nicaragua Your Next Tropical Destination

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Travel Hack: Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE

Travel Hack: Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE

As I was standing in line to board my Ryan Air flight back home to Milan from a travel blogging conference in Stockholm two summers ago, I was the vision of chaos. There was the cardigan and scarf draped over my purse, an umbrella dangling from my wrist, and the bag of food I was holding from the Östermalms Saluhall food hall. In addition to my purse (‘personal item’ in airline lingo) and my wheeled luggage.

I looked just a little bit different from everyone else in line holding their 2 allowed items and no more.

As everyone looked on in wonder, the flight attendants didn’t bat an eyelash and I boarded with no trouble at all.

No, they weren’t just shirking their jobs, it’s actually the *official policy* of many airlines to let all sorts of additional items on board that don’t count toward your baggage limit.

For those of you who may not know, Ryan Air is a discount European carrier that like most cheap-o airlines, make you pay extra for pretty much everything, including advance seat assignments. But even with many (although not all) discount carriers, there are plenty of things you can wear or carry outside of the strict measurement limits for luggage when you board.

Extra Stuff You’re Allowed to Carry On

No, really!!

Many airlines even have these items explicitly listed in their official policy if you know where to look on their website. There are actually a ton of things you can just carry in your hands if you somehow ran out of space in your luggage.

TIP! There are links to some sample policies from around the world toward the bottom of this post.

First of all, don’t squeeze the last ounce of free space out of your baggage on your way *to* somewhere, you’ll need all the wiggle room you can get on the return trip.

     READ MORE: Why the Best Packing Strategy is to Pack as Poorly as Possible

Inevitably, even if I don’t buy much along the way, it always seems harder to get everything to fit properly in my luggage when packing it all up on the final night of a trip. So these tips are really intended for when you have that last item or two you just can’t squeeze in but still want to take back with you.

Here are all of the items that you can wear, hold, or have clipped outside of the allowed luggage dimensions when you board:

Jacket

Even if you’re not cold, even if you’re heading into a tropical heatwave, you can still wear your jacket when you board to free up luggage space. And there’ll probably even be space in the overhead bin or under your seat if you don’t want to wear it for the entire flight. Or just drape it over your lap, plane rides can get very chilly sometimes.

Clothing Layers

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Coming back from my recent trip to Nicaragua, right before I boarded I needed to smush my purse into my backpack so it was a single ‘personal item’ for boarding. Since the backpack was pretty full already, I wore my cardigan and scarf and tied my fleece jacket around my waist. Instant space creator. You might not be able to wear all your layers for your security screening, but you sure can wear them to board the plane.

Neck Pillow

Neck Pillow Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE DSC_0527 (2)

Many wheeled bags have a strap you can clip your neck pillow to if you can’t fit it inside. This is probably the accessory you’ve seen carried separate from luggage most often besides a jacket, and some people even wear it around their neck to board!

Umbrella

I can often wedge this at the bottom of my wheeled back in between the two sides of the handle, but if you’re really strapped for space, it’s not a problem to carry this item separately. Just put it somewhere on the plane where you’ll remember to bring it with you when you leave.

Camera/Camera Bag

Cam era Bag Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE DSC_0654

In a pinch, I’ve strapped my bulky camera bag for my ‘fancy camera’ to the outside of my wheeled bag because I just couldn’t get that zipper to close with it inside. Which is totally fine, because this is also an item that is allowed to be separate from your outer luggage dimension limits.

Hat

Hat Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE DSC_0738

When you see someone boarding a place wearing their cowboy hat or wide-brimmed straw hat from the beach, it might not just be a fashion statement. Wearing it to board can save you precious luggage space if you’re struggling to zip that bag.

Duty Free Purchases

Duty Free Purchases Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE DSC_0652

This must be part of some secret backroom deal between airports and airlines. No matter how bulky or numerous your duty-free items, it’s totally fine to bring them onto the plane with you in addition to your other luggage. And in some cases, if you purchase alcohol, you won’t even receive your duty-free bag until right as you board.

Merchandise purchased at airport

In many cases, any kind of merchandise purchased at the airport (and especially takeaway food that you’ll probably consume in-flight anyway) don’t count toward your luggage. Of course, it helps to have this in some sort of obvious container or bag as you board.

TIP! Whether you have the space in your luggage or not, liquids over the 3mL are great items to purchase once you’re through security. On my last trip, both the 500mL water bottle and the 200mL sunscreen I purchased served me well in my travels!

Reading Material

Reading Material Book Kindle Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE DSC_0653

Just hold your book in your hand. There is so much queuing involved with boarding an airplane between getting scanned and making it through the jetbridge, I’m usually holding a book or e-reader in my hand to keep me entertained anyway!

Infant Accessories

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

I don’t have children, but if you do, there are extra allowances for bringing on board baby supplies, even if the infant will be sitting in your lap the whole time. These include a car seat, collapsible stroller, and a bag up to 5kg/11 lbs – or more! – with food and diapers (nappies) to cover whatever the baby might need during the flight.

Medical Devices

The interpretation here can be broad, but at a minimum include a cane or crutches, collapsible wheelchair, and any oxygen or dialysis devices you’re dependent on. All free of charge.

Of course, the exact specifications vary by carrier, and you’ll definitely want to check the specific policy of any airline you’re planning to fly. Some strict carriers aside (hi EasyJet!), most airlines won’t stop you from boarding while holding any of the above items with you, even if it’s not explicitly mentioned anywhere on their website.

Carry-On Baggage Policies from Around the World

Many policies explicitly will list most, or all of the items above. And some carriers, like Avianca (see below) even allow balloons!

Here are some specific policies from around the world:

North American carrier

Click here for the United Airlines policy
Scroll to bulleted list

South American carrier

Click here for the Avianca Airlines policy
Scroll to “What Can You Take?” then expand “Additional Items”

European carrier

Click here for the Air France policy
Scroll down to yellow border with “Additional Items You May Take on Board…”

Middle Eastern carrier

Click here for the Qatar Airways policy
Expand “Hand baggage allowance” & see box with “Carry more on board”

Asian carrier

Click here for the Malaysia Airlines policy
See bottom of page 2

Even if there is no mention in the official boarding policy of the airline you’re flying, so long as it’s not a discount carrier, in all likelihood, no one will stop you with any 3-5 (or even ALL) of the knick knacks listed above whether you’re wearing or holding them or they’re clipped to the outside of your luggage like a neck pillow or camera bag.

I’ve flown dozens of airlines, and never once been stopped with any of the above accessories as I boarded!

Happy flying!!

Lana

Do you usually carry any of the above items outside of your luggage when you board a plane? Any time that you were prevented from bringing one of them on? Anything I missed in terms of carry-on luggage tips? Let me know in the ‘Comments’!

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Extra Items You Can Carry On a Plane for FREE

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Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year

Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

Happy new year! January 1st is a fresh start for many people. Have you made resolutions for the new year? Or are re-energized for a project that has languished?

One thing I always think about leading up to a new year is what kind of travel I’d like to do in the year ahead. Sometimes my focus is on visiting new countries. Other times it’s exploring close to home. Or visiting friends in new places. It depends on the year.

Whatever my travel goals though, it always takes a bit of planning to make my dreams a reality.

Sure, planning is not as fun as ogling over pretty pictures on Instagram, but a little bit of preparation goes a long way.

Here’s what you’ll want to think about *soon* so this is the year you actually make it happen!

When You Can Travel

It sounds so basic, but the reality is that if you don’t start blocking off times now at the start of the year, weeks will turn into months and the time to achieve your travel goals will slip away.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to get organized!

Passport Tips for not losing things when you travel Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year 20170129_112032

First, break out the calendar. I’m old school, so I still have a paper version that I maintain each year. You’re probably using some form of app or electronic calendar. Whatever the format, the process is the same:

When You’ll Be Busy

  • Mark holidays. Public holidays in the country where you’re living, plus any religious holidays not already on there or any special days off (like possibly in an election year).
  • Block off busy periods at work you won’t be able to travel. It’s important to merge work obligations onto your personal calendar so you don’t accidentally book a trip when you’re expected to attend a conference somewhere or have another conflict or big deadline.
  • List other obligations. I know I’ll have a cousin’s wedding this June, so I’ve already marked that date on my calendar. Last year was a big celebration for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. If there’s anything you know is coming up, capture it now.

Time for Travel!

Anything not already marked off as a busy time is now fair game for all that travel planning you’re itching to do. You may want to consider things like having a weekend at home if you’re traveling for several consecutive weekends prior, but other than that, go nuts:

  • Block off times for top priorities. There are the travel goals you definitely want to achieve this year, so make those your top scheduling priorities whether it’s finding a weekend in common to travel with friends or blocking off two weeks in a row for a bigger trip.TIP! Of course, you’ll probably also want to think about the weather where you’re heading, so you don’t end up in Asia during rainy season – even if it’s a good time for you to vacation.
  • Ask for time off (if needed). If you have a full-time job like me, you probably need to request time off in advance. Some offices even approve limited vacation based on who asks first, so it’s definitely to your advantage to ask early!TIP! It’s also possible if you’re considering two different times (or comparing prices) to get tentative approval for both, and then later confirm what days you’ll actually be out of the office when you book.

Who to Travel With

Being back in the US after several years of living abroad, this is definitely the area where I struggled most last year.

In Milan, I had it easy. For many of the weekends I was looking to travel, I had a friend ready to go on an adventure with me, and it was also very affordable to travel solo.

This year I had some solo trips (including a week in Belize) and traveled several times on my own to visit friends in different cities – New York, Boston, Detroit, Washington DC – but I was far less successful managing a weekend escape with friends.

Hiking Weekend with friend Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year DSC_0526

In the end, I only successfully planned ONE weekend trip with a friend this year. Everything else fell through.

I’m definitely getting on the planning for this much earlier than before (including reviving some of the trips that were planned but didn’t happen last year). I already have tentative plans with several sets of friends for weekend getaways and hope to get to some of those destinations early in the year.

Where to Go

Maybe your travel goals for this year include specific destinations, or perhaps you’re simply trying to visit 2 new countries and you’re not sure which ones to choose.

     READ MORE: Top Travel Destinations of 2018

Here are some things to think about when deciding where you’ll go in the coming year:

Staying Close to Home

Many of us (myself included!) are guilty of gallivanting off to faraway places while leaving spots closer to home unexplored. I even did this when home was Perth, Australia and only when I was leaving for good did I finally explore the other parts of the country.

But no more. Wherever you are in the world, there is something (& probably several somethings) that are notable in your area, whether it’s a museum or restaurant or amazing spot in nature.

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Think about:

  • What is in your town (or village or city)? There is this glorious thing called the internet – which you can obviously access if you’re reading my blog! – that let’s you search for anything and everything. Even if you’ve lived in the same place all your life, you might be surprised about what information is out there. Find bloggers who write about things locally, or simply search for things like “Best Brunch in <your city>” or “Best Instagram Spots in <your city>”

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    • What hidden gems are nearby for a day trip? You’ve maybe never looked at your hometown or where you currently live from a tourist perspective, but there may be a quirky museum you’ve never heard of before or a beautiful spot in nature within a half-hour drive. I’ve found great information about various cities I’ve lived around the world by searching for things like “Best day trips from <insert your city here>” or “Best Hiking in <insert your state or country>”

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  • What is in driving distance for a weekend? For me, if I am driving somewhere for the weekend, I try to keep it around a 3-hour drive or less if I can. There is actually quite a lot encompassed in that area, from beautiful national parks to beaches to ski destinations to wonderful city escapes. This past year I enjoyed the beach in Delaware and Maryland, towns in Virginia like Richmond, Williamsburg, and the adorable college town of Charlottesville, and a girls’ hiking weekend. Figure out what towns you have yet to explore that are nearby – they might surprise you!

Winery in Charlottesville Virginia USA Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year 20170610_133805

Heading Further Afield

      • Where can you get to easily by bus or train? For me, traveling by bus or train gives me a bit more flexibility with my travel plans, as I can relax more or be productive on the way (there’s usually WiFi) as opposed to when I’m driving. When I lived in Milan, Italy, there were a ton of adorable small towns just a train ride away, plus cities like Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, and Geneva, Switzerland. Check out the routes of where you can get to easily. Some of the destinations may be unexpected!
Lotus flowers in Bangkok, Thailand - a direct flight from Milan!
Lotus flowers in Bangkok, Thailand – a direct flight from Milan!
      • Where will a short, direct flight get you? Okay, so nowhere is exactly easy to get to from Perth, Australia, but Bali is only a 3-hour plane ride away. From Milan I flew direct to places like Seville, Spain and Bangkok, Thailand and Tel Aviv, Israel. And from Baltimore there are all sorts of spots easily accessible around the US, Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico. A quick search will tell you all the places you can get to directly from your local airport. Short flights make it especially easy to squeeze in a weekend escape without having to take any time off of work.
Tel Aviv, Israel - another direct flight from Milan!
Tel Aviv, Israel – another direct flight from Milan!
      • What are your top destination priorities for longer trips? Last year for me this was Vegas for a long weekend, a week-long solo trip to Belize, and visiting several spots in the Caribbean on a cruise that left out of my current city, Baltimore, Maryland. For this coming year, I have a few priorities set including a return to Central America and several weeks in Europe. Longer trips are the hardest to schedule, so get these on your calendar early!

Booking that trip!

This is the hardest part for most would-be travelers. There are always endless reasons to delay actually committing to a trip, which means if you wait long enough, you’ll never actually make it anywhere. So even if it makes you a bit nervous to commit to that train ticket or flight, JUST DO IT!

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Some of my least-stressful travel planning has been when I’ve booked a bus or train or flight several months in advance. There’s none of that back-and-forth of debating whether to go or not the week before, or analyzing if it is a good weekend for a trip. You already have a ticket and you’re going!

Do you already know of some trips you’d like to take this year? Look at flights RIGHT NOW!

With your transportation taken care of you can focus on getting excited for the trip, even if you do minimal advance planning before you actually arrive. I’ve taken trips where I’ve researched extensively beforehand and others where I only first started looking into what to do as I was at the airport waiting for my departing flight. Either way, I always have a great time.

And if you’re not staying with friends or family, take the time early on to also book where you’ll stay. I like to arrange my accommodations through Booking.com, because most properties allow you to cancel with no penalty up until a few days before the trip.

You can find Booking.com prices and other sites on TripAdvisor for hotel bookings, where you can enter your dates and it will show you availability at the top-rated places to stay, including comparing the cost across multiple booking sites so you can get the best deal. So no need to worry, just lock in something now that can be cancelled later – and you can always re-book if you find a better spot.

And when I’m looking to have a kitchen to do my own cooking or am finding hotels to be a bit pricey, I check out what’s available on AirBNB. I’ve stayed in properties around the world and have had mostly positive experiences. Plus, if you run into any issues, their customer service is excellent.

(If you’re new to AirBNB & book using this link, we’ll both get travel credit!)

My Travel Goals This Year

This year’s travel goals for me are a combination of doing more exploring close to home and also making it to at least 3 new countries. Close to home for me in part includes doing more in Baltimore where I currently live. Despite having lived here before and a year and counting now, there is still plenty left to explore.

I also have some new US cities in mind for a visit, like Denver, Colorado (where family just moved), Savannah, Georgia, or Asheville, North Carolina. Plus, some cities I’d like to re-explore after a long while like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mexico City, and Quebec, Canada.

     READ MORE: The Best Advice to Travel More

In terms of new countries, I’m already booked for a January trip to Nicaragua! I hope to explore other new countries on a European trip, possibly Malta (which has been on my bucket list for a while) and Norway (where a friend recently moved).

What My Travel Plans Look Like So Far

This month I’m headed to Nicaragua for the first time! I locked in flights back in November, and arranged my accommodations shortly after, so now I just need to finish with some planning and get on that plane.

I do take my own advice of course, so I’m working on confirming dates for other trips I’d like to take. The biggest one is a return trip to Europe where I haven’t visited since moving back to the US a year ago. Of course I want to see old friends in familiar places as well as hit up some new spots.

Just as important though is identifying weekends to block off for all those other shorter trips! My focus is currently on some weekend ski escapes this winter, and making it to some of those US cities I can get to easily by train or a direct flight. I’ve already made tentative plans with friends for a foodie weekend in Philadelphia and a trip to Savannah, Georgia – now we just need to lock down dates.

And of course, there’s my wish list of places to go. I’d love to get to the countries of Portugal, Georgia, and South Africa for longer trips. Closer to home is maybe Belize for a return trip or a weekend in Puerto Rico once hurricane recovery is further along. A road trip along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or in Yosemite National Park would be amazing, plus city escapes large and small around the US.

     READ MORE: My Travel Lists

Now granted, now that I’m living back in the US many of my wish list items are those spots close enough for a weekend trip, which means it’s centered around North and Central America.

Certainly my wish list has shifted every time I’ve moved continents – and yours should too! Think about spots that are close enough that you’ll reasonably make it there. And keep an actual list of where you’d like to go so when you’re itching to go somewhere it’s already handy.

I wish you the best year of travel yet – now go make those plans!

What are your travel goals for 2018? What travel challenges can I help with? And what topics should I cover in this year’s blog posts that would be most helpful, so this is the year you achieve your travel goals?

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Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year

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Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018

Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s a new year with endless travel possibilities. So which travel destinations should you seek out?

Don’t get overwhelmed with the unlimited options, instead think about your travel goals for the year or even just what type of place you’d like to get to. And then pick one place for your first trip.

Maybe you want a warm beach escape during winter? Or a place that is very different culturally from where you live? Or somewhere off-the-beaten-path that won’t be overrun with tourists? Or finally make it to the top item on your Bucket List?

     READ MORE: Practical Guide to Achieve Your Travel Goals this Year

Regardless of your desires, this list has a little bit of something for everyone, with destinations all over the world. It’s a mix of places I’ve been and loved and spots with timely reasons to go in 2018, in alphabetical order.

Read on, get inspired, and then book that trip!

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Belize

Within my first day in Belize back in May, I knew it would be my new 2017 destination that I’d be screaming from the rooftops about. Not only is a beautiful country with a wide range of adventures, historical ruins, and opportunities to relax, it is just so easy to travel there.

     READ MORE: Fun Facts – Things to Know About Belize Before You Visit

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As a former British colony and still part of the Commonwealth, English is widely spoken. For those traveling from America, the US Dollar is accepted everywhere and interchangeable with the local Belizean dollar at a simple 1:2 exchange rate. And everyone is so friendly and helpful anytime you need to get somewhere. Which leaves you free to focus on enjoying all of the amazing things Belize has to offer!

     READ MORE: 9 Reasons Belize Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
     READ MORE: Exploring Belize’s ATM Cave, a Mayan Archaeological Wonder
     READ MORE: Foodie Bucket List – How to Eat Like a Local in Belize

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Caribbean Islands

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Yes, 2017 was a rough year for some parts of the Caribbean that were devastated by hurricanes. Which makes 2018 a great year to support islands undergoing hurricane recovery as well as checking out some other islands that escaped hurricane season mostly unscathed (over 70% of them!). There is a Caribbean Travel Update website that has the latest information, island by island. Check it out HERE.

     READ MORE: How to Spend One Day in Nassau, Bahamas

And even on some of the islands most affected by last season’s hurricanes, cruise ports were some of the first parts to re-open for tourism. A Caribbean cruise will let you island hop and ships have already adjusted their itineraries to ensure that you are getting the best vacation experience in the region.

     READ MORE: Top 7 Excuses for Not Going on a Cruise – And Why Cruise Anyway!
     READ MORE: Top Tips for Taking a Cruise

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Israel

A destination where I’ve lived, but have also been again several times recently, continues to astound me with how much it changes and evolves with each visit. As a clueless 18-year old, while I traveled nearly every weekend, most of my meals on the road were with friends and family, or from the bakery section of a supermarket. On my last few trips I’ve savored one of the best (and most memorable) tasting menus of my life, inhaled the latest trendy street food, & sipped cocktails at a speakeasy. Not to mention some pretty fabulous wine tastings.

Israeli beer Machane Yehudah Market Top 8 Travel Destinations of 201820151204_144729

     READ MORE: Best Places to Eat & Drink in Israel
     READ MORE: Foodie Bucket List – The 16 Best Local Foods and Drinks in Israel

     READ MORE: 8 Best Wineries to Visit in Israel

There are so many sites with religious and historical significance in Israel that . . . I can’t even come up with a good way to end this sentence to do the country justice, history is simply everywhere – retracing Jesus’s footsteps on the Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem’s Old City and hiking through coastal Roman ruins, palpably feeling the millenia of history that have touched this land. You’ll just have to come explore yourself!

     READ MORE: Insider Bucket List – Top 20 Experiences to Seek Out in Israel
     READ MORE: Why Visit Israel During Chanukah

     READ MORE: Top Insider Picks – What to Do in Jerusalem

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(Small Town) Italy

Sunset over Orvieto Italy Day Trip from Rome Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018 20160930_184317

I’m not the first person to wax philosophical about all the reasons to visit small town Italy, but after 3 years of living in Milan, I can attest to how worthwhile a visit can be. While the big cities in Italy are draws for a reason, there is endless charm and authentic interaction with locals that you’ll only get when visiting one of Italy’s smaller towns.

Italy Corinaldo Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018 DSC_0253 (2)

A day trip from a major city will give you a taste of small town living, but for the real fairy tale life in the Italian countryside or seaside, carve out at least a night or two of your vacation – you won’t regret it!

Taking a holiday to Rome? Take the time for a day in Orvieto.
Heading to Milan? Make a day trip to Bergamo or Cremona.
Vacationing in Tuscany? You’ll love exploring small town gems all over nearby Le Marche.
Wandering the canals of Venice? It’s an easy train ride to romantic Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet.
On an escape in Sicily? Spend a day in the coastal gem of Cefalù.


 

Malta

Image: Courtesy of Pixabay
Image: Courtesy of Pixabay

Malta has been on my bucket list for a while, and with its capital Valletta being named a European Capital of Culture for 2018 and hosting a range of festivals and events, there is no better time to plan a visit. An archipelago south of Sicily toward the northern African coast, it also boasts mild weather in winter and a hot but not scorching summer.

Whether you’re interested in historical sites, beautiful beaches, or adventure – or all three like me! – there is no shortage of activities to keep you entertained during your stay. Plus, almost everyone speaks English, so you’ll have an easy time during your stay.

Explore more of what Malta has to offer!

Mexico City, Mexico

Outside the Anthropology Museum. I like how they used the white stone to form the middle section of the Mexico flag.
Outside the Anthropology Museum

Another 2018 accolade is in store for Mexico City, which has been named the World Design Capital of 2018, the first city in the Americas with this designation. I last visited the sprawling metropolis known locally as D.F. (Distrito Federal, or “federal district”) nearly a decade ago and even then it stood out for the culture, art, design, and of course, the foodie culture that has since exploded all over the city.

Mexico City Frida Kahlo Museum Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018 CIMG2368

With over 20 million people, there is no shortage of bustling areas to explore. There are tons of reasons for a visit in 2018, just remember with the high elevation, always wear sunscreen 😉

Get more Mexico City inspiration and find hotel deals here!

Seychelles

Image: Courtesy of Pixabay
Image: Courtesy of Pixabay

Most people think of the Seychelles as a luxury beach destination like the Maldives, which it is, but this African nation of islands also has a variety of AirBNB properties available at a much more reasonable cost for those looking for a value escape.

It’s a large enough destination that there are a variety of activities from visiting a nature preserve to water sports to a tea plantation. And it’s unknown enough that the beaches don’t tend to get crowded and you can have a whole stretch of pristine white sand all to yourself.

Singapore

Singapore Gardens by the Bay DSC_0977

For many, Singapore is a spot to stop briefly for a layover or a day or two en route to another Asian destination. I came for a full week, and never ran out of things to do and eat. English is spoken all over Singapore, which makes it an easy place for foreigners to get around, whether you’re shopping in Chinatown or strolling through Little India. Certainly, if you get a chance, pop in and explore!

Singapore is known for its food culture, recently taking over the title of cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world from Hong Kong and featuring street food in informal hawker stalls located just about everywhere. Plus, it has one of my favorite breakfasts ever, you’ll get addicted, too!

     READ MORE: Singapore Foodie Bucket List – 8 Foods You Must Try

     READ MORE: How to Order and Eat a Typical Singaporean Breakfast

     READ MORE: 11 Ways Singapore is Like Hong Kong – And Why You Should Visit Both!

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Click here to explore what to do and where to stay in Singapore!

Not everywhere I visited and loved in 2017 made my list of top spots, but there are plenty of other posts up on the blog as well from my past year of travel, including some off-the-beaten-path US destinations like Detroit, Michigan and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Looking for even more travel inspiration? Also check out my Top Travel Destinations of 2017!


What destinations are inspiring you for 2018 travel? Anywhere I missed with something timely happening this year? What’s the biggest trip you’re planning for 2018? Let me know more in the ‘Comments’ below!

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Top 8 Travel Destinations of 2018

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Travel Superlatives of 2017: To Inspire Your Next Adventure

Travel Superlatives of 2017: To Inspire Your Next Adventure

This year has involved quite a lot of transitions. I started my first full-time job in quite some time (hint: it’s not blogging) and have been slowly figuring out how to balance it with my passion for blogging, travel, and you know – life, the universe, and everything!

This also marks a full year spent back in the US after five years abroad, and it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. I was shocked at how much my post on moving “home” resonated with readers, and continues to resonate with many others experiencing the same challenging transition. It is the post when I felt the most vulnerable clicking that “Publish” button, but such a lesson to me that it is when you really put your authentic self out there that you connect the most with those around you.

     READ MORE: What It’s Like Moving Back “Home” & Tips on How to Adjust

And that’s really what my travel superlatives come down to. It’s a collection of moments in far-flung places and spots close to home when I connected with those around me. Sometimes through an experience and sometimes a meal, but all were opportunities for wonder with some excellent company to share it all with. And a bit of adventure.

I hope you enjoy my stories from the road and perhaps even find some travel inspiration for the year ahead. Here are the moments resonating with me from the past year:

Best Nature Adventure: Belize’s ATM Cave

I love caving and adventure, plus the tour to Belize’s ATM Cave (you must be on a tour to enter) was touted by every operator as the top day trip to do from San Ignacio, Belize. The tour itself was absolutely incredible, involving plenty of strolling, swimming, and even a bit of rock climbing to navigate the internal passageways of the cave, including ancient Mayan sites. Wow, just wow.

     READ MORE: Exploring Belize’s ATM Cave, a Mayan Archaeological Wonder

     READ MORE: 9 Reasons Belize Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

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Best Tour: Hoover Dam insider “Dam Tour”

The Dam Tour is limited to 20 people every half hour and can only be purchased in person on the day. But it is worth an early start to guarantee a spot on one of the coolest tours I’ve ever been on. Due to security concerns, the insider tour no longer includes a trip to the Power Plant floor, but in its place you get to wander behind the scenes through the inside of the dam itself in areas that were never intended for visitors. There is amazingly cool graffiti and other markings along the way, plus some killer views through vents peering from the inside out!

Hoover Dam Las Vegas Nevada Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure DSC_0677Hoover Dam Las Vegas Nevada Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure 20171114_115937Hoover Dam Las Vegas Nevada Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure DSC_0683

Best Wine Tasting: DelFosse Vineyards in Charlottesville, VA

I spent the weekend before my birthday on a getaway to Charlottesville, Virginia, a pretty easy drive from the Baltimore/Washington, DC area. I had been a few times before and one of my fondest memories from a weekend I spent in 2007 was of a barrel tasting at a winery up a gravel road a bit outside of town. My return visit to DelFosse Vineyards a decade later was just as memorable, with a personable and delicious journey through their wine collection during the tasting. Both their whites and reds are something special. And yes, there’s still a gravel road for those last few minutes.

     READ MORE: Best Wineries in Charlottesville, Virginia: The Monticello Wine Trail

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New Go-To Activity: Hiking

I’ve always liked hiking and mixed it in with my city escapes, but this is the first year that I’ve headed into some weekends with an intense desire to get out in nature – at which point I hunted down a hiking buddy or headed out on my own. Maybe it’s my mentality shifting with age, but nothing helps to reset my mind than exploring nature’s beauty with my own two feet.

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Most Memorable Bites: Cambridge, MA & Charlottesville, VA

Let me start by saying that I had some pretty epic meals this year. From cooking my first-ever rack at lamb at home to savoring meals at high-end restaurants serving up 20+ course tasting menus, there have been some very delicious bites (yes, I’m a lucky lady!). But the two most memorable dishes of the year for me are the ones that were unique and flavorful and even months later stand out in my mind.

The first is a a crab and kimchi stew that I enjoyed at The Table at Season to Taste in Cambridge (Boston), Massachusetts. It was such an incredible overall (solo dining) experience that I boldly wrote a whole blog post about it as my best of 2017 all the way back in March and it still rings true all these months later.

     READ MORE: Foodie Scoop – My Best Meal of 2017 So Far: The Table in Boston

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The other most memorable dish is a crispy scallop appetizer that I enjoyed at Brasserie Saison in Charlottesville, Virginia. It doesn’t sound like all that much but it stands out in my mind both for being something I have never seen before (Crispy scallop outside and smooth-as-silk inside? Amazing!) and also because it was so perfectly executed that every bite was a piece of heaven.

     READ MORE: How to Spend a Weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia

Brasserie Saison Charlottesville Virginia Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure 20170609_205012

Best Art Exhibit: Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors

I first saw Yayoi Kusama’s art in Stockholm, Sweden and was so in awe of her unique style that I waited in a crazy line to get access to another exhibit of hers this year in Washington, DC. This latest exhibition included multiple ‘infinity rooms’ that were basically giant cubes you could step into with mirrors on all sides and see incredible lights and designs reflected all around you. Check out my blog post for more on the mesmerizing art, plus details on how to get access and when this exhibit may be headed your way – in 2018 it will be in Los Angeles, Toronto, Cleveland, and Atlanta!

     READ MORE: Yayoi Kusama’s Art: Exhibitions I’ve Seen & Where to Catch Her Next

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Best Way to Experience My New Home City: On the Water

Part of my adjustment back living stateside has been to express gratitude and focus on all of the benefits of being back after time abroad. Certainly the convenience of American life and access to ethnic food top my list, but being in the city of Baltimore specifically means that I live quite close to the water. I can walk there in around 5 minutes and there’s even a free commuter water taxi stop nearby that will take me to a few different spots across the harbor. And my running route takes me along the water’s edge by Fort McHenry, where the Star Spangled Banner (the American national anthem) was written. Some of my favorite Baltimore water views from the past year:

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https://www.instagram.com/p/BbCd8k7nDEI/?taken-by=travelsavvygal

Hidden Gem City Escape: Detroit, Michigan

When you think of ‘Motor City’ you’re probably imagining car production or dangerous neighborhoods, but the Detroit of today is so much more. My highlights from a long weekend there included fancy cocktails bars, craft breweries, apple cider mills, some delicious bites, and all sorts of notable art and architecture. Detroit’s revitalization is still a work in progress, but it is already soaring and a spot I’d return to in a heartbeat!

     READ MORE: Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

     READ MORE: Fun Facts: Things to Know About Detroit Before You Visit

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Hidden Gem Outdoors: Sanibel Island, Florida

My first flight of the year was in January to visit my dad who now lives in Florida. Of course, the primary goal of the trip was to spend some quality time together, so I specifically refrained from doing too much research. Even the lovely stroll we took through an ecological preserve was something I spotted in a brochure after I arrived, not a bucket list item I had planned in advance.

So when we ended up taking a detour to Sanibel Island, I innocently took a stroll only to encounter loads of people with buckets and walking with their eyes glued to the beach. As it turns out, Sanibel Island is considered by many to be the best shelling beach in all of North America! Even though I’m no expert, it was exciting to see so many beautiful shells and even some of the sea creatures that had washed ashore.

Sanibel Island Florida Shelling Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure 20170125_132112 (2)Sanibel Island Florida Shelling Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure

Favorite Getaway: Staying with Friends by the Beach

I could pretend I had some posh chalet in the mountains somewhere, but let’s be real, I’m not that fancy. The place that I spent the most weekend getaways in 2017? With friends by Bethany Beach in Delaware. It’s been a perfect haven and relaxed getaway on many a weekend, with great food and wonderful company. Thanks for hosting and for all the great experiences this year!

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Most Random Visit: Berlin Wall in a NYC Office Building

When I visited Berlin, Germany for a long weekend, I of course made it a point to see several sections of what remains of the Berlin Wall, including the open-air East Side Gallery. Across the ocean in New York City, the Berlin Wall was the last thing I expected to see in a random office building, and yet there are several panels that can be visited in the lobby for free!

Biggest Bucket List Item: Rock Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

Starting with my college years, plenty of friends have talked up Las Vegas as a site for gambling and debauchery. And the ones who really know me well touted the foodie scene there. But the biggest attraction for me has always been the rock climbing I’ve been hearing about for ages in the nearby Red Rock Canyon. My guided trip there was just as wonderful as I had imagined, with incredible scenery and a lot of fun on the rock.

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas Nevada Travel Superlatives of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure DSC_0005

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Best Travel Experience: Hitching a Ride on a Boat in Bermuda

I was excited at having bought the Bermuda-exclusive loquat liqueur at the Goslings store in downtown Hamilton, the Bermudian capital that was half an island away from my cruise ship. The feeling of accomplishment slowly melted into apprehension as I realized that because it was Sunday, the ferry turned out to be on a truncated schedule and the last one had already left back toward the dock where my cruise ship was anchored about 20 minutes before.

I was quite annoyed at this point – Why hadn’t I checked the schedule properly beforehand? Why didn’t I realize it was a sign taking a taxi into Hamilton from the beach was a bad idea when no one else was headed that way? – I probably should have seen the signs ahead of time, given that I’m an experienced traveler. But fortunately we had another day in Bermuda, so I wasn’t exactly in a rush. At least the cruise ship wouldn’t leave without me if I didn’t get back by a certain time.

I started running through possibilities in my head. There seemed to be a local bus station nearby, and many buses had passed through the main street downtown. Surely it would be cheap to take the route to the far side of the island, although the trip might take a while and who knows how long it would be before the next bus. A taxi was an option, but probably a $60 one. So it wouldn’t be a cheap mistake, but at least I’d make it back to the ship for dinner.

One consolation was that I wasn’t alone, there were actually 4 of us from the cruise strip stranded at the now-closed ferry terminal. But as possibly the most assertive one of the bunch, I was tasked with asking around and trying to figure out our best option to get back.

It was at this point that I noticed a boat crew at the far side of the dock that seemed to be cleaning up for the night. There was a decent chance they were locals and could hopefully point us in the right direction, maybe even let us know if buses were still running or if our best bet was to hail a taxi to get back.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said in my first thirty seconds of talking, but the guy who seemed to be the head of the crew approached as I was chatting with one of the deck hands and said, “Actually, we have to get this boat back over to the Dockyard for a tour in the morning, do you want a lift back?”

What?!? By opening myself up and asking strangers for help did I really just score all of us a free ride back to our cruise ship?

As long as you don’t mind loud music and will buy drinks on the way, you can ride back with us.”

Um, YES PLEASE.

The older couple in the group was a bit skeptical if this was some sort of scam, but this was not only super convenient and generous, the crew explained that this was what your typical everyday Bermudian hospitality was all about. Plus, they were headed that way anyway.

Within minutes we had dark-and-stormy’s in hand (the local cocktail) and were cruising through the harbor on a catamaran with music blasting. I would have called it the best private boat tour of my life, but it was just locals helping out some clueless tourists and letting loose at the end of a long work shift.

Along the way, the crew pointed out a few famous Bermudian houses on the water, but mostly we sang and danced together the whole way. We pulled up and docked just a short distance from the cruise ship, as the catamaran was part of an organized tour the next morning. And when we tried to pay for our drinks, they just shrugged and wished us well.

This is how close the catamaran got us to the cruise ship.
This is how close the catamaran got us to the cruise ship.

What were some of your highlights from the past year? Or your most memorable travel experience? Anything from my round-up that you’ll seek out in the year ahead? Let me know in the ‘Comments’!

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Travel Highlights (Superlatives) of 2017 To Inspire Your Next Adventure

 

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Winter Bucket List: Making the Most of the Season

Winter Bucket List: Making the Most of the Season

Where has the year gone?!? I feel like I say this every December, and this year is no exception.

I started off this year with high hopes and grand plans, and I am happy to say that I have made many of them a reality. Others will have to wait another year, but in the meantime a new season is rapidly approaching.

Let me start off by saying I’m a summer baby, and luxuriate in warm – and even hot – weather. Too stifling? Jump in a pool or go to the beach.

Winter, though. That’s a whole other story.

Coeurmayeur Italy Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20160228_095606

Many of the things that made my ‘Winter Bucket List’ are all about ways to warm up when the frigid temperatures set in, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And for some of this, yes, you’ll have to bundle up and brave the cold weather for some frolicking in the snow.

And it will be worth it.

Read on for my plans for the season, and I’d love to hear yours!

This is what I hope to be up to in the coming months:

Marvel at the holiday decorations

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris France Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20141229_234635 (2)

I bet wherever you are in the world, places around you light up for the holidays. I’ve seen some of the most unexpected places – Israel and Sri Lanka come to mind – decked out with brightly colored “Christmas” lights. I love seeing the designs and creativity that go into the displays, so take advantage of the places around you that light up this time of year and just take it all in.

Go skiing

Ever since I learned to ski at the wee age of 28 (let’s not talk about how long ago that was), I’ve really embraced the fun. I’m not a double black diamond, speed-down-the-slope kind of gal – although good for you if you are – but even at my medium pace, I love feeling the wind rush by and the thrill of speed as I head downhill. Any winter sport can be fun though, whether it’s snowboarding or ice skating.

Skiing in Saas Fee Switzerland Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season IMG_1305

Play in the snow

Why not? Frolicking in the soft, powdery white stuff is not just for children. Whether you’re doing an actual activity like sledding or snow tubing, or just having a snowball fight with friends, take some time and appreciate this crazy substance that literally falls from the sky.

Snow in Bardonecchia Italy Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season

Playing in the Snow Umbria Italy Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season DSC_0146 (2)

Sip a hot beverage

Nothing to help warm you up from the cold like a hot beverage. I love a thick, gooey hot chocolate with marshmallows or whipped cream and especially enjoy some mulled wine for strolling out in the cold. I’ve even been known to heat up egg nog. Whether it’s a cuppa or a hot apple cider or possibly a spiked version of your favorite warm drink, savor it.

Hot Apple Cider Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20141221_182049

Hang out in front of a fireplace

I don’t have a fireplace at home – I know, epic fail! – but I do love sitting in front of a fire. Feeling the warmth and being mesmerized as the flames dance in haphazard directions is one of my beloved ways to pass time in winter. So when I go away for a weekend, it’s something I’ll seek out before choosing where to book my accommodations.

Fireplace Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20170819_225156(0)

Visit a hot tub or sauna

Another thing I’ll look for when I make winter travel plans? Whether a hotel has a hot tub or sauna. Especially if I’ll be doing some activities outdoors, I love being able to relax my muscles and warm up in the heat. Bonus if you can find a hot tub or hot springs to enjoy outside!

Nibble on roasted chestnuts

I may have grown up singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but it wasn’t until my time living in Europe that I really appreciated the flavor of a freshly roasted chestnut picked up from a street vendor on a stroll through a holiday market. I haven’t seen any stateside this season, but I am keeping an eye out.

Roasted Chestnuts in Milan Italy Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20161217_205856

Enjoy a holiday party

This doesn’t need to be a formal work event, as most cities and towns have all sorts of celebrations for the holidays, from parades to bar crawls. So far this season I’ve enjoyed a holiday celebration with small bites and lots of vino at my local Wine Market and an Ugly Sweater Party with friends. Probably have a few more celebrations up my sleeve, and can’t wait for the upcoming festivities.

Curl up with some comfort food

Chilled soup in winter? I think not. I’m all about hearty (hot) soups and stews this time of year, for something that will warm you up as it fills you up. Or, taking a page out of the northern Italian playbook, some stick-to-your-ribs polenta or risotto. Or the Swiss favorites I was thinking of just the other day – fondue and raclette – a.k.a. melted cheese yumminess.

Kippo Ramen Baltimore Maryland Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20170803_200232Fondue Three Ways in Switzerland Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season 20141222_202009 (2)

Take a hike

While I won’t rock climb in weather so cold I can’t feel my fingers, there are ample ways to bundle up to get outdoors for a stroll or hike in winter. Certainly dress appropriately for the weather, and then enjoy the different sights, sounds, and smells that nature provides this season. And since most people save hiking for hotter temperatures, you’re more likely to have the trail all to yourself.

Travel somewhere warm!

Okay, this may sound like cheating (shouldn’t winter be about embracing the cold?) but nothing makes you appreciate a warm destination more than arriving from winter somewhere. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go far the edge of the opposite hemisphere, there are plenty destinations not far from the equator that will be relatively easy to get to wherever you are.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BP_bomhAsCH/?hl=en&taken-by=travelsavvygal

Watch sunrise more

I’m more of a sunset than sunrise kind of gal, as I’m not much of a morning person. The rest of the year, my 7am commute to work is firmly in the hours of sunlight, but in wintertime the sun makes its appearance much later in the morning. No 4am wakeup needed, take advantage of later sunrise in the wintertime and set your alarm to wake up just a wee bit earlier and catch it more often!

What do you have planned for the winter? Anything I should add to my ‘Winter Bucket List’? What’s your favorite winter comfort food? Tell me all about in in the ‘Comments’ below!

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Winter Bucket List How to Make the Most of the Season

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Fun Facts: Things to Know About Detroit Before You Visit

Fun Facts: Things to Know About Detroit Before You Visit

“Why are you going to Detroit?”

“For fun.”

A blank stare ensues. Apparently no one goes to Detroit for fun. And my answer is not yet sufficient.

So I continue after the pause, “I have some friends who live there that I’m visiting.”

There it is, suddenly. The knowing, almost imperceptible nod of approval.

And it bothers me. So I interject –

“I hear they have a really great food scene there, I’m excited to check it out. If I didn’t want to go to Detroit, I would have asked my friends to meet me somewhere else. I’m going because I want to go.”

And that statement basically covers it, I went because I wanted to. And I had a blast because it’s a great city. Oh yeah, my friends are pretty wonderful and amazing, too =)

Most people know the city of Detroit, Michigan as an industrial giant (which it is), but these days there is oh-so-much-more to experience when you go.

I had the benefit of being hosted by two friends when I went – a native and a recent transplant – and getting some great local perspectives. Plus, I had a day of exploring on my own to get yet another view of Detroit.

Here are some fun facts I picked up along the way:

Detroit sure is known for a lot of things . . .

It is ‘Motor City.’

Motor City Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0744

Detroit is probably best known for the American car industry giants that call the city home. Many skyscrapers downtown are named for the big three: Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. And despite the financial struggles of the last decade, they are all still a strong presence in the city.

But Quicken Loans is catching up quick.

Quicken Loans Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0248

It’s not the only large financial company based in Detroit (Ally Bank also has its headquarters there), but in Detroit these days, Quicken is larger than life. The company has been expanding its footprint, and famous founder Dan Gilbert now owns a whopping amount of downtown Detroit.

Detroit is equally well-known for its music.

Sure, I knew about the legacy of Motown and rapper Eminem. And that there’s even a Motown Museum in town. So I wasn’t surprised to hear plenty of tunes from that era playing at the Food Bank Fundraiser/wine tasting event I went to my first night in town.

Less expected ‘Detroit music’ heard that night? San Francisco area band Journey’s ballad “Don’t Stop Believin’,” when everyone in the room belted out the line “born and raised in south Detroit.” Ah yes (that was the moment I realized Detroit was in that song). Except that there is no such thing as south Detroit.

Third Man Records Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0143Third Man Records Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0148Third Man Records Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0153

Detroit-area local Kid Rock gets some pretty good air time on local radio stations still. And The White Stripes are also hometown sweethearts, further cemented by the now local Jack White-owned Third Man Records, which was a blast to visit.

Detroit has a Zero Mile (Point of Origin), but it’s not as easy to find as you’d think.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Baebblgn-ZC/?hl=en&taken-by=travelsavvygal

Rapper Eminem’s movie 8 Mile brought Detroit into the public consciousness, and given that there are many mile roads throughout the city, I thought finding the marker of the zero mile spot would be a breeze. Not as famous as I think it should be, you’ll find it if you look hard enough in the right place!

          READ MORE: My experience Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

There’s a vibrant craft beer scene.

Craft Beer Scene Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0566Craft Beer Scene Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit 20171009_142325

Perhaps its the sheer number of breweries that hail from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I definitely associate the American Midwest with beer. Detroit doesn’t disappoint on this front, with many craft breweries in the city and surrounding areas. I made it to two on my recent weekend trip – Axle Brewing Company & Batch Brewing Company – and both not only had great beer selections but some gourmet food options to give you every reason to linger.

And a cocktail scene, too.

Cocktail Scene Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0947 (2)

Less expected for me was the Detroit cocktail scene, with expertly crafted cocktails that rival the best bars in London and New York. We’re talking crazy flavor combinations, house-infused spirits, and expert mixologists making your taste buds swoon. Sugar House and Standby have some great cocktails. Sit at the bar for a front row seat to the action.

Plus, it’s the only American city with all 4 major sports arenas downtown.

Major Sports Arenas Downtown Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0434

It may not seem like a big deal to have the major arenas all downtown, but professional sports is a huge draw, and that is an influx of money into a downtown that needs the investment. Plus, it’s an easy stroll to the various Detroit arenas – not intentionally, but I passed them all just strolling around!

Lots of immigrants have left their mark.

Greektown Craft Beer Scene Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0761

Without even seeking out ethnic neighborhoods, I encountered quite a few during my weekend in Detroit. Centrally located downtown is Greektown, which you’ll spot almost instantly by the blocks of restaurants serving up Greek cuisine. Corktown, the Irish part of the city, has plenty of restaurants and bars alongside buildings showcasing the neighborhood heritage, like the Gaelic League.

Corktown Craft Beer Scene Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0550

And while I didn’t make it to Dearborn, known for its Arab population and the largest mosque in North America, I knew of its prominence. You’ll also see plenty of British influence around town, from the layout of the Grand Circus to the ‘upper peninsula pasty’ on offer at local spots.

Joe Lewis.

Joe Lewis Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0285 (2)

Known for being a boxing heavyweight champion for over a decade in the 1930s and most of the 1940s, Joe Lewis is considered by many to be America’s first black hero, seen as a national hero and not just for the color of his skin. His physical prowess also came at a time of national unity aimed at fighting the Nazis during World War II. It is in this context that you visit the sculpture of Joe Lewis’s fist in the heart of downtown, as a show of strength for the man who moved to Detroit at the start of his teenage years and achieved his successes from his time in the city.

Street art is everywhere – even parking garages have crazy artwork!

Street Art Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0647

There is a lot of street art all over Detroit, but in a parking lot?!? Yes, that’s where you’ll find some of the best stuff! Head to the Gallery for the Z Project to check out winding walls of creation after creation. And keep your eyes open around town, too 😉

Street Art Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0616 (2)

Canada is right there.

Canada Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0693

Before my trip I spent some time poring over the Detroit map to get acclimated, and that’s when I realized just how close Canada is – a short distance just across the river. Walking the waterfront, the expanse definitely seemed swim-able, although with boats and the bridge going across, a dip in the water wouldn’t have been necessary.

Detroit was a major outpost on the Underground Railroad.

Underrground Railroad Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0702 (2)

Thanks to its proximity to Canada, Detroit was a huge part of the Underground Railroad, serving as many slaves’ final stop before freedom on the far side of the river. Surprisingly, this fact didn’t come up in any of my reading about Detroit, and was only something I noticed in my wanderings on foot. There is a large memorial on the RiverWalk and museum exhibits as well as churches that served as safe houses. You’ll also see smaller plaques at various buildings strolling around downtown if you’re paying attention:

Underrground Railroad Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0588

Pewabic Pottery should be decorating your house.

Pewabic Pottery Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0859Pewabic Pottery Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0875 (2)

Another item I had never heard of before this trip, Pewabic Pottery has been around for over a century and is Michigan’s only historic pottery. It’s signature glaze gives it a unique sheen, and Pewabic tiles are used locally in fireplaces, kitchen counters, and anything else you can imagine. Even if you’re not planning on a purchase, visiting the National Historic Landmark is free and you can peruse various artists’ take on the style. I couldn’t resist the appeal, and took home some Pewabic art of my own:

Pewabic Pottery Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0877 (2)

They sure love their Art Deco in Detroit.

A lot of historic buildings in Detroit have stood the test of time, so there are plenty of Art Deco gems lurking in easy walking distance of one another downtown, with a few further afield. Most famous are the Guardian and Penobscot Buildings, which you can see in all their fabulous glory:

Guardian Building Art Deco Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0635

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ9XSrjHLPk/?hl=en&taken-by=travelsavvygal

Watch out for those Michigan lefts.

I had never heard of this, but if you’re driving around Michigan, taking a Michigan left at some point is probably inevitable. It’s sort of like a u-turn, sort of like an on ramp going from the left lane of the road to the left lane heading the opposite direction. Definitely proceed with caution.

Coney dogs are a thing.

Coney Dog Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0385

As a native Brooklynite, anything named ‘Coney’ conjures up the sights and smells of iconic New York destination Coney Island. In Detroit, ‘coney dogs’ were recommended to me again and again as a local specialty that is consumed at all times of day, and especially late night on a weekend. And depending on who you ask, hot dogs originated at New York’s Coney Island, while the ‘coney dog’ is a Michigan original, consisting of a hot dog topped with beanless chili, mustard, and chopped raw onion. Eater has a thorough take on the history and controversy of the ‘coney dog.’

Cider Mills are an autumn must do!

Yates Cider Mill Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0185

These weren’t on my radar before my trip, but that’s the benefit of visiting a city with locals – it was on the itinerary to go to a cider mill even before I arrived. They’ve been in Michigan since the mid-1800s and there are dozens around, many offering pony rides, petting zoos, and carnival games to entertain families with children. But the main attraction is the locally made apple cider – whether chilled, piping hot, or in slushee form – and the incredibly fresh donuts that come in original and cinnamon sugar varieties. Even if you don’t stay long, it’s worth a wait in the long line to score these goodies!

Yates Cider Mill Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit DSC_0195Yates Cider Mill Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit 20171008_145006

As you can tell, I ate and drank well in Detroit, while taking in some beautiful scenery and sights. There is definitely more than meets the eye, and certainly more than I expected. Yet another reason to get out there and explore places for yourself!

What’s the most interesting thing you learned about a place while visiting? Anything else you’ve discovered about Detroit? Or anything else you’d like to know before you go? Share in the ‘Comments’ below!

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Happy Travels!

Lana

Fun Facts Things to Know About Detroit Michigan Before You Visit

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Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – & Why You Should Anyway!

Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – & Why You Should Anyway!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

Only when I has published my Top Tips for Taking a Cruise, did I realize that lots of people are resistant to even going on a cruise in the first place. Some were vaguely unsure about the idea, but plenty of others had very specific reasons why cruises just weren’t for them.

As someone who loves boats, and hops on the local water taxi as often as I can, I must admit – I was a bit surprised.

Cruise Ship View Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!DSC_0354

For me, cruises conjure up images of me inhaling the fresh sea air and looking out over the horizon, relaxing as the waves lap up on the boat, and listening to the rhythmic movement of the water. Of course, for others, cruises are viewed as either impractical vacation choices, not matching a personal travel style or budget, or just not the preferred mode of travel.

Within these reasons, though, are quite a few misconceptions about what cruise travel is or isn’t. And if you haven’t cruised before, you may not be aware of the variety that is out there, from the size of the cruise ship to the itinerary to the amenities available. There are lots of ways to make informed choices that do match your travel style, and offer a level of convenience and variety of destinations that would be difficult without a cruise ship.

So here they are. The top 7 excuses for not going on a cruise – and why you should go anyway!

Excuse 1 | Seasickness

It’s a common problem. Lots of people have motion sickness or sea sickness, although if you’ve never been on a cruise, your boating experience is likely limited to small vessels, like sailboats or a ferry. Most cruise ships are HUGE. Which means that it’s much more stable in the water, and even if get seasick on smaller ships, you may not when on a cruise.

Porthole Seasickness Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_194407 (2)

Even if you find that you are seasick on a cruise ship, modern (and ancient) medicine has got your back. From pills to acupressure to magnets to wristbands to ginger supplements, there are lots of options to counter any seasickness you may feel. And if whatever you brought doesn’t work, your cruise reception desk likely has remedies available for free once you’re on the ship.

Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Original Formula, 36 Tablets, Packaging May Vary

 

 

Sea-Band Adult Wristband, Natural Nausea Relief, 1-Pair, Colors May Vary

 

 

Sailors’ Secret Premium Ginger | The Natural Remedy for Motion Sickness 36 Capsules/250 MG

 

Excuse 2 | Fear of being “stuck” on the boat

It’s true, when you’re on a boat in the middle of the sea or ocean, you can’t just disembark at will (or at least I wouldn’t recommend it). For some, it may be an existential fear, or simply not wanting to feel like they are trapped. A cruise ship really is a floating city, and is like any self-contained resort that you might visit for 5 nights or a week and never leave.

Ship Activities Band Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170720_193523 (2)

If the prospect of a full day at sea still puts a jolt of fear in you, just choose the right itinerary. Some cruises involve many days at sea, while others visit a series of ports in close proximity, so you are docked at land all day, and the boat transports you at night to the next destination. There are plenty of sailings in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean that involve no entire days at sea.

Excuse 3 | Worry about keeping a diet

With a cruise ship essentially as a floating city, it also loads up at the start of each sailing with all of the food supplies for the entire duration. And yes, that’s a lot. You’re likely to have a buffet available as an option for every single meal, and for some people, that can get dangerous.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW_Q6sblLK5/

But keeping a diet on a cruise ship is really just like keeping a diet at home. While buffets will be an option, there is also typically a portioned, sit-down option available for each meal as well. If you’re concerned about portion size, take advantage of ships with varied dining choices. You can also stick to salad for lunch, limit your alcohol intake (fruity cocktails add to your calorie count quickly!) and only eat dessert once a day.

Excuse 4 | Activities – what will I do all day at sea?

How entertained you will be on a cruise ship is really up to you. Ships with the most amenities will have sports available (I’ve been on cruises with rollerblading tracks, a rock climbing wall, and an ice skating rink), a gym with weight and cardio machines, fitness classes, a spa, a casino, and a rotating entertainment schedule each night.

And like with the second Excuse about being “stuck” on the boat, if you are concerned about running out of activities to do on the ship, simply choose a cruise with more days in port and fewer (or no) days at sea. Having a new city or town to explore each day, will keep your cruise filled with a variety of activities.

Check out this view from Fort Fincastle in Nassau in the Bahamas. Close to the heart of downtown, the Fort was surprisingly empty when I visited with a bunch of friends from the cruise ship, which is so close you can spot it in this picture along with the other ships in port that day ⛴ As you can see by the directions the cannons are facing, it was initially meant to defend Nassau's harbor, but was never needed and just ended up being used as a beacon for arriving ships. I love exploring further inland than other tourists (just a 15-minute walk in this case!) and I got to see a few slices of Bahamian life on the way to the Fort. For all of my top things to do (including food and drink!) in one day in Nassau, head to the blog, link in bio. Where was the last spot you wandered off-the-beaten-path? ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ #cruiseship #instacruise #bahamas #bahamascruise #itsbetterinthebahamas #nassau #scenicview #visualsoflife #greettheoutdoors #travelblog #blogger #blogging #TBSCommunity #IamATraveler #bbctravel #guardiantravelsnaps #ForbesTravelGuide #keepexploring #openmyworld #travelmore #mytinyatlas #worlderlust #traveldiaries #getoutthere #welivetoexplore #globetrotter #worldplaces #travelstoke #travelawesome #neverstopexploring

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Being on a cruise ship is also a wonderful opportunity to kick back, relax with a good book, and read uninterrupted in peaceful surroundings. Sometimes doing nothing can be quite nice, too =)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWiXsfhFSqh/?hl=en&taken-by=travelsavvygal

Excuse 5 | Not wanting to eat with strangers

If you weren’t aware, many cruise ships as a default will seat people together in the formal dining room for dinner each night. On my last cruise, we were a table of twelve – six couples seated together, and none of us knew each other beforehand. While the idea of eating with complete strangers might seem a little strange, it can be a great way to socialize on the ship, and I had a wonderful experience with this.

But if you’re headed on a romantic getaway and would like some seclusion, just let your cruise line know. Most will be able to accommodate your request for a table on your own if they know in advance. You can also opt out of the formal dining room and simply visit the buffet for dinner. Larger cruise ships in particular tend to have expanded dining options as well, like a private table not tied to a particular dinner seating and specialty restaurants that you can reserve.

Specialty Restaurants Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_181043 (2)Specialty Restaurants Lobster Small Portion Size Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_192826

Excuse 6 | Ship will be full of <insert age group here>

Yes, there are many bad stereotypes about cruises out there, but not all of which are true. Some people are concerned about too many children on a sailing, who might make lots of noise and disturb peace and quiet. Others might be concerned about too many older cruisers, and be looking for more of a young vibe and party scene. And families might be seeking cruises that are kid-friendly, with not too many young cruisers partying all night.

Like with everything about cruise ships, it depends. Certainly a cruise during the summer or school holidays will be more likely to have families with children on board. Expensive cruises, like those to Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands tend to have more retirees who have both the time and money for the journey.

The itinerary will also be a factor, as well as the amenities on board the ship. For me, the composition of the other cruise guests has always been a mix, and even my recent July cruise that I expected to be packed with kids did not have a huge proportion of families on board.

TIP! If too many children on board the ship is a concern, seek to travel on a ship with an adult-only pool area.

Excuse 7 | Will be over budget buying extras on board

Certainly not everything is included in the price of your room aboard a cruise ship. There might be mandatory tipping, some casino losses, and the money you spend on cocktails by the pool and wine at dinner. And if you’re not paying attention, the extras can add up.

The way to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the end of your cruise when you get the room bill is to plan for it! When you first book your cruise, inquire about things like mandatory tipping and which items are included in the base price, and factor these in when budgeting for your trip.

Cocktails Alcoholic Beverage Package Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170713_215855 (2)

If there is an extra that you’ll consume a lot of – whether soda, specialty coffee drinks, or alcoholic beverages – most cruise ships offer packages that are usually a better deal than purchasing these things as you go. Planning to go on official trip excursions? There is often a discount if you book in advance of the cruise and sometimes even pre-cruise sales to reserve at the best possible price.

       READ MORE: Top Tips for Taking a Cruise

Overall, the main key is to decide what you want or need in a cruise ahead of time. Identify your budget, and then be sure the cost of the sailing plus any anticipated extras (tipping, excursions, beverages) fall within it.

There are so many options available around the world, from small to large ships and a wide range of itineraries, that you really can tailor the ship and the cruise line and the itinerary to your needs. This article with a comparison of different cruise ship sizes, including specific cruise lines for each, is a good place to start. Or check out this recent run-down of the best small cruise lines, for those looking for a more intimate overall experience.

Even if you last cruised five or ten years ago, you might be surprised about the range of options now available for those interested in taking a cruise vacation. The question is not whether or not to cruise, but simply which cruise option is right for you.

Happy sailing!

Lana

Have you ever been on a cruise? If you don’t want to go on a cruise, why not? Are you convinced after this article? Share away in the ‘Comments’ below.

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Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!

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Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

“You’re going to Detroit? Why? Isn’t in dangerous there?”

It’s a question I received again and again leading up to my long weekend in Detroit, Michigan, to spend time with friends from Milan, Italy (random, I know). Not only was I looking forward to catching up with them, but also to exploring an American city I had never visited for the first time.

And then, the inevitable follow-up question in the conversation would come: “Isn’t that where the movie 8 Mile was filmed?”

It seems that most Americans’ (and foreigners’) ideas of Detroit come from the movie 8 Mile, based in large part on rapper Eminem’s upbringing and struggles growing up in the rough neighborhoods around the road ‘8 Mile’ in Detroit, a de facto dividing line between black and white, and poor and rich communities still.

Given that the Detroit reference point for most people was a road counting out 8 miles from the center of town – and that there are lots of other “mile” roads counting out from the city before and after it – I expected the central point, or zero mile marker, to be obvious.

But let’s back up a little bit.

Kilometer Zeros Around the World

As most of the world is on the metric system, it is far more typical to see a ‘kilometer zero’ than a ‘zero mile’ marker, but there are plenty of both to be found all over (thanks, British Empire).

For anyone who’s visited the famous Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris, France, you may have come across this marker perched in the cobblestones out front like I did:

Point Zero Paris France Notre Dame DSC_0780

It was a bit of a ritual for me to seek out the point from which all roads in France are measured, especially in such a lovely locale in Paris’s center.

Although I haven’t been to Madrid, Spain yet (I know, I know), there is also a quite prominent zero kilometer marker there as well:

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Like in France, it marks the highway kilometer counts and is also the central point for the numbered roads within the city of Madrid.

While most of the ‘kilometer zero’ markers are still used and prominent today within the specific city or country where they’re located, few I expected to be as iconic and visible as the ‘zero mile’ in a city known for roads like Six Mile, Seven Mile, Eight Mile, Nine Mile, and so on.

Nine Mile Road Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan Point of Origin DSC_0969

The Quest

Surely, I thought that finding the ‘zero mile’ marker of Detroit to be a quick stop on my first day in town. I was mistaken.

I don’t know how this is possible, but no one knew where it was!

Not my friend who was born and raised in Detroit.
Not my friend who moved there recently and lives right downtown.
Not the guard at the nearby courthouse in the Penobscot Building.
Not even park patrol at Campus Martius, the supposed site itself, while standing with a dozen steps of the actual spot.

I finally located the ‘Zero Mile’ in Detroit on my third try, my final day in town, only realizing then that I had actually been standing right next to it my first day exploring.

Detroit’s Zero Mile Marker

So how long had that thing been around anyway, that nobody seems to know about it?

It took quite a bit of searching on the internet across my multiple searches to even find enough information to locate the spot in the end. And was hard to find even when I knew what to look for. Although Detroit has numbered mile roads that led me to seek a ‘Zero Mile,’ the central spot where counting began is actually known primarily as the ‘Point of Origin.’

Historically, Detroit’s current road system was laid out after an 1805 fire that decimated the city despite causing no fatalities. A local judge created a wheel-and-spoke system modeled after Washington DC’s street layout, designating where the mile count would start.

A 6-foot tall square granite pillar was erected to literally mark the spot where the surveying began, although over time it became buried and hidden, only visible at ground level by the accompanying marker, the ‘Point of Origin.’ The Detroit ‘Point of Origin’ marker used to be easier to find, looking like this:

Image: Waymarking
Image: Waymarking

The Campus Martius park had an overhaul as part of downtown renovations and revitalization, with the park being rededicated in 2004, and according to my research was the location of Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin,’

Despite having seen a picture online of what I now know to be the old ‘Zero Mile’ marker, and knowing the narrow park area contained it, I saw nothing even approaching this photo in my strolling.

So what does it look like today?

Zero Mile Marker Point of Origin Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan DSC_0255

As you can see, the marker is quite unobtrusive, with the year after the fire only vaguely visible. You’re only likely to find it if you’re specifically seeking it out!

To get there, go to Campus Martius, a prominent oval-shaped park in central Detroit. Go to the side of the fountain facing the restaurant, and there it is, in the ground, right by the entrance:

Campus Martius Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan 20171009_170554 (2)

I’m not sure why Detroit hasn’t kept the old lettering that boldly announced the presence of the ‘zero mile’ marker, Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin.’ But if you’d like, you too can visit the spot where it all began!

Have you visited any ‘zero mile’ or ‘kilometer zero’ markers either in your hometown or in your travels? Or managed to find Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin’ like I did? Tell me all about it in the Comments, I’d love to visit more!

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Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan Point of Origin

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