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August 3, 2015

When to splash out for luxury.

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Most of the time we’re happy without luxury travel. However there are some scenarios when it’s nice to make that little step up. Here are our ideas for when it makes sense to go lux.

1. When it’s only $20 more.

There are quite a few times when it’s only a small $20-30 to step up from a 1 star tiny room with no pool to a 4 star luxury hotel with a pool and a deluxe bed and view. Cities in Asia are often good candidates for this. The Daily Mail has some other suggestions here for places you can stay in luxury for under 100GBP/night. The Independent recommends Poland as their destination for cheap luxury within Europe.

2. When it’s super hot.

When it’s 30C/90F or more, a pool is a must (unless you’re at a beach location where you can swim in the ocean). In hot cities, you’ll need to cool off once you get back from walking around in the heat. Remember you’re likely to walk a lot more when you’re traveling rather than be getting around by air-conditioned car.

3. Honeymoons and Babymoons.

If you haven’t heard the term, a “babymoon” is when people take a trip while pregnant, usually before a couple’s first child. The assumption is that travel will be harder after baby (maybe not) and that the woman deserves a treat after enduring morningsickness and before going through labor and lots of sleepless nights.

Honeymoons and babymoons are times when you’re generally wanting to focus on each other and have a relaxing hotel break, rather than be trekking around through the jungle.

If you’re going to splash out, make sure you do very thorough research so that you get what you’re paying for. You can easily do this research online yourself rather than working with a travel agent.

4. When someone else is paying.

Conference travel and other types of work travel are a great opportunity to stay in nicer hotels. Since the cost can be expensed, their isn’t a lot of real difference in the cost of a cheap hotel vs. a slightly nicer one.

5. When it’s mid week in a weekend travel destination.

This brings us back to the point of scenarios when you can get luxury for cheap. Some destinations have super high prices at the weekend but 60-70% discounts during the week. Think places like Las Vegas or beach/sun/ski resort locations that fill up on weekends and empty out on weekdays.

6. When you’ve been roughing it.

If you’ve been roughing it, e.g., you’ve been doing a hike or been on a small island with few facilities then you definitely deserve some luxury. It’ll be something to look forward to after enduring discomfort in the name of adventure.

photo credit: Bert Kaufmann via photopin cc

June 24, 2015

What Americans Need to Know To Save Money on European Travel

What Americans Need to Know To Save Money on European Travel

Let’s say you’ve got your dream job in London. You’re an official expat and all of Europe is at your doorstop. What might you need to know about how to save money on your travel planning? Here are some things that UK natives know that can trip up Americans.

1. That giant carryon bag ain’t going to fly.

America has very generous rules for what’s considered carry on luggage and size restrictions are rarely enforced as long as your bag isn’t too tall to slide into the overhead compartment. In America, if the overhead compartment door will close with your bag placed lengthwise, then you’re good.

In Europe and the rest of the world, the rules are much tighter. There will often be a weight restriction (sometimes only 10 lbs, but mostly likely 15 lb or 22lbs).

The bag sizes allowed are also often smaller.

If you’re planning on traveling carry on only in the UK and Europe (or Australia and New Zealand for that matter), plan on taking way less stuff. You might be able to fit a change of underwear and your laptop in your carry on, if you’re lucky!

Usually the carry on weight restriction only applies to your carry on bag and not your personal item (laptop bag, purse etc), but sometimes the combined weight of your carry on bag and personal item are considered.

Always check the rules of the airline you plan to fly before you book. There are a few airlines that don’t have weight restrictions but they tend to snag you by having smaller size restrictions. Argh!!

This chart will help you but restrictions change so always double check BEFORE you book. It’s sometimes better to take a full service airline and be able to travel with your carry on rather than have to check a bag (and pay for it) on a budget airline.

2. Charter airlines.

I don’t think I’ve ever looked into charter airlines in the US but charter airline flights are much more mainstream in the UK, especially to holiday resort destinations like Greece and Turkey. You can get some very cheap fun in the sun breaks with these airlines, and you’ll need them with how gloomy and depressing the weather in London is (but, hey, great weather isn’t why you’re moving to London).

The charter airline flights also tend to fly out of airports beyond just London, so you can combine a trip to say Glasgow by, for example, flying out of London but back into Glasgow. You’d then stay a couple of days in Glasgow and take the train back to London.

3. Plot out your bank holidays on your calendar.

What Americans would call Federal Holidays are called “Bank Holidays” in the UK, after the idea that the banks are closed on those days. Bank holidays will be a day off work for most people. For example, Easter Friday and Monday are bank holidays.

Since everyone and their mother will be trying to travel on bank holidays, you should book early if you want to travel these weekends. However, they are a great way to make the absolute most of your vacation days, which will typically be more generous than in the US. If you can swing it with your boss, arrange to start or finish your bank holiday weekend a day earlier/later to get the jump on everyone else trying to book flights for that weekend.

October 24, 2014

Extra fees and Long Term Travel



When you only travel a few weeks a year, it doesn’t matter so much if your budget gets blown. For example, I talked to some folks yesterday who had got stuck with a $90 cab ride because they’d accidentally booked the wrong hotel and it was a long way from where they needed to be.

When you travel for an extended period – whether that’s 3 months or a year, the extra fees and costs do start to matter, as people usually have a set daily budget.

Your challenge is to try to minimize these –

Here are some:

– Credit card booking fees e.g., charged by airlines for booking online
– ATM fees
– Currency conversion fees
– Resort fees (mandatory charges that aren’t included in your reservation rate and can turn a $50 a night hotel into a $80 a night hotel)
– Parking fees (These can be up to $35 a night in some cities)
– Rental car insurance that can turn a $10 a day reservation into a $50 a day reservation
– Ticket booking charges for plays and events
– Visa fees, for entering a country
– Airport or after midnight surcharges for cabs
– Baggage and seat selection charges
– Any food or drink consumed on a plane, in an airport or at a museum!
– Wifi charges

Image by Money Wallet under Creative Commons license.

September 30, 2014

Charming Crete: History, Hiking and Hammocks…

Greece’s largest island, Crete boasts a fascinating history, as well as diverse landscapes. It’s no wonder then that the destination is so popular among discerning tourists. While on the island, you can explore ancient ruins, trek over undulating terrain and soak up the sun on Crete’s beaches.

Although Crete attracts nearly a quarter of all Greece’s tourists, it’s still easy to escape the hustle and bustle of your fellow holidaymakers. Step off the tourist trail and you wander into charming traditional villages and quiet coves. Crete’s south coast, for instance, is less developed than the north, while the interior of the island contains the White Mountains, which are ideal for secluded drives and hikes.


Step back in time

No vacation to Crete is complete without a trip to see some of the island’s Minoan ruins. The excavated town and palace complex of Knossos is a highlight. Located three miles from Iráklio, this is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on the island and is a real spectacle to witness. You should also check out the sites of Phaistos and Agía Triáda. Meanwhile, if you want to truly immerse yourself in local history, you should take a walk around the Archaeological Museum in Iráklio. This contains an array of exhibits, including jewellry, pottery and murals from an array of Minoan sites.


Explore the island on foot

If you’re feeling energetic, there’s no better way to experience Crete than by setting off on hikes. Cretan mountains form a continuous chain that stretches from one side of the island to the other, and you’ll be spoiled for choice if you’re looking for good walking routes.Despite its ominous name, the ‘Gorge of the Dead’ at Káto Zákros makes for an amazing hike. Located in the north-east of the island, it packed with flora and fauna, and it’s also home to Minoan palace ruins.
The south-west boasts some superb walks too. There, you can tackle the precipitous White Mountains, wander through deep gorges and make your way along coastal trails that meander through peaceful beaches and fishing villages.


Soak up the sun

When you fancy a spot of relaxation, simply make your way to one of Crete’s beaches. If you’re after a tropical experience, head to Vai on the east coast. Featuring Europe’s largest natural palm grove, this is a real peach of a spot. While you’re there you can also enjoy water sports, including jet skiing, scuba diving and windsurfing.
The suntrap of Mýrtos in the south of the island is another great coastal destination. A hippie mecca in the 1970s and 1980s, this fine-pebble beach is protected from the wind and has retained its laidback, bohemian atmosphere. When it comes to places to unwind, this is the ultimate spot.

Like a small country in its own right, Crete has lots to offer as a holiday destination. Whether you’re there for a week, a fortnight or longer, you’ll be able to find plenty of activities to keep you entertained.

Images by April Weeks, Dan Taylor and Matt Sims used under creative commons license.

July 29, 2014

Your Summer European Road Trip



Booking in plenty of time.

All of Europe is on the move in summer and popular places will be booked out. If you’ve read about an amazing campground that’s got excellent reviews and is well-priced then there’s a very good chance you’ll need to book it early to avoid disappointment. Just make sure you understand their cancellation policy in case your plans change. You might not think your plans will change but stuff happens!

Consider your travel companions carefully.

Travelling with friends can be tricky business. If you’re not careful, you might not still be friends at the end of the trip. In general it’s best to travel with others who have the same level of travel experience as you do.

Practice using your kit.

If you’re planning on camping then make sure you’re familiar with your equipment. Take your tent to your local park and set it up if you need to. Also make sure you’ve used your camping stove and know how it works. This will make your life a lot less stressful when you rock up to a camping ground starving as the sun is setting. Even practicing a few times will give you the experience and confidence you need.

Get a car charger and a GPS/roaming plan or local SIM

Having internet access on a road trip makes a huge difference. You might want to go with a dedicated GPS or if you can sort out data on your phone, then you can use that as a GPS. Make sure you have a reliable way of mounting the phone to your car so that you can view it clearly while driving. Practice using Google maps for navigation so that you’re familiar with how it works. It’s pretty intuitive but not completely so. Using the mobile app is a little different from using Google maps on your computer, so you’ll need to try it out around your local area before you use it in unfamiliar places.

Get yourself covered.

Familiarize yourself with your insurance policies and what they do and don’t cover. Getting European breakdown cover is an option if you’re a little concerned about the reliability of your car. If you’re planning on doing a lot of miles and will be departing and returning to the same location then you might consider doing a short term lease on a new car rather than using your own car, especially if your car is older or a petrol guzzler.

Plan your meals

Get yourself a cooler and start thinking about the meals you’d like to have on your trip. You want to strike a balance between your budget and getting to fully experience the food culture of wherever you’re visiting. We’d much rather skimp on our accommodation budget than our food budget. That said, eating out one meal a day is usually enough. You don’t need to eat in restaurants for every meal. Plan some healthy travel snacks and make sure you have refillable water bottles to keep hydrated and alert.

Photo credit: Creative Commons, Kelvyn Skee

December 15, 2013

Places to Honeymoon in Australia



Australia is the perfect dream destination to take a honeymoon. It’s just different enough from the United States/UK that it’s exciting, but there is still a decent level of service (no roughing it or hassles with “surprise” charges or needing to haggle over every little thing)

When to go

Visiting Australia in Spring or Fall is ideal. Their winter (UK/US summer) can get a little cold. Their summer can get crazy hot and/or overrun by local tourists on summer break in December/Jan.

City Break Honeymoon in Sydney

If you’re city people, Sydney offers a great combination of fine dining opportunities, shopping, nice hotels (e.g. they have a Four Seasons), and what are probably the WORLD’s BEST city beaches i.e., Bondi and Coogee.

Another plus for Sydney is that you can get a direct flight from the US (via either LA or Dallas) so no need to take an additional domestic flight within Australia.

Melbourne – An Alternative City Destination.

Melbourne is more arty and bohemian than Sydney. It doesn’t have the city beaches that Sydney has or the glorious harbor but it has a great cafe scene and a vibrant theater scene.

The weather can be pretty unpredictable in Melbourne but some people just prefer the vibe to Sydney.

There are Melbourne people and there are Sydney people. If you like the East Coast of the US or LA, you are probably a Sydney person. If you prefer places like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle etc then you are probably a Melbourne person.

You can also fly direct to Melbourne from the US or UK (via Asia).

Beaches and Islands

Although the West Coast of Australia is beautiful, if you’re only in Australia for less than a month it probably makes sense to stick to the East Coast. The best honeymoon worthy destinations on the East Coast are found on the offshore islands. There are places that have an American level of service if that’s what you’re looking for e.g Hayman island. There are also plenty of activities available, including opportunities to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef.

If you happen to have sailing skills and your new spouse isn’t prone to seasickness, you could also look at chartering a sailing boat. That’s how fellow bloggers Wanderlusters got around the Whitsundays in luxury!

What about everywhere else?

The key to a great honeymoon is to plan well (e.g., get the weather right) and not to over do it by trying to squeeze in too many destinations. It’s supposed to be about the two of you more than planning an epic, full-on “touring” type trip :)

Australia has some other cool attractions like the wine regions, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and the island/state of Tasmania off the south coast. However since getting to Australia is already a long flight, we’d recommend picking one or two of the options given and sticking to those if you want to have a relaxing honeymoon after your wedding. We’d also recommend delaying the honeymoon until the season is right for visiting Australia if your wedding is in US/UK summer i.e., AU winter. This will also give you a bit more time to enjoy researching and planning your honeymoon vs the stress of trying to plan a wedding and a honeymoon at the same time.

photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman via photopin cc

November 21, 2013

Is Visiting NYC in Winter a Mistake?

Is Visiting NYC in Winter a Mistake?

Someone asked me the other day if going to New York in winter was a bad idea. Definitely not! While visiting in winter is not as ideal as some other months of the year, NYC is well set up for winter visitors.

1. The subway and subway stations are heated.

Before you prepay your hotel, Google map it. Use the public transition directions option, put in the hotel as the “start” location and add the location of somewhere you know you’ll want to go as the “end” location. Check that the hotel isn’t more than 3 minutes walk from the nearest subway.

Ideally you want to be less than 8 minutes walk from a second subway station. This gives you another option if there is construction at your nearest stop. Being 3 mins vs. 6-10 minutes walk from your primary subway station means you won’t need to rug up to go outside. Just make a dash for the subway entrance. Everywhere you go will be heated so it’s nice not to have to take your coat on and off or check it at shows and museums.

You don’t need a hop on/hop off bus tour. Just get a subway pass. The hop on/off bus tours involve much more waiting in the cold than the subway, and the subway is just as convenient.

2. Public atriums.

There are various public atriums around the city where you can go and eat. This means you can still grab food at a foodcart or pizza by the slice joint, should you wish to, and have somewhere to eat it. Most of the public atriums are in midtown.

3. Broadway shows.

Broadway shows are the ideal thing to do during a winter trip. Broadway is in full swing throughout the holidays, usually with just Christmas Day off, and sometimes New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Most shows are “dark” on Sunday and Monday evenings, meaning they have those nights off every week.

4. Ice skating.

You can ice skate in Bryant Park or Central Park. Bryant Park skating is open till midnight so it’s a great romantic (or family) activity to do after dinner, allowing you to take in the lights of the city.

5. It’s mostly not that cold.

New York winters are highly variable. There are often a couple of big snows and then other days are quite balmy. Eleven days out of each month have some rainfall during winter so bring an umbrella. January and February are the coldest months. In December, and especially November, it’s usually still pleasant for walking in Central Park and walking around the city generally. Even in January and February, strolling is still pleasant if you’re not walking into a wind. Bring a scarf to protect your face from the wind. Evenings strolls amongst the twinkling lights of the city are usually still enjoyable in winter.

6.You don’t have to wait for “Pay what you wish” night.

Many NYC museums have pay what you wish hours once a week. A few, like the Met and the Museum of Natural History, are always pay what you wish (although they don’t advertise this widely once you get there, See here how it says “recommended” Take advantage of this rather than wait in long lines outside other museums like MOMA on their pay what you wish nights.

7. If you are willing to brave the cold, you’ll be rewarded.

Many Broadway shows have ticket lotteries or rush tickets. Crowds will be small during winter, giving you better odds of snagging a $25 ticket via the ticket lotteries. They take place outside the theaters, usually 2 1/2 hours prior to show time. Check with the theater or Google “broadway rush tickets” or “broadway lotteries.”

8. Make reservations.

Instead of waiting outside restaurants, if it’s cold, make a reservation. Use resources like Yelp to identify places you’re interested in eating, before you leave your home town. You’ll spend less time wandering around looking for what’s good. Check online to find tours, shows and things you can do around the the city. Most line waiting in NYC is out on the sidewalk, so you’ll want to minimize this. Waiting in line, stationery, is a lot less pleasant than when you’re moving.

9. Restaurants will still be hopping.

As a general rule, NYers don’t cook. Therefore, even in winter, people will be going out to restaurants after work. The city doesn’t get sleepy just because it’s winter.

10. Expect airport disruption due to weather at least a few times during winter.

If you’re booking expensive show tickets, don’t book them for the night you arrive. Give yourself some breathing room in case you get delayed.

Mostly importantly, have a great time!!

November 14, 2013

25 Best Street Foods Under $1

25 Best Street Foods Under $1

In no particular order.

1. Mango & Sticky Rice – Thailand

mango and sticky rice

2. Dumplings – China

Chinese Dumplings

3. Pho – Cambodia and Vietnam


4. Dosa – India and Malaysia


5. Borek – Turkey


6. Steam Buns – Asia

Steam buns

7. Harira – Morocco


8. Hotteok – Seoul, Korea


9. BBQ Corn – Asia, the Americas, most countries!

BBQ corn

10. Iced Tea – Thailand

Iced tea

Also Iced Coffee with sweet milk – Thailand and Cambodia

iced coffee with sweet milk

11. Tacos – Mexico


12. Fruit Stalls – Asia


13. Satay Kebab – Singapore and other S-E Asian countries

satay kebabs

14. Pad Thai – Thailand

pad thai

15. Char-Kway-Teow – Penang, Malaysia

char kway teow

16. Banh Xeo – Vietnam

banh xeo

17. Bhelpuri – India


18. Nasi Lemak – Malaysia

nasi lemak

19. Parantha – India


20. Koshary – Egypt


21. Lassi – India and Malaysia


22. Gai Dan Jai – Hong Kong

gai dan jai

23. Falafel – Israel and Middle East


24. Fried Milk – Taiwan

fried milk

25. Arepas – Colombia and Venezuela

arepasAll the street foods listed would be under or close to US$1.
Can you add more that you have come across in your travels?

Photo credits via Photopin:

Thai iced tea
suizilla / and the sea
Chinese dumplings
Asian fruit stalls
BBQ corn
Steam Bun
Satay Kebab
Rui Ornelas
Banh xeo –
Matthieu Aubry.
Nasi Lemak
Andrew 鐘
Gai dan jai – hong kong
Mango sticky rice
Pad Thai
Pedro Alonso.
Devika_smile via
Fried Milk
Edsel L

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