Not all travel gear is great. I'm spilling the tea on 5 travel products I wasted my money on. Better luck next time!
I've said it before and I"ll say it again: I LOVE packing! And travel gear and gadgets? I love them too. I can spend hours browsing in travel stores and websites. While I keep my own kit pretty minimal, I'm always picking up new items to try out and seeing how they work with my existing stuff. Of course, not everything is great but even if things aren't perfect I can usually get some use out of them. But not for the five items in this post. This is about all the gear I didn't use, the stuff that never helped me out and never made my life easier. These are five travel products I wasted my money on.
An important point of clarification before we begin. Some of these products were disappointing to me through their function and design, while others found their way on this list in part because of me - they just weren't what I needed or wanted in the end, though their function may have been just fine for another user. So take this all with a grain of salt - if you're a devoted user, I'm glad it's working out for you!
Here's how to cancel your non-refundable hotel reservation if you're affected by COVID-19 or another crisis.
So you rolled the dice and took a chance on a non-refundable hotel reservation. We see these kinds of tempting promotions all the time. They're usually $5 to $25 cheaper than their counterparts, the "book now, pay later" deal. Sometimes the price difference isn't enough to tempt you but other times the savings really add up so you throw caution to the wind and click "pay now!" After all, it's just not feasible that you'd *ever* miss your trip, right?
No one expects to be caught up in a global pandemic like COVID-19. Or to get stuck a thousand miles away by a hurricane or blizzard. Who anticipates that their surgical appointment will suddenly be moved up? And hey, it's not like anyone expected the groom to runaway with the bridesmaid a week before the wedding, did they? Yet here you are. Hotel booked and paid for. And you're not going to be there. Gotta kiss that money goodbye, right? Your coronavirus hotel booking is a disaster, is it not? Maybe not.
This is my totally-not-guaranteed-but-not-exactly-hopeless-either guide to finding a financial solution when you've booked a non-refundable hotel reservation you need to bail on.
When planes and plans are grounded, it's time for travel lovers to help others - and themselves.
On March 12, 2020, I told friends that it felt like a tiny part of me had died.
After weeks of distressing reports about the spread of COVID-19 - and an equal amount of time whereby I stoutly resolved to keep calm and carry on - the writing was on the wall. There was clearly no way that I would be able to take a long-hoped for trip to Paris in April.
This wasn't just any trip. This was THE trip. I was turning 40 and I was moving to Paris - solo! - for a month, to write and eat and dream. Bookended by a layover in London and a trip to the United States, it was due to be my longest solo adventure since I was 24 years old. Until, of course, it wasn't. I say I made the decision not to go, but in reality the decision was made for me. Within 24 hours of my choice to withdraw, borders were closing, the news cycle went into overdrive, and I hunkered down into my home, happily choosing social distancing for everyone's benefit.
I felt like a tiny part of me had died. And I was filled with shame.
What right did I have to be crying (and let me tell you, there was crying) over missed macarons and museums when people were dying, when people's entire livelihoods were evaporating in front of them? I thought of the people of Italy, an entire nation quarantined, finding solace in community song, joining their voices together from the safe distance of apartment balconies to comfort one another in their grief. What right did I have to feel sad?
But my online community disagreed. Several people reached out to say that it's both normal and expected to feel sorrow for those in need and to also be sad that someone you really wanted did not work out. That it's okay to feel blue when your dream dies, even if it was a dream built on pretty, dainty, cozy things, and you can still have tremendous empathy for those who are also suffering in their own way. Pandemic self-care for travel lovers can acknowledge and incorporate both.
Does every good travel story start with a quest?
"Are you open?" It was nearly three in the afternoon, far too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. But I was starving. Starving! And the small, unassuming Italian restaurant which I had passed earlier in the day suddenly felt like just the ticket.
The older waitress shook her head emphatically from side to side. I pushed aside a micro-flash of confusion then nimbly skipped over the threshold. This was Bulgaria, where shaking your head "no" is actually a gesture for "yes", and catching on was easier said than done. Once inside, I was greeted by the mouthwatering smell of cinnamon, so bright and vibrant that I could only conclude that the restaurant was using its pizza ovens to make baked goods during their downtime.
The staff of Sofia's Restaurant Balito (ul. "Pozitano" 50, 1303 Pette Kyosheta) laughed when I inquired about what they were baking. I was smelling an air freshener! Perhaps I was more hungry than I realized or Bulgaria must make the best commercial scents in the world. Either way, I couldn't shake my craving, even after several courses of savory Italian delicacies. I knew I had to find the best apple pie in Sofia.
Planning a two week trip to Europe? Here are three potential itineraries to consider.
I've never seen a European itinerary I didn't like. People ask me all the time what I think of their plans to see certain cities and, inevitably, I always convey my hearty approval. And whenever I hear any kind of "if only" scenario, I always find a solution. "If only" you could go to Krakow? You can - because I know all about the overnight trains that will get you there while you sleep. "If only" you could afford to go to Stockholm? Pull up a chair, because I'm about to outline every freebie the city has to offer.
But when I'm asked what someone should do with two weeks in Europe, I draw a blank. What an impossible scenario! How do you squeeze dozens of countries and hundreds of cities into two weeks? Alas, the two week scenario is a common one. Honeymoons, graduation celebrations, retirement splurges, and long overdue vacations all come up when chatting about how to spend two weeks in Europe.
I've pondered this situation at length and I think I have three realistic, affordable, manageable approaches for how to spend two weeks in Europe. They aren't exact itineraries but rather philosophical approaches that any traveler can mold to their own precise interests and travel style.
On the banks of the Chobe River, an elephant mourning ritual shows that the cycle of life and death has never been so raw.
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