The trick to never getting lost again lies in some very old travel wisdom.
It's not everyday that you get to use a piece of travel advice that's been rolling around the back of your head, well, for a few decades at least. However, on my recent trip to Honolulu, a very old travel tip popped in my head at exactly the right time and I'm glad it did.
The old advice goes something like this: When you check into a new hotel or guesthouse, pop its business card or a box of branded matches in your pocket. (This is how you know it is old advice - what inns have personalized matchbooks these days?) When you inevitably get lost on the winding streets of Barcelona or in the medina of Rabat, you don’t have to rely on your sense of direction or ability to describe a featureless property in a language that isn’t your own. You can just show said address to a taxi driver and you’ll be on your way.
This advice is repeated in Marybeth Bond's book, Gutsy Women (which is still a superb resource for female travellers, even if a few passages are now a bit out of date). In her entry, she also emphasizes that having a hotel business card is invaluable in countries like Thailand or China where you are unlikely to read the language and your English-language notes aren't going to help the local residents when you ask for assistance.
Well, I FINALLY used this advice, albeit in a modern, updated way. Here's the story.
So you want to go to Paris.... May I suggest some travel advice, recommendations, hints, tips, and unbreakable rules from someone with a life-long love affair with the City of Lights?
I've spent one month and half a lifetime in the City of Lights.
The part about one month is very true. From mid-October to mid-November, 2022, I lived in Paris. I found a wee apartment with sloped walls and wooden beams and made the city my home.
The reference to half a lifetime is a bit of hyperbole but, in its own way, equally true. I first visited the French capital in 2001 and I've made at least half a dozen visits in the years since. I'm never not wanting to be there.
I believe you could live in Paris your entire life and not discover all of its secrets. As such, I am far from an expert. On the other hand, I know Paris better than just about any travel destination and I've learned quite a lot in 20+ years of adventures. And that brings me here, in an effort to wrap up my very best Paris travel advice, suggestions, recommendations, tips, and tricks. For everyone who has said that they absolutely have to get my advice before planning their own big trip - here it is. This post is for you. I'll accept macarons in lieu of thanks.
Planning a budget trip to Hawaii? These are our favourite frugal and free things to do in Waikiki for $5 or less.
When Ryan and I took our first international trip together as a married couple, we went to Hawaii. While we had long dreamed of warm weather getaway, we hadn't exactly spent much time planning and saving for the trip. A combination of fortuitous factors meant that we snagged a last minute departure and a great hotel deal at the final hour - but we didn't have a lot of money to splurge on Hawaii's biggest temptations, like submarine rides, helicopter tours, and famous luaus. Instead, we put together a list of extremely frugal and free things to do in Waikiki, our main base. The result was an incredible week in a tropical paradise and a very affordable one as well.
My goal for this list was to limit costs at $5.00 per person or less and to concentrate primarily on the Honolulu neighbourhood of Waikiki but you will find great value at many price points across the state. Whether budget travel is a necessity for you or simply a preference, I think you'll love this affordable take on Hawaiian travel.
I've been obsessed with cozy airport sleeping pods for years. I finally got my chance to try one when I stayed at YOTEL Paris. Here's what I wish I had known in before my trip.
For as long as I can remember, I've had one very specific, very peculiar thing on my travel bucket list: To sleep in airport sleeping pods. I bet you've heard about them before. They're teeny-tiny hotel rooms designed to offer airport based travellers a place to sleep - if only for an hour or two. Some are so tiny they really do resemble a pod, or perhaps a bunk bed-turned-bunker. They're not unlike the berths you find on overnight trains, albeit with solid walls, a door you can lock, and an external ladder that leads you to your perch. Other airport sleeping pods are a bit more generous. They're like micro-rooms, offering ensuite washrooms and a few feet of floor space. In every case, they're adorably, maddeningly tiny and cute and I'm just obsessed with the concept. They're cozy, in every sense of the word.
Maybe it has something to do with all those bargain basement overnight flights I've taken throughout the years which have been me walking around terminals like a little zombie. I've just always wanted to stay in a pod and, on a recent trip to France, I finally got my opportunity. After flying overnight into Paris, I had a suitably long layover before I had to board my plane to Bordeaux. My moment had come!
Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport is home to a branch of YOTEL, a UK based hotel chain that has airport sleeping pods around the world, as well as micro-hotels in cities like New York. After so many years of anticipation, I finally had my moment - and I learned a whole lot during the process. This post is a little bit of a review of the Paris YOTEL, but more generally it's about what I wish I had known before booking any airport accommodations. I hope it helps you have sweet dreams!
Updated in 2022! Who says a day in Paris isn't enough time to see the sights? Whether your Paris layover is 3 hours or more, you can still have an incredible trip to the City of Lights.
Paris, more than any other city, is a destination meant to be savored. This is a haven for the lazy and the lackadasicle, a place where sitting and doing nothing isn't just encouraged but revered as an art form. As such, when I had the opportunity to plan a day in Paris - and just one day - for travelling friends, I was initially stumped. But then I remembered how much readers love my piece on seeing London in just three hours (yes, THREE) and how my last trip to Paris was indeed so short that I actually made notes for a future three hour Paris layover guide - and naturally promptly forgot about them, until someone else was in need.
If you dream of a sleepy Paris sojurn but your reality is a lickity-split layover, I've got you covered. Who says a day in Paris (or even much less) can't be wonderful?
5 Handy Hotel Hacks With Ironing Boards
There's an easy way to make your hotel room feel more organized and homey. Here's why your ironing board is a travel hero.
Have you seen the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? There’s a great scene in which the lovelorn Peter gets some unusual advice. Family members tell him to iron his shirts—even his t-shirts!—in order to feel better. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it takes more than sharp creases to turn Peter’s vacation around.
Though their advice didn’t help Peter, it has worked for me—albeit under less dramatic circumstances.
Whenever I’m feeling a bit rundown on the road, I know that some serious laundering and even the occasional ironing session will help put a spring in my step. Since those occasions are few and far between, I usually ignore hotel room ironing boards. However, a recent podcast had me rethinking ironing boards in general—and how handy they can be for travellers.
Here are five great reasons to set up your hotel ironing board on each and every trip, even if you’re not trying to rebound from a broken love affair!
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.
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