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.
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.
While in Botswana, safari camping was at the top of our travel list. But it wasn't without challenges, like how to stay clean.
This picture of me, taken after one day of Botswana safari camping, says it all. I'm wide-eyed and smiling but you can see the worry in my eyes. You can also see plenty of sweaty hair and a cooling, wet handkerchief draped around my neck. And that was my northern Botswana and Chobe safari experience in a nutshell: awe-inspiring, monumental, a bit overwhelming, and really, REALLY sweaty.
In so many ways, I was ill-prepared for the rigors of Botswana wilderness safaris. I had done exhaustive research. I had been camping dozens of times. Heck, I had even lived in southeast Africa before. But the heat, sand, dirt, and sweat hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't that I was unhygienic, per se. I was just out of my element in so many ways and feeling cruddy sure didn't help.
Ryan, I suspect, was absolutely in his element. But I was at the outer limits of my comfort zone. And, trust me, life does NOT begin there, no matter what the philosophers say! This is the blog post about keeping clean on camping safaris I wish I could have read before my trip.
Changi Airport's free Singapore tour is famous. But is it more trouble than it's worth? Here's what you need to know before you go.
I love layovers and I love great deals - and everyone knows it! As such, the free Singapore tour out of Changi Airport has been on my radar for a long time. During our first visit to Singapore in 2013, our lengthy overnight layover of nearly 24 hours called for a hotel and some independent time exploring. But during our recent 2018 trip, our layover was closer to 12 hours - just the right amount of time to enjoy the free Singapore tour and explore the city a bit. What could be better?
Turns out, there's a catch to this story. Or rather, there are several. We soon learned the hard way that there are a lot of important rules that are rarely mentioned. If you're planning a layover in Singapore and keen to take in the free Singapore sightseeing tour, here's what you should know before you finalize your plans.
Readers always ask us "Which country has the best food?" and "Where's the best place you've ever eaten?" Here are the most delicious and undeniably amazing meals we've had around the world.
Our meal at Black Tartan was sponsored by Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization and we thank them for their support.
Some links within this blog post are affiliate links, which means we are paid a small commission should you make a purchase .
Do you remember the time we feasted on desserts across Budapest, including some showstopping plates at a Michelin star'd restaurant? Or that time when we had an incredible meal at a near empty Parisian restaurant after a late night river cruise? We sure do! We love eating our away around the world and our list of good meals, restaurants, and experiences is endlessly long.
But what about GREAT meals and restaurants? No, not just great. How about the absolute best? People ask us all the time about the best meal we've ever had or the best restaurant we've ever visited and we always struggle to answer. I've realized it's not just that food enjoyment is subjective. For us, it's also about having our expectations surpassed, about being overjoyed to discover that a meal we anticipated would be merely satisfactory is actually sensational. Sometimes it's been an order from room service that blew us away so much that we are STILL talking about how perfectly creamy the sauce was. Other times, it's an unassuming country bistro, the last place we expected to find a cheese lover's heaven. In every case, the food isn't just good - it's surprisingly, unexpectedly fantastic.
After much debate, we've finally narrowed down our list of the best meals we've had around the world, using the criteria above. None of those incredible restaurants in Budapest or Paris made the list. They were wonderful - but we expected them to be wonderful. An element of joyous astonishment just wasn't there. We also eliminated any experiences that we enjoyed solo - this list is all about the places that Ryan and I have enjoyed together and have the same reaction to. Looking back on all our delicious destinations has been a fun trip down memory lane, but also a sad one. Should we go back? Would things be just as great a second time round or are our expectations now skewed? It's a good reminder to always savor the moment as much as the food!
I should have been on vacation but I couldn't stop thinking about the next big thing to share with you. If you've dreamed about a travel scarf with pockets, you're going to love this post!
What does summer vacation look like for a travel blogger? Probably a lot like it looks for everyone else! First, there are plenty of indulgent snack foods (hello there, poutine, ice cream, and popsicles). Next, there's a lot of laziness and lounging about in the sun, enjoying the breeze and watching the leaves ripple on the trees. There's even a good amount of time hanging out by the shore, collecting feathers and shells, and generally being thrilled to put social media on snooze.
Of course, there's also the unexpected rain - but we'll get to that in a moment!
This year, our summer vacation brought us to Craigleith Provincial Park for four nights of southern Ontario camping. Ryan and I stuffed our car with camping gear, beer, extra beach towels (but no pillows.... not our finest moment), a backpack brimming with books, magazines, and board games - and, of course, our dog, Oliver! Aside from the pillows, just one thing was missing and this one was intentional. My laptop was left at home and I couldn't have been happier!
But while I had officially banished work, I couldn't turn off the blogging side of my brain. Case in point: while camping, I was able to try out an incredible travel scarf with pockets, something I've been enamored with ever since I first heard about it. And I couldn't wait to tell you all about it! An infinity scarf with pocket features has been on my travel wish list for a while now. Originally I had visions of cuddling around the campfire in a chic scarf, looking glamorous while keeping my phone and keys safe, but Mother Nature delivered a heck of a rain storm that really let me put things to the test.
Check out our video showing just how gorgeous Ontario camping at Craigleith Provincial Park really is - on clear days and stormy ones alike! Then read on to learn more about my new favourite travel scarf (and enter to win one for yourself....)
Traveling with dogs can be a lot of fun - until you start stressing about what to pack for them. These are our essential items for canine adventure (and Oliver's too.)
We all love vacation, and we love it even more when we get to bring our best doggy friends along. Travelling with your dog is great, but it does call for some extra planning. Dog travel supplies are just as important as human supplies, after all! While looking into pet friendly accommodation and transportation may be your top priority for arranging a trip with your canine companion, there are definitely some other factors to consider. So for the sake of making everything easier and for keeping your dog safe and happy, here are five items no traveler should leave home without - and our pampered pup, Oliver, wouldn't leave home without them either!
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