Traveling is not without its hiccups, but many of them are quite avoidable. Here are a few tips to consider when roaming:
Be informed on all requirements for travel– Think a visa is all the documentation you might need to consider for your trip? There are actually several other potential requirements for travel that may slip your attention. These can range from mandatory vaccines with accompanying documents to minimum cash requirements for entry to particular countries. Some countries, like Cuba, even require you to have some form of travel insurance to be allowed entry. So to avoid anything killing your travel buzz upon arrival at your destination, ensure you are fully prepared for all requirements that their immigration might have. This can be done by simply visiting the immigration website of your particular destination or paying a visit to their local embassy or consulate to get all the necessary details.
Don’t over pack– Packing your fabulously green-eye worthy 6 inch heels for your upcoming trip to see Machu Picchu just in case you need it may turn out to be a bit of an overkill. It is essential in travel to pack only what you know you will need, especially if you are going somewhere that you will have to figure out how to get around on your own. A good tip is to plan your outfits ahead of time for the days you will be traveling so you avoid packing “options” that create unnecessary weight for you to lug around in transit. It really worsens your jet lag if you are also sore the following day from pulling heavy suitcases and hand luggage through train/bus stations and large airports. Ease of movement is a virtue during travel.
Keep all documents in a central location– Another issue that can really cause unnecessary stress during travel is not being able to conveniently locate particular necessary documents. It makes things much simpler to have a single folder or envelope where all your travel paperwork is kept. This helps for easier organization during travel and removes unnecessary worry in locating documents. It also lessens the likelihood of losing any important papers during the journey.
Bring a meal for the journey– A hungry Roaman is an angry Roaman and unfortunately not all flights offer meal service, so bringing a meal for the trip is a good solution to have you happy and energized upon arrival to your destination. It’s no secret either that airports can be unbelievably expensive, so bringing your own food can help to avoid any unnecessary spending. This is a good way to stretch your travel budget and you will end up having more money for activities or even buying souvenirs on your travels. Ensure of course that your meal is not excessively liquid, such as soups or chowders, as airport security is unlikely to allow you to take it with you on the flight.
Dress for the occasion– I know, I know, looking fabulous during your trip is part of the fun, especially for my Jamaican people; but the way you dress can really complicate the experience of traveling. It is best to avoid excessive jewellery, belts or complicated shoes (e.g. strappy gladiators) when going through airports. With airport security being the way it is today, these items are more of a hindrance than an accessory during travel since you will end up having to remove them anyway. Try to dress comfortably with shoes that are easily removed and replaced. This makes security check go quicker and it is far less of a hassle when you have to put yourself back together once you are cleared. The same principle applies to sightseeing; doing a 3 hour tour of Berlin in high heels, for example, is certain to put a damper on the experience.
Take advantage of long layovers– One of the pitfalls of traveling, especially as it concerns cheap travel deals, is the lengthy wait during some connecting flights. If possible, turn this potentially boring and tedious wait into a plus for your travels by checking for any interesting places to visit during the layover that are close to the airport. This is a way to really maximize your travel experience and you actually get more bang for your buck by including layover cities into your sightseeing schedule.
Keep yourself entertained– Traveling is meant to be fun and exciting so try to keep this vibe going as best as possible throughout the journey. To avoid boredom on long flights, plan ahead by creating a playlist of your favourite songs to listen to on the flight, or compile a few movies you’d like to watch (planes never play anything I really want to see). Also, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your neighbour on the plane; I’ve had many fun experiences connecting with people on long flights and on overnighters at the airport. This will definitely make your overall experience during the trip more positive and allow you to arrive at your destination in that happy vacation mood.
Do as the Roamans do– It can be a little daunting traveling to a country where no one speaks your language or where their customs are dramatically different from your own. Try doing some prior research on your destination and get to know the nuances of that particular culture (this is especially good for avoiding potentially awkward situations and offensive acts). It is also very helpful to bring with you a dictionary or travel book specific to your destination to avoid any hiccups that a language barrier might cause. An awesome alternative to books is to download a free translation app (e.g. Google Translate) that can readily provide you with useful translated phrases as you need them.
Start the visit by relaxing– After arriving, try to make your first activity the most relaxing one of the trip. Overexerting yourself after hours in transit, pulling luggage and getting yourself settled at your hotel/hostel will really take its toll and your body will definitely pay for it the following day. A great start to your trip would be to schedule a relaxing activity such as lounging somewhere serene, whether a park, poolside, beach or garden. Even sitting down to a sumptuous meal followed by a long nap is a good way to re-energize yourself for all the sightseeing and various activities to come. Relaxing first will also allow your body to recover much quicker from any jet lag you may be experiencing after arrival.
Stay oriented– So you turn up to your destination and realize you have no clue what is important to see or how to even get around. A quick visit to the local tourist office or the information desk at the airport of your destination is a good solution to this problem. These are good options for locating anything from maps of the town to bus or tram schedules, so this is a nice first stop upon arrival. Free brochures of your destination are also often provided at these offices and they make nice keep sakes from your trip.
Avoid overspending– Nothing kills your buzz faster, after returning home, than looking at your bank balance and experiencing instant depression because you realize you’ve overspent; but there are ways to really stretch how far your money goes while traveling. Two things that really worked for me were touring pedestrian style and using local supermarkets to stretch my food budget. I know walking is never a first choice for many, but it really is a wonderfully cheap way to explore your destination, especially if the town you’re visiting is pedestrian friendly. You also get to see so much more of the location while saving on fare for transportation (and burning calories to boot). Using supermarkets on my travels saves me from having to go to restaurants for all my daily meals. A good formula I’ve used is to book a hotel or hostel that includes at least a free breakfast, go to the supermarket to buy items to make a cheap lunch, and then visit a local eatery for dinner. This way you don’t blow through a lot of your money by going to restaurants for all meals, and supermarkets are a great option if you’re traveling in a group and want to dine picnic style with your friends.
Try these souvenir ideas– Buying souvenirs can turn into quite the costly venture and can be especially problematic after you’ve just spent most of your money on different activities during your trip. Some fairly affordable options to take back for friends and family include the following:
Spices– This is an especially great idea for visits to places that specialize in particular spices such as countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. A good tip is to buy a fair amount of spices that you can then split up among your loved ones when you return home.
Candy/Snacks– Most countries have some form of candies or snacks that are typical to them and they make excellent low cost souvenirs to take home. For example gizzadas, grater cakes and coconut/peanut drops are wonderful sweet snacks to bring back from your visit to Jamaica. Chocolate is a good idea if you’re in Switzerland and my Mexican friend Nancy introduced me to cajeta, which is a yummy caramel candy typical to Mexico.
Coins– Why not put your change to good use? It’s very rare that you get to spend every last cent of your foreign currency on your travels, so using your left over coins as souvenirs is a convenient way to share memorabilia from your trip with your friends and family.
Keychains– These are another inexpensive option for souvenirs to take home. I’ve gotten Eiffel Tower keychains in Paris for as low as 2.50 euro for 10, so give these a try.
Hey Roamans! So I thought I would kick-start my travel blog by taking a stroll down memory lane to highlight the ten most memorable destinations that I have visited thus far. If it isn’t obvious already, I love to travel, and all the destinations I’ve visited have stayed with me in some way or another, however, there are a few which stood out a little more than others. Of course memorable doesn’t always mean good, but luckily most of my travel experiences so far have been fun-filled and have generally left me yearning for a do-over. In compiling my list I also thought about places I think may deserve a second chance despite sour experiences. So without further ado, here we go:
Milan, Italy– Now according to my other half this is the city of which we do not speak (let’s just say he didn’t quite take to the city due to a series of unfortunate events). However I think Milan is quite lovely, especially for all the fashionistas out there, it’s like shopping heaven. Exciting sites to see include Sforza Castle and La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which happens to be right next to another famous site, Il Duomo.
Orleans, France– This city became a second home for me when I lived and worked in France for the first time. France is such a beautiful country, but I believe many people tend to be a little too obsessed with the concept of Paris and ignore the very quaint countryside areas that I find to be the real gems of France. Orleans is one of these little gems. There are beautiful castles that can be found on the outskirts of the city centre, amazing markets offering fresh produce and awesome wine from the Loire Valley, scenic rivers and vast woodlands that just make you feel like you’re on the set of an old Elizabethan movie. My best memories of Orleans were during the Christmas season (I LOVE Christmas). There are usually lights draped everywhere and a lovely Christmas market where you can enjoy tasty treats like vin chaud (mulled wine) and one of my favourite French dishes, tartiflette (yummm!). For the history and culture buffs, Orleans offers places like the Musée des beaux-arts d’Orléans and an annual Joan of Arc Festival which goes on from the end of April to the first week of May usually. Orleans is also just a 45 minute train ride away from Paris, so if you feel like taking a quick day trip away from the city of lights, give this quaint town a try.
Lake Como, Italy– This is such a beautiful and idyllic looking town in Italy, and I initially decided to go there for the same reason everyone decides to go to Lake Como, to see George Clooney’s house. Turns out there were a lot more beautiful things to see than just George’s house. Take a boat ride around the beautiful lake or view the interesting artistic statues around the town. I’m a sucker for scenic places and Lake Como was definitely one to amaze the eyes. If you’re ever in Italy this town is definitely day trip worthy.
La Dordogne & L’Occitanie regions, France– Honestly, thus far, these are some of the most beautiful regions I have seen in France. It is quite a marked difference from what one sees in Paris but definitely in a good way. I was living in a small town called Excideuil at the time and so I really got to see a lot of what these regions had to offer. There are amazing caves to explore, historic sites to see, great chateaus and vineyards for all the wine lovers like myself (may I recommend Monbazillac, you won’t regret it). Some of the awesome places I visited include Beynac, Rocamadour, Padirac, Montignac, Bergerac & Perigueux.
Berlin, Germany– I only got to spend two days in this city unfortunately, but I got to see quite a lot during that time thanks to a free city tour which really hit all the major sites that every tourist needs to see while in Berlin. Berlin was a little of a sour experience for me as people were being a little grumpy and callous on the street and this made things a little frustrating for me and my travel partners especially as it concerned help with directions when trying to get around. Otherwise, I did get to see a lot of the history behind the city and I have to say it is quite worth the trip. I think Berlin is definitely one for the second chance list; maybe people were just grumpy because it was so cold at the time.
Athens, Greece– Have you ever read a book, that describes a place or culture, and think “I neeeeed to visit this place.”? Well Greece was that place for me since childhood. For some odd and inexplicable reason I loved Greek mythology as a child (who does that?), and I always dreamt of seeing the temples of the gods and the famous Parthenon. Of course it didn’t help that I later went on to study Literature, as I developed a whole new obsession about seeing the ruins of old amphitheatres where many historic Greek plays were presented. So fast forward to the day I finally get to see this exotic and intriguing country. There I was fidgeting with excitement as the plane landed. I walked out of the airport and took a big whiff of the crisp, cold night air with my travel companions in tow. As we skipped down the street on our way to our destination it began to snow and we were in winter wonderland heaven until the next morning when I realized something was blocking the sun from my window. What could this be? Snow! Yes, snow taller than my 5ft 7” frame. So this whole snow storm deal really messed with all the sight-seeing we had planned for Athens but I was determined to at least see some of the places I read about before. Well unfortunately determination doesn’t always lead to success. I got to see the Acropolis from afar and also the Temple of Olympian Zeus but not much else because evil snow decided my dreams weren’t important (at least I got to try moussaka). Needless to say Athens is one for the do-over list, not just because I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted, but also because my sister accidentally broke my flash drive with most of the pics I took while there (luck of the bloody Irish I have I tell you). I was lucky enough though to experience the nightlife in Athens (somehow along the way we had a snow-fight in a bar), and thanks to the wonder that is Facebook not all was lost with the flash drive. So here are “some” pics of my time in Athens…
Bordeaux, France– This is another lovely city I really enjoyed in France, and is definitely on my do-over list. The city has quite a magical and entrancing feel when you roam through it. The lights are alluring, the people are hospitable and the nightlife is great. One of my favourite attributes is how pedestrian friendly the city is. You can feel free to use the tram which runs throughout the city centre, but when I travel I really prefer to walk and experience all the little nooks one is more likely to encounter on foot. There is also a lovely biannual carnival called La Foire aux Plaisirs with rides, games to be played and yummy Nutella crepes and churros to be had. Needless to say I was quite in love with this city and plan to return, especially for the wine tours I didn’t get a chance to do while visiting.
Paris, France– It would be impossible to compile this list without including the gorgeous city of lights; a city so beautiful at night it can make you feel in love even when you’re single. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Paris quite a few times now and I can tell you, it never gets old. I always look at the Eiffel Tower like it’s the first time; I’ve walked on the Champs Elysees again and again just to see the glamorous street and stores I had seen many times before. Paris definitely has a permanent spot on my do-over list, especially since now I have acquired extended family there.
Venice, Italy– Trust me when I say this is one for the bucket list if you haven’t already been. I had seen so many pictures of this place but WOW, I was so in love the very moment I saw it. Venice is another one of those European cities that just fills your heart with joy and wonder when you enter it. The canals filled with tourists enjoying their gondola rides is quite the beautiful sight and the best gelato I had while in Italy was in Venice. Add this one to your roaming list for sure.
Rome, Italy– By now if you haven’t realized, Italy has a special place in my heart and no place therein do I love more than I do Rome. I literally walked around this entire city to visit all the amazing sites I could, I even walked to the Vatican (can you tell I like walking?). Must see sites include the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum. Rome will always deserve another roam for me.
So what have I learnt from compiling this list of the most memorable destinations I’ve visited? Well for one, my camera choices back then were questionable and secondly, I realize that I have seen so much yet have barely scratched the surface of all the amazing wonders this world has to offer. I am so anxious to capture more of the world’s beauty (with much better camera quality) and to find more adventures ahead to document. Keep roaming guys!