Asia

Experience Indonesia: 10 Awesome Places You Need to See

Southeast Asia is an exciting part of the world. If you love beaches, cultural heritage sites, and gastronomic experience, then there’s no place better for your next vacation.

Experience Indonesia
Experience Indonesia – 10 Places You Must Visit in Indonesia

One of our favorite Southeast Asian countries is Indonesia. We could count the reasons we adore this quiet country, but instead, we’re choosing to take you around ten awesome places because that’s a more believable way to make you want to visit Indonesia.

If you’re ready to be amazed, come with us as we walk you through our ten favorite places in Indonesia.

Bali

Bali, Indonesia
Bali, Indonesia

Bali remains to be one of the most visited islands in Indonesia. It’s a haven for backpackers, vegans, surfers, and travelers looking for something that would stimulate their senses.

This island is everything but boring.

A lively party scene with plenty of options depending on your taste, beach clubs where you can spend the entire afternoon chilling with your friends, and yoga centers for yogis who advocate for a healthier lifestyle — all these you can experience in this heaven of a place.

Gili Islands

Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan

If you love Bali, we’re 100% sure you will also love Gili Islands.

It’s less crowded but with equally incredible beaches. Some may even argue that the beaches in this tropical archipelago are even better than those in Bali.

But of course, the judgment is beyond us. We both love the two islands, that’s for sure!

Besides beautiful shores for lounging, you can also experience booze cruises where you can unleash the party animal in you. Spend a night bar-hopping with friends, and then spend the next day relaxing in your villa while watching the sun’s splendid setting.

Mount Bromo, East Java

Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia

As you may know, Indonesia is blessed with plenty of active volcanoes. Despite that fact, these mountains are still a top attraction in Indonesia because of their immeasurable charm.

One of the more popular ones is Mount Bromo in East Java.

Tour agencies often offer 3-day hikes to this mountain where you can experience the Tenggrenese culture up close.

There are plenty of hotels where you can check-in during your stay here. You won’t have to worry about bringing a tent.

All you need to bring is a pair of good walking shoes and hiking clothes to help you survive the trail.

Lake Toba

Lake Toba, Indonesia
Lake Toba, Indonesia

Another gorgeous, natural product of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia is the beautiful Lake Toba. It’s the largest volcanic lake in the world.

In fact, it’s so large an entire island called the Samosir sits right in the middle of the lake.

What’s more interesting about this lake is that people mistake it as an ocean because it looks like one. Not to mention the views are immaculate once you’ve reached the top.

Its enormous size terrifies us of the idea that it is an actual active volcano. But just by looking at its beauty eases the fear.

Lombok

Lombok, Indonesia
Lombok, Indonesia

Just a ferry ride away from Bali, Lombok is the tamed version of the famous island.

While there are also party scenes in Lombok, they are usually more controlled because it’s a Muslim island. This means that rules are stricter on this side.

Aside from parties, Lombok is also a perfect getaway for travelers who love nature. Tiu Kelep Waterfalls is a must-see!

To be in the middle of all the trees, shrubs, and whatnots while gazing at the majestic flow of water from the mountain is something we’d pay to experience over and over.

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Wildlife is bountiful on this side of the world. The closest encounter we could have with a dragon is well, visiting the Komodo National Park. That’s because this is where Komodo dragons are protected.

While Komodos aren’t really dragons, they still look terrifying but adorable at the same time. But nope, we’re not allowed to go near them no matter how cute they seem to you.

Gigantic lizards like the Komodo are dangerous. So keeping your distance is advisable. Just be thankful you get to see them at least once in your life.

Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

If you like fun facts, a trip to Yogyakarta will give you plenty of those, especially when you visit historical sites like the Borobudur and the Prambanan temples.

These cultural heritage spots in Java will stir your curiosity, especially when you discover how these structures were built.

Massive temples like these two represent the rich history of Indonesia, including that of different religious backgrounds.

Yogyakarta is also a haven for arts. From fine arts to performing arts, a variety of options is available for every tourist.

Torajaland

Torajaland, also known as the Land of the Heavenly Kings, is a mystic island that will stir your thirst for the unusual.

This may not be the first name that comes to mind when you say Indonesia, but it’s definitely worth visiting. Moreso, when you want a taste of the mountain living with impressive rice fields and limestone peaks.

Because of its unusual geographic location, Torajaland has become a breeding ground for unique species. In fact, 62 of these species can only be found on this island and nowhere else. That’s how special Torajaland is.

Raja Ampat, West Papau

Raja Ampat, West Papau, Indonesia
Raja Ampat, West Papau, Indonesia

In our entire traveling escapades, the waters of Raja Ampat is probably the clearest we have seen.

It has the kind of blue that makes you feel at peace knowing you are on an island that cares about the environment.

Its beauty is something that will leave you speechless. It’s like not a word can describe how it is to be surrounded by such a beautiful display of nature.

This place is paradise. Period.

Dieng Plateau

Dieng Plateau is the unspoiled part of Indonesia where you can genuinely experience almost empty national parks, explore off the beaten path treks, and see the sunset above the clouds.

Apart from that, the amazing perspective you can get atop the mountain will make your stay here even more worthwhile. You can also end your day bathing at one of their hot springs.

This is the perfect way to cap off a day of exploration.

Conclusion

Did our list tire or inspired you? If we inspired you to see Indonesia, you might also take it to the extremes and visit Anyer, Indonesia – another gem waiting to be discovered.

We hope you enjoyed our little virtual tour. Guess after all the beautiful things we have to say about each of the places in our Indonesia list; it’s only fitting to say, see you on that island soon!

Travel Tips

How to Eat in a Hotel Room for a Week

Several years ago, I labelled myself a “dance mom”. Both of my daughters wanted to try competitive dance. This meant our springs and summers were filled with dance competitions and conventions, and that we were living for 3-7 days out of a hotel room. There often wasn’t enough time – or energy – for us to go out to eat in a restaurant. It didn’t matter whether we were in Orlando for the weekend or Myrtle Beach for a whole week. Learning to eat in a hotel room became very important, very quickly!

How to Eat in a Hotel Room for a Week

To make things harder, the schedule at these events was never accurate and never on time. The girls were required to be in the audience to watch their teammates’ dances when they themselves weren’t on-stage. There was little time to go out for a nice meal, and sometimes even a quick run to Wendy’s was more than we could manage.

By the time we made it to “Nationals” – a summer event that lasts for an entire week – I felt I had this down. I was a pro dance mom. Not in the sense that I made the best buns or excelled at applying fake lashes on a 10-year-old. But I could live and eat from a hotel room like a pro.

The goal here wasn’t to eat gourmet meals each night. It was to eat something fairly healthy (not pizza) and to stay within a reasonable budget (no room service).

Make sure there’s a mini-fridge and microwave

The best scenario for something like this is obviously a full kitchen – full-size stove, full-size fridge, microwave, and maybe even a dishwasher. We got this lucky a couple of times. But more often, the hotels where we had to stay didn’t offer a full kitchen.

At a minimum, you need two things to eat in your hotel room for a week: a microwave and a refrigerator. So I always tried to get a room with at least a mini-fridge and microwave. Twice this wasn’t available and we had to use a lobby microwave (once) and bring our own portable microwave (once). We managed.

If you want to purchase a small microwave, Amazon has some highly-rated choices here:


Commercial Chef Countertop Microwave Oven, 0.6 Cu. Ft, Black
Check Price


SMETA Small Microwave Countertop Microwave Oven Compact 0.7 Cu. Ft/700W for RV Dorm, 10 Power Levels, Black Smallest Portable Microwave, Child Safety Lock
Check Price

As long as you have these two things, you can follow the rest of my list.

Pre-cook and freeze rice

For our week in Myrtle Beach, SC for Nationals, I had to bring a microwave and we only had a mini-fridge…for a whole week. I planned 5 meals that we could eat in the room, and figured the other two nights we would get take-out or, time permitting, actually eat at a restaurant.

Each of those meals needed to be one that could be cooked in a crock pot. To add starch and volume to the meal, I planned to serve each one over white rice. If you want more variety you could do the same with brown rice, pasta, or probably quinoa.

Then I separated the rice into 5 1-gallon bags and froze them.

Bring a crock pot and frozen dump meals

Next, I premade some meals that could be added to a crock pot and cooked in the room. I tried to find crock pot meals that didn’t require any precooking, because I felt that might not stay as fresh.

One example I like is salsa chicken – boneless chicken breasts, salsa, a can of cream of chicken soup, and taco mix. I dumped all the ingredients into a 1-gallon freezer bag, then stuck it in the freezer until time to leave. Note that the recipe calls for sour cream, but that’s just as a serving suggestion; it doesn’t go into the crock pot. So if I had time to run to the store while I was there, I could get some, but we could also eat it without the sour cream.

I found four other recipes that could be done the same – made ahead in a bag and frozen.

The other important thing here is to bring slow cooker liners! These are bags specially made for use in a slow cooker. When I was ready to cook a meal (in the morning), I simply moved the ingredients from the zip-loc bag to the slow cooker with the liner already in place. The liner is important because it makes clean up so much easier, especially if you don’t have a large sink for cleaning the crockery.

Here are two sizes of crock pots that you might find useful:


Crock-Pot 2-QT Round Manual Slow Cooker, Black (SCR200-B)
Check Price


Crock-Pot 3-Quart Round Manual Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel and Black – SCR300-SS
Check Price

Use a cooler

Before hitting the road, I packed all the frozen bags of rice and all the frozen dump meals into a large cooler. It was a 10-hour drive from our home, so I knew it would be somewhere between frozen and 100% thawed once I arrived. The room only had a mini-fridge, so I planned to use a combination of the fridge and the cooler for storing food for the week.

To do this, I brought extra gallon-sized zipper bags that I could fill with ice from the ice machine. That way the food wasn’t subject to getting wet when the ice melted, but everything stayed cold enough.

Pack other food that doesn’t need refrigerating

For breakfast and lunch and snacks, I tried to include as much food that didn’t need refrigerating as I could. That way it could be stored elsewhere in the room and wouldn’t go bad. I included cereal and pop tarts for breakfast, and I knew I could get small containers of milk from the hotel store in the lobby.

Lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftovers from the night before, or quesadillas that I made on a quesadilla maker I also brought along. The tortillas don’t need to be kept in the fridge, only the cheese does, and we’re all fine eating them plain for lunch or a snack.

Granola bars and fruit are great snacks to bring along that provide lots of energy for girls who are dancing all day long – and moms that are sitting in the audience all day long, too.

During the week, we managed to carve out one evening at a Mexican restaurant, and another at a pizza place, which allowed us to enjoy the Myrtle Beach scene and scenery, and to feel like we had something a little special. We also picked up snacks a couple of times, including ice cream and of course, salt water taffy.

Have you ever needed to do something similar? I think many dance moms, cheer moms, baseball moms, and probably even some dads 😉 get practiced at eating on the road. If you have your own tips, I would love to hear them. Drop a comment below!

Travel Tips

When Will We Be Ready to Travel Again?

Let’s face it. The past few months have been rough on all of us. First there was the quarantine. Then there was the terrible murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, some of which turned to riots.

When Will We Be Ready to Travel Again?

They say bad things come in threes, so what terrible thing is going to happen next?

Fortunately, that saying about threes is complete rubbish. We all want life to get back to some semblance of normal. But I think nowhere is this more apparent than in those of us who love to travel.

Or maybe that’s just my bias.

But it has me asking, when will we be ready to start traveling again?

Step 1 – Short Day Trips

Honestly, I think the first step is already here. Many of us are venturing out of our homes again, dining in restaurants – even if it’s at 25-75% capacity. We’re shopping again. That’s the first step, just getting back out there.

And for many of us, day trips feel perfectly fine now. They do for me. I’m not worried about packing my family into our car, and driving a few hours away to spend time enjoying an activity we love. Sure, some activities are better suited than others right now; I’ll go to the beach or on a hike, but I wouldn’t go to a theme park, even with social distancing measures in place.

But even this is a significant change from late March, where “traveling” meant a walk to the mailbox, or standing in line hoping to buy toilet paper.

Step 2 – Overnight Road Trips

Although my family is not quite ready for a hotel just yet, I think this will be the next step for travelers.

A road trip is inherently safer in terms of exposure to germs, compared to airline travel. That’s because we’re likely traveling with family or close friends, not an airplane full of strangers. We can put down the windows for fresh air, rather than just recirculating germs for hours straight.

The risks are definitely less, but it’s the stops that still worry me. Rest area breaks and overnight hotel stays would be my biggest concerns. But restroom breaks can be mitigated by proper handwashing, and overnight stays could be done by camping or staying with friends and family along your route, if possible. There’s still some exposure to people outside your household, but it’s a lot less than even you would find if staying in a hotel.

What does this mean for my family? Probably drives to see the grandparents, assuming they are ready to have us visit. If not, then maybe we will rent an RV and go somewhere interesting.

Step 3 – Domestic Airline Travel

I think going from step 2 to step 3 is going to be a much bigger jump. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have a tendency to catch a little cold almost every time I fly somewhere. I don’t care how many Airborne gummies I munch, or how much hand sanitizer I use, I’m just going to pick up some small illness.

Then again, I’ve never flown with a mask. Maybe that helps. I certainly don’t know – we as humanity can’t even agree if we should wear masks while running errands!

But domestic travel generally has three advantages over flying internationally: First, the duration of your flight is shorter, meaning less exposure to other people. Second, you don’t need to clear customs, which saves you another point where you may have to spend a longer amount of time in close proximity to others. And third, presumably, you’re traveling with fewer people who live further away and may be carrying strains of any illness that you haven’t already built an immunity to.

I think, unless there’s a big second wave, that we’ll see this pick back up before the end of 2020. If nothing else, a lot of people are just tired of staying at home. They’d rather take a chance – while taking precautions of course – in order to keep living their lives. We’re not in denial, but we’re tired of feeling trapped by this virus.

Step 4 – International / Overseas Travel

This is the trickiest one, of course. Many countries have closed their borders, making international travel impossible. But as they slowly reopen them, I still see many professional travel bloggers and writers saying they don’t intend to travel internationally for several months at least.

And to me, this means “in several months I’ll review my thoughts”, because none of us really knows how things will have changed before the end of the year. I doubt anyone things that they’ll travel in, say, November because come hell or high water, they’re by golly going to Indonesia.

Personally, I’m also concerned about spending money to travel and then finding that I can’t do certain things I want because of restrictions. For example, say I could get to some particular country, but the sights to see are closed or limited and I don’t get to go inside. Or I can’t enjoy local cuisine because restaurants are restricted. I’d rather wait awhile and make sure I can enjoy my next vacation 100%. Know what I mean?

What About You?

So where do you currently fall on this spectrum? Are you ready to start traveling in any capacity?

What do you think it will take to make you feel comfortable traveling again? Do you want the number of cases? Would you want to wait until there’s a vaccine? Let us know your thoughts by dropping a comment below.

And until then, stay safe and stay healthy!

Travel Tips

Advice from a Teen: How to Have an Enjoyable Family Vacation

Note: Our 15-year-old contributed this family vacation blog post after a suggestion from her dad. It’s a fun and unique perspective to see what your kids are thinking about a topic like this!

If you are anything like me, a family vacation seems like it can be enjoyable, but being stuck with your family for an extended period of time can become a little, well, traumatic. Of course, we all want a stress-free vacation, but it may not be that easy at all times.

Especially in my family of five.

Advice from a Teen: How to Have an Enjoyable Family Vacation

However, there are many ways and tactics to avoid a quarrel. Coming from a stubborn fifteen-year-old, there are plenty of things that can make it easier to get along with my family.

A Family Vacation is All About Compromise

Yes, I know you are thinking “duh” because I it sounds like such a simple concept, but compromising is a tool that would have been helpful on many occasions for me.

There is this bit in my family where us kids will often argue over who is in the back seat and who rides shot gun, you know, because it is such an important thing. Little fights like this can stress everyone out and it can lead to an even worse issue, which of course you do not want.

In this situation, compromising would have been the perfect solution, where the middle ground would have been just dividing the time between us. If you use and apply this strategy when things start to get a little tense, I can assure you it will be a big helper!

All Opinions Count

Here is a scenario: You have finally arrived at your destination and you and your family are starving, so you need to find a place to eat. As parents, you decide that you want seafood, and you have already found a destination. You think everything is working perfectly until you tell the kids. Suddenly you are partaking in a squabble about how the youngest does not feel up to sea food. Yeah, that did not go as well as you planned.

Now this was an oddly specific scenario, one which you might not have experienced, but you have probably gone through something like it. When making simple decisions on your vacation, I personally believe it is vital that all opinions and considered in the decision making. Now, I am not saying your kids get to decide everything that happens, but considering their opinions with smaller, less dramatic decisions can help everyone get along.

“Me time”

Ok, obviously. Being stuck with the family can of course become stressful. Trust me, I know. “Me time” can give you a break away from everyone else and can help you just simply relax. This can be done in many ways, such as how I may go somewhere and listen to some music or how my brother may go down to the hotel gym. I think finding some individual time to unwind in a way that you enjoy can really help you escape away from anything possible thing that could potentially stress you out.

Avoid a Rush

There have been a numerous amounts of times where last-minute plans were made, and I felt rushed. Being the high maintenance person I am, this definitely became a little frustrating. There is also the often occasion where my parents had a game plan but failed to inform the kids about it. Yeah, and then my mom has a full face of makeup on and I look like I just rushed out of bed. Not good. Not good at all. Moral of the story, making sure you have a plan for the day, and everyone is informed about it can save a lot of frustration from happening.

Keep the Kids Entertained

“Mom, mom are we there yet?” Sound familiar? If not, you are one of the lucky ones!

I have realized over the years that a stressful parent can make a stressful vacation, without a doubt.

Now, in car rides my family gets along well, doing our own entertaining things as well, but we are also age 13 and above. So what would you do about maybe a toddler? In this day and age I think it is honestly easy to keep a kid entertained. I see kids all the time at restaurants just playing a phone game and keeping quiet. Now I am not saying: “Hand the child a tablet, that’ll shut them up!” If you can, I do recommend maybe giving them a phone game to play, because I have seen that trick work wonders.

But if you cannot do that there are also many other ways to keep your children calm and quiet. As a matter of fact, I remember when we traveled when I was a toddler, we would also do a movie marathon that kept us happy and our mouths shut. You can also give them a book, play road games, give them music to listen to, and more. Keeping your children entertained it such an important detail that a lot of stressed traveling parents overlook.

The Blame Game: There really is no winner

Wow. I honestly can not even stress this one enough. Although it seems like it will get you somewhere, playing the blame game is never anything good. Usually it leaves everyone cranky and upset with one another. Not good. My biggest tip with this is try your best not to assign blame to someone, and just let the incident pass. And honestly, writing this has made me realize that I need to take my own advice.

But, in all seriousness, blaming someone for something, especially if they did not do it, will never, and I mean never, end as well as you hope. Just try to let the past be in the past and move forward so you can all enjoy your vacation!

Remember: It is Vacation

It is all about the Zen state-of-mind. When you plan a vacation you always expect it to be a relaxing and feel-good time. OK, so what is my point? Strive to keep that head space. When your parents have spent money and time to travel somewhere, why try to cause any trouble? My family usually takes a yearly trip to the Florida Keys, and I do not think we get along better anywhere else. I genuinely think it is because we are all in a tropical and hippie state which just helps us relax and be nicer to one another.

Next time you think you are struggling on a family vacation I encourage you to try and use one of these techniques to avoid an unnecessary fight. They may seem fairly simple, but I can assure you they will work like magic!

Did you find this blog post helpful? If so, share it with a friend!

United States

Visiting the Grand Canyon: One of Earth’s Many Treasures

The Grand Canyon National Park, one of Earth’s most beautiful treasures, is in Arizona, near the borders of Utah and Nevada. To this day the Grand Canyon is possibly the biggest tourist destination in all of America. In fact, it is considered one of Earth’s “Seven Natural Wonders” because of its beauty. Being completely formed by erosion caused by the Colorado River, the fact that the canyon is naturally made is astonishing.

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

The park offers many activities, such as rafting, biking, hiking, and more, and it is not hard to see why this National Park seems to be on everyone’s bucket list.

The Regions

The Grand Canyon is at most 18 miles wide, 277 miles long, and at the deepest part in the canyon it is about a mile. The canyon consists of a North and South rim, as well as east and west regions.

South Rim

The South Rim is the most common and popular destination for first-time tourists, and for most tourists for that matter, visiting the canyon. Along with its magnificent views, it has many visitor centers and has more activities to partake in than any other part of the canyon. The South Rim has an abundance of viewpoints that all are breathtaking, overlooking the widest part of the park. The South Rim is basically the most inhabited part of the canyon, with many shops and hotels for anyone who visits. The weather can be a lot more bearable than the other parts of the canyon, ranging from the low 80’s in the summer to the low 40’s in the winter.

North Rim

The North Rim, unlike the south, is strikingly different. While majority of the visitors travel to the south, the north on the other hand gets the least amount of tourism. At 8,000’ feet from sea level, the north has a very cool climate, often experiencing snow in the winter, but averages around the 70’s and 80’s in the summertime. Although it is the least accessible, being the farthest away from most major cities, it still offers many enjoyable features and activities.

Snow-capped  peaks along the Grand Canyon
Snow-capped peaks along the Grand Canyon

Western Region

Unlike the other parts of the canyon, the western region is operated by the Hualapai Tribe. Being the closest part of the canyon to Las Vegas, it is also easily accessible to many people. The weather can change drastically between seasons, being around the high 90’s in the summer and around the high 50’s during the winter season. One of the most popular reasons for visiting is because of the Gran Canyon skywalk, which is a glass walkway extending over the edge of a cliff. When on the skywalk, the ground beneath you is transparent (you know, since it is glass), and you can see thousands of feet underneath you. Just like the others, the western region still offers some of the world’s most stunning views.

Eastern Region

The eastern region is located along the Colorado River, near the South Rim National Park. Although this part of the canyon is the hardest to access, due to it being out of boundary, it still offers many adventurers and experiences to visitors. One of the main attractions is the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River. Being about 4,000’ in elevation the summer temperature can range between the 80’s and 90’s, while the winter temperatures are around the 50’s.

Horseshoe Bend in the Grand Canyon
Horseshoe Bend in the Grand Canyon

Things to Do at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park offers a wide variety of fun and enjoyable activities to do for every age. Among the tops choices are hiking, which can be independent or by a tour guide, rafting, biking, star gazing, and more. There are also the more specific attractions, such as:

  1. Colorado River Rafting – If you want a memorable thrilling experience, rafting down the Colorado River is something for you. Traveling down the river that carved the canyon itself, you would be able to see thousands of feet of the canyon up above you. Besides the beautiful view, rafting itself can be an exciting experience for anyone!
  2. Skywalk – Although it might seem scary at first, this 10-foot wide, glass bridge extends 70 feet out overlooking the Grand Canyon. If you are brave enough to look down, you would be able to see 4,000 feet down to the bottom of the Canyon. Scary right? Do not worry! The Skywalk is said to be strong enough to hold seventy fully loaded 747 passenger jets. Wow! The charge is per person and you are not allowed to take any personal belongings with you.
  3. Havasu Falls – Being one of the most beautiful falls ever, it is not surprising that this is one of the top attractions to visit. Havasu Falls is a 100’ waterfall coming from the side of the canyon and you get there by hiking. Reservations must be made in advance at HavasupaiReservations.com 
  4. Grand Canyon Railway – Although during the trip you will not be seeing any canyons, the Railway tour takes you around the beautiful landscape of Arizona. If you plan to visit, you will depart from the Grand Canyon Village on van ride to the Williams Train Depot where you can watch a gunfight. From there you board the train in order to get back to the canyon. The train can be fun for anyone of all ages. There are strolling musicians and cowboys on the train which makes this a perfectly fun family activity. The tour is $37.00 per child, age 16 or under, and $65.00 per adult, age 17 or higher.
  5. Grand Canyon Historic Village – The Grand Canyon Historic Village is a must-see attraction where you can learn all about the Grand Canyon’s history. There are an abundance of buildings and landmarks that makes this location so special. You can easily find the Historic Village found in the historic center of the Grand Canyon Village in the South Rim.
  6. Tour Guides – Honestly, I do not know where to begin. The park offers a wide variety of different tours such as hiking, off-road, rafting, bus tours, and more. The guides are expert instructors that take you through the different beautiful parts of the canyon. There are single and multi-day tours that are all very educational and intriguing and can be fun for anyone who wants to learn about the canyon!
  7. Hiking Trails – Among some of the best Hiking Trails there are the Kaibab Trail, Grandview Trail, Bright Angel Trail, South Rim Trail, and the River Trail, Grand Canyon Rim Trail, and of course many others. The biggest factor in deciding on which to choose would have to depend on you. Some trails can either be hour long trails or day long trails, so only do what you think you can. Keep in mind the weather for the day and always remember to bring water!
  8. Star Gazing – Now there is not a certain location I am going to suggest, but this cost-free activity can be such an unforgettable one. Even if you just got back from a long day of hiking, a little bit of star gazing can be so relaxing for you. The sights would be one in a million so don’t miss out on this opportunity!
Kayaking near Deer Creek Falls in the Grand Canyon
Kayaking near Deer Creek Falls in the Grand Canyon

Lodging Near the Grand Canyon

Most of the lodging is available in the South Rim. If you plan to be staying at the Park, you need to make sure you have a room booked far enough in advance from your travel date. While the Xanterra Parks and Resorts company offers and abundance of hotels located in the Historic District, the Delaware North company has just one pet friendly lodge located at the Market Plaza. These places are typically opened year-round and are close to the rest of the shops. For the South Rim, free shuttle buses are available to guests and connect the lodges with restaurants, shops, visitor centers, scenic overlooks and trailheads.

As well as having hotels in the south and north, the park also has the Phantom Ranch, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that requires a reservation via an online lottery that is made 15 months in advance. Along with staying in a hotel, camping is also available to visitors. There is the Mather Campground on the South Rim, which is in the Grand Canyon village and opened all year, and the North Rim campground which is only open May 15 – October 31. Reservations can be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service.

There is also an NPS Desert View Campground that is in the South Rim, which is closed for the winter. It is a first-come, first-service deal and no reservations can be made. If you travel with an RV, you can make a reservation in the all year trailer village in the South Rim with full hook-ups. For more information visit: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/lodging.htm

A starry night at the Grand Canyon
A starry night at the Grand Canyon

Preparing for the Trip

Trudging through the wilderness will not be easy, so we have prepared a list of items that you should take with you. Now of course this will depend on what time of year it is, and you should dress accordingly to the fluctuating temperatures, which we address earlier in the article. You would not want to only bring long sleeves if you were visiting in summer, would you? Among the basics there are: hiking shoes or sneakers (of course), sunscreen, a hat and/or sunglass, movable comfortable clothing (according to the weather), and most importantly a water container. Along with these, bringing along a first aid might also come in handy in case you get blisters or anything from hiking. You may want to bring other items things such as a bicycle, so you don’t have to rent one, but that depends on what activities you have planned anyways.

Ok, now you are packed. But how will you get all the way out to the Grand Canyon? Don’t panic, we can help.

The Grand Canyon is surrounded by numerous cities, many of which you can fly out to. Among these there are Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Flagstaff (a smaller airport). A key detail about deciding where to fly to would depend on which Rim you are going to. For instance, the Flagstaff airport is about an hour from the South Rim, so logically you’d pick that one, but if you were visiting the North Rim a decent candidate would be Salt Lake City.

Once you have arrived at the airport, you’re going to need some sort of transportation. Practically the only way to get around would be by renting a car since public transit is limited. The other option is to avoid air travel and just drive to the canyon. This can be way more affordable but remember it’s potentially a long car trip, so your family must be simpatico.

The Grand Canyon offers a wide variety of enjoyable activities and experiences that would be unforgettable. It would be the perfect vacation to unwind and relax while being immersed in nature’s beauty!

Did you find this blog post helpful? If so, share it with a friend!

Road Trips

Road Trips – Everything You Need to Know

Road trips are a quintessential part of the American experience. So much so that it has produced some of the key books in American literature. Who could say that stories and films like Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” William Least Heat-Moon’s “Blue Highways” or “Easy Rider” don’t express something true and central to the American concept of self? 

The open highway has often meant freedom to the individual — a metaphor for personal choice and determining one’s fate — and that tradition carries on today in the rite of passage of the road trip.

road trips

Preparing for a road trip, like all adventures, requires a certain number of prerequisites to make sure all goes smoothly. In this post we’ll cover how to plan a road trip, what to pack for your road trip, how to drive safely, and how to be safe once you arrive.

Planning for Road Trips

Decide What You Want to See

A road trip can sometimes be like a trip to the supermarket: If you don’t have a list of what you’d like to get it can become overwhelming to have so many choices. Asking yourself what you’d most like to experience with a road trip — whether it’s that view of Big Sur you’ve always longed to see for yourself, or the ability to experience a close encounter with an enormous variety of wildlife right outside your car in Yellowstone’s hallowed environs, a good idea of what you’d like to accomplish with your trip can be immensely helpful.

Once all your travel safety basics are covered, it’s an important task to plan what all you want to see in the places you visit. One, it will save a lot of time; second, it will help you in maintaining a budget. It’s best to be  mentally prepared regarding how much time you should spend at a place, what is the entry and exit time of a place, and any not-miss sites. Many of the places are while en-route. In this way, you get on the best of everything.

Plan Your Route As a Family

Sit down together as a family to discuss the plans for your road trip. Planning a route together is a very special way to include your children in the preliminary stages of a family adventure. Give your kids options about where to stop and what to visit. Children and teens will be far more engaged by the experiences that you encounter when they’ve been involved in them from the beginning, it’s easier for them when they know what to expect and what to look forward to.

Double-Check Your Insurance

Never travel without car insurance and travel insurance. Know the coverage, terms and conditions and whom to call when in a situation. In case of any mishaps, insurance may reimburse the doctor fees, medical expenses, any bodily injury claims, car protection, loss or theft of car…you get the idea. Some travel insurance even covers your travel cost in case of an emergency.

Pack a Real Map

Whether you’re a member of Triple A or another good automotive institution, finding what maps are available to you is a great way to plan your trip — especially if you’re looking to get off the beaten path. The book “Blue Highways” refers to the smaller routes off the main interstates, that can provide access to small-town American life, for example. You’ll probably discover many new things on your trip, and maps can often clue you in to areas you didn’t even know existed.

Stay in Touch

Let your loved ones know about your travel plans. Give them a rough idea of travel dates with arrival timings and a daily itinerary. If mobile roaming charges are a concern, then get yourself a sim card on your arrival at the location. Call, drop a text message or an email to tell them that you have reached safely.

Study Up On Your Destination

Research well about your destination. The culture, etiquette, safety measures, and clothing matter a lot. Respect the place’s culture by following it. If you don’t understand, then it’s always safe to be conservative. Women travelers must know the safety measures to take in case of any harassment. Be aware of public transportation for visiting local spots. Feed your mobile number with the local emergency number.

Prepare Your Vehicle for a Road Trip

get your car checked before a road trip

Make Sure It’s Road-Worthy

Before loading up a vehicle with amenities and potentially useful items, consider the vehicle itself. If it’s experiencing issues, it may be untrustworthy. If it is prone to overheating, it may fail on a long drive. If your vehicle has electrical issues, it may fail to start when needed. Any significant issue with the vehicle should be corrected prior to taking the vehicle on a road trip. If you cannot correct the issue prior to the departure date, take another vehicle.

However, if your vehicle is currently trustworthy, then you should perform some basic maintenance and an inspection.  

Top off Fluids

Get your oil changed, if the road trip will be spanning several thousand miles, even if the oil is presently of good quality.

You should also include topping off all other fluids, including windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Inspecting all lights, inspecting the windshield wipers, and replacing any worn tires or brakes are also prudent acts.

Check Your Tires

Make sure there is enough tread left on your tires to complete the trip. You can put a penny head first into the grooves of your tires. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, then you need new tires. If it’s close, consider how far you’ll be driving. You don’t want to deal with a blowout, far from home, owing to old tires.

Or just bring your vehicle to a service station or a good mechanic for a full vehicle checkup, including tires, oil, lights, gas, and wipers. Then you’ll feel more comfortable knowing you have all the bases covered.

Before Your Leave for Your Road Trip

leave with an adventurous spirit

Have Someone Watch Your Home

If no one will be staying at your home during your road trip, try to arrange with a friend or neighbor to watch your home for signs of criminal activity or fire. And of course, arrange for someone to care for any pets that will be left behind.

Research Where You’ll be Driving

If you will be passing through any major cities, researching the city online before you leave. Most cities have high-crime regions, and stopping after dark in an unfamiliar area with a car loaded with valuables may not be prudent. 

Allow Plenty of Time

It’s hard to have a good time when you’re feeling rushed. If you’ve created an unrealistic trip plan for the amount of time you have, you’re far more likely to become agitated and impatient. When the driver is stressed or worried, it’s easy for the entire group to become withdrawn or sullen. Avoid this from the get-go by allowing yourself plenty of extra time for pit stops and wrong turns.

Depart with an Adventurous Spirit

Often times on road trips, things don’t go exactly as you plan them. Sometimes construction, road closures and traffic pattern changes can affect the route you wanted to take or the time in which you plan to take it. If you mentally prepare for the likelihood of delays, you can be ready for anything! If you’re traveling as a family, remember your kids take their cue from you. Being in a happy, go-with-the-flow mood and the kids will be too.

Packing for Road Trips

Packing your car before hitting the road

Good Tires, a Spare, and a Car Jack

Nothing quite says good car health quite like a sturdy set of tires. Even so, it’s always a good idea to have a spare tire and car jack in your car. You could hit a pothole or some kind of object in the road that flattens your tire. If you don’t know how to change a tire, you could either call a tow truck or get someone to pull over and help you, but at least you would have the necessary supplies.

Don’t Forget Your Jumper Cables

What would happen if you spent the night at a motel during your trip and forgot to turn off the lights inside of your car? You’d have a dead battery and would have to figure out a way to recharge it. By having a set of jumper cables, you just need to find someone else with a car to give you a helping hand — not a big stretch while traveling!

Pack an Emergency Kit

Every vehicle should have an emergency kit, especially before going on any road trips. There are certain areas in America where if you break down, they may be stranded for hours on end. Being prepared with an emergency pack can easily turn what could be a tragedy into a few warm hours of waiting for a tow truck.

Any emergency pack should have a first-aid kit, warning lights or flares, a fire extinguisher and foam tire sealant. There are also some items that would almost seem common sense. A vehicle should always have a flashlight and jumper cables inside of it. Gloves can also come in handy. 

If you’re traveling during the winter, bring warm clothing, blankets and a small shovel. Kitty litter or sand should also be brought to put under the tires if they get stuck in the snow.

Stock Up On Food and Water

Carry non-perishable food and extra water bottles. Keep energy drinks to keep you awake if you are planning to have a long road trip. It’s always a good idea to carry healthy and nutritious snacks that are light and doesn’t keep you bloated. Avoid munching on salty snacks as they will dehydrate you.

Electronics and Chargers

A discharged cell phone is just like a saddle without a horse. Make sure you keep your cell phone fully charged and keep it in a battery saver mode. Carry extra power banks – again, fully charged. Carry two car chargers, so that you can charge your cell phone and power bank simultaneously. 

Stay Healthy

When traveling to a new place, research the weather there and pack accordingly. Carry your medications and an extra set in case your travel plan changes. Are there too many insects? Don’t forget hand sanitizer. You get the idea!

Safety On Your Road Trip

Drive safely when on road trips

Buckle Up

Did you know that even slow-speed car crashes can send an unbelted person into the dashboard or window? You might not believe it, but properly worn seat belts can literally save lives. Although being harnessed to your seat for hours can be grueling, don’t forget that safety belts can prevent you from being thrown out of the vehicle during accidents.

Get Plenty of Rest

It’s more important than you may realize to get a good night’s sleep. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 100,000 car crashes annually are caused by tired drivers. Try to get to bed early the night before you leave for your trip. You’ll be more alert and have a better attitude. Don’t start your trip in the middle of the night after you’ve slept half the night, you’re more apt to drift back to sleep when it gets a bit monotonous; no amount of “fresh air” blowing into your window will help!

Drive at the Right Speed

Everyone knows this: speed driving kills. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Administration says that even in 2008, speeding was a contributing factor in 30% of fatal crashes. To stay safe, obey speed limits. I tell you, the time you’ll save by driving 10mph faster is inconsequential compared to the risk of crashing. Leave early if you want to arrive early.

Day Driving

It’s wisest to do the majority of your driving during the day. Having the sunlight obviously helps you to see more of your surroundings, and you may even feel more awake while driving. Remember that you’ll probably be driving on unfamiliar roads, so you need every advantage that you can get, including sunlight.

Avoid Large Meals

Do you know the feeling that you have after eating a large meal? It tends to make you feel lazy and tired. Instead of eating big meals, you should try to eat smaller snacks throughout the day. You could prepare some food before leaving for the trip, like sliced fruit, trail mix or anything that’s easy to eat in the car. Bring plenty of bottled water, just in case you break down.

Take Breaks as Needed

Sleep and rest are very important when it comes to road trips. It’s very important that you get your full 8 hours of sleep before you start for your trip. And while on the road, stop by every 1 or 2 hours to stretch and revive. Understand your car limits very well, like for how many hours can it run continuously, on which terrains can it run, and how far your vehicle will take you with the given fuel.

Turn Off Cruise Control

Have you ever been driving for a period of time and actually forgotten that you were driving? When you turn on cruise control, you sometimes lose your focus and become less alert. You might check your glove compartment, look for a CD or glance in your rear-view mirror while talking to someone in the back seat. To avoid this, turn off the cruise control and keep your focus on the road.

Take Turns Driving

If you’re driving with your spouse or a friend, there’s no reason why you can’t take turns driving. This is a great chance for you to sit back and relax instead of worrying about the road. Driving for long distances can be stressful, so you have to take time to “recharge your batteries” before getting behind the wheel again.

Road Trip Entertainment

Carry with you books, music, podcasts, or audiobooks that you can play over your car speakers. That might be in the form of CDs, DVDs, or your phone. These activities will keep you engaged, entertained, and alert. You can also tune in to the local radio station. As long as you are happy and not bored, that’s okay.

Know how to Handle Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is one of the easiest ways to get into a wreck during a rainstorm. The first thing to do is try to prevent hydroplaning. There is no need to drive a vehicle fast during a heavy downpour; wherever a person is heading will still be there after the rain. It is also best to avoid sitting water when safe to do so. Sometimes avoiding this hazard isn’t possible, so knowing how to handle them is the next best thing. Check out this post on handling hydroplaning.

Don’t Text and Drive

Many states have now passed laws against texting and driving. This is because it greatly increases the chance of a person getting into an accident. The chances of getting into a crash while text messaging have been equated to the risk associated with drinking and driving.

Consider that this also means the use of your phone for purposes other than texting, too. Don’t check email or social media while you drive. If you need to consult your GPS or map application, pull off to the shoulder or on an exit first.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Driving under the influence puts the driver, all of their passengers and every other driver on the road at risk. Even if a person doesn’t feel intoxicated and doesn’t cause an accident, they can still be pulled over, and if they blow over the legal limit, there could be dire consequences. DUI penalties vary from state to state and some states can have stricter rules on blood alcohol content, which is a measure of an individuals’ level of intoxication. So be especially careful on the issue of alcohol consumption, even more so if you are driving across state lines.

Once You Arrive at a Destination

arriving at the destination

Ensure Your Lodgings Are Safe

When it comes to lodgings, it’s very important to be a keen observer of the surroundings. Check how many entrances are into your room, and see that you can lock all of them. Keep the reception phone number handy. If you are not expecting anyone and you get a doorbell, don’t answer.

Tell Your Loved Ones You’ve Arrived

Especially if you are traveling solo – but even if not – alert your loved ones that you have arrived in your destination. Making sure someone knows where you are is important to your own safety. It will also help your family and friends not worry about you, which is always considerate!

Before You Head Home

Before you leave to return home, if you’ll be driving back, make sure to perform a mini-check of your vehicle once again. Check the oil level, and make sure the tires are filled to the optimum pressure. Gas up before you leave, and follow all the same safety tips on your way home, too.

We hope this guide gives you confidence to set out on a road trip this year. Road trips can be an amazing way to see the world, spend time with family and friends, or get out solo and find yourself. Enjoy!

Europe

Top Attractions in the South of France

French Holidays in the Southern region of France are a dream for families. Southern France, sometimes called le Midi, incorporates Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees, Languedoc-Rouissillon, Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur, Corsica and parts of the Rhone-Alps. Given that the area covers such a large amount of terrain, it is no surprise that the region holds numerous surprises in store and is packed with fascinating tourist attractions to visit.

The South of France, awash in rich sunshine and paint box colors entices with a Mediterranean climate as well as a wealth of diverse attractions to enjoy. A stay at one of the South of France villas will put these must-sees right at your doorstep.

1. Marseille

Marseille, France

The coast of Marseille is a sparkling blue gem. Watch the fishermen go about their workday, stroll along the La Canebière and enjoy the elegant buildings, or simply grab a sidewalk table at any one of the myriad restaurants near the water and enjoy a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse and a glass of rosé.

2. Santons

Collecting santons ensures you can fondly recall your South of France vacation every Christmas as you put up your decorations. Visit one of the area’s family-owned santon shops and take home a combination of figurines to create your Nativity scene. You will find not only traditional players such as the infant Jesus, his parents, and the Wise Men, but also village-inspired participants such as the fish woman or the baguette man.

3. Bullfights

Photo credit Jean-François Le Falher, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License

Hundreds of thousands of people attend the bullfights in and around Arles every year. The village is the world capital of bullfighting and the sport’s main home in France. Some styles of fighting are less violent than others, but all involve a deep-seated local tradition and plenty of pomp and ceremony.

4. Markets

Tomatoes at a market in the south of France

You’re never far from an open-air market in the South of France. A market will feature vendors selling fresh produce, rotisserie chickens, olives scooped from huge barrels, various nuts, local cheeses, just-baked breads, and colorful flowers. One of the largest markets in France is right in Carpentras; it is both exciting and extensive. The market at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for its vast array of antiques. Saint-Remy’s market brings local goods to the picturesque village square.

5. Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes, Provence, France

When the popes temporarily left the Vatican in the 14th century, they set up shop at a palace in Avignon. You can tour the Palais des Papes for a bit of history, and enjoy the view of the famous Pont d’Avignon, a 12th century bridge which was partly destroyed several hundred years ago and never fixed, so it only stretches halfway across the water.

6. St.-Tropez

St.-Tropez, France

Style and sunshine make a happy marriage in St.-Tropez, where elite yachts glitter along the water while charming boutiques and tiny stone churches dot the winding streets of the village proper.

7. Nice

Nice, France

The largest city on the Cote d’Azur is Nice, which is also one of Europe’s oldest human settlements. The flashy French Riviera lifestyle is in full swing, here. Drench yourself in sunshine on the see-and-be-seen beaches, lined with ornate architecture and swaying palm trees.

8. Wine Tasting

Wine in South France

France is perhaps the country best known for its wine, and wine aficionados are sure to enjoy their time in the south of France. Exploring the many wineries of the area is a special treat. In fact the largest vineyard in the world is the region’s Languedoc-Roussillon. Tour the meandering wine caves and enjoy free samples before purchasing a bottle or more to enjoy back at home.

9. Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard roman aquaduct in France

This iconic, tri-level aqueduct was built by 1st century Romans and still carries water each day to the residents of the town of Nimes. Its 2,000+ years of endurance make it a must-see for stone masons and the general public alike.

10. Rennes le Chateau

Rennes le Chateau, Languedoc, France

Mystery and intrigue surround the medieval village of Rennes le Chateau, perched high on a hill in the Languedoc region. Conspiracy theories connected with a local priest whirl about the chateau and its history, drawing tens of thousands of curious visitors per year.

11. Font de Gaume

Font-de-Gaume
Source https://archaeology-travel.com/travel-tips/tickets-for-font-de-gaume/

Dating back to 14,000BC, Font de Gaume is a cave-painting site located close to Les Eyzies, in Dordogne. Known about for many years by locals, these prehistoric paintings were not properly identified until 1901. Denis Peyrony, a school teacher, went to the caves to take a look around, and realized that the wall-paintings were something special.

With more than 230 images throughout the cave system, and more being discovered as the caves as cleaned, Font de Gaume opens a window to what life was like for man in the time of the mammoth.

Located at the top of a steep slope, the caves were not used as homes, but had a spiritual significance which some people still sense today. Tours of the site can be booked on the internet, and this is advisable, as it get can very busy.

12. Castle of Carcassone

Castle of Carcassone

Considered to be one of the best castles in Europe, the Castle of Carcassone and its surrounding walled city was almost demolished in the 19th Century. Fortunately it was saved from destruction and rebuilt by a French architect called Viollet-de-Duc. Carcassone was an important trading zone throughout history and was used as a Cathar stronghold in the middle ages. A free to enter attraction, visitors can stroll through the bustling streets, where a medieval atmosphere has been recreated with street hawkers, crafts-people and more.

13. Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi, France

For those holiday-makers who enjoy a more active side to their vacation, why not consider taking to two-wheels. Practice your pedal power, with a cycle along the well-marked footpaths of the Canal du Midi. Stretching from Toulouse to Agde, there is more than 250km of canal-side to explore – ideal for those who like French holidays at their own pace!

14. Villefranche Beach

If being energetic doesn’t appeal, you can see another side to France at the pretty sea-side village of Villefranche. Voted as one of the best beaches in Europe and located close to Nice, the town and bay have been used as settings in many Hollywood movies. Go sailing, explore the coastline or enjoy fresh fish in one of the harbor restaurants. Villefranche is popular with kids and adults alike, but be warned -it can get very busy in summer.

15. Accrobranche

If your kids are still full of energy, take them to Accrobranche in Motagnac. The exciting woodland based attraction is full of safe and thrilling activities – from rappelling to tree climbing. Suitable for children aged seven and upwards, the entry fee includes several hours of play, and trained supervisors are on hand to keep an eye on your youngsters. Better still, parents can join in the fun too – if they like!

With a plethora of markets, historic sites, and sunny spots to soak up, enjoying your South of France holidays is easy. It will be leaving this stunning area of natural beauty and style that may prove difficult, but a return trip in your future cannot be far away.

Europe

How to Prepare for a Relocation to Europe

There is hardly a U.S. citizen that hasn’t thought at least once about moving to Europe. The history, the culture, the diversity… It seems like Europe has all the necessary things to inspire a person and make them the most cultured version of themselves. But, in order to tackle relocating to Europe, there are a couple of things you will have to deal with. Things that, if not dealt with properly, will possibly ruin your entire relocation. So, let’s not dilly dally and let’s go over important steps in how to prepare for moving to Europe.

Researching Europe

Before we get into finding the right movers and moving your possessions abroad, let us get one thing straight. Europe is not the idea that you have in your head. Most of the people that are considering moving to Europe have this grandiose idea of what it is. And, truly, if you simply visit London and spend a couple of days in Paris, you might think that it is all class and culture. But, keep in mind that this is only true if you are visiting Europe as a tourist. If you plan on living here, you need to get misconceptions such as these out of your head as soon as possible.

Common Misconceptions about Europe

The first thing we would like to mention, and we feel kind silly for saying it, is that Europe is not a country. A surprising, and frankly depressing, amount of Americans think that Europe is a single country. It is not. You can think of countries in the European Union as states in the US. But even this is doing them a disservice. Keep in mind that some of these countries have existed for thousands of years. During this period they have developed distinctive cultures, languages, and art. So, lumping them all together in the same country is, in a word, a huge mistake.

Relocating to Europe

There are some important differences between the E.U. and the U.S. Both political and historical.

Secondly, not all of Europe speaks English. Although it is the dominant language in the area, you will easily find people that simply don’t speak the language. So, don’t expect that you’ll be able to understand everything the moment you move. Our advice is to stay calm and learn as you have never done before.

Visit Europe

You can read a ton of articles about what Europe is like, but you’ll never get the true idea unless you visit it. So, our advice is to at least spend a week or two backpacking across Europe in order to get an idea of what is like. Ideally, you should focus on the country you plan on moving to and stay there for as long as possible. The more you know about its history and customs, the easier it will be to get along with your future countrymen once you move.

Visit Europe before committing to relocating

A lot of young people have the time of their life while backpacking through Europe.

Preparing for a Relocation to Europe

Now let’s focus on how to actually prepare for a relocation to Europe. Before we do, keep in mind that relocations of such magnitude can be terribly complicated. So, if you want to do yourself a huge favor, start preparing as soon as possible. Even if you’ve moved before, there will a ton of things that you’ve never dealt with. Complicated paperwork, legal documents, transportation issues… All of them take time to manage. So, the moment you figure out which country you are moving to, start preparing.

Finding the Right Movers

Relocation to Europe is impossible without the right movers. So, if you want to tackle yours properly, start looking for movers ASAP. The best place to start is by going online and seeing which local movers offer international moving services. Keep in mind that not all moving companies are capable of moving you to Europe. This is why you need to do what you can to find the ones that are. Only the top-notch movers can provide a safe relocation even to another continent. Also, keep in mind that a small moving mishap can easily cost you your entire relocation.

Moving Plan

Once you find your movers, you will have to devise a moving plan. There will be plenty of details to go over, so we will let you deal with that with your movers. The one thing we will mention is that, when it comes to moving costs, the timing of your relocation can be just as important as the amount of stuff you have. So, while you plan, make sure to explore all options before you settle. Even a week or two can make a huge difference in your final bill.

moving plan to relocate to Europe

Picking the right time to move can make relocation to Europe a whole lot cheaper.

Packing

Packing is one aspect of moving that you can deal with on your own. But, in order to deal with relocation to Europe safely, you need to make sure that you’ve packed your belonging to a professional standard. Start by checking an online packing guide and learning how to pack. Keep in mind that you will need to use high-quality packing supplies in order to keep your items safe. Furthermore, you need to tape up and label your boxes properly, in order to help your movers safely manage it. If you really want to make your relocation efficient, make an inventory list while you pack. It will make both working with movers and unpacking much easier.

Dealing with Moving Stress

The final thing we will mention is that, when it comes to relocation to Europe, there is going to be moving stress. No matter how much you prepare, or how good your movers are, you are going to feel stressed out. The mere fact that you’ve started a new chapter in your life in a foreign country will pose a substantial culture shock. So, if you want to deal with it properly, you need to learn how to manage your stress. Doing so will make moving preparations, moving, and life after moving a whole lot easier.

South Africa Africa

Things to Do in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa, has become a sought-after tourist destination in recent years. Due to its location, it serves as a transit point and connects Cape Town, Mozambique, Durban, Namibia, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, tourism in Johannesburg, and South Africa in general, is on the rise.

Here are some things to do when you visit the metropolis of Johannesburg – or Joburg for short..

Historical Museums and Sites

The history of South Africa is long and varied. Many of us know the more recent, sad history of apartheid. Apartheid was South Africa’s policy of segregation between whites and blacks. But the country also has prehistoric and colonial history as well.

The Nelson Mandela National Museum

The famous Nelson Mandela National Museum is actually the home of activist Nelson Mandela who lived there before being imprisoned. Long time inhabitants of the town help tourist guide around the different parts of the home. Tourists can visit and see all the different things that were once owned by Nelson Mandela. The building is located in Soweto township and one of the great places to visit in Johannesburg.

Apartheid Museum
Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum is one of the other great attractions for tourists visiting Johannesburg. This museum is mainly dedicated to the history of the South African establishment. The South African Government started an initiative in 1995 to attract tourists through casinos. The original plan was to attach Apartheid Museum with Gold Reef City Casino as Freedom Park. There were some controversies attached to this name but the museum was finally opened for public in 2001.

Museum Africa

This museum is dedicated to exhibiting history of the African continent. The museum was established back in 1933. It had been erected on the site where there existed old fruit and vegetable market in Newtown. There is a large amount of African books and materials displayed in the Museum Africa. The books were donated to the Museum by Johannesburg Library. The books in the library cover all aspects of different African cultures.

Hector Pieterson Museum

The Hector Pieterson museum is dedicated to young boy who was shot dead during the Soweto student riots in 1976. The riots began after the apartheid government proposed to use Afrikaans as its main language of instruction in schools.

Although dedicated to Hector Pieterson the museum’s main focus is the happenings of that day and how it instrumental it was in South Africa’s change from an oppressive regime to a democracy. This is a must see for everyone who wishes to gain insight into South Africa’s rich history.

Constitutional Court of South Africa

The constitutional court complex houses one of the more historical prisons in South Africa, the old Fort Prison, commonly known as (Number Four).

Number Four has housed some of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners. People such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others have spent time behind Number Four’s walls.

The tour of the constitutional court is an enriching experience, largely thanks to the passionate and engaging guides. At the end of the tour you will have the opportunity to express your thoughts on your tour by having them etched on cup or mug and placed along others such as Nelson Mandela’s.

Visiting a courthouse and prison might not sound exciting, but the architectural wonder that is the courthouse and the reminder of what came before in South Africa’s political timeline makes this an enlightening experience.

Partake in the Arts

Market Theatre Complex

The Market Theatre Complex, located in the suburb of Newtown, dates back to 1976 and is famous for staging fiery anti-apartheid plays during that period of South Africa’s history. It has now become the center for modern South African playwriting, with three separate theaters showcasing their works.

In addition to theater, the complex also contains art galleries, music clubs, and restaurants.

The Mandela at Joburg Theatre

The Joburg Theatre (previously Johannesburg Civic Theatre) features professional ballet and opera productions, as well as Broadway shows. It’s located on Braamfontein Hill and was originally built by the city council in 1962, but was corporatized in 2000. If you’re visiting during the festive season, make sure to check out the highly acclaimed pantomimes.

Johannesburg Art Gallery

There are many tourists who have peculiar interest in the objects of art. There is an art gallery in the city as well known as Johannesburg Art Gallery. The Johannesburg Art Gallery is situated in Joubert Park. The gallery is very spacious with 15 halls for exhibition. There is a garden attached to the gallery, dedicated to sculptures. The international art displayed in the gallery spans to five centuries. The art gallery was first opened for public back in 1980s. There were several extensions added to it later including North Façade and other galleries.

Pamper Yourself at a Spa

This world-class business and tourism hub is also home to Africa’s finest hotels and spas, for those who want to unwind. There are several spas in Johannesburg that can meet the needs of different prospective clients. Some of these spas include:

The Always-Upstairs Day Spa

This spa is set on the banks of River Vaal, located less than an hour’s drive from the city of Johannesburg. When you visit this spa, you will be treated to a tranquil experience in a secluded setting. The beauty of nature and the tranquil waters here will sooth away your cares and worries.

At the Always-Upstairs Day Spa, you can choose from an exotic list of signature spa treatments that have been uniquely created to revitalize, uplift and recharge the mind and body. The treatments include from massages, skincare, foot and hand treatments and hair removal. In between the treatments, you can relax on deck overlooking the river while sipping on a refreshing drink.

Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa

The countryside of Gauteng is home to the Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa. This spa is a hidden gem that is nestled in the serene and tranquil surroundings of Thorntree Conservancy that is situated twenty minutes from Johannesburg. It is a sanctuary for both men and women who want to relax and rejuvenate themselves in a tranquil and stress free surrounding.

The therapy rooms are Afro-Moroccan inspired while the outdoor massage areas are Bedouin styled. You can also spend a quiet moment in the outdoor room reserved for meditation where they can feel life’s energy permeate from their being. Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa offers the best value for money as it caters to every occasion and need.

Camelot Spas

Camelot Spas offer several different locations for convenience. Here you can enjoy individualized treatments that exceed the usual daily skin care. Emphasis is placed on performance and high standards. creating an ambiance of general well-being and relaxation.

The therapists at the spa are trained to take advantage of the wide range of equipment and specialized products at their disposal. Some of the advanced body and skin therapies on offer at the spa include hydrotherapy, seaweed mud treatments, thalassotherapy, detoxification and slimming treatments for both women and men.

See the City

Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

Soweto

Soweto is as a vibrant a place as you can find in South Africa, with its own culture, rhythm and a rich history. Soweto, an acronym for South West Township, has been around since 1885, and continues to be a home to over 850,000 locals.

Today it is still an intensely active place with astounding economic contrast, with absolute poverty flanked by sheer opulence.

Tour Soweto by foot on a bicycle or in a Tuk-Tuk and visit highlights such as the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Mandela house and Orlando Stadium. Have lunch at Wandies place when the hunger starts to set in and bungee jump from the Orlando cooling towers for a shot of adrenalin (after the food has settled).

If you want to take a break from the city and leap into the city’s past, Soweto is the place to be. It still has the earlier shacks and you might come across street-side barbers and also captures the flourishing pattern of this suburb. With a homely feel to it, Soweto also has excellent bars for a friendly chat or a relaxed evening.

The Carlton Centre

The Carlton Centre is the highest office building in Africa. Situated in the southeastern area of the CBD (Central Business District), there is an observation dock on the 50th sweeping vistas of the beautiful city of Johannesburg.

SAB World of Beer by Pascal Parent on Flickr

Visit the SAB World of Beer

As South Africans we love our beer to such a point that through our consumption of the amber liquid our national brewery has grown into the second largest brewery in the world.

Visit the SAB World of Beer in the middle of Johannesburg and enjoy a well organised tour that educates the beer lover as per the history and process of brewing beer.

Once you have completed the tour enjoy one of SAB’s products while looking over downtown Johannesburg from the roof top beer garden. Plus, you’ll get a free a beer glass with some beer to fill it.

Hang Out with Majestic Animals

Elephant in Pilanesberg National Park

Go on Safari

Pilanesberg National Park is a great place to see all of the Big 5 –  lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. It’s a large park with over 7000 animals, including 360 species of birds.

Pilanesberg is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Johannesburg, so plan accordingly. If you wish to spend more than half a day there, you may want to consider staying on-site in one of their lodges. The park offers safaris from 1 to 5 days in length.

However, if you do plan to spend more time away from Joburg, you may wish to consider Kruger National Park instead. Kruger is about 40 times the size of Pilanesberg, giving it more microclimates and a wider variety of animals to see.

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg zoo is a microcosm of the world as whole, with the zoo being divided into different climate areas. You can see everything from polar bears to chimpanzees and everything in between. You don’t have to visit the zoo during the day the Johannesburg zoo offers night tours and even the opportunity to spend the night in the Zoo (Zoo snooze). This is the perfect outing for animal lovers.

Lion & Safari Park

A 45-minute drive from Johannesburg, the Lion & Safari Park offers a safe, fun, and convenient way to view lions. You can also view ostriches, giraffes, zebras, hyena, and many species of antelope. Take a guided tour, book a private tour, or drive yourself. The park also features restaurants, a shopping area, and a playground for children.

Get Your Adventure On

Gold Reef City

Gold reef city is a 19th century mining town themed park, just outside central Johannesburg, based around a still functioning gold mine. Although essentially a place for fun, Gold Reef City also aims to educate its visitors about the birth of Johannesburg due to the discovery of gold.

Once you are done with the educational part get onto the rides, tame the Anaconda or ride the Jozi express. It offers visitors a wonderful day out – not just for kids, but for adults as well.

Gold Reef City also offers a top class casino that is on open 24 hours a day as well as theater shows ranging from Broadway shows to musicals.  

Sterkfontein Caves

Sterkfontein Caves

The Sterkfontein caves have been declared a world heritage site due to the role they have played in giving us insight into the evolution of mankind.

The Sterkfontein caves were formed 20 million years ago and are famous for giving us some of the most important archaeological finds in history, namely the discovery of “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, ancient skeletal remains. Other Archaeological finds in the area have pointed to early mankind having mastered fire and tools more than a million years ago.

Tours of the caves run every half hour, seven day a week. Make sure to visit the fascinating exhibition by world-renowned paleoartist John Gurche while you are there.

football and rugby

Rugby and Football

There is nothing better than watching a game of rugby in the Ellis Park or football at Soccer City or Orlando Pirates. Be assured to enjoy a thrilling game with the players always high on energy.

Go Shopping

Johannesburg has a large avenue of shopping malls like Sandton City or Nelson Mandela Square, and also famous flea markets like the Oriental Plaza or the Rosebank Flea Market. You can end your trip with a visit to the Cradle of Humankind, home to the bones of 2000,000 years old ancestors.

Nelson Mandela Square
Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton City Shopping Centre

Sandton city has been called Africa’s richest square mile, and it contains more luxury four by fours than anywhere on earth. You can buy anything from traditional African bead craft to Gucci handbags. With over 300 shops and a string of five star hotels, Sandton City is haven for those who enjoy the finer things in life. 

Nelson Mandela Square is connected to Sandton City, and is one of the largest shopping centers on the entire continent, with over 400 stores.

Rosebank Flea Market

The famous Rosebank Flea Market is open every Sunday. It features handmade African arts and crafts from across South Africa and countries beyond. You’ll also be able to enjoy live music and other entertainment while you peruse the stalls. Stay until sunset for amazing views.

Travel Tips

Rental Cars – An Everything-You-Need-To-Know Guide

Renting a car can be an amazing way to see the sights on your next vacation. Having access to a rental car gives you much more freedom than you would have without one. This is especially true for locations that don’t have easy public transit. But rental cars are also a great choice if you’re going to be traveling longer distances. You may want to choose one for a road trip. And if you’ll be taking day trips from your main destination, that’s another good reason for having access a rental car.

The downside is that renting a car is often a major expense on a vacation or business trip. Before biting the bullet, consider whether you truly need access to your own vehicle. If your destination is a large city, you can likely use the subway or other public transportation. If you aren’t traveling far from your hotel, then maybe using Uber or Lyft will end up being cheaper. In Europe, using the train systems may work even if you’re going further from your lodgings.

rental cars

If you decide that you need or want to rent a car, however, here are some things to consider.

Choosing a Rental Car

Think about what kind of car you need. Most likely, you’re not going to be off-roading on vacation while in a rental car, so if you don’t need an SUV, don’t get one! They’re typically the most expensive vehicle in any rental car company’s fleet. Now, if you’re traveling with 5+ people, maybe a minivan or SUV is necessary. But for a couple’s vacation? Skip it.

Most car rental company websites will help you understand how many passengers can fit into a given size car, as well as how much luggage it can hold. Get the smallest car you feel comfortable with. If you arrive and the car is too small, you can often upgrade to a larger size, if needed. Also, consider the fact that the larger the car is, the more fuel it burns. Renting a smaller car will help you cut down on gas costs, too. This is especially important if you’re in a country where the cost of gasoline is higher than it is in the United States! (I was stunned by the cost of petrol in England. No wonder people try not to have or use cars very much!)

And though we don’t like to think about it, there’s always a chance you may have an accident. Of course, you’ll have good insurance (right?) – more on that later. But the larger the car, generally the higher the value of that car. Which could mean higher costs to you or your insurance company should you have a wreck. However, consider the flip-side here too. You ARE more likely to have an accident if you’re driving somewhere that you’re not familiar with the roads. So you may not want so small of a car that injury is more likely. Try to find the right balance for you between small and cheap, and larger, safer, and costly!

Rent in Advance

This is generally the best way to save a few bucks and ensure that you’ll get a vehicle to suit your travel needs.  Although prices fluctuate frequently, you’ll find that they tend to go up the closer you get to the rental date. On the other hand, if you start looking early enough, you may well benefit from seasonal sales. Giving yourself the time needed to hold out for a better price is never a bad idea, and many websites will even allow you to sign up for email notifications when the price drops on the item you’re looking for.

When you do book in advance, compare rates not only on travel sites like Priceline and Expedia but also on the company’s website. The company may have special rates, reward points, coupons, and other specials you can only get it you book through them.

The way I usually do it is to start out on a comparison site. I find the lowest rates I can, and then check the website of the rental car companies that came in the cheapest. That way I can see if they offer even lower prices.

Deciding on Drivers

Decide how many people in your party actually need to drive your rental car. Additional drivers sometimes drive the costs of renting a car even higher. If you’re only going short distances, it should be easy to have only one driver.

However, if you need multiple drivers, make sure you declare that when renting and when signing the paperwork. If someone drives the rental car who is not on the agreement, and an accident happens, most likely you’ll end up paying for it out of pocket. Your insurance won’t cover it, because the contract is invalid. The rental car company won’t cover it because, again, the contract is invalid. Whoever was doing the driving isn’t legally responsible for the vehicle, so likely they won’t pay. It’s just not worth the risk.

Young drivers may cost even more than drivers not in those age groups. So try to avoid having anyone under the age of 25 drive the rental car. Occasionally you may also find a higher fee for senior drivers, but this is uncommon in the US. (Usually seniors get a discount rather than a fee.) However, if you’re renting a car internationally, make sure you qualify. Some countries limit senior’s ability to rent, or you may be subject to a higher rate or a surcharge.

Choosing Rental Car Insurance

I think this is the single most stressful question you get asked at the rental car counter! Rental car company’s insurance is expensive! But they will also scare you with the worst-case scenario of what can happen if you don’t buy their insurance. Plus, you’ve probably gone through all the same debate when you booked the car in the first place!

Don’t let their scare tactics work. Here’s what you should do – BEFORE you rent a car.

  • If you own or lease a car, call YOUR car insurance company and ask them if your policy covers rental cars. Find out all the details. What is your deductible in case of a rental car accident? Does it cover damage to both the rental car and any other vehicles or property involved in a collision? Does it cover your medical bills, and those of anyone else injured in the accident? Are their limits to the coverage you have?
  • Call your credit card companies. Many of them provide rental car insurance provided you use their card to rent the car in the first place. Find out if your credit card(s) offer rental liability protection. And ask for the same details described above regarding deductibles and coverages. (If you use this method, just make sure to pay for the rental car with the credit card that covers you!)

Only if neither of the options above cover you in case of an accident, should you purchase insurance at the counter. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money because you’re already covered.

Do You Need GPS?

Some rental cars come with a built-in GPS, or you can often pay to rent a unit if the car is not equipped with one. Think about whether you really need it before paying extra for GPS. Most likely you can use a map app on your phone for the same purpose. Just check first to make sure you’re in an area where you will have cell phone coverage.

Ask About Toll Roads

If you’re renting a car and might be driving on toll roads, find out what the car company’s policy is. They may include a transponder in your car and only charge you the normal fees. (A transponder is a gadget that allows toll roads to record your passage and charge you, typically without your needing to slow down and/or pay in cash to an attendant.)

But make sure they don’t have surcharges unless you’re willing to pay for them. It may end up being better to pay cash or just avoid the toll roads altogether.

Look for Discounts

You can also search for discounts to save even more money when renting a car. This will help you save even more money off your standard rates.

AAA, AARP, and Seniors

If you are a member of AAA or AARP, you can probably get a good discount when renting the car if you provide proof of your membership. Even if you’re not a member, but you’re 50+ years old, you may qualify for a built-in discount.

Rental Car Company’s Website

As I mentioned above, you may find discounts on the rental car company’s own website, that you don’t find elsewhere. So make sure to look for them there before completing your reservation elsewhere.

Social Media

Check the car companies’ social media accounts too. They may have special discounts for their followers, or they may publicize coupons. You can even reach out to them on social media and ask if they have a discount for your travel dates and location. Can’t hurt to ask!

Coupon Websites

Discount sites like Groupon often have coupons for renting a car.

Coupon Books

You know those coupon books that kids sell to raise money for their schools, sports teams, and scout troops? Check those out, because sometimes they have coupons for rental cars too. I’ve seen then in the big paper discount books, but I haven’t seen them on the credit-card sized plastic discount cards. But you never know. \

Rental Car Clubs

Do you prefer a particular rental car company? If so, check to see if they have a members club you can join. Many of them do. Earn points by renting from the same company, then use those points for free upgrades and more.

Check to find out if your car company offers special discounts for active military, military veterans, or government employees, if you fall into any of those categories.

Other Ways to Save Money on a Rental Car

Here are just a few more things to consider that can save you money on a rental car.

Where to Rent

If you’re flying, consider renting from a car company that’s not on the airport’s grounds. The airport charges them rent that is usually higher than the surrounding area rent, so they pass those fees along to you. If you can take a shuttle, taxi, or Uber to the rental car location, you can often get lower rates.

Travel Dates

If your travel dates are flexible, check your dates. Many companies have cheaper rates on the weekend than during the week. Renting a car over a holiday will result in a higher cost.

Gas

For Heaven’s sake, don’t forget to fill up the gas tank before you return the car! Depending on the company and your contract, you may have to return it completely full, or you may only have to fill it up to the level it was when you first left with the car. Know how much gas you need to add, and fill it up before you get to the rental car return. And keep in mind that gas stations near the airport usually are more expensive than others just a few miles away. You can use an app like GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest gasoline.

Driving Internationally?

One other thing to consider if you’re planning to rent a car internationally, is whether they accept and recognize your driver’s license. Some European countries do accept a US driver’s license, while others require an International Driving Permit.

You’ll also need to be aware of the traffic laws and customs in the country where you plan to drive. Of course, I knew when I first visited England that we’d be driving on the left side of the road. I even knew about the roundabouts. What I didn’t realize was that traffic lights go from green to yellow to red, just like in the US – but they also go from red to green to yellow! We don’t do that here! Things like that can confuse someone driving in another country for the first time. So make sure you’re comfortable with how drivers and the road systems work wherever you’re going.

For more information on international driving, visit this page on the US Department of State website.

Thanks for reading and I hope this guide helps you save money when renting your next car, and answers all those burning questions you may have! Do you have any further tips? If so, chime in with a comment below.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Get travel tips, free resources, and blog updates delivered right to your inbox.