The Comprehensive Guide To Surviving A Long Haul Economy Class Flight

This morning marks my 870th blog post here. 870 pieces I’ve put together just for this little online space of mine sine March 2014. That’s quite something, when I stop and think about  it… But this morning is also going to mark a time for me to step away from the blog for a little while. As some of you may know from past posts, I do struggle with my mental health, and over the past few months, that struggle has become more predominant in my life. So, it’s time for me to take a little step back from blogville and focus on my health instead. This isn’t goodbye, its just see ya soon 🙂

But before I go on hiatus, I wanted to leave you guys with this post. It’s a big issue in the life of the budget traveller. I know, I know. Another bloody blogger posting on that age old issue. Yes, there are a lot of articles and blog posts on this topic, but the majority of them are completely unrealistic – how many of us can SERIOUSLY afford a $350 pashmina to keep us cosy and warm, or have enough frequent flyer points to be able to upgrade to business class? Those tips are not helpful; they’re infuriating.

So what makes me qualified to give useful advise? Chances are, I’m just like you. I don’t have any frequent flyer memberships because I pretty much just book the cheapest flights available. I’ve only ever flown business class once, on a family vacation 15 years ago, because the plane was all but empty and the air hostess probably thought the exhausted family of 5 flying back home from Europe deserved a break. I can’t afford expensive travel clothes or hydrating face masks made from unicorn tears – my current carry on backpack came from Kmart, and my travel document wallet cost $15 from Typo about 6 years ago (yup, that red one below).

Now that we’ve established that I’m not ‘just like you but better,’ let’s get down to it. I’ve flown a lot in the last few years. That’s given me plenty of time to work things out by trial and error. Before we start, let me preface these tips by saying that there is no magic formula to making a shitty, squishy economy seat feel luxurious for 14 hours. But there are ways to make it manageable, so that when the plane doors open at your destination, you’re not disembarking like an extra from The Walking Dead.

 

BOOKING PHASE
Pay attention to your seat selection. Whether you book with an agent or do it yourself online, you should be able to select your seat from a seating plan. I always pick a seat towards the back, for a few reasons:
a) First, you’re generally less likely to have a crying baby. Many airlines provide bassinets, and if parents use them, they’ll need to be seated at the front of the plane (or front of a section).
b) While you can view being that close to the toilets as a bad thing, you can also use it to your advantage for space to get up and stretch your legs.
c) And finally, if there’s no row behind you, you can recline all flight without annoying someone else, and no one can kick the back of your seat while trying yo get themselves some space.

– While we’re talking seat selection, go for an aisle seat. Being able to stretch you legs out in the aisle in between trolley runs make a lot of difference on a long flight!

– Something else to consider when you’re booking is your meal selection. Yes, plane food gets a bad wrap and most of us feel like rubbish after eating it. But you can actually do something about that by ordering a special meal. Here’s the deal with plane food: there are the standard meals everyone gets by default. But you can order a special meal if you have certain dietary restrictions – gluten free, non-pork products, lacto-ovo, there’s actually a lot you can pick from! Given that the main culprit in plane food is excess salt, you could order a low sodium or raw vegetarian meal – all you need to do in most cases is add in the request to the online ‘manage your booking’ portal, or just email customer service for the airline you’re flying, ask for their special meal options, and let them know what you’d prefer!

 

PRE-FLIGHT
– Following on from that last tip, try to eat well in the 24 hours before your flight. Aim for lots of veggies, wholegrains and protein, lots of water, and try to minimise your intake of sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Basically, go low FODMAP for at least a day or two before you fly. Trust me, it’ll make a big difference!

– If you do have a sensitive tummy on flights, its also a good idea to BYO food on board, even if it’s just a few snacks. I generally take with me a punnet of strawberries or blueberries, some mixed raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc), and a packet of corn thins.

Plan your arrival aiming to decrease your stress levels. If you’re on a plane for 14 hours and spend half that time worrying about what you’ll have to deal with when you arrive in terms of collecting luggage and organising transport out of the airport, you’re not getting much rest! Know what you’re going to be doing when you collect bags – you may want to book a shuttle bus in advance, or decide to get a coffee once you have your bags before you hit the taxi stand.

 

CARRY ON
There are lots of things I like to take with me on board, like books and journals, but these are the things that will really help you.

Noise cancelling headphones. These are new to my arsenal and hands down the most essential thing to take. Trust me, invest in some, it’ll make flying at least 68% less shit. Crying baby? Bickering couple? Snoring neighbour? Doesn’t matter!

Make up remover wipes and mini fragrance. You’ve been airborne for many hours. You’re tired. You feel irritable and blehh. It’s amazing how much more refreshed you are after giving you face a good clean and spritzing a little perfume over yourself.

Moisturiser and lip balm. We all know planes are dehydrating. And landing after 14 hours with cracked lips and a dry, itchy face feels crap. My go to products are Natural Instinct Rejuvenating Rosehip Oil (great for face & hands, and Burt’s Bees original honey lip balm.

A clean top and undies. You may have a flight delay. You may have a while to wait between connecting flights. You may have a bit longer to travel to your final destination after your flight lands. If you can’t carry a shower and full wardrobe with you, a clean tshirt and pair of undies will make the world of difference!

 

ON THE DAY
Choose your flight outfit carefully; this is not a time for fashion. Bottoms with either lose or stretchy waistbands are ideal; I like a long, maxi skirt or gym leggings. On top, layers. I go with a loose fitting black singlet or tshirt (you’d be surprised at the amount of stains you can accumulate on a flight), a light button up hoodie or cardigan, then a heavier layer or a big scarf that can double as a blanket.

Forget about fancy hats and headbands (headaches are not your friends on long haul flights), chunky jewellery, tight belts, anything decorative.

– While I’m at it, forget make up. You’re sitting on a plane for 12 hours, trust me, everyone in economy class is looking the same level of crap by the end. If you prefer to be made up, take a few small items with you to use at the end of the flight.

Pick your shoes wisely. Nothing too tight or uncomfortable, because your feet will swell and the people sitting around you won’t appreciate you taking your shoes off when you get uncomfortable. Also, socks. Planes get cold, and you’re not going to get much rest with cold feet!

Get to airport early. I’m always at the airport 3 hours before my international flight is scheduled to depart. Because I’m only going to be waiting around at home, so I may as well wait at the airport so I don’t have to rush! Drop your bags off, head to a café or bar, and relax until boarding time.

 

ON BOARD
Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you’re buckled in to your seat. Then, act like you’re already on that time. So if they’re serving lunch at midday in your departure city but it’s 7pm in your destination city, consider it dinner. Then watch a movie and try to get some shut eye.

Drink. Water. Buy a big bottle before you board and just keep drinking!

– Yes, they’re daggy and look ridiculous, but wear the compression socks. We get ours here, they’re pretty cheap, and it’s as easy as putting them on and forgetting them until you arrive! They’re good for your body. And while you’re at it, make sure you walk around every now and then, or at least wiggle your feet and ankles around regularly!

All set? Great! Now off you go and book a flight and I’ll see you back here soon 🙂

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Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff/index
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
http://www.chicagohs.org/
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
http://www.museoderonda.es/
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
https://www.sagamuseum.is/
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
https://www.ddr-museum.de/en
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
http://beermuseum.cz/
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
https://www.moma.org/
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
http://www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
http://castelsantangelo.beniculturali.it/
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
https://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).

 

And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

Top 10 Things To Do in Osaka

Osaka might be a smaller and less visited city than Tokyo, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less to do there…

 

1. Try okonomiyaki, an Osaka specialty

Where? Okonomiyaki Chitose, 1-11-10 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Osaka
Why go? Contrary to what I thought a few years ago, okonomiyaki actually isn’t found all over Japan; it’s just Osaka and Hiroshima that traditionally do it. And you have to try it. Roughly translated to “cooked as you like it,” it’s a type of savoury pancake usually filled with pork and shrimp, and topped with a thick, almost sweet okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito flakes. And it’s the ultimate in Japanese soul food.
How long will you need? Most okonomiyaki places like this one are quite small, so you’ll often need to allow for more time to get a seat than to eat.
Cost? We paid just under AUD$10.00 for a shrimp okonomiyaki.

 

2. Check out an undercover shopping mall

Where? Janjan Yokocho Alley, a few minutes walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line
Why go? For a really different shopping experience! This indoor alley is basically a mish mash of shops selling everything from second hand watches to dried fish. And there aren’t many tourists around, so you get a really good sense of what life is like in Osaka for the local population. And if you’re happy to rummage around, you can find some really cool stuff!
How long will you need? Give yourself a good few hours if you like to shop.
Cost? Prices range from dirt cheap for old stuff and food to a little more expensive for the odd clothing boutique.

 

3. Shop for stationery

https://www.u-arts.jp/
Where? U-Arts, 3-10,Namba Sennichimae,Tyu-o-ku, Osaka City
Why go? The Japanese have a love for stationery rivalled only by my own, and their stores are next level. There are the big ones like Muji and Tokyu Hands, but the little shops like U-Arts are even better. They stock pens and pencils, notebooks and washi tape, handmade decorative Japanese paper and origami pads, paint brushes and bookmarks… if a visit here doesn’t inspire you to create something, nothing will.
How long will you need? Normal people – half an hour. People like me – an hour or more.
Cost? Everything is very reasonably priced considering the quality. 

 

4. See some very unique shrines

Where? Namba Yasaka Shrine
Why go? Lots of visitors to Japan like to see the shrines and temples, because they’re so unique to that part of the world. Then there are shrines like this one that are unique on a whole different level. Hidden in plain sight on an unassuming street, you turn a corner and come face to face with a giant lion’s head…
How long will you need? We were there for about half an hour.
Cost? Free.

 

5. Eat all of the food

Where? Dōtonbori – along the canal
Why go? This is where you’ll find the best food in the city, advertised by giant crabs, octopuses and puffer fish. Great dishes to look for typical to the area are gyoza (fried dumplings), taiyaki (wafer-type cake filled with something like custard or red bean paste) and takoyaki (octopus balls – fried batter balls filled with little pieces of octopus).
How long will you need? All night. And then the next night.
Cost? Most food is pretty cheap, but a general rule of thumb is that the tackier the signage, the more you’ll pay.

 

6. Play some video games

Where? All around Namba district
Why go? If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, chances are you have fond memories of Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers. For a few dollars per game, you can relieve the good old days on old school arcade games. Sounds a bit nerdy, but it’s more popular than you’d think!
How long will you need? Depends how much of a gamer you are – plenty of people are in there fore hours on end!
Cost? Usually only a few dollars per game. 

 

7. Visit Osaka Castle and Park

http://www.osakacastle.net/english/park/
Where? 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo, Osaka
Why go? The park is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees if you’re lucky enough to be there in spring time, but if you’re not, it’s still just as beautiful. You can walk the moat-guarded grounds,  check out the castle’s museum, or take a look at the shops selling Japanese tabi socks, furoshiki (gift wrapping fabric) and matcha beer.
How long will you need? Half a day – better to get there in the morning if you can.
Cost? Entry to the park is free of charge, the castle museum costs around AUD$8.00 per adult.

 

8. Do the character café thing

http://gudetama.createrestaurants.com/jp/
Where? Gudetama Café, Level 7 – Hep Five, 5-15 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Osaka
Why go? Because you’re in Japan, the land of kawaii. They love their cartoon characters over there (we even saw Hello Kitty traffic cones being used at one point in our trip), and the character cafés are a really fun way to get into it. I chose the Gudetama Café, because the lazy little egg is my spirit animal, and I regret nothing.
How long will you need? An hour or so should do it.
Cost? Not super cheap – two matcha lattes and a dessert to share cost about AUD$22.00.

 

9. Try matcha flavoured everything

Where? Everywhere!
Why go? Matcha lattes were all the rage in Melbourne a few years ago, but it isn’t just a fashion statement in Osaka. Yes, they’re definitely cashing in on the tourist’s fascination with the green stuff, but it’s actually delicious. Start by trying actual matcha tea to get a taste. Then, the options are endless – soft serve, cookies, cakes, candy, husband even tried matcha beer!
How long will you need? Be on the look out alllll the time – we found that soft serve on the side of a really quiet street with not much else on it.
Cost? It’ll depend, but expect to pay a decent price for high quality matcha. 

 

10. Catch a bullet train to your next stop

Where? They depart from Shin-Osaka Station.
Why go? The best way to get from one city to the other in Japan is by bullet train. They fly along at speeds of up to 320kph (yes, really), are super clean and comfortable, and on the way from Osaka to Tokyo, you’ll get an incredible view of Mt Fuji. Can’t get that on a flight!
How long will you need? You can get from Osaka to Tokyo in 2.5 hours.
Cost? Not cheap – around AUD$175.00 per person in standard class. 

Top 10 Things To Do in Prague

I thought I’d kick off the new year with one of my favourite new cities – Prague was incredible! It was one of the cities I picked out for this trip because it looked beautiful in photos I’d seen, and sounded fascinating from the books and blog posts I’d read. Expect to see a lot more about this gorgeous city here in the coming months, but for now, here are 10 things you can add to your Prague bucket list!

 

1. Eat some seriously good traditional home-style food at U-Medvidku.

http://umedvidku.cz/en/
Where? Na Perštýně 7, 100 01 Staré Město
Why go?
They’re a restaurant, hotel and brewery all in one, and the food is warm plates of pure comfort. I highly recommend the potato dumplings filled with smoked ham on a bed of red and white sauerkraut – it looks almost as unappealing as it sounds, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. So much so, we went back the following day to order it again!
How long will you need? An hour or so for a good meal – food actually comes out pretty quickly,  but you’ll want time to enjoy it!
Cost? Soups and entrees from AUD$3.00, mains from AUD$12.00

 

2. Cross Charles Bridge – duh.

Where? In the middle of the city
Why go?  Don’t expect it to be quiet and romantic; it’s as packed with tourists as the Brooklyn Bridge! If you’re willing to get up and go early in the morning, you’ll enjoy a nice sunset with less people around, otherwise join the throngs later in the day and enjoy!
How long will you need? Leave at least half an hour each way
Cost? Free!

 

3. Then, see the bridge from above, at the top of the Old Town Bridge Tower.

http://en.muzeumprahy.cz/201-the-old-town-bridge-tower/
Where? The end of Charles Bridge – Old Town side
Why go? After crossing back into the Old Town from the lesser town side, you’ll reach the beautiful Old Town Bridge Tower. Most people we saw stopped to snap a photo of it, but very few seemed to notice the little entrance – head in, pay around AUD$6.00 for entry, climb the stairs to the top, and be rewarded with the best view of Charles Bridge in the city.
How long will you need? An hour or so, depending on how you do with the stairs
Cost? About AUD$6.00

 

4. Take the stairs on Zámecké schody to Prague Castle.

Where? Corner of Thunovská and Zámecká Streets, then head west (turn left) at Thunovská
Why go? Most people enter the castle complex on the opposite side, via the Old Castle Stairs, but that’s actually starting at the back – it was meant to be entered from the first courtyard. But that’s not the only reason; the view out over Prague from the top of the Zámecké schody stairs is unbeatable, especially around sunrise.
How long will you need? 10 minutes or so to the top
Cost? Free again!

 

5. Buy a ticket at Prague Castle to see more than just the outside of the buildings.

https://www.hrad.cz/en
Where? Take the stairs – see above
Why go? There are a few options depending on how much or little you want to see; we went with the middle ground and bought tickets for “Circuit B” which included access to the incredibly imposing St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica and Golden Lane (you’ll find Frank Kafka’s house among the tiny colourful dwellings here).
How long will you need? At least 2 – 3 hours
Cost? Circuit B cost around AUD$15.00, plus around AUD$6.00 for a license to take photos

 

6. Indulge your sweet tooth at Café Savoy.

http://cafesavoy.ambi.cz/en/
Where? Vítězná 124/5, Malá Strana, 150 00 Praha-Smíchov
Why go?
It’s one of the most opulent places you’re ever likely to eat cake, and they have a great big tea list, too! It’s also great for a spot of people watching, with locals and tourists both pouring through the doors.
How long will you need? How much cake do you wanna eat?
Cost? A fancy coffee, a pot of loose leaf tea and a gourmet slice of cake will cost around AUD$15.00 – $20.00

 

7. Feel the love at Lennon Wall.

Where? Velkopřevorské náměstí 490/1, 118 00, Prague 5-Malá Strana 
Why go?
While the man himself never had anything to do with the wall, he became a bit of a hero to the pacifist youth when he died in 1980 – his songs of peace and freedom were a pipe dream to many back when Communism was king – and for whatever reason, they took to this wall to paint their own messages. So many of us take our freedom for granted now, so it was actually pretty moving to stand before this wall that so many young people risked their lives to promote that message on.
How long will you need? Leave time to stay a while
Cost? Nothing!

 

8. Try one of the city’s most famous street foods from a vendor in Wenceslas Square – fried cheese.

Where? Wenceslas Square – look for the carts labelled “Vaclavsky Grill”
Why go? Yup. A solid chunk of cheese, crumbed, deep fried, and nestled in a bread roll. Add a little mustard and mayonnaise, and tell me that’s not the greatest thing ever.
How long will you need? 30 seconds… it’s so good it won’t last long!
Cost? A few dollars

 

9. Shop for books at The Globe Bookstore.

http://globebookstore.cz
Where? Pštrossova 1925/6, 110 00 Nové Město
Why go? 
While there are a few book stores floating around the city, this one was the first in the city to stock English language books, and it was the best one I found. They also have a great little café/restaurant in there with surprisingly good and well priced food.
How long will you need?
Browsing and eating can take a while…
Cost? Depends how many books you want; food is very well priced – you can get a decent sized meal for around AUD$10.00 – $12.00

 

10. Walk up Celetna Street into Old Town Square.

Where? Celetna Street – just follow it all the way to Old Town Square!
Why go? Because you can’t possibly leave Prague without seeing the Astronomical Clock! Celetna Street itself is one of the oldest streets in the city, and it’s unbelievably beautiful. And the clock really speaks for itself – it does get super crowded on the hour for its little song-and-dance routine, but it’s absolutely worth seeing!
How long will you need? At least an hour
Cost? Another freebie!

Logistics of RTW travel – part 5: 10 things to do before you head off

If you need to catch up first…
Part 1: When & where are you going?
Part 2: How to create your spendings budget
Part 3: How to create your savings budget
Part 4: Tracking your bookings (& saving your sanity)

 

Whether you’ve decided to plan ahead like me or just wing it, this list is for everyone; some things are too important to leave to chance.

1. Check whether or not you need visas
Some countries won’t let you in without a visa, and they’ll have no qualms about shipping you right back to where you came from. For that same reason, even if certain countries do offer visas on arrival at a cheaper rate, you’re still better off organising them beforehand. Imagine if you spent all that time and money on your dream adventure only to be turned away before even leaving the airport?! And yes, it does happen – I worked as a travel consultant and heard a colleague dealing with that situation on the phone one day!

 

2. Get travel insurance
If you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It’s as simple as that. This should be the very first item you purchase, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely non-negotiable. And if you think it’s expensive, consider how much an ambulance or surgery could cost in a country like America, where the health care system isn’t quite what we have in Australia!

img_9416

3. Register your plans with Smart Traveller
I’m a big believer in “hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” so the next few points are along that path. First up, register your plans on Smart Traveller. It’s a service provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and is basically the place to register your travel plans for any “just incase” situations (think natural and man made disasters). If you’re a non-Aussie reader, check if your country offers something similar.

 

4. Put an itinerary together for family/friends
As well as registering plans with Smart Traveller, I always leave a copy of my itinerary with family and/or friends. Because if anything were to happen to me overseas or to my loved ones back at home while I’m travelling, I want them to know how to find me quickly. My itineraries will always have:
– passport & visa copies
– insurance details
– flight/train details (dates, times, cities & flight/train numbers)
– accommodation details (name, address, phone, email, booking number, dates)

If you don’t want to print everything, Evernote is an app you need. I wrote more about it here, but basically it’s a note taking app which I used to plan this entire trip! The advantage it offers is the ability to share notebooks with other users, so if you have an itinerary folder with all those details, you can just share access to it via the app! It also means that if you change or update anything while you’re away, the people you’re sharing with will be able to see the changes.

 

5. Know where your local consulates are
Call it overkill, but with some of the scary stuff going on in the world today (if Kim Kardashian isn’t safe in her Parisian hotel, what hope do the rest of us have?!), I’m erring on the side of caution. It doesn’t take long to Google and save the addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses of your country’s consulates in some of the bigger cities you’ll visit. Save them in your phone, it couldn’t hurt!

 

6. See  your doctor
A quick phone call to your GP’s office should be able to tell you if you need any immunisations. Also, if you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to get you through your trip. Some countries can also be quite strict regarding medication coming through customs, so if that’s going to be an issue for any places you’re visiting, ask your doctor for a letter to bring along with you.

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7. Call your bank and organize your foreign currency
Seems like a no-brainer, but make sure you know what currency you’re going to need! Rather than travelling with cash or being stung with foreign transaction fees at ATMs when you’re away, consider a travel debit card. I use a Cash Passport, and it’s perfect for what I want; I can load multiple currencies, use it overseas in ATMs or as a regular debit card with no transaction fees, and best of all is that I can top it up whenever I’m running low on cash via their website!

It’s also worth letting your bank know you’re going to be overseas for a while so if there’s a lot of international activity/you don’t touch your account for several weeks, they won’t shut it down!

 

8. Sort out your phone/communications
I don’t have international roaming on my phone, nor do I intend to. When you travel, there is pretty much always access to free Wi-Fi somewhere. If you don’t want to worry about a horrific phone bill while you’re away (especially if it’s for a few months), think about using apps like Skype, Viber or WhatsApp that you’ll be able to use when your connected to free Wi-Fi instead!

Husband and I are also those weirdos who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, so we’ve told our family and friends who want to keep up to date with the trip to follow along on Instagram. We’ve also created a private, password-protected mini-blog using Tumblr (totally underrated app) that only our family and friends have the password to, so we can share more personal stuff. There’s also the functionality of a private message section and a public post section, again to make it easy to communicate without international roaming.

 

9.Bills, bills, bills
Unfortunately, just because you’re checking out of the real world for a while doesn’t mean it stops. If you’re like us, there’s still a mortgage, bills, car and health and home insurance to be paid while we’re away! . I’ve gone into way more detail about the financial side of things in this post, so a few small points here.

We’ve been saving and budgeting for this trip for quite a while, and have been putting a bit of extra money away each pay day to cover our mortgage repayments and other direct debits while we’re away. This way, any money we get paid for annual leave from work goes straight to our trip instead of those bills.

We’ve also elected to receive electronic bills for utilities, so we won’t miss anything. If that’s not possible, it’s a good idea to ask a friend to check your mail every week and open anything that looks like a bill, so you can pay it on time. The other option is to see if anything else can be set up on a direct debit payment plan.

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10. Record it all!
I’m obviously one for recording the memories I create, and I don’t think I should be the only one – think about how much time and effort you’ve put into planning this adventure. You won’t want to forget it all a few weeks after you get home! Invest in a good camera, get a travel journal and nice pen, create a travel blog. However you want to do it, make sure you have some place to keep all of the magic moments that happen on the road; those are the moments that turn into golden memories years later 🙂

Top 10 Things To Do in San Francisco

When I worked as a travel consultant, I heard over and over and over again how much Melbournians loved San Francisco because they were such similar cities. I heard so many people singing San Francisco’s praises, and because of that, I was a little apprehensive to visit – high expectations generally lead to big let downs. But if you can put all of the comparisons and people telling you “you HAVE to love it!” aside, you might find that you actually will love it. I did – it’s a great literary city with fantastic food and a rich history. And while there is a heap to do, here are my top 10 picks!
1. See Alcatraz Island
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https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/
Where? Departs from Pier 33
Why go? It brings history to life. It’s mind blowing, because walking through it (with the best audio commentary I’ve ever heard), it’s actually pretty easy to imagine how things would have been for the men held there. It’s stepping back in time in the most fascinating way, and it should be top of your list when you visit.
How long will you need? Allow a good 3 hours
Cost? Adult tickets currently start at USD35.50 per person
Read more:
 – Alcatraz part 1
– Alcatraz part 2
– Through my eyes: Canteen menu at Alcatraz
– Inside the hospital of Alcatraz

 

2. Hang out in Golden Gate Park
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https://goldengatepark.com/
Where? The massive chunk of green between Fulton St and Lincoln Way
Why go? It’s a really beautiful park and offers quite a lot of activities – there’s the museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, Botanical Gardens, California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, playgrounds, archery field, and a HEAP more.
How long will you need? Depends how much you want to do!
Cost? Wandering around the park is free, but specific attractions all attract their own fees – more details on the website.
Read more:
 – San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

 

3. Take a coffee and croissant break at Tartine Bakery
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http://www.tartinebakery.com/
Where? 600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
Why go? Because this was one of the best almond croissants I’ve ever stuffed my face with, and husband’s coffee was the size of a small fish bowl. And it was actually good!
How long will you need? Give yourself a bit of time because there’s often a wait for tables. If you snag one, though, stay as long as you want to keep eating and drinking!
Cost? USD$10.00 will get you a coffee, a croissant and change. Worth it.
Read more:
 – Eat here: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

 

4. Pick up some reading material at City Lights Bookstore
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http://citylights.com/
Where? 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
Why go? City Lights is an interesting combination of independent bookstore and publishing house with a strong connection to the Beat Generation; not only does it live next door to Jack Kerouac Alley, but founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested in the 1950’s after publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems on obscenity charges.
How long will you need? Book nerds – give yourself an hour. Normal people – 10 minutes should suffice.
Cost? Depends how many books you’re taking home!
Read more:
 – Shop here: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

 

5. Eat all of the chocolate at Ghirardelli Square
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http://www.ghirardellisq.com/
Where?  900 North Point Street at the corner of Beach and Larkin Streets
Why go? Because chocolate. The original Ghirardelli chocolate factory. They make chocolate, They sell chocolate. They serve it up in hot drinks and cute desserts. That should be all the reason you need. Chocolate. Also, there’s other stuff, like a pub, shops, the occasional live music set.
How long will you need? Chocoholics – an hour or two to shop and eat. Normal people – maybe half an hour. And get your heads checked.
Cost? Depends how much chocolate you’ll be wanting to take home…
Read more:
 – Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

 

6. Get lost in Chinatown, and stop for dim sum when you get hungry
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http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/
Where? Yummy Yummy will feed you well at 758 Pacific Ave
Why go? San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the best in the world, and for good reason – it’s enormous! Which means you’ll be hungry after doing laps of it – Yummy Yummy was where we stopped, and it was a great move. Amazing food, great prices, homely atmosphere!
How long will you need? A good half a day to explore and eat
Cost? Everything you see above that we ate cost us around USD$30.00 (including tip)
Read more:
– Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

 

7. Eat seafood and people watch at Fisherman’s Wharf
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http://www.fishermanswharf.org/
Where? Fisherman’s Wharf
Why go? There is SO much to do around there – shopping, eating, activities like Madame Tussauds, the aquarium, Pier 39, the Maritime National Historical Park, sightseeing tours and sea lion watching.
How long will you need? A few hours
Cost? Depends what you’re doing – we grabbed a cup of fresh seafood and sat by the water and watched the world go buy, and that only cost a few dollars!

 

8. Cheer on the 49ers!
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http://www.prontoshuttles.com/
Where? Levi’s Stadium is located in Santa Clara, about an hour from San Francisco by car
Why go? While husband and I both very much wanted to see an NFL game, the distance of the 49ers stadium from the city was very off-putting, until we found out about GameDay Shuttle (now Pronto Shuttles) – through them we were able to organise a single game pass for us both which included a shuttle service from the city to the game and back, and for an extra fee we added on the Fiesta Pre-Game pass – lunch and drinks at a Mexican restaurant near the stadium with the rest of the people on the shuttle! It was the best experience, and I’d absolutely do it again!
How long will you need? All day
Cost? We paid around USD$85.00 for the shuttle and buffet lunch (not including game tickets), but I believe Pronto’s services start from as little as USD$29.00 for a single pass.

 

9. Check out the street art
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Where? Everywhere!
Why go? There’s no one place to go, it’s more a case of keeping an eye out and wandering around the smaller streets as well as the main ones. The street art in this city is incredible, so when you see a giant mural on a wall, take the time to actually stop and look at it!
How long will you need? All day, every day!
Cost? Free!!!

 

10. The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps
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http://www.tiledsteps.org/
Where? Moraga St, between 15th and 16th Aves
Why go? Because it’s gorgeous. It’s a true neighbourhood effort, and a shining example of what can be achieved when people work together. It’s also a great way to work off all of those delicious calories you’ve been eating.
How long will you need? Leave an hour – you may want to kick back and relax after climbing those stairs!
Cost? Free

 

Read this: The Holiday Goddess – handbag guide to Paris, London, New York & Rome

The Holiday Goddess: handbag guide to Paris, London, New York & Rome
edited by Jessica Adams

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I was given this book as a gift a few years ago, and had a good read through it while planning our 2013 EuroTrip; a lot of the pages still have folds in them from when I bookmarked them. Given the next mega trip we’re planning to take will encompass all four of these cities, I’ve taken it out again to re-read and re-bookmark.

Part travel guide, part girly glamour guide, it’s a beautifully curated collection of travel tips and places to see and things to do, geared more towards the ladies. It’s not a super new book, so it does run the risk of becoming a little obsolete as a travel guide as places close their doors, but it covers a lot of classics and city stalwarts that aren’t going anywhere soon, like New York City’s Guggenheim. Because there are a range of contributors, you’ll get to read a whole lot of different takes and stories about their individual travel experiences; also super handy are the little extra bits of practical info like the website and how to get there.

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The shoppers will love all of the beautiful places suggested to max out the credit card at, but I like the less designer, more down-to-earth stuff, like the cheap picnic page below for Rome. I also love all of the market and park suggestions; the places you can go to experience the city as it should be experienced, amongst the locals.

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And even if you’re not travelling to any of these cities any time soon, it’s actually a really gorgeous coffee table book, and makes an awesome gift for that girlfriend with wondering feet  : )   Pick up a copy here and enjoy planning your trip to some of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities of the world!