Tag Archives: Travel

Make Money While You Travel

Many people would like to go on vacations, but they feel they can’t because of financial situations or other timely events in their life. And money has a lot to do with that. If vacations were free or cost less, maybe people would not mind several vacations per year. If you are enthusiastic about holidays, but money is an issue, you can ease the pain with a few apps that help you earn money while traveling. The income is not much, but it is something that will contribute to small expenses. 

Wondering how you can make money from your road trip? Roadie pays people to transport goods in their trunks to various places in the US. For a short distance, deliveries expect $8-$50. Long distances with a lot of luggage could earn you around $650—or more if it is a pet.

This job is not very different from other freelancer jobs, and you can even write off the mileage on your taxes. 

Field Agent is a good excuse to travel. It connects you with companies that need on-the-ground market research. If you have the app, you only have to create a new login for the country you are currently in. The app will find gigs near you, and you will earn $2-$12 for simple tasks like checking prices. 

If by any chance there is some extra space in your travel bag, you can fill it with goods that are transported to your destination for extra cash using Airmule. Alternatively, you can have an extra bag for that. Being a mule, you will earn 80% of the sender’s fee—this could be $40 for about five pounds and an additional $6 for every extra pound. 

For now, this job is only for the UK or US and China (this trip could earn you $300 one-way). However, very soon it will be available internationally. 

Apart from making your Instagram followers jealous, travel photos can earn you money. With Foap you can sell the photos to legendary brands like Visit Sweden, Garnier and Heineken for their digital marketing purposes. 

To make money, download Foap and upload a great photo. If a company buys it, you earn $5. And that is not even the best part—you can sell the same photo to countless businesses and get $5 each time. 

Occasionally, Foap features “Missions” where a brand requests specific pictures, for example, “Christmas in Poland.” If you emerge as the Mission’s winner, you earn at least $100. 

Note that when you sell a photo on Foap, the buyers obtain a non-exclusive right to the picture. 

There is usually so much waiting while traveling. You get bored and scroll through your Facebook feed every second hoping to find something interesting.  Instead of getting bored to death why not earn “SB” points for watching short videos and movie trailers using the Swagbucks Watch app. For every six videos, you make 2 SBs. 500 SB is roughly equal to $5. 

Next time you are going on a vacation download any of these apps, and you may stumble on a decent hourly rate and enjoy your vacation even more. 

The Best Hostels in Tokyo

Tokyo is a very expensive city. But you can still get affordable hostels. The hostels reflect Tokyo in cleanliness, charm, and art. Many of them will have Wi-Fi and cooking facilities. Generally, you will pay between 2000 and 5000 JPY for a bed per night. There are hostels for all kinds of people—those that want a peaceful time and the party animals. As you plan your trip, check out the following hostels that are some of the best in Tokyo. 

Khaosan Tokyo Origami

Located in Asakusa, this hostel is only a few minutes’ walk from Asakusa station and Senso-ji Temple. It is a clean facility with air-conditioning. You will enjoy comfy beds and spacious rooms. There are also privacy curtains. There is a common lounge with lots of free tea and coffee. The kitchen is available for use 24/7. Beds range from $29/3200 JPY and privates form $80/8800 JPY.

Sheena and Ippei

This hostel is small and is in downtown Tokyo just close to Ikebukuro station. It features unique décor and is quite homey. There is a refrigerator and microwave but no kitchen. Beds are from $37/4104 JPY and private from $138/15120 JPY.

Hostel Chapter Two Tokyo

It is near the Skytree station and is a family-run hostel. The dorms are well-equipped and modern. You will enjoy a beautiful view of Sumida River.

Beda are from $36/3900 JPY and privates from $84/9200.

Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki

Enjoy clean, comfy rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The hostel is a minute walk to Senso-ji gates.

Beds are from $25/2700 JPY and privates from $116/12750.

Hostel Bedgasm

It has a lively bar where you can meet fellow travelers. It offers a rooftop patio area and common kitchen.

Beds are from $32/3500 JPY and privates from $77/8500 JPY.

Kaisu Hostel

This hostel is a little expensive because it is fancier than other hostels.

Beds are from $39/4300 JPY.

Backpackers Hostel K’s House Tokyo

You will enjoy a beautiful, sunny common area. There is also a full kitchen.

Beds are from $26/2900 JPY and privates from $42/4600.

Unplan Kagurazaka 

This hostel is relatively new and is quite stylish and clean.

Beds are from $38/4200 JPY and privates are from $168/18500 JPY.

CITAN Hostel

There is a great kitchen and relaxed common area. It is in a peaceful neighborhood. 

Beds are from $27/3000 JPY and privates from $82/9000 JPY.

Space Hostel Tokyo

The best thing about this hostel is the rooftop lounge and comfy beds. It also offers several exciting events.

Beds are from $25/2700 JPY and privates from $120/13200 JPY.

Book and Bed Tokyo

This is both a hostel and a bookstore. It is peaceful and unique.

Beds are from $35/3800 JPY.

Hostel & Café East57

This hostel has multiple beds and rooms. You will get a laundry room and Wi-Fi as well. Beds are from $20/2200 JPY.

IRORI Hostel & Kitchen

This one offers lots of equipped kitchen spaces. 

Beds are from $27/3000 JPY.

5 Tips That Will Make Your Holiday More Enjoyable and Safer

It is always a great experience to go to different counties. You will be able to experience different cultures, and you will also have the chance to take a

look at some of the most beautiful sights in the world. However, you should always remember that you always must think that safety first when traveling

should be your top priority. Wherever you plan on going, it is important to remember that you and your traveling companion’s safety should always be first. Besides, if an incident would occur, it will make the rest of the holiday miserable.

Planning holidays or travels is not just about planning which places you should visit, but it is also about being prepared for things that may occur. So, here are some travel safety tips that you should always keep in your mind for you to have a more enjoyable and safer vacation.

Transportation is the first thing that you should plan on. You need to remember that even when you are still in your own country, airports and bus stations are notorious for pickpockets and robberies. Always remember that you should always keep your important travel items with you always.

Have your luggage clearly marked in order to avoid letting someone take it by accident thinking that it’s his or her luggage. Also, instead of using cheap luggage, always go for quality pieces and well-known and reputable brands. By doing so, you will never worry about your luggage breaking or suddenly springing open in the middle of the airport terminal.

When you arrive in your destination country, always ask which taxis are safe to ride in. You can check this with a police officer or from the information desk at the airport. Also, never share taxis with stranger. And, when it comes to public transportation, avoid it late at night, especially if you are not sure where you are going. Also, although backpackers will recommend hitchhiking,

you should avoid doing this as much as possible.

Whenever you are checking in to hotels, make sure that the hotel you checked-in is in a good area. Always take not of the emergency exits and never open your hotel room door to any strangers and never invite people you just have met in your hotel room. Also, use the hotel room door lock and chain during the night.

Clothing is another thing that you should plan on to have a safe trip. The key to traveling safety is by never looking like a tourist. Always mix with the public in terms of style. Never ever wear any expensive accessories, such as gold necklaces,

expensive watches, rings, and other affluent items. Never put anything that you can afford to lose in your pockets or purse. If you can, try buying a small bag that you can wear close to your body. A small bag the size of a wallet that can be worn as a necklace is a great idea. A belt bag can also provide you with security and peace of mind.

Always avoid using cash. As much as possible, always use your credit card. And, when it is time for you to pay, never leave your eyes on your credit card. Accompany the waiter to the cashier when paying with a credit card to make sure that your card doesn’t get swiped with a credit card copier.

Remember these things and you can be sure that you will have a lot of fun on your travels. By keeping safety on your priority when traveling, you can be sure that you and your travel companions will have a great time during your vacation or your holiday.

A Travel Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia

If you’ve never been to Croatia, the one thing you should know is that it’s downright dazzling, and the city of Dubrovnik is the epitome of such beauty. Crystal clear waters glisten under the sun; boats, one of the primary forms of transportation in the area, dot the sea in every direction; and the medieval limestone walls of the Stari Grad that safeguard the terra cotta–roofed buildings are impressive. And while the Pearl of the Adriatic has long seduced visitors, it only continues to grow in popularity. Game of Thrones fans know it as the real-life King’s Landing (yes, this is where they shot Cersei’s walk of shame), but earlier this year, it also served as a film set for Robin Hood: Origins and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, drawing even more attention to the city. Add the news of UberBoat and the country’s first underwater winery in the nearby Peljesac peninsula, and it’s easy to see why the spotlight is shining on Dubrovnik right now.


Villa Agave DubrovnikPhoto: Courtesy of Villa Agave Dubrovnik

Where to Stay
This past May, Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik reopened after a seven-month renovation in which its 158 accommodations were redecorated, the lobby transformed, and the Abakus Piano Bar—now complete with an outdoor patio furnished with comfortable lounge seating that’s ideal for sunset cocktails—revamped. Majority of the rooms come with balconies, where uninterrupted views of the Adriatic and the Old Town can be enjoyed from. And while there’s an enormous indoor pool at the spa and an exceptional waterfront restaurant (Prora) that’s great for a seafood lunch, what can’t be beat is the direct access to the sea from the hotel’s beach.


But if you’re looking for something more intimate, look no further than Villa Agave Dubrovnik. Previously the summerhouse of English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, the three-bedroom exclusive-use property is the perfect option for those seeking a little more privacy. Revel in a small cliffside beach, laze by the pool that overlooks Stari Grad, cozy up next to the fireplace on cooler nights, and don’t forget about the five (yes, five) terraces you have to savor views of the sparkling water.


A view of the Old Town and Lokrum island from abovePhoto: Courtesy of Christina Liao

What to Do
A walk around the ancient city walls and a cable car ride up to Mount Srd are most certainly touristy, but they’re absolutely worth it. The former is best done early in the morning to not only beat the heat, but to avoid the throngs of incoming cruisers in the middle of the day, and is a great way to introduce yourself to the Old Town. The latter is remarkable at sunset, when pink and orange hues paint the sky, making the already unparalleled views of Dubrovnik from high above even more astounding.


For a relaxing but eventful day trip, head out to the Peljesac peninsula for fresh oysters and quality wine. Mali Ston bay is home to the rare European flat oyster, and only a few dozen households are allowed to cultivate the delectable mollusks. Briny and brassy, these are said to be some of the best, especially when plucked from this particular body of water that is exceptionally clean and naturally rich in nutrients. If you’re staying at any of the Adriatic Luxury Hotels, the concierge team has an incredible connection with the Drazeta family, who will take you on a quick tour around the oyster farm by boat before docking at their private island where you can sample the plump bivalves pulled straight from the bay. Wash them down with some homemade rakija (fruit brandy) and you’ll be primed for a visit to the wineries nearby. Of note is Saints Hills Winery, which makes a beautiful rosé that’s the definition of summer, and the amazing food at their restaurant is worth the visit alone (seared foie gras delicately perched on a nest of fried potato strings with a drizzle of fig jam is an exemplary amuse-bouche that sets the tone for the rest of your meal).

Lastly, you can’t visit Croatia without some time on the Adriatic Sea. Active travelers will want to hop in a kayak and paddle around to see the picturesque landscape by sea, but island hopping by boat is truly the best way to go. A short 15-minute ferry ride from Old Town Port will take you to Lokrum where peacocks and rabbits run wild, and the island is the home to the original GoT Iron Throne. Fans of the HBO show will also want to visit the botanical gardens, one of the filming locations for the city of Qarth. Make sure to also rent a yacht for the day to head out to the Elaphiti Islands, where hidden coves and sandy beaches await.


Two of the overwater cabanas at Bowa DubrovnikPhoto: Courtesy of Christina Liao

Where to Eat and Drink
For the finest in Dalmatian cuisine, Restaurant Dubrovnik and Nautika Restaurantare both great options for an upscale affair. For those who want something a little different, Azur serves up delightful Asian cuisine with items like Croatian-style seafood laksa and Thai-style beef salad. But if you’re looking for something a little more local, you’ll have to head some ways out of the Old Town. Konoba Dubrava—which isn’t too far from the cable car stop at the top of the hill—is a go-to spot for peka, the region’s signature dish of baked meat and vegetables. In the neighborhoods of Lapad and Babin Kuk, you’ll find Pantarul and Orsan, respectively. The former presents local ingredients in a modern way while the latter is a bit more traditional but scrumptious nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Bowa is in a league of its own. Nestled in a secluded portion of Sipan Island, this beach restaurant is the place for some fun in the sun. Spacious cabanas are perfect for a group of you and your friends, while a patch of pebbly beach furnished with chaise lounges and swan floats provide direct access to the Adriatic. It’s an idyllic oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with marvelous fare to boot. Orzotto, ravioli, and the octopus and horsebean salad are all great starters, but whatever you do, make sure you order grilled fish as your main—you won’t regret it.

Once you’re ready to throw back a few drinks, the Bar by Azur is a cozy watering hole shaking up refreshing cocktails while D’vino Wine Bar Dubrovnik has an extensive list of Croatian wine in case you weren’t able to make it out to any of the nearby wineries. But if you want to escape the town center for the evening, wander over to Villa Orsula’s Victoria Restaurant & Lounge Bar, where a striking, dimly lit, grapevine-draped terrace beckons.



6 reasons fall is the best time to travel

Fall is coming, and with it stunning foliage, sweater weather, and pumpkin-spiced treats.

But did you know that fall is also one of the best times of the year for travel?

With fewer crowds, lower prices, and an abundance of festivals, here are all the reasons why you should be packing your bags this fall.


The weather is mild

Bring out those sweaters because fall weather is perfect for exploring, whether it’s a city or a national park. Not too hot, yet not too cold either, you can explore to your heart’s content in a comfortable climate. You won’t have to worry about breaking a sweat, and you also won’t have to jam bulky sweaters and coats in your suitcase. A true win-win.

Travel is cheaper

For travelers on a budget, fall is one of the cheapest times of the year to travel. Technically the “off-season,” both airfare and hotels are generally cheaper in the fall than in the summer or during the holidays.

If you’re willing to take a risk, Caribbean travel is especially cheap thanks to the hurricane or rainy season.


The foliage is stunning

Fall is a beautiful time to travel thanks to the changing leaves. Rent a cabin in the mountains, take a road trip, or stay in a charming village where you can oglebright shades of red, yellow, and orange.


A lot of great festivals take place

Fall sees a lot of epic festivals around the world, like Oktoberfest, Diwali, London Fashion Week, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos.

The seasonal food is amazing

Fall cuisine is a category all its own. Peak season for apples, pears, squash, and sweet potatoes, fall might be the best time of the year to wine and dine. Whether you’re getting outdoorsy and going apple picking, or noshing on seasonal dishes at a restaurant, your taste buds are sure to love fall.



How AI, AR, and VR are making travel more convenient

From 50 ways to leave your lover, as the song goes, to 750 types of shampoos, we live in an endless sea of choices. And although I haven’t been in the market for hair products in a while, I understand the appeal of picking a product that’s just right for you, even if the decision-making is often agonizing. This quandary (the “Goldilocks Syndrome”, of finding the option that is “just right”) has now made its way to the travel industry, as the race is on to deliver highly personalized and contextual offers for your next flight, hotel room or car rental.

Technology, of course, is both a key driver and enabler of this brave new world of merchandising in the travel business. But this is not your garden variety relational-databases-and-object-oriented-systems tech. What is allowing airlines, hotels and other travel companies to behave more like modern-day retailers is the clever use of self-learning systems, heuristics trained by massive data sets and haptic-enabled video hardware. Machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are starting to dramatically shape the way we will seek and select our travel experiences.

Let every recommendation be right

AI is already starting to change how we search for and book travel. Recent innovation and investment has poured into front-end technologies that leverage machine learning to fine tune search results based on your explicit and implicit preferences. These range from algorithms that are constantly refining how options are ranked on your favorite travel website, to apps on your mobile phone that consider past trips, expressed sentiment (think thumbs up, likes/dislikes, reviews) and volunteered information like frequent traveler numbers.

Business travel, as well, is positioned for the application of AI techniques, even if not all advances are visible to the naked eye. You can take photos of a stack of receipts on your smartphone; optical character recognition software codifies expense amounts and currencies, while machine learning algorithms pick out nuances like categories and spending patterns.

AI is also improving efficiencies in many operational systems that form the backbone of travel. Machine learning is already starting to replace a lot of rule-based probabilistic models in airport systems to optimize flight landing paths to meet noise abatement guidelines, or change gate/ramp sequencing patterns to maximize fuel efficiency.

Making decisions based on reality

VR and AR are still changing and evolving rapidly, with many consumer technology giants publicly announcing products this year we can expect to see rapid early adoption and mainstreaming of these technologies. Just as music, photos, videos and messaging became ubiquitous thanks to embedded capabilities in our phones, future AR and VR applications are likely to become commonplace.

VR offers a rich, immersive experience for travel inspiration, and it is easy to imagine destination content being developed for a VR environment. But VR can also be applied to travel search and shopping. My company, Amadeus, recently demonstrated a seamless flight booking experience that includes seat selection and payment. Virtually “walking” onto an airplane and looking a specific seat you are about to purchase makes it easier for consumers to make informed decisions, while allowing airlines to clearly differentiate their premium offerings.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 - Day 1

AR will probably have a more immediate impact than VR, however, in part due to the presence of advanced camera, location and sensor technology already available today on higher-end smartphones. Airports are experimenting with beacon technology where an AR overlay would be able to easily and quickly guide you to your tight connection for an onward flight, or a tailored shopping or dining experience if you have a longer layover.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” goes Arthur C. Clarke’s famously quoted third law. But as we expect more authentic experiences: precise search results, an informed booking or an immersive travel adventure, we can count on increasingly magical technology from systems that learn to deliver us our “perfect bowl of porridge.”



New Zealand tourist dies after being hit by jet blast on Maho Beach in St. Maarten

A thrill-seeking tourist was killed on a Caribbean island after the powerful blast from a departing plane blew her off her feet, according to a report.

The unidentified 57-year-old New Zealand woman was holding onto the fence at St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana Airport — just steps away from the beach — when the jet blast from the Trinidad-bound Boeing 737 threw her backwards, causing her to hit her head on the concrete pavement, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The woman was vacationing with her family when the incident occurred Wednesday around 6 p.m. local time, the report said.


Emergency responders rushed to the woman’s aid, but she could not be saved.

The island’s Maho Beach is a popular spot for tourists to gather for the nail-biting thrill of low-flying planes nearly skimming beach-goers as they descend on the runway.

There are “danger” signs posted up on the fence outside the airport warning tourists of the jet blast and standing too close to the fence.

“Jet blast of departing and arriving aircraft can cause severe physical harm resulting in extreme bodily harm and/or death,” the signage reads.

St. Marteen’s director of tourism, Rolando Brison, told the Herald that he spoke to the victim’s family.

“While they recognized that what they did was wrong, through the clearly visible danger signs, they regret that risk they took turned out in the worst possible way,” he said.

“At this time I only wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones while we continue to investigate what transpired just hours ago.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the Herald that the agency was investigating “reports that a New Zealand citizen has passed away in St. Maarten.”



Huge New Island Pops Up In North Carolina, Just In Time For Summer

A very large new island has popped up off the coast of North Carolina, delighting locals and internet onlookers alike.


Since April, so-called “Shelly Island” has grown from a small sandbar to a full-fledged island in the Outer Banks island group, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Now about a mile long and three football fields wide, it’s right off the coast of Cape Point, a popular surf spot on Hatteras Island.  


Locals are cruising over in rafts to pluck shells from the new island’s sands, Travel + Leisure reports. An inlet with dangerous currents, sharks and stingrays separates Shelly Island from shore, making it dangerous to visit without proper expertise, according to Paul Paris, a research scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Studies Institute.

Local photographer Chad Koczera captured photos of the new island with a drone.

The island’s appearance isn’t due to climate change, Paris said. Dave Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, told The Pilot the coastline near Shelly Island constantly changes shape due to currents and storms. It’s not uncommon for features like Shelly Island to appear one season and disappear by the next.


While its lifespan may turn out to be short, the spot is indeed an island by standard definition, Paris added. The trick is sneaking a visit before it disappears.


In North Carolina, “we live on a very dynamic coastline, and it’s changing all the time,” Paris said. “Things like [Shelly Island] come and go offshore. Whether it’s there next year or not is anybody’s guess.”


Visitors should not swim to the island, Paris said, but experienced kayakers may be able to proceed through the inlet with caution. A small boat would work, too, if its operator is experienced.



7 Cruise Ports Where You Should Rent a Car

There are times when it is more convenient, and possibly more prudent, to see the sights of a cruise port via tours. Driving in ports like Piraeus or Istanbul can be intimidating for even the most adventurous drivers. How about driving on your own in Montego Bay Jamaica? Anybody think that’s a great idea? There’s no reason to rent a car in ports with good public transportation or where the main sights and activities are accessible on foot from the port. But there are a handful of ports where you might really want to go beyond what the tour and taxi drivers want you to see, where it would be safe to do so, and where you can explore at your leisure.

Car rental basics

• Reserve in advance when possible.

• Always use a credit card that includes foreign rental insurance, but know that in some places, they will still make you pay for primary coverage.

• Do your homework; knowing what you hope to see while you have the car and what type of vehicle will get you there is key. Is four-wheel drive needed? Is there parking at your intended destination?

• Take a folded soft-sided cooler with you so that you can stop for snacks.

• If pre-purchase of fuel is an option, take it. Your time in port is limited; the last thing you want is to have to find a gas station near the rental office to refuel.

• Make sure you get a map. If there is any doubt, print computer maps before you leave home.

• Watch your time carefully. You don’t want to be left standing on the shore as your ship sails away because you didn’t allow enough time to return your rental.    

Here are examples of ports where rentals are an easy and fun way to enhance your experience.


Renting a car on Aruba is made easy by the fact that there are rental agencies located at the cruise terminal. You can reserve in advance, then walk off the ship and start your adventure. Having your own car makes it possible to drive to secluded beaches beyond the crowded hotel area. Try Santo Largo Beach for a true Aruban escape. Rates run in the $35-40 per day range. Try Speed Car in the cruise terminal.


You can arrange for the rental company to pick you up at the pier and take you to a rental office. Bonaire is perfect for driving a rental. Traffic is light and a car gives you the opportunity to see a large portion of the island a little easier than via the golf carts rented at the pier. A car works really well if you plan to snorkel or shore dive. You can rent gear and tanks at the Dive Friends Bonaire location near the pier, then head out to find your own perfect dive spot.  Rates run in the $35 range, some trucks are set up for diving. Try AB Car Rental.

Freeport Bahamas

A day on Grand Bahama Island can be greatly enhanced with your own car to explore from. Drive to Gold Rock Beach or Lucayan National Park with a picnic you can pack from markets in Lucaya. The driving itself is an adventure worth re-telling — remember it’s on the left side of the road. Rates run in the $75 range. Try Island Jeep Rentals.

Grand Cayman

If snorkeling or shore diving is your thing, having a car at your disposal on Grand Cayman gets you away from the crowds and into the water without a boat. Use the information at ShoreDiving.com to help you locate great options. If beaches are your goal, there are choices far quieter than the famed Seven Mile Beach. Packing a picnic and driving to Smith Barcadere or Starfish Point will give you a whole new impression of the island.  You can get a Jeep for as low as $69.95 per day. Try Cayman Auto Rentals.

Hawaiian Islands

Obviously, the islands are too big to see all of any one while on a cruise ship stopover, but renting a car might get you a better overview of the sights, or at least allow you to escape the usual tourist hangouts. The best example is on the Big Island. If your ship docks in Kona, rent a car and drive down the coast a bit, sampling public beaches, coffee plantations, and unique shopping and food along the way. It’s a great way to see the island. Thrifty may be the best choice here. Rates start at $75 per day.

Greek Islands

There are a few stops on a cruise through the Greek Islands where having a car gets you to the good stuff easier than on a tour. It’s not recommended on Santorini, but Crete would be worth looking into. The best choice might be on Lemnos. In the Port of Myrina, Holiday Car Rental is near the docks. Stop in one of the nearby shops for cheese, bread, & wine before you pick up the car. Driving on the tiny roads in town is crazy, so head south on the coast road where you will find secluded beaches and quaint shops. Holiday Car Rentals has options starting at $75.


We saved the best for last. A rental on Cozumel allows you to escape the tourist attractions in favor of the secluded beaches and scenery on the wild east side of the island. Or maybe you want to do both. Take a scenic drive, enjoy your own private beach break, then head back to the fun at Chankanaab Beach Park, with its abundance of facilities, before returning the car. Alamo has cars for under $20 per day and Jeeps under $50.



Aruba: Where to stay, what to do

Can you ever go wrong with staying at a Ritz Carlton property? The answer is no, and this property is one worth checking out. In conjunction with the exceptional service and attention to detail we have all come to expect with the brand, each of the 320 spacious guest rooms has access to a private balcony—perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset over the ocean. The property has four different restaurant options (ranging from poolside grill to white tablecloth seating) and gives guests the option of requesting a romantic dinner on the beach, with a butler and personalized menu. There are two swimming pools (one of which is adults only), a luxury spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center with enough equipment to keep you on your gym routine while on vacation. The hotel also offers a 15,000-square-foot, 24-hour casino located in the hotel for guests and non-guests.


Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino

Located in the heart of Aruba’s busiest tourist district, the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers guests an unparalleled experience. The resort has 40 acres of exclusive beach sand and shore, which are home to a flock of wild flamingos and countless iguanas. Guests arrive to the private oasis by water taxi, which leaves from the lobby’s canal. The resort is divided into two zones: adult only and family friendly, allowing you to choose the type of vacation you wish to have. Rooms come complete with free Wi-Fi access and most have access to balconies that offer ocean or garden views. The resort also has a luxury spa, outdoor pools, easy access to Renaissance Mall and a 24-hour casino.


Flying Fishbone

This locally owned restaurant gave me one of my favorite beach dining experiences to date. Diners are treated to a table in the sand (that quickly turns into “a table in the water” as the waves come in) amid the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset and an ocean that never ends. As the sun sets, colored lights reflected on the water creates a magical feeling under a starry sky. But the views aren’t the only reason this restaurant is named No. 8 on the list of “best beach restaurants around the world.” The menu is filled with delectable seafood and steak plates that use local ingredients and techniques to create a culinary experience you won’t soon forget.



Renaissance Aruba Private Island

Even if you aren’t a guest at the Renaissance, you can purchase a day pass for $99 per person to their private island (if their hotel isn’t at capacity). A water taxi will take you on a 10-minute ride to the island, where you can spend the entire day soaking up the sun with wild flamingos and iguanas, getting pampered at the Spa Cove with a view of the open sea, partaking in water sports or beach activities and enjoying a good lunch at Papagoyo Bar and Grill.

Arikok National Park

With more than 7,000 acres (18 percent of the entire island) designated as a national park, Arikok is a must if you’re visiting Aruba. The park is made up of three distinct geological terrains: the rough hills of the volcanic Aruba lava formation, the mysterious rocks of the batholithic quartz-diorite/tonalite and the limestone rocks with fossilized coral. The park has huge significance in the history of Aruba as it has traces of the earliest human activity—the Caquetío people left rock paintings in Cunucu Arikok and Fontein Cave. Within the park is one of the island’s most sought after attractions, Conchi (or the Natural Pool), which is a calm pond created, in part, by the massive rocks that block out the rough seas, but it can only be accessed by foot, horse, ATV or four-wheel drive vehicle. The park also has several mini-beaches throughout, giving guests the opportunity to stop during their exploration. And visitors can see most of the island from atop Arikok Hilltop. The park is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $11 per person, or free from anyone 17 and under.

Sunset Cruise

Aruba is known for having some of the best sunsets in the world, thanks to its location in the Caribbean Sea. Book a sunset cruise so that you can enjoy the view of the pink and orange sky from the sea. Most cruises last approximately two hours and offer guests snacks and cocktails for the duration of the cruise. While sailing along the coast, you’ll have the opportunity to glance at oceanfront properties that you can’t see from the main roads. Tickets are $55 per adult and $29 per child (ages 3 to 11).

Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.




How Travel Leads to Stronger Romantic Relationships

Travel is at once a never-ending source of new experiences and memories, but also a testing ground for a relationship’s strength.

Last year, a flight delay almost ended my marriage.

My wife and I were en route to a West Coast wedding when a storm diverted us from our layover in D.C. to an unexpected landing in Richmond, Virginia. Ever easygoing, my wife embraced the situation, securing us a flight out the next morning and reserving a room at a boutique hotel. Prone to panic, I soon broke the serenity when I realized our bags were still on the original flight. To save our orphaned luggage, I forced us back on the plane to our nation’s capital—headed to an airport we no longer had tickets out of. Tensions were high; regrets were immediate. As we approached, the pilot announced that another squall had us rerouted, once again, to Richmond. We submitted to fate, and ended the evening sharing laughs, Korean tacos, and one-too-many craft brews in the historic Virginia capital.

Though the stakes may be exaggerated, the point is sound: Travel is a test kitchen for a committed relationship. When a couple spends uninterrupted time together for an extended period in an unfamiliar setting, the challenges that arise truly test their mettle. But for those who endure through adversity, the rewards of a travel-eccentric relationship are bounteous—and research backs this up.


A 2012 survey by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that couples that took regular trips reported higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships, and considered their vacations an important venue for romance. Similarly, a 2013 Journal of Travel Research article by experts at Texas A&M found that partners who traveled together experienced improved communication, and that connectivity extended into their life back home—with one important caveat. For a couple to reap such benefits, they must want the same thing out of the vacation, and that experience must include shared activities that nurture the relationship.

“Vacation experiences are made up of seeking and escaping motives. Some are seeking adventure; others are escaping and want to relax. The dyad has to match up,” says Dr. James Petrick, professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences and co-author of the Texas A&M review. “Outside of your usual environment, you have to process much more and evaluate situations in an in-depth manner. Vacations awaken all your senses. You’re more in tune with each other, with the environment around you.”

Cincinnati residents Jocelyn Gibson, 34, and Justin Leach, 33, were married last October after dating since 2014. Part of what drew them together was a mutual love of travel—the pair have already flexed their compatibility on excursions to Madrid, Copenhagen, Marseille and Berlin in that three-year span. While they cop to the occasional argument—Justin likes to plot things out, while Jocelyn prefers to wander—they have similar interests, leaving much to bond over.

“We are constantly noticing the historic architecture, street life, public spaces,” Gibson says. “We both love food, so our meals are satisfying and memorable. On countless occasions we will be doing something ordinary, and we’ll recall a specific memory from one of our trips and be struck by nostalgia.”



Travel insurance could become compulsory to visit Thailand

That’s because Thai tourism officials are pushing forward with a proposal to require all visitors to Thailand to obtain travel insurance before entering the country.

Apparently our misadventures in the South East Asian country are costing local hospitals a fortune.

Officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports are deliberating over the proposal raised in a meeting last week to make the insurance compulsory.

According to Jaturon Phakdeewanit, director of the Tourism Safety and Security Standards, visitors without travel insurance have cost Thailand at least 3 billion baht ($A117 million) a year for their medical treatments at state hospitals.


“We need to push this through as soon as possible because the problem is becoming more serious,” he said.

Government officials will be discussing with tourism operators about the best approach to implement the new rule, before submitting the proposal to the cabinet for approval.

Travel insurance documents will likely be inspected at immigration counters upon arrival, as many visitors do not need visa to enter the country.

Travel insurance policies can cover you for unexpected accidents or illness, lost luggage, theft, personal liability and unforeseen trip cancellation.


The cost of purchasing insurance can vary greatly depending on a range of factors such as age, itinerary and level of cover, but according to a guide on CompareTravelInsurance.com.au, a policy for a person aged around 30-years-old travelling to Thailand for a one-week holiday could cost anywhere from $30 to $250.

Tourism is a major industry in Thailand, with more than 14 million people visiting the country since January 1, generating $US20.5 billion ($A27.4 billion) dollars in revenue.




Medellín, Colombia: My Ultimate Live And Invest Destination

The first place I ever recommended Americans think about retiring overseas was Costa Rica. That was back in 1985…30 plus years ago. A few years later I organized and promoted the first conference of my career, in San José.


Thinking back, I have to give it to the 40-odd souls who joined me in Costa Rica that year. What interrogations they must have endured from their family and friends. I mean, who retired overseas 30 years ago?


I continued to recommend Costa Rica as an appealing and affordable place to retire outside the box for maybe two decades. In that time, I also went on to recommend Ambergris Caye, Belize…Roatan, Honduras…Cuenca, Ecuador…and Boquete, Panama, among other places that, likewise, nobody at the time was talking about in this way.

I’m not overstating things. When I began making these kinds of suggestions, I was ignored, questioned suspiciously, and sometimes attacked as part of the lunatic fringe.

Today the idea of retiring outside the country where you happened to be living up until that point is no longer considered crazy. Today, The New York Times, the AARP, USA Today, cable news, and the rest of the mainstream media make these recommendations, too. Which is great. It’s nice having company in these ideas.


I make the point to provide context for the recommendation I’d like to offer now, which may seem like the craziest one of all.


About six years ago I finally took the advice of friends who had been nagging me for a long while to go see for myself a city they knew well, a city they described as pretty and pleasant, sophisticated and chic, welcoming and affordable…a city that was, most of all, they assured me, nothing like what I was probably expecting.



I knew within hours of arriving in Medellin, Colombia, that everything my friends had said was true. Medellin, I became convinced very quickly, was on track to become one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, for both retiring and investing.

Specifically, Medellin offers:

  • Pleasant weather, meaning you can leave your windows open to the breeze and dine al fresco year-round…
  • World-class health care, including 5 of the top 35 hospitals in Latin America…
  • A rich cultural scene, with theater, orchestra, art galleries, and festivals that draw crowds from around the world…
  • An affordable cost of living…
  • Real-world infrastructure…living here you don’t want for anything…
  • Property costs that are a bargain on a global scale; it’s possible to buy at the best addresses in the city for as little as US$1,000 per square meter…
  • Investment upside, both in the form of rental yields and potential capital appreciation…

The best case when going overseas is when you can identify a place that is appealing both as a lifestyle choice and as an investment market. That’s the case in Medellin.

Three types of people should be paying attention to Colombia right now:

  • The investor: Prices are an absolute, global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerating rate. Right now in Medellin, you could buy almost anything and feel confident that you could make money. Rental yields are running from 8% to 14% on good properties…
  • The retiree: This City of Flowers and Eternal Spring is going to become a top destination among North American retirees…mark my words…
  • The second-home buyer: More and more, I’m seeing people who are spending their summers in the United States or Europe but skipping out on the ice and snow by wintering in places where they can leave their windows open day and night, all year. These folks are bypassing the old-school snowbird haunts like Arizona and Florida and opting instead for the romance, the excitement, the adventure, and the affordable high-end lifestyle on offer in cities like Medellin.

We don’t always have the vision to jump when opportunity presents itself. Imagine if you had bought in Costa Rica in the mid-1980s…on Ambergris Caye, Belize, later in that decade…or in Panama City 15 years ago…

I recognized the opportunities in all these places at precisely those points in time, and I urged readers and friends to take advantage.

I see that same potential again right now, in Medellin.

The best way to appreciate the opportunity on offer in Medellin (or anywhere) is to come see for yourself. This, of course, is the big idea behind the country conferences that we sponsor each year. Could Medellin be the retirement or investment haven you seek? The best place in the world right now for you to think about reinventing and relaunching your life or diversifying your investment portfolio?



Australia to ban convicted pedophiles from travelling abroad

Australia plans to ban convicted pedophiles from travelling overseas in what the government said is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in South East Asia from exploitation.

Australian pedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby South East Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would cancel the passports of around 20,000 pedophiles on the national child sex offender register under legislation that will be introduced to Parliament soon.

“There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified,” she told reporters.

Almost 800 registered child sex offenders traveled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.

“There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism,” Bishop said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said no country has such a travel ban. He said 2,500 new convicted paedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and would also lose their passports.

The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life. Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.

Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and was jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming paedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.

Hinch said he had not known that convicted paedophiles were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children’s rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year.

“If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can’t we stop our paedophiles from travelling to Myanmar?” Griffiths wrote. Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee’s permission.

Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to paedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for paedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.

“This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend,” said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications.

“I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we’re trying to work it out so they don’t,” he added.

Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.



My New Travel Book Cover

My new travel book cover arrived today and I think it’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen so far.  I order them early to give me that added motivation to finish and publish. This book will be broken down by regions. Also i’m doing research to make sure it’s different from other travel books but provides quality. The audio book will also be available this year. Adidas Wilson on Amazon, Itunes, and B&N. 


7 Ways Miami Maintains Relevancy

Whether it’s been a month or six since your last trip to Miami, you’d barely recognize The Magic City. Historic downtown is taking on a modern day revival with classic cocktail rooftop bars, craft coffee cafés and gilded boutique hotels, while the Wynwood Arts District and Brickell have expanded their pedestrian-friendly streets to include pop-up music venues and California-inspired vegan cafes. From your morning cold brew to your nightcap, here’s how Miami keeps up with an ever evolving world.


1. Downtown Mornings

Starting the day downtown used to mean strolling out of Club Space in time for brunch Sunday. With the population doubling over the past decade, this historic side of the city is finally undergoing a much-needed facelift with cafes setting up shop on side streets near notorious late-night venues. Just around the corner from 24-hour nightclub E11even, you can get your caffeine fix at All Day, with nitrogen-infused Brooklyn blend and Florida eggs served four ways: caste iron-fried, soft scrambled, poached or baked with pecorino and citrus on sourdough. The Scandinavian-meets-midcentury modern Miami cafe is the work of Panther Coffee’s Camila Ramos and The Corner owner Chris MacLeod, so it’s no surprise the cafe not only looks sleek in its minimalist design (think loft-style spaces, dark wood banquets and branches hanging overhead), but it also nails both the coffee and the cuisine. From the street, the one pop of color standing out against the stark white interior is a neon green sign glowing with words spelling out 10 different types of coffee options, from double shot to hot drip. Espresso is brewed in the custom-crafted La Marzocco Strada machine—the largest in the world—from small-batch beans expertly sourced from roasters like Birmingham’s Revelator and Miami’s Per’la. The menu, meanwhile, is the work of Charles Lutka, who pulls from his previous stints at Michelin-starred Marea in NYC and Miami’s late-night Korean barbecue joint Gigi to craft locally inspired brunch fare with a haute twist. Expect decadent dishes like French toast with tres leches batter and pecan butter and lamb merguez tartine served with za’atar on olive toast. Anything you order will also pair perfectly with one of the 10 caffeine fixes, from the double shot espresso with sweet Florida milk to the nitrogen gas-infused “royal tea.”

2. Wynwood Expansions

The arts district has seen its fair share of pop-ups from galleries to drive-thru cinemas, but the Wynwood Yard is combining all of these concepts with a multipurpose space perfect for a food truck-served lunch during the day, as well as live music and yoga in the evenings. What started as a 10-month pop-up has become more permanent with a bar, a garden by Little River Cooperative and cuisine ranging from omakase sushi food truck Myumi to healthy bowl test kitchen Della. Order one of Della’s popular vegan bowls filled with quinoa, black coconut rice, tangy ginger tempeh and Maduro-style ripe plantain and dig in at one of the picnic tables placed out front. Wi-Fi is free, so this spot easily doubles as a co-working space, but if you would rather work in the comfort of an air-conditioned coffee shop, drive over to nearby Panther Coffee, a locally based roaster with brew just as good as their people watching in the typically packed cafe. Order a cold brew and one of Cindy Lou’s Cookies’ Morning Glory Muffins before setting off on a street art and shopping tour of the neighborhood.

The highlight is the living street art gallery Wynwood Walls, which started in 2009 on six buildings spanning the 25th-26th Street complex. It has now expanded to over 80,000 square feet of walls painted by more than 50 street art and graffiti artists from around the globe, including French artist Invader (behind video game-inspired space invader mosaics) and South Africa’s Faith47. Start at the beginning, exploring the street art, before weaving in and out of the galleries lining Northwest Second Avenue. Here, you’ll also find a number of boutiques like Melbourne-based skin care line Aesop and vintage-inspired glasses showroom Warby Parker. In addition to some of the larger labels, Wynwood also houses independent boutiques like Plant the Future, with its living art installations and hand-blown glass terrariums, and Mexican concept and design shop Malaquita, featuring everything from rainbow-colored sacred string artwork to hand-painted cowboy boots.

Miami is home to a slew of restaurants branded by big name chefs like Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but the city is turning over a new leaf with the trend veering toward plant-based cuisine. The celeb chef behind California-based Matthew Kenney Cuisine brought his concept down south and gave it a Florida spin, opening up the seasonally focused Plant Food + Wine in Wynwood’s new Sacred Space. Take a seat on the patio next to the reflecting pool in this oasis-style spot and get ready to dig in to a list of dishes that taste almost too good to be purely plant-based. Start with the flora artisanal cheese plate of white truffle, smoked cheddar and mixed pepper cashew and macadamia-crafted cheese before moving on to one of the mains like the banana leaf tamale with cacao mole and shiitake mushroom or the coconut ceviche tacos with sunflower chorizo.

For a meal just as beautifully presented but delivered in a quick service setting, head to wellness bar DIRT in SoFi and order from the paleo, vegan or gluten-sensitive menus filled with clean dishes like the kimchee-spiced Seoul Bowl or the Santorini salad with housemade harissa-spiked hummus (both pictured above). This is a spot that caters to all dietary requirements, so if your friend wants an option topped with organic, grass-fed meat, they’re in luck. One of the top picks: the dirty sandwich with homemade chicken apple sausage served on locally baked Zak the Baker bread.

4. Beach Bootcamp

Miami is a city known for its beaches and sex appeal, and while you’ll find plenty of upscale fitness studios like SoulCycle and Exhale, trainers are taking to the shores making the most of Miami’s natural resources. Dubbed the “wellness power couple,” celeb trainers Christopher and Tracie Vlaun behind V Art of Wellness have brought their boutique fitness brand of beach bootcamps to the sand in front of the newly opened beach house-inspired hotel, The Confidante. Based in Miami and hosting retreats in the Caribbean and Cabo, the duo have brought together their areas of expertise (from Tracie’s 15-year career as an Elite model and Chris’s functional fitness training background) to develop intimate beach-based fitness classes that range from high intensity interval training to TRX body sculpting taught by top trainers like former Division 1 athletes.

miami 5 courtesy of El Tucan

5. Cuban Cabaret

Cuba is in the spotlight right now, and in turn, so is Cuban culture. Supper clubs are making a comeback in Miami and one of the hottest acts in town is the 1940s Cuban cabaret-inspired El Tucán, with an 11-piece Latin orchestra playing as the house act and cocktails curated by Bar Lab, the team behind local favorite Broken Shaker. Music ranges from DJ sets to bands playing Parisian pop, while the tapas-style cuisine from chef Jean Paul Lourdes highlights Caribbean and South American flavors. Sister venue to the French-themed Bâoli, this spot in Brickell has a personality all of its own, capturing vintage Cuba from the tropical-style bar to the golden palms lining the theater. Take a seat for one of the two dinner shows and indulge in a cocktail just as decadent as the setting, such as the namesake El Tucán, a vodka-based libation with lemon and watermelon juice served up in a copper toucan glass.


6. Down to Earth Rooftops

In this one-upping society, every hotel is clamoring to create the highest and most enticing rooftop bar on the beach. But what visitors don’t know is that the better rooftop is more down to earth, providing a closer look at the true sultry Miami scene. Part of the Downtown revival, boutique hotel The Langford opened up a little over a year ago in the historic 1925 Beaux-Arts Miami National Bank with throwback travel-inspired rooms (think vintage trunks) and one of the city’s best restaurant groups, Pubbelly, behind their restaurant PB Station and rooftop bar Pawn Broker. While the rooms capture one part of the vintage element, the bar captures the other through its cocktails. Sit al fresco staring out at the city’s skyline while sipping on a Prohibition era cocktail like the bathtub gin-inspired Giggle Water, a bubbly version of a gin and tonic served in a ceramic bathtub.


7. Midnight in Paris

With six sister restaurants in Brazil, Paris 6 has taken its French-meets-Latin American concept to Miami Beach with the opening of the 24/7 bistro. The first of the Brazilian-owned bistros to open in the U.S., this contemporary brasserie is a nice addition to Miami’s late-night dining scene of empanadas, sandwiches and fast food joints lining South Beach. Venezuelan-born chef Atilio Padra whips up a menu of traditional fare like entrecote Béarnaise and filet mignon au poivre vert alongside some of the more modern twists like duck croquettes and lamb over apricot couscous in a setting that looks straight out of Paris’s sixth arrondissement. With a Midnight in Paris-esque design, the bistro every bit fits the bill from its Damask-covered walls and chandeliers to the red banquet seating and signature green bar with gilded gold etching, designed just for the Miami location. The one whimsical touch: caricature celebrity paintings commissioned by Brazilian artist Flavio Rossi. Whether you’ve missed dinner or are looking for a late-night feast, this is the perfect spot unassumingly tucked along bustling Collins Avenue just across the street from some of the city’s hottest nightlife venues like Wall at the W South Beach.



Essential Vietnam: Food and Sightseeing Guide to Saigon and Hanoi

Compelling and astonishingly beautiful, few places in the world offer the spectacular (and often overwhelming) splendor that Vietnam does, and this magic is especially apparent in its largest cities. In Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), you’re met with staggering French architecture dating back to the 18th century, endless stalls selling the famed banh mi sandwich, and meticulously landscaped parks boasting temples and palaces. Hanoi’s streets are alive with the sounds of motorbikes zooming past, the clamor of pots and pans from street vendors slinging noodle soups and sizzling grilled pork, and the glistening sparkle of its picturesque pagodas. Whether you’re going for the first time or the 15th, this guide to Vietnam’s most bustling cities will take you deep into the heart of one of Asia’s most resplendent, resilient, and humbling countries.

Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as Saigon (most of the locals still refer to it this way), Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect representation of old meets new. You’ll find colonial French architecture juxtaposed with whizzing motorbikes and crowded markets. Gleaming skyscrapers are flanked by centuries-old temples and pagodas. It’s a city that demands a few days of exploration to truly understand the interesting contrasts.


Vietnam’s food differs from north to south, and with Ho Chi Minh City located in the south, the delicacies you’ll find here tend to be more flavorful and spicy than the ones in Hanoi. These are the dishes you have to try when wandering the busy streets.

Banh Cuon: A hearty rice dish that’s steamed to perfection, banh cuon is a thin rice sheet filled with a hearty serving of ground pork, mushrooms, and shallots. It’s served in bite-size pieces and is often enjoyed for breakfast with a drizzle of fish sauce (a necessity in most Vietnamese cuisine), bean sprouts, and cucumber. Tip: If you can, order it from a street vendor so you can watch the locals prepare it on their larger-than-life metal woks.
Where to try it: Banh Cuon Hai Nam, 11A Đường Cao Thắng, phường 2, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Banh Xeo: Another dish that’s as fun to watch as it is delicious to eat, banh xeo is basically a large and savory crepe. Named after the sizzle it makes when it’s cooking, this crepe-pancake hybrid is topped with equal parts pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. It’s served for breakfast or lunch with, you guessed it, fish sauce.
Where to try it: Banh Xeo 46A, 11A Đường Cao Thắng, phường 2, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Banh Trang Tron: This is one dish you won’t find outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Created by the street food purveyors who set up shop along Van Kiep Street or Su Van Hanh Street, this bite-size snack is a mix of rice paper that’s served like a salad with eggs (usually quail), sliced green mango, squid, beef jerky, basil, mint, sometimes shrimp balls, and peanut, as well as a hearty serving of chilis.
Where to try it: Street stalls on Van Kiep Street or Su Van Hanh Street



Banh Mi: Unless you live under a rock, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of, or tried, the famed banh mi sandwich. All cities in the country have their own version, but Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai, a hole-in-the-wall stand on Nguyen Tai, serves up one of the best. The bread is freshly baked and is filled to the brim with grilled sausage, thinly sliced pork, cucumber spears, cilantro, and chili.
Where to try it: Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai, 37 Nguyễn Trãi, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Pho: A staple that can’t be left out, pho varietals can be found all throughout the country. However, don’t confuse the ones you enjoy in Saigon with the ones in Hanoi or Halong Bay—or vice versa. The pho in Saigon is slightly sweeter and fishier.
Where to try it: Pho Le, 414 413, Nguyen Trai Street P.7,Q5, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam’s capital is nothing short of a street food paradise. The labyrinth of bustling alleyways, motorbike-clogged avenues, and streets of the Old Quarter and the Truc Bach area are full of vendors selling bowls of pungent soups, crispy fried meats glazed with spicy sauces, and veggie-laden rice paper rolls. Like Saigon, street food culture reigns supreme here; however, an international influence can be found in some of its most revered bites.

Bun Oc: Snails are savored in Hanoi, which is why you’ll find bun oc, or snail vermicelli soup, on many local menus. The snails are roasted, dumped into a broth, then mixed with thin rice noodles, green bananas, fried tofu, prawns or fish cakes. Like most soups in town, it’s topped with a big serving of herbs, like mint or basil, and chili sauce.
Where to try it: Bun oc Co Them, 6 Hàng Chai, Hàng Mã, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Cha Ca: As distinctive to Hanoi as bang trang tron is in Saigon, this crispy fried white fish is typically served on a bed of fresh herbs, like dill. The filet itself is seasoned heavily with garlic, ginger, and turmeric, and the fish is served alongside a big bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, spring onions, red chili slices, and a mouthwatering sauce. It’s meant to be mixed together, which is how you’ll see the locals devouring it on Cha Ca Street in the Old Quarter.
Where to try it: Cha Ca Thang Long, 21 Đường Thành Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Bun Rieu: This is comfort food at its best. This creamy soup is much like pho, with big servings of rice vermicelli noodles, crab, and a fresh assortment of herbs, like mint, basil, and dill. The main difference is the broth: Here, it’s tomato-based. You’ll find many renditions of this soup all throughout the city, some with ground pork, minced dried shrimp, and tofu.
Where to try it: Bun Rieu Cua, 40 Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Banh Goi: The perfect street snack for when you’re on the go, banh goi is a fluffy deep fried pastry filled with mushrooms, minced pork, steamed quail eggs, and a spicy seasoning. It’s often served alongside sweet-sour dipping sauces made with garlic, chili, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. It also pairs well with a cold Hanoi Beer.
Where to try it: Street food carts in the Old Quarter; or for a vegan option, try Banh Goi Chay, 66B Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District

Nem Chua: A delicacy for locals, nem chua can be hard to stomach for foreign visitors. This raw fermented pork dish is made by mixing ground pork, chilies, sliced garlic, white peppercorns, Thai chilies, sugar, and a spicy seasoning. The garlic, chilies, and sugar are placed inside the pork and rolled up like a sausage, or they’re spread out in a large baking sheet and wrapped in plastic. The whole dish is then fermented for up to three days, sliced into small squares and served inside a banana leaf.
Where to try it: Street food carts in the Old Quarter




How to Pick a Travel Agent

Finding the right travel agent is like finding the right doctor, according to David Kolner, who oversees the travel agent membership program for Virtuoso, a network of more than 15,000 agents globally. “This may sound extreme — after all, they’re only booking your travel — but your leisure time is one of your most valuable assets, so why would you trust just anyone with it?” he said.

Here, he shares his tips on how to find the perfect agent:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK Finding the right agent requires research. Start by asking friends and relatives for recommendations — if people you trust are happy with their travels, Mr. Kolner said, chances are you will be, too. You can also ask for recommendations on Facebook. In addition, Virtuoso has a catalog on its site of 4,000 advisers; you can search by geographic location, areas of specialization and languages spoken. Other travel networks with agents include the American Society of Travel Agents, the Signature Travel Network and American Express Travel. You can also check out reviews of agents through a Google or Bing search or sites like Yelp.

FIGURING OUT YOUR NEEDS Do you want someone who is a specialist in a particular destination to assist with planning one specific trip, such as a gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda? Or are you looking for someone who can help plan your travel for years to come, effectively someone who becomes a specialist in you? These can be the same person, Mr. Kolner said, but knowing what you want from the outset may lead you to a different adviser.

HOW INVOLVED DO YOU WANT TO BE? Some advisers like to plan every aspect of a trip, from booking airfare to making dinner reservations, while some are happy to offer a second opinion about your own research. Some prefer phone interaction, while others are comfortable conversing via email or text. It’s important, Mr. Kolner said, to work with an adviser who matches your travel planning personality. You can find out if advisers are happy to hold your hand or leave you alone by asking them directly. “You’ll find that most are forthcoming about their communication style and travel planning process,” he said.

DON’T BE SCARED OFF BY FEES It’s not uncommon for advisers to charge a fee for their services, which could range from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of the trip. Mr. Kolner said charging fees was a growing practice because advisers spent several hours planning their clients’ trips and would have difficulty making a sustainable living without being compensated for their time. “You are paying for an adviser’s knowledge and for the perks they’re able to score for you,” he said. The extras advisers can get their clients at no cost could include room upgrades, early check-ins and late checkouts at hotels and airport transfers.



Everything You Need to Know About How to Travel to Cuba

Cuba just may be the most exciting travel destination that’s a quick flight away from the United States. But it requires a lot more advanced planning than its Caribbean neighbors.

There’s no place in the world like Cuba, particularly right now. Only 103 miles away from the United States (that’s about the distance between New York City and Philadelphia), the largest island in the Caribbean has lived through a complicated estrangement from its nearest neighbor since 1961. What Americans call “the embargo,” and what Cubans call “the blockade,” has arguably done more (or at least as much) to shape Cuba’s present as its 1959 revolution. Since President Obama lifted many of the longstanding travel restrictions for U.S. citizens when he restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015, Americans are now able to experience a country that, in the 1950s, they flooded with tourists. (Now, Cuba is probably flooding your Instagram feed.) What has happened since that high-rolling (and often mob-backed) heyday for American travel is a little paradoxical: almost nothing has changed, and almost everything has.



Many Americans describe Cuba as being lost or frozen in time, and this is true—while Havana is a magnetic, lively city, there’s been very little new construction since 1959. But Cuba also wears those six decades, more or less, on its sleeve—the half-century old cars chugging around the city neither look, nor sound, new. The ripple-effect of U.S.-Cuban relations touches almost everything having to do with the island, from the paperwork you have to fill out before your Havana-bound flight to the dearth of shampoo once you arrive. (We recommend you bring your own.) If relations continue to thaw, travel will likelier become easier for American visitors, but in the meantime, you’ll get the most out of your Cuba trip if you plan ahead. Here are all the nitty gritty, unsexy details you’ll need to know before you leave.

The paperwork

Here’s the good news: all the paperwork you have to do can be handled at the airport before departure. Tourist travel remains prohibited for U.S. citizens, but most trips fall under one or more categories of “authorized travel” permitted by the U.S. government. If you plan, on your visit to Cuba, to hear live music, you can confidently check off “public performances” as your reason for travel. If you plan to stay in a “casa particular,” accommodations provided by a private family, you can check off “support for the Cuban people.” If you plan to visit a museum, you can check off “educational activities.”


The Cuban government, on the other hand, welcomes you as a tourist. Some airlines allow you to purchase your $50 Cuban tourist visa, which you’ll pick up at the airport, ahead of time. Other airlines will sell the visa to you at the airport before your departure. If filling the tourist visa out by hand, write with care—if you cross anything out, you have to buy a new one. Make sure to keep it somewhere safe: You’ll present the visa upon your arrival in Havana, and again when you leave the country. If you lose it, you have to buy a new one. Not fun.

The money question

Cuba has two currencies, the CUP—the peso that most Cubans earn and use—and the CUC—which is linked to the American dollar and which is what tourists use. (You get one cuck joke. Use it now. Get it out of your system.) This system exists so that tourists don’t inflate costs for normal Cubans and so that Cubans can charge tourists prices they are used to paying—creating what’s essentially a local price and a tourist price. For instance, a Cuban might pay the equivalent of 5 cents to go to the Museo de las Bellas Artes, but an American tourist would pay the equivalent of 5 dollars. Expect to pay in CUCs, and make sure the change you receive is in CUCs too.

In Cuba, you can’t use credit or debit cards from U.S.-based banks. (Even if you do have a non-U.S. bank, few places take cards.) This means you have to bring all your money with you on the plane. And be sure to ask for new bills from your bank: the Cuban government will not take wrinkled, torn, or old bills. Cuba also charges a 10% fee for American currency—you can get around this by bringing Canadian dollars or euros; the exchange rate will almost certainly be less than the 10% fee. Do you research, and check exchange rates before you travel.


So how much should you bring? Havana is cheaper than, say, New York, but still within the same realm of cost. So, no $15 cocktails, but expect to pay $3-$8 for a mojito or daiquiri. Taxi rides will likely be your biggest expense: they can range between $10 and $30 for inter-Havana travel. Budgets will vary depending on the traveler and the itinerary, but if you have paid for your lodging ahead of time, planning on $200 per day is a safe bet, plus another $200 for emergencies. It’s better to bring too much than too little.

Where to stay

In Cuba, tourists can choose between services offered by the government or by private individual. In general, you will always get a better deal and higher quality when you go with private enterprise, particularly when deciding where to stay.


All hotels in Cuba are government-owned and operated. Havana has some truly beautiful old hotels built before the Revolution—the Saratoga, the National—which are arguably worth the extra expense. Still, a real taste of Cuban life can be found by staying with actual Cuban citizens in their homes, a style of accommodation called a casa particular. Casas are also a great place for food: almost all offer delicious and huge breakfasts for about 5 CUC per person. Most casas also serve dinner, which are some of the most affordable, generous, and best-tasting meals you’ll find in Cuba. Meals for two often look like they could feed a family of at least four. AirBnB is a dependable, but not the only, way to book and pay for a casa particular ahead of time.

Getting around

There are about 150,000 cars in Cuba, a country of 11 million, and a big percentage of them are nearly 70 years old. They are a precious and limited resource in Cuba—expect to pay commensurately. A cab from the airport into Old Havana should cost at most 30 CUC. You can arrange for cars ahead of time through your hotel or casa, but in Havana there are taxis everywhere and everyone wants to give you a ride. It’s worth planning ahead if you have a particular schedule to keep to, or you want to lock in a specific price, or you want to ride in a specific car. Your casa or hotel will likely be able to help you out here. The quality of cars varies really widely, from dreamy candy-colored Cadillacs that have been lovingly cared for to fume-filled Soviet wrecks that look like they drove out of Mad Max. Also, say goodbye to seatbelts.

Leaving Havana

If you’d like to travel outside of Havana, you have a few options.

Rent a car. Rental cars are the only new cars on the island, so you won’t have to worry about getting a vehicle in bad repair. There are also so few cars on the island, period, that you don’t really have to worry about other drivers outside of Havana. You’re not going to run into a gridlock on the interstate.


Hire a private car. A private car ride from Havana to Viñales, a rural tourist town about two and a half hours away, can cost at least 100 CUCs. You can arrange and pay for one online through the Cuban government before you leave or you can arrange for one once you arrive, but making arrangements in person will give you the greatest flexibility and the most freedom to negotiate.


Take a taxi collectivo, which is a shared private car. Prices are comparable to the official bus routes, but you have more flexibility with regards to pick-up time and location. In Havana, it’s easy to arrange a taxi collectivo outside the city’s Viazul bus station, but it’s a conversation you can broach with any taxi driver. (If they can’t give you a ride, they certainly will know someone who can.) A taxi collectivo from Havana to Viñales can cost about 20 CUC per person, and they can pick you up and drop you off at your accommodations.




Ride on the tourist-only Viazul bus. Cheaper than a taxi collectivo (it costs 12 CUC per person from Viñales to Havana) and often more comfortable, the buses are new, air conditioned, and plush. The ride takes a bit longer, because it makes several stops and you have to get yourself to and from the station. You can buy tickets online ahead of your trip, but only a limited number are available for sale on the internet: a bus that appears to be sold out online probably isn’t sold out in person; you can always go to the station in person to check.


Buy a ticket for an inclusive tour. Many companies offer tours from Havana to other parts of the island. Many people, for instance, visit Viñales by way of a day-tour from Havana. On the plus side, you are more likely to be interacting with English speakers and you don’t have to worry about making all the arrangements yourself. On the minus side, you may get a rushed orcursory experience of the place you are traveling to.

Eating and drinking

As with lodging, private is better than government when it comes to food. Take advantage of the meals your casa offers: cheap, delicious, plentiful, and flexible to your schedule. Outside of casas, the best places to eat food are restaurants known as paladars. Originally conceived as private homes that offered meals for purchase, the paladar industry has gotten so big that you won’t ever mistake one for someone’s private home.

The best paladars, especially in Havana, require a reservation. Do this ahead of time—many have websites and all have phone numbers. (The best way to call a Cuban landline is by using the Skype app for your cell phone.) The best and most successful restaurants all have plenty of English speakers employed, so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier to make those phone calls. Once you arrive in Cuba, have your casa host or someone at your hotel reconfirm all your reservations by phone. Paladar owners realize that plans often change once people arrive in Cuba; they will drop your reservation if they don’t hear from you. Plan to tip 10 percent on meals.


An important note to keep you mobile and happy: You can only drink the tap water if it has been boiled. A lot of casas will offer boiled water in a central location (like their kitchen, or in a fridge), or else will provide bottled water for purchase or included with your room.


Spanish is extremely useful here, but not mandatory. People manage to make themselves known, one way or another. That being said, even just a few words can make a big difference. It’s worth breaking out (or downloading) some flashcards. Unless you are fluent, make sure you have the Spanish language dictionary for the Google Translate app downloaded on your phone. It’s a little awkward, but better than being completely unable to express yourself.

Staying connected

Yes, there are a few places to get access to the internet in Cuba, but why not just give up? You’re not going to get a better excuse not to check your email that being in Cuba. Put your phone on airplane mode, and just use it to take pictures, punch something into Google Translate, take notes, or look at maps. Maps.Me will allow you to download searchable maps of Cuba to use offline. You’ll be able to use it to find businesses, addresses, and get directions, even in airplane mode.


If you insist on using the internet, there are many wifi hotspots available across the country—often around tourist-heavy areas (the airport, hotels) or in parks; you buy access to them by the hour, which is easiest to do at the front desk of a hotel. You’ll receive a card with a temporary login and password, then you connect to the network with “ETECSA” in the name. After you join the wifi network, click on the “Learn more about…” link to bring up the login page. To use the phone in Cuba, ask your hotel or casa host. They’ll also make phone calls for you on your behalf, if you need to confirm a reservation or order a taxi.

On the street




Havana is one of the safest cities in the world, and Cubans (as much as this can be said of any nation of millions of people) are very friendly. However, because the disparity between the CUP (the Cuban peso) and the CUC (the tourist currency) is so large, it is highly advantageous for anyone in the proximity of a tourist to try and earn their money. Taxi drivers and casa owners can make more money in a day than a doctor—the highest paid government position in Cuba—makes in two months. As a result, in touristy-heavy areas, you’ll likely be approached pretty constantly by people who want to offer you a taxi, show you a menu for a restaurant, sell you cigars, or lead you to a good music spot for a tip. You can either ignore (faster but more rude) and they’ll leave you alone, or engage in conversation but explain why you won’t be taking them up on their offer (pleasant but time consuming). If you are interested in what they are trying to sell you (this goes for taxis in particular), don’t be afraid to haggle.


One group of people to always give money to, however, is musicians: small groups will often set up in public establishments, play a few songs, and then pass around a basket for donations. It’s appropriate to pay between $1 and $5 per basket-pass, and it’s one of the most wonderful parts about walking around Havana.




I never knew how to travel until I visited India

Like most travelers who’ve been around the world and back again, I left my heart in India. 

I sit in Mexico as I write this, a year later and still stubbornly refusing to go home and be normal. And no matter what I do, my mind wanders back to India every chance it gets.

So I dig my toes into the powder white sand of the Mayan Riveria and indulge in the waves of memories shamelessly washing over me.  

I think of the afternoons spent riding on the back of a motorcycle in central Karnataka, my fingers full of silver rings slung around the waist of a fellow wanderer, my jeweled skirt flapping in the juicy afternoon breeze, villages of colorful boxes stacked into a green swampy landscape peeling by on either side of the horizon.

I remember squealing on the inside, thinking, without a doubt this was the happiest I’ve ever been and maybe ever will be.

Freedom, sweat, and spice oozing out of every pore.

Stopping in a tiny town, half a kilometer from running out fuel, and skipping from door to door until I come back with three new local friends, two cups of chai, and a water bottle of yellow gasoline to dump into the tank of our ancient Honda. Stealing a kiss from my beautiful blue-eyed companion and riding the bike back through emerald rice fields. Falling asleep on the roof of a hostel, the stars peeking through wisps of mosquito net.  

Fast forward to a hundred other moments of my first four months in India. Lazing in the Goan sunsets, hopping on my scooter with wet hair and skirting the south Indian coastline from one sandy cove of paradise to another. Sneaking barefoot into late night temple ceremonies, the cascades of “om” carrying me further and further from the life I used to want. 


The days of balancing a cup of chai in one hand and a fresh coconut in the other, speaking purposefully and tentatively with a lovely new traveler friend, navigating our blonde selves though an afternoon marketplace with the greatest amount of subtlety we were capable of.

(Six months later, I would fly to Stockholm to see this same traveler friend, and she would fly halfway around the world to join me on a grand adventure in California. Friends for life, I am certain, thanks to Mother India.)  

The night I met a Welsh rugby team driving a tuk-tuk across northern India and hopped in for a nighttime cruise through Agra’s narrowest back alleys, where everyone’s beloved pastime seamed to be corralling a small flock of livestock while simultaneously shopping for tomatoes, bangle bracelets, mustard seeds, and saris, their furry beasts apathetically blocking traffic.

And the absolute hilarity of wide-eyed Indian children popping their heads into the front seat of our stalled tuk-tuk and seeing four blonde heads grinning back at them, the children all collapsing into frowning laughter the way only Indians are capable of balancing two polarized expressions on one face.

Because of India, traveling stopped becoming a temporary interlude in my life plan and became a life plan in its own right. It ceased to be an outlet for another agenda and became something pure and heartfelt.

It became an exercise of utterly reckless abandon that somehow flushed my veins, cleaned out every pore, and pumped fresh oxygen into lungs that gasped for air in other parts of the world. 

I found, like nowhere else on Earth, India exerts a palpable love for everyone moving through her atmosphere. All you have to do is surrender and let yourself be carried away.




5 Travel Destinations That Are Cheaper Due to a Strong U.S. Dollar

The past year or so has brought great news for American travelers, as the U.S. dollar has surged in value against other currencies. That means it’s cheaper for Americans to travel overseas. We took a look at some countries where the exchange rate is notably improved from 2014, when the U.S. dollar was considerably weaker. These five destinations are particularly attractive now.


1. China

If you’ve had your eye on China for a while, now is a good time to book a trip. The dollar is currently strong in comparison with the yuan, which was devalued by 6.6 percent in 2016. The U.S. dollar is now 14 percent stronger against the yuan than it was in 2014, meaning travel there for Americans should be about that much cheaper.

There is plenty for the adventurous traveler to see in this vast country, with some of the most famous tourist sites, including portions of the Great Wall of China, situated in or near Beijing. A tour of the wall and the imperial palace known as the Forbidden City costs around 240 yuan. At $35, that’s about $5 cheaper than it would have been in 2014, thanks to the exchange rate. Everything from hotels to internal flights should be cheaper, too.


2. Switzerland

According to the World Economic Forum’s biennial Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, Switzerland ranked last in “price competitiveness” in 2015, making it the most expensive country to travel to. But the strengthening dollar is making it a little more affordable. The local currency is the Swiss franc, which, at the time of writing, was worth about one U.S. dollar. That’s 13 percent less than the franc’s high point in 2014.

According to Lonely Planet, it costs the average midrange traveler around 200–300 Swiss francs a day to travel in Switzerland. With the current 13 percent savings on the exchange rate, you could save $26–$39 a day when compared to the same trip in 2014.

Switzerland is a stunning country, where imposing castles from the Middle Ages dot the mountainous landscape. No trip to Switzerland would be complete without a trip to the Swiss Alps, which have long attracted visitors for hiking and skiing.

Switzerland’s cities, such as its capital, Geneva, are clean and home to some of the most important international organizations, such as the World Health Organization. Smaller villages such as Gruyères have a fairy-tale charm. The town is famous for the Gruyère cheese that is produced there, and offers authentic fondue and tours of the cheese factory where you can learn how the cheese is made.


3. Sweden

According to Lonely Planet, the average midrange traveler spends about 1,000–2,000 Swedish krona a day. That translates to $111–$222, a whopping $92 cheaper per day cheaper than it would’ve been in 2014.

With its many coastal islands and inland lakes, Sweden’s geography has long made it a destination for those looking to spend time on the water, engaging in activities such as kayaking. If you enjoy winter sports, Sweden is also an amazing cross-country skiing and dog-sledding destination. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of the ethereal northern lights in the northern region of Lapland — in particular, the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park.

Even for city dwellers, water is an integral part of life. The Swedish capital, Stockholm, is built across 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Stockholm is an elegant city, with lively music, art, and fashion scenes. Other cities, such as Visby, contain medieval ruins amid charming cobblestone streets.


4. Spain

With the euro falling in value against the U.S. dollar (down 24 percent since 2014), travel has become more favorable to the 19 countries that make up the eurozone. You could consider a traditionally more expensive destination such as France or Italy, and watch your dollars go further than they have in years. Or you could head to more affordable Spain, where a beer in some parts of the country will cost you just a little over a dollar.

Spain is a diverse country, made up of 50 provinces and five languages, including the official Castilian Spanish, as well as Basque and Catalan.

The Pyrenees mountains offer wonderful recreation opportunities, including winter skiing and hiking along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes. The coast features good diving in the Mediterranean Sea. If a buzzing night life is more your scene, head for the tourist-heavy but beautiful islands of Ibiza and Mallorca.

Teotihuacan Pyramids Mexico

5. Mexico

The dollar-to-Mexican-peso exchange rate is extremely advantageous at the moment, with one dollar worth about 20 pesos. This rate is 54 percent better than it was in 2014. Since this destination is in North America, you won’t have to worry about expensive airfare either.

Mexico is a fascinating country to explore, with beautiful colonial architecture in towns such as Campeche, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas, which have put significant effort into conserving historic buildings.

The Pacific coast is a great destination for surfing and lazing on pristine, white beaches, and it’s often overlooked by tourists heading to the Caribbean meccas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen (which offer their own charm, to be sure).

Living in Mexico City, I will admit to a bit of a bias for this cosmopolitan capital, which offers a vast art scene, delicious cuisine, and no shortage of music and entertainment options to visitors from all over the world.

Regardless of where you choose to go, one thing for sure is that 2017 is shaping up to be the year of the American traveler. Take advantage of a strong dollar and see how far you can go.



A Jamaica Trip With the Ultimate Travel Amenity

It was our second night in Jamaica, and I was sitting at a picnic table on a small, rocky beach in Runaway Bay. We were eating a buffet dinner and watching a talent show that combined sideshow stunts by performers — walking on nails and blowing flames into the sky — with gymnastics and G-rated jokes by guests, who included children and a few brave parents. When the crowd applauded, my 18-month-old daughter, Roxie, clapped excitedly with them. In the show’s final act, an otherwise dignified Canadian father with Justin Trudeau-like good looks thrust his pelvis across the makeshift stage as if possessed by the spirit of Elvis Presley.

I had somehow stepped into a scene from “Dirty Dancing,” transported to a Catskills resort, circa 1963. It wouldn’t be the last time, during our five-day stay, that I’d feel this sense of generational disorientation — of being not so much in another country as in another era.

Though my husband, Tim, Roxie and I had already been on the island for two days, we had not yet left the walled confines of our resort. Not only that: We had no plans to leave. Not even once.


It wasn’t that we weren’t interested in seeing the island, birthplace of Rastafarianism, home of reggae and land of rum cake and jerk chicken. But as the parents of an increasingly energetic (and exhausting) toddler, our primary motivation for this trip — I’m embarrassed to admit — was not culture or music or even the lush expanse of the Blue Mountains.

It was babysitting. Affordable, reliable child care and the possibility, at least, of a vacation that actually felt like a vacation.

To that end, we had maxed out our modest travel budget on airfare ($430 per flight) and four all-inclusive nights ($340 per night) before we even arrived. If the trip went as planned, we wouldn’t spend another dollar — beyond tips, of course — after takeoff from New York’s Kennedy International Airport.

The obvious question, and the one that invariably nagged at me when I considered an all-inclusive: Why bother traveling to another country if you’re going to spend the entire time at your hotel? It was a question I didn’t have an answer to.

And yet since I became pregnant, I had been hearing about Franklyn D. Resort & Spa, a modest, charmingly dated property an hour’s drive from Montego Bay, a cruise ship port and the country’s fourth largest city. I had noticed that it was mentioned in Facebook moms’ groups and family travel forums, where I did a fair amount of anxious late-night lurking. F.D.R., as it’s known among its many fans, had devotees — families who returned year after year. And I wanted to know why.

Then we met Lisa Dixon, our “vacation nanny.” And I had my answer.


Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club

I had known, of course, that child care was part of the F.D.R. package. But I didn’t understand how it would work. Would I just leave my child with a stranger and somehow relax? I couldn’t imagine it. A year and a half into parenthood, Tim and I had hired a babysitter only once. A nanny — a word I associate with British period dramas — seemed impossibly luxurious, as out of reach for two working writers as a personal chef or a private plane. But at F.D.R., Ms. Dixon’s time and expertise was included in the price of our stay.

Having descended from a matrilineal line of women who were paid to care for other people’s children, I felt deeply conflicted about the “vacation nanny” concept before we arrived. I worried that it undervalued the work of women like my mother and grandmother. It seemed potentially exploitative.

But the balance between cost and convenience is something with which every parent on a budget must grapple. Most of us make choices, at least occasionally, that we aren’t entirely comfortable with — that raise questions we don’t have easy answers to.

I expected to feel uncomfortable in the hermetically sealed bubble of the resort, but the disorientation came as soon as we were on the airport shuttle bus. I felt uneasy at taking a vacation in another country with no intention of engaging with the people or culture, history or environment — or even just day-to-day life — of that place.



Cape Verde Islands, overflowing with activities

The Cape Verde Islands, the exotic volcanic archipelago on the northwest coast of Africa, has seen a significant tourism boost. According to the National Statistics Institute in Cape Verde, foreign visits to the archipelago have increased by 13.6% during last year, with the islands of Sal and Boa Vista being especially popular tourist spots.

This stunning island chain offers an intriguing combination of mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. The destination is warm, with sunny skies year-round and temperatures varying between the mid-70s in January and mid-80s in September.

The island of Sal is primarily a beach resort with long stretches of white sand and azure waters. It is the most developed of all the Cape Verde Islands in terms of tourism, and the island offers spectacular marine life with countless species, including flamboyant tropical fish, dolphins and turtles. Besides snorkeling and scuba diving, Sal is considered to be among the world’s top windsurfing locations.


The Resort Group recently opened the luxurious Llana Beach Resort in Sal. However, one of the quainter places to stay is the small, locally owned hotel Odjo D’agua. The hotel features a spectacular open-air restaurant-bar jutting out into the sea. Be sure to try the freshly caught fish in the restaurant.

Boa Vista, the second most popular island in Cape Verde, offers vast stretches of untouched golden sand; rich, turquoise seas; and a unique atmosphere. The entire island is completely covered in sand. On Praia de Chaves, for example, an old ceramic factory covered in sand yet still perfectly intact.

Depending on the time of year, travelers can spot turtles on Boa Vista’s southern beaches, which are recognized as one of the most signficant loggerhead nesting sites in the world. For the greatest chance to see turtles, visit Boa Vista between June and and September.

Although Boa Vista has a few affordable hotel options, the island also features palaces of pure luxury. The Hotel Riu Touareg looks like a sandcastle, whereas ClubHotel Riu Karamboa has a desert oasis feel reminiscent of a sultan’s palace.

Cape Verde has more to offer than its beaches; the islands have fascinating cultural and natural offerings, as well.


Avid hikers will love the mountainous peaks of Santiago. The island offers many unique and diverse landscapes ranging from volcanic rocks to green valleys and barren regions.

On Fogo Island, travelers can climb an active volcano, which is one of the highlights of a Cape Verde holiday. The restaurant at the top of the volcano offers a beautiful view of the impressive scenery of Fogo with its dark rocks and black sands, giving an impression of a lunar landscape. Coffee is grown on the outside slopes while the vines used to produce the famous Fogo wine are grown inside the crater. Both are definitely worth a try.

You can drive up a hairpin, cobbled road into the crater, where hundreds of locals make their home. For a memorable stay in Fogo’s crater, try the basic but tasteful, lava-brick guesthouse of Pedra Brabo or spend a night with a local family.

Ornithologists will be able to spot a great number species endemic to Cape Verde. The Raso lark, which is entirely confined to a single island with a total population of 45 pairs, is one of the world’s rarest birds. The Cape Verde swift, Cape Verde warbler and Iago sparrow are the other endemic species.

History buffs will love a daytrip to the old capital of Cidade Velha, a Unesco world heritage site, and Forte Real de Sao Filipe, the main slave-trading point between Europe, Africa and America, provides an interesting insight into the island’s troubled past. This is where the history of Cape Verde began, and the town has had many famous visitors over the years, including Sir Francis Drake and Charles Darwin.


For culture lovers, Sao Vicente is the place to be. Mindelo, the island’s capital, is proud of its rich tradition of music and art and has a vibrant nightlife with a lively buzz of music throughout the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

Music-making is everywhere, and a visit to the Cape Verde Islands would not be complete without experiencing the Cape Verdean morna music in Mindelo, a combination of guitar and violin music often put to lyrics about love.

Cape Verde fast facts:

Getting there

TACV is the national carrier of Cap Verde. TACV has three weekly flights to Lisbon from Praia and one weekly from Sal and So Vicente. TACV flies once a week to Providence, R.I. TAP has daily flights from Lisbon to Praia in peak season. Royal Air Maroc offers regular flights to Cape Verde.

Getting around

Travelers can get around the islands on minibus, which pick up people at unmarked points around town and drop passengers off anywhere on the way, on request. Taxis are also plentiful on the islands. For island hopping, there are several ferries available connecting the islands as well as local flights.


All visitors to Cape Verde (except holders of some African passports) require a visa. A tourist visa can be obtained without any problems on arrival.

How to pay?

The currency of Cape Verde is the escudo de cabo verde (ECV). Coins come in denominations from 1 to 200 escudos and bills from 200 to 5,000; $1 U.S. is worth approximately 102 ECV.

Exchange counters are located at international airports but not at domestic airports. Credit cards issued by MasterCard or Visa are accepted at major hotels and banks.


The official language of the islands is Portuguese, which is used in most written communication, including newspapers; however Creole tends to be used in conversation.




Aruba Tourism Officials Have a Radical Idea to Reduce All-Inclusive Resorts

Tired of tourists who rarely venture outside their resorts, and who leave their wallets locked in the hotel-room safe, Aruba is moving to limit all-inclusive holiday packages.

The Dutch Caribbean island, located 20 miles the north of Venezuela, has become one of the first places in the world to limit all-inclusive deals, which bundle accommodation, food, drinks and entertainment into one price. Regulations that came into effect in August cap all-inclusives at 40 percent of hotel rooms on the island. They currently make up about a third of the country’s 5,500 rooms.

Popularized by chains such as Sandals and Club Med, all-inclusives are one of the fastest-growing segments of the $550 billion hotel industry, and revolutionized tourism in developing countries from Jamaica to Thailand. Tourists gravitate toward such vacations because they’re budget friendly and easy for families reluctant to stray far from beach-side snack bars. Now, Aruba wants tourists to look beyond their resorts, said Otmar Oduber, the nation’s minister of Tourism.

We are moving away from the trend,” Obuder said in a telephone interview. “It’s very important for us for tourism not to become a negative concept in the life of the people of Aruba.”



“The all-inclusive, particularly in the Caribbean, is a model that prevents other forms of tourism from flourishing because nobody is leaving the resort,” said Mark Watson, executive director of Tourism Concern, a U.K.-based charity that promotes ethical tourism. “People are flying in, going to the resort, not leaving, and then flying back out.”

The all-inclusives on Aruba include Divi Resorts and Spanish chains RIU Hotels SA and Occidental Hotels. Yvonne Swiezawski, a spokeswoman for RIU, which purchased an resort and reopened it as the all-inclusive Hotel RIU Palace Antillas, said the regulations will affect its plans to grow on the island and negatively impact investors’ perception.

“If the regulation of all-inclusive hotels does not allow us to grow on the island, we will be forced to reinvest somewhere else,” Swiezawski said in an e-mail.


The all-inclusive business is a significant part of a tourism industry that supports 85 percent of $2.6 billion economy, according to the International Monetary Fund, which said Aruba is the third-most tourism-dependent country in the world. The sector provides a third of all jobs on the island of 100,000 people, according to the U.K.-based World Travel & Tourism Council. Visitors to all-inclusive resorts spent 21 percent less on average than other tourists last year, the Tourism Ministry calculates.

Aruba isn’t the only place to be concerned by the trend. Last year, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras criticized the all-inclusive concept, which he said, “largely alienates tourism from the local economy.” In 2000 Gambia banned the sale of the vacations, although it later rowed back on the decision. In 2011, business owners in Majorca held a day of protests against the resorts.



Aruba’s new regulations may help local businesses, but they also pose risks, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Margaret Huang in an e-mail.

“With a growing competitive market in parts of Mexico and with the threats of the cruise industry, which is essentially an all-inclusive experience, Aruba may lose its appeal as a competitive tourist destination,” Huang said.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, a Florida-based organization that represents hotel owners, said it recommended Aruba take other approaches to enticing tourists to spend their money outside the resorts.

“Several all-inclusive developers, which were considering investments in Aruba, indicated to us that restrictions on the amount of all-inclusive offerings they would be permitted to provide would force them to reconsider their investments,” spokeswoman Adriana Serna said in an e-mail. “Today’s consumers want choices.”




Canada is launching an experiment that will give 4,000 people free money until 2020

Finland, the Netherlands, and San Francisco, California, have already shown interest in giving people a regular monthly allowance — a system known as basic income.

Now Ontario, Canada, is planning a basic-income trial as well.

On Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne outlined new details of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, which is expected to begin later this spring and last for three years.

A total of 4,000 people in three regions in the province will begin receiving additional income based on their current salary.

A person in the trial can receive up to $16,989 a year, though the equivalent of 50% of any additional earned income will be subtracted from that figure. So a person who makes $10,000 a year at their job, for example, would receive $11,989 in basic income, for a total income of $21,989.


Eligible recipients, who must be between 18 and 64 and considered low-income, will be chosen through a randomized selection process.

Wynne says one goal of the pilot is to reassure people that their government supports them.

“It says to them government is with you,” she said. “Ontario is with you.”

The premise of basic income is straightforward: People get monthly checks to cover living expenses such as food, transportation, clothing, and utilities — no questions asked.

Along with Canada, several countries are conducting basic-income trials.

Finland’s government launched its pilot on January 1 and is giving 2,000 unemployed Finns $590 a month. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, 250 people will soon receive an extra $1,100 a month for two years. And in Kenya, the charity GiveDirectly has launched a trial version of a 12-year study that seeks to gather the first longitudinal data on basic income.

The concept of basic income has been around since the 1960s. Since then, various researchers and government officials have given basic-income experiments a try, with mixed results.

In general, however, the data seems to tilt in basic income’s favor.

A study published in late 2016 found that people who received unconditional cash transfers used drugs and alcohol less frequently than people who didn’t receive the money. And though it’s easy to assume free money would make people lazy, research suggests the opposite is true. People in one 2013 study worked on average 17% longer and received 38% higher earnings when they got a basic income.

Skeptics, meanwhile, say that because many basic-income trials have been conducted in small villages in the developing world, the findings won’t necessarily translate to developed countries.

Ontario’s trial will begin in the regions of Hamilton, including Brantford and the County of Brant, and in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. The third pilot will launch in Lindsay in the fall.

“Everyone should benefit from Ontario’s economic growth,” Wynne said in a statement. “A basic income will support people in our province who are reaching for a better life.”

Via Business Insider

Travel News: Dubai is Booming

Dubai’s tourism sector sustained momentum in its strong start to 2017 with the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, known as Dubai Tourism, reporting a stellar 11 percent increase in overnight visitation in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2016. January to March 2017 saw 4.57 million travellers visit the city, reflecting over double the growth achieved in the first quarter of last year.

Among Dubai’s top 20 source markets for inbound tourism, China and Russia continued to top the growth trajectory charts with unparalleled 64 percent and 106 percent increases over Q1 2016, delivering 230,000 and 126,000 tourists respectively. Attributable in a large part to the positive regulatory changes enabling citizens from both countries to obtain free visas-on-arrival in the UAE, this performance spike has resulted in both countries moving up in their rankings as key feeder markets for Dubai, with China at number four and Russia at number 11.

Retaining their stronghold on the top three positions were India, KSA and the UK, accounting collectively for 30 percent of total Q1 visits to Dubai, with India becoming the first ever market to record nearly 580,000 visitors in any one quarter, with a massive 23 percent growth in arrivals between January and March.

Despite its 8 percent drop over 2016, driven due to a backward shift in annual school holidays, KSA continued to drive volumes with 440,000 visitors, while the UK rallied growth with its 5 percent increase to mitigate the declines from KSA and Oman, which rounded off the top 5 with 214,000 overnight guests.

The remainder of the top 10 all saw positive contributions, with Iran up a strong 39 percent, Pakistan up 17 percent, the United States up 6 percent, posting a strong recovery over 2016 performance, Germany maintaining stability, and Kuwait bringing up the GCC contribution with 10 percent growth.


Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Tourism, said, “Q1 2017 has set us off on a very strong trajectory for the year and we are pleased to see our strategic investments and policy reforms yielding such definitive impact. As Dubai continues to evolve and expand the breadth and depth of its tourism proposition, we expect to amplify the appeal of our city as the top consideration not only for first-time visitors, but also repeat business and leisure travellers. Thanks to the support from our visionary leadership, backed by the strength of our stakeholder collaboration, we have made tremendous strides in ongoing efforts to increase the city’s accessibility, minimise barriers to travel, and make it as seamless as possible for prospective tourists to visit and revisit Dubai. China and Russia’s strong acceleration in response to our initiatives are a clear reflection of the importance of such measures as facilitators of tourism sector growth.”

Almarri went on to say that the positive start to 2017 is an encouraging endorsement of Dubai’s overall strategy, saying, “We are prudently aware that travel is among the leading industries undergoing a global transformation. In order for Dubai to fulfil its commitment to the ’10X Agenda’ set by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, we must be true innovation leaders. Beyond marketing and promoting the city with the endorsement of all our industry partners, our agenda is focused on amplifying advocacy and putting the ‘voice of our travellers’ at the very heart of defining our future growth priorities. We look forward to the continued support of our government, public and private sector partners as we move a step closer towards delivering 20 million visitors per year by 2020, as well as to collectively creating today, for global travel, what the world may aspire to in 10 years’ time.”




Becoming A Digital Nomad: Work And Travel At The Same Time

As the world is becoming more advanced and technology is slowly shaping up the majority of our lifestyle, the prospect of working and doing the same routine every day is becoming less promising. Today, more and more millennials and like-minded individuals are choosing to be digital nomads.


A digital nomad is someone who works “mostly online” and travels the world at the same time, according to the Interaction Design. As opposed to earning a minimum-wage job in the same location from the usual hours of 9 am to 5 pm, becoming a digital nomad is much more exciting.

As long as you have a stable internet connection, a laptop, and certain skills, there’s no stopping you from becoming a digital nomad. Working for yourself as an online entrepreneur or a freelancer can be very rewarding and the amount of time you can spend on yourself is definitely a major plus.

The idea is becoming increasingly popular nowadays that there are conferences and startups bursting out to help digital nomads develop working experiences and for them to have a chance to share their ideas and socialize. The New York Times recently featured a startup called “Unsettled”, a 30-day co-working experiences for working professionals, small business owners, and creative people looking for a chance to combine work and travel.


Michael Youngblood and Jonathan Kalan, both digital nomads, founded Unsettled and has now reached a customer base around the globe. Kalan explained that the name “Unsettled” is a perfect name for their startup since everyone of us has felt unsettled at some point in our lives, so why not embrace the uncertainty? Kalan also added that Unsettled is about turning something known as negative into something positive.

Timothy Ferriss also wrote a book about the whole premise of being a digital nomad. It’s entitled the “4-Hour Work Week” and it discusses the popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Becoming a digital nomad takes huge dedication and the right mindset. If you’re someone who wants to get out of a dull, corporate job, then maybe consider becoming a digital nomad yourself.




Diving with bull sharks in Fiji is Mother Nature’s most astonishing adrenaline rush

Would you go seeking out gigantic bull sharks in their natural environment? With no cage, no barriers, and nothing between you and those magnificent ocean predators?

To some, the idea sounds absurd – or just plain stupid. To others, it’s an adventure they’re longing for. To those people, I say – you need to go to Fiji.

Fiji is, of course, surrounded by stunning reefs featuring some of the world’s most colorful corals and more types of underwater life than you can count. Diving in Fiji is easy, accessible and safe, with certified dive operators around the country showing off these underwater marvels.


But there’s another type of dive that draws people to Fiji: shark diving.

In the waters of Beqa Lagoon, just south of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, lies the protected Shark Reef Marine Reserve, home to a massive population of sharks. And for nearly 20 years, Beqa Adventure Divers has been leading groups of scuba divers down into the depths to observe them.
This is the real deal. The shark dive at Beqa Lagoon is often called the world’s best, giving divers the chance to get close to eight different species of shark, including those of the lemon, nurse, and silvertip varieties, along with the main attraction – spectacular bull sharks. The team has got a reputation for safety and professionalism, and is deeply involved in marine conservation.

But, even so – diving with bull sharks? Without a cage? Really? Are you crazy?

Well maybe I am, because bright and early one morning I find myself gearing up to explore Beqa Lagoon and spend some quality time with those sharks.

After a short boat ride out to the reef, it’s time. As I strap myself into my gear, I wonder if the hearts of my fellow divers are skipping every other beat, just like mine? If they are, you wouldn’t know it: we share foolhardy grins as we do the final safety checks, then plunge into the cool ocean.


The team let loose a few more heads. Soon, around 10 massive bull sharks are swooping through the water above and in front of us, enjoying their feast.

The team are poised around the group, armed with long poles to make sure no food comes too close and no shark pays us too much attention. The sharks, some over 3m long, ignore us completely. They’re focused on their meal, leaving us to gaze in awe at the incredible display.

All too soon, the sharks finish eating, and begin to drift away. The dive masters signal that it’s time to move on. We visit two other sites, watching our leaders hand-feed schools of lemon and nurse sharks. They’re almost playful, and water is filled with energy. 

Finally, we break the surface and re-join our boat.

“Well, that was rubbish,” comments one of the dive masters.

“What?” I demand, genuinely shocked, still dripping wet. “We saw at least 10 bull sharks!”

“Yes,” he said, shaking his head. “Only 10. In high season, we see 80, maybe 100. It’s much better.” I think my mouth was hanging open. I need to go back in high season.

To dive with bull sharks, you’ll need to be a certified open water diver. PADI or SSI certification is available from most dive centers in Fiji and Australia.

Beqa Adventure Divers operate year-round from Pacific Harbor, about four hours from Fiji’s main airport at Nadi. You’ll see the most sharks in the winter months. Shark dives start from $155 (FJD 245) for a single-tank expedition.

BULL SHARK Carcharhinus leucas  FIJI.
Read more at http://elsewhere.nine.com.au/2017/04/24/13/35/beqa-adventure-divers-shark-dive-fiji#kiHYYPtfRZJhHmTE.99

Barack Obama Snaps Yacht Photos of Michelle on Tropical Vacation

Since leaving the White House in January, Barack and Michelle Obama have truly been living their best life. In the past few months the pair have traveled to Palm Springs, California, signed massive book deals, brunched with Bono in New York City, and even went kitesurfing with Richard Branson off his private island. But it’s the duo’s latest adventure that has social media in a frenzy.

As Travel+Leisure shared on Thursday, the Obamas recently boarded David Geffin’s 138-meter luxury yacht called the Rising Sun for an island-hopping adventure around French Polynesia. Other passengers onboard included Oprah, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson.

The group has already gone for lunch on Vanilla Island, stopped at Le Taha’a Island, and will likely continue on to Bora Bora. The trip will end at The Brando, a luxury resort where the Obamas have been staying for the past three weeks while working on their respective memoirs.


While the trip alone would be cool enough, it’s what Michelle and Barack were caught doing on the boat that has everyone talking.

In a new photo, if you look closely, you can see that after being president of the United States for eight years, Barack has graduated to being the ultimate Instagram husband.

Onboard the ship, Barack, like any good husband and dad, used what looks to be his iPad to snap a few glamor shots of his stunning wife — and people simply cannot get enough. Check out a few of the best social media reactions below.




Off The Grid: Grand Resort On A First-Rate Mexican Beach

You know those massive, all-marble, make-you-feel-like-a-VIP luxury resorts in Las Vegas? If you could apply a yellow coat of Spanish paint, make it an all-inclusive, and transport it to an aqua-green beach near beautiful Cancun, the Iberostar Grand Paraiso would likely exceed your imagination.

A thirty-minute drive south from Cancun International Airport, the peaceful property is situated on one of the most idyllic stretches of private beaches you’ll find in all of the Caribbean. Thatched umbrellas, padded chairs, soft white sand, infinite horizons and inviting blue surf that is remarkably clear, fun to frolic in, and relaxing.

Having stayed here for three nights, I finally understand why this (and Mexico in general) is one of the top two all-inclusive destinations. In the Grand Paraiso’s case, the sprawling but manageable amenities have won numerous awards (both critical and reader’s choice) since the resort first opened a decade ago.

I can see why. For one thing, the exclusive property is adults-only. Guests are on the older side, between 30-60. But this keeps the environment quieter than you’ll get further north. In other words, Playa del Carmen is to Cancun what Fort Lauderdale is to Miami.

In addition to its calming ambiance, the Grand Paraiso is staffed by some of the nicest attendants you’ll encounter. One Iberostar official that represents all of their Latin American properties even admitted to me that the Mexican staff “offers more hospitable service than our other Caribbean locations, which are still good, but not as endearing as the Mexicans.” After being waited on, befriended, and exposed to my broken Spanish, this doesn’t surprise me.

As for the rooms, the marble floors, elegant natural decor, and ocean-facing patios are compelling enough to make you want to stay indoors, even as the beach, infinity pool, and soothing grounds constantly beckon to get you out.

If permanent beach-bumming isn’t your thing, adventure is nearby. One of those excursions is Rio Secreto, an elaborate underground cave system or “cenote” flooded by crystal clear rainwater. Discovered 10 years ago by a farmer, this 27-mile swimmable “river” could be one of the most incredible caves you’ll ever explore. Even National Geographic endorses it.

Another is the Great Maya Reef, to which Dressel Divers offers both snorkeling and scuba tours. Although not as “great” as its name implies, the reef showcases an impressive array of colorful fish, modest coral and a few hyper-green sea turtles that should impress both beginner and intermediate divers.

As for the Grand’s all-included food, half of my meals were worth writing home about. The rest were just okay. Overall I’d say the food was very good for an all-inclusive, even though the service was a little slow. Furthermore, the spa was worth the extra cost, but the included on-site entertainment ultimately underwhelmed (at least while sober).

My only true disappointment with the experience was the limited exposure to local and Mexican culture in this overwhelmingly touristy location. My interactions with local staff and off-site adventures helped a little. But if you’re seeking exotic regional culture, you probably won’t find it among the 85% of guests that come from either the U.S. or Canada.

Still, Grand Paraiso offers the most relaxing beach setting I’ve ever visited. That alone is worth coming for, not to mention its proximity to mainland America. And unlike other Mexican resorts, there’s a lot more to do here during those rare moments when idleness loses its appeal.




These are 4 of the world’s hottest tourist destinations

Mexico, Iceland and Cyprus all experienced a surge in tourism spending in 2016, according to a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council.


The group’s report also contained something of a surprise: Azerbaijan, which suffered from a currency crash, saw a boost in spending.

Here’s a look at four vacation spots on the upswing:



Foreign visitors spent 24% more pesos in Mexico last year, according to the WTTC.

The country’s tourism industry — the world’s 17th largest — benefited from a weaker peso, which made hotel rooms and travel packages cheaper for foreign visitors and especially Americans.

The currency’s decline against the dollar was driven by worries over President Trump’s supercharged rhetoric toward Mexico. He has pledged to build a new border wall separating Mexico and the U.S., as well as renegotiate a key free trade agreement called NAFTA.

But tourism in Mexico powered ahead, with spending by foreign tourists hitting 382 billion pesos ($20.1 billion) in 2016.

Beyond politics, Mexico is having a major moment in the sun.

Mexico City launched its first ever Day of the Dead moving parade in October after being inspired by the fictional parade in the James Bond film “Spectre.” The country is also welcoming chefs from the world-famous restaurant Noma, who are setting up a pop-up restaurant in Tulum in April and May.



The northern island nation of Iceland continued to expand its tourism base by leaps and bounds, welcoming visitors who were willing to bundle up against the cold, unpredictable weather. Tourism spending in the local currency surged by 27.5% last year, according to the WTTC.

This boosted the local economy, which grew by nearly 5% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Iceland has courted tourists through high-profile marketing campaigns and airline offers that encourage people to visit for short stop-over adventures.

The promise of seeing the Northern Lights is a huge attraction, helping the country bring in 373 billion krona ($3.4 billion) in tourism spending last year.



Cyprus, situated in the eastern Mediterranean, saw tourist spending shoot up by 17% last year to nearly €2.6 billion ($2.8 billion).

Tourists flocked to the island nation because they consider it to be a relative safe haven compared to other European destinations that have experienced a slew of high-profile terrorist attacks.

Tourism spending in France, for example, declined by just over 7% last year following a string of attacks.



Azerbaijan, a country of 10 million people sandwiched between Russia and Iran on the Caspian Sea, saw local currency spending by foreign tourists surge by nearly 71%. Like in Mexico, a much weaker currency has boosted the industry.

“The depreciation of the local currency in 2015 and 2016 have vastly improved the price competitiveness of Azerbaijan as a tourism destination,” said WTTC research director Rochelle Turner.

The country brought in nearly 4.6 billion manat ($2.7 billion) in foreign tourist spending, putting it roughly on par with Cypus.

Azerbaijan has prioritized tourism as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil. WTTC said this led the country to introduce new investments in infrastructure and improve its visitor visa system.

The country’s economy contracted by about 2.4% last year.



These 6 Instragrammers Are Getting Rich by Traveling the World

Love taking travel photos and sharing them with your friends on Instagram? So do the social media stars below. They’ve earned celebrity status — and sometimes six-digit incomes — from the travel snaps they post on the photo sharing giant.

Building such a loyal and monetizable following takes a long time, a lot of talent, and a little luck. But hopefully, their work can provide you with a bit of inspiration for your photography on your next trip. (See also: 5 Surprising Ways Social Media Stars Make Money)

1. Liz Eswein

Liz Eswein (@newyorkcity and her personal handle @lizeswein) started her account when Instagram first came out in 2010. Perhaps her early entry to the game helps explain how she was able to snag the handle @newyorkcity, which has now accumulated well over a million followers.

Eswein posts pictures of New York, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Although her account wasn’t initially focused on travel, her success on Instagram has led her to travel to Chile, Namibia, and Dubai for different clients.

Her personal account has thousands of followers, and features destinations she’s visited such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

After beginning the Instagram account, Eswein told The New York Times she earned around $50 for a promotional post. But the Gazette Review reports that since then, she’s increased her earnings to $15,000 a post, making her one of the top earning Instagrammers in the world. The publisher estimates her net worth at $850,000.

2. Chris Burkard

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that professional photographer, writer, and videographer Chris Burkard (@Chrisburkard) has gained such popularity on Instagram, garnering more than 2 million followers.

His account features breathtaking shots from the Arctic Circle (his focus is surfing in freezing waters), Yellowstone National Park, Zakynthos Island in Greece, and many other places.

Burkard regularly works with Fortune 500 clients and has given a TED talk on how he found meaning in those frigid Arctic waters. According to his website, he began taking pictures when he was 19 years old, and his favorite place to travel is Iceland. (See also: How to Take Stunning Travel Photos)


3. Julie Sariñana

Julie Sariñana is a blogger from Los Angeles, California. She began her blog in 2009 writing and posting about fashion, travel, and lifestyle. Today her Instagram account (@sincerelyjules) has an audience of more than 4 million followers.

As of June 2016, Gazette Review calculated her net worth at $800,000. She makes money by promoting products on her Instagram account and writing fashion articles. She also has her own fashion line, Shop Sincerely Jules.

Some of her recent destinations include Paris, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue and Elle, and has written for Glamour. Some brands she’s worked with on Instagram include Karl Lagerfeld and Nespresso. 

4. Julia Engel

Julia Engel’s Instagram account (@juliahengel) is focused on fashion and travel. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Engel posts photos of destinations including the Bahamas, Iceland, and Miami on her account.

She’s parlayed her 1 million Instagram followers into $1.5 million, as estimated by Gazette Review. Some of her earnings are generated from a shopping app called LIKEtoKNOW.it, which allows Instagram followers who like a product they see in one of Engel’s photos to be directed to a website where they can buy it. Engels reaps a commission from every sale.

5. Emilie Ristevski

Emilie Ristevski’s account @HelloEmilie has about 400,000 followers. This Australian traveler started posting on Instagram when she was still in university and her travel-related posts attracted so many travel offers that she was able to turn Instagram posting into a living once she graduated, according to an interview with AWOL.

Some of her favorite destinations? Petra, Jordan, and New Zealand’s Milford Sound. She has worked brands including Moet and AirAsia.

6. Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward is the woman behind the @worldwanderlust Instagram account. Originally from Australia, her travels have recently taken her to Lake Como, Italy; Paris, France; and throughout Japan. With more than 600,000 followers, she’s attracted diverse brands such as Bose Australia and smartphone e-tailer Honor Global to work with her.

At just 24 years old, she’s been featured in Elle and Glamour. Her rates are unpublished.




Why Thailand Still Lives Up To The Hype For Young Budget Travelers

If Southeast Asia is on your bucket list, Thailand is (still, after all these years) your perfect place to start. The tourism-boosted nation is a friend to all foreigners but particularly the young. Low prices and laid-back hospitality make it a natural destination of easygoing backpackers and a prime spot to hit in your 20s.

The tropical beaches, ornate temples, elephants, and full moon parties will never go out of style, but we’ve got five more reasons you should put this country on your itinerary ASAP.

Thailand is cheap. Like, eat on $4 a day cheap. Only unlike your budget-conscious Europe backpacking trip, you won’t be living off kabobs while gazing through the windows of Michelin star restaurants like Oliver Twist. If you’ve seen Anthony Bourdain and Andy Ricker do Chiang Mai you already know that you’ll eat your best meals in a plastic chair on a street corner. Also, Thailand is one of the best countries in Asia to live that hostel life.

Also, the flights can be incredibly cheap with a little planning. Right now the US dollar is strong. Book it!

If you’ve ever walked into a room and felt underdressed, it probably wasn’t in Thailand. The humidity doesn’t care how chic you are, so get comfortable with being sweaty and leave the hair dryer at home. Dress codes are relaxed and since most places with request the removal of your shoes upon entrance, there’s no reason not to wear sandals.

Do bring some modest clothes, though.

Pad thai, curry, mango sticky rice and thai iced tea all live up to the hype in Thailand but be sure to stray from your favorite take-out order to take full advantage of your meals. Khao Soi, a traditional Laos dish popular in Northern Thailand, is not to be missed and drunk food hits its peak perfection with “pancakes” made from roti dough in sweet options like bananas and nutella or savory ham and cheese.

Food is the ultimate opportunity to get off the beaten path so when possible, have a local order for you and don’t ask what kind of meat it is until after you’ve eaten! Try things, experiment, take a class!


Why Thailand Still Lives Up To The Hype For Young Budget Travelers

Carnival gets approval for more Cuba sailings

Carnival Cruise Line joins the Cuba party beginning this June as the Cuban government approved visits from the Carnival Paradise.

While parent company Carnival Corp. was the first U.S-based line to sail to the island in years beginning in May 2016 with its Fathom brand, those sailings are ending in May. The Cuban duties now shift to Carnival, which will sail Paradise on 4- and 5-night cruises from Tampa on a series of sailings between June and October as well as one slated for May 2018.

“Cuba is an island jewel unique from anywhere else in the Caribbean and we are thrilled to have this rare opportunity to take our guests to this fascinating destination,” said Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy in a press release. “The opportunity to visit Havana, combined with the fun, relaxed ambiance and wide variety of amenities and features offered on Carnival Paradise, will make for a truly one-of-a-kind vacation experience.”


The announcement comes on the heels of similar plans from Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, which will also be visiting Havana on short cruises. Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival will sail from Tampa while Norwegian will sail from Miami.

All three lines are offering overnight stays in Havana as part of their itineraries.

Carnival plans four visits to the island starting June 29 with four-night cruises leaving June 29, July 13, Aug. 24, Sept. 7 and 21 and the only planned 2018 visit of any U.S.-based cruise line so far: May 3, 2018. Its five-night cruises will be on Aug. 14, 28, Sept 25 and Oct. 9. The longer cruises will visit either Cozumel or Key West as well as Havana.

All visits comply with U.S. government regulations regarding travel to the communist nation, which are aimed to provide passengers cultural and educational immersion.

Paradise debuted in 1998. The 70,367-gross-ton ship can hold 2,052 passengers at double capacity.

The new cruises can be booked by calling 1-800-227-6482, and will be available on carnival.com later today.



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