• 9 Of America’s Finest Just-Outside-The-City Drives

    Living in the city can often feel oppressive with traffic around every corner and tall buildings blocking most of the sun. Luckily, salvation isn’t far away. Get out of the concrete jungle and enjoy the open road for the first time in weeks. Here are nine of the best quick drives you can easily hit from some of America’s great cities. Get moving.


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    Chuckanut Drive is a road along the coast that’s maybe greener than any drive you’ve taken in your life. You’ll be surrounded by overhanging trees and it’ll often feel like you’re driving through a tunnel of foliage. There’s a faster way to get to and from Seattle, but why would you skip a beautiful, twisting, cliff-bound drive full of farmland and mountains? You can even make make it a foodie trip by stopping along the way at places like Breadfarm or Taylor Shellfish Farms.


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    West coast drivers have the ultimate asphalt blessing: Highway 1, an idyllic, 655-mile stretch of Pacific coastline driving. Blast some music and take the trip up to the perfectly unfancy and delicious Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market. Open your window for the ocean breeze. Get some fish, grab a picnic table across the parking lot, and stare at the water. Now, drive to Point Dume, and sit on the beach for as long as you possibly can.


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    You can see the mountains from the city and they’re calling your name. Drop everything (except your keys) and drive straight to Gem Lake Trail. Cruise up the mountains and keep the windows open for that fresh air, even if it’s cold. Lean into the curves and accelerate at the apexes. You’re in the Rocky Mountains, for God’s sake: Not having your windows down should be criminal.


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    Even though Asheville isn’t known for hustle and bustle, everyone needs to get out of town once in a while -- and you’re so close to an amazing drive, especially in the fall. Meet up with the Blue Ridge Parkway wherever it’s closest to you and take it to Mount Mitchell State Park. The overlook is spectacular. Keep driving on the parkway and, pro tip, throw on some driving music you can turn up.


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    A drive in the City by the Bay is now more stop than go, so take the Golden Gate Bridge out of the city, head to Muir Woods National Monument, and drive among trees that were around when Charlemagne was crowned emperor of Rome. Then go directly to Hog Island Oyster Co in Marshall. You’ll take the famous Highway 1 and enjoy stunning views of the ocean and Point Reyes National Seashore. You might not want to stop.


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    You’ve heard of Minnesota’s many, many lakes, but there are also many, many rivers that make for great weekend cruising. Take I-94 E out of Minneapolis and connect with MN-95 N/St. Croix Trail North. You’ll follow the St. Croix River, which you can take all the way up to the National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center. The whole trip feels like you’re canoeing along the St. Croix, but in a much better (and faster) vehicle. You can easily take this route back to the city if you’d like, but you can also head back by starting on US-8 E if you want a change of pace and enjoy views of some of the state’s 11,842 lakes.


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    Iceland has its famous Ring Road that circles the entire country but America has the Maui Loop in Hawaii. You’ll drive from Kahului, taking the Hana highway to Ho'okipa Lookout for a spectacular view of the ocean. When you’re not on the ocean, you might be climbing mountains with stunning overlooks and steep curves. Drive to Halfway to Hana for their famous banana bread, and then stop at the Hana Lava Tube, Waianapanapa State Park, or Koki Beach -- or just keep going to the Laulima Farm Fruit Stand or Grandma’s Coffeehouse on your way through the trees.


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    The Columbia River Scenic Highway was the first scenic highway in this country and you’ve probably never heard of it, even though it’s beautiful and filled with moss, waterfalls, flowers, and, of course, the river. Take it to Vista House for a panoramic view, or keep driving to Latourell Falls or Bridal Veil Falls or Multnomah Falls or Horsetail Falls (there are a lot of waterfalls). Keep your window open and listen to the falls thunder as you speed by on your way to Cascade Marine Park where you can overlook the Bridge of the Gods. Yes, that’s what it’s really called.


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    What New York has in traffic and congestion it makes up for upstate. To make the most of it, head north along the Hudson River and take the road to Bear Mountain, which is known for its hiking (the Appalachian Trail runs through it) and stunning view from Perkins Memorial Drive. Then drive to the giant sculpture park that is Storm King Arts Center or see farm animals at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. Or, you can cross that bridge you saw, Bear Mountain Bridge, and get lost in the windy roads of the mountains. Hopefully you have a car that can handle turns and hills. If not, take it easy, enjoy the view, and head back down to the city along the river.

  • The Best Things To Do In Cincinnati When Someone Visits

    Cincinnati might seem like one of those “not-a-major-tourist-destination cities," but it actually has a quite a lot going on. From the rapidly-revitalizing Over-the-Rhine (OTR) to the suburbs and even all the way across the river into Kentucky neighborhoods like Newport and Covington, the city really feels like it’s on the up-and-up. Inventive new restaurants and experiences opening almost weekly combine with a rich history and a strong sense of Cincy pride to make The Queen City a really fascinating place to explore, as an out-of-towner or as a local.

    If you’ve got visitors coming to Cincinnati, there’s a simple, totally foolproof plan for guaranteeing that they have an unforgettable time: just take them along to the fun stuff you normally do. But whether you’re doing the visiting or are the one being visited, we made things easy for you. Here the best things to do Cincinnati has to offer:


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    $$-$$$
    Multiple Locations
    Any attempt to put into words just how strong the bond is between Cincinnati and its beer would probably fall short. It’s always been this way for the city, which boasts a very strong German heritage (In fact, in 1880, the Cincinnati Reds were kicked out of the National League for about a year because they refused to stop selling beer). These days, it’s all about craft beer. There are more than 30 craft breweries in the area. Book a brewery bus tour to hit as many as possible, as quickly (and safely!) as possible.


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    $$
    Nippert Stadium
    Cincinnati has a reputation for being a baseball town (Reds, I’ll always love you, even if you keep “rebuilding” the team forever), but that’s quickly shifting. The city’s minor league soccer team, FC Cincinnati, was an instant hit with locals, and in 2018, the city got an upgrade when it was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. Don your best orange and blue, grab a Moerlein Blood Orange IPA, and (if you’re feeling brave) buy some tickets to sit in The Bailey, the superfan seating section where you’ll experience all of the flags, colored smoke, and cheers first-hand. While the team is waiting on a new stadium as part of their major league deal, games are played at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, so save some time to explore campus before or after the game.


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    $$
    Walnut Hills
    Welcome to Cincinnati’s premiere Quentin Tarantino-themed video store speakeasy! It’s also Cincinnati’s only Quentin Tarantino-themed video store speakeasy, but that’s neither here nor there. The front half of The Video Archive looks just like a classic video rental store, complete with shelves of VHS tapes. The clerk will give you a hint as to which tape to pull to open the secret door into the bar, cleverly hidden in a sliding shelf. The drinks menu rotates, but the delicious, bourbon-infused, Pulp Fiction-referencing $5 Milkshake is always available (and yes, it’s actually $5). They frequently host movie screenings on their patio on Saturday nights and even host evenings dedicated to favorite TV shows, as well as holiday themed pop-ups. Gorilla Cinema, the company behind the Video Archive, also runs The Overlook Lodge, a Shining-themed neighborhood bar, and Tokyo Kitty, a Lost in Translation-inspired karaoke bar that slings Japanese tiki drinks.


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    $
    Multiple Locations
    You’ll only find this in the summer, and if you’re able to snag a cone, be warned: you’ll be dreaming about the day when you can roll up to an ice cream stand in shorts and flip flops and order a blue cone topped with rainbow sprinkles all winter long. The trend of serving blueberry-flavored soft serve started at Kings Island, a theme park just north of the city, in the 1980s, when it was created as a promotional special to go along with a Smurfs-themed ride. When the Smurfs ride closed in 1992, the blue ice cream was replaced with a cherry-red soft serve... and the people revolted. K.I. brought it back, and it’s been on menus across the park ever since. It’s also now offered at various ice cream stands and creamy whips like Putz’s and Norwood Delite. It’s especially great in a blueberry-vanilla twist cone.


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    $$
    Over-the-Rhine
    There’s no better place to be on a weekend morning than Findlay Market. Cincinnati’s oldest covered public market offers inventive food at various stalls, fresh and local goods and produce, and occasional live music at the beer garden. Grab a pastry from Blue Oven, a Honey Bear latte from Deeper Roots, and enjoy people-watching and browsing through the various shops and stalls. And don’t forget to pick up some goetta from Eckerline (Seriously, you can’t leave Cincinnati without trying goetta, our beloved mystery meat made from sausage and pinhead oats. It tastes better than it sounds, and makes great hangover food... I promise).


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    Free
    Downtown
    Right downtown, in a distinctive building designed by Zaha Hadid, is the Contemporary Arts Center. The non-collecting museum’s exhibits are constantly rotating, and has brought in works from famous artists like Andy Warhol and Shepard Fairey, as well as countless up-and-comers. It has also attracted its fair share of controversy (it and its director at the time were acquitted for obscenity charges related to an exhibition of seven photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1990). Start at the top (which houses a children’s museum that even adults will enjoy; make sure to pose for a picture sitting next to Shark Girl, Casey Millard’s beloved statue) and work your way down to the lobby, which houses a killer gift shop and cafe that comes complete with a full bar. Bonus points if you attend one of the awesome events they put on: yoga, art labs, and the always popular Drink and Draw nights.


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    $
    Multiple Locations
    It feels like Cincinnati chili is one of the most hated regional cuisines on the internet. Sure, not everyone will like it, but some of the names it gets called are.. extreme. Love it or hate it, you have to at least try it. Skyline is the most popular chain serving up coneys (chili and cheese on a hot dog, optionally topped with mustard and onion) and ways (a three-way is chili and cheese on spaghetti, a four way adds either beans or onions, and a five-way adds both). For a more authentic experience, hit up a local chili parlor like Camp Washington Chili, Price Hill Chili, Dixie Chili, or Empress. If you’re still unsure about whether or not you’ll like Cincinnati chili, think of it as spaghetti or a hot dog topped with a Greek meat sauce instead of a traditional chili. Or just try it so you can at least tell everyone that you had a three-way on your trip. And don’t forget to grab a peppermint patty on the way out!


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    $-$$$$
    Fairfield
    Jungle Jim’s is part theme park, part grocery store, and 100% incredible. You’ll find singing animatronic statues tucked away among the maze of aisles in the 200,00 square foot megastore. Besides their normal grocery, there’s plenty of beer and wine and a huge international section, with aisles upon aisles dedicated to various countries. The original location also has a kombucha bar, a cigar shop, an enormous natural foods section, and one of the largest displays of hot sauce you’ll ever see… it’s even topped with a vintage fire truck.

  • How to Survive A Road Trip with Kids and Their Grandparents

    Multi-generational travel.

    Are you game enough to embark on a family road trip with kids and their grandparents?

    The road ahead is fraught with possible danger, possible tears and head slapping moments.
    But, it’s also filled with treasured bonding experiences between your children and their grandparents (and of course between you and your parents.) Having a plan is key to making it heaven rather than hell (so is daily meditation in the months leading up to you it so you can practice letting IT go.) You define what that IT is when it comes to the grandparents!

    We checked off many lifetime bucket list experiences, grew closer, and didn’t have one bad moment. You can read more tips for planning a multi-generational family road trip in this post.

    Our tips for surviving a road trip with kids and grandparents will help you reach that divine experience.


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    First and foremost, this is the greatest challenge for you to solve. If your vehicle is not big enough, you may have to look at renting a bigger car, or two cars. Perhaps your parents can drive their own vehicle, or you can rent two smaller cars if separation is needed.

    Although, I do think time spent together while driving between destinations can often be the most rewarding! Don’t forget to consider luggage space.

    If this is an issue, you can buy skyboxes for the top of your car which helps. We have a Yakima Skybox which is excellent and came in handy for our multi-generational road trip.


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    It’s great to give everyone a role to play in the car, and exploring a city. If you have multiple drivers, you’ll want to switch up the roles as well. Give the children something they can easily manage and will enjoy doing. I’m pretty sure Savannah was Chief Entertainer and Kalyra, simply The Boss.

    You decide what makes sense for your family style but here are a few suggestions:

    • Driver
    • Chief Navigator
    • Time Keeper
    • Entertainer
    • Organizer
    • Foodie

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    A car can quickly turn into a messy toddlers bedroom when road tripping with multiple people. So it’s essential you start with a clean and organized car and do your best to keep it that way!

    • Where will you put the luggage?
    • What about storing entertainment inside the car?
    • What about food and water?
    • Do you have a garbage bag?

    Storage boxes, small trash cans, and over the seat organizers come in handy.
    Have a place for everything and instruct all passengers of where things belong and their roles in keeping a tidy car. Every time you stop the car, instruct everyone to collect any trash and dispose of it. These good habits will keep a tidy car.

    Make sure you service the car before your trip. The last thing you want is car troubles on your dream family vacation.


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    There are multiple ways you can entertain kids in the car:

    board games – we like the miniature magnetic versions you can get of games like snakes and ladders, checkers, and clue. They’re easy to store and use in a car.
    interactive games – you know those common ones like, Eye Spy.
    coloring and reading books
    Journal writing
    iPad games and movies

    We currently homeschool our kids, so we use driving times to do some school work.
    If this is not you, your children can research the next place to visit and discover some fun facts or interesting things to do and see while there. This helps them to connect to and feel ownership of the experience.

    You could have them map out the journey or keep you updated on driving times and how much longer there is to go.


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    I know how challenging this one is!

    Road tripping with kids is exhausting and you’re tempted to let them get lost in movies and games. But you’re traveling with the grandparents and kids for quality time together, and hours in the car makes for good bonding opportunities. Allow your child to use their device but restrict their time on it. An hour on the device will give the grownups a bit of quiet time and Nan and Pop some time to snooze.

    Encourage talking and interactive games in the spaces between and during rest breaks.


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    It’s a good idea to map out the day’s driving journey before you leave, noting possible places to stop for food or a stretch break.

    This saves you the headache of researching while you are driving, only to find what sounds like an awesome place for coffee just as you drive on past the exit for it.

    You may even want to research any quirky or historic roadside attractions you can stop off at to bring in those unexpected and memorable travel experiences.

    We decided to stop at Gettysburg for a couple of nights as it was on the way from Asheville to New York City and we couldn’t drive the entire way in one stint.


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    We usually move so quickly after breakfast, and are on the road for such long stints, that we can be very disorganized with this road trip tip.

    It does mean we waste a lot of time and money finding places to eat along the journey.

    We also love to stop for coffee, which can chew up your time finding a good one! But, there’s just nothing like a hot coffee while you’re driving!

  • The Ultimate Chicago Summer Bucket List

    If you moved to Chicago in the past nine months, maybe you’ve heard about this thing called summer. Those of us who have been here a while promise it exists -- and that it’s worth waiting for.

    Now that daffodils are tentatively opening and restaurants are removing the wind covers from their doors, it’s time to start scheduling your outdoor time. Pro tip: It’s a bad idea to leave the city between June and September. Instead, lure your out-of-town friends with our ultimate Chicago summer bucket list. How many items can you cross off?


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    Chicago’s cultural, musical, neighborhood, food, and beverage-focused street festivals are so numerous, we won’t even attempt to list them all here. Every resident should experience at least one of the city’s Big Three music festivals -- Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest -- once in their lives. But for a truly Chicago festival experience, think smaller: Andersonville’s community spirit shines through during Midsommarfest (June 8-10), a celebration of the neighborhood’s Swedish roots, which features music, dancing, crafts, beer, craft beer, and everything else that makes a Chicago street festival great. Or drown out the swan song of the end of Summer Fridays with some sweet notes at the Chicago Jazz Festival (August 29 to September 2). The Millennium Park mainstay features legends and newcomers alike, as well as art, food, a New Orleans-style second-line procession, and tons of adorable dancing children.


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    If you think Chicago’s architecture tours are just for visitors, you’d be dead wrong. There’s really no better way to see all of downtown in an afternoon than by water. We recommend Wendella’s Signature Lake and River Tour ($39), which takes passengers on a 90-minute journey through the locks and into Lake Michigan for an unparallelled view. In true Chicago fashion, the tour boats have bars. If you’re looking for a slightly more budget-friendly option, the Chicago Water Taxi connects commuters and tourists alike to locations from North Avenue and Sheffield Avenue in Lincoln Park to Chinatown. An all-day pass will run you just $9.


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    Chicago is lauded as one of the top culinary cities in the world, which, duh. But the cocktail scene is world-class in its own right. Pick your signature cocktail of summer and taste-test it at bars throughout the city, or try different ones depending on your mood. At Estereo, try the Breezy -- the permanent menu option features a base of yerba mate, house falernum, lime juice, and bubbles; customers then choose their add-in spirit. Devereaux, the newest project from former Billy Sunday beverage director Lee Zaremba, features a spread of creative signature cocktails and daytime sippers; we’re itching to try the Pineapple Collins (tequila blanco, pineapple, lemon, mineral water). If you like your summer cocktails frozen, Parson’s Chicken & Fish does a slushy version of a negroni, along with a rotating daily slushy special (like a margarita and Dark & Stormy). In search of a dive bar that’s not really a dive? Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar is the answer to your quandary, where our go-to is the Hornswagglers High Tea, a blend of Earl Grey-infused vodka and cream soda. It’s yours for the low, low price of $7.


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    We’ve never seen a group of humans more excited about sitting outside than Chicagoans in summer. A great patio is the sprinkles on the soft-serve cone of the Windy City. A couple new options this summer: Nine-year-old taco haven Big Star, the gold standard of Chicago patios for years, recently gained a sibling; Big Star Wrigleyville opened in early April in a massive space at Hotel Zachary with some fresh menu items to go with the same old honky-tonk soundtrack. And Avondale’s Ludlow Liquors, located in the former Orbit Room space, is bringing picnic tables, two-tier stadium seats, and lounges to its revamped outdoor area. (Has someone invented a word for a patio makeover yet? We’ll call it a pati-over.) Create a drink sampler with cocktails served by the ounce.


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    If you like pitchers of vodka-lemonade and dancing, there’s Roscoe’s. If you’re looking for some less innocent dancing, there’s Berlin Nightclub. There’s truly a bar to fit every mood in Boystown, and on a hot summer night, the hours fly by so fast, you won’t believe it’s 3am. The neighborhood is especially lively during the annual Pride festival and parade (June 16-17 & 24), and Northalstead Market Days (August 11-12).


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    One of the surest signs summer is on its way: The return of private boats to Chicago’s harbors. Whether you’re part of the party-hard “playpen” scene at Ohio Street Beach or looking for a calmer afternoon of sailing, there’s a ship life for every Chicagoan. But before you can live out your aquatic fantasies, better make sure you’ve got a boat friend lined up to help make them come true. (Even better if it’s a friend-of-a-friend, so you’ve got an easy out in case of a summer romance gone sour.)


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    There are two groups of Chicagoans: Those who hate the annual Air & Water Show, and those who are either from the suburbs or have a friend who lives in a lakeside high-rise. If you’re in the latter group, you know how to play this one. (Step 1: Ply your high-rise friend with lots of bubbly.) But for those who have HAD IT with the noisy fighter jets and lakefront crowds, Air & Water Show weekend (August 18-19) is a great time to check out all those places on the West and South Sides that you keep missing. Head down to Calumet Fisheries for legendary smoked seafood, or, if ribs are more your style, check out the barbecue at Smoque.


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    Across the street from the Loop business district, it’s almost as if Millennium Park was planned to taunt office workers during the summer. Take a break for an afternoon (or just for your lunch hour, if you can’t get away), and spread out on the lawn next to Pritzker Pavilion. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or just people-watch as friends chat and kids chase each other across the grass. We’ll also let you in on a little secret: At the southeast corner of the Pavilion is the entrance to Lurie Gardens, where visitors can take off their shoes and dip their feet in a man-made stream.


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    With miles and miles of lakefront, and even more parks and trails outside the city to explore, Chicago is best seen on two wheels, and summer is the perfect time to do so. Rent a Divvy bike if you don’t own one (but don’t forget a helmet) and hit the pavement. Biking can also be a great way to make new friends. Join Critical Mass as riders take over the streets for a massive group ride the last Friday of every month, or strip down for the World Naked Bike Ride on June 9.


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    While you’ve certainly enjoyed more than your fair share of local produce in Chicago’s restaurant scene, the city’s plethora of farmers markets mean it’s time for you to become the chef. Check out this schedule to find your neighborhood market. We’re particularly fond of Lincoln Park’s Green City Market, which features chef demonstrations, live music, and more dogs per square foot than a humane society.


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    This Chicago classic’s sole location is so far south, you’d swear you’re in the suburbs. (They actually start across the street.) But the cone’s layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet have kept Chicagoans young and old making the journey for decades. You can get the cone at select festivals like Lollapalooza, but nothing compares to the 92-year-old storefront.

  • 5 Travel Accessories That Will Improve Your Long-Term Travel Experience

    We are always trying to make our travel life easier so we can spend more time experiencing the places we visit.

    There are lots of travel accessories we think we need, but what is essential for your long-term travel plans?

    With so many choices, what are the best travel products you can bring along to improve your long-term traveling?

    You don’t want to bring too much along with you because you’ll be carrying these items around with you in your suitcase for a long time.

    But with a little planning and whittling down the essentials you will be sure to have everything you need.

    Below are a few examples of some of the best travel accessories that will make your life easier on the road.


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    Keeping your bag in some kind of organized state can be difficult when traveling long term. One way to keep your bag organised is to use packing cubes.

    These cubes are a great way to keep your clothes and other items separate. Pack your different items in cubes, tops in one, trousers in the other.

    Also, use them for laundry to keep dirty and clean clothes separated. You can even use them as a travelling wardrobe, only taking out which cubes you need at each time.

    If you can’t decide which ones to choose, then take a look at these best packing cubes review and find the best ones to suit you.

    As well as packing cubes, other luggage accessories to consider bringing are travel bottles. Some mini bottles come in handy when you don’t want to carry around large bottles of toiletries.

    Decanting your favorite items into smaller containers means you can bring along everything you need without the bulk and weight. Larger ones are also great to use and fill up water or other beverages!


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    You never go anywhere without your mobile phone nowadays and they can be a useful tool for travel.

    There are so many apps out there that are beneficial for both long and short-term travel.

    There are the well-known apps for reviews such as TripAdvisor which will give you traveler information about restaurants, locations and hotels. It’s best practice to check out reviews before you book to avoid disappointment.

    Also, really beneficial are Language apps that will help you converse with locals. These apps include Duolingo and Babbel, these can be really beneficial when in a spot with language difficulty.

    You might want to use apps to meet people too.

    These apps such as Meet Up, Eat With a Local and Party with a local, enable you to meet like-minded people in your destination. Make new friends or find someone to go on a tour with you, great if you are a solo traveler.

    Partying with new people has never been so easy. Your mobile phone may just be your best travel accessory yet!


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    Looking for travel gadgets to bring along on vacation with you that can have lots of uses at different parts of your trip?

    If you are traveling long-term and taking lots of flights then you might want to invest in a pair of noise cancelling or noise isolating headphones.

    If you are planning to get some sleep on your long flights then blocking out the noise can be one step towards a good sleep.

    Headphones can be a lifesaver if you are staying in a hostel and need some sleep or feeling particularly unsociable. Block out the noise or give yourself some alone time, listen to some music and relax.

    On the other hand, when you are watching TV or doing some language learning, you will keep the sounds from annoying anyone else.


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    There’s always that chance of rain no matter where you are. I have been caught in many a rain shower and a trusty Pac a Mac is the perfect solution.

    Having this with you means you can carry on with your journey or at least keep yourself dry whilst you wait out the rain. It can happen in the best of places and sometimes without warning.

    Yes, you could buy a rain cover en route or duck in somewhere are hide whilst the storm finishes. But you don’t want to waste precious time in your destination either.

    So, brave the rain, don your Mac and enjoy!

    Thinking about what clothes you are wearing, make sure you pack small and think big. Bring versatile clothing that mix and match and work for the places you will be visiting.


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    When you are traveling from place to place, especially through different countries you’ll need an international plug adapter.

    There’s nothing worse than realizing you can’t connect or charge your electronic device whilst you are away. It can be costly to buy adapters on the road and they may not be fully safe either.

    Making sure you bring the right converters and adapters to your destination is essential to improve your travel experience.

    Plan ahead so you know what kind of adapters you need and if you’ll be staying anywhere that you need a special kind – Universal adapters won’t work in some places in Africa for example.

    You also need to remember all your leads and a portable battery charger for your various electronics. Keeping them in their own special electronics packing cube makes finding what you need in your luggage a whole lot easier.


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    There is always something you can’t live without whilst traveling and everyone has their favorite travel gear.

    Whether it’s a comfy travel pillow, ear plugs or headphones to block out the noise, or those trusty walking boots. There are many things that could make the list but as you can see the above five items are a must have for a long-term traveler.

    What travel items would you add to the list? Leave a comment below.

  • 7 Best Parks in NYC

    New York City is the original concrete jungle, a bustling mass of skyscrapers, sidewalks, and subways.

    Green spaces and gardens can be few and far between, making them especially coveted for residents and visitors alike – especially once the weather warms up.

    Whether you’re searching for the perfect picnic ground, space to run and play, or simply a grassy knoll away from the teeming masses, here are a few of my favorite NYC parks (and a bonus one in Brooklyn!).

    Not included in here are the riverfront greenways, but know that if you’re ever itching for a breeze and a tree-lined esplanade, heading to the waterfront is a good way to go.


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    Without a doubt, the most well-known park in NYC (if not the world). It takes up 778 acres in the heart of Manhattan: six percent of the total land area of the island!

    There’s plenty to do in Central Park in all seasons: ice skating and sledding, bike riding or rollerblading, having a picnic in Sheep Meadow, or just wandering around to enjoy the leaves changing color or the magnolia trees blooming.

    Although Central Park New York is a favorite place for New Yorkers to walk their dogs or play in a softball league, there are plenty of iconic sites as well. Have a drink at the Boathouse and watch the lovers row around the lake under Bow Bridge – or even rent a boat yourself.

    You can splurge on dinner at Tavern on the Green, watch the kids (and adults) race model sailboats on the Conservatory Water, pop into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or see the view of Turtle Pond from Belvedere Castle.

    Note that the farther north you go in the park, the fewer tourists you’ll see!


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    Washington Square Park is right in the heart of West Village, and only a few steps from the shopping madness of SoHo. The square is also lined with the NYU campus buildings, so it’s unsurprisingly filled with plenty of college kids.

    Home to the most famous arch in the city – built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president – there’s also a fountain that is filled with playing children during the summer months.


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    It’s hard to believe you’re still on Manhattan when you’re in Fort Tryon Park: it starts at 190 th Street. It holds the city’s largest public garden, overlooking the Hudson River with a view of the George Washington Bridge.

    It’s big enough (and far enough away from the center of the city) that you can always find a quiet corner to yourself.

    Fort Tryon Park is also home to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focuses on medieval art and is actually made up of ancient buildings that were transported from Europe and reconstructed on the site.

    My favorite part of the Cloisters is the outdoor section: it has a herb garden with more than 250 species of plants that were grown during the Middle Ages.


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    Gramercy Park is arguably the most exclusive green space in New York City: you can only enter with one of 383 coveted keys to the park. It’s been fenced since 1833 and locked since 1844, with keys only granted to parkside residents, club members and hotel guests.

    But even if you can’t wiggle your toes in the grass, it’s still a lovely and quiet tree-lined walk around the park.


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    I feel like Riverside Park is one of the best-kept secrets in NYC: it’s only a few blocks west of Central Park, but almost no tourists venture that way.

    It stretches four miles (from 72 nd to 158 th streets) along the Hudson River, with a wide space to walk or bike that is completely lined with gorgeous towering elm trees.

    There are a few select gardens, historical monuments (the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ is likely the most well-known), playgrounds and a skate park.

    Don’t miss stopping at the Boat Basin for a drink with a view of the marina after a walk through the park!


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    Located in the East Village, Tompkins Square Park is reflective of the eclectic, sometimes-grungy, sometimes-hipster neighborhood that surrounds it.

    On a sunny day, the limited grass area is packed with sunbathers and picnickers sipping champagne out of red plastic cups. It’s not a huge park, but there’s a dog run, playground, plenty of benches and picnic tables, and often community events.

    Fun fact: it’s also home to the original Hare Krishna tree, although you’re more likely to see adherents of the religion in Union Square today.


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    Bonus Brooklyn park! I live in Brooklyn, so I may be biased – but what I love most about Prospect Park is that there aren’t very many tourists (not that we don’t love you!).

    It was designed by the same person who developed Central Park, so there are a ton of similarities, but it’s full of locals!

    It’s not quite as classically beautiful or as well-maintained, but it’s huge and green and full of wide open spaces.

    If you’re looking for activity, try a bike ride around the loop (you can rent a CitiBike near Barclay Center) or a paddle boat around the lake.

    It’s also worth checking out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is located right down the street: it’s especially resplendent during cherry blossom season, but there’s something blooming year-round.

  • 5 Tips for Meeting People as a Solo Female Traveler

    As a perpetual solo female traveler, one of the questions I frequently get asked is do I get lonely?

    I mean, what a question! Of course, I get lonely when I travel solo but also sometimes when I am at home.

    Traveling without a companion or partner can be completely daunting but I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling styles of travel.

    Like most types of travel, solo female travel has its ups and downs but at the end of the day, I heartily vouch that every person should try it at least once in their lives.


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    No, I don’t mean a hostel. If you’re a backpacker on a budget and looking for cheap accommodation, shared dorm rooms in hostels will certainly introduce you to people.

    But I’m past those years of my life, though occasionally I still stay in hostels but in private rooms.

    Nowadays there is a wide range of types of hostels you can stay in, some are categorized as “luxury” even. So when I’m traveling and looking to meet people oftentimes, I’ll book into a high-quality hostel in a private room and spend time in the common room or communal areas to meet people or participate in hostel group activities.

    But most of the time I don’t like staying in hostels so I look for smaller, more intimate accommodation options, ones where you meet the owners and other guests easily, like small B&Bs or on AirBnB.

    AirBnB and other similar accommodation rentals are a great way to meet the locals and get to see a different side of a destination. I’ve made friends with many AirBnB hosts over the years and it feels like I’m visiting a friend in the city or country where I’m visiting.


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    Depending on your trip, your travel style and where you are going you might consider hopping on a tour.

    Usually, there are a range of tours that meet every type of need and interest. Day tours or multi-day tours, photography tours and budget tours even pub crawls, there are many types to choose from.

    Usually, when I’m in a place like Europe, I prefer to travel around on my own, but when I want to get to places where I need a car, I’ll just hop on a day tour instead. It’s a great way to pack in a lot of sightseeing and meet new people.

    At the end of every tour I’ve done I usually leave with a couple of new friends and sometimes we would meet up later on and either travel together or just grab coffee. After all, everyone is in the same boat as you.

    If I’m traveling to a country where I’m either not comfortable traveling alone (rare now but still it happens) or I’m looking for a different kind or unique travel experience, I’ll book a multi-day tour.

    For example, I just came home from a 3 week horseback riding trip through Mongolia with Zavkhan Trekking. Not even sure how I would even begin planning that on my own.

    Last year for Christmas I joined in on a small-group local tour around New Zealand called Haka Tours, both of which fitted perfectly for what I wanted and almost everyone else on the tours were also solo travelers. Even if you travel by yourself, you’re rarely alone.


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    Aside from hopping on tours when you’re traveling around, another great way to stay social and meet people on the road is to join in on group activities.

    I love having hands-on travel experiences, like eating, when I’m on the road so I tend to gravitate towards activities like cooking classes, food and market tours, and lots and lots of adventure activities, like bike tours, boat outings, and scenic flights.

    Most of these activities book more than one person on them so you are guaranteed to meet people. There is nothing quite like making a new friend as you kayak through rapids or bake a local dish in a new city.


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    This usually works when you are traveling for extended periods of time and have a flexible schedule on the road, but also it can still work when your schedule is a bit limited.

    Once I’ve met other solo travelers, if we’ve hung out a few times and have similar interests or want to go to the same place, sometimes it’s easy to just travel along together for a while.

    This happens a lot on the well-trodden backpackers trails in Europe and Southeast Asia but also works in other parts of the world too.


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    Maybe it’s just me but meeting people has never come easy to me. I am an introvert through and through, and it almost goes against my nature to intentionally be outgoing.

    In the beginning, I had to force myself to talk to people. The easiest way is just to be really friendly. Depending on the country, I’ve found the majority of people love friendly solo travelers. It’s less intimidating than when you’re in groups and it just works.

    On top of that when I’m traveling I try to have a “say yes” policy when people invite me to things.

    Of course, I judge the situation and definitely say no if I feel unsafe or weird, but often times just putting yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone can be very rewarding.

    These are the moments I tend to treasure the most on the road.

  • What Kind of Music Do You Like?

    Mario Peshev piano.

    You need to listen to something that focuses you. It needs to keep you motivated, as well as keeping you calm and collected. Ready for business.