JetSetter Series – Cuba: Off The Beaten Path

In this week’s JetSetter Series, we catch up with Trusted Travel Girl’s Valerie Wilson on travel tips for a jaunt to the magical and mystical land of Cuba.

Being one of the first American women to legally  visit  Cuba when it was on the brink of change, I am often asked for advice on travel to the country. Well, my greatest piece of advice is, run, don’t walk. Things are changing quickly and it soon will not be the place you have heard about and imagined. Once you get there, here are some of the best ways to spend your time.

During the extent of a fifty-four-year embargo , Cuba has remained a mystery to the American public, yet with the recent move to re-establish relations with the US, curiosity seekers can now see what the country really has to offer.  What travelers will soon come to realize is that all of Cuba is a museum. Now that everyone seems to be jumping on the Cuba bandwagon, the best way to visit Cuba is to have some experiences that few tourists will have.

HersheyTrain_Cuba

Visit History

Take the train to Hershey. At the same time Hershey was in Pennsylvania, there was also Hershey, Cuba. Milton Hershey first visited Cuba back in 1916 and is said to have fallen in love with the country at first sight. He immediately purchased a plantation and a mill to produce Hershey chocolate. In 1946, Hershey moved out due to political instability in the country, however, there are some remains still intact (very few). Adventuring outside of the tourist zones will always be worth the trek, even if there isn’t much to see. This is the best way to make memories, engage with locals, and head out on an adventure. Taking the train to visit Hershey is a great way to do this.

Cuba_TrustedTravelGirl

Engage With Locals

Seek out and talk to the local Cubans about what they like to do, where they eat, where they hang out, what they think of new relations with the US, baseball, food, music. But try to avoid a conversation about politics. Learn where the best secret local hangouts are from talking to them and about what their lives are like.

Cuba_Casa

Support Cuba’s Growth

Stay at Casa’s instead of hotels. My favorite options in any travel experience are the ones that lead me to live like a local resident instead of a tourist. With the first tastes of growth and further development, Cubans are taking advantage of letting you rent space in their residence, much like a bed & breakfast. Spanish for “home,” casas are one of the most affordable options for lodging. This is an amazing opportunity to interact with the locals and break bread with your host family.

I always jump at the opportunity to interact with locals and see how they live their day-to-day lives. Concerning Cuba, it is an exceptional time in history for Cubans especially those venturing into the untamed waters of further growth in a still very much communist nation. The people that are renting rooms and working in tourism have quickly had their lives changed for the better. Most rooms rent for the equivalent of $30/night. Just to put that into perspective, the majority of Cubans make $40 a month. Although it’s taxed, that money is going directly into the pockets of the Cuban Entrepreneurs. Staying in a casa can offer any traveler an unmatched insight into Cuban culture. Even if you happen to be the type of traveler that enjoys the amenities offered by a hotel, one night at a casa for the experience certainly couldn’t hurt.

Cuba_Beaches

Get A Tan

The Cuban beaches are some of the best in the world, however, there are some local secrets. When interviewing my friend Frank Alpizar,  one of the most sought after tour guides in all of Havana I asked him what is the place most tourists don’t see in Cuba that they should. “There are beaches near Havana where tourists barely go because they consider it to be very Cuban, but they should go there. They should go to the beaches, both on the east and west part of the city, because they normally go to the islands, and they’re nice but they’re very touristy. You should go to the beaches where Cubans go”. His suggestion is a beach by the name of Santa Maria.

However you decide to spend your time in Cuba, make sure you understand that you are visiting a place that has been largely closed off to much of the world for decades. Remember that it is not a glamorous destination, however, with its expected growth and development, the country is changing quickly. Streets and buildings are in disrepair, hotels are oversold and having a hard time keeping up with demands from guests. Bring your patience, an open mind and you will be sure to have one of the most incredible life experiences. Bring too many expectations, and you will ruin it. Most importantly, get away from the other tourists and discover the real Cuba.

Cuba_Valerie

To learn more and connect with Valerie Wilson, visit TrustedTravelGirl.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TrustedTravelGirl.

JetSetter Series – A Guide to Some of Summer’s Best Festivals

(Photo: Wilderness Festival by Andrew Whitton)

Summer’s finally here and let us all collectively rejoice. The days are longer, the temps are warmer and it’s the most ideal time to take advantage of the countless festivals around the globe. Whether the festival is local to you or a plane ride away, you can enjoy everything from live music, cinematic masterpieces, delectable eats and treats, or even enrich your mind. With the help of our friends at Conde Nast Traveler, The Zoe Report, Fodor’s, and The Independent, we’ve compiled an ultimate list of summer’s best festivals – near and far. If you can’t make it this year, don’t fret, just take notes and plan accordingly for next year because these festivals only get bigger and better with time. Enjoy!

Roskilde

Where: Roskilde, Denmark

When: June 25-July 2, 2016

Created by two Danish high school students, Roskilde has evolved from a hippie gathering ground to a mainstream music festival. The four-day extravaganza attracts an international following and features performances from more than 3,000 artists. Bands include a mix of contemporary and lesser-known performers, and visitors can watch their favorite artists perform inside large tents. Don’t be surprised if you see a few scantily clad attendees; on the Saturday of the festival, Roskilde Festival radio hosts a naked run around the campsite.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Montreux Jazz Festival

Where: Montreux, Switzerland

When: July 1-16, 2016

Set on Lake Geneva’s picturesque shoreline, the Montreux Jazz Festival attracts a global audience. Founded in 1967 as a jazz-only festival, Montreux has since evolved into a two-week-long showcase that attracts more than 200,000 music enthusiasts. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, and Miles Davis were early performers, but blues and rock artists such as Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and Prince have also made appearances over the years. Performances don’t end on the shore; visitors can catch themed shows from boats and train cars.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Panorama

Where: Randall’s Island Park, New York City

When: July 22-24, 2016

Can’t make Governors Ball? We got you. This year brings us the first-ever Panorama festival, which also takes place on Randall’s Island. From the peeps behind Coachella, the event promises an interesting fusion of music, art and technology. Expect great bands (Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar, LCS Soundsystem and Sia among them) as well as technology-inspired installations and awesome food, all taking place from July 22 to 24. Is it just us or is Randall’s Island the new Indio?

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Traverse City Film Festival

Where: Traverse City, Michigan

When: July 26-31, 2016

Believe it or not, Northern Michigan is an incredibly beautiful part of the country. Film buffs can find that out for themselves by heading to the Traverse City Film Festival, July 26-31. Founded by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, the event reels in independent, documentary and foreign films. Moore’s goal is to preserve the art of cinema while screening truly great movies that “entertain and enlighten.” What a novel concept. This one’s for you, movie buffs.

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Lollapalooza

Where: Chicago

When: July 28-31, 2016

Few music festivals carry the same name recognition and star power as Lollapalooza. Created in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for his band, the festival has since evolved into an extravaganza of musical performances, dance, comedy, and crafts. Lollapalooza hosts more than 160,000 visitors over a three-day period and has helped popularize artists ranging from Pearl Jam to Ice-T. Although the festival initially focused on alternative and indie rock, it has expanded with eclectic performers and smaller sub-genres. This year’s headliners are Paul McCartney, Metallica, and Florence + the Machine.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Osheaga

Where: Montreal, Canada

When: July 29-31, 2016

As summer nears its end, Osheaga gears up in Montreal. Held annually at the scenic Parc Jean-Drapeau, the three-day musical festival includes five stages and performances from a diverse lineup of artists. Festival-goers can jam out to popular indie rockers or listen to mellow, up-and-coming folk artists while taking in the city skyline. Set times vary based on the status of each performer, with emerging artists opening the show and headliners concluding with longer, 90-minute sets. Consider getting to town a week early, as the city hosts concerts and exhibitions prior to the main event.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Wilderness Festival

Where: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

When: August 4-7, 2016

Head to Oxfordshire for a taste of rural paradise at Wilderness, which this August features exclusive UK sets from Robert Plant and The Flaming Lips. Music aside, mouthwatering food is served at famous long table banquets great for meeting like-minded people. Wellbeing workshops, a carousel and boutique camping strike the perfect balance between relaxation and revelry.

(Source: Jess Denham, The Independent)

Outside Lands

Where: San Francisco, CA

When: August 5-7, 2016

If Coachella is a little too much of a scene for you but you love music, Outside Lands might be your jam—literally. From August 5 to 7, Golden Gate Park becomes the site of this beloved San Francisco music festival, which boasts headliners including LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead and Lionel Richie this year. A few things are practically guaranteed at this Northern Cal fun fest: The crowd will be littered with tech guys sporting tees emblazoned with their start-up’s logo, and the weather is always unseasonably cold so pack layers (like down layer—seriously).

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Flow Festival

Where: Helsinki, Finland

When: August 12-14, 2016

Summer doesn’t last long in Helsinki, which may account for the especially appreciative vibe that permeates the Flow Festival. Located in an edgy, industrial section of the city, the fest will feature those trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, Iggy Pop, Sia, and the neo-‘80s Brit-rock sensation, Savages.

(Source: Jim Farber, Conde Nast Traveler)

The Nantucket Project 

Where: Nantucket, MA

When: September 22-25, 2016

If you want to expand your mind or change the world and TED seems too intimidating, The Nantucket Project–taking place on Nantucket, Massachusetts September 22-25–is for you. Some of the best minds of our time (last year that included Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, musician Neil Young and, ironically, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman ) are tasked with giving the lecture of their life, many of which turn into TNP Idea Films. The topics covered and lectures given are not only fascinating and often brilliant, they’re thought-provoking–like, really. Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Think about this for a second: In 2014, the festival featured an appearance by the hologram of Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where she has been given asylum. If that isn’t the weirdest, coolest thing you’ve ever heard, we don’t know what is.

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Desert Trip 

Where: Indio, CA

When: October 7-9 & 14-16, 2016

We thought someone was joking when they told us The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Paul McCartney were on the same bill. Then we realized Desert Trip was a real thing, and all of our dreams were coming true for two weekends in October (7-9 and 14-16), on the same grounds–and produced by the same team–as Coachella in Indio, California. Tickets sold out fast, but as anyone who was ever lazy with their Coachella tickets knows, there is always a way. Some people are calling it “Oldchella” but we prefer, “Woodstock, The Redux.”

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

JetSetter Series – Ski Trip Packing Guide

In this week’s JetSetter Series, we catch up with Trusted Travel Girl’s Valerie Wilson on packing tips before hitting the slopes for an adventurous ski trip.

Ski Trip Packing Guide:

Skiing is an expensive sport and going on a ski trip is a generally a costly investment in a vacation. Therefore, you want to be sure that you are well prepared. Lift tickets certainly aren’t cheap and neither are condos or hotels near the mountain. Ski gear is also pretty expensive, so it’s crucial to be sure you’ve got the right gear.

I’ve compiled a list of some must-have items to secure an amazing trip. Although some of these items may be no-brainers for expert skiers, for the novice skier many of these items can easily be overlooked. And, even if you have been skiing for years, there may still be a tip or two in here that you could use.

I have listed the below items in order of importance.

Custom Ski Boot

The boots that you are in are far more important than your skis. Let me guess, you are thinking “It’s called ‘skiing’, not ‘booting’, how could boots possibly be more important than skis?”. Allow me to explain. At the end of the day, skis are skis and unless you are an advanced skier, chances are you won’t know the difference if your ski has both a rocker, a camber both or neither. You will, however, notice if you are in pain from your ski boots; bad boots can ruin an entire trip, even for the most advanced skiers. It doesn’t matter how great of a skier you are, if your boots don’t fit properly than you aren’t able to activate and control your ski properly. This can lead to poor form on the mountain as well as injuries like torn ACL’s. Poor fitting boots will also lead to cold feet, which can be miserable. Ski trips aren’t cheap, so invest wisely and get a custom fitted boot. Boots aren’t cheap, and a custom fit boot does cost a little bit more, but it is well worth the investment, even if you only go on one ski trip a year. My custom boots are the Fischer Vacuum boot. They run between $500 and $1000 per pair, but are well worth it.

valerie-ski-fischer-boots

 

Ski Boot Packing Tip: Pack your ski boots last. If they don’t fit in your suitcase, an easy solution is to sling them over your backpack. I just Velcro mine together and sling them over my Big Ben backpack from Victorinox. Easy, and helpful if you are an over packer.

Helmet

Almost everyone on the mountain wears a helmet these days, and the people that don’t just look like an accident waiting to happen. A helmet does not make you look lame. I don’t care how great of a skier/snowboarder you are, you are only as safe as the person next to you on the mountain and when they lose control and crash into you, you’ll wish you were wearing that helmet. Additionally, they are comfortable, they don’t fall off like hats, they keep expensive goggles secured so they aren’t lost and they keep your head warm. Most helmets even have a place for headphones to be put in. It’s a no brainer, keep your head safe.

Goggles

You need goggles when you ski to protect your eyes from the elements and to help you see when it’s extremely sunny. For goggles, one of my favorite companies is Zeal. They never fog up on me. The peripheral vision in these goggles are incredible, and you will look like an all-around badass in these. Even if you don’t ski well, you can still look like you do.

Hydration Pack

You wouldn’t go to the gym for an hour without water, so why would you ski all day without it? Having water while skiing is completely necessary, and carrying a Camelbak water pack is the absolute best way to do that. The one caveat is that you absolutely have to empty and dry them out or they could get moldy.

Chapstick

Cold dry air will chap your lips faster than anything. I always keep chapstick readily available in a pocket of my ski jacket. Just separate the things you are accessing (chapstick, snacks, camera) from things that you don’t need falling out of your pocket on the lift, like credit cards, cash and keys.

Layers!

When skiing, it’s all about the layers. Pack base layers, fleecy second layers and of course your ski jacket. The point of a base layer is to draw out any perspiration away from the body so that you don’t get sweaty and eventually cold. If you don’t dress appropriately you will be cold and miserable.

Extra Mittens/Gloves 

Bring an extra pair of gloves! They can get soaked from days when it’s dumping hard or if you sweat in them at the beginning of the day. I always have cold hands, so I look for top quality when choosing a pair of gloves. My favorite brands are Swany and Hestra, they are both top quality, and will last a long time.

Boot Dryer Sticks

Just how poorly fitting boots can ruin a ski trip, wet boots can be pretty miserable as well. You will need boot dryer sticks, they will not only dry your boots overnight, but they will warm them up on a chilly morning before you slide them on. They are inexpensive and extremely portable.

Snacks

Pack snacks! When skiing all day you are bound to get hungry. Long days on the mountain burn a ton of calories and you will need to fuel up. I prefer to wait as long as humanly possible to go into the lodge for anything because when the skiing is good, you want to stay out on the snow, especially while everyone else is busy in the lodge. Chairlifts are a perfect place to pull out a pocket-sized snack. My favorites are granola bars and fruit snacks, however, one of my longtime ski buddies swears by having a bar of chocolate for the chairlift.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen. You read that correctly. Unless you want a goggle tan, you may want to bring sunscreen if it’s sunny and you are at a high altitude. Especially for any spring skiing conditions.

Neck Warmers

You’ve got your ski pants, and coat, but do you have a neck warmer? You 100% do not want to head out the door without one.

The Right Socks

The rule with socks is the more the merrier. A thin, ski specific wool sock is key. Always bring a second pair for the day to keep in your day bag in case they happen to get soaked before lunch. Another secret is to wear a different pair of regular socks on the way to the mountain. Going between the cold outdoors and heated indoors while loading up your car and driving to the mountain can cause feet to sweat a little bit, and damp socks will get cold in your ski boots, fast!

Ski Lock

Sadly, not everyone on this planet is trustworthy so keeping a ski lock in your pocket is always advisable. Additionally, for an additional charge some resorts have a ski check.

However, I always like to be sure that my gear is safe so I ski with a small ski lock in my pack or pocket.

Pro tip: If you forget this one, you can always separate your skis. You simply put one ski and pole on one rack and walk the other ski and pole to another ski rack area. This makes it more difficult for a thief to find both skis, and more difficult to steal a pair.

Velcro Ski Strap

You can purchase one of these at most ski shops. This simple strap will help you hold your skis together so they aren’t separating on you during transit.

Altitude Sickness Medication

Are you heading to high elevations? If you are, I advise that you talk to your doctor about a prescription for Diamox. I take 250mg 2x a day beginning 24 hours before arrival. I gradually work my way to 1/2 that dose. It helps you get acclimated, and prevents vicious altitude sickness.

Ski vacations are a whole lot of fun, but can be hell if the proper gear isn’t packed. Print out this list of tips above and you will be sure to be as prepared as the pros!

Valerie_ski

To learn more and connect with Valerie Wilson, visit TrustedTravelGirl.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TrustedTravelGirl.

 

JetSetter Series – How [Not] to Pack

 

Travel and packing. The enduring conundrum we face with every new trip. Recently we shared with you some incredibly useful tips for creating the ultimate packing list courtesy of Mom’s Guide to Travel’s Tawanna Browne Smith. But what about the flip side – what NOT to pack? There is definitely an art to knowing what not to pack for trips short and long. Adventure Journal recently wrote about this side of the equation in their March 15th post “How [Not] to Pack for a Big Trip”. Inspired by their post we wanted to share with you our spin on ‘helpful’ tips on how not to pack for your next trip.

Pack at the very last minute:

You may have known about your upcoming trip for some time now. You may have even gotten all forms of reminders (email, text, snail mail, you name it!) about checking in for your flight, confirming your hotel reservation, or picking up your rental car. You might even have a very detailed itinerary lined up for your vacation. You’ve probably told anyone and everyone that will listen you’ll be out of the office from this date to that date. You may have even pulled your travel gear out the closet with the hopes of getting an early jump on packing. The stars are finally beginning to align for your much-needed break. But, with each day closer to your departure, you still haven’t packed a thing. It’s okay – nothing beats the thrill of a panic attack induced by last-minute packing. Nothing!

Pack things that are totally unnecessary:

You’re planning an exotic beach adventure and will most likely make time for crushing some waves, so you’ll definitely need your snowboard on the off chance it, well, snows. While you’re at it pack half of your winter wardrobe, just in case it gets chilly on the tropical island you’re visiting that has never been less than 85°F. You prefer reading on your tablet, but don’t want to risk losing power, so why not pack all five hard cover copies of those books you were planning to cross off your list while sunbathing. Surely, you won’t need the extra space in your travel bag for souvenirs.

Leave all the essentials at home:

“I don’t have my passport. And I think I forgot my credit cards. And my camera charger. And my I.N.O.X. watch. I know we’re about to pull up to the airport, but we need to turn around so I can grab everything I forgot at home.” Don’t you just love that feeling of adrenaline pumping through you at the thought you may miss your flight to the tropical destination you’ve been dreaming of for years? You enjoying living life on the edge – and you can always catch the next flight out tomorrow, right? And, your travel companions of course won’t mind.

When in doubt, overpack:

At this point, you’ve done just about everything right for your upcoming trip. Now, your Uber driver is calling incessantly to let you know they’re outside waiting, texts or calls from your travel companions are beginning to inundate your phone to ensure you’re on the way to the airport, and you’re still trying to zip up your travel gear. Your vacation couldn’t be off to a better start. It’s likely you’re doing just about everything to close your bag – including asking the Uber driver to sit on your bag to help it close – because just maybe you packed entirely too much ‘just in case’ stuff for your trip. Feeling success when you finally get the bag zipped – thanks Uber driver! – paying that $100 overweight bag fee at the check-in counter feels like a badge of honor.
Have a great trip!

JetSetter Series – Travel Tips: Packing for Spring Break Lists

Spring is in the air which means that Spring Break travel is almost here. Thankfully the snow has melted for most of us. As we start packing for spring break, lists are void of bulky items such as winter socks, turtlenecks and long johns. Unless of course, you are traveling to the slopes for Spring Break.

Either way, the true savvy traveler knows that packing is hassle-free given the right tools. Aside from a great bag, the most important tool in your packing routine is your packing list.

 

Why a Packing List?

In a nutshell, lists help to keep us organized. It doesn’t matter what type of list it is or what the list is for, lists help us to get stuff done. Our eyes and our brains love lists.

Pic 2

Why? According to neuroscience, most people can’t hold more than four things in their mind at a time.

  1. Lists serve as a quick way for us to get important information.
  2. They provide order to our thoughts.
  3. They keep us on task (productive).
  4. They allow us to remember things.

See what I just did? I wrote a list. It was a not-so subliminal way of reinforcing the information.

Lists in Everyday Life

Think about the last time you went to the grocery store without a list. Did you remember to pick up everything or did you forget something? Chances are you forgot something.

It’s okay to admit it. It doesn’t mean that you’re getting old.

Even the youngest of organized grocery shopping moms carries a list. That many superstar organizers can’t be wrong. If they use lists as their weekly routine, you probably should too.

Now let’s apply this idea to packing. The average traveler takes two to three trips per year. Routine travelers are on the road almost weekly. If you are in the former group, travel is occasional. It isn’t a constant. For habitual travelers, activities like packing are a constant and become part of a routine.

In general, if something isn’t routine for us, 98% of the time we forget one of the actions in the sequence. Packing lists help us to remember particular actions.

 

Lists Help With Efficiency

Lists also help us avoid over-packing. If we go through the motion of writing down everything we need by “seeing” our items on a piece of paper, we’re more likely to self-edit and pack less.

When we just “throw n’ go” (aimlessly throwing items in our bags) we tend to forget what’s already in our luggage. Inevitably we pack more than what we need.

Writing items down and checking them off as you go is a sure-fire way to pack efficiently.

Pic 3

 

So What Should You Pack for Spring Break?

What you pack for Spring Break really depends on where you go. Your  Spring Break packing list for the slopes is going to look much different than your Spring Break packing list for the beach. However, here is a list (there goes that word again) of some essential items:

ID                                       insurance cards,              camera,

batteries,                          chargers,                           cash/ credit card,

umbrella,                          hair products,                  styling tools,

toothbrush/paste,          deodorant,                        body wash,

lotions,                             face cleansers,                  vitamins,

socks,                               undergarments,                pajamas,

clothes,                            sunglasses,                        shoes/ flip flops/ boots,

swimwear,                       insect repellent,                sunscreen,

makeup,                           perfume/cologne,            razors

goggles,                            plastic baggies,

You can either write down this list or if you want to make your life easier order a pre-designed packing list, especially if you are traveling with family.

Family packing lists like the one below are convenient and are itemized for each member:  mom, dad, son/daughter, and an infant.

Pic 4

 

Now everyone can join in on the fun. Aside from the baby, these kind of lists allow each person to pack for themselves.

Whenever you decide to travel, whether it is for Spring Break or for a casual getaway, employ lists to take the hassle out of packing. You will stay organized, remember things, and pack more efficiently. As a bonus, you might even pack a little faster.

Tawanna Browne Smith of Mon's Guide To Travel
Tawanna Browne Smith of Mon’s Guide To Travel

 

 

Author Bio: Tawanna Browne Smith is the Managing Director of MGTTravel Media and the Editor-In-Chief of MomsGuideToTravel.com. She is a business consultant, family travel writer, influencer, and travel planner for moms. Tawanna has been traveling on her own since she was 13, picking up packing tricks throughout her many adventures. She recently spoke on behalf of Victorinox Swiss Army at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show about packing. Tawanna is the wife of a Navy Chief and the proud mom of two energetic boys.

JetSetter Series – Ronnie & Phoebe of Many Many Adventures (blog)

Google “traveling as a couple” and you will find article after article worth of recommendations on how best to avoid letting it “make or break” you as a couple. As a pair that’s traveled to more than 40 countries together, American Ronnie and Australian Phoebe of travel blog Many Many Adventures know a thing or two about how to avoid letting differences hinder their adventures. Read on for the couple’s top packing tips and recommendations on traveling together.

 V: Between the two of you, you’ve done your fair share of traveling. You guys must be pros at packing your bags by now?

P: I have to be honest: packing has been one of my biggest flaws as a traveler! I agonize over what to bring and what to leave, and then just shove everything in a bag. I always end up with too much of the wrong stuff, having left the essentials behind. To be fair, that does have a lot to do with the fact that my plans tend to change according to my latest whim, so I very rarely end up on the journey I thought I started.

For example, when I set off for my year overseas, I planned to “move” to one city and live there for a year, so I packed a backpack, a duffel bag, and a purse! In reality, I ended up ditching nearly everything I’d brought with me, buying a whole bag of new stuff and visiting ten different countries in eight months!

R: She’s still terrible at packing. I, on the other hand, have always been a very light packer. When Phoebe and I met in Costa Rica, I had somehow managed to fit everything I needed into a 20-liter backpack with room to spare!

P: It’s been a bit different since you discovered your abiding passion for camping equipment!

R: That’s true! Now we tend to pack together and try to take as little as possible… unless we are going camping. We have both been on enough budget airline flights to know it’s always better to fly with a bag that will fit under your seat and (if you can help it) no checked luggage. It’s certainly much easier to do this if you are going somewhere warm, otherwise, save your bulkier items to wear on the plane.

 Ronnie and Phoebe - On The Road Again

V: What are some of the different luggage combinations you’ve come up with for when you travel together?

P: If we are going away for the weekend we will just take a backpack for our clothes and a handbag or shoulder bag for our laptops, books and toiletries. It’s always a challenge to choose just one pair of shoes, but I usually go for something I can walk in without getting blisters!

R: Our favorite kind of traveling is going by van or by car, stopping for the night and waking up somewhere new every day. When we can take a little more, we like a bag that’s sturdy and spacious, so we can shove all our hiking and camping gear inside and throw it in the back.

P: Since my family lives in Australia and Ronnie’s family is in Washington, we often have to fly for longer trips, and for those trips I need something on wheels. I find airports to be the worst places in the world, and lugging an unwieldy bag around is tortuous!

 

V: Apart from going home to see family, what are some of the destinations you plan to visit in the near future?

R: It would be a shorter list if we tell you the places we don’t plan to visit! In the near future, as in the next two years, we will be based in Chicago, so we plan to explore more of the U.S.

P: Definitely camping and hiking in Colorado and Yosemite!

R: Definitely. But we are also really excited to make it back to Central America for some backpacking. We met in Costa Rica, so that part of the world is pretty special for us.

P: That will definitely be a packing-light trip!

 

V: Where did you travel last time you were in Central America? Where would you go next time?

P: We traveled together for a week or so, around northern Costa Rica, Santa Teresa, Mal Pais – beautiful little surf beaches. We both went down to Panama separately and stayed in Bocas Del Torro, which is very touristic, but amazing.

R: It’s basically a bunch of beach huts dotted around a series of tiny little islands – you have to go everywhere by boat; and the nightlife is very cool. Phoebe was only there for a few days but I stayed for nearly a month!

P: When we go back we really want to go to Guatemala and stay by the lake. We have a friend who worked in a hostel there for three months a few years ago, and the way she described it made it seem so tranquil and beautiful. I also really want to go to Antigua for a few weeks and take one of the Spanish immersion courses they do – they’re famous for them!

Enjoying a beautiful beach on their latest excursion

V: So you both started out traveling alone, and now you travel together most of the time – are there any funny stories you guys have about times when it’s been hard to work together or compromise?

P: We’ve been really lucky for the most part because we’re both pretty easy going, but there have definitely been times when we are both tired, and broke, and the weather is terrible or we get lost, and one or both of us has just had enough. Those are the times when we have to remind ourselves that no matter how well we pack, or how much research we have done, there will always be something we have forgotten or something that will go wrong.

R: One time, it almost ended our trip before it had begun! Last year we had planned this amazing three week excursion in New Zealand; we had hired a van, we got all this camping equipment together, we researched different hikes we could do and places to visit, and we both packed our backpacks according to a very particular little check list. Halfway down the road to get the bus to the airport, I turned to Phoebe and said: “Do I need a visa to get into New Zealand?”

P: It was just something that I hadn’t thought of because, as an Australian citizen, I didn’t need one. There was some very panicky Googling at the bus stop, and luckily, it was all fine…until I realized I had no bus pass and no cash!

R: Miraculously we made it, and it was such a great trip. We want to go back to do a longer version of it one day: six months, and all the major hiking trails! There are plenty of moments when things go wrong and you feel like the world is going to end, but that’s not just traveling, that’s life! Figuring that stuff out as you go along is how you learn to plan better (and pack smarter) for the next time.

 

To learn more and connect with Ronnie and Phoebe, visit ManyManyAdventures.com or follow them on Twitter and Instagram @ManyManyTravels and @ronnietravels, respectively.

 

 

JetSetter Series – Filmmaker and Author Joe Baur – Part II

Today we’re picking up where we left off last week with Victorinox JetSetter Joe Baur, an author, writer and filmmaker currently living in Costa Rica. Joe is all about sharing authentic experiences, and were lucky enough hes agreed to share some with us! Read on to hear more from Joe on his travel tales from Costa Rica to Switzerland.

Let’s talk gear and packing. What’s your preferred travel gear for longer trips? Duffels? Roller bags?

I prefer a duffel bag if I’m working my way through a crowded city. San José, for instance, is chaotic during the day with an interesting take on sidewalk construction. Rolling a bag just becomes a nuisance. In Europe, the design might be more logical, but a roller doesn’t do too well over cobblestones. If, however, I know I’m going someplace with a more modern layout, I’ll save myself the arm workout and go with a roller.

 VSA Travel Tip: Terrain demand a duffel? Try the CH-97 2.0 Alpineer Spacious Wheeled Duffel, which can also be wheeled, or the CH-97 2.0 Mountaineer Duffel Backpack, which converts into a backpack.

What are the top 3 items you always bring with you when you travel?

Video camera, my backpack and my sense of adventure! Just kidding on the last one. That’d be unbearably cliché. Let’s go with snacks.

Cleveland is very near and dear to you—what are some of your favorite things to do there?

Cycling and hiking around both the Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Otherwise, I love taking the train to Ohio City or Shaker Square and hopping around various breweries. Cleveland, when you allow it, can be very walkable. So if nothing else, I’m a big fan of going on long walks around the neighborhoods—especially after I’ve inevitably downed a Happy Dog hotdog full of eggs and chorizo..

You’re an avid cyclist. How long have you been involved with that?

Really just about a year. I was fortunate enough to be the American winner of BMC Switzerland’s granfondo contest, which meant getting an incredible bike in early March of last year, and having one month to train for the 245-kilometer Ronde van Vlaanderen in Belgium. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.

Joe Baur takes on the Ronde van Vlaanderen 5

When you set out on a long bike trip, how do you go about packing?

In Switzerland, we were spoiled enough to have a company shuttling our bags from city to city, so they were ready for us when we arrived. The same goes for the aforementioned Ronde. BMC Switzerland had a SAG wagon for us, so they held on to any extra clothing we needed to remove during the day.

As far as food goes, I’m a huge fan of Cliff Bars. If I’m hungry before riding, I’ll eat one and bring one or two more along for my ride depending on the distance.

What would be your dream path after you graduate this summer?

If Anthony Bourdain inexplicably gives me his job and ignores the millions of other people wishing for the same thing. Seriously though, I want to continue traveling the word and sharing those experiences with people. Right now I only have the budget to support creating videos that are basically travel-music-videos that give viewers a snapshot of the destination along with some music from a band local to the area or country featured. Hopefully such a day will come when a microphone can be added to the works in order to create something more like Modern Enlightenment where I shared my travel experience living with Tibetans in exile in Northern India, putting in a little humor when appropriate.

If I can [use a little humor to] help open up the world a bit more and make people less afraid of places that might be off the tourist trek—I’ll be a happy man. That, plus my face on a Switzerland unlimited transit ridership card.

To learn even more and connect with Joe, visit joebaur.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @BaurJoe

JetSetter Series – Filmmaker and Author Joe Baur – Part I

Our latest Victorinox JetSetter is Joe Baur, an author, writer and filmmaker currently living in Costa Rica. Joe is all about sharing authentic experiences, and were lucky enough hes agreed to share some with us! Read on for Joes travel tales from Costa Rica to Switzerland.

How long have you been living in Costa Rica? Can you tell us more about what you’re doing there?

I’ve been in Costa Rica since August 14, 2014—although with all of our travels outside of the country to El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and back home for the holidays, we have probably lost a month in Costa Rica somewhere in the mix. However long it adds up to, our little apartment in Ciudad Colón feels like home now.

Costa Rica came about for a variety of reasons. My wife and I were looking to live abroad. Our first choice was Switzerland, but my brother recommended Costa Rica after having spent a semester living in Heredia during his college years. Improving our Spanish also struck us as a little more valuable. That’s no knock on German or French, though. I’m currently butchering my way through German with plans to decimate French in the future.

Another motivator to moving abroad was to expand my travel coverage. We wanted to be someplace where everything around us was new and I could create editorial and video travel content. Central America has been a perfect location to make this happen. We have worked our way through El Salvador, Guatemala, northern Panama, across Costa Rica, and I just hopped down to Panama City. I am also hoping to squeeze in a quick jaunt up to Nicaragua before I leave Costa Rica in June. The result has been a ton of new video and editorial content as well as the workings of a travel memoir that, if published, will hopefully give readers a better insight into this incredible region, with a few laughs at our expense along the way.

Now that you’re practically a local, what are some of your top travel stops in Costa Rica?

We still have northwestern Guanacaste, the Osa Peninsula, Braulio Carrillo, Monteverde and Tortuguero to explore over the next couple of months, but this list could very easily change in that time. Two days ago we returned from the La Fortuna, Arenal area, which was just fantastic. It’s probably the corner of Costa Rica I most want to return to, specifically for road cycling and for a drier day to take on hiking Cerro Chato. We were also pleasantly surprised by the Orosi Valley, which had similar adventure opportunities as Arenal, but without the tourism. A hotel manager took us on a great hike that he helped create to an incredible waterfall that was unlike anything we’ve done in Costa Rica. We didn’t see a single tourist the entire day. It was fantastic.

What is your most memorable travel experience; good and/or bad?

Switzerland and El Salvador. Switzerland was great because of how easily you could get around the entire country without a car. Everything was accessible from nature to the cities and small towns in between. It was the first time I thoroughly enjoyed the act of traveling within a country. It left quite an impression on me and I’m currently studying German in hopes of being welcomed there one day. Bitte!

El Salvador ranks up there because of how many people encouraged us not to go. Of course none of the people who told us not to go or strongly warned us against it had actually ever been. Our goal was to find a different side of the country, one that doesn’t come across in international news coverage. Yes, they have their problems, but we felt perfectly safe traveling throughout the country for a week. We met people eager to share their story about life in El Salvador. I can’t wait to go back and I hope others consider checking it out for themselves.

Do you have any documentaries in the works?

I’m constantly working on new travelogues that serve as short travel documentaries. We’re about to release El Salvador and Lake Atitlán. In the meantime, I’ll be working on Antigua, Lake Arenal, another from Switzerland, and inevitably a few more from our upcoming travels across Costa Rica. I’ll also be in Germany in early June covering the Berlin Wall bike trail, so that means another travelogue.

Once you wrap up in Costa Rica, where are you off to next?

I’ll be heading up to Minnesota to write a couple of books: Best Adventures Near Minneapolis and St. Paul and Best Hikes Near Minneapolis and St. Paul — both for Falcon Guides, whom I published Best Hikes Near Cleveland with. And yes, that was a shameless plug.

I’m particularly excited about Best Adventures. It’ll be the first in a new series of guidebooks, combining various adventures such as mountain and road cycling, paddling and hiking, with many destinations accessible by bike or public transit. The goal is to keep you out of a car as much as possible.

That should take place from August to September, after which I’ll have some assignments in North America to tend to, and—I hope I’m not jinxing it—another possible book opportunity that will take me back to my beloved Switzerland. I love Switzerland, if that wasn’t clear already.

Stay tuned for the second installment of Joe Baur’s JetSetter post same time next week where he shares his top 3 travel must-haves and his cycling journeys through Cleveland and Switzerland!

To learn more and connect with Joe, visit joebaur.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @BaurJoe

JetSetter Series – Dr. Jane Goodall, Part II

As a continuation of last week’s discussion with Dr. Jane Goodall, we’re back to hear about some of her most memorable travel experiences. For someone who has been actively traveling the world for more than 50 years, we were anxious to see what she had to say. Read on for Part II of Dr. Jane Goodall’s Jetsetter Series post. (Above photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)

One of my most memorable travel experiences was a journey from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to the Ruaha National Park. I was with my late husband Derek and my son “Grub” when he was about 7 years old. We were in a four-seat Cessna plane and a small wisp of smoke curled up from the instrument panel for the last 45 minutes of the flight. Needless to say, we were all relieved when we finally made our descent.

However, our relief lasted only a few moments. A herd of zebras were grazing along the landing strip, blocking our touch-down. The pilot flew low to scare them off, but panicked and ended up among trees on the wrong side of the Ruaha River. Derek, a Second World War pilot, told me afterwards that had one wing tip not clipped a tree and slowed us down, we would have had a less fortunate outcome.

As it was, we got out safely – but on the far side of the crocodile-infested river. It was Grub who said “If God didn’t let us die in the crash, he won’t let us be eaten by crocodiles”. And so we carried on, crossing the river with water up to our chests, rather than wait for rescue by ferry and Land Rover.

Dr. Jane Goodall at sunset in Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Thomas D. Mangelsen / Images by Nature.)
Dr. Jane Goodall at sunset in Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Thomas D. Mangelsen / Images by Nature.)

Without a doubt the most significant journey I ever made was back in 1957. I had been working as a waitress to save up enough so I could get to Africa. My family came to London to see me board the Kenya Castle, an all-one class ship, and I was off. As we travelled to Africa, we stopped and went ashore briefly in the Canary Isles, Cape Town, Durban and what was then Lorenzo Marx. Those glimpses of new lands and cultures were fascinating to me, though the apartheid system in South Africa was utterly horrifying. There was beautiful scenery, marvelous animals and exotic fruits, but it was a horrible regime.

What I remember most from that journey is standing alone watching the sea; the grey water of Britain giving way to strikingly blue tropical waters. The first flying fish I saw and the dolphins that occasionally played around the boat were simply magic.

I was met in Nairobi by my school friend, whose invitation to stay had provided the opportunity to follow my dream. We drove to the Kinangop, an area of what was then known as the White Highlands. There, I saw my first wild giraffe up close, an aardvark cross the road in front of the car and, once at the farm where I was staying, I was shown the pugmark of a male leopard who had passed through that evening.

I knew then I had truly arrived in Africa.

For more information on Dr. Jane Goodall or the work of the Jane Goodall Institute please visit www.JaneGoodall.org and RootsandShoots.org.

Jane Goodall surveys the tundra from a mountainside in Denali National Park, Alaska.  (Photo courtesy of Thomas D. Mangelsen / Images by Nature.)
Jane Goodall surveys the tundra from a mountainside in Denali National Park, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Thomas D. Mangelsen / Images by Nature.)

JetSetter Series: Molly Beauchemin (Part II)

Picking up where we left off last week with Molly Beauchemin – a fashion, food and culture critic always on the move. While she resides in Brooklyn, New York, her job requires frequent trips to report on culture – from local fare to up-and-coming bands at music festivals.

 This is Part II of Molly’s JetSetter Series post where she shares with us how she preps for her frequent weekend adventures and her technique for packing a bag that allows her to experience new cities without feeling weighed down.  As Molly puts it…

Packing is a game of aesthetic strategy, and over the years, I’ve gotten very good at it.

I’m particularly proud of one such situation a few years ago, when I was invited to a wedding at the King’s Garden in Copenhagen. My guest and I wanted to spend the morning up north at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, but we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to return to our house and change before the wedding. With a little ingenuity, we made it work. I invested in a wrinkle-resistant dress that slipped in my bag as we explored the coast of Nordsjælland. We caught a train back to the city just in time to change in the bathroom of a coffee house across the street from the castle grounds. I’ll never forget the look on the barista’s face after I walked into the bathroom looking like a disheveled backpacker and came out wearing three-inch heels and crimson-red lipstick (We arrived at the wedding dewy and breathless, but we made it.)

I didn’t know it at the time, but this moment was a small victory of packing. A savvy traveler can “do as the locals” without the giant suitcases that betray us as tourists.

I’ve learned with time that good luggage makes it easy to pack well. The train ride from New York City to Montreal is one of the top five train rides in the world, according to the people whose job it is to say so. It’s also one of my favorite places to write. You travel under bridges, around granite cliffs on the Hudson River, through gorgeous sailboat marinas, in and out of castle-filled islands, and past the sheltered farm towns of upstate New York (think apple orchards, horses, tractors and rusty barns).

JetSetter Molly Traveling the Montreal Countryside by Train

With so much to do and see just on the train, having the right bag was key. Like any writer, I like being able to access my laptop from an external pocket. I write about everything from music and fashion to travel and the environment, so I need hard-cased, water-resistant luggage so any accidents won’t ruin clothes I might have to wear to an event or interview. Mostly though, I’m neurotic – I want to have my luggage close. This is important because I’m constantly rummaging. On the train to Montreal, I found myself grabbing for my camera in moments of inspiration, working from my computer on and off and reaching for my sunglasses so I could take in the view.

Victorinox Travel Tip: Need a carry-on that combines durability with easy-access? Try the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Dual-Access Global Carry-On. This sleek, break-resistant bag features a front-access door, making it easy to grab the things you need most while traveling.

Ultimately, it’s the ritual of packing that makes it a point of intrigue for me; there’s a sense of peace whenever I fold clothes for an adventure. Once I arrive in a new place I’m usually rushing around, but with the right mindset – and the right luggage – I can always make room for what’s important.

Molly Beauchemin
Molly Beauchemin