As we think of them, we’ll post tips from what we’ve learned while traveling.
- Getting Ready. We go into this more in our About Us page, but to get the most out of your trip, you do want to plan ahead. That’s probably what you are reading this blog. And you’ll need a place to keep all the information you gather about your trip. We rely on Tripit, Google Maps and Evernote, three great tools for giving you easy access to important information you may need during your trip. With Tripit we have easy access on your computer, iPad or iPhone for all our travel arrangements, from airline reservations and hotel bookings to notes and maps. We use Google Maps to plan out our routes and add pin points to include information about destinations we want to visit. It allows you to map out your driving route so you can see the time and distances to travel, and it also allows you to position pins on the map. I usually have three color types for the pins; destinations, things to see along the way, and hotels. What is cool with the pins is you can add text (description of things to do) and also photos. Simply select add photo and you can select multiple photos to add right from Google. Very simple and easy to use and you create a small slide show. And with Evernote we keep notes about our trip, in-line links to travel sites that have information we are interested in, and often use it for the beginning of our travelogs before we post it on our website. Another very important aspect is budgeting. Although we’ve had a budgeting program in the past, most recently we created our own budget program, customized to our needs, with Apple Numbers.
- Restaurants. Keep away from the restaurants in the busy tourist areas as they usually don’t have great food. The really good restaurants don’t want to pay the high rents and don’t have to as people go there because the food it good. For lunch look for business people eating lunch -they know what’s good and at a good price. Look for the Guide du Routard or Flute decals on the windows; they earned these. Trip Advisor can be helpful, but can really give some strange results at times. Top place for food in Nice is a pizza joint, really? Well, that was the results last time we looked.
- Accommodations. We use a number of sites to try and fight the best accommodations for us. We want value and we prefer to be under around $150 Euros or under $200 USD. We use TripAdvisor and Bookings.com (has a nice app and keeps all your reservations together in one place in a good way), extensively, however the properties we really enjoy staying at in Europe, especially in France, can be found on Charming Guest Houses. Then there are websites about particular regions; we’ll access them as well. And when we find places we think we’ll like, we’ll search to see if they have their own website, for even more information. Word of caution: what you see is not always what you get. Chateaux will sometimes features great photos of their salons and interior rooms, but then you don’t have access to them. Photoshop can make any place look great. Ask questions, be inquisitive. More and more, however, after surfing the net, we end up contacting the hotel directly to obtain more information and often the best rate.
- Online Travel Sites. This would be primarily Expedia and Travelocity. Although they offer a lot of good information, and allow you to package everything together (air, room and activities), if you have to make changes it can be very difficult to do so. We use them for getting information (sorry guys) but then will contact the hotels or airlines directly. This way, if we have to make a change, we can talk with someone who actually works for the airlines or hotel and who can make quick decisions and has some flexibility in doing so. We’ve found Bookings.com to be a lot more understanding and forgiving when it comes to changes you need to make.
- Exercise. This can be difficult to do when you are moving around so much. And with usually plenty of opportunities to experience new cuisine, you want to make sure you are getting regular exercise. Europe is wonderful for walking many of its cities so this is definitely the most practical form of exercise. We both enjoy yoga, so if the room allows it, or there’s gym facilities, we’ll start our day with this. Otherwise there is our usual routine of push-ups, sit-ups and dips, to at least get some type of muscular exercise in during the day. We also have created a yoga workout can be done done standing up, so we also get in plenty of stretching. It is a challenge but so important to be doing, especially if you are on the road for long periods of time. If you travel a lot by boat, you may enjoy the exercises on the site StrengthPlus.ca (hat tip to Anzac).
- Packing. When moving around a lot and living out of suitcases, it doesn’t take long for you clothes to get wrinkled and spread all throughout your case. Plus, just traveling alone can shake up your clothes quite a bit. These eBags are a great idea and work well as storage containers when on boats where space is limited. Thanks again to Anzac for this tip. And pack smart; what do you really need? It is amazing what we can really get by on. We begin with a list a couple weeks out, so we won’t forget anything when it is time to pack. I carry a small plastic bags for all my cables and adaptors, so they won’t get lost. Comes in handy when I need water protection for my camera or iPhone on the paddle board at times.
- Languages and Translating: Understanding another language is a common problem when traveling most anywhere. A great app for your phone is Google Translate. You can type in a word or phrase and it will give you back a decent translation. Or, you can talk into it and it will give you back the phrase in whatever language you want. Very handy, you can actually carry on a conversation this way. And a third way is to hold up the phone’s camera (using the Translate App), and whatever it sees, it will translate it for you. Not sure what a sign means? Just hold up your phone and, seemingly magical, it appears on your phone the same, but in your language instead!