Nowadays traveling without a smartphone is rare. The abundance of useful travel apps has completely revolutionized modern travel. From currency converters to language translators, there's an iPhone app for that.
Backpackers have a tendency to collect SIM cards like bracelets as they wander from country to country. While this is great for staying connected, the biggest downside is that your number constantly changes. WhatsApp solves that by giving you one number that never changes, regardless of country. You can also share photos, videos, audio notes and even your current location, making it an invaluable tool when trying to meet people in a foreign country where addresses are not readily available -- or readable. Group chats make it easy to stay in touch with other travelers you meet as you each blaze your own trail through the country, meeting up again whenever -- and wherever -- your paths should cross.
One of the best things about traveling is trying new local restaurants and bars. Yelp has amassed over 70 million reviews, photos and information on businesses, stores and venues worldwide. Their innovative search features make finding exactly what you crave as easy as a couple of taps. Want to know where the nearest open bar is? How about the most popular restaurant with locals? Let Yelp help. But the best part? Their reviews are more honest and contain much more useful information (such as wifi passwords, dish reviews, and recommended employee names) than those found on TripAdvisor.
For less than the price of one of those antiquated pocket translation guide books -- which by the way only work in one country -- iTranslate Voice allows you to instantly speak in over 40 different languages from around the world. Over the last few years the app has consistently gotten better and better and recognizing words and providing accurate translations. It also acts as an electronic dictionary, allowing you to look up definitions for individual words or quick translations for simple phrases. Users can also save important or frequently used phrases to their phrasebook, allowing for quick access to key phrases that might be difficult to remember or tricky to pronounce. As soon as you begin traveling with this app, it becomes indispensible!
Since long before their were even smart phones, I've used XE for all my currency conversions. Their app offers up all the information of their site in a streamlined, easy to navigate way. Check current conversion rates between any two currencies on the planet, even track back through the weeks, months or years to see how a particular currency has performed over time. But beyond all that, with XE Currency you'll never be screwed over by a tricky salesman, dishonest currency exchange shop or shady taxi driver again.
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
Postagram is one of the coolest apps you've probably never even heard of. What it allows you to do is take any photo from your iPhone -- or Facebook, Dropbox and a variety of other sources -- and turn it into a glossy, professional-looking postcard. This postcard is printed out and can be mailed anywhere in the USA for only $0.99 and is delivered in as little as two business days. Need to mail it elsewhere in the world? That's only $1.99, although delivery can take a couple of weeks depending upon the destination. I have an iPhone 5C with T-Mobile's ultra-fast wireless and with Postagram I can take a selfie while hiking, add a quick message and send it off to friends back home in less than a minute.
Couchsurfing began as a web site that revolutionized the way backpackers travel around the world by putting travelers in touch with locals in 120,000 cities around the world. Locals, many of whom are travelers themselves in between trips, open up their house to foreign guests. Both gain knowledge and information about the other's culture, plus the backpackers get insight and tips directly from a local -- and a free place to stay! Win-win.
On the surface Carlsbad appears as little more than a typical family resort town, perfect for an ideal summer vacation or as a pit-stop on the next family road trip. After all, it's the home of Legoland, California, one of the coolest amusement parks for kids in the world, and K1 Speed, a racetrack designed for the kid in all of us. However, beneath the surface sights are some amazing hidden gems and awesome activities that will make your next trip to Carlsbad more memorable.
Carlsbad is home to around a dozen different hiking trails located around the city. The Aviara Trails, a collection of six diverse hiking paths on the southern side of town, offer the best scenery. Each trail is named after one of its primary features, making it easy for first-time visitors to pick a trail that is appealing to them.
Tip: The Lagoon Trail and the Eucalyptus Trail are the two most scenic walks, with the latter being my personal favorite.
The New Village Arts Theatre is an intimate and artistic theater that has been a favorite among Carlsbad locals for over a decade. Plays vary throughout the year but the cast is always top-notch and never disappoints. Although there are only 99 seats, the theater positioned them perfectly so all guests have a great view of the stage. For a full schedule or to book tickets, please consult their website.
Tip: Wine and beer are served at the theatre, so come eager for a drink. Also, there is usually a surprisingly good food truck out front to satisfy any appetites.
Read More: Carlsbad California's Hidden Gems
Take the family over to the Museum of Making Music for a unique and educational experience. As the name implies, this museum is a hands-on experience that is designed to be fun for the whole family. It covers over 100 years of musical instruments, history, displays, and stories in a way that is both entertaining and informative.
Tip: Check their upcoming events schedule to time your trip with an exciting live performance.
While the winner of the coveted "best burger in Carlsbad" award may never be officially declared, that doesn't mean you can't take the challenge and proclaim your own winner. Three of the traditional top spots vying for the title are Pure Burger, Notorious Burgers and Craft Burger. All three are quite delicious but Craft Burger is my personal favorite.
Another noteworthy burger joint is Ty's Burger House, located on the northern side of Carlsbad. They have made a name for themselves recently thanks to their extensive menu of exotic meats such as kangaroo combined with craft beer, an outdoor patio and great music. Of course Ty's also serves all the traditional burgers as well -- perfect if not everyone in the group is an adventurous eater.
Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds.
These are but a fraction of the exciting things Carlsbad offers, so get off the beach and go explore the city! Want some extra cash to throw around town? Make sure to book a cheap Carlsbad hotel.
Beautiful natural scenery and sights, fun water-based activities, top-notch shopping, addictive nightlife, amazing food, and so much more: Just because you only have a short time in New Zealand's most impressive city doesn't mean that you should miss out on some of the best things the city has to offer.
Auckland is home to a whopping four dozen volcanoes! That means no matter where in town you are staying, there is a nearby volcano that you can hike up and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view. Don't expect lava flows though -- these volcanoes have erupted only once in history and are now dormant. In fact, most are lush green parks.
Read More Free Things To Do In Auckland
Water plays an important part in the weekly life and fun of Auckland residents thanks to the Auckland Bay. Hop a ferry and explore some of the nearby islands. Get your adrenaline pumping with activities like surfing, kayaking, jet-boating, diving, and windsurfing. Or if relaxation is the name of your game, enjoy some peaceful morning fishing or soak up the sun on a beach.
Insider tip: Nestled in the countryside west of Auckland is Karekare Beach, overlooked by most tourists and much more refreshing than the crowded beaches at the heart of town.
Unlike anything else I have ever experienced, the Odyssey Sensory Maze is exactly what the name suggests: an invigorating journey that will stimulate all of your senses and leave you wanting more. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music, and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone, and...well...you'll just have to discover the rest for yourself.
Photo courtesy of Peter Mackey
The Polynesian settlers who originally settled in New Zealand became known as the Māori. Their rich cultural history shaped and still plays a part in New Zealand culture, despite making up only 15% of the country's population. Learn more about the Māori by visiting one of Auckland's many museums, art galleries, or cultural attractions.
Certain things always tend to be better in big metropolises, primarily shopping, nightlife, and food. Thankfully, Auckland excels at all three. If it's shopping you crave, there are numerous hotspots around town, such as Queen Street, Ponsonby, Newmarket, the Britomart Precinct, and of course Takapuna up on the North Shore.
When it comes to nightlife, many of the same areas known for spectacular shopping are always home to the city's best bars and clubs. Britomart is a popular favorite with both locals and foreigners, but Ponsonby and Parnell are where the stars shine. However, there are also other offbeat after dark Auckland areas, such as K Road and High Street.
As far as great food, that can be found throughout the city. Just ask a local! Or check out this list of the Top 50 Restaurants in Auckland.
Ready to visit yet? Just make sure to find a cheap Auckland hotel, and put all that money you save to good use having fun around town!
Few forms of travel involve more excitement, unpredictability, and opportunities to connect with the locals than road trips. Whether in a car, motorcycle, RV, or even a converted school bus (yes, I've done it!), nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip! This summer, why not hit the road on one of these epic routes and see what you find:
One of Southeast Asia's most popular motorcycle routes is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail that runs north to south through this elongated nation. I spent three months in Vietnam in 2014 and this was one of the highlights of my time there. The countryside of Vietnam is gorgeous and most of the roads were smooth sailing.
Along the way there are tons of small villages to stop at and meet locals, as well as plenty of sights to see that are off the main tourist trails. One example is the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, home to over 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Sơn Đoòng Cave. Back in 2003 the park earned itself a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List and although tourism has been slowly increasing ever since, most visitors to the park are Vietnamese.
Back in 2010, I spent six months on a 32-state United States road trip and had an unforgettable experience. We went from California to Washington, D.C., and then back to California. It was amazing to see the way the terrain, roads, people, and food varied state to state.
Most people always assume that life in the United States is the same throughout the country; however, nothing could be further from the truth. But the only way to experience this is to travel cross-country for yourself!
If that's too grand of a road trip for this summer, check out the 7 Best American Road Trips for Last Minute Getaways.
flickr // auspices
Iceland is a majestic and beautiful country, and one of the best ways to experience it is to spend a couple of weeks circling the entire island in a rented car. As my friend Liz of Young Adventuress describes it, Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is "830 miles of adventure and surprises." Just be sure to read all the do's and don'ts of an Iceland road trip before you go!
India's diversity cannot be understated. From the deserts of the west to the lush and rainy mountain hills in the far east, the climate, flora, and fauna change as dramatically across the country as do the people and the food. While some of this is seen when traveling the country by bus or train, only when you navigate the roads yourself does this become clear.
Earlier this year I traveled 3,000 kilometres from the far west of India to the far east ... by rickshaw! With a top of only 55 km/hr (around 35 mph) it took us two weeks, but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommended — and possible for you to do. Learn more here.
One of the most popular year-round beach destinations in Texas is South Padre Island. Although the island is most known for being a party haven of college students every spring break, it is also popular with families all summer and snowbirds all winter. The island may be small but is perfect for relaxing (as long as you are not trying to do that during spring break, of course). So the next time you need a quick weekend getaway, South Padre Island is where to go -- and this is how you make the most of it in just 48 hours!
Beaches are fun, but don't spend all your time lying around on them. Get up and go try something new. There are plenty of fun and exciting water-based activities available in South Padre, from kiteboarding to wakeboarding, kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving (and certification), even surfing. Pick one or two that you have never tried before and give it a shot!
Most visitors come to South Padre Island for its beaches, obviously, however there is more to do than that. The island boasts several great parks and nature centers, such as Andy Bowie Park and the SPI Birding and Nature Center. Or for those looking for a bit more adventure, consider trying fly boarding while in South Padre, a hot new water-based activity that you may recognize from TV or the movies. It is essentially a water-powered jetpack that propels the wearer into the air and is wicked fun!
One of the best things about all islands is the abundance of good seafood. Thankfully South Padre is no exception to the rule. Blackbeards' restaurant is a laid-back and affordable place with great seafood. They are also the proud home of the best onion rings on the island. Don't believe me? Try them for yourself!
Or if you want to treat yourself or take your loved one out somewhere nice to enjoy a romantic sunset dinner and a cocktail or two, look no further than the Sea Ranch Restaurant, the island's premiere dining establishment and a local favorite for nearly 40 years. Try the Ahi Tuna, my personal favorite. Or if you've been out fishing recently, bring your catch in here and their chefs will turn it into a delicious dinner.
Just because the sun has set doesn't mean the fun has to stop. If you still have energy left before heading back to your South Padre hotel, consider heading over to Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill. The serve both seafood and traditional American staples such as burgers and buffalo wings, however their real claim to fame is being the largest beach bar in all of Texas. Live music and concerts are regular events here that definitely help make for a memorable South Padre experience!
As a native Texan, I've been to Padre more times than I can count. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask away!
The beautiful island of Ko Samui is one of Thailand's most popular islands with tourists. As such, it's important to know a few key details when planning your trip, such as the right time of year to visit, where to stay and how to avoid the crowds. And that's exactly why I am here!
Ko Samui was a self-sustained island with no roads at all until the 1970's, when the first few adventurous backpackers started arriving one at a time via local boats. It was in the 1990's that the island started to gain an international reputation as a beautiful luxury travel destination, a reputation that has only gotten stronger since.
The weather in Ko Samui is slightly different from the mainland of Thailand. During April through September, when its monsoon season throughout the bulk of mainland Thailand, Ko Samui receives very little rain. Their rainy season is October to December. January through March is the sunniest time of year, and the peak tourist season. Consider planning your trip around the beginning or the end of the wet season to avoid the crowds and save a few dollars by paying off-season prices.
The easiest way to reach Ko Samui is via plane. There are daily flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and several other prominent Thailand destinations, as well as international flights available. However, ticket prices for these flights are noticeably higher than flights to and from other Thai destinations.
An alternative option is to travel to Ko Samui from Surat Thani, on the southern mainland of Thailand. Tickets are available at both the train station and airport for around 300-500 Bhat and include the bus ride to the Don Sak Jetty and 45-minute ferry ride to the island. (Find out more information here.) Or for those who like to take the scenic route, consider departing from Chumphon. The combined bus and fast boat ride takes close to 12 hours but passes through both Ko Tao and Ko Phangan. It is definitely an enjoyable option for photographers or anyone not in a rush.
The bulk of Ko Samui hotels and resorts are located on the northern and eastern sides of the island. So, when choosing a location the first thing to consider is do you want to be in the heart of the action, or further away on the more subdued, peaceful western side of the island.
As Ko Samui is a primarily luxury travel destination, there is no shortage of high-class resorts and hotels from $100 on up to $1,000 a night. Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa is one of the island's most popular and highly rated accommodations, and is a steal of a deal at around $200 per night.
There are also quite a few mid-range lodging options throughout Ko Samui that range from $35 to $100 a night, and a few budget options even cheaper than that (for all you backpackers out there). Browse all the cheap Ko Samui hotels on Hipmunk.
Many of the major cities across the United States play host to annual gay pride events, often a parade that encourages solidarity, fun, and comradery. Members of the LGBT community may travel far and wide to attend these events, so they want to make sure they will have the experience they are seeking when they go. Here are some of the top gay prides that are known for their memorability.
There are dozens of gay pride festivals and parades that happen in New York during the summer months, so visitors really have their pick of which to attend. Of course, there is one in Manhattan that’s pegged to the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in 1969. It’s really the event that started it all. However, there also are celebrations in each of the other boroughs of New York, as well as smaller events in several city parks. Just check a list of events here to get a feel for all the options in New York.
Of course, the LGBT community is huge in this iconic city, so it stands to reason that it would boast the largest gay pride gathering in country. Starting where pioneer Harvey Milk addressed the crowd in the early 1970s, the parade routinely draws more than a million marchers. There really is a whole month of tangential events, and visitors can be part of one or many of them. Find out more about what makes the event so popular by clicking here.
This city really goes all out for the members of the LGBT community and includes not only a Gay Pride march attended primarily by men, but also an event for lesbian marchers and one for the trans community. Many of the city’s business owners show their support of the marchers with sponsorships, partnerships, and special events during the annual Gay Pride Festival. Plus, the Atlanta event has the bonus of being held at the end of summer instead of at the beginning as a lot of other cities do. This means the heat is more tolerable and visitors don’t have to miss another great city’s event in order to attend.
There are hundreds of gay pride events held throughout the country every year, even in cities one might not think would be a likely place to host a festival. For people who want to attend an event as part of their travel plans this summer, all that’s required is a perusal of this master list in order to find the right fit for them.
Backpacking is certainly one of the most authentic ways to see the world. You get to soak up a myriad of experiences, meet new people, eat amazing food, learn different languages, and what’s more, it doesn’t cost you the earth!
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re already drawn to backpacking. Perhaps you’re apprehensive about backpacking because you’ve never taken the road less traveled before. Indeed, backpacking isn’t all fun and games; there’ll be times when you’ll wonder why you even thought of this. But if you do it right, you’re sure to cherish the experience once you get back home!
You can't venture into the wilderness on your own if you've never gone backpacking before. If you have a friend or know someone who is an experienced backpacker, ask him or her if you can join them on their next trip. Knowledgeable company is not only good for your peace of mind but you'll also get to learn a lot if you travel with a seasoned backpacker.
Be sure to travel with a compatible partner; traveling with the wrong person can be a lot worse than traveling alone. Of course, you need to be a good travel companion yourself!
You're new to backpacking and if you don't want to be put off by the whole experience, don't push yourself too hard. Don't be too ambitious about how much ground you'll be able to cover on foot each day and don't imagine that staying away from home for a month will be fine.
If you're backpacking to a new country, a week or two abroad should be manageable, and if you're going to be in the wilderness following trails, take a two-day one-night trip. A shorter trip will also mean you’ll be spending less money!
Remember that quality surpasses quantity when it comes to experiencing the outdoors or other countries. So whilst you keep your trip short, also keep it sweet by planning your itinerary well.
A jam-packed itinerary will mean you’ll be running around trying to see and do as much as possible without really appreciating anything. Plan your itinerary such that you get to smell the roses along the way.
Planning is good but over-planning things or following a plan to the T isn’t. You’re going on a trip to have some fun, so don’t shy away from making spontaneous plans.
If you’re on a trail and you find out about a precipice that offers a splendid view, go take in the natural beauty even if it means setting off in another direction. And if you have to postpone leaving a city by a couple of days so you can attend the grand annual fest, just do it!
Making changes to your plans might affect your finances. Simply be prepared for any changes right from the beginning so that you’re not short of cash for unexpected expenses.
If you choose someplace far away, getting to the destination itself will tire you out. As a beginner, select a place that is closer to home so that you can get there easily. Also try to be close to home or civilization so that you don’t feel homesick during the trip.
Firstly, you're on a budget so you can't afford to splurge on backpacking gear. Secondly, this is going to be your first backpacking trip and you don't know if you'll like the experience or not. It won't be wise to spend all your savings on backpacking gear if you may never undertake a backpacking trip again.
That doesn’t mean you buy cheap gear though; if the quality of the gear isn’t good, it might not even make it through your first trip!
The best thing you can do is rent instead of buy backpacking gear. Search for rental shops in your area and you'll get all you need for your backpacking trip without having to spend a fortune.
Your first backpacking trip can be overwhelming and you might want to pack all that you can possibly carry. Don’t give in to the temptation though; you’ll regret it in less than a week.
Realize that you won’t need four pairs of pants and ten shirts while backpacking. You can wear a single pair of pants for the whole trip but if you want some change, just an extra pair will suffice. Pack a minimal number of shirts but a fresh pair of socks and underwear for each day of the trip.
Do pack a formal outfit and a pair of formal shoes too; you never know when you might get invited to a wedding. And if you decide to spend on a lavish dinner, dressing up will make the experience much more enjoyable!
If you must carry lotions, creams, and other items, buy travel size packs or make a habit of snagging the free ones from every hotel you stay at ;)
Do remember to leave space for souvenirs!
Backpacking is a great way to travel on a budget. But it’s important to do it right if you want to have a glitch-free trip! Using the tips given here you’ll definitely be able to have the time of your life. Happy backpacking!
Few cities are as entertaining -- or as overwhelming to first time visitors -- as London. The sheer amount of sights and activities can be mind-boggling. However, aside from obligatory tourist attractions, London has a lot of unique sights, foods and activities that all foreign visitors to London should partake in. Here's what to do on your first trip to London to get the most authentic experience.
London has history like Hawaii has volcanoes. To visit London and not take a gander at the history and culture is akin to heresy. Although there are no shortage of sights located in the heart of the city, such as the Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the National Gallery, the real history and culture of Olde England lies just outside of the modern city. Stonehenge, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bath and the historic cathedral city of Salisbury are just a few of the nearby attractions, all of which are accessible via a full day tour through the legends and lore of Olde England.
Like all great metropolises, London has plenty of quirky and unique corners that remain known only to longtime residents. One such offbeat location is the Whirled Cinema. Tucked away in a side alley and with an entrance that appears to be an abandoned warehouse, few if any tourists stumble upon the Whirled Cinema without being tipped off by a local. The cinema is well-known and well-loved for showing unique and offbeat independent films in a cozy 60-seat theatre that is, of course, stocked with a small bar and restaurant as well.
Anyone who has ever seen Harry Potter knows that London is where it all began. Parts of The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows were both filmed in London, and parts of the set are visible on the Harry Potter London Bus Tour. Or for the real Potter enthusiasts there is the Harry Potter Tour of Oxford and Lacock, which takes guests out of London to some of the country's most historic and beautiful sights.
One of the best combinations in life besides chocolate and milk is food and alcohol. Thankfully London has an abundant selection of restaurant bars that serve the best food, drinks and entertainment all wrapped up in one nice little package. Take for example Circus, which is exactly as the name indicates: a full-on entertainment experience for all five senses. While guests dine on their delectable food and drinks they are treated to a wild show featuring acrobats, fire dancers and magicians. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!
Check out more Cool & Unique London Restaurant Bars
Experience the breathtaking fusion of the modern and historic London via a full day tour designed for photographers and history buffs alike. You'll cover some of London's most historic sites, from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Buckingham Palace -- just in time for guard change!
Certain locations are known all over the world for their biggest pastime. Las Vegas and gambling. Hawaii and surfing. New York City and sitting in traffic. And of course Nashville and country music. As anyone who has ever visited will tell you, country music is the soul of Nashville. To visit Music City even briefly and not experience its musical side -- even if, like myself, you are not a fan of country music -- is akin to heresy. Between history, food and nightlife there is something musical here for everyone, so c'mon and join me on a whirlwind tour of the authentic Nashville.
This is where it all began. The Grand Ole Opry is the weekly country music radio show. It has run for 90 years and all of country's greatest have graced its stage at some point in their career. As such, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry House on the outskirts of Nashville is a must for all first-time visitors. It will give you a sense of the history and spirit of country music. The offer daytime and post-show tours, as well as a backstage VIP special for the serious country music fans. After all, in the words of Garth Brooks: "No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage. That's the Opry."
This unique little café is as known for their food as for their music. For over 30 years the Bluebird Cafe has been a favorite among Nashville locals, however few visitors stumble upon this hidden gem. It is the perfect place to enjoy an evening meal and an intimate show from one of Nashville's countless talented musicians. Of course due to the small size of the place, it's best to call ahead or place a reservation via their web site.
Now that you are well-fed, throw on your cowboy hat and dancing boots and get ready to go honky-tonkin' on Broadway, another Nashville must for first-timers. The giant ten foot guitar marks the home of Legends Corner, the perfect place to start a night out. Over repeated trips to Music City I've found that this bar consistently has the best live music and the strongest drinks -- a winning combination!
Located just a few doors down from Legends Corner, The Stage on Broadway not only has great music but the cheapest beer on all of Broadway too! Maybe that is why this place is the more popular of the two with younger crowd. They have nightly shows from Nashville locals, both veterans and up-and-comers, and don't stop rockin' until 3am. However the coolest thing about the Stage has to be their giant mural of country music stars past and present.
Ready to visit Nashville and get some country music in your life? Make sure to book a cheap Nashville hotel so that you can put the money saved towards honky-tonkin' the night away!