Traveling is an amazing adventure. There is nothing worse than your adventure getting put on hold or diminished due to a lost bag. That is why minimalist traveling is the only way to travel. With one carry-on bag, you can hit the ground running. This may seem daunting to the overly prepared traveler, but it actually takes some of the stress out of traveling. The key is versatile clothing. You need a few quality pieces that will go a long way.

Many people over pack because they are uncertain what they will encounter, and, without the aid of a full closet, afraid they will be without that perfect outfit they need.

You simply need to change your mindset and then take a leap of faith. Most of the time people only use a fraction of what they pack. What if you planned ahead and had outfits for multiple purposes? Once you realize you can work with what you have, the stress melts away. You throw on an outfit and you are ready for the beach, the trails, the market or dinner.

Navagio Shipwreck Beach in Greece
Navagio Shipwreck Beach in Greece

Pants

Decent pants can be one of the more bulky items to pack in your luggage so you want to keep their numbers to the bare minimum. One pair of casual pants should be enough, or two if the weather deems it necessary. When it comes to cooler temperatures and inclement weather such as rain and snow, pants that are durable, lightweight and weather resistant are priceless. Exponentially more so when it comes to outdoor activities such as trekking and hiking, where proper laundry facilities are not available. Gearweare recently reviewed the best pants for just such an environment -- read more here!

Dresses

For the ladies out there, travel dresses are one of the most versatile pieces in your minimalist arsenal. They dress up and down with the greatest of ease. If you add in a pair of slide shorts, you are prepared for almost any occasion. Almost every culture utilizes some kind of dress or skirt, so they are easy to adapt to different locals. You can wear one dress many ways, which makes it perfect for travel.

In the winter and fall, throw a scarf, some leggings and a warm coat in your bag and you are ready to go. If it gets warm out, ditch the warm accessories and don a pair of sandals. Accessories tend to pack down smaller than wardrobe pieces. You can pack a couple of dresses and not have to worry about making sure all your tops match all your bottoms. You simply throw on your dress for the day, and you are ready to go. Visit sites like tobi.com to find the perfect dress for your next adventure.

Fabrics

When choosing clothing, look for synthetic fabrics or natural moisture wicking fabrics. You want your clothes to wash and dry easily. This makes doing laundry while traveling as easy as finding a small sink. Merino wool is a great natural fiber. It is soft, unlike the wool of your grandparents’ days. It wicks moisture, is antimicrobial and dries quickly. Bamboo is another material that is great for travel. It is typically lighter feeling than merino wool with the same fantastic attributes. When possible, stay away from cotton. It takes a long time to dry and doesn’t maintain its thermal abilities once wet. There are many nice synthetics out there as well.

Hiking up Bohey Dulang in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Remember to wear appropriate clothes -- and shoes -- when hiking up Bohey Dulang in Sabah, Malaysia

Shoes

Keep your shoes to a minimum. They take up a lot of room in your bag. Wear a pair and pack a pair a most. Have a pair of sneakers of light hikers and a pair of sandals. This should cover most of your needs no matter what the adventure. Sandals are great for warmer climates and can double as dinner shoes with your dress if you’re a lady. Your sneakers or light hikers fill in the gaps. They can be used for outdoor adventures and workout sessions. These shoes should have more support than your sandals and be comfortable in case you are on your feet all day. Typically, these will also be your travel day shoes as well since sandals usually pack down smaller.

Underwear and Socks

There are many companies that sell travel underwear these days. If you invest in a couple of good pairs, you can lighten your load and still feel fresh. Good travel underwear resists odors and washes easily. With two pairs, you can always have a clean pair while you wash the other. Also, invest in a good pair of socks or two. A good pair of socks helps keep your feet happy and last a long time. Two pairs of merino wool socks are all most travelers need.

Traveling light has many advantages. With less stuff to keep up with, you are less likely to lose something important. Staying mobile is a lot easier when you can sling one bag on your back and head out the door. Choose quality products that are easy to wash and resist odor. When you travel with less, you can afford to spend more on quality items. Always go for versatility.

Published in Travel Tips

When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)

Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.

Adventurous Resorts

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Koloa, Hawaii

While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.

Waterfalls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

River Kwai Floating Hotel, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.

Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!

The beaches of Queensland, Australia are a great way to relax

One&Only Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.

Traveling Adventures

Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.

Trekking the Appalachian Trail in the United States of America

Appalachian Trail

For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.

Galapagos Islands

While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.

Klamath River, California is perfect for family camping and trekking

Klamath River, California

This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.

  This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

It's no secret that travel is addicting. You cannot take just one trip and then return home without wondering what other spectacular sights, foods and experiences await. Expanding markets like India and China are unleashing more than a hundred million tourists into the foreign travel market a year and still growing steadily. The of rise social media influencers and digital nomads have shown the public that it is possible to travel and have a successful career. That combined with the abundance of professional travel bloggers and vloggers are inspiring a new generation of informed travelers.

Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Beach in Greece

But once the travel bug bites, what do you do?

Find a way to incorporate work into your travels. In this digital age where so much can be done from a phone or tablet and wifi is never far away, it is easier than ever to work online.

Take amazing photographs?   Consider selling your photos online. You don't even need a portfolio or blog, just join one of the popular stock photography web sites. Alamy and Shutterstock are two of the most popular, both with photographers and customers. Already have a web site? Check out PhotoShelter or SmugMug. In fact here is a great guide on the most profitable places to sell your photos online.

Native English speaker? Bilingual?   English speakers are in demand in a lot of non-English countries. TEFL courses can be taken in person or online, and likewise classes can be held in a physical room or via Skype. Hell some countries don't even care if you have no experience or degree, just that you are a native English speaker. (Like Vietnam!) Professional translation services are also in demand because, let's be honest, Google translate just isn't that reliable.

Already well-traveled or know one location VERY well?   Become a tour guide or travel agent. Several veteran travel bloggers have started their own tour companies. Use your knowledge and eperience to help other people have a rewarding and worry-free trip.

That's what my friends Gunjan and Pranjali did.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic at Yellowstone National Park in the USA
Gunjan & Pranjali at Yellowstone

After having lived in the United States and traveled around Asia and Europe, Gunjan and Pranjali moved back to India. As more and more Indians are acquiring both the means and the motivation to travel abroad, they soon found themselves using their knowledge to help plan trips for friends and family. Soon they realized their next logical step was to turn this into their career.

Everyone starts off as a tourist and, if they visit enough places, eventually become more traveler than tourist. Travelers learn more, appreciate more and experience more than tourists. That is hands-down the most rewarding way to travel.

The beauty of having an experienced traveler help plan your trip is that they can use their knowledge to ensure that your trip is more of an authentic travel experience, rather than getting caught in an unenjoyable tourist trap. With India's outbound tourism market growing at record numbers, there is no better time for Gunjan and Pranjali to start building toward the future. And thus Tripoetic was born.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic in Athens, Greece

Using contacts and friendships from their travels around the world, not to mention all their experiences from planning their own journeys, these two travel addicts are now planning trips for all sorts of people with many varied backgrounds. Every trip is custom planned based around your interests, goals, must-see sights, timeframe, budget and of course stomach. (That's right, if you want to make sure you can have your favorite comfort food once every other day, Tripoetic will ensure that an appropriate restaurant is worked into the itinerary.)

Beyond just simply making reservations and handling transportation, Tripoetic takes it one step further by provided extra little services to make your journey smoother. For example, every traveler is also given a daily sightseeing itinerary -- kind of like a miniature guide to everything nearby that might be of interest to you. After all, nothing worse than getting home and learning that you not only missed out on a spectacular site, but that you actually were within minutes of it and didn't even realize.

If you are thinking about heading abroad for the very first time and are a little nervous or only have a short time to pull off a perfect vacation, make sure to get with Gunjan and Pranjali at Tripoetic. They'll handle everything to ensure that you have a wonderful trip.

  Remember: The beauty of travel is that it is a powerful force towards economic uplifting and great tool for putting foreign money directly in the hands of the locals who need it the most -- but only if we avoid the massive international chains and trust in local, family-owned businesses. Travel far, buy local. And always trust in your fellow travelers. Because as Mark Twain famously said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

Published in India

The aurora borealis is the colorful phenomenon created when electrically charged particles within the earth’s magnetosphere collide with particles in the solar wind. The Northern Lights, as they’re also known, are best seen in late August through April from countries near the North and South poles. These neon ribbons of light are not always visible, and the colors present depend on altitude and which elements are in the air. The most common color is green, while red is more rare. Glows of yellow, pink, blue, and ultraviolet are also possible.

Weather, lunar cycle, and proximity to the sea make some cities and regions better than others for viewing. But if catching a spectacular display is on your bucket list, here are Hipmunk’s top destinations for seeing these natural wonders!

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

  United States

Located within the auroral oval — a ring-shaped region around the North Pole — Fairbanks lends itself to a steady frequency of Northern Light activity and clear climates. But travelers will have to travel a bit outside of the city limits to see nature’s fluorescent curtains. Stay at the Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge or the Springhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks, both short drives from the city’s other attractions should the lights not cooperate. (We’re fans of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Alaska House Art Gallery, and the Fairbanks Community Museum.) Alaska Tours will pick up stargazers from their stated hotel and transfer them to the outskirts of the city. Dress warmly to experience the rippling auroras outdoors, or sip a complimentary warm beverage to stay cozy inside the vehicle. Make sure to monitor the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to get a better idea of when there is auroral activity.

2. Whitehorse City

  Canada

Canada’s Yukon Territory makes for great viewing of the undulating light curtains. Head to Whitehorse City and stay at the Skky Hotel, only 0.4 miles from the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. View the aurora from a custom-built location by theArctic Range northern lights tour company. Or, drive 18 miles north of downtown Whitehorse and view them from the Takhini Hot Springs for a memorable evening. The pools, which have been in operation for more than 100 years, are between 36 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius, offering a soothing experience. Check out the pool rental rates, which are based on number of guests.

3. Saariselka

  Finland

The Northern Lights are best viewed away from city lights, making national reserves like Urho Kekkonen National Park a good option. Stay at the Holiday Club in the town of Saariselka for easy access to the park, as well as downhill and cross-country skiing. For those with a higher budget, have a distinctive experience at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort while hunting for the elusive lights. The resort, located a nine-minute drive south from Saariselka and also near Urho Kekkonen Park, offers its signature glass igloo for two or four people, a log cabin or a hybrid accommodation, which is a log cabin that also has a glass igloo. There are various other options, including staying with in the home of Mr. and Ms. Claus, which Kakslauttanen calls Santa’s Home. For extra fees, Kakslauttanen offers husky and reindeer safaris, sleigh rides and ice fishing, among other activities.

4. Karasjok

  Norway

Northern Norway is an ideal location to catch both the Northern Lights and star constellations. The town often has clear skies due to its inland location, and little light pollution. Even if the capricious lights don’t show, visitors will be impressed by the clearly visible star constellations. Stay at the Scandic Karasjok, which has two restaurants and a sauna to get a complete Norwegian experience. The DenHvite Rein Motell offers cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing to stay active.

5. Abisko

  Sweden

The typically clear climate of Abisko makes this small town an optimal place to catch the Aurora Borealis. Stay at the Abisko Guest house or the Abisko Mountain Lodge, both offering easy access to the Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park. Abisko.net offers three distinct northern light tours to choose from. Snowshoe to the top of a small hill overlooking lake Tornetrask, as well as wild animal trails. Rest near the fire while drinking warm drinks as onlookers stare at the sky. Or, learn how to best photograph nature’s dancing lights. Visitors have to provide their own SD memory cards, but Absiko.net provides the high-quality camera and lens, as well as detailed instructions from a professional.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 8th.

Published in Travel Photography

Just last week we filled you in on the best up-and-coming wine destinations in the U.S. and abroad. This week, we’ve added a few of our favorite well known wine destinations to the mix, so you can decide which destinations fit your budget and travel style.

 

Wine Destinations by Cost of Weekend Trip for Two
City/Region Avg Nightly Hotel Price Avg Flight Price from Top 30 US Airports Total for 2-Night Stay for 2 People
Columbia Valley, WA/OR $82 $338 $840
Long Island, NY $91 $361 $904
Monticello, VA $160 $354 $1,028
Sonoita, AZ $144 $433 $1,154
Sonoma, CA $297 $345 $1,284
Napa, CA $375 $345 $1,440
Ontario, Canada $205 $551 $1,512
Paso Robles, CA $214 $609 $1,646
Malibu, CA $496 $349 $1,690
Loire Valley, France $118 $1,195 $2,626
Primorska, Slovenia $155 $1,210 $2,730
Catalonia, Spain $178 $1,208 $2,772
Mendoza, Argentina $99 $1,312 $2,822
Mosel Valley, Germany $128 $1,555 $3,366
Tuscany, Italy $169 $1,548 $3,434
Barossa Valley, Australia $170 $1,744 $3,828
Marlborough, New Zealand $151 $2,012 $4,326

Deal Destinations:

If you guessed that domestic destinations would be the best deal, you’re correct. If traveling from within the U.S. to Columbia Valley or Long Island’s wine country, you can enjoy a weekend getaway for two for less that $1,000 (excluding food and wine of course).

Splurge Destination:

American fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc might be disappointed: New Zealand’s Marlborough region is the most expensive to travel to from the States. A weekend wine tasting adventure for two costs more than $4,000. Those who stay in the U.S. during crush season will notice that flights to Malibu, Sonoma, and Napa are reasonable, but the hotel prices are much more expensive than other domestic wine destinations.

International Wine Lovers:

Got your heart set on a wine-infused rendezvous complete with exotic accents and cuisine? Then your best bet is to give Loire Valley, France, a try. The total price tag comes in at about $2,500. Alternatively, you could save by visiting Ontario, Canada, instead for about $1,500, but something tells us that our neighbor to the north isn’t going to give you the international experience you’re hoping for.

Got a favorite wine destination you want us to price out for you? Leave us a note in the comments section and we’ll look into it.

  The article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on September 29th.

Published in Travel Tips

Jet to an exotic country. Get immersed in local customs. Help build a house or dig a well. Make buddies with fascinating people you'd never meet otherwise. A "voluntourism" trip seems like a great way to give back or improve the world in a small way. It can be, but you should ask a lot of questions before signing up and plunking down cash.

Over the last several years, this well-meaning market has grown quickly, with studies estimating 1.6 million volunteer tourists per year and growing. About 33 percent of volunteer travelers are between the ages of 20 and 40. Another 34 percent are slightly older, between 41 and 60. Overall, the travelers are more likely to be female. However, the impact of these trips is hard to quantify. A large majority of the tourists take them because they want to help alleviate poverty and find joy in the camaraderie.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

In a piece for the Guardian called "Beware the 'Voluntourists' Doing Good," Ossob Mohamud writes that there are more effective ways to help the needy than take a trip. His concern is that very often the helpers come off as patronizing and condescending, with little understanding of the local culture and the people's actual needs.

Other critics complain that high-paying volunteers take jobs away from local laborers. The engagement between volunteers and Cambodian orphans may seem endearing  until you discover some of these children have families, and are just being hired out to entertain big-hearted tourists with sob stories. In other reported cases, an orphanage may keep the conditions of an institution squalid to ply more money from tourists primed to donate. Even if the orphans do connect with the volunteers, they're once again faced with feelings of abandonment when the tour is over.

Not all NGOs think voluntourism is bad. Chris Johnson, director of communications for the Fuller Center of Housing, is less concerned about a volunteer's impetus for choosing to build homes for families in the mountains of Peru or Nepal "as long as the work gets done." In a New York Times article, he explained that the families who benefit from the new residence probably don't care if the builders are doing it for selfish reasons.

h3>How Do You Know If Your Program Is Effective?

So, how do you know if the program you're paying for is actually helping people? There are several important details to consider that will help uncover the impact of the tour, outlined by the editors of the site Ethical Volunteering.

1. Bigger Isn't Always Better

While you might think the more you pay for a tour, the more impact it will have, a more expensive tour may have less impact because it has fewer connections to local organizations.

2. Watch out for Grand Promises

As much as you want to think you're "changing the world," the reality is you're giving a small boost to an organization that needs a hand. Be mindful of marketing that promises more.

3. Don't be swayed by pictures of children

It's great to help children, but if you're looking at a brochure that tugs at your heartstrings rather than demonstrates what impact you're making, be wary.

4. Check if the organization screens volunteers

Is this organization of change hoping to capitalize on your skills, or does it just need your money? Take heed if it doesn't care about what capabilities you have.

According to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Organization, the most popular volunteer programs offer the opportunity to work with children, support education, protect the environment, create local jobs, and assist clean water projects.

While the popular voluntourism destinations are in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it's also possible to assist NGOs in cities such as New Orleans and Orlando. Some hotels in Denver have been known to offer a discount to guests willing to spend half a day working with charity.

Find a project that makes for a great experience while also positively impacting the world.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 28th.

Published in Miscellany Articles

Whether you’re building libraries in Zambia or adventuring around Madrid, any trip warrants a first aid kit. While it’s hardly the sexiest of travel topics, having basic first aid items on hand can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major catastrophe. Here’s how to build a travel first aid kit for maximum health and safety—no matter where you are in the world.

1. Prepare personal medications

If you have a preexisting condition, be sure to pack all medications in their original containers with the labels intact. Pack enough medication for the trip as well as some extra to cover unforeseen circumstances. The CDC recommends bringing along copies of any prescriptions as well as a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery—ideally, translate these materials into the language of your destination. In certain countries, some medications are simply not allowed—contact the appropriate embassy or consulate to find out if this is an issue

2. Consider your needs

Take stock of the length of the trip, the destination, and any planned activities. A remote trekker in the Himalayas will face a very different situation than a Berlin tourist, for example. The more remote or physical the trip, the more comprehensive a first aid kit should be (more on that later). Another big consideration is whether you’ll be traveling solo or going on a family trip, as kids are all but guaranteed to have accidents that may result in cuts or bruises (more on this later, as well)

3. Gather documents

In addition to medications and first aid supplies, a quality kit should include a contact card, proof of insurance coverage, and an immunization record (particularly if traveling in areas where infectious diseases are common) for every traveler. The contact card is meant to be used in case of a medical emergency and should include:

  • The name and contact information for an emergency contact back home
  • The name and contact info for your health care provider
  • The address and phone number for wherever you’re staying
  • The address and phone number for your country’s embassy or consulate
  • The emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider, if applicable

Additionally, people with preexisting conditions (such as diabetes or severe allergies) may want to wear an alert bracelet and carry a card in their wallet that explains the condition—ideally, the card will be written in the language of your destination.

4. Select a container(s)

Choose a hard, waterproof, and durable container for the first aid kit so as to ensure the items don’t get ruined in transit or bad weather. Choose a larger container for longer trips, and a smaller container for shorter trips. It’s also a good idea to pack a small first aid kit in a carry-on and a more comprehensive kit in checked baggage. Once you’ve unpacked at a destination, carry the small kit with you at all times and re-supply from the large kit if necessary.

5. Pack the basics

At a minimum, any first aid kit worth its salt should include the following:

  • Band-aids
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors (keep in mind that these will need to be packed in checked baggage)
  • Painkillers/fever reducers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Ace bandages
  • Digital thermometer
  • Disposable, latex-free gloves
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces if transporting it in carry-on luggage)

Other handy items include:

  • Antihistamine medication
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough suppressant/expectorant
  • Cough drops
  • Antacids
  • Sunscreen
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Lubricating eye drops (again, remember the 3.4-ounce rule for liquid carry-ons)
  • Aloe gel for sunburns (ditto the 3.4-ounce rule)
  • Condoms

6. Up the ante where applicable

Remember when you took stock of the trip’s specifics (#2)? Now it’s time to apply that information to your first aid packing list. Anyone traveling to the tropics, for example, should be sure to consider insect bite precautions (such as bed nets) and pack anti-malarial medications. If traveling in a remote area, consider bringing water purification tablets and electrolyte replacements. Spending time in high-altitude areas might warrant packing medication to combat high-altitude sickness. If traveling in a developing country, it’s a good idea to pack oral rehydration salts and medications to treat food poisoning, giardia, and/or amoebic dysentery.

Consult a medical professional to develop the ideal packing list for your needs and destination.

Finally, if traveling with children, consider packing kid-friendly first aid items such as Band-aids featuring popular cartoon characters, kid-sized bandages, a couple of disposable instant cold packs, and a tooth preservation kit. Since children will be exposed to new foods and objects while traveling, read up on how to administer first aid in the event of choking. The ability to respond quickly to any hurts a child experiences may have the added bonus of preventing tantrums on vacation.

A few notes on packing choices

Whenever possible, choose tablets instead of liquids, gels, or creams. If that’s not possible, be sure to adhere to the 3.4-ounces-or-less rule for carry-ons in order to breeze through security.

To save space in baggage, opt for sachets and flat-packed tablets in lieu of bottles and tubes. Also look for travel or sample-size packaging whenever possible (your doctor may be able to help out).

The Takeaway

No matter where in the world you’re traveling, it’s worth taking the time to build a quality first aid kit that’s tailored to your destination and activities. In an ideal scenario, the kit will remain untouched during the entire vacation. But in the unfortunate event that you or a companion needs first aid? It is really, really nice (and potentially life-saving) to have proper supplies on hand.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 28th.

Published in Travel Tips

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!

Here are some don’ts you should read before you plan your budget backpacking trip:

Don't Do It on Your Own

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!

Don’t Test Your Limits

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!

Backpacking the Incan Trail in Peru
Backpacking the Incan Trail in Peru

Don’t Overfill Your Plate

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.

Don’t Over-Plan

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.

Don’t Pick Just Any Destination

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.

Backpacking along the beach

Don't Splurge on Backpacking Gear

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.

Don’t Pack Too Much

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!

Conclusion

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!

  flickr   //   fortherock   jasonpriem

Published in First Time Backpacking

As the sultry summer rolls in, the desire to travel peaks for many. According to a TripAdvisor survey, 67% of U.S. travelers are planning to embark on an international leisure trip this year. In 2014, only 50% of the travelers were reported taking one. The survey also revealed that 95% of travelers from the country have plans for a domestic trip this year.

The survey features 44,000 global responses from hotel sectors and travelers, including over 6,700 U.S. respondents. It also indicated that the travel budgets in the country are likely to average $8,700 in 2015. One quarter of the respondents in the U.S. are planning to keep their 2015 travel budget similar to last year, whereas 43% have plans to spend more and another 23% are anticipating cutbacks.

The TripBarometer "Global Travel Economy" report from TripAdvisor also names the “Top 5 Dream Destinations for U.S. Travelers” in 2015:

These are places that U.S. travellers said they would like to visit, if money is no object. But for many travelers money is an object and therefore we have created this list of 5 international budget vacation destinations:

1. Milano

  Italy

Since Italy is one of the top dream destinations of the U.S. travelers, we could not help but include it in our list. 2015 is indeed the year if you have always dreamt about visiting this land of art and ancient ruins. Expo Milano, from May 1 to Oct. 31, is expected to bring in over 20 million visitors to the country.

images/countries/italy/udine.jpg
Udine, Italy

But we are not just talking about big cities like Rome, Venice and Milan. There are several other breathtaking beautiful cities in Northern Italy that deserve all your attention. Visit the Roman Theatre in Aosta; the beautiful Lake Como; the magical seaport city of Trieste with its scenic Città Vecchia; the mediaval city of Udine and its Venetian-Gothic style buildings and castles, and hundreds of other tiny picturesque towns that are literally begging to be explored.

2. Tbilisi, Georgia

  Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

If you are foodie and have budget constraints, visit this gourmet paradise this summer. The colorful Georgian life of Tbilisi awaits you. Don’t forget to savor a healthy portion of their scrumptious meat dumplings (locally known as khinkhali) and khackapuri, which is the Georgian equivalent to the pizza and wash it down with some of the finest rich red wine. You will be surprised to know that the tradition of wine growing in Georgia goes back to 6000 BC and the country has some interesting grape varieties.

Apart from being a gourmet paradise, Tbilisi has a rich history. This ancient city was founded in the 5th century and has been rebuilt 29 times. For all the history buffs, the city offers an exotic mix of classical, medieval, Art Deco and Soviet structures.

Explore the 4th century Persian citadel, the churches and museums all day through and relax in the steam of the famous sulphur baths in the Old Town. The summer weather makes it a perfect vacation destination and its insanely low holiday prices are added bonus.

3. Bali, Indonesia

  Indonesia

Sunset in Bali, Indonesia
Sunset in Bali, Indonesia

This Pacific paradise has good news for budget travellers this year: hotel prices in Bali are down 12 percent, as per Hotel Price Index. The Island of the Gods is popular for its distinctive black sand beaches and rugged coastlines. If you are inclined to it, enjoy the island’s world-class surfing and diving and explore the jungle interior that houses 10,000 picturesque temples (including the renowned hillside temple Pura Luhur Batukau) and volcanoes.

Take a walk around Ubud, the Balinese bustling metropolis, to explore its stunning royal palace and soak your soul in the heavenly gamelan music; the traditional local market is a shopper’s paradise.

If you want a laid-back vacation, the hotel pools are great places to laze around. After all Bali, with its natural beauty, cultural attractions and unique music, is a place to sooth your mind and body into a state of perfect relaxation.

4. Izmir

  Turkey

Izmir, Turkey

If you think Istanbul is the only place to visit in Turkey, İzmir will stun you with its liberal and laid-back feel. Located along the Central Aegean coastline, this historic and happening port city lives by its seafront kordon. Visit the hip bars in the Alsancak District or its collective art exhibition spaces if you want to experience İzmir’s distinct culture.

June is a great time to visit the city when it hosts the International Izmir Festival, where you can enjoy classical and contemporary ballet, music and theatre performances. The city with its Mediterranean Europe atmosphere is a chic alternative to other popular and more expensive Turkish destinations.

5. Porto

  Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Porto or Oporto is one of the most charismatic cities of Europe. In fact, you won’t find another European budget spot finer than this second largest metropolis of Portugal. The motto of this picturesque city, where Port Wine was named and originated, is: “You’ve tried the wine; now try the city!”

The Ribeira Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies next to the Douro River, is the place to start off. Enjoy the art of people watching from a quiet corner while sipping your morning ‘bica’, which is the Portuguese espresso. The Crystal Palace Gardens are just a short walk away from the Ribeira Square where you can see roaming peacocks along with other love birds. Head towards the Romantic Museum or explore the city’s renowned architects.

Don’t forget to indulge in the culinary feast of a classic Porto lunch, the ‘Francesinha’, a meat-delight served with layers of various meats and melted cheese and drenched in tomato sauce. It is served with a chilled Portuguese beer.

The romantic Porto awaits you this summer with its intriguing and majestic beauty for that ultimate budget European vacation.

A Final Word

While these are some of the best international budget holiday destinations you can think of this summer, you can further cut the cost by opting for a budget hotel and bargained deals instead of staying in a luxury resort. Whether you are looking to explore a royal European city or relax on the beach, we tried to include vacation options for every budget and taste.

  flickr   //   cmichel67   vshioshvili   kailehmann   ligthelm

Published in Travel Tips

Leh is located at about 3,500 meters above sea level in the corner of Northern India, to be precise in Ladakh near the Indus Valley. It's the most common and most beautiful entry point to the Ladakh region. It is one of the most popular Kashmir tour packages.

Surrounded by two of the world's largest mountain ranges and also surrounded by alpine desert; Leh's dry, barren landscape is rich in historic Buddhist monasteries that make it an incredible sight to behold. This guide will help plan your trip in a better way.

How Do You Get To Leh & Ladakh?

  1. Flights to Leh operate on a regular basis from Delhi. Flights are also available to Leh from Jammu and Srinagar.
  2. Roads to Leh are open in the summer when the snow melts for a few months. The highway from Manali to Leh is open from June to October. The road from Srinagar is open from June to November. Buses, jeeps, and taxi services are all available.

Note: The trip is around two days because of the difficult terrain. Travel by road if you have that kind of time and stamina to withstand the terrain. The view would be worth it!

Best Time To Visit Leh & Ladakh

The best time to visit Leh Ladhak is in the summer i.e. May to November. Since Ladhak does not experience rainfall like the other places in the country, it can be visited during the monsoons as well. Even in the summers though, it is a good idea to carry light woollens as the temperatures and weather here are unpredictable. Also be sure to carry sunscreen to protect from the sun.

Kashmir, India
Kashmir

Iconic Attractions

Leh’s Buddhist historical monuments and monasteries are the biggest draws for visitors. The most imposing of all is the Shanti Stupa, which is situated just outside town. There is an 800 year old Kali Temple, on the mountain, which is home to a collection of masks.

You should definitely stop to spin a huge prayer wheel on your way. There is also a 17th century Leh Palace which is built in traditional Tibetan style which offers a captivating view of the town. Southeast of Leh is the Thiksey Monastery, which is the place for seeing amazing sunsets. The Hemis Monastery is the wealthiest and the oldest most important monastery in Ladakh.

Festivals in Ladakh

The Ladakh Festival is generally held during the month of September. It opens with a spectacular procession through the streets in Leh. Villagers get dressed in traditional costumes; they dance and sing folk songs which are also backed by an orchestra. The festival also features musical concerts wherein dances are performed by masked lamas from mock traditional marriage ceremonies and selected monasteries.

The Hemis Festival, which takes place in June or July for two days at the Hemis Gompa, is to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who was the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. There is also a fair full of beautiful handicrafts, music and a traditional colorful masked dances.

Leh Adventure Activities

Nature and adventure lovers will be thrilled with the excellent hiking and paragliding opportunities. There are various long trekking trails to choose from like the ones from Spituk to Markha Valley and Likir to Temisgam.

Mountain climbing trips are also booked to peaks like the Goleb (19,356 feet), Stok (20,177 feet), Matho West (19,520) and Kangyatse (20,997 feet) in the Zanskar Mountains.

White water rafting is also possible in August and July along the Indus River in the Leh area.

Other side trips

One of the most awaited and most beautiful side trips possible from Leh is a journey along the Zanskar River. You will be amazed to see green villages, hanging glaciers, huge Himalayan peaks, and Buddhist monasteries. The Nubra Valley situated on the Khardung La is the world’s highest road. The sights of wild yaks and horses, hairy double humped camels and Himalayan icicles, and reward of mountains, desert and water all in the one area is a natural gift.

Permit Requirements

From May 2014 on, all Indian citizens no longer need to obtain an Inner Liner Permit to visit most of the areas in Ladakh including Khardung La, Pangang Lake, Nubra Valley, Changthang and Tso Moirri. Instead of this an identification card like driver's license will suffice the need. Foreigners including OCI and PIO card holders still need a Protected Area Permit (PAP). Local sightseeing in Zanskar, Suru Valley or Leh, does not require permits.

Ladakh Trekking Home-Stays

A recommended alternative while trekking around Ladakh is to stay in people's houses in remote villages which are along the way. This provides the traveller insight into the life of Ladakhi farmers.

You will even be fed with traditional home cooked meals which are prepared by the farmer families. Local trekking experts organize such trips to places off the beaten path. Local guide Thinlas Chorol is the founder of the notable Ladakhi Women's Travel Company, which is the first female operated and owned travel company in Ladakh that uses only female guides.

Travel Tips

  Give yourself plenty of time to acclimatize after arriving in Leh because of altitude sickness; avoiding anything for the first two days and drinking plenty of water should help the best.
  Laptops do not appreciate the high altitude and hard drives also crash. Nights get chilly during the summer so don’t forget warm clothes to layer.
  Leaving Leh by flight is a lot more challenging than arriving. Demand for flights in this region is high in peak season, so it is better to book well in advance.

Published in India
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