Archive | Travel Tips

Baja Camping at Playa Saldamando

Baja Camping on the Coast: Playa Saldamando

It’s not often that we write posts about the places we call home. As travel bloggers, we’re always writing instead about the faraway places that stole our hearts or are sure to steal yours. It’s easy to forget that travel, exploration, and adventure are not limited to international flights or cross-country road trips, or that adventure doesn’t need to be extravagant to change your perspective. In fact, and especially as California residents, we’re as inclined to explore as much nearby – like Baja camping – as we are anywhere else simply because there’s so much to see.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I’m going to anyway: One of the best things about living in California, and San Diego in particular, is the access to all kinds of nature. Not just any nature. Like, ALL nature. This great state is widely known for its giant sequoia forests, its massive snow-capped mountains, its pristine beaches, and, yes, even its sprawling, dry desert. When nature junkies want it all within reach, California answers the call.

Blue at Playa Saldamando

While the climate is usually quite moderate, the temperature rises slightly in the summer months and the streets overflow with visiting tourists. We head fast for the van, but during these months, the nearby desert camping can be less appealing. It’s just too hot for anyone’s general enjoyment during the day. Instead, we recently planned a three-day trip down California for a little Baja camping, where the conditions are blissful and the Mexican food is even better (and cheaper).

Baja Camping

After a bit of quick research on Baja camping, we landed on Playa Saldamando, a privately owned campground just 10 minutes north of Ensenada that proved to be the perfect choice. We were able to make a reservation with the owner, George, in advance over the phone. When we arrived, despite unusual traffic into Mexico (side note: If you drive, make sure to get Mexican car insurance), we found our site roped off and awaiting our arrival.

The Hammock at the Playa

We wound up right on the bluffs overlooking the water, with enough space to accommodate our group of six, and plenty of distance from the neighboring sites to maintain privacy. In addition, each site came with a shade, a garbage can, fire pit, and a small table. Yet we had room enough to park the van, hang our hammock, set up a tent, two tables, four chairs, and play Kubb. It was pure perfection.

Bathrooms at the Playa

Though the grounds had a handful single-stall toilets only a short walk from each site, there weren’t any showers. Luckily we were wise enough to bring our Epic Wipes, which are basically full-sized, personal wet wipes, to wash with. We don’t often miss showering for a few days, but the Mexican sun and the sand require exception, and the Epic Wipes handled the job with grace. By day two, we were refreshed enough to head into Ensenada for more ice (and more beer).

Futball at Playa Saldamando

We spent the day watching other campers play on the soccer pitch, laying on the beach, and watching dolphins frolic in large pods just offshore. Mind you, I’m not kidding when I say the sun is stronger in Mexico, and protective eyewear is essential. Justin and I each have a polarized pair from Vision Direct, and they come in especially handy for trips like this because they’re sturdy and they provide just enough share to see the beautiful views more clearly.

Dolphins During Baja Camping

All in all we got good (and safe!) sun, played in the sand, and still managed to keep clean. Though maybe the best part was on the way home, when we stopped in Puerto Nuevo for fresh-caught rock lobster and one last Mexican coke. It was almost enough to make the hours-long wait at the border worthwhile. Though I’ve no doubt that we’ll return to Playa Saldamando, sunnies in hand, as soon as we can anyway.

Walking to the Playa

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Riad in Morocco

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB: When and Why to Choose Where to Stay

There are a lot of decisions to make when preparing for a trip. (Yes, we’re talking about planning AGAIN.) One of which, and perhaps most important, is where to stay. Usually you want something easily accessible from the airport or metro and centrally located. You almost always want something affordable, unless, of course, you’re celebrating something major or that’s just how you roll. But these are the things I think most about when I’m getting ready to hit the road.

No two destinations are alike, and neither is it necessary for your accommodations to be the same. I have stayed in a hostel, a private guest room, and an AirBnB all on a single trip, each for different reasons, and it’s important to consider all the options before deciding where to stay. Sometimes things like size, location, or price will automatically exclude one or the other from your search. If you’re on a shoestring, for example, hotels will likely be the least budget-friendly option. (Though I do recommend treating yourself once in awhile.)

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB

I almost always start with hostels. They’re affordable, they usually offer ideas and discounts on sightseeing, and they leave you less secluded in a new place. You get to meet people and cook your own food (most of the time) and they’re usually strategically located. They cater more-specifically to the backpacker types and they do a damn good job. (Side note: Justin has been known to couchsurf but I’ve never had the chance and need to try it.)

hotel vs. airbnb

When we were backpacking through Portugal, for example, Justin and I stayed at the Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo, where Nick, the owner, gave us super useful information on where to stay along the rest of our journey. He even arranged a private guest room for us in the next town when the rest of the hostels were booked – something we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own because of how shockingly bad our Portuguese is.

Guest houses, or pensions, are usually more common where hostels are fewer. You can find them in smaller towns, where there is a train station or a port, but perhaps not much else. Sometimes they are just a room in a private residence (that was the case in Portugal) but sometimes they are a small boarding house.

I’ve stayed in two others, once in Mozambique, when we arrived in Metangula late at night via the ferry and once in Miranda del Ebro, Spain, when I missed a train connection. All were found not by Google, but through local recommendations upon arrival. In these cases, there was neither continental breakfast nor any English spoken. I simply needed somewhere to sleep for the night and they served their purpose.

When I’m abroad, I look to hotels on rare occasion. Like when it’s the only option, or when I’ve been on the road for a while and I could use a good, long bath and a solid night’s sleep. I usually find them too expensive for what little they offer beyond a hostel. It’s unlikely that I’d be able to prepare any of my own meals or meet other travelers, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Traveling can wear on the body after a while, and it can be worth the extra cost to restore a little.

AirBnB also comes in handy for restoring the spirit. In many ways, it is the best of both worlds between a hostel and a hotel. You often get a little extra space and a little more quiet, with amenities like a kitchen and the company of others if you so desire. Though, I’ve never rented an AirBnb when traveling solo, I wouldn’t recommend against it. Frankly, I’ve never had a bad experience. In most cases, I default to AirBnB when I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a few days.

Lobster in an Airbnb

Justin and I rented one when he arrived in Lisbon, so we could have a few days to ourselves to figure out our plans. We stayed in another for a week in Tofinho, Mozambique, when we were nearing the end of our trip and really wanted to relax near the beach. The owner was remarkably accommodating, as I couldn’t make the reservation from my mobile, so we had to shift a night on the schedule. Plus, the casita was amazing.

I rented another while traveling with my friend Ashley in Barcelona, Spain. We were staying a week and wanted somewhere we could cook and do laundry and still be in the mix. We found Fran, who lived right on Las Ramblas and rented two rooms. He was a spectacular host, always giving recommendations when we asked and even made us a full Spanish meal one night. We even wound up going out one night with the other renters and remain Facebook friends to this day.

Spanish meal at an AirBnB

These kinds of experiences are not something you would likely find in hotel, but they are the kind of experiences that make travel more enjoyable, because it’s not just the places, but the people who make a destination. So, wherever you go, keep an open mind about where to stay and why.  When it comes to weighing benefits of a hostel vs. a hotel vs. AirBnB make sure that your accommodations are as unique as the location.

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Annelise backpacking in the U.K.

Beauty Products on the Go: How to Stay Fly While Traveling

As a woman, travel, and packing for travel, always seem to take a little extra planning than it does for my male counterparts. Even on camping trips, I have to remember things like bras or extra underwear (which I have admittedly forgotten at least once). When you start taking beauty products and toiletries into account, the matter becomes even more obvious. If I’ll be gone for an extended period (pun intended) of time, I need to account for feminine products and pills as well.

But then there are things I often bring even on short trips, like makeup and hair care essentials. By some standards, I’m actually somewhat of a minimalist in this area. I don’t usually wear thaaaaat much makeup day-to-day and I wear even less when I’m traveling – mostly because I sweat easily. It’s also worth noting that I don’t always feel the need to take much because I know that I can get products almost anywhere I go. Though this assumption holds less true when I travel to more remote places, like Morocco or Zambia.

Beauty Products Intended for Travel

Still, because I fit it all into a backpack, I aim to travel light. I focus only on what I absolutely need and things I really like. For example, I prefer beauty products I use to be fragrance-free. Otherwise I overwhelm myself after using only two or three strongly-scented products. I don’t go anywhere without Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap and I use it for literally everything: face wash, body wash, quick laundry, dishes, and sometimes shampoo if I’m running low. Justin has even used it as toothpaste in a pinch. (Literally everything.)

It’s a good example of the types of beauty products I choose because it’s natural, cleansing, and not overly potent–a little goes a long way. When I traveled Europe for a few months two years ago, I took only Dr. Bronner’s, toothpaste, and deodorant, plus shampoo, conditioner, and baby powder for my hair. Mind you, my hair is not unruly by any stretch of the imagination. It gets a little frizzy when I let it dry naturally and a little fluffy when I blow dry it, but I’ve learned some tricks to tame it when I don’t bring heat tools (and I almost never do).

fly girl travel products

I’ve recently become a fan of Fly Girl beauty products for the same reasons I love Dr. B’s. They come sans parabens, sulfates, sodium chloride, or gluten and are compact enough to fit in a small tote. They don’t smell overwhelmingly like chemicals or fragrance trying to mask them. Of the things I’ve tried, the intense calming balm has been my absolute fave, but I could totally see myself taking the dry shampoo, conditioner, or hairspray on my next trip as well.

At the end of the day, the moral here is that even though we women sometimes have to put in a little extra effort when it comes to travel accessories, we can also get exactly what we want from them. We don’t necessarily have to give up looking good or feeling good for the sake of shedding pack weight. So go ‘head with your fly self.

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Dominican Republic Travel Tips

Best Dominican Republic Travel Tips

Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is second only to Cuba in the Caribbean.  The Dominican Republic offers picturesque nature coupled with a warm and beautiful culture.  National parks and scientific reserves make up more than a quarter of the landscape where visitors can completely unplug. Still, not far are the city centers where visitors catch a future Major League Baseball player or learn to dance the merengue among the locals.

For an unforgettable trip, follow these top Dominican Republic travel tips:

Go for a Swim

Whether it’s in the Atlantic Ocean to the North or in the Caribbean Sea to the South, the Dominican Republic boasts some of the best swiming spots in the world.  Hailed as a haven for both divers and snorkelers, stunning reefs are often easily accessible from shore!  Don’t be surprised when nurse sharks and stingrays swim at your side, or when, in February and March, you may be lucky enough to catch humpback whales during their migrations.  Be sure to load up on plenty of sun screen and check out one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.

Speak Spanish

Spanish is by far the universal language of the island.  Even if your Spanish skills are fairly elementary, an effort to speak to locals in their native tongue will truly go a long way.  This simple act will usually encourage Dominicans to show their kind and hospitable nature to visitors.  Often, Dominicans will also jump at the chance to practice their English, and conversations can turn into an entertaining mix between the two languages (also known as Spanglish).  Even in the most rural areas, an attempt at speaking Spanish will often get you what you need, giving Dominicans a chance to show how they got their reputation for being incredibly accommodating.

Catch a Baseball Game

Baseball is sometimes touted as the Dominican Republic’s second religion.  Boasting the second-most current Major League Baseball players, the Dominican Republic is home to winter leagues that run from October to January each year.   While the winter leagues are primarily used to develop future Major League pros, many will participate to improve their skills during the MLB offseason.  Taking in a local game gives a glimpse into this diverse culture, where fans occasionally bring their own musical instruments and team flags to the ballpark, creating an incredible spectacle.

Learn to Dance Merengue

Dominican Republic Travel Tips

The Merengue is a beautiful and very quick dance performed to music with a tempo of between 110 to 160 beats per minute.  Folklore has it that the dance originated when enslaved laborers working in sugar beet fields were chained together at their ankles and had to walk in a manner that required them to drag one leg.  There is a wide variety of ways to learn merengue, from one-day courses to 8-week intensive programs, that will leave travelers with a wonderful skill to show off to their friends back home.

From the sands of pristine beaches to the dirt of the infield, the Dominican Republic offers a wonderful destination in the Caribbean for both adventurous and luxury travelers alike.

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Perth Travel Tips 1

Top 3 Perth Travel Tips

Australia’s sunniest city, Perth, is now one of the most visited destinations in the country. This vibrant capital of Western Australia boasts awe-inspiring gardens and parks, museums and galleries, and a whole lot of tourist attractions.

Traveling to this modern city is one great way to spend your holiday with your family or friends. There are tons of things to do in Perth, from catching an Australian Football match to seeing the quokkas on the car-free Rottnest Island. Perth is a dream destination for travellers from all across the globe. With its perfect weather, you can definitely enjoy a sunny day at a glorious beach or simply loosen up by witnessing the true beauty of its breathtaking landscapes with one of their wonderful cappuccinos.

Perth is also one of the most livable cities in Australia. In case you are thinking of moving to another place to plant roots, Perth is an ideal option. When you are looking for land for sale in Perth, you can do your own thorough research online or ask a trustworthy realtor for their advice. They’ll provide ideas about the lifestyle and all the things you need to know about this diverse city.

Perth Travel Tips 2

Here are some essential Perth travel tips to consider:

Accommodation

The first thing that you have to take into consideration when traveling to Perth is, of course, your accommodation.  There is an assortment of desirable neighbourhoods to stay in, from history-packed Fremantle to culturally rich Northbridge. Although Perth is one of the most expensive cities in Australia, you can still find hotels or hostels that meet your budget if you plan far enough in advance or have some luck with a last-minute booking. With many visitors on business travel, prices mid-week can be highest, meaning those coming during weekends can sometimes catch a price break.

Transportation

The best way to explore the entire city of Perth is through its safe and convenient public transportation operated by Transperth. Tourist attractions within Perth, Freemantle, and the picturesque beach at Cottesloe are linked by bus, train, and ferry. Outside of those major areas, your best bet is usually an Uber or taxi. Perth also offers a free bus service around the central business district, which can help you save. Always remember that before using public transport, you’ll want to plan your journey ahead so you know where exactly to go and where to get off to avoid any hassle on your way.

Food and Wine

The multiculturalism of Perth is best explored through its vibrant food scene. There are a great number of restaurants here that offer a variety of cuisines, including local specialties like chilli mussels and western rock lobster. The Swan Valley, located in the hills outside of Perth, offers a wonderful opportunity for wine tasting or visiting some up-and-coming microbreweries in the area.  You can eat out and enjoy a sensational al fresco dining experience or take advantage of the wonderfully fresh produce and cook your own meals to save some cash. Either way, you will most certainly enjoy the delectable dishes and great-tasting wine of Perth.

Perth Travel Tips 3

Each of these useful tips will give you an idea of the most important things that you need to know when visiting Perth.

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