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Camping tent overlooking fog on a mountain

3 Camping Tips for Maximum Outdoor Comfort

Some camping tips can be over the top. When really heading to the hills on a camping trip is all about getting back to basics; leaving the strain of the modern world behind and decompressing among Mother Nature’s glorious bounty. No screens, no deadlines, no 24-hour news cycle. Just you, your friends, your backpacks, and the wilderness. Pure simplicity. That’s why we love it.

That said, there’s a lot of unnecessary machismo around camping. Some people seem to think that camping has to involve at least a little bit of suffering. And if it doesn’t, you’re not doing it right. But I, for one, don’t subscribe to these theory. I love getting back to basics, I love being one with nature but I also love being comfortable, warm, and safe. And what do you know? It is possible to have it all.

Orange camping tent lit up at night in the dark wilderness

Here 3 camping tips for maintaining maximum comfort

(without breaking the bank or spoiling the adventure):

1. Don’t skimp on your gear

Even if you’re sleeping on a Caribbean beach, the key to camping is all about being prepared for the conditions. When you’re out in the hills and the sun falls below the trees, the night can get cold quickly. That’s why the first of our camping tips is about investing in good gear.

I know camping can seem like an expensive hobby, but that’s only true when you take a short-term approach. A good multi-season sleeping bag might cost you well over $100, which sounds expensive. But if you look after it well there is absolutely no reason it won’t last you for years and years.

And if having a comfortable sleeping bag means you spend more nights camping on your holiday than sleeping in hotels, then return on investment is a easy to see. You will easily make that money back in a night or two.

View looking at the woods from inside a tent with a sleeping bag

The same goes for a solid, well-made tent. Obviously a tent fit for purpose is going to cost a little bit more initially compared to a festival tent you might find in the bargain bin at a gas station. But when it comes to longevity there is no competition. I’ve had tents that have lasted longer than some marriages!

Camping is definitely one of those pastimes where spending a little more initially can pay big dividends down the road. And in most cases we’re only talking about a little bit more money for better quality. The difference between a standard sleeping bag and a good one is pretty much the cost of a meal out. Stay in this weekend, have a sandwich, and spend the savings on good gear that can go with you practically anywhere.

2. Think of your sleep

Nothing can ruin a camping trip quite like a sleepless night spent tossing and turning. Not only will that evening be spoiled but so will the following day. You’ll have bags under your eyes bigger than a sleeping bag and likely be so grumpy that fellow campers will secretly hope you become a bear snack! More important, when you’re tired you’re more prone to make mistakes, lose your footing, or get injured.

So getting sufficient sleep in the woods is not only for the benefit of your enjoyment, it’s also a health and safety issue. Fortunately, I have camping tips for that too. And the good news is there are a heap of things you can do to improve your odds of getting a good night’s rest when camping. I recommend you start by bringing something comfortable to sleep on.

Sleeping bag and pad next to a tent at sunrise

It sounds completely obvious but you’d be surprised by how many first timers show up with a wimpy grocery store roll mat. You’re sure to impress no one, least of all your back, by sleeping on one of those underwhelming pads. Camping technology has come along way, and now you can find lightweight roll mats and air beds to match any style of camping, from extreme backcountry to glamping.

If you already have an inflatable bed and find that’s not the most comfortable, then have a look at this handy guide on what you can do to primp it up before you pump it up.

3. Always stay dry

This is possibly the most important of my camping tips. Can you imagine being more uncomfortable than when you’re deep in the woods, realizing every single piece of clothing you have is wet? It might not be a problem during the day when  sunshine and body heat is working in your favor but when you lay down at night, however, things are going to get cold quick.

The solution is to always have an extra pair of dry clothes to change into at night. But don’t just trust that your backpack will keep clothes dry either. Most backpacks are not 100% waterproof, so you’ll be in trouble if the heavens open or you somehow drop your bag in the creek. It happens. More than you think.

Person crossing a clear river in their camping gear

Instead dry sack or even just a sturdy reusable bag to protect the clothes you’re not wearing. And always, always, change for bed. Even if your clothes don’t feel damp, they usually hold at least a little bit of your own sweat. As night falls, this moisture will evaporate and your body temperature can plummet. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to bring a change of clothes to make sure you stay dry and warm!

And there you have it, camping fans–three camping tips to improve your comfort and safety during your next camping trip. Remember the woods are fun, but they also demand our respect. Conditions can change quickly, and it’s up to you to be prepared. All you need is good gear and a sensible head on your shoulders.

What are your favorite camping tips for enjoying the great outdoors?


About the Author: Sarah Cummings is a freelance writer. When she’s not writing about sleep or practising yoga on the beach, you can find her hiking to new camping spots. She and her family are definitely adrenalin junkies who love nothing more than spending time in the Great Outdoors!

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Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida

4 Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida

Don’t take it personally, Florida. There is no end to the number of adventures to be had in the sunshine state, from the picturesque to the unusual. But when it comes to beach vacations and ocean view destinations, Florida does not have the monopoly that people think it has. Far from it, in fact! If you are planning to soak up the sun this summer, whether with your family or on a private getaway, it’s time to branch out and experience something else besides Epcot. Take a look at four of the most phenomenal beach vacations that have a little more culture and flair than Orlando.

4 Beach Vacations Outside Florida

1. Samana, Dominican Republic

If you are a beach vacation aficionado, you might not even need to read the rest of this article. Samana is perfectly situated for quick access to not one, not two, but three world class beaches. Soak up all the sun you need and enjoy the best ocean views in the world in Samana Bay. There are lots of activities to keep you occupied if you can manage to peel yourself away from the stunning white sand beaches.

There are waterfall hikes and zipline excursions for the adventurous members of your party. Deep sea fishing excursions can be arranged for the sportsmen and women out there. Still craving more beach time? Take a horseback tour of the Samana peninsula and drink it all in. When you are ready for a quick bite or a major meal, Samana boasts a variety of fine dining options. You can find everything here from local Dominican specialties to Thai and French cuisine that will have you returning night after night.

Two people sitting on a beach bluff in Negril Jamaica

2. Negril, Jamaica

Jamaica is renown for its vibrant culture, music, food, and style. The nightlife in cities and towns across the country can make for a memorable vacation, but what Jamaica does best is beach life. Negril offers a number of exciting activities and attractions that are related to its prime beachfront location.

You can hit surf on a boogie board, sailboat, or anything in between. Go for a long walk on the aptly named Seven Mile Beach and check out the amazing natural formations of the Negril Cliffs. Get a private glass-bottom boat tour of the bay or dive off the coast to find dolphins and exotic reef life. Once you’ve had your fun in the sun, maybe you are ready to put on your dancing shoes and see if Jamaican nightlife is worth all the hype (it is).

You can find everything from classic beach bars to pulsing nightclubs in Negril. There are even services that offer bar crawls after the sun sets. One Love Bus Bar Crawl might be just the thing you are looking for to get acquainted with party culture on the island.

3. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata is an idyllic beach getaway for those who want the very best of the best amenities, excursions, and comfort. The numerous luxury resorts will entertain and pamper you like royalty. You can explore the famous Paradise Island by your desired mode of transportation: sleek speedboat or catamaran.

Amber Cove is a popular docking point for cruise ships, and rightfully so. From there you can access restaurants and cafes with authentic local flavor, or take a quick hike to stunning waterfalls and lush jungle ecosystems.

If you want the experience of a lifetime, set up a dolphin encounter at Ocean World Park! You can swim with the well trained dolphins before watching their exciting stunt-filled show! Puerto Plata will also appeal to the foodie in you. There are a ton of fine dining options in the area, especially elegant takes on Caribbean and creole cuisine.

Aerial view of the clear blue waters surrounding Turks and Caicos

4. Turks and Caicos

For the ultimate beach vacation, you have to find your way to the tiny caribbean island country of Turks and Caicos. This destination is far off the beaten path and you can find pristine beaches that you can lounge on all by yourself. And what beaches they are! Check out Half Moon Bay and Grace Bay for ocean view sunsets that will change your life.

Dive just offshore to untouched reefs teeming with shimmering tropical life. Better yet, enjoy the most remote, jaw dropping snorkeling while on a private catamaran cruise around the island. Would you rather eat what you see out there? Charter a fishing boat for a half day or full day of deep sea fishing and eat your catch that evening!

The Caicos Conch Farm is definitely worth a visit for a totally unique and informative afternoon. When you are done, mingle with locals in Providenciales every thursday at the weekly Thursday Night Fish Fry. There are plenty of all inclusive packages available to make beach vacations in Turks and Caicos an unforgettable experience!

Conclusion

Move over, Florida. You are still beautiful in your own way, but there is no questioning the appeal of these superb locations.  We hoped you enjoyed reading about  Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida.

Was this article helpful and informative? Leave us a comment with your thoughts in the section below.

 

 

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Plane in Flight

The Secret to Surviving Long Flights

I’ve never known anyone who was a fan of long flights. Sure, there are people who don’t mind flying or who see it for exactly what it is: a necessary part of travel and maybe even, on a good day, the doorway to a new adventure. But even those people wouldn’t be caught exclaiming, “I just LOVE long flights. Everything about them lights me up. The crowded planes, endless sitting, and mediocre meals are just a few of my favorite things!” Even if you travel in the lap of luxury, you don’t do it for the flights. Amirite?

Tips for Surviving Long Flights

That said, there are a number of ways to make surviving long flights possible. In some cases, they may be more tolerable and even, dare I say, moderately enjoyable. Like bringing a fully stocked library of books, movies, and music, for example. Hear me when I say that entertainment is KEY, people. If you’re going to be crammed next to a couple of strangers for more than five hours at a time, the least you could do is make a solid effort to distract yourself.

Books for Surviving Long Flights

If you’re anything like me, you’ll also want to bring snacks. Because nothing says misery like being hangry, and nothing screams misery like paying $10 for in-flight snacks only to be disappointed. I think, because of the liquid limitations for flights, many people think they can’t bring food either. I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can. Better yet, you can bring as much as you want: fruit, chips, sandwiches, gummies, cookies – literally whatever you need to survive.

Choosing your seat wisely is also a strong move, if you plan far enough in advance. At the very least, aim for an aisle, where you can let your legs linger in between the drinks and meal services. From there, you can try to get an exit row, where space is sacred, or even the bulkhead so no one can lean back into your lap. Or, if you like a little risk, you can choose something in the back row, which is usually reserved for attendants who don’t always use their seats, and spread out.

Putting comfy clothes to good use

If any of these options, in your humble opinion, sounds like more effort than they might be worth, then I offer only one last refuge. Listen closely. Ready? COMFORT. It is actually the only necessity for surviving long flights. Justin and I recently shared our favorite clothes for lengthy trips with GoEuro, and the common denominator was being comfortable. (Obviously we want to look decent as well, but that ranks much lower on the list of priorities. Now you know!)

No amount of food, space, or entertainment will do any good if you can’t relax in your small space. So get yourself a comfy pair of pants, and get on the road! Also, tell us what your must-haves are for long trips. We want to know!

 

 

 

 

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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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