Recent events in the Middle East have put travelers on edge. Here are some tips on staying safe if you plan on travelling to the region in the near future.
‘Maintain a high level of vigilance’ — travel security experts advise caution when traveling to the Middle East
Jan 8, 2020
By MEERA JAGANNATHAN and ANDREW KESHNER
The State Department says Americans should maintain ‘situational awareness’ in the region following the Baghdad airstrike
Tourists at the Khazneh, or Treasury, in Petra, Jordan. The popular destination is in a region of the world where tensions can be expected to rise after an U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, killed a top Iranian military official.
Iran and Iraq are obviously not destinations for most U.S. tourists, but experts say U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling to other countries in the Middle East following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport last Friday.
Iran, which has several armed allies in the region, retaliated Wednesday by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at two American military bases in Iraq. The Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. airlines from flying over Iran, Iraq and waters of the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf, and Reuters reported that a number of non-U.S. airlines, including Emirates and Lufthansa, had canceled flights around Iraq and Iran.
Meanwhile, a Ukraine-bound Boeing 737 BA, -0.77% operated by Ukraine International Airlines crashed Wednesday after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran said the crash was under investigation by a commission, and that any statements about its causes before the commission’s decision were “not official,” the Washington Post reported.
Iran and Iraq are listed as Level 4, meaning do not travel to them, by the State Department, while Israel and Jordan are deemed Level 2, calling for increased caution.
Travel experts advise caution when visiting the Middle East. “Any of those places in the Middle East, I would have a heightened level of concern,” Tim Bradley, managing partner of IMG GlobalSecur, a Tavares, Fla., a firm advising companies, nongovernmental organizations and mission groups on safe travel across the globe, said last week after Soleimani’s killing.
The State Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment Wednesday, but it urged all U.S. citizens last week to leave Iraq “due to heightened tensions” in the country and surrounding region.
The department sent out a string of notices on Twitter TWTR, +1.25% cautioning American citizens in countries including Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait to maintain “a high level of vigilance” and “good situational awareness” in light of the tensions in the region. American citizens in Bahrain should also be on the lookout for demonstrations or unrest, the State Department said.
“While we have no information indicating a threat to American citizens, we encourage you to continually exercise the appropriate level of security awareness,” a department tweet stated.
The State Department regularly issues travel advisories on a 1-to-4 scale; countries rated at Level 1 are places where travelers should “exercise normal precautions,” while Level 4 is a warning not to travel to a country so designated.
For context, Iran and Iraq are listed as Level 4 countries, while places like Israel and Jordan are deemed Level 2. These are countries where the State Department says travelers should use “increased caution.”
Travelers should be especially aware in public squares, and should also recognize that U.S. embassies and Western-branded hotels can face increased risks of attack, Bradley added.
The State Department’s ‘Smart Traveler Enrollment Program’ is a free service under which travelers send their itineraries to the department.
What about Americans planning travel to lower-risk Middle Eastern destinations like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar?
“Don’t cancel your plans,” said Matthew Bradley, the regional security director for International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm (and no relation to Tim Bradley of IMG GlobalSecur).
That said, travelers to those traditionally lower-risk regions might still minimize their movements to reduce the risk of being a victim of circumstance, he said, and maintain a heightened sense of awareness.
Trust your gut, said GlobalSecur’s Bradley, a former FBI special agent. “If you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, it’s time to leave.”
Tim Bradley said there are other ways to plan ahead:
- Enroll in the State Department’s “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program,” a free service under which travelers send their itineraries to the department. The program gives updates on a country’s safety conditions and enables government officials to get in touch in case of emergencies.
- Brush up on current events before traveling, even if it’s just to know when holidays are approaching, he said.
- Travelers should be in touch with family and friends back home as their trip proceeds. It’s also smart to leave a hard copy of the trip itinerary at home with someone.
- Arrange transportation from the airport to the hotel ahead of time. Hotels typically can provide a car service, he said.
New year, new travel opportunities. Volunteer travel and volunteer vacations are but one unique solo-travel opportunities you can take to experience new countries, cultures and communities. Here are some other destinations to help you map out travel in the new year.
50 Awesome Solo Travel Destinations To Visit In 2020
From Slovenia to Ecuador, these spots offer a variety of activities for solo travelers.
By Caroline Bologna
Many people take the month of January to look at the year ahead and set travel goals. One of the most powerful ways to explore a new place is to take a solo trip. From the freedom and flexibility to the stress relief and boost in self-reliance, there are endless benefits to solo travel. And there are many exciting places to make it happen.
Of course, it’s always important to research current conditions in your desired destination to stay safe when traveling, especially for solo trips. But fortunately, there are precautions you can take, and tons of backup options if needed.
We asked travel bloggers and other experts to share the solo travel destinations they recommend for 2020. Keep scrolling to read about 50 places that will surely inspire your wanderlust.
“If you enjoy spending time in nature, Vancouver is a great place to add to your solo destination list for 2020. Canada as a whole is a very safe country to visit, and Vancouver has so much to offer. The city itself offers beautiful views of mountains and has a lot of fun places to visit, such as Granville Market and Stanley Park. You can also do a day or weekend trip from Vancouver to escape into the mountains any time of year!” ― Amber Primdahl, travel blogger at She’s Catching Flights
“I recommend Santiago, Chile. South America is a friendly destination for travelers, even if you don’t speak Spanish. Santiago is not a difficult city to get around alone, as you can take the subway or Uber. The local food scene is fantastic and casual, so it’s a great place to enjoy a meal and cocktail by yourself. For example, at De Patio restaurant, you can sit at the counter and chat with the chef while he prepares dishes with ingredients straight out of his garden.” ― La Carmina, travel blogger and TV host
“Within Southeast Asia, I think Malaysia is a great destination for solo travel for any age. You’ve got some incredible rainforests and stunning canopy walks, buzzing cities with a great culinary scene, and since most Malaysians speak perfect English, it’s a lot easier to connect with locals than in many other countries. Malaysia doesn’t have the travel party scene you find so much Thailand, so it’s a perfect choice in Asia for more culture-focused or mature travelers.” ― Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveller
“Delve into one of the greenest and most beautiful countries in Europe by buying a ticket to Slovenia! Not only does it have fairytale castles built into mountain walls (check out Predjama Castle!) but underground cave trains resembling Indiana Jones’ own adventures. The capital city is by far the prettiest I’ve ever seen, too. Transport links are convenient. The country is small enough to explore confidently. And the safety, as well as a high level of English among the younger generation, make this the perfect European destination for a solo traveler this year.” ― Alice Teacake, travel blogger at Teacake Travels
St. John's, Canada
“It's not a place many people have heard of, but St. John’s, Newfoundland, is pretty magnificent and a great option for solo travel. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful with massive cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can stroll to the top of Signal Hill to overlook the harbor and out to the sea. You can also drive out to Cape Spear to stand at North America’s most eastern point. But the truly special part of St. John’s is the people. They are some of the warmest and friendliest you will meet. You can grab a pint in one of the many Irish pubs and strike up a conversation easily. And for such a small town, the downtown area is packed with restaurants, pubs and shops. Plus, they have puffins and icebergs (even in May). You really can’t go wrong here. Don’t forget to get ‘screeched in’ while you are in town, too.” ― Mark Ostermann, senior editor of Miles to Memories
“Seoul is on the top of my list for great places to travel solo this year. It’s safe for solo travelers, fairly easy to get around, and the people are always kind and willing to help tourists. The city is full of modern conveniences that take everyday luxury to another level. There’s WiFi everywhere, you can Uber around the city, and the customer service is impeccable. It’s great for solo travelers on a budget since there are a ton of low-cost options for hotel stays and food. The street food in Seoul is a must!” ― Jee Choe, digital designer and blogger at Oh, How Civilized
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
“Skip the crowds of Amsterdam and head to Rotterdam. This city is easy to navigate by public transportation, walkable, and of course, very bike-friendly. Take a water taxi and enjoy the views of the modern architecture of the city. Head to the food halls such as Markthal and Fenix Food Factory to check out what’s new with Dutch cuisine.” ― Jessica van Dop, travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler
“Ghana is one of the best countries to travel solo in Africa. Ghanaians are known to be very kind and are typically willing to help travelers with directions or the like. Accra has a beach close by, along with many cute boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Solo travelers might appreciate that Uber is available and affordable in Accra, which makes navigating the city quite easy.” ― Briona Lamback, travel blogger and founder of Buoyant travel agency
“This incredibly charming and gorgeous European island is just off the coast of Italy and makes for an enchanting solo travel adventure! You can rent a car and explore both islands in just a couple of days, and see things like quaint cobblestone streets and the stunning Blue Lagoon.” ― Alyssa Ramos, blogger at My Life’s A Travel Movie
“Many people can’t even point to Oman on a map, but it is one of the best destinations for solo travelers in 2020! Locals are friendly but rarely pushy, and you can walk down the street without getting stared at. Renting a car is easy and the roads are in pristine condition. The highlight of traveling Oman is the fabulous nature and scenery, from sparkling blue wadis and sand dunes for hundreds of miles to sea cliffs and the ‘Grand Canyon Of The Middle East.’ If you want a break from traveling solo, consider hiring a local Omani guide to show you around for a day or two!” ― Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away
“London is a great place to visit on a solo trip, especially if you’re new to it and a bit nervous. They have a vast public transportation network to help you get where you need to go, and since the main language is English, you won’t have to deal with a language barrier, which can help anxious or beginner solo travelers. There are also many free and affordable things to see and do in London, like visiting their museums.” ― Primdahl
“Taipei is still under the radar compared to many large Asian cities such as Bangkok and Tokyo, but it’s a great destination for solo travelers. The lively night markets, the modern architecture and the art scene give a solo traveler plenty to see and do. From ultra-luxury shopping at Taipei 101 to donning plastic gloves to eat chili crab at the Raohe Night Market, there’s a wide spectrum of experiences to be had. The city is modern and safe, and locals are friendly and helpful, which makes it perfect for a solo traveler.” ― van Dop
“When I first told people I was planning a solo trip to Medellín in Colombia, so many peopled warned me not to go. Luckily for me, I didn’t listen to them, as I would have seriously missed out! What makes Medellín such a great destination to travel solo too is salsa! Up until visiting Colombia, I’d never ventured out much in the evenings alone as I was either concerned for my safety or I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone in a bar drinking. The salsa dancing culture in Medellín meant that as a solo female traveler, I could go out to a dance class then head to the salsa clubs alone and have a fun-filled night of dancing and meeting new people without ever feeling awkward or lonely.” ― Claire Summers, travel blogger at Claire’s Itchy Feet
“A great destination for solo travel in 2020 is Napa, California, even if you aren’t much of a wine drinker like myself. Stay at the Meritage Resort & Spa. Sit on the balcony to relax and look at the view of the vineyard or even take a walk through it. On a hot day, a nice dip in the pool is refreshing, or head to their spa to unwind. Napa is also a place for foodies. There are many Michelin Star restaurants. Also, a food tour is a great place to try many different delectable cuisines.” ― Holly McGuinn, travel blogger at HollyDayz
“The country of Georgia is arguably the most underrated travel destination in the world. It packs a lot into a small area. Tbilisi has cobbled streets, centuries-old churches and wine cellars, and breathtaking views around every corner. It has a distinctive blend of post-Soviet dilapidation and emerging modernization, and is only a short drive away from snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and fun-packed beaches. Solo travelers can experience a lot without having to undertake long transportation hauls on their own.” ― Konrad Waliszewski, travel blogger and co-founder of the app TripScout
Mexico City, Mexico
“I had fun spending a few days alone in Mexico City. There are plenty of museums, architectural and historic sites to explore, and it’s nice to be able to go at your own pace and take your time. The anthropology museum, for example, is gigantic, and I liked how I could focus on the exhibits that interested me the most. I found locals to be welcoming and friendly, especially at specialty bars such as the gothic El Scary Witches. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the people around you.” ― La Carmina
“Tajikistan is a tiny Central Asian country on few traveler’s maps, which is all the more reason to visit! Though small, its mountains are massive; more than 90% of the country is covered by towering mountain ranges. If epic mountain vistas (and virtually empty trekking trails) aren’t enough, Tajik people are also worth the trip ― they’re some of the sweetest and most hospitable in Central Asia. It’s difficult to go a day without an invitation for tea or a friendly chat, which is a blessing, as any solo traveler knows. In this age of mass tourism and frustrated locals, Tajikistan is a treat you don’t want to miss.” ― Alex Reynolds, travel blogger at Lost With Purpose
“Known for its laid-back culture, and some of the world’s friendliest, most welcoming locals, Australia is a great place to travel solo. While you’ll definitely have to brush up on Aussie slang, there’s no language barrier for English speakers, the Aussie dollar right now is very low, and there’s a huge amount of incredible country to explore, whether you’re interested in climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a city escape or camping under the stars in the outback. Walk into a pub alone and you’ll end up sharing a beer with the locals; walk up to the beach by yourself, and you’ll likely get invited over to join a summer barbie. Plus, if you’re wanting to support Australia after the devastating bushfire season this year, a great way to do so is by visiting!” ― Meg Jerrard, travel blogger at Mapping Megan
“I recommend Ecuador for your next solo destination, thanks to its breadth of outdoor activities and cultural experiences. While Quilotoa Lake is at the top of my list, there’s plenty to do and see for every travel style. Whether you want to channel your inner mountaineer, surf the coast, traverse the jungle, or channel your love for wildlife ― Ecuador has it. There are so many amazing things to do in Ecuador.” ― Olivia Christine, travel blogger at O. Christine
“As someone who has traveled solo to over 15 countries, I believe one of the best places to travel solo to is Iceland. Statistically, it is one of the safest places in the world, but it also has so many great things to do by yourself. From soaking in the Blue Lagoon to driving the Golden Circle, you will not run out of things to see and do in this beautiful country. And it doesn’t matter what time of year! You will love it winter or summer.” ― Danielle Nelson, travel blogger and creator of Pack This Journal
“Ethiopia remains one of my favorite solo travel experiences. The capital, Addis Ababa, serves as the gateway to Ethiopia’s mythical and ancient world and continues to earn its reputation for friendly people, delicious food and the world’s best coffee. Spend a few days basking in the city’s restaurant and market culture, then take off to explore the ancient stone churches of Lalibela, which I believe are even more impressive wonder than Petra (so visit before every other traveler catches on!). Nature-lovers can then find a number of ways to get off the grid throughout the country, such as the Simien Mountains.” ― Waliszewski
“For ghosts and grand tales, magical Harry Potter moments, stunning Scottish architecture and a multitude of exhilarating festivals to enjoy throughout the year, there’s no better city than Edinburgh. As a solo traveler, you’ll be warmly welcomed by friendly locals. Walking through the streets at night need not be a worry. You’re in good hands here!” ― Teacake
Grand Canyon, Arizona
“Solo hiking and backpacking trips are an amazing way to escape into nature and experience true inner peace. The Grand Canyon is my favorite destination for solo hiking and getting into the solitude of nature. The stunning perspective shift that traveling down into the canyon provides is unparalleled in all my other hiking experiences. Plus, the popular trails are usually busy enough that you’ll run into plenty of other hikers if you want to chat and make friends.” ― Carrie Hoffman, digital nomad and co-founder of the Bigger Life Adventures yoga and adventure retreat
El Nido, the Philippines
“The Philippines is a great place to travel solo in 2020. El Nido is full of beautiful beaches with endless water sports, boutique hotels, and design-led hostels — perfect for meeting other solo travelers. The island’s famous boat tours are a great place for solo travelers to experience the culture with the comfort of a group.” ― Lamback
“Montenegro delivers the benefits of Croatia, but without the overtourism. This tiny country has one of Europe’s best beaches, countless charming old towns adorning the Bay of Kotor, and incredible natural parks and wineries throughout the country. It’s easy to rent a car and explore the entire country on your own in a relatively short amount of time.” ― Waliszewski
“If you’re in North America, I recommend traveling to Alberta, Canada. Between Calgary’s bites and the national parks, you can indulge in ‘me time.'” ― Stephanie Be, travel blogger at TravelBreak and founder of lifestyle app BUENA
“In recent years, Turkey has taken a hit in the tourism sector. While things are starting to recover, it’s still an excellent place to visit in terms of affordability. Istanbul has long been a culturally vibrant city. Offering some of the region’s most unique experiences. It’s a perfect destination for solo travelers interested in digging into one of the world’s oldest civilizations.” ― Erick Prince-Heaggans, travel blogger at Minority Nomad
South Island, New Zealand
“Although I might be biased because I am a Kiwi myself, I still have the South Island of New Zealand up at the top of my list as a great solo travel location for 2020. OK, it is on the edge of the world, which means a long flight, jet lag and an expensive plane ticket. But road-tripping around the beautiful South Island, where you can easily find a spot to watch the sunset and have a glass of wine in the wilderness alone, is sure to provide you with whatever it was you set off to achieve by solo traveling in the first place. You can surf on the East Coast, then drive an hour and a half and be in the Southern Alps that run right through the middle of the South Island to go snowboarding or hiking. If that hasn’t sold it for you, then maybe the fact there are no snakes or deadly animals will make the thought of a hike into the wilderness a pleasant one.” ― Eamon Wood, travel blogger at Wayward Wheeler
“A great destination is Savannah, Georgia. The delicious food alone would bring me back! The Pirate’s House's award-winning pecan fried chicken is mouthwatering, and visit the nostalgic Leopold’s for ice cream. Savannah also has a lot of history, parks and tours to keep you busy. Not too far away is Tybee Island, where you can relax on the beach and listen to the sound of the ocean.” ― McGuinn
“If you want a destination to both indulge you and inspire you at the same time, Argentina is your place. There are few better cities in the world to wander as a solo traveler than Buenos Aires. You will experience the best of Latin American and European culture all in one place. Delicious food and wine, sexy tango dancing, vibrant music, beautiful architecture, world-class art, highly caffeinated yerba mate, and vivacious people — do you need any more reasons? A short flight from there can also get you to breathtaking Patagonia and the world-class wine region of Mendoza.” ― Waliszewski
South Tyrol, Italy
“For a European solo trip, I recommend rock climbing in the Dolomites of South Tyrol. Start the day with mountains, and finish it with a smile. ― Be
“For younger or inexperienced solo travelers, I always like to recommend Thailand. I think of it as just the perfect training ground for solo travel. Thailand has a way of feeling quite adventurous, especially if you haven’t traveled much in Asia yet. At the same time, since it’s such an established tourist destination, you also never have to worry about travel logistics too much. There are social backpacker hostels and cozy hotels virtually everywhere in Thailand, so you can always find the atmosphere you’re looking for.” ― Bron
South Of France
"The South of France makes the perfect road trip for a solo traveler. Drive through lavender and sunflower fields in full bloom, kayak through turquoise blue waters in the Gorge du Verdon and chase Van Gogh in Arles, finding the real-life places he painted and lived. Go in the summer, end of June/early July, to see Provence at its best." — Jen Ruiz, travel blogger at Jen on a Jet Plane
“Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, and with good reason. The people are friendly, the architecture is gorgeous, the food is phenomenal and it’s one of the most affordable destinations to visit in Europe.” ― Tausha Cowan, travel blogger at The Globe Getter
La Paz, Mexico
"If you’re looking to relax and get off-the-grid, look no further than to the beautiful, uninhabited beaches of La Paz. Located in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, this city is the perfect place to jet off to pristine remote beaches and surrounding pueblos. If adventure is what you crave, be sure to visit during whale shark season when you can snorkel with these gentle giants." — Asia Dawn Simonelli, relationship coach and travel blogger
“Budapest has long been on intrepid travelers’ bucket lists. Its stunning architecture, delicious food scene, and refreshing thermal baths make for an exceptional experience. What many don’t know is that Budapest is home to one of Europe's best music scenes, with world-class musicians performing everything from classical to rock. It gives solo travelers more than enough to fill up their itinerary.” ― Prince
San Juan, Puerto Rico
“If you like beaches, good food, and a good party, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a great idea for a solo traveler. San Juan is vibrant with a strong local culture. There are events pretty much every day for locals and tourists alike. Whether it’s mingling with locals at the Bomba, [traditional Puerto Rican music] performances at El Patio de Bonanza on a Monday night, or wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, there’s plenty that will keep you entertained.” ― van Dop
"The capitol city of Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in the world. The people are hospitable, and their tourism infrastructure is reliable. The major draw to visit Rwanda is to see the endangered mountain gorillas. The permit costs around $2000, but it's worth it to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat." — Nathan Fluellen, host and travel blogger at World Wide Nate
“Barcelona, Spain, is an amazing destination when traveling solo. There are plenty of activities you can do alone, such as touring historic churches and parks designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, or visiting the Picasso Museum. Get lost in the gorgeous maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter and stop for a glass of sangria and some people-watching. At night, head to see flamenco dancing before ending the day in a tiny restaurant to have some authentic paella. The city is safe, transportation is abundant, and the locals are always welcoming.” ― Christine Johnson, travel blogger at My Traveling Kids
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“With the Expo 2020 Dubai revving up for its October start time, Dubai is the place to visit in 2020. Dubai has always been one of those places where it’s easy to make fast friends and you could meet ‘anyone,’ and going in 2020 only triples its magical effects. I’d go as early as possible to avoid the inevitable Expo 2020 price inflation, but if you can make it before May, you’re guaranteed tours, accommodations, sights and overall trip quality unique to this year.” ― Gabby Beckford, travel blogger at Packs Light
Albuquerque, New Mexico
"If you're looking to knock a bucket list item off your solo travel list this year, save up your money for a sunrise hot air balloon ride during mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It won't matter if friends don't make the splurge — flying in the air with hundreds of other balloons at the same time is a singular experience. Bonus? The balloons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from Yoda to pink elephants!" — Ruiz
San Pedro, Belize
"San Pedro, Belize, is the ideal destination for beach bums. They have fresh lobsters the size of your arm for less than $20, the second-largest coral reef in the world and the impressive Great Blue Hole, best appreciated by air. You can book a tourist flight in a small propeller plane that lasts an hour. The official language is English and the chosen mode of transportation is golf cart." — Ruiz
Cinque Terre, Italy
"While this beautiful cluster of Italian villages is often considered a romantic escape for couples or a destination to add to your bucket list for a someday visit, I think the time to go is now. Thanks to accommodation platforms like Airbnb, you can rent a fairly affordable apartment or homestay for a week and take the time to really explore. I went on a solo trip in 2019 and had an incredible time. Cinque Terre consists of five villages connected by footpath and by train. The train is really easy to navigate and there are English-speaking tourism ambassadors at each station ready to help you if you get lost. The towns are small and easy to maneuver, and you can't go wrong with ordering pizza or pasta at restaurants that don't have translated menus. Summer tends to be the busiest season, but also the best time to go solo because you'll never stand out in the crowd. Keep your clothing low-key, travel light and pack smart, and you'll be good to go! Just don't forget to bring enough memory cards to hold all the incredible pictures you'll take!" — Francesca Murray, travel blogger at One Girl : One World
New York City, New York
“If you want to be surrounded by people on your solo travels, then what better place than the Big Apple? You can blend in with the masses and pretend you are living that Manhattan life! Take a stroll through Central Park or along the High Line. Shop at Chelsea Market or on 5th Avenue. Hit up a museum and a gallery or two. But if you really want to try something different and totally unique, take the tramway to Roosevelt Island. You will get some amazing views of the city on your ride over and back. Also, be sure to stand at the tip of the island at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park and soak in all Manhattan has to offer from the middle of the East River. It is like taking a step back in time when you are on the island and it is totally unique to anywhere else in the five boroughs.” ― Ostermann
“Guatemala was the first country that I ever traveled to solo, and it is, in my opinion, one of the best places to have a magical solo trip in 2020. It’s hard to really describe what makes Guatemala so special, perhaps it’s the magical Lake Atitlán or the rumbling volcanos that overlook Antigua. Whatever it is, Guatemala has a way of capturing your heart, and the only hard thing about traveling there is leaving! Transportation is improving there and it is now much safer and easier to travel from town to town. You will find many other solo travelers in Guatemala, so you will never be alone for long.” ― Summers
"This small but fascinating island is full of wonders, from ancient Moai statues that you can easily road-trip around the island to see to the jovial locals who are more than happy to tell you the tales of their past and present cultures. Stay at an Airbnb and get to know your local host or head down to the main Moai statues at sunset, where you’re sure to meet locals and other solo travelers!" — Ramos
“Dublin, Ireland, is a fantastic city to explore as a solo traveler. Matter of fact, it was the first city I traveled to as a solo female traveler. Dublin has an interesting and captivating history while being as cosmopolitan as any European capital city! I stayed at an Airbnb inside the city walls and was able to walk to everything easily. For those not in love with a lot of walking, or should the weather be inclement, Dublin’s transportation is first-rate, from buses to trams to trains. The city is safe and I never felt uncomfortable exploring or dining alone. Dublin’s historical attractions, such as Dublin Castle or The Book of Kells, give one a peek into Dublin’s ancient roots. The Temple District is a lively and trendy reminder that Dublin produces great beer and has great pubs to enjoy it in, serving traditional Irish cuisine. It's a great way to meet new people and make new friends, as the Irish are some of the friendliest people on earth! Dublin is a great city for solo travel: safe, clean, walkable, great transportation and friendly, helpful people.” ― Linda Malys Yore, travel blogger at Linda On The Run
“I highly recommend Bhutan. Since Bhutan mandates a fixed tourism fee per person, it doesn’t matter how many people you go with, and I’d say it’s the best place for some quiet reflection. Rich in natural beauty, plants and animals, many come here to be enlightened and achieve happiness. Most Bhutan visitors are drawn to either its culture, way of life, happiness index or religion. Seeing people lead their lives with simple contentment is enough to make you reevaluate yourself and your life. With so many lessons to learn, you’ll definitely emerge a lighter, more wholesome person from your visit to Bhutan.” ― Isabel Leong, travel blogger at Bel Around The World
"To my surprise, Aspen has been one of my favorite solo travel destinations to date. I think solo travel can really lead to self-development and growth, so I decided to try a new outdoor activity during this trip. I took one-on-one snowboarding lessons and I had an absolute blast. It was the perfect way to get out of my comfort zone and stay active while traveling alone." — Ciara Johnson, travel blogger at Hey Ciara
“Because of Berlin’s incredible techno and nightlife scene, it’s a great destination for solo travelers — especially those interested in electronic music, DJs and nightlife. The scene in Berlin is very welcoming, and with clubs like Berghain, Sisyphos and Tresor still operating after decades of transforming the techno music scene, it’s a worthwhile destination. The nightlife scene in Berlin might not be for everyone, but for those interested in music, the clubs are great places to make new friends and easily meet new people with shared interests. Tourism in Berlin is booming, and it’s best to visit while these clubs still run regularly, as other big Berlin nightclubs are continuing to shut down due to government pressure and social changes in the city.” ― Adam Groffman, travel blogger at Travels of Adam
Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Traveling to a foreign country for the first time can be both exhilarating and anxiety inducing: have you considered all the required information, devices, social protocols and social etiquette? How about finances, security and insurance? Much to consider. Here are some tips on how best to navigate.
10 Things You Need to Know About Traveling Abroad for the First Time
DECEMBER 26, 2019
By Megan Grant
Remember that one time I went to Paris and brought my blowdryer so that I could look #fabulous while strolling down the Champs-Élysées, but forgot that the outlets are different and I couldn’t use it so my hair was a giant ball of frizz for eight days?
There are so many details we forget when traveling abroad—some minor (see: the great hair frizz of 2018) and some much more crucial. If you’re planning on boarding a plane and adventuring to a faraway place, here are 10 things you need to keep in mind about traveling abroad.
10 Things to Know About Traveling Abroad
1. Figure Out How You Can Pay for Things Beforehand
“Uh, I’ll just swipe my card, yeah?” Maybe. But maybe not. Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle tells Parade.com, “When you’re in a different country, you may not be able to pay for things in the way that you’re used to. I normally always just tap my credit card at home, but there are quite a few countries where you still need to use your PIN, so make sure you remember it if you’re planning to use your card. There are some countries (particularly in Scandinavia) that are moving to a cashless economy, so they may have no option but to use a card.”
If you plan to use a card, one more word of caution: Fees. Watch out for them. “Your bank may charge quite high fees so look into this in advance and investigate your options,” Turtle advises. “You can normally find a credit card offer that will have zero international transaction fees and I would recommend signing up for one of them if you’re going to be doing a lot of travel. On the other hand, there are still a lot of countries that mainly use cash—even Japan, despite its very modern reputation—so it’s also wise to have a card that will let you make cash withdrawals without a huge fee.”
Cash always works too, but again, there’s one caveat you have to be careful of, according to Turtle: “Bringing your own country’s cash and exchanging it is also a good option, although I rarely do that because you’ll always lose a bit of money on the conversion and I prefer not to travel with a lot of money on me.”
2. Dress Accordingly
You may be a stranger in a completely foreign place, but try not to look like it, okay?
“One of my suggestions would be to try to blend in with the locals. You don’t want to stand out too much by looking like a tourist because not only can this be embarrassing but it can set you up as a target for pickpocketing or theft,” says travel writer Reannon Muth. So, what should we do to avoid this?
“To blend in, I’d suggest wearing muted colors or dark colors and avoid wearing sneakers (especially white ones!),” she explains. “In the US, people wear sneakers all the time, but in Europe and most of the other countries I’ve visited (I’ve been to over 40), people only wear athletic shoes when they’re working out. Sneakers are usually a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist. I’d also recommend wearing clothing that’s somewhat stylish (or at the very least fits well and isn’t overly baggy or wrinkled). In the US, a sports hoodie, yoga pants, and flip flops (athletic leisurewear) is perfectly acceptable attire for wandering around town, but I’ve found that in many other countries, people aren’t as casual with their attire.”
3. Invest in a Pair of Good Noise-Canceling Headphones
Flights are long. Planes are loud. You won’t be able to sleep, read, watch movies, or do anything else with the sound of jet engines numbing your ears. “Good noise-canceling headphones for the flight are a must,” says international speaker Adnan Kukic. He recommends the Sony WH1000MX3.
4. Don’t Assume People Speak English
This one is tough, I know. What the heck else are you supposed to speak? Before you go to another country, though, you should brush up on the basics, at the very least. Muth explains why:
“It can be rude to just walk up to a sales clerk and start speaking English. Even if you’re in a touristy area and are 99.9% positive the person speaks English, it’s still polite to greet them in their own language and then ask them if they speak English. At a minimum, you should take the time to learn how to say ‘hello,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.'”
5. Check Your Phone Plan
During my frizz-filled trip to Paris, I made another startling discovery: Apparently, the phone towers in Las Vegas don’t reach to France. Who knew?
You might be able to use your phone overseas. You might also be charged an arm and a leg for it. “Most plans will charge exorbitant fees to use your phone overseas,” explains Turtle, “although some do have good deals about international roaming, so it’s worth investigating whether your provider does. For most people, though, you’re not going to want to have long conversations or text message conversations on your phone while you’re away.”
Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives for staying in touch with people—when you have WiFi, that is. “I find it’s quite easy to avoid doing that if you just make calls with something like Skype or WhatsApp when you have WiFi at your hotel,” Turtle says. “The problem is data. We have become so accustomed to using our phone to look at maps, search for public transport timetables, check opening hours, and find reviews of restaurants, that you may be lost (literally) without data on your phone. So, in this case, I recommend buying a local SIM card that has enough data for your stay.”
It’s always good to err on the side of safety, though. “… you shouldn’t assume that you’ll always be able to get an internet connection while you’re traveling,” continues Turtle. “Perhaps the hotel WiFi is dodgy or you can’t get a data signal on your phone. I always make sure to download maps for offline viewing on my phone and I screenshot any directions or public transport timetables that I need. I also take photos of signs at train stations or ferry ports that I might need later on. We are so used to knowing that any information we need is right at our fingertips at home, but that’s not always the case when we’re traveling so it’s better to be prepared.”
6. Take a Nap ASAP
Jet lag is brutal. Your body has its own internal clock, and when it’s disrupted, weird things can happen. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can go beyond sleepiness and even affect your mood and concentration and give you, ahem, stomach issues. No thanks.
Thankfully, there’s a little trick. “As soon as you land in your abroad destination, take a nap, even if for just a few hours,” advises Kukic. “It helps greatly to adjust to the different time zone.”
7. Respect Mother Nature and All Her Creatures
While on an exciting trip, we understandably want to do things we’d never do at home. But there’s a reason to pause and think before you take part in typical touristy activities: It might be to the detriment of a living creature.
“Never ride an elephant (or support animal tourism)!” says Dani West, elephant advocate for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. “Interested in getting up close and personal with our majestic wildlife? Support and visit sanctuaries around the world … but do your research! Never ride, bathe, or pay to see them in zoos or circuses.”
Have all the fun you want on your trip, but still be mindful of how your activities impact others.
8. Remember That You Might Not Be in a Service-Based Country
“… the US is unique in that we’re a ‘service industry country,'” Muth tells Parade.com. “In nearly every other country I’ve visited, this isn’t true. Americans’ version of ‘good customer service’ doesn’t exist. Shopkeepers may not greet you when you walk into a store and waiters might not come and refill your water glass. They aren’t being rude; that’s just the norm in their countries. You’ll often find that you’ll have to hunt down a salesperson or waiter in order to purchase something or put in an order.”
Muth explains that this extends to ordering food at a restaurant. You might not get as much special attention as you would in the US: “Similarly, when you order in a restaurant, it’s customary in most countries that you don’t ask for substitutes with your meal. You order what’s on the menu and that’s it (no ‘dressing on the side’ requests or ‘Can you add almond milk instead of regular milk?’). This really isn’t done unless you have an allergy and it’s actually considered rude. It’s a quick way to earn a reputation for being a ‘demanding crazy American.’ Obviously, you can ask for substitutes if you really need to. But I’d just try to keep it to a minimum. If you have to change the entire order to fit your tastebuds, you might be better off ordering something else.”
And while we’re on the topic of food…
9. Be Prepared to Change Your Eating Habits and Meal Schedule
“Eating and drinking can be very different in another country and it’s important to be prepared for things to not be the way you would normally expect,” says Turtle. “In Spain, for instance, dinner is always eaten very late so you may often not find restaurants open at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But I’ve also been caught out in smaller towns in Europe where they’ll stop serving dinner at 9 p.m. In countries like Morocco or Malaysia, you’ll rarely find alcohol served with meals for religious reasons, so don’t expect you can have a glass of wine with dinner. And in Japan, you may come across the restaurants where you have to order all your courses from a vending machine at the entrance before you sit down.”
Tipping also varies from country to country and culture to culture. “In North America, it’s expected to leave a considerable tip for every meal, while most places in Europe just expect a small token of a couple of euros, while many Asian countries find a tip to be rude and you shouldn’t leave anything,” adds Turtle.
10. Stay Aware of How Much Space You’re Taking Up
“Unless you grew up in a crowded city like New York, you may not be accustomed to maneuvering through cramped subway cars or crowded marketplaces, but in many other countries, space is more limited than it is in North America and locals are experts at taking up as little space as possible,” says Muth.
“This also applies to your voice—talk quietly in public. Although it’ll differ depending on where in the world you’re traveling to, I find that in most of Europe and many places in Asia, people speak quietly and remain more reserved when talking to strangers,” continues Muth. “This is partly cultural but also because people in, say, Tokyo, are used to moving among thousands of people every day and are conscientious about not disturbing people around them by speaking too loudly.”
Traveling abroad is exhilarating and eye-opening. Just do your due diligence before you go and always be mindful of your behavior.
New year, new travel adventures. Looking for a unique destination and fresh adventure can be a challenge. You can always take a volunteer vacation which will immerse you in a community and culture completely new to you. Or you could travel to a destination you had preconceptions about only to be amazed by discovering an untapped world of wonder. Here are a few suggestions from travel writers that may pique your interest.
See Ya There! Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020
DECEMBER 17, 2019
By Jessica Sager
If you made a New Year’s resolution to travel more in 2020, get packing! From stateside locales to foreign lands that haven’t gotten much tourism yet, we’ve asked the experts where the best places to travel in 2020 are—and some of these options will surprise you. Whether or not you have a passport or wanderlust beyond our own borders, we’ve got a place for you.
Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020:
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Traveling Newlyweds can’t get enough of Hilton Head Island, S.C., whether for a vacation or a staycation. It’s just a 45-minute drive from Savannah, Ga., and about two hours from Charleston, but has all the trappings of a tropical getaway—white sand beaches, warm temperatures, 12 miles of breathtaking coastline, 50 miles of scenic trails, 250 restaurants and numerous award-winning resorts. There are a ton of family-owned eateries and businesses and a lot of live music and dining by the water. It’s also largely dog-friendly!
Michael Gerber and Lora Pope of Explore With Lora both recommended Pakistan for upcoming adventures thanks to its amazing nature and mountains—and its lack of crowds from other tourists, unlike nearby India and Nepal. You’ll need a visa to go, but Pope says it’s worth it. “Most people think that Pakistan is an extremely dangerous country that you cannot visit, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. “I spent a month there in August and it completely changed my views on the country. The hospitality in Pakistan is world-class. The locals are genuinely so happy to have you there and will go out of their way to make sure you have an amazing time.”
The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is an underrated gem. Dangerous Business travel blogger Amanda Williams notes that while the Faroe Islands aren’t nearly as famous as its neighbors Iceland and Norway, its landscapes rivals both of them—without the crowds. “Getting to the Faroes is easier than many people realize (you can catch direct flights from several European cities),” Williams says, “and the infrastructure is on-par with any other destination in Scandinavia. The islands are easy to get around with a rental car, there’s tons of great hiking and the nature is pretty mind-blowing.”
Want to go Ireland without actually going across the pond? Try Newfoundland, Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate recommends, noting that the Canadian province boasts similar craggy cliffs, picturesque seaside villages and friendly locals with lilting accents who tell stories and welcome you as one of your own. “But the best part is that Newfoundland feels a thousand times less tourist-ed than Ireland,” she says. “When traveling in Newfoundland, you’ll be welcomed warmly by everyone you meet.”
In terms of specific activities and excursions, McCulley recommends seafood cooked on the beach in Twillingate, a treasure hunt for art installations during the Bonavista Biennale, and, for the adventurous, she says, “You can become an honorary Newfoundlander by getting “screeched in” in a bizarre province-wide ceremony involving alcohol and kissing a codfish.”
Bonus? McCulley adds, “Newfoundland is an Instagram fan’s paradise, from the brightly painted homes of Jelly Bean Row in St. John’s to the unusual geologic makeup of Gros Morne National Park to the fishing village of Trinity that looks plucked from a storybook.”
While all of Thailand is lovely, Veronika Primm of Travel Geekery loves one particular island the most: Koh Phangan. “It’s a tiny paradise island near Koh Samui, which got famous thanks to its regular Full Moon parties,” Primm told us. “The island is so much more than that, though. It’s a unique spiritual base for many, with yoga and mindfulness courses and retreats in abundance. It’s a place where Thai people still outnumber tourists. It’s lush, it’s green and has miles of gorgeous beaches.” One thing to note, Primm says, is that Koh Phangan isn’t accessible by car or plane, so you’ll need a ferry to get there—but it’s well worth the trip!
Becca Siegel and Dan C. Gold of Half Half Travel told us that Myanmar is the hottest destination for 2020—possibly literally also—for its affordability, safety and natural beauty. “Before going there, travelers should know that some parts of Myanmar get very hot, especially the tourism hot spot of Bagan,” the pair told us. “It can feel 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days between 9 and 3 p.m., so all of your sightseeing should be done at sunrise and at sunset. The middle of the day is for chilling out by a pool at your hotel!”
You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Travel vlogger Jessica Hirsch of Cheatdayeats recommends Boise, Idaho, for 2020—especially if you’re a foodie and love carbs.
“With a focus on potatoes, they have a restaurant dedicated to friends and a large focus on sustainability and farm-to-table. There’ a major emphasis on where your food comes from and they’re majority passionate about food waste,” Hirsch says. “This concept also applies to their beverage scene with mile markers to inform visitors on how far the brewery is located from where you’re enjoying a drink. There are many beautiful parks and outdoor activities to work off thee food to make it a very active trip as well. Also, for a fresh air and for views of the beautiful state, we recommend the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic for a full hot-air balloon ride.”
Emily Mandagie of The Mandagies agrees, adding, “Downtown Boise also has incredible locally sourced restaurants, breweries, and even its own wine country (Snake River Valley AVA). One of our favorite restaurants is Diablo & Sons Saloon, which is a tastefully wild-west themed bar with clever drinks and delicious tacos.”
Because the Olympics are coming to Tokyo in 2020, so will travelers. Cat Lin of For Two Plz tells us, “The Japan Tourism Board, along with smaller regional- and city-level tourism boards, are incentivizing travelers to visit before and after the Olympic periods with cheap travel deals. Those who’ve had Japan on their bucket list, 2020 is a good year to make that dream trip happen. From a cost-saving perspective, don’t restrict yourself to just the Tokyo area. There is more to see, do, and explore when you expand your radar to nearby cities like Hakone and Nikki.”
Amanda O’Brien of The Boutique Adventurer recommends Kanazawa in particular, which is about a 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. “Kanazawa has all you want from areas like Kyoto without all the tourists, from samurai houses to geisha villages to dressing up in a kimono to stunning modern museum dedicated to DT Suzuki, who brought Zen Buddhism to the world,” she says. “It is also home to Japan’s third most beautiful garden, Kenrokuen, and the production of gold leaf.” Kanazawa is also just a 30 minute train ride from the Kaga thermal spa region and its Nadatera Temple and incredible art.
The Kii Peninsula is also a great spot, Retha Charette of The Roaming Nanny says. “It’s off the beaten path and holds all the ancient beauty one can think of about Japan—home to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage the Kii Mountains stretch out towards the horizon ending at the ocean,” she told us. “Temples dot the mountainsides with plenty of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to stay in!”
Slovenia has a little something for everyone—and you can brag to all your BFFs that you found it first. Foodies should hurry to explore the many culinary gems found across the 24 distinct gastronomic regions, and there is a lot to do in Slovenia all year long.
Jonathan Look, Jr., of Life Part 2 tells us, “Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia stands on its own, but is influenced by all of these rich cultures. Alpine landscapes, charming cities and hospitable people are in abundance. The food and wine, which is largely unknown outside the region, is truly world-class. There is even a small coastline with beaches and scrumptious seafood.”
Travelers will love the Festival of Kurentovanje, one of the oldest celebrations of Carnival in Europe. Featuring parades of costumed monsters and characters, Kurentovanje is recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. In the summer, visitors can enjoy 14 wine regions, including the world’s oldest active grapevine (over 450 years old!) in Maribor.
Lake Bled is great for scenic paddle-boating in fall. In winter, Slovenia is decked out for the Christmas season. Postojna Cave transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with festive decorations and more than 2,100 colorful lights for its annual Christmas experience, a live performance featuring 16 biblical nativity scenes reenacted by more than 150 performers along the cave’s one-of-a-kind railway system. Additionally, avid skiers will delight at the fabulous slopes of the Julian Alps, particularly the eighteen different slopes at Kranjska Gora, a frequent host of international slalom competitions.
Grab a coat and hit up Alaska! So many influencers sang the praises of the state: Louise Sattler loves Girdwood for its charming shops and cafes—and spectacular views of the Northern Lights.
Visitors can also enjoy Glacier Bay National Park to see the 200-year-old sheets of ice breaking away from the faces of glaciers before they melt away. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve can only be reached by plane or boat, with many air connections from Juneau, Skagway or Haines via commuter air taxi service. Visitors can take the Glacier Bay Day Boat Tour for views of snow-capped mountains, tidewater glaciers, whales, sea lions, rare birds, coastal bears, eagles and more—plus close-up views of the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers that cruise ships can’t match. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, whale watching and authentic Alaskan experiences at the local Tribal House with hand-carved Totem Poles—each one telling a “story.” Glacier Bay Lodge is the only commercial overnight accommodation in the park, Glacier Bay Lodge offers 48 rustic rooms nestled among Sitka spruce trees on the shores of Bartlett Cove, with the National Park Visitors Center on the second floor lobby, or Bartlett Cove Campground, which features bear-resistant food caches, firewood and a warming hut.
Julie Leventhal recommends the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, Alaska’s first via ferrata climbing route with endless activities from helicopter-accessed fat tire mountain biking to world-class salmon fishing.
Holiday travel is hectic: busy airports, overwhelmed airline staff, weather delays, high ticket prices are but a few of the challenges. Katherine Parker-Magyar writing for Forbes shares some collected wisdom from popular travel writers on how best to survive and thrive during the Christmas and holiday travel season.
15 Travel Writers Share Their Best Tips For Holiday Travel
Katherine Parker-Magyar, Contributor Travel
It's the most wonderful (and chaotic) time of the year. As hordes of travelers descend upon airports nationwide to journey home for the holidays, the prospect of December travel strikes both excitement and anxiety in the hearts of many. We decided to consult the experts for travel advice for the upcoming season (including tips on how to make your economy ticket feel like business class.)
To that end, 15 travel writers shared their hard-earned wisdom on everything from travel rewards programs to appropriate-airport attire. ("Air travel is a horrific slog, it's every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable," Todd Kingston Plummer offered on the latter.)
To check or not to check, that is the question. Or, one of the questions, at least. And while some writers we interviewed were vehemently against such profligate packing habits ("the cardinal sin of traveling," according to Leila Najafi), there is something to be said for the mantra that more is more. Often, the things we're likely to forget are those that are most obvious. (I surely am not the only one who has found myself in a foreign country sans passport... Twice.)
With that in mind, remember to stash your everyday essentials in a carry-on before boarding (preferably in a pre-packed travel case to minimize your likelihood of forgetting.) Offers Merissa Principe: "You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist's motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some Advil."
Read on for our list of the best travel tips, sourced by the ultimate industry experts, to avoid that same fate. But if you do encounter some (inevitable) mishaps: Fear not. In the words of Lesley Chen: "Boring trips don't make for good stories anyway."
Todd Kingston Plummer (Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, etc.)
I'm so sick and tired of people perpetuating this myth that airplane travel should somehow be glamorous, and that you should dress up for the plane. That is unequivocally false. I don't care if you're taking JetBlue to the Caribbean or flying in Singapore Airlines Suites Class—air travel is a horrific slog, it's every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable. If I'm flying to the tropics, you can bet that I'll be wearing shorts. And if you think wearing pants somehow makes you immune to all the germs floating around on airplanes, you're living a lie. Live your truth. Wear your comfiest shorts on the plane. Never apologize.
Jillian Dara (DuJour, Hemispheres, Travel & Leisure, etc.)
I hate creating expectations, but I like to be educated on a destination before a trip, so I do a certain level of pre-trip research. Part of this is to scope out popular attractions, restaurants, and bars, but more importantly, it's to anticipate and understand a new culture's customs. Additionally, I try to incorporate free time into my itinerary; the best way to discover a new place is to get lost, I'm overly curious, but always respectful.
Teddy Minford (Fodor’s Travel Guide)
I used to roll my clothes, but now I only roll wrinkle-resistant fabrics and fold anything that might wrinkle—I hate ironing, and I don't like to travel with a steamer. The amount of space saved by rolling your clothes is not worth the wrinkles! My general rule for not overpacking is that your clothes should only take up half your suitcase. The rest should be free for shoes, toiletries, and everything else. This is where packing cubes come in handy, but they're really not necessary if you're using a clamshell-style suitcase (like every travel writer's best friend, the Away bag).
Gemma Price (Condé Nast Traveller, Departures, Wall Street Journal, etc.)
Ok, the thing I can't live without is my plane pack. Flying long haul in economy every other week isn't the most comfortable, so I have a selection of little pouches that contain everything I need for the journey. I pack Clorox sanitizing wipes for the armrests and table because they hardly ever clean those things. Plus, some medications against a dodgy tummy (loperamide, Pepto Bismol, etc.) because there's nothing worse than getting the trots at several thousand feet... And having the cabin crew yelling at you to go back to your seat and put your seatbelt on when you just can't.
I have a Cabeau eye mask and memory foam head pillow — it scrunches up quite small and is super comfortable — and some heavy-duty earplugs that shut out screaming and snoring equally well. To keep me from looking like the crypt-keeper on disembarkation, I also bring a sample pot of my favorite moisturizer (Jurlique Moisture Replenishing Day Cream), and a little bottle of Evian face spray that I swiped from a Maldives resort gym. Is it bougie? Absolutely, but it works.
Josh Laskin (Outside Magazine, The Points Guy, Travel & Leisure, etc.)
For me, I always make sure I don't have to check a bag. It gives me one less thing to worry about — whether or not my belongings are going to make it where I need them to — while traveling. I always watch people pulling huge luggage bags behind them, trying to get them up and over curbs, tripping and falling in the process, and think to myself, "man, that's really not for me." I bought a large 65-liter backpack, which can fit as much — if not more — than a large suitcase, and bring it as a carry-on. It also allows me to walk around hands-free, which is a pretty liberating feeling when traveling long distances or for longer periods.
Chelsea Davis (Forbes, Insider, TravelPulse, etc.)
Some of the things that have helped me on my travels are writing out five or so common phrases that I may need to know if I'm chatting up locals and having pre-loaded webpages with important info on the sights I want to see or maps if I can't get WiFi.
Another thing I try to do when I get to a new place is to jump on a free walking tour with a local! You get the lay of the land and, hopefully, some insider tips on what to see, do, and eat. When it comes to packing, I try to think worst-case scenario—physically. I bring meds for allergies, itch cream & bug repellent (mosquitos love me!), Advil, Neosporin just in case... you get it. And when it comes to airports, I make sure that the second I get off the plane, I make sure I know what the local time is (not just trusting my iPhone to recognize the different time zone)—especially when I have a tight connecting flight.
Leila Najafi (Eater, Thrillist, USA Today, etc.)
I never check in a suitcase. It's the cardinal sin of traveling in my book. Time is your currency when you're traveling, so you want to be as efficient as possible. I've been able to go to Europe and Australia for three weeks with just a carry-on. You learn to get good at packing a wardrobe that you can mix and match, and if I'm staying at an Airbnb, I'll do laundry.
Ramsey Qubein (AFAR, BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, etc.)
International travel is much more comfortable when you take advantage of the perks of airline and hotel elite status like upgrades, early check-in or late checkout at hotels, and airline and hotel lounges. Even those that don't travel as frequently can take advantage of special benefits like lounge access, priority boarding, and fee waivers through certain credit cards. It certainly takes the hassle out of constant travel, and actually, kind of makes it more fun!
Merissa Principe (CBS Local, HelloGiggles, etc.)
If you want to travel like a travel writer, you need to have the right apps! I always download the app of the airline I'm traveling with, so I can get mobile updates as well as terminal and gate information. The rewarded miles don't hurt either! My other must-have app while traveling is Mobile Passport! When I'm arriving stateside, I always use my mobile passport app to breeze through customers. I fill out the customs form on the app while we taxi to the gate and have found that it's saved me hours over the past few months.
I'd also recommend having a pre-packed in-flight bag that has everything you might need ready to go for your flight so you can pull it out of a backpack or carry-on before finding your seat. That way, you'll have all the essentials, like laptop, charger, book, Chapstick, headphones, snacks, just to name a few, all in one place so that you don't have to hassle in the aisle and boarding can continue efficiently.
Finally, if you're traveling via carry-on, which is very travel writer-esque, roll your clothes to save room, pack easy mix-and-match layering clothes, and don't forget to pack pharmaceutical essentials like Advil! You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist's motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some!
Amanda McCoy (POPSUGAR)
For me, it's all about surviving the long-haul flight to make sure I don't arrive completely wiped out with sore muscles. I essentially turn that coach seat into my own little spa oasis. A gel sleeping mask, lavender essential oil, cucumber under-eye masks, and—most importantly—an inflatable footrest (which is still the best damn $20 I've ever spent). Even flight attendants constantly comment on how I've turned my economy space into a pseudo-first class seat... Just minus the champagne.
Sandra MacGregor (CNN Travel, National Geographic, NYT etc.)
Noiseless headphones, my Kindle full of books I've been dying to read but put off until I am on an airplane, and my Seed facial serum by Canadian luxury vegan brand VERDURA are my travel go-to's. Oh, and a person in the seat next to me who is affable (and doesn't snore) is a nice bonus.
Lesley Chen (Brit + Co, Parade, etc.)
My toiletry bag has a second set of everything I use (face wash, toothpaste, floss, lotion, etc. in miniature size). So, I can just grab it and go without having to worry about if I remembered to pack my face wash from the shower or my contact case from the counter. Things I always pack: a pair of black jeans (it's a 2-for-1 because you can go dressy or casual!), a pair of running shoes (because I know the one time I don't bring them will be the time I actually motivate to go to the gym), and flip flops.
This is kind of a terrible tip, but this is how I avoid jet lag: When I fly to and from international trips, I force myself to stay up on the plane and watch as many movies for as long as possible, and then when I land, I power through/keep moving until nighttime. By bedtime, my body is usually so tired (and probably disoriented) that I just go to sleep, and it kind of resets itself. Also, coffee helps.
Amber Gibson (Forbes, Hemispheres, WestJet Magazine, etc.)
If you're making a long journey and worried about jet lag, get a spa treatment the first evening you arrive. Book it for as late as you can in the evening and go to bed right after. There's no better way to prime yourself for a good night's sleep.
Claudia Laroye (Flight Network, The Globe and Mail, Twist Travel, etc.)
'A gelato a day keeps the tantrums away.' This travel tip works wonders for kids but also adults too. It keeps the 'hangries' at bay, incentivizes good behavior while traveling, and gives everyone a boost when spirits flag due to jet lag. And hey, it doesn't have to be gelato, it could be cake, cookies, wine, etc. We live by this motto when we travel, and I know it works in real life as it's saved us from more than a few meltdowns.
Kelsey Ogletree (Modern Luxury, ROBB Report, WSJ, etc.)
As tempting as another round of late-night cocktails—or hitting up just one more cool dance spot—might sound, I'm a big fan of calling it a night as soon as you (politely) can. When you really want to learn about the culture of a destination and squeeze in as much as possible when you're staying in a place for a short time, you don't have time to feel tired or hungover. Early to bed, early to rise, has always suited me well whenever I'm traveling for work!
If you are taking a volunteer vacation, a family trip to Disneyland or a Mediterranean cruise, few things put a damper on events like lost luggage. Lost clothes, toiletries, medications and electronics can drastically impact plans and enjoyment. Aimee Robinson, writing for Express Newspapers shares some tips that will help your bags arrive at your destination at the same time you do.
Luggage: One simple passenger mistake makes lost luggage more likely - do you do this?
LUGGAGE going missing is a traveller’s worst nightmare, however, it seems there are some passenger mistakes that make this unfortunate scenario more likely. Are you guilty of doing this on your travels?
By AIMEE ROBINSON
Lost luggage is a nightmare for many travellers. While often this means passengers are left without their baggage for days at a time, causing chaos for holiday plans, a worst-case scenario can see their bags lost forever. It turns out that while airport and airline staff are sometimes at fault for this, there is also a chance that one simple mistake by passengers can be the reason their luggage goes missing.
The problem can arise long before passengers even get to the airport.
One travel expert revealed the small oversight, which they said is often why bags don’t make it onto the right aircraft.
On a post in Reddit, the expert explained: “Not a secret, just common sense; the reason some bags miss their flight or get misrouted is because passengers don't remove old tags.
“It confuses handlers as well as the conveyor belt scanners. I see it happen all the time.”
Bag tags are used by airline carriers to route luggage to its final destination.
A small tag is usually attached to the tag with a barcode and number, meanwhile, the passenger is given a stub with a matching barcode.
It is vital passenger’s keep this tag safe, it will come in extremely useful should the bag go missing.
Additionally, some airports still require the passenger to maintain their baggage tag stub as proof before being reunited with their luggage.
However, once a journey is completed it is advised customers strip their luggage of their used tag so as not to confuse future flights and risk losing their luggage for good.
While baggage handers are frequently told to double-check the dates on luggage tags, the fast-paced nature of the job means sometimes mistakes can be made.
In fact, the latest baggage report from SITA revealed that 22.7 million bags were lost or temporarily mislaid globally.
According to SITA, there are several common reasons why luggage goes missing such as ticketing errors, bag switches, airport or customs restrictions, failure to load the bag or security issues.
Luckily, a baggage handler also shared his top tips on how passengers can keep their luggage safe,
He said these tips are simply “common sense”.
In order to ensure your bags stay together, even if they aren’t with you, the airport worker suggests making sure all of your bags are the same.
He says: “Get the same bag, same colour same everything.
“If you're lucky they will stay together and come off the truck together, not only because the handlers will place them together because they look the same, but they stack better when they are the same size.”
The baggage handlers also went on to offer a word of warning when it comes to packing.
“If your bag is over 55lbs, it's gonna have a bad time.
“How annoyed do you get lifting your own bag into the back of the car, imagine having to do that 200 times, it gets frustrating and tiresome, and sometimes we just throw with very little care because they are too heavy to do carefully.”
Other handy hacks include ensuring you have a sturdy bag-complete with a re-enforced handle and strong exterior, and filling out the attached name card that comes with many suitcases.
Of course, there are some situations when lost luggage simply can’t be helped.
An expert from Staysure, a travel insurance provider, spoke to Express.co.uk to offer advice on what to do if passengers find themselves in this situation.
Julian Kearney, CEO of Staysure, says the best thing to do is “keep hold of any airline or any other ticket that confirms your travel arrangements”.
He added: “In most instances, luggage is reported missing whilst under the supervision of airlines and there is nothing that travellers can do to prevent their luggage going missing whilst in their care.
“In the unfortunate event of this happening, Staysure customers are advised to notify their airline straight away and register the loss by completing any necessary paperwork.
“This will be required in support of any claim made under their Staysure Travel Insurance Policy.”
Safety is always paramount when considering a travel destination. There is a lot of turmoil in the world and minimizing exposure to violence, crime and public unrest - especially when travelling with children and loved ones - is very important. To help in trip planning, Lonely Planet has released its list of safe destinations.
The safest countries in the world for travel in 2020, according to a new report
The Nordic nations of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are some of the safest countries in the world to visit, according to a new report from security specialists at International SOS.
The organisation released its 11th annual Travel Risk Map, an interactive map which predicts the safest and most dangerous places to travel in 2020, as well as the biggest issues travellers will face. Countries were ranked in different risk categories: insignificant, low, medium, high and extreme.
The Nordic nations were grouped in 'insignificant', along with Switzerland, Greenland and Slovenia. The US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most of Europe were rated as having a "low" level of travel risk, in addition to Argentina, Japan, China and Namibia.
According to International SOS, criteria was based on "the current threat posed to travellers by political violence, social unrest, as well as violent and petty crime." Other factors include transportation infrastructure, industrial relations, the effectiveness of security and emergency services and susceptibility to natural disasters.
Those ranked as having a "medium" risk level include Russia, India, South Africa, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia.
Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro. Corcovado mountain with statue of Christ the Redeemer, urban areas of Botafogo, Flamengo and Centro, Sugarloaf mountain.
The International SOS report ranked Brazil as "medium" risk ©microgen/Getty Images
The report considers Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan to be "extreme" risk countries due to ongoing conflicts, while Mexico has a mixed rating. The states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are considered "high" risk, while the rest of the country is deemed "moderate". India, Egypt and Madagascar also have mixed ratings.
For the full report, see here. If you have any health or security concerns about a country you're planning to visit, it's always best to check your government's travel advisory reports.
For many people, family vacations create the longest lasting, happiest memories that are carried and shared for a lifetime. A family volunteer vacation has the added element of a new country, community and culture and changing personal outlooks as families give back while receiving a profound, eye-opening experience. Here is a fantastic article in a recent edition of Chesapeake Family Life
Volunteer Vacations that Give Back
November 1, 2019
Taking a family vacation can be a great way for families to relax and reconnect. But what if your family wants a more meaningful experience than the annual trip to the beach or a theme park? Enter volunteer vacations, a popular alternative to the traditional vacation that allows families to give back while also getting away.
Volunteer vacations have been on the rise for the past decade, and volunteer tourism or “voluntourism” is now an almost 200-billion dollar industry. It’s a trend that continues to grow as more families search for ways to make a concrete impact on the world around them.
“I think more people are seeking this kind of vacation because they have a personal desire to connect with a cause they support,” says Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization that pairs families with volunteer vacation experiences. “We are living in such a digital world that it can be hard for kids to gain perspective on the world around them, and parents want to give their children the experience of making a difference in a direct way.”
Many organizations, like Globe Aware, Discover Corps, and Together for Good, are helping plan vacations that directly impact a community in need. Globe Aware’s popular Cambodia trips have families build wheelchairs for land mine victims, while its Guatemala trips focus on a local mountain community where families help improve housing and plant vegetable gardens for single mothers.
Though many volunteer vacations focus on global experiences, travelers can also make a difference closer to home, like the trips offered by the American Hiking Society during which participants repair trails at national parks.
Volunteer vacations also take the hassle out of planning, as trips are completely planned by the organization and almost always include housing, food and real-time training. “A volunteer vacation takes the legwork out of planning and it’s a great way to vacation while doing good and working toward a common goal,” says Libby Wile, Senior Director of Programs at the American Hiking Society.
While volunteer vacations are aimed at making a difference for others, the experience is just as impactful for those doing the work. “When a family experiences this type of vacation, the effects can be felt long after the trip is over,” says Haley-Coleman. “It can give kids a sense of appreciation for what really matters, and it can be empowering for them to know that they’ve truly made a difference.“
Read on for five volunteer vacations that offer a variety of experiences from exotic travel to far-off locales, to one-day Caribbean opportunities, to nature-based trips closer to home.
For almost twenty years, Globe Aware has been connecting families with volunteer opportunities around the world. With 20 international locations, Globe Aware offers a variety of experiences for families who want to make a difference. Travel to Thailand and work with endangered elephants or help rebuild in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico. Globe Aware’s planned trips last one week and include food, accommodations, medical insurance and bilingual translators. Additionally, Globe Aware also offers customized experiences that can be added on to existing vacations.
The current U.S. administration announced Oct. 25, 2019 that all flights to Cuba would be stopped to any city other than Havana. Globe Aware's volunteer vacation programs are based in Havana and will continue to function.
The workplace is changing. Employees in some companies are enjoying greater flexibility in work scheduling, planning days off and personal time off. Here is a great NASDAQ article profiling several companies who are leading this trend and offer employees an ideal opportunity to take a life-changing volunteer vacation.