Adventures at Dawn:景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing

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I’m a morning person. And that means that there’s one thing I love about jetlag when flying from east to west: waking up before the world comes to life. There’s something so tranquil about being outside when the weakest rays of light start shining through the clouds, breathing in the crisp air and watching your breath fog as you exhale. It’s even better when the streets are still empty and you feel like the only person in the city.

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Vintage Travel Posters!

Beijing in January is bitingly cold. As a Canadian, I always profess that ice water runs through my veins, but when I visited, the cold still packed a punch and I wished that I had brought some boots or legwarmers. However, if you are one of the few people who can brave the cold (the majority of residents and visitors choose not to), you’ve stumbled on the best time of year to visit. In the month leading up to the Lunar New Year, Beijing’s streets become deserted as thousands upon thousands of migrant workers return to the countryside to celebrate the biggest ethnic holiday of the year with their families. And this means that the rest of us can finally enjoy the sights of the city without the crushes of bodies.

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Jingshan Park lies across the street from the back entrance of the Forbidden City. It’s impressive when you consider that the middle of the Forbidden City lines up perfectly with the middle of the park, but even more so, because the five peaks inside the park were entirely man-made, dating from a thousand years ago. Talk about ridiculously high expectations!

Looking for ways to save up for travel?

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There are entrance fees to every park in Beijing; those funds go to maintaining the historical buildings, the staff, the foliage within, and perhaps even the pocket linings of PRC officials! Just kidding… maybe. Seniors, students, and children pay less for their tickets and so do those who opt for annual tickets. Those who choose to exercise at dawn and dusk in the parks usually do so; year-round, you can find China’s notorious dancing grannies, opera aficionados, and practitioners of martial arts.

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Atop each hill in the park is a pavilion. We climbed the middle one, which was the highest, because our toes were freezing and all we really wanted to do was settle down in a nice warm place. From there, we could see the whole city.

Speak Deutsch?

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The pavilions themselves were gorgeous. Painstakingly painted in bright reds, golds, greens, and blues, and lit up by the golden morning sun, they were ethereal.

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There was only one other thing that rivaled the lacquered beauty of the pavilions: the view from the hill. To the south, a perfect view of the Forbidden City

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How to spend New Year’s in Andalusia like a local!

To the west, the White Tower at Beihai and, beyond the bounds of the city, the mountains

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And to the east, the glittering new buildings of modern Beijing

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Celebrating Like a Local: New Year’s Eve in Andalusia

Guest Post by Yvonne Schnoor

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Three years ago, my husband and I left Germany to run a bed & breakfast in Andalusia. We opened Cortijo El Sarmiento in late spring and had a good, but exhausting, first season.

Related: Free Downloadable German Language Cheat Sheet

When the last of our guests had left, we had to face our first Christmas and New Year’s Eve away from home. My parents, Reiner and Marlene, came over to join us. It was not the best time: we couldn’t find any of the food we were used to eating at Christmas; the weather was far too warm for us back then; and the only Christmas tree we could find was puny and quite ugly.

We decided we needed to embrace the Spanish way of life.

For our New Year’s dinner, we all went to a restaurant. It was nice enough, but it was full of expats, who, although very friendly, couldn’t offer us the new Spanish lifestyle we craved. Our first Christmas and New Year’s felt like a bit of a let down.

We decided that we would have to plan the holidays much better for the following year. But, as you can imagine, with all the work at the B&B during the summer, we completely forgot about the disaster of 2014/15! The season ended, the holidays drew near, and we had nothing planned.

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Then something fantastic happened. Apparently, some of our new Spanish friends had felt sorry that we had spent such a miserable first Christmas in their country. So, they invited us to join their News Year’s Eve party! We were happy to accept, but had no idea what to expect. We were informed that traditionally everyone brought food, but that we didn’t have to, because we were their guests. However, we just couldn’t go empty handed, so together we prepared some Spanish food and a very typical German dessert. We all got dressed up for the occasion.

When we arrived at our friends’ house it was a lovely surprise. We were greeted by their relatives, all thirty-six of them, which turned out to be less then half of their family. There aren’t that many family members between my husband’s and my family combined!

Related: Christmas in Stockholm

At first, we felt quite alien, especially as my parents spoke very little Spanish. But everyone welcomed us warmly and made us feel completely at home. One couple had lived in Germany, which was great, because they were seated beside Mum and Dad! The table was crammed with all sorts of wonderful food and they put our dishes right in the middle.

The evening started out typically Andalusian: tons of food and wine and very noisy conversation. I worried my eardrums might not survive the night. There was lots of laughter and tempered discussion, which never got out of hand. It’s just the Spanish way; they are so passionate about everything.

Midnight drew near and our friends’ daughters set a champagne glass in front of each person and filled them with Cava – Champagne is never drunk in Andalusia; there’s too much local pride. There was also a small bowl for each person containing twelve grapes.

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At the countdown on TV – Oh, by the way, I should mention that the TV is always on in Spanish houses; they are mad about their TV – for the twelve strokes to midnight, everyone has to eat a grape and make a wish. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? But you try chewing, wishing and swallowing between the strokes of a church bell! We all felt really stupid, but it was great fun. It is very important to the Spanish people to eat the Uvas de la suerte (lucky grapes) and wish Feliz Año Nuevo (Happy New Year) before the completion of the twelfth chime. Then come the three kisses for everyone in the room. By the end of it, your Cava is flat and warm, but no one cares.

When everyone eventually returns to their seat, they find a bag filled with confetti, paper-streamers and hats. Then someone puts a wig on your head – so if you weren’t embarrassed choking on the grapes, you are now. Replete with wig and paper hat, the serious drinking can begin.

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Most of the youngsters head off to meet their friends to celebrate, away from the oldies, in the local bars or at a disco.

Another, more recent custom, to bring luck for the coming year, is for a man to buy the love of his life red lingerie. The woman should never buy this for herself; it has to be a gift to her. It’s the reason there is so much red lingerie for sale in Spain from the beginning of December.

When I inquired about the tradition of taking a dip in the sea on New Year’s Day, my Spanish friends looked at me as if I were mad. “Only the strange foreigners do this”, they said. “The water would be far too cold!”

So we didn’t.

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My name is Yvonne and I’m what you would probably call a true European. I was born in Gemany, grew up in Belgium, and, after a long journey through several other European countries, decided to live in Spain, where I run, together with my family, a beautiful, luxury bed and breakfast in Mojácar, a lesser known part of Andalusia’s Costa de Almeria. The B&B is dedicated to adults only, especially those who are looking for peace and tranquility. As I’ve owned a wine shop in Germany for over 13 years and have done endless tastings to become a Sommelière, you can be sure that you will always be served the right wine wherever you meet me. Living in Spain supports my hobby (for now, at least!) a lot – everything here is about eating and drinking!

Celebrating Like a Local: Christmas in Stockholm

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Guest Post by Susann Aavanen from The Biveros Effect!

December is here and it is time to get ready for a typically Swedish Christmas. In Sweden Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December. However, the whole month of December is a time for preparation. These preparations often start on the first weekend of Advent and they include decorations, baking, and get-togethers. However, let’s put aside the crazy shopping sprees and glittering Christmas parties. Here are three things that you should not miss if you are in Stockholm or Sweden in December. These experiences are incredibly popular among both residents and visitors and will give you a feel for what a traditional Swedish Christmas is like.

1. Glöggfika

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Fika is a great Swedish tradition. It usually refers to “having a cup of coffee” but it entails so much more that. It’s something of a cultural institution. The fika does not require coffee and usually comes with pastries, sandwiches, or other types of food. Come December, the typical fika becomes more Christmassy with glögg (mulled wine) instead of coffee and sweet treats for those with a sweet tooth. These treats include pepparkaka (gingerbread) and lussebulle (saffron bun). Add some traditional Christmas music and you’re guaranteed a cheerful atmosphere. The great thing about the glöggfika is that it happens everywhere: from at home with friends to in the workplace!

The glöggfika is especially popular on Lucia (Saint Lucy’s Day), the 13th of December.

2. Christmas Markets

There are several Christmas markets in Stockholm, which means that there is something for everyone! The most famous Christmas market is the one in Gamla stan (the Old Town). From the 19th of November until the 23rd of December, Stortorget square near the Royal Palace is filled with little red stalls selling scrumptious traditional Swedish sweets, cheese, glögg, handicrafts, and much more.

Other great places to enjoy a cozy Christmas market and get a taste of Swedish Christmas are Skansen, Rosendal, and Drottningholm Castle.

3. Julbord

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Food is probably an important aspect of Christmas no matter where you are. Sweden is no exception. As it is a country that is very fond of buffets, it should come as no surprise that the julbord or Christmas buffet is a big thing in restaurants around Stockholm. Even IKEA has one! The best food is, of course, the food that is served at home on Christmas Eve, but it’s difficult to escape all the Christmas food before the big day. So, what can you expect when it comes to traditional Swedish Christmas food? You never get away from the meatballs and Jansson’s Temptation (a casserole with pickled sprats among other things). A wide variety of fish, sausages, ham, potatoes, boiled cabbage, beetroot salad, and cheeses will also tickle your taste buds and have you queue for one more serving. After a successful Christmas meal, you might promise yourself not to eat anything ever again!

December is a month when all the streets and people brighten up. It is a cheerful time with lights, food and parties. With some luck, the city and its surroundings turn into a white wonderland where locals and tourists alike get to find their inner child as they play in the snow. Welcome to Stockholm!


What happens when a Swede and a Finn meet in Slovakia, fall in love, and move to Stockholm? The result is a story of travels, mishaps, and adventures around the world. Check out Jesper and Susann’s awesome blog here!

The 12 Best Jobs for Travel Addicts

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Sometimes, I dream of the digital nomad lifestyle (and other times, I dream of stuffing those words down the throats of people who live it). Unless you have a vacation home in the Hamptons, a private jet, and a trust fund, it’s a safe bet that money is one of the obstacles standing in the way of your travel dreams. But fear not, for there is hope! Here are the best jobs for those of you who want to travel the world without breaking the bank.

Flight Attendant

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Perhaps one of the most obvious choices for a travel career. Flight attendants go through rigorous training and work all kinds of hours, but employee benefits include discounted rates for you, and sometimes even relatives. It is generally harder for flight attendants on short haul flights to leave the airport, so if it’s faraway locales you’re looking for, try finding work with an airline that flies long-haul.

Related: Tips for comfortable flying

Tour Guide

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Another obvious choice. Being a tour guide means being paid to travel to awesome destinations, and share your experience and expertise with others. The downside to being a tour guide is that you’ll spend a lot of time in the same place, but that can work to your advantage as well if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture. Being a “people person” is a must, and it’s also a bonus if you’re interested in art, culture, language, and history and passionate about sharing your knowledge with others.

Travel Writer

Travel writing can be a very rewarding career, but also a very tough one. Many travel writers are freelancers, selling stories to publications. Freelance writers don’t tend to have a lot to spend on travelling, so they have to make each story count. This job is very research heavy, and writers have to be skilled at conducting interviews and writing. But the job also involves a lot of travelling, and many travel writers love every aspect of what they do.

Photographer

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Photography is another tough but rewarding career. There are many different paths to professional photography; some photographers go to art school or get a degree in photography, others start later on, turning a hobby into a career, some photographers work part-time, while others take the plunge and go all-in, some specialize in destination weddings while others take wildlife shots, some even get their start on Instagram!. There’s no one way to get into this field, but each path is awesome in its own way.

Cruise Line Worker

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Cruise ships have a wide variety of jobs. Cooking, serving, cleaning, childcare, entertaining, and more are all fair game. One of the best perks of the job is that you’ll be on the move, all the time, as you work, and your accommodation and meals will be paid for by your employer. Explore on!

English Teacher

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Surely you’ve heard of or personally know one. English teaching is rarely seen as a permanent career move, but there’s work virtually everywhere, spanning a wide range of contract terms. Of course, the best part is that you’ll be paid to interact with and immerse yourself in different cultures. Sometimes, you’ll be called on to work with kids, but if you don’t like kids, there are positions for adult teaching as well. You’ll need a certification, and in some cases, a degree, to get hired, but one of the most basic TEFL certifications can take just a few months to obtain.

Foreign Service Worker

If you have or want to have a degree, consider pursuing international relations in university and working for the government. There are tons of travel opportunities in the Foreign Service, plus you get to learn lots of new skills, especially in foreign languages. You might not get a lot of choice as to where you’re being posted, but that can work to your advantage too, if you’re super adventurous and spontaneous.

Bartending or Waiting Tables

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One of the most common jobs for travellers looking to make a little extra or students who need a part time job is bartending and waiting tables. Make sure you’re of age and have a working visa, and you’re all set! Previous experience and a good attitude are nice, but not always necessary.

Au Pair

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Do you like kids? (More importantly, do they actually like you?) If so, consider becoming an au pair. Au pairs live with a family in a foreign country and receive payment in exchange for childcare and some housekeeping. If you want to strengthen your foreign language skills, this job is perfect, though prepared to be kept on your toes, because children are a handful!

International Aid Worker (NOT Voluntourist)

This is admittedly a less glamorous occupation than many of the others listed, as aid work often happens in small and isolated communities, where even the necessities of life can be hard to find. It can and will be physically and emotionally trying. But aid work is rewarding unto itself; you get to make a real difference in the lives of others and be a part of something that is larger than just yourself.

Freelancer

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As the world becomes increasingly digital and global, you can basically do anything online. Copy-writing, transcription, and web design are hot now, but really, anything goes. If you have a skill, there’s a person out there who needs your help, and all you need is a laptop and an internet connection.

Instructor (any kind, really!)

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If you have a skill that travellers want to learn, you’re pretty much set! Seasonal jobs, like ski patrolling and scuba instructing are popular. This does also mean you’re out of a job for half the year, though its up to you whether that’s a good or bad thing. Other skills are in demand year-round, like teaching cooking classes, meditation retreats, and mountain climbing.

If you had to choose, which career would you pick? Let us know in the comments below! Happy travels, wanderers!

Testing Packing Hacks: Do They Work?

You might have come across them on your Internet travels before. Contact lens cases for your foundation, squeezing toothpaste from one tube to another, putting your smaller suitcase into a larger one (or maybe that’s just Mr. Bean). This week, I (the trained professional armed with a pair of safety goggles, some rubber gloves, and the gaze of a disapproving parent) decided to find out which hacks actually work, and which hacks are just a waste of time.

#1 Cushion powder makeup with cotton pads: PASS

Placing a cotton pad in a powder compact really works!
Yep! From the Krazy Coupon Lady

A ride in your luggage is tough on everything within, but especially tough on your powder products, that run the risk of crumbling with every bump. I didn’t think this hack would work but a few cotton pads and a rough tumbling in my suitcase later, I was convinced. My makeup didn’t look any worse for wear. My advice: Stuff tightly, but not too tightly.

#2 Fill straws with skincare products: FAIL

Some sealed straws, a roll of tape, and a Sharpie.
Nope! Taken by Tiara Chiaramonte

Most skincare products come in packages that contain less than 100 mL (the TSA limit) anyways. Filling straws with skincare products is messy and not very environmentally friendly at best, and potentially hazardous to your health, given that you’re melting plastic containing tons of harmful chemicals, at worst. Instead of filling straws with products when you want to downsize, try our next hack!

#3 Use contact lens cases to store liquid makeup: PASS

Contact lens case full of skincare product
Yes yes yes! From the Krazy Coupon Lady

I’ve personally used this hack for many years. They’re great for storing moisturizer, foundation, lip balm, sunscreen, and any other kind of cream product you need to bring with you. In fact, they’re so great that you can even bring your toothpaste with you instead of using the next debunked hack.

#4 Refill travel sized toothpaste tubes: FAIL

Filling a small toothpaste tube with a large toothpaste tube
Nope! Taken by Tiara Chiaramonte

Is there any good way to do this at all? Because all I managed to do was shoot toothpaste all over my bathroom counter. And now I have to apologize to future me, because future me’s in charge of cleaning it up. I give it a solid zero out of zero.

#5 Use an old shower cap to cover the bottoms of your shoes: PASS

Cover the soles of your shoes with a shower cap for packing purposes
This works! Taken by Kathleen Kamphausen

My favourite type of old shower cap? The kind you get free at hotels. It’s a pretty great way not to get dirt all over your personal belongings, and for you couch potatoes out there, it’s very marginally easier than putting your shoes in a plastic bag.

#6 Hide valuables in your lip balm tube: FAIL

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Nope! Not trying this anytime soon! Taken by Tiara Chiaramonte

As if all that work you just put in to scoop the last little bit of product out of the tube and clean it completely wasn’t enough, now you run the major risk of dropping, or even accidentally throwing away that tiny little insignificant tube. Do yourself a favour: put your money in a wallet, or a pocket, or your phone case, or anywhere but in a tube of lip balm.

#7 Use a binder clip to protect your razor: PASS

Razor with a binder clip over the blades
Yep! From The Krazy Coupon Lady

Though most of the time I don’t bring a razor with me because I try to travel with only carry-on luggage, and the TSA has recognized the distinct possibility that someone could shave someone else to death, this hack is pretty useful, especially when I fear that my razor might slice through my clumsy fingers.

#8 Coat Q-tips with eyeshadow: FAIL

Q tips in a Ziplock bag with eyeshadow on the tips
Nope! Taken by Kathleen Kamphausen

I had trouble packing on enough eyeshadow on a Q-tip to even cover one eye. Then, the product began falling off everywhere before I could even seal them in a bag. Talk about some serious fallout issues! When I took them back out, I couldn’t, for the life of me, get enough pigment to transfer from the Q-tip to my face. Maybe Q-tips just aren’t meant to be used to transfer powder makeup.

#9 Roll, don’t fold: PASS

Rolling your clothes for packing works!
Yay! Taken by Kathleen Kamphausen

With the help of my extensive scientific measurement (really just a pen and paper), I tested out both methods of packing, and did find that I fit a few more articles of clothing into my suitcase when rolling. The downside? It took longer to roll the clothes, and they probably do turn out more wrinkly in the end.

#10 Seal your jewellery between plastic wrap: PASS, BUT SO WASTEFUL

Jewellery sealed in plastic wrap
Why waste so much plastic wrap? From The Krazy Coupon Lady

The principle behind this is that the plastic wrap will prevent the jewellery from tangling up. And, needless to say, it works! And it totally fits with my life philosophy: waste as much stuff as possible! Just kidding, please don’t actually believe that. I’m trying to live a minimalist, sustainable, ethical, money-savvy, and eco-friendly life. I’m trying to cut down to a zero-waste lifestyle, which this totally does not help. As well, I travel light, to prevent theft, exhaustion, and overweight fees, so bringing jewellery is not something I want to do often. My advice? If jewellery sparks joy in your life (#mariekondo2k16), pack it on yourself. A necklace, a pair of studs, and maybe a ring or two is plenty.

In conclusion…

I will be using some of those hacks on my future travels, but definitely not the others! Did you enjoy this post? If so, leave us a comment below telling us what hacks work for you! Are there any we missed?

Happy travels!

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Sources:

https://www.society19.com/10-packing-hacks-you-didnt-know-about/

http://thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/travel/17-incredible-family-travel-hotel-and-road-trip-hacks/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/02/diy-travel-hacks_n_4760560.html?

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a28267/genius-hacks-for-packing-your-suitcase/

15 flying secrets even the pros don’t know

We’re going to let you in on a secret in this post (well, actually several!) So get ready, hold onto your hats, and prepare to fly better than ever!

1. It’s not just in your head, airlines really are messing with you.

Airlines really do mess with you when you're booking online!
Airlines really do mess with you when you’re booking!

You’re looking for a flight online but the prices just keep on going up and up. It’s not your brain playing tricks on you, it’s the airlines. When you visit a booking site, it’ll likely install a cookie on your computer that tracks your information. If you search for the same flight route/hotel booking/etc. multiple times, the prices will keep going up each time. Though booking sites don’t use cookies exclusively to hike up their prices, clearing your cookies will help somewhat in keeping the prices low.

Related: Get a late checkout, every time!

2. Pretending that you’re alone really works.

If you're not really alone, just pretend!
If you’re not really alone, pretend you are!

When filling seats on a flight, airlines run the risk of leaving a bunch of single seats unfilled. If you’re travelling as a family, it’s always worth looking at booking each person individually to get a cheaper fare. Plus, many websites offer a 24 hour refund period.

3. Watch the flight for 24 hours after booking.

If you do book from a website that offers a 24 hour refund period, make sure to keep an eye on the flight. If the price drops, call the company to cancel your ticket and re-book for the cheaper fare.

4. Trains are the way to go.

Say yes to trains.
Say yes to trains!

Okay, maybe not always true, particularly in North America, but in other places like Asia and Europe, the railway works much better than flying. No long lines at check-in, security, or baggage claim is always a plus, the scenery is always beautiful, and over short distances, a train takes less time than a plane.

5. Regional airlines aren’t quite as safe as larger carriers.

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Know the difference between regional and national carriers?

But sometimes, you may not have a choice. If you’ve taken a flight on a major carrier, chances are, you’ve been on a regional carrier that the major carrier outsourced its passengers to. The name printed on the plane might be the same, but the airline really isn’t. And the flight crews aren’t required to be as well trained or qualified as those on larger carriers.

6. Say yes to carbs, but no to alcohol.

Dinner of potato slices, salad, nachos, sandwiches, and drinks
Carbs are great, alcohol, not so much!

The research is still out on whether carbs really help jet lag, but I do know one thing: filling up on carbs leaves me stuffed and sleepy. On that same train of thought, avoid alcohol, as it decreases the quality of your sleep, and contributes to dehydration, which is something that you should always avoid in an environment as dehydrating as an airplane.

Related: Get your carbs in Switzerland, the most beautiful place in the world!

7. Hit the airport early.

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Arrive early for your flight, but also make sure that your flight is early in the day!

Crucial if you want to avoid long delays. Delays accumulate throughout the day, which means that the backlog from the morning will carry over to the afternoon, making your journey through the airport progressively slower. From my own personal experience, this tip is completely true.

8. Don’t expect to save too much on flights.

A stack of coins and a clock in the background
Don’t expect to save too much on flights!

Flight fares are generally less discounted than other types of travel services because of the way they operate. If they fill fewer seats on their flights, they’ll just fly fewer trips. Don’t expect too much from their discounts, otherwise you might walk away disappointed.

9. The earlier you book your flight, the more you should consider refundable tickets or travel insurance.

Unfortunate things do happen, and when they do, you’ll want your money back from a flight you couldn’t take. The further away from your departure date, the more likely it is that something unfortunate might happen, so travel insurance or refundable tickets just might come in handy. Take it from my personal experience: an extremely fortunate oversight when booking fares to England led to the accidental purchase of travel insurance, proving useful when I became quite ill and couldn’t take it.

10. You don’t need to pay to select your seat.

Airplane wing in flight over mountains
Seat selection can be free!

Unless you’re very picky about where you want to sit, you can generally choose a seat during check-in. Check in as early as possible to get the widest selection of seats. Many of these will be undesirable seats, but you’re guaranteed a few good ones to choose from.

11. Personalize your checked luggage.

Silhouette of man walking outside with a suitcase
Personalizing your luggage hits two birds with one stone: it shows off your individuality, and makes your stuff easier to spot!

You already know to make sure your luggage is correctly labelled with your name, route, and contact details, but you may not know that it is best practice to include this information inside your suitcase, in case it is lost and the tags on the outside disappear. As well, make sure to rip off any tags from past flights, as sometimes, the wrong barcode gets scanned and your luggage could be sent halfway across the world. In order to avoid mix-ups on the luggage carousel, you should aim for a unique-looking suitcase. Avoid buying suitcases in grey, black, navy, and maroon, because everybody else’s suitcases will look the same as yours, and personalize your existing suitcases with bright ribbons or funky tape. I have a roll of green and pink flamingo patterned duct tape for this purpose.

12. Carry-on dimensions: the bane of your existence

Different carriers will have different requirements (sigh) and to make matters even worse, they won’t tell you straight up what you’re allowed and what you’re not. Sometimes, on particularly Satanic websites, dimensions are listed as a lump sum. So for example, if they list 40 cm as your allowance (yep, I know that’s unreasonably tiny, but I’m willing to bet that in a few years, that will be the allowed carry-on size) , the width plus length plus height of your suitcase must be at most 40 cm. Make sure everything you need fits!

13. Balls are your best friend.

Legs poking out of car window
Give your feet a well-deserved massage!

Not the large squishy kind (I didn’t mean it THAT way!), but the smaller compact ones: golf and tennis balls work particularly well. Give your feet a massage at your seat by rolling the golf balls underneath the soles, or roll out your back and legs at the terminal with the tennis balls.

14. Airplanes: grosser than your toilet seat!

Glass of orange juice, and slices of oranges and lemons
Vitamin C has been debunked, but you know what hasn’t? Zinc!

It’s completely true: airplanes are a hotbed for germs, bacteria, viruses, and grossness. Vitamin C has been debunked as an effective cold remedy, so instead, try zinc supplements, which have been proven to prevent and bring down the severity of your symptoms. Get plenty of fluids (not alcohol!), rest, and fresh and healthy food, and for the germaphobes out there, bring some wipes for your armrests and tray tables.

15. Board later on.

Crowded London Underground station
Stay calm! The plane doesn’t depart for another hour!

Don’t try to be late (unless you want your seat to be given away!), but boarding after the crush increases your (incredibly tiny but still-there) chances of being upgraded. Yes, we know that chance is tiny, but it doesn’t really hurt, does it?

Did you enjoy this post? Make sure to give us a thumbs up, check out some of our wanderlust-inducing travel posters, and we’ll see you soon! Happy travels, wanderers!

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24 Hours in Toronto

Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call home. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

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Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, after Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston (man, those Americans know how to multiply!), one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call my home. It’s also the city that most other Canadians love to hate, but we’re not going to go into that here!

If you’re flying into other parts of Canada or the USA, I highly recommend that you take a few hours or even days in Toronto to go exploring. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

When to Visit

Foliage in the autumn, turning orange-gold
In Ontario, autumn is the best time for viewing foliage in all colours of red, gold, and orange.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Toronto is late spring (April-May) or mid-fall (October). The summers here are quite hot and the winters can be frigid (my cousin calls our weather inhuman). In April and May, the weather tends on the warmer side of comfortable and the city is gearing up for the summer, which includes a bunch of food, music, and pride festivals. However, October comes with many advantages as well; the weather is cooler, the air smells beautiful, the leaves turn beautiful colours of red and gold, and there’ll be a bunch of Christmas fanatics excited about the holidays already. TIFF happens in September, so that’s the perfect time to visit if you’re a film buff, though flights and accommodations may be more expensive. Nuit Blanche happens on one night in early October so if you’re up for an incredibly exhausting intense 24 hour experience, this is your time. Pride, Caribana, and Taste of the Danforth, as well as numerous other festivals happen in the summer, so if food, music, pride, and fun are your thing, I would advise you to go then.

Related: How to save more, so you can travel more

Getting Around

Toronto commuters boarding a streetcar downtown
Toronto has a deep love-hate relationship with its transit system. Source: http://www.cp24.com/polopoly_fs/1.1212417.1420668025!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_960/image.jpg

Taking the TTC in Toronto is your best bet for getting around. It’s convenient and easy to learn, especially in the downtown core, where most of the exciting stuff happens. A day pass costs $12 but is only available on weekends and holidays. Single fares cost $3.25 for adults, $2 for students, and nothing for children 12 and under (I’m just gonna take a moment and express the collective displeasure of Toronto’s residents that free rides weren’t available when we were younger).

The city also offers an express train running between Pearson International Airport and Union Station (in the heart of downtown). It’s convenient but the price can be quite steep ($24 for an adult return ticket). If you want to do as the locals, take a TTC or GO bus from the airport to the subway. It’ll give you the genuine local experience of anger, frustration, and overall displeasure at the transit system.

The Itinerary

Morning

Rise and shine, wanderers! I love to get up bright and early, so that I have a head start on exploring. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, make sure to avoid setting out on the TTC between 8-9 in the morning on workdays. This is often when the subway and buses are clogged with people and backlogged with delays.

The interior of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, filled with any food vendors
The St. Lawrence Market is a Toronto institution, and many still come here for its farmer’s market. Source: http://wpmedia.news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/st-lawrence-market4.jpg

Head to the St. Lawrence Market to grab breakfast. The building is gorgeous, both inside and out. The building was constructed in 1820, on the site of Market Square, where public markets were held since 1803. In 1831, the original wood building was torn down, and a brick building was constructed. That building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1849. The market was rebuilt two more times, in 1904 and 1968, so the moral of this story is that you should probably go see the market before it’s torn down and rebuilt again.

The Toronto Distillery District on a cloudy day, with buildings in the background and busy shoppers in the foreground
The Distillery District houses an incredible collection of Victorian style architecture. Source: http://cdn.narcity.com/toronto/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/distillme.jpg

Next, take a walk to the Distillery District. The Distillery District is home to the former Gooderham & Worts Distillery, once the largest distillery in the world, providing millions of gallons of whisky. Today, the booze is gone (darn!) but the Victorian architecture still remains. Many of the tenants in the distillery buildings are studios, art galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops, but there are also numerous events and festivals that happen almost every day in the area. The most well known of these is the Toronto Christmas Market. Don’t forget to snap a photo with your sweetheart under the heart-shaped arch!

Afternoon

A street corner in Kensington market, with a fruit stall in the foreground
Kensington Market is a quintessential hippie neighbourhood for Torontonians. Source: http://wvs.topleftpixel.com/photos/2006/01/kensington_market_st-andrew_corner_01.jpg

If you’re looking for a place to have lunch, check out Chinatown. Located along Spadina Avenue, a bit farther west than the downtown core, there’s a bunch of delicious ethnic restaurants for hungry travellers looking to relax and enjoy their meals. After lunch, consider checking out Kensington Market, just west of Spadina. It’s known (and sometimes bashed) for its hippy-dippy feel, but is also a favourite among locals. Food, postcards, potted plants, and healing crystals can all be found within the small stores that make up Kensington. If hippy-dippy doesn’t sound like your thing, why not check out a museum or art gallery (but not both at once!) You could easily spend whole months immersed in the art galleries and museums in Toronto, but for a visit of a few hours, I recommend heading further uptown to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). There’s nowhere better to spend a rainy afternoon, with some ancient Chinese pottery or Egyptian mummies. On a separate note, it’s really kind of cool (or depressing, depending on your point of view), knowing that your body just might become part of a museum exhibit in a couple thousand years.

The modern portion of the Royal Ontario Museum architecture
The ROM: quirky or eyesore? We’ll let you decide. Source: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/toronto/royal_ontario_museum_daniellibeskind010507_7.jpg

For an afternoon snack, why not try eating at Tim Horton’s, the fast food chain synonymous with Canada? If it’s cold out, try out our local slang by asking for a double-double coffee, a coffee with two creams and two sugars. Alternately, if it’s warm out, get an ice capp (or iced cappucino, for you non-Canadians out there), so that you can drink a day’s worth of calories in 15 minutes! Timbits (donut holes) are another quintessential treat at Tim Horton’s.

The Toronto skyline as viewed from the ferry terminal on Centre Island
Centre Island is a great place to have some fun and have a gander at the Toronto skyline. Source: http://www.torontosnaps.com/p3/m/Toronto-Island-Park/Centre-Island-a-view-10011.jpg

In the late afternoon, go to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal downtown (a five minute walk from Union Station) and catch a ferry to Ward’s Island or Centre Island. You’ll notice that the CN Tower is conspicuously absent from this itinerary, and it’s because I just don’t think the tower is worth going up. You don’t get a sense of how beautiful the city is from the tower, the wait times are long, and it’s just a tourist trap. However, from the Islands, you get a great view of the Toronto skyline as the sun is setting, plus, who doesn’t like water and beaches? Make sure to check the ferry schedule so that you can pick the optimal time to go.

Evening

Two houses in the Annex, Toronto's historic neighbourhood
The Annex, one of Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. Just look at those houses! Source: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/bd/7f/a8/the-annex.jpg

Get your dinner in a mom and pop shop in one of TO’s neighbourhoods. My favourites are the Annex, perfect for people more interested in trendy food, and Koreatown, located around Bloor and Bathurst.

People clubbing at a live music event
Toronto has many different options for party animals. Source: https://studentwire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Clubbing-Anna-Omelchenko.jpg

Queen St. W. and Ossington are some of the currently hip places to go dancing or have a drink in the city. Though Toronto is a bastion of diversity, you can head to Church and Wellesley for a more historically LGBTQ+ experience. If partying isn’t your thing, try out a board game cafe. There are a bunch in the city, and they’re open pretty late.

Hopefully, with all these tips, you’ll be all set to have the best of times in Toronto! Let us know where you want to visit in Toronto in the comments below. Happy travels!