Tortuga Backpack Review: Is this the best carry on backpack?…


I’m not sure if it is the best carry on backpack, for lack of trying too many others, but I’m pretty sure the Tortuga Setout Backpack checks off most of what you would want in a travel backpack carry on.

Since I’ve become a family traveler, I have mostly used suitcases as my travel luggage.

I must admit, I do miss the days of getting around with a  backpack on my back. It just feels more adventurous and simple.

So when Tortuga reached out to see if we wanted to include their new Setout Backpack in our list of best carry on bags, I suggested I test it out myself first.

I was under no obligation to post a Tortuga Backpack review, but I’ve decided to as I really love this small travel backpack and am now using it to replace my Delsey suitcase in some travel instances.

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The Allure of Travel Carry On Bags

Tortuga Setout backpack carry on luggage

Living in Australia, I could never understand the carry-on only luggage movement.

I was completely baffled as to how on earth people could travel for long periods of time with only a carry on bag. It wasn’t until I loved to the US that I understood.

In Australia, your carry on backpacks are weighed and cannot be heavier than 7kg.

My laptop used to take up almost all of that weight. As a digital nomad it’s a required travel item!

I’d have moments when I’d say, “I can do this. I’m going to take just a carry on bag,”

And then I”d arrive at the airport and be stung with a $50 fine for going overweight and be pissed off as I left a lot of things at home that would have helped me have a more comfortable trip.

They don’t weight your carry on bags in America. It just has to be  of a certain size – a quite generous size if you ask me.

Once I understood that, the whole concept of carry on only luggage became very attractive.

Enter the Tortuga Setout Backpack to be the best carry on backpack to do this for you!

My Experience with the Tortuga Setout Backpack

Tortuga setout best carry on backpack

I first used the carry on backpack from Tortuga to visit Chicago on a Mummy Daughter date with Kalyra.

We were flying in the chilly winter months, so definitely needed more clothing (and shoes) to pack etc.  I wasn’t sure the small carry on bag would do the trick.

But it was only for the weekend so we were determined to make it work.

It made for effortless travel. I’ll go through the features I love of the Tortuga backpack in a moment.

But, I loved it so much that I then took it on several of our road trips. It’s great for flying, but it’s also makes road trip luggage and easier experience that takes up less space in your car.

It’s definitely now my luggage of choice for short getaways, particularly for city stays, as well as road trips and travel in the warmer months.

Who are Tortuga Backpacks?

Tortuga Backpacks was created by Fred Perrotta and Jeremy Michael Cohen in 2011.

They learned on their own backpacking travels around Europe that it was hard to find a perfect bag for city travel. So they made their own!

I love that their mission is to help you live on your terms. They understand the travel market because they are travelers.

As a result, their products are modern, innovative and actually help support travelers needs. I really like the company and am now an avid supporter of them.

The Tortuga Setout Backpack was released in November 2017. It’s the latest backpack from this innovative luggage company.

I knew Tortuga was a reputable, young, modern company from the many backpackers and travelers I know who rave about them. For that reason, I was keen to test out the bag and share it with you.

I loved my backpack when I backpacked through Europe and South East Asia for what it represented. But, it was no where near the comfort and quality of the Tortuga Backpacks, nor was it as affordable as the Tortuga Setout.

Other travel packs they make include the Tortuga Outbreaker, travel duffel bags and travel daypacks.

Features of the Tortuga Carry on Backpack to love

best carry on luggage Tortuga Setout backpack (2)

Carry on only

As mentioned, the standout feature of the Tortuga is that you don’t have to bother with checked luggage.

It’s so nice to walk off the plane and straight out the door. No more hanging around luggage carousels waiting, and waiting and waiting.

The luggage carousels seem really slow in delivering checked bags in America, and the only time I’ve had delayed or lost luggage is in the US.

It made it that much easier traveling with kids as well.

Not to mention avoiding checked in baggage fees! I’ll take that extra $50 for our shopping spree on the Magnificent Mile thank you!

It does make me line up to board earlier so I can ensure I find room in the overhead luggage. It’s material and malleable shape make it easier to fit into the overhead compartments and I was quite surprised at how small it actually looked when it fit snugly in.

I’ll admit, I was nervous boarding the plane for the first time, thinking that it couldn’t hold that much inside and still fit in the overhead bins.

They were not lying when they told me it would.

I think sitting on your back inconspicuously also means it won’t be noticed as much as rolling suitcases when the airlines are looking to check people’s carry ons in as the flight is full.

As I was using the carry on backpack as my personal bag as well (more on how you can do that below), I really did not want my carry on to be flagged for check in.

This could be a potential problem if it is also used as your all in one bag.

Traveling carry on only means you can only pack toiletries and fluids less than 100mls. Don’t forget as it will be taken from you when going through security.

As I rarely travel carry on only, I completely forgot about the rule when packing my brand new bottle of shampoo in my backpack!

Specs for the travel bag are:

  • 22” x 14” x 9” carry on size
  • 45L
  • 3.3 lbs.

Be sure to check the airline you are flying to make sure this bag will fit their carry on dimensions, especially budget airlines. Some have a maximum at 21” but most seem to be 22”

Great for city travel

I think this Tortuga backpack is perfect for city travel. It can be a headache rolling a suitcase around busy streets, especially if they have uneven suitcases and many legs that can trip over them.

You can also easily take the stairs and manage hilly streets with a backpack. It made it easier to get around and keep an eye on Kalyra. Those comfortable padded shoulder straps will make all the difference!

This is the kind of backpack you want to travel around Europe with.

Sleek design

Tortuga Setout Backpack best travel carry on

The sleek rounded shape and grey water resistant fabric means it doesn’t stand out, which is perfect for city travelers wanting to blend in.

I loved the feel and look of the backpack. The material is very soft, which I have not found in a backpack before.

The backpack has been designed with lots of pockets, some hidden, giving you great scope for organization.

You can also tuck the shoulder straps in for protection when carrying your bag down the aisle of the plane or when stowing it in an overhead bin.

And if you also ever do want to check it in. Sometimes I do just want to check luggage in so I don’t have to deal with carrying it around while waiting for my plane.

For specifics it is made from 900D heathered polyester and is weather resistant.

Super comfortable and light to carry

Tortuga backpack carry on

I think this carry on travel backpack is great for women especially as it is super comfortable to carry and molds to the shape of your body.

The padded strap and hip belts takes the strain off your shoulders by transferring 80% of the bag’s weight evenly to your hips.

It has a padded side grab handle, along with multiple compression straps  to better disperse the weight load.

There is a shoulder strap attachment, so you can carry the bag like a duffel when the backpack straps are stowed away. This strap is not included however.

The injection-molded backpack straps conforms to your body and makes the bag more comfortable to carry. As it is carry on dimensions, it does mean you pack less so it is not very heavy on your back.

It’s so important to have a backpack that disperses weight and is kind to your body.

Easy to Pack

Tortuga setout backpack review

The Setout Backpack is the style of backpack I have always preferred and mostly used.

It’s a front loading backpack, which means it opens from the side, like a book, to make packing easier. It’s SUPER helpful if you want to quickly get something out of it.

I do not like top loading backpacks at all. I owned one once and never again.

I have no idea why they even make top loading backpacks.

It’s a hassle and a chaotic mess when packing and when quickly trying to get something out, like a long sleeve T-shirt because the AC is freezing.

Plenty of internal packing space

Tortuga backpack carry on Setout

The internal packing space is larger than I anticipated. I was surprised how much I could fit in.

You can organize it with packing cells, although mine felt too bulky. I could not use my underwear organizer as it was too bulky.

But given, it was  a short trip, it wasn’t really necessary anyway.

However, I did find the space a little challenging given that we were traveling during the cold Chicago months. I hate being cold and tend to overpack when traveling during winter.

I also don’t have great lightweight warm clothes and I like to take a few different pairs of shoes.

A girl has to travel with her cowgirl boots in the winter, right?

Tortuga setout backpack

There are zippered mesh pockets on the inside as well which helps to make organization that much easier.

It’s great for those items that can get tangled or lost easily like cords, underwear, accessories and socks.

carry on backpack Tortuga Setout

We wanted to take just the Setout backpack for Kalyra and I, but soon realized that was not going to happen, especially since we knew we’d be shopping along Magnificent Mile.

The backpack is great for short term travel – perhaps a week, or more if you are a great minimalist person.

If I was 22 again, backpacking through South East Asia, with only summer dresses, sarongs and flip flops, this would absolutely be the best travel backpack for me.

Tortuga also designs packing cubes that fit perfectly within the Setout Travel backpack range. See more here. 

Fantastic extra pockets and organization

Tortuga backpacks with lots of pockets

I loved how I could use the Tortuga Setback backpack for my clothes as well as my personal items making it a contender for the best carry on backpack.

I only needed the one bag.

There are two compartments for carrying your personal effects. They are so well hidden in their design that I didn’t even notice the back laptop compartment until I used the backpack for the second time on our road trip.

I was stunned when I saw it – how did I miss that? Kalyra and I had quite the chuckle.

The back electronics laptop sleeve is perfect for your laptop as it is sturdier and sits flush against your back.

As mentioned, it blend sin well to the rest of the design!!

best travel backpack carry on Tortuga

The front electronics department is perfect for your eReader, tablets, journal, reading book, pens and nick nacks.

The Setout safely holds a 15” laptop, a 9.7” tablet, and an ereader.

I loved being able to stash my phone and boarding pass in the hip belt pockets while en route. It’s effortless and reduces my need for another bag, or to keep taking the bag on and off my back to access important docs.

It also had a side pocket where I could put my water bottle. I love having easy access to water when I travel. Got to stay hydrated.

Affordable Price for great quality

The Setout backpack costs $199 which includes free shipping in the US when purchased online here.

I think it’s a great price for the high quality of the bag and the ease it offers for travel. I’m sure you’ll discover it is the best carry on backpack for modern day city travelers.

Bonus: Video Review of the Tortuga Setout Backpack

Are you a carry on backpack fan? What’s the most important feature of your carry on luggage?

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5 Amazing Cities in Cuba to Visit That Will Imprint Your Heart…


The best way to enjoy your trip to Cuba is to embrace both the cities in Cuba and the rural experiences.

Start in Havana but don’t stop there!

The capitol of Havana, Cyba
The capitol of Havana. Image by DepositPhotos.com

It is also good to get off the beaten track to explore the incredible scenery and culture of the entire island. Each place in Cuba offers a completely new and unique experience.

Here are my top five best places to visit in Cuba (cities) listed in order of most favored to least.

These Cuba cities are sure to leave an imprint on your heart.

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5 Cities in Cuba to visit

1. Trinidad De Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba
Street scene in Trinidad. Image by DepositPhotos.com

Trinidad De Cuba cannot be missed!

As one of the most preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean it is to be admired for its preservation, cleanliness and culture.

Lined with cobblestone streets, you walk around in awe of the pastel and bright coloured buildings and the well-kept grounds and gardens.

There are so many photo opportunities to be had in one of the best cities to visit in Cuba!

Cars are not allowed in the centre so it is nice to meander around to the various markets, artesian shops, and art studios.

Enjoy a meal in a colonial home restaurant with 19th century antique furniture and come out to find a band playing tunes on a cobblestone corner.

Traditional musicians playing in the streets in Trinidad
Traditional musicians playing in the streets in Trinidad. Image by DepositPhotos.com

Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museums are plenty.

Take a visit to the Museo Histrico Municipal and venture up to the tower with a panoramic view of the city.

The town center is about 20 km from the beach but an escape from the sweaty city in a Collectivo is well worth the refreshing swim in the Caribbean Sea.

This city presents its soul at night.

Plaza Mayor, the main square comes alive with both locals and tourists coming together to watch and listen to the Salsa band or join in on the dancing.

Others take to walking the streets to enjoy the bars with their cocktails in plastic cups. The partygoers take a walk down a dirt track for about 4kms to the “Rave in the Cave”.

This is a nightclub in an underground cave playing mostly Salsa and Reggaeton music.

We partied until dawn, raving in a cave. If you dare to risk walking the dirt track, in return you will get one of the best nights of your life!

Hotels to stay in Trinidad De Cuba:

2. Havana

old car in Cuba

Havana will be your first stop on your group tour to Cuba. But be sure not to get stuck here.

It is easy to forget the rest of the island because you won’t want to leave this cosmopolitan side of Cuba!

Whilst it has a spectacular nightlife, the days are just as charming and fun.

It is a city of many faces and places.

Walk the streets in La Habana Vieja or the Old Town for the many different sights. Be drawn to the preserved Colonial architecture & structures, whilst the run down, derelict buildings also draw you in for their mysterious feel and photographic appeal.

Take a tour of the Museo de la Revolucion to gain an appreciation for Cuban history and culture.

Stroll along the Malecon; the seawall right along the coast.

And a stop at Hotel Nacional for a sunset drink is a good way to enjoy the sea views.

Havana, Cuba - if you are planning a trip to Cuba, here are 5 amazing cities in Cuba to visit.
Havana, Cuba. Image by DepositPhotos.com

If you want to step back in time for old-fashioned flair, El Floridita is a beautiful historic hotel with great live music and dancing.

For more sizzling nightlife action, the basement discotheque at El Café Cantante is the place to bump and grind!

Havana will ignite your fire and give you an unforgettable experience.

Be sure to get in a salsa dance lesson (one of the top things to do in Cuba), a trip to the cigar factory and a ride in a vintage car and if you are there in season, a seat at the baseball game to chew the local tobacco.

Hotels to stay in Havana:

3. Baracoa

Baracoa Cuba city to visit

Baracoa is the hidden gem of Cuba!

Isolated from the rest of the country in the Guantanamo Province, the isolation has kept Baracoa authentic and untouched.

It is small, relaxing and a lot quieter than the other cities.

It offers a place to chill with the beach, mountainous surrounds and tropical rains. You soon become intimate with the locals seeing the same faces everywhere you go.

Known as the “First City” for being the first capital of Cuba, founded in the early 16th century by Explorer Diego Velazquez and for retaining much of its colonial architecture.

Well at least when I was there in Feb 2017. Sadly in Sep 2017 Hurricane Irma swept through and left a trail of destruction to homes and buildings.

Baracoa Cuba

Take a visit to El Yunque, a mountain overlooking the city where you can hike and explore the lush green environment near my favourite Cuban beach, Playa Maguana.

Enjoy a delicious seafood lunch here at the Maguana Beach Bar Restaurant.

Have a mojito in a coconut on a beach chair and even dance salsa with the chef during lunch service! Nowhere else but Cuba!

Salsa dancing cuba

Another highlight was the visit to the Cacao Plantation. Cacao was one of the early agricultural pursuits in Baracoa and the city is dripping in chocolate.

It is on sale everywhere and there are many different versions of it.

The tour of the Rancho Toa plantation was about $2 CUC and we were shown step-by-step how the local farmer makes the chocolate from the cacao beans which are grown from fruit trees.

Taste a cup of Chorote, the local chocolate drink made from ground cacao and locally made coconut milk.

Rumbumba is the daring version of Chorote, the difference being the addition of local rum!

cities to visit in Cuba

Hotels to stay in Baracoa:

4. Santiago de Cuba

Santiago Cuba

The heart of the second largest of the cities in Cuba is the main square, Parque Cespedes, where the architecture is beautiful and all the action happens.

The best spot to be in all of Santiago is sitting above the square at the rooftop bar of Hotel Casa Granda looking at a stone angel on top of the cathedral across the street with the sun setting through the harbor and mountains behind.

As the major cities in Cuba, both Havana and Santiago have a rich heritage of music and dance and they have a rivalry over which scene is best.

They are both vibrant cities in cultural and musical life so it is hard to compare.

Even though Santiago is the birthplace of Salsa, Havana still gets my vote.

Take a trip to the coastline and explore the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a 17th century fortress overlooking the bay.

The history is fascinating with breathtaking scenery and offers a cool breeze away from the scorching hot city.

Hotels to stay in Santiago de Cuba:

5. Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos cuba city to visit

Cienfuegos became a trading place for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee when the French founded it. The French Influence is why it has a unique feel and a lot of wealth.

Known as La Perla del Sur, or the Pearl of the South, it has a relaxed and breezy vibe that sets it apart from the other places to visit in Cuba.

The city center is Pueblo Nuevo, where you can explore the history museums, dine at an outdoor cafe, or purchase some local hand made goods from the markets.

Here, the Casa Particulares are quite a few notches above the rest in Cuba.

Our casa had French provincial décor and a newly renovated bathroom with marble! It was actually quite a shock to experience this unusual sort of wealth in Cuba given the communist situation.

Hotels to stay in Cienfuegos:

Book your Tour to Cuba

Below are the tour companies we trust and support.

Intrepid Travel has a tour specific to the Cuban people category for Americans traveling to Cuba.

Intrepid Travel Tours:

G Adventures also offer:

ViaHero:

If you want to do more independent travel in Cuba, connect with a ViaHero local before you head down to Cuba.

They will use their expert Cuba local knowledge to help you plan the perfect Cuba trip for you and get to know the local culture better and give your support for the Cuban. (We’ve organized a 5% discount for our readers through that link).

Need More Tips for Cuba?

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Ontraport Review: Kickass Email Marketing Automation for Growth…


I’ve spent the past few weeks preparing for my talk at TBEX on how to build a loyal community through email marketing.

It is one of my favorite ways to communicate with our community and I can do so many fun and clever things with it thanks to my email marketing software.

how to build your email list

Ontraport has been my email marketing automation software tool now for nearly five years. It was a giant leap for me to move from the restrictive MailChimp over to Ontraport due to the large increase in my monthly subscription fee.

But, I knew I was in business, which means you invest in the right tools to help you maximize leverage and scale. MailChimp couldn’t do it for me. If I was serious about email marketing and business growth, Ontraport was the marketing service that would help me get there.

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It was time to perfect my email marketing strategy and use this powerful tool to stand out from the crowd and grow my business. I had to make the expense justifiable by using it to bring good returns.

Since I am still here five years later you can say it was a worthy investment that has helped me create six figures through email marketing alone.

Would you spend $300 a month to automate and scale your business so you can create five or six or even seven figures in income?  #nobrainer

Yes. It’s a risk because you could fail and not bring in any income making that a very expensive tool that drains your resources. However, business growth does not come without risk, and whether that risk ends in a positive or negative result all depends on you.

Ontraport review Content Guide

Ontraport: A powerful all in one email marketing automation platform

all in one email list building tool Ontraport

I can’t even begin to explain all the features that Ontraport has that helps me build community, saves me time and money, and helps me create money.

I probably only use about 40% of what it can do.

Thanks to the exciting nature of my travel blog business, I’m required to travel a lot so I can only do so much. I’m working on mastering the basics and adding in more complex things when I can.

Ontraport is not a perfect system. It can be at times, frustratingly buggy, but I’m still here because I can handle those bugs for everything else it does for me. Most email marketing software companies are going to be a bit buggy as you are dealing with pretty complex automated actions and algorithms.

But what I love about Ontraport, is that they are constantly listening, improving, and adding in new features. I trust them to take care of me.

No matter your business, Ontraport will become like the fulcrum of it. It would be like having the snazziest retail space on the Magnificent Mile. The thing that brings in your peeps, keeps them there and makes you money.

Except there is only so much you can do in the retail space to funnel the visitors in.

With Ontraport you can keep them hanging around loving and buying from you for years. Ontraport allows you to automate your entire business on just one platform.

Preparing my talk has inspired me to write this Ontraport review. Yes I am an affiliate of them. I only align with products I know, like and trust. And with Ontraport, it’s a long term love.

Ontraport email marketing automation features

how to earn money blogging

If you are looking for an email marketing automation software, these are the features of Ontraport I think are the most outstanding for helping you leverage and scale.

1. Optin forms

I hated using Mailchimp because of their limitations when it came to creating optin forms (amongst other things I hated about it) It may have changed by now. It’s been a long time since I’ve used it, thank goodness.

Creating optin forms are so easy with Ontraport, and you can make them as simple or complex as you like.

example optin form ontraport
Example optin form

I can create optin forms to embed in a post, a site wide pop up, or via a clickable link that opens up like a pop up. Leadpages charges an obscene amount each month to do this. Use Ontraport and you’ve just wiped out that expense of around $60 a month.

You can see the optin form on our homepage and at the bottom of this post. They were custom designed, but they easily sync with Ontraport. So you can still custom design your own optins.

Here’s an example of a click to pop up lightbox.

If you want more advanced tips and tricks, join our digital lifestyle email community. We’ll give you free email training – on the 4 biggest blogging mistakes we’ve made and how to overcome them.

Click to learn how to avoid the mistakes now!

You can get as fancy or as simple as you like with your optin forms. I prefer simple, quick and effective so my designs won’t be too elaborate.

And if you are new to our site, when you make an intent to leave (that is head towards the back button or X, an optin pop up  asking for your email address will appear). Again, you could pay other tools to create something that does that. With Ontraport you can do it in a matter of a couple of minutes.

2. Advance segmentation, targeting and rules

Before Ontraport, I used to send an email to everyone on my list, because I didn’t have any targeting or segmenting capabilities.

You can’t send out one message to an entire list and expect it will be relevant to all. What you end up doing is annoying people, who then unsubscribe.

I was making this huge mistake with our subscribers. We have a wide range of readers, some who are interested in family travel, some in solo travel, and some digital nomad lifestyle.

If I keep sending digital lifestyle content to those who have no interest in it, they’ll pretty soon realize they are in the wrong room and leave.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can embrace list diversity with tagging and segmentation.

Advanced segmentation allows me to place my contacts onto interest lists based upon:

  • how they signed up
  • what they signed up for
  • how they click around in emails
  • what information they’ve given me on a form.

You can then easily create rules which determines what list the new subscriber goes into and what email marketing campaign sequence I send them that relates to their tag or action within your emails.

For example, this rule tells the system that when someone selects they most need help with planning their trip from our homepage optin form, they will be be sent the welcome email series that provides them with useful tips and resources on travel planning.

ontraport tagging and segmenting

Once you strategize and set it up, they system then automates everything for you. It’s like having multiple clones of yourself.

Email targeting helps me keep high open rates and click through rates, which is want everyone marketing via email likes to see.

One way I segment is with a simple survey form, which then lets me know the subscribers

  • gender
  • age
  • location
  • travel style
  • destination interests.

That way I only send new posts to those who are actually interested in that destination. That is being useful, which is a huge component of building a loyal community.

So for example, if they selected interested in Australia, my system tags them AustraliaInterest. Then when it’s time to send the email, I just select, send it to those with the AustraliaInterest tag.

My survey and rules also allows me to automatically send Happy Birthday messages as well which our subscribers love!

Tagging and segmentation capabilities makes Ontraport especially powerful and your communication becomes so much more than just sending out email newsletters.

3. Campaign mapping

Campaign mapping is relatively new to Ontraport. It’s an example of how this company is always evolving and creating ways to stand out in the email marketing software industry.

Campaign mapping turns complex email marketing campaigns into simple sophistication.  It gives you a birds eye visual overview of your strategy and how you are implementing it and puts in one easy to follow place your messages, tags, rules, and segments.

Instead of having rules and messages scattered in a million different places, which you can easily lose track of, this puts it all into one place and helps you become systemized and be become better at leverage and scaling with your email marketing automation. It helps funnel your subscribers through an easy to follow system, which leads to more leads and sales.

It also provides handy stats showing you how people are moving through your campaigns and allowing you to see what needs tweaking.

When I first started using Ontraport, it was all over the place. Campaign Mapping was implemented last year and has been a lifesaver and a total gamechanger in the email marketing software world.

See more and book a demo here

4. Facebook customization

Ontraport integrates with Facebook audiences seamlessly. It’s an easy set up to create your Facebook audiences based upon your email segmentation lists (however you want to do it).

With a simple trigger and an action rule added into your campaigns, every time a new subscriber is added to that group or list, it automatically updates them within your Facebook audience.

Now you can get super targeted and very clever with your Facebook ads going to your warm markets and funneling them through your system.

You do not have to manually update your email list into Facebook every couple of weeks or so to keep up with your email list growth. You set it up once via Ontraport and Facebook API’s and then it’s all automated from then on.

This is MAJOR gold for those who sell their own products and enjoy remarketing advertising strategies on Facebook.

I just wish I had more time to dive deeply into this, as there is soooo much you can do with it.

The trick is to start somewhere and then to just do the best you can with what you have from where you are.

5. Ontraport Pages: landing pages made easy

Ontraport also comes with its own landing pages, called Ontrapages. You can create an entire website using just Ontraport. I prefer to stick with the WordPress system.

Although I know Ontraport hare getting ready to launch their new and drastically improved Ontrapages,  which will make it even more of a standout and possibly a great option for people who don’t want to use WordPress.

I like the landing pages because they help me quickly whip up landing pages I need for various optins, order forms and thank you pages. If I did them on my own site, I’d have to get it custom built which would be super expensive.

Here are two examples of landing pages that have taken me less than half an hour to create:

I can get a decent customized landing page using the Ontrapages – they have various templates you can copy and use or easily build your own look with their various blocks.

I can easily add videos, downloads, images and links to resources on my site. The best thing is that I don’t have to build a landing page from scratch whenever I need one.

I can simply copy any landing page I have already created and liked. Then I slightly tweak it to suit whatever new landing page I need. I can have a landing page up and published in a matter of 10 minutes sometimes.

You can host the landing pages using Ontraport servers or I can integrate it on your website, using the Ontrapages plugin. So even though its designed and hosted through Ontraport it has the ytravelblog.com URL and looks like it belongs on our site.

It is not as sharp and clean as it would be if I had them custom designed on my site, because the branding and style is not exact to my style, but it is good enough considering it doesn’t cost me any extra, particularly in custom design. As mentioned, the improvements (I’ve had a sneak peek) will make it that much better.

You can see more of the Ontrapages here

6. Contact Management automation

Ontraport is also a contact management system, which is handy for those who offer services and manage bookings and meetings etc. Again, there are tools within Ontraport to automate all of that and keep you on track with the tasks required to follow up with your clients (potential or otherwise).

It’s not something I’ve needed to use just yet so can’t dive into that for you. I definitely want to start using it more for our tourism clients and it is the next system for me to create instead of having them floating around in my gmail inbox.

I’ve met many Ontraport users who tell me it’s a life saver with the complex tasks it can do to help automation and follow up efficient and effective.

7. Tips and Tricks: How to eliminate inbox overwhelm?

Are you fed up with the amount of emails flooding your inbox?

So many of them are asking the same old questions and you can’t keep up with all your canned responses. You can hire a VA to take care of it, or you can simply automate it.

My favorite system I have managed to put together using Ontraport has saved me hours of email inbox time and and reduced my need to hire a VA. I was STOKED when I figured out how I could use Ontraport to automate my inbox!

I’ve simply created an optin form through Ontraport with specific fields related to why they are contacting me. I have a series of rules that connect to what their selection is, which then sends an automated response that is related to that reason for contacting me.

contact automation ontraport

The automated reply gives them all relevant information related to their question and they are advised of the next steps in contacting me. If it is people asking for travel or blogging advice, I send them directly to all the information on our site, letting them know that we don’t give personal advice and inviting them to also join our VIP email list.

If they are contacting me in regards to advertising or partnership they get the automated email with our media kits and case studies.

I get a notification of each new contact request. I can quickly scan it to see if it is relevant. I delete 90% of them straight away. I don’t have to attend to it as my automated email has already taken care of that.

The 10% are the ones I respond to.

It has given me back so much time, eliminated frustration, and removed the need for a VA to handle my emails. All of which saves me money and helps me make more money. A brilliant ROI!

Do you want the automated inbox formula?

SPECIAL OFFER:

Note, if you decide Ontraport is for you, and sign up using my affiliate link, I will give you video instructions on how to set up this contact form automation to save you from inbox hell.

It’s best that you clear your cache and click this link to sign up when you are ready. That way I can be sure you’ll be assigned to my link and you won’t miss out.

Just send me an email when you have done that (cazcraig [at] ytravelblog.com) , and I’ll get the instructions to you. It is a bonus thank you for those who sign up via this affiliate link though. If you aren’t linked to my name, I can’t do it, so please cleared the cache first and then join immediately.

8. Some other incredible features of the Ontraport email marketing software

  • The data analysis capabilities with Ontraport are off the chart. You can see exactly what
    • your subscribers are doing in real time
    • what campaigns are working
    • where they tend to fail
    • how you can fix it.

You can also peer into the future and see how certain changes may affect your subscriber and conversion rates.  You can easily score your leads depending on how hot and cold they are.

  • Ontraport easily integrates with Stripe and PayPal, making it a full ecommerce suite featuring
    • secure order forms,
    • flexible payment options
    • upsells
    • coupon codes and more.
  • If you sell products and have affiliates for that program, you can easily use Ontraport to manage your affiliates. I am affiliates for a lot of different companies, and I use the OP affiliate area myself. It is way better than anything I’ve used before.
  • You can get people onto your email list through text sign up. You can then utilize the powerful SMS marketing through it.

It’s ridiculous how much you get with the Ontraport software. Other marketing software platforms just don’t compare and are way more expensive when you consider how many software tools are really included in this one Ontraport platform.

See more features of Ontraport here.

Ontraport Subscription things to note

  • There are various subscription plans that grow with your business
  • Ontraport offers a free demo of the product before joining
  • There is a great onboarding experience which will help you learn the tool when you first start
  • There are no long term contracts required.
  • There is a 90 day Money-Back guarantee.
  • You can get discounts if you pay annually, which I do. It is a big upfront payment but it will save you 18% each year. It helped me save a lot of money when I was paying in Australian dollars and dealing with currency fluctuation and fees.

Check out Ontraport prices and subscription plans here

Excellent Customer Service

The customer service with Ontraport is second to none. They greet you by your name, they spend time with you, they help you troubleshoot and set up systems. I adore their customer service team.

They’ve been so great with calming me down when I’ve been frustrated and annoyed, which will happen when you are dealing with technology and software. It doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

I was so frustrated at one point a couple of years ago that I was going to leave Ontraport. One of the managers, Brendan was amazing on the phone to me with how he managed me and calmed me down. It completely changed my perspective.

He then organized a call with me for the next week to go over my strategy and see what the issue was. We figured it out.

That was the point where I said,

I’m going to quit wasting time and money not understanding this tool and go to Bootcamp to learn how to do I properly.

OMG. Total gamechanger. I am now a devout and loyal Ontraport user. Unless this company goes bankrupt, which I doubt, I will never leave them!

Ontraport Bootcamp

Ontraport bootcamp

I highly recommend you attend a bootcamp as soon as you sign up. When I first joined Ontraport, I used a VA to set everything up and take care of implementing my strategy.

While she was great, I realized that this was a mistake, as I am the head of my business, only I know how to strategize and plan for it.

Ontraport is a huge tool that can easily help you implement your strategy for leverage and automation. You must know and understand the tool correctly so you know exactly what you can do with it.

As soon as I saw the power of the tool, ideas started firing off in my head like firecrackers on New Years Eve. I could easily see what I could do with it to help grow my business. Before that I was just walking around in the dark.

In fact, I love it so much, I am attending Bootcamp again at the end of September.

Because I bought my Ontrapalooza tickets for this year at last years conference, I got bonus free tickets to bootcamp. So I’m going to go for a refresher and I have booked an extra two days to do the certification course, which means I can be a certified consultant for Ontraport.

I don’t really want this to be another arm of my business, I just want to attend to learn more about the complex things you can do with the system. I consider Ontraport to be my CEO, so I better get on board with its power and make it get to work!!

Bootcamp is held several times a year at Ontraport headquarters in Santa Barbara, and once in Sydney. The bootcamp I am attending is right before Ontrapalooza which makes it easier for me to go.

Ontrapalooza conference for small business owners

Ontrapalooza

I attend and speak at a lot of conferences. My favorite by far is Ontrapalooza held every year in October by the Ontraport company.

It’s one of the only conferences where I’ve learned insider secrets and completely new strategies and techniques that were actionable and have given me immediate growth and ROI.

What I love about it, is that it is a conference for small business owners run by an email marketing software platform and start ups.

It’s so different to typical travel blogging, or blogging social media conferences I go to, where the mindset is usually of hobbyists, people wanting free stuff, or people not knowing what they are doing.

This is okay by the way. I don’t say this to be judgmental and critical. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing every day.

But startups and small business owners have business plans and a very strategic and professional outlook from the beginning.

They are focused on monetization, scaling, leverage and growth.  These are higher level business skills and it’s what I want to learn about.

What also made Ontrapalooza outstanding is that you learn techniques and strategies that you can instantly implement through the software.

Often I leave conferences with a huge pile of notes and action steps, but end up feeling lost and confused as to how to make it happen. Not at Ontrapalooza. There are workshops to show you how to do it, so you can implement immediately.

Only a few months after the conference, I had a Facebook ad strategy in place (that works), I had a separate travel writers group set up through my system, and I had a new self segmenting email series implemented as well as a few other tweaks and refinements. My ROI automatically went up as a result.

We also won the Modern Ontrapreneur award for the excellence in the field of Publishing. (Move over Lonely Planet)

I also met Landon Ray, the founder of Ontraport at the conference, and he is one lovely down to earth person.

Here’s a story that showcases how caring he is to his community. At the awards party, he was chatting with a new friend of mine. He noticed a gentleman standing by his side for some time.

He excused himself from my friend, saying, “I see that man standing on his own. I’m going to go and talk to him.” I saw him leave my friend and walk over with a big smile, shook the man’s hand and talked to him for some time. That’s quality treatment and rare to see from CEOs.

He is also very active in the Ontraport Facebook group sharing his wisdom and answering questions and taking on board people’s feedback to help improve the product.

I purchased a ticket for this year’s Ontrapalooza (next month) at the conference, which Craig and I will attend. With my uncertain lifestyle, booking anything more than six weeks in advance is very rare for me. Ontrapalooza is the only conference I’ll make that commitment to.

I’ll be there in a month and next year too. Will I see you there?

Some things I don’t like about Ontraport

Ontraport features

It’s hard to come up with a list like this when you love a product so much.

Of course it is not perfect, but I tend to see things on a whole, emotional level, so if I love a product and it transforms my life and helps me scale and grow and gives me ORI then I’m like, “who cares if it’s not perfect?”

  • As mentioned it can be buggy, which can be annoying when writing emails and cursors jump and styling changes, but you work out how to get around it.
  • Sometimes it doesn’t integrate with other software tools, but I find it integrates with everything I need to use. Zapier can often help create a connection between two apps.
  • It’s expensive, but honestly, for what it can do, it really isn’t.
  • There is a huge learning curve with it. Be patient and learn it. It’s totally worth it.
  • I don’t like the current  landing pages too well. Even OP have admitted it’s not brilliant, BUT are working on making it so. They’ll be releasing the new look and capabilities at this year’s Ontrapalooza.
  • I just don’t have enough time to use it to its full capacity. This is my issue however, not Ontraport. It’s an all in one system that saves you paying for multiple other tools. I still get immense value from it only use a third of what it can do.
  • There is a membership site capabilities which I use, in part, for my 30 Days to Money Mindfulness course. It’s excellent at helping you set up drip emails and membership site technical things. However, I also had to purchase OptimizePress to help me design something that looked good to use with it. I couldn’t get anything to look nice or sync up well using Ontraport membership plug in and Ontrapages. It was also a nightmare to sync up the OptimizePress with Ontraport. They are making huge improvements to landing pages so I’m hoping this will work better with membership sites.

So you can see from the features I mentioned above, Ontraport can help you effortlessly target, segment and automate optin forms, tagging, email campaigns (sequences), landing pages, Facebook advertising, data analysis,and content management.

It is a very powerful all in one tool that will help you leverage and scale so you and build a profitable business and a loyal following.

Go book your demo now

Next post I will share with you my favorite design tool! Discovered at Ontrapalooza last year and is now a cannot live without service!

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7 Helpful Tips for a New England Road Trip in the Fall…


If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know we love road trips. And a New England road trip in the fall has always been high on our bucket list.

Tips for a New England road trip in the fall

Back home in Australia our trees are mostly evergreens. And since moving to the USA in 2004, we’d never made it further than New York City.

That was until, last fall, when we road tripped through Vermont and New Hampshire.

In case you don’t know, New England consists of six states; Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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The region offers natural beauty, culture and incredible history.

New England Road Trip in the fall - see the Bennington Battle Monument in Vermont
Bennington Battle Monument, Vermont

But when you think of New England, you might think of it’s world famous fall foliage. It’s one of the most popular things to do in New England.

In fact, chasing the New England fall foliage has become so popular people are referred to as “leaf peepers”.

All up we spent a week exploring Vermont, taking in Manchester (one of the best New England towns), the Green Mountain National Forest, driving through covered bridges and along the famous Vermont Route 100.

We also visited Burlington and picturesque Stowe – one of our favorite places to visit in New England.

New England road trip tips - Visit Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont
Church Street Marketplace, Burlington

Then we had a few days in New Hampshire exploring the White Mountains and Franconia State Park, and drove along the spectacular Kancamagus Scenic Byway!

Below are our travel tips for planning a New England fall road trip.

Tips for a New England Road Trip in the Fall

1. When to Go

New England Road Trip in the Fall - 7 tips for planning a road trip to see the famous New England fall foliage
Vermont Route 100

If you plan to road trip New England in the fall, typically late September to mid-October is considered the best time to visit New England to see the fall foliage.

But it varies state-by-state.

It can be a bit of a challenge to time your visit for “peak” viewing of the leaves and when they are “popping”. Check out this fall foliage map or this one for a guide.

The changing of the colors is a different show every year due to temperatures and moisture leading up to it, and the leaves begin to change first in the northern most states, Maine peaks first, so keep an eye on Maine then follow their progress down.

family friendly bike ride on the Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont New England (3)
Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont

We were about a week too late to see them really popping in Vermont and New Hampshire, but they were still more beautiful than we’d ever seen before!

Although we only visited Vermont and New Hampshire, we did drive up to New England from our home in North Carolina which took in Connecticut and Massachusetts briefly.

But apparently you can’t go wrong with anywhere in New England in the fall. Just keep in mind that prime leaf peeping conditions often last only a week or two!

2. Booking Accommodation

Wilburton Inn, Manchester, Vermont
Our cottage at Wilburton Inn, Manchester, VT

As mentioned, visiting New England in the fall is popular which means higher prices and booking ahead as much as possible.

Or, if you don’t mind embracing the road trip spirit and booking accommodations on the spot, you can get lucky with last minute deals.

To look for hotels or apartments and guest houses, we start with Booking.com. And also check reviews on Trip Advisor. 

Another site we partnered with on our New England road trip was Glamping Hub who have unique properties and it was through this site that we stayed at our charming cottage at Wilburton Inn.

Wilburton Inn, VT
Wilburton Inn, VT

And if you want to stay in someone’s home or apartment, obviously Airbnb and Homeaway are other sites to consider.

Depending on the size of your traveling party, you can even just book a private room in and Airbnb property whilst they are still there which is cheaper and you do get the locals perspective!

We also like to use our American Express credit card which accumulates points we can use towards booking hotels through their travel portal as another way to save money.

Tips for Saving Money on Accommodation:

  • Stay More Than 1 Night – many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
  • Stay over Sunday – many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.
  • Check for Family Deals – Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
  • Enrol in a Loyalty Program – Many hotel chains offer free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future road trip

3. Renting a Car

Tips for a road trip New England

If you are driving into New England from your home like we did, you’ll obviously have your won car.

But if you live too far away or are flying in from overseas, you’ll need a rental car. 

The best way to visit New England and explore the small towns and scenery is by doing a New England road trip.

If flying in, the obvious starting point is Boston.

You could easily spend a day or two in Boston exploring all the incredible history. Consider walking the Freedom Trail, or even popping out to Harvard University. 

New England fall foliage in Vermont. Get tips inside for doing a New England road trip in the fall

Tips to Save Money on Rental Cars:

  • Book in advance
  • Check prices frequently
  • Use an agregator site like RentalCars.com that searches all the major rental car companies at once to find the cheapest price
  • Adjust pick-up and drop-off times
  • Book the smallest vehicle you need
  • Off-airport locations are usually cheaper
  • Be wary of one-way drop-off fees

Read More –  19 tips for saving money on rental cars. 

Fall Foliage Tours:

If you don’t want to drive your own car, or even rent a car, Viator offers a one day fall foliage tour from Boston.

Or, to go in-depth, a 10 day New England fall foliage tour including Cape Cad.

4. Travel Mid-Week

Moss Glen Falls, Vermont. See this waterfall on a New England road trip
Moss Glen Falls, Vermont

Fall in New England is a busy time, but the weekend’s are especially busy as not only do you have tourists, but locals on their days off from work leaf peeping!

So if you can time your New England road trip to avoid weekends and make it a midweek trip it will help you to save money on high priced accommodation and avoid the crowds.

And keep in mind local events and festivals, which can also add to demand for accommodation and raise prices, so avoid those dates as well.

5. Eating out in New England

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

As a family of four, eating out three times per day adds up real fast.

So where possible we like to stay in apartments or guest houses or Airbnb’s that have kitchen facilities so we can self cater as much as possible to save on eating out.

By staying in places with a refrigerator you can store breakfast foods, snacks, and bottled water. Purchasing your own supplies from the grocery store can save you big bucks.

But we like to experience the local food as much as possible, it’s a big part of the traveling experience, and we always get the best tips from asking the locals or from our online community.

JJ Hapgood General Store, Vermont
JJ Hapgood General Store, Vermont

And you do want to try classic New England foods like clam chowder, lobster roll (seafood in general), maple syrup and warm apple cider!

So finding a balance between eating out and self-catering is important.

Ways to Save Money on Food:

  • Go out for Breakfast or Lunch – Try and avoid dinner as restaurants raise prices. OR, have brunch instead of 3 meals a day. Many restaurants offer lunch specials where items on the dinner menu are offered for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for the same meal in the evening.
  • One meal for two kids – Our kids are young enough to share one kid’s meal so on most occasions we only buy one. You can always buy another if they’re still hungry but you can’t send one back!
  • Free Breakfasts – When booking a hotel look for one with breakfast included. Also, have picnics or barbeque’s
  • Pack plenty of healthy snacks for yourselves and your kids for the car.
  • Bring an insulated stainless steel water bottle that you can refill (buying water several times a day adds up).

6. Beware of Toll Roads

Mount Mansfield toll road Stowe Vermont
Mount Mansfield toll road

Who knew the North East had so many toll roads?!

On our drive up 1-95 from North Carolina and then into New England, we couldn’t believe how many times we were confronted with a toll booth.

Once we pulled off the interstate to get gas, and right off the exit was ANOTHER toll booth!

We ran out of cash there were that many collection booths!

And we’d never heard of an EZ Pass before (an electronic toll collection system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels) and were initially confused as to how the whole system worked – luckily there are still humans working at some of the booths!

So get yourself an EZ Pass for your car or talk to your rental car company about including one.

7. Visit the Tourist Information Center

Things to do on a New England road trip - Hiking the Prospect Rock Trail in Manchester Vermont.
Hiking the Prospect Rock Trail in Manchester, Vermont.

We always make a point of stopping in at the local tourist information centers.

The locals working here know all the best places to visit in New England and are a wealth of knowledge, and that includes the New England foliage.

Plus you can pick up maps and information on all the free things to do in each town, ask about the best places to eat and drink, if any events or festivals are happening, and get tips on the best hikes and photography spots.

And, they often have coupon books for attractions and even accommodation.

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What is it with Bathrooms in the US? (they’re strange)…


It might seem strange to have a post on bathrooms when visiting a Western country like the USA.

But, there are a few things about bathrooms in America to be aware of.

When I say bathroom, I mean the place where you actually have a bath, and also the place where you eliminate waste.

First rule is to call the area that houses toilets restrooms or bathrooms. Some Americans, particularly in the south, get a bit funny when you call it a toilet! I know. I know. Some weird etiquette thing.

One thing I know for sure is that I am certainly NOT going into rest or take a bath when I’m going to the toilet.

But, when in Rome.

Public Restrooms in the US

using public restrooms in the usa

Let’s first tackle the dunny area.

For our non-Aussie readers, the dunny is our slang term for toilet. Years of living overseas has kind of erased this from my vocabulary so it’s fun for me to write it here.

Just for kicks, why not ask your bar or wait staff where the dunny is? It can really open the doors for fun conversations and cultural exchanges.

Let’s look at a few distinct issues you may have with US restrooms. It’s always great to be prepared.

Lack of actual toilets

It’s getting better, but typically most bars, clubs and restaurants have only 1 or 2 stalls in the bathrooms. It’s ridiculous, especially if you are in a packed bar.

Sometimes we’ve had to line up 15 minutes just to go to the toilet, and when we lived in Raleigh (before kids), my girlfriends and I almost always snuck into the men’s.

I just don’t do lines well.

In one bar in Raleigh, the line for the men’s toilet far exceeds the ladies. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced that.

Personnel attendants

I’ll never forget my state of confusion the first time I encountered a personal attendant in the restroom. WTF do I do here?

They’ll pass you hand soap and towels and will even have fragrances to spray on you. Note, these are mostly found in night clubs and late night venues. Got to have you smelling fine for whoever you are hoping to attract your way.

Be warned. They are not just doing it to be super kind. Which I thought.

“God, isn’t America lovely. Thank you.” Take the spray and walk away.

These attendants are working for tips. So unless you want to hand over a buck for the spray then kindly say, “no thank you” and walk out with your odor following closely behind.

Gaps in toilet doors

Who the hell made this the protocol for stall doors in the US? And why was it ever approved?

There are huge gaps between the stall doors which makes it so easy for people to see you sitting on the toilet. This blows my mind and is very common.

It reminds me of traveling through China where there were no doors or walls separating you from your fellow pee-ers and those waiting in line.

They’re not always gender specific

It’s very common to find bathrooms in small cafes and restaurants that aren’t gender specific. It will be labeled or just obvious as there is only one stall.

It’s fairly accepted for a woman to run into the men’s restroom if it’s one stall only and is empty.  I think this is great!

Everything is automated

Am I the only person in the world who can never find the laser beam sweet spot to make the soap, water, and paper towels magically appear?

It drives me crazy. I spend minutes standing at the sink waving my hands this way and that.

I finally get the water to run and then I move my hands together and it stops. Then I start the whole process again, cursing as to why they can’t just let us turn the bloody things on ourselves.

I keep thinking they’ll go back to the good ole days when manual worked well and then I get more frustrated because they won’t and this will be my experience with every public toilet visit from now on.

Tell me your wave technique please!

Then you move to the paper towel and experience the same thing. Sometimes you’re fed up and you try and pull the sheet out yourself and end up tearing a tiny bit of paper to wipe your hands with.

The toilet flushes are automated too.

So you’re halfway through your business and you move your butt ever so slightly, which signals to the magic laser that you are off the toilet and swooosh, there goes the flush.

If you have little ones, they may get pretty scared by this and jump off.

If the automatic flush fails, look on the side of the contraption, there should be a small black button you can press which will fire the flush.

Toilets that are manual flush will just have the one button. Unlike Aussie earth friendly ones, which have the two flushes – the half flush for number 1 and the full flush for number 2.

I am starting to see more of them over here now!

Too much water in the bowl

There is a lot of water in an American toilet bowl.

It is a significant difference to the small amount in Aussie toilet bowls. It may concern you when you first look at it and think it’s blocked.

No.

I can tell you if it gets blocked, the water rises very quickly and overflows fast. As there is just too much water in there to begin with!!!

Apparently the water swirls in a different direction as well. Something to do with southern and northern hemispheres and the Coriolis effect.

To be honest, I am not that observant so cannot verify it.

Disposable toilet seat covers

You’ll find these in almost every public toilet.

Just as complicated as the automation and shower heads to figure out how to use. And they kind of kill my rule of being in a restroom for as little time as possible.

Don’t pee in public

Men, don’t go peeing in the bushes wherever you please.

I know you’re okay with it back in Australia and possibly everyone else is too. You could get arrested for indecent exposure in the US.

Seriously. Craig’s been pulled over by the cops before and spread over our car while our friend, Bert, and I sat in the dark car in drunken hysterics, especially his response,

“Sorry mate. I’m Australian. It’s okay to do this back home.”

“Well you’re in America now Sir.”

I think the cultural misunderstanding may have saved him.

You don’t want to mess with the police in the US.

The good news is, except for late night venues, most restrooms in America are kept fairly clean.

How do I work the shower?

hotel bathrooms usa

After you visit the US, come back to this post and tell me how many times you had to ring the hotel desk to ask them how to work the shower.

I am not kidding you. You think it’s something as simple as turning the damn faucet in one direction.

No.

Every shower is different. It’s mind baffling how they can take something so simple and make it as complicated as Einstein’s algorithms.

Be sure to call it a faucet. If you say tap, the odds are an American won’t understand you.

We road tripped with my parents for a month and one of the first things they commented on was the difficulty of getting the shower to work.

I put an update on our Facebook page just to check it wasn’t just us. No it’s not, we had a flurry of activity of people sharing similar US shower woes.

It’s a US travel condition.

My advice to you is to not get undressed until you have the shower working. There’s a good chance you will have to redress yourself in order to get help.

Leave yourself enough time so you can fix potential shower issues and perhaps take notes as to how you made it work. I’m not kidding. It’s easy to forget once you get out exploring.

Usually the shower consists of just one faucet that combines hot and cold. The hot and cold direction can differ from shower to shower. Most baffling is that so many of them aren’t even labelled as which direction is hot and cold.

Not even a small blue or red dot to help.

It often (perhaps always) takes FOREVER for the water to heat up. I’m talking sometimes over 2 minutes (these cold winters over here don’t help much with that!).

That’s a bloody long time and a bloody long waste of water. My love for Mother Earth causes much an ache in my heart every time this happens.

So if the tap is not labelled hot or cold, you could have turned it in the wrong direction and be waiting waiting waiting for the water to warm up, but it’s not going to because you’ve turned it to cold.

So you spend forever turning it back and forth trying to figure it out.

Sometimes you have to pull the faucet out towards you a bit to get the water to actually run. Pull it too far out and you may just pull the entire faucet out from the wall. It will take you some time to figure out that trick.

Many hotel bathrooms will have the shower and bath combined. The bath faucet will have a lever to pull up if you want the water to run out of the shower head.

However, you must have the right pressure of water coming out of the bath tap before the lever will stay permanently upright for the water to flow out of the shower head.

Too little pressure and it will flop back down and keep it running out of the bath faucet.

I told you, Einstein.

double shower head usa

You may even be fortunate enough to have a modern shower head contraption. So modern that you have two heads– one up high and a hand held shower head down low that can move up and down to adjust to your height.

Except, you cannot figure out with the three different knobs, buttons and facets how to get the water out of the high head.

It’s a challenge to adjust the lower head, and the lower head is attached to a bendy cord that cannot be straightened so the shower head points directly on you.

The cord twists so the head spins around and cleans the tiled wall beside you. You have to wrap the flexible cord around the modern shower contraption so it stays put and washes you.

But, you don’t have long before it will pop back out and turn back to the wall.

You look longingly at how beautiful that high shower head looks, turn the knobs in various ways again, only to pick up the lower shower head and use it as a hand held shower as you can’t figure the damn thing out and you no longer have the patience or time to phone a friend for help.

I am absolutely not exaggerating.

We’ve been traveling in-depth for the past year and I think I have the shower situation all worked out and then I’ll arrive in a new hotel and it will be completely different again and 10 minutes later I’m on the phone saying

“Um excuse me, can you tell me how to turn the shower on?”

I have noticed on our past couple of trips it’s been fairly effortless.

I’m not sure if the shower fixtures are improving or I’ve just assimilated so well that somehow my brain now just knows what to do.

I”m just not sure that it is that clever to be honest!

Do you feel my bathroom pain in America? What similar experiences have you had or funny stories?



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How to Plan Your Dream USA Trip of a Lifetime (in 11 steps)…


Have you been dreaming about a USA trip? This post is for you!

We have visited the United States many times and have lived here for five years. We love travelling in the USA and sharing our expert tips to help others.

11 USA travel tips for planning your dream trip to the USA

In this post we’ll help you plan and prepare for your own trip to the USA so that it becomes a reality.

America is a huge country with incredible diversity, and with so many things to do in the USA we know that planning a trip can be daunting and overwhelming.

That’s where we come in. Consider us your personal USA trip planner!

We’re going to be writing a series of posts on travelling to America, in partnership with our sponsor Allianz Travel Insurance in Australia.

We are brand ambassadors for Allianz in Australia and the USA. (We have a discount code for Allianz comprehensive travel insurance policies for our Australian readers. Check below)

Together, we want to help you with your trip planning, so you can be prepared to have a fantastic time on your dream USA trip.

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to the USA. Click inside for important tips about travel to USA.

In future posts on USA Travel, we’ll share:

  • Things to know before you visit the USA
  • Tipping guide to the USA
  • Things that could go wrong on your trip to the USA

We’ll be sharing tips on things like driving, food, the people, seasons, festivals, etiquette and culture etc.

Let us know in the comments if there is anything else you want to know about travel in America?

But in this post we’ve taken steps from our 15 tips to planning any trip and broken it down so it’s specific to planning a trip to America.

Let’s get started.

11 Tips for Planning a USA Trip

1. Getting Tourists Visas for the USA

Abraham Lincoln Memorial - Washington DC
Lincoln Memorial, D.C

ESTA Visas – The American Visa Waiver Program

For Australians, getting a tourist visa to visit the USA is pretty simple.

You can get your 90-day visa waiver, now known as the ESTA, online.

All eligible international travellers who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization.

This US visa for Australian citizens, and other qualified countries, is not a visa as such but a travel authorization. That means you can ONLY travel on it – do not use it for any other type of purpose!

The ESTA US visa costs $14 and takes about 20 minutes to fill in a simple application form.

You can apply for ETSA any time before boarding your flight, but it’s best to do it at least 72 hours before.

It’s very important that you have the ESTA and a record of your approval number. Have the paperwork with you (just in case) when you go to depart.

You will be asked if you have your ESTA during check in and won’t be allowed on the plane without it.

We’ve been caught out before and they were not letting us past the check in counter until we found our ESTA approval number.

If you want to stay in the USA longer than 90 days, or if you plan on also visiting neighbouring countries, the US visa situation is a little complicated.

IMPORTANT:

Once you hit USA soil, your 90 days starts ticking, but it does NOT reset if you cross the border to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

And remember, if you stop off in Hawaii on the way to mainland USA, your 90 days starts ticking in Hawaii.

It’s so important you plan your trip around this or you could get deported for overstaying your visa!

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to America
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

The ESTA is valid for two years, which means you get multiple entries on the one visa, but you must leave reasonable time between your 90-day visits so it doesn’t look like you are trying to live in America.

Be sure you keep a record of your ESTA number. You can always check it online to see how current it is.

Other US Visas

If you want to stay longer in the United States, you will have to look at other US tourist visas.

Get more information on those visas here. 

We have previously lived the USA on J1 and J2 work visas when I was a school teacher in North Carolina. Currently we are living in the US on an 01 Business Visa.

Read more about the process of getting our O-1 business visa here.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, San Diego, California
Exploring Torrey Pines State Park, San Diego, California

But my guess is you are preparing for your trip to the US purely as a tourist, so the ESTA visa is sufficient.

If you are applying for visas other than the ESTA that require passport photos, read the photo guidelines carefully and talk to the photographer beforehand to ensure they take them correctly.

They are very different and specific and will not be accepted if not exact.

Check Your Passport

Don’t forget to check your passport now to make sure it has at least six months validity left on it at time of travel, or you won’t be able to travel to the US.

2. Planning Your USA Itinerary

11 USA Travel Tips - how to plan your dream trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips on planning a family vacation to America, including vising places like the French Quarter in New Orleans
French Quarter, New Orleans

America is almost the same land size as Australia, but, unlike Australia, the interior is also filled in with many things to do.

Careful research and planning will help you create your dream USA travel experience.

Consider what it is you really want to see and do. Are you focused on:

  • National Parks
  • Theme parks
  • Major cities
  • Road trips
  • Beaches or mountains
  • Food or drink
  • Festivals and Events
  • Diverse cultures
  • Festivals and Events
  • History or music

One reason we are exploring the USA deeply is to help future travellers to see that there is much more to America than Los Angeles and Vegas or Disneyland.

To be honest, those three places are at the bottom of my list of reasons to travel to the US. More kitsch and tourist traps than soul.

That is just my opinion (formed after living here for over 5 years and lots of US travel experiences) so take what you want from that.

I can understand why you may have always dreamed of going to LA and Vegas, and by all means plan them into your itinerary.

But there are so many interesting places to see in the USA!

Consider unique and exciting destinations like Nashville, New York, New Orleans, Washington DC, and gorgeous East Coast Southern cities rich in history and culture like Charleston and Savannah. 

My favourite states to explore for natural beauty would be Utah and Colorado.

Fun family trip to Nashville, Tennessee for country music

How Much Time Do You Have?

As you know, the visa waiver program offers you a maximum of 90 days (12 weeks).

But are you like most people who get a standard 4 weeks of annual leave? Or only 2 weeks?

When you travel to USA it might be best to break up your trip into regions you want to explore. You can catch a flight into a hub in that region and rent a car to drive to the spots you want to visit.

Example 2-4 Week Itineraries:

  • You could follow the country and blues trail by flying into Nashville and driving down to Memphis and along the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans.
  • Fly into LA, do Disneyland, Orange County, San DiegoLas Vegas and then drive up to San Francisco.
  • If you want to visit New England in the Fall (spectacular) you could fly into New York and spend a week there, then hire a car to drive into New England, stopping at Boston along the way.
  • If you want to do the theme parks, you could fly into Orlando and spend time there, then visit some Florida beaches (our fave so far is Clearwater) and maybe drive to the Florida Keys. Or even drive up to Charleston and Savannah.

If you are lucky enough to have more time to tour America, say 6, 8 or even 12 weeks then you have a lot more options!

3. Research Activities & Things to Do in the USA

Diagon Alley - Universal Studios Orlando Attractions
Universal Orlando – Wizarding World of Harry Potter,

The United States of America is the third most populous country in the world.

It’s also a popular travel destination for tourists (although they have seen a decline since 2016.)

The popularity of the USA as a travel destination can mean long lines and booked out tours.

So, it’s important that once you have planned your USA itinerary, you research whatever activities and attractions you do not want to miss!

Are you planning a USA trip so you can:

It is wise to book ahead, especially if you are travelling in peak season. Some attractions like Alcatraz can take a few days to get on a tour.

Craig’s sister booked her accommodation for the Grand Canyon a year in advance to ensure she got the dream cabin stay.

For places like New York City that have a lot of attractions, a New York sightseeing pass will save you a lot of money – especially those that have fast passes.

Check for other City Passes here

I would absolutely recommend Fast Passes at theme parks for places like Disneyland and Universal Orlando Resort (you will be spending a lot of time in queues otherwise).

USA Travel Tips - The Incredible Hulk Coaster atIslands of Adventure, Universal Orlando Resort. Get insider tips on how to have the best visit here.
The Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando

Make a List of:

  • Free things to do
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Best walks
  • Day tours / City tours (Viator is a Trip Advisor owned company that offers small group tours and tickets to top sightseeing attractions).

Planning Resources:

For ideas on things to do in your destination, use these resources:

  • Tourism board websites (e.g. VisitCalifornia.com)
  • Ask family & friends who have been there
  • Travel blogs like ours (see our USA destinations section)
  • Facebook (put out an update asking for tips)
  • Twitter (hashtags)
  • Guide books (we use Lonely Planet Guide Books)
  • Instagram (hashtags)
  • Trip Advisor
  • Hotel receptionist/bell boy (once in location they are invaluable)

Doing careful research on things to do in the USA and popular US attractions will save you time AND money and help you find amazing spots like this rooftop bar in Downtown LA.

Perch Rooftop Bar Downtown La
Sunset from the Perch Rooftop Bar in Downtown LA

For most people, winging it on a trip to the USA is not a great idea.

We tend to go with the flow a lot, but we have time on our side and we live in the country. We have way more flexibility.

My parents visited in May and we planned a 4-week road trip itinerary from Dallas to Boston including booking accommodation and activities and put it all into a Google Drive Spreadsheet so we could collaborate and plan together.

You don’t want to mess up short term holidays for dream trips.

Be sure to stay connected to us, as we are collecting a mass of information on travel in the USA. We love to share our insider tips and stories to help you have the best travel experiences ever.

You can subscribe to our Free VIP email tribe in the form below so you don’t miss anything:

4. Booking Accommodation in the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA to see iconic places like the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. Click inside now for tips!
Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

You’ve got endless options for accommodation in the USA.

From hotels to motels, resorts and apartments, vacation homes, lodges, campgrounds, Airbnb and more!

There are a few independent hotels if you are looking for something unique and special like this place we stayed in Miami, or this one in Vermont or the INNSIDE New York Nomad Hotel in NYC (the first of its kind in the US).

But mostly, the US is a corporate chain experience.

If we are staying in a destination for an extended period, we like apartments or suites for their kitchen facilities to save on eating out, and for separate bedrooms!

If it’s just one or two nights, hotels are fine.

Most hotels, motels, resorts and bed and breakfasts are easily booked online through sites such as Booking.com or Hotels.com.

And we like to check reviews on Trip Advisor before we book too!

The Lodge on Lake Lure, North Carolina
Our lodge on Lake Lure, North Carolina

You will often find low-cost hotels and motels; chains like Days Inn and Super 8 on the outskirts of cities and near the interstates.

They aren’t glamorous and will have basic amenities, but they usually come with free parking, free Wi-Fi and breakfast, mostly consisting of bagels, toast, and sugary cereals.

Craig and I used to stay at these all the time and will if we just need a place to stay on a long road trip.

Don’t forget the ever popular Airbnb, which is becoming a bit of a painful experience now in the US due to excess cleaning fees being added as well as state and bed taxes.

Airbnb is not as cheap or as fun as it used to be.

We’ve found Airbnb to be the better deal if you are staying for several nights. Cleaning fees are too high to justify one-night stays. It’s probably cheaper to find a hotel.

Be sure to do your research to accurately compare costs.

Our personal favourite chain is Hilton.

We like the various options they have from budget to more upscale resorts (like the awesome Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki)

The Hilton brand is also great for families.

The lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village - one of the best things to do in Hawaii with kids
Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki

We are Hilton Honors Rewards members and have an AMEX credit card we use to accumulate points. Members also get discounted rates and other perks.

We like to stay in Hilton Hotels & Resorts or their cheaper sister properties like:

  • Hampton Inn & Suites
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Homewood Suites
  • Embassy Suites
  • Doubletree

I suggest signing up to the membership rewards program to the hotel chain you like best so you can collect membership rewards. They are mostly worldwide.

As mentioned, due to high population and tourist numbers it is wise to book your accommodation in advance, particularly if you are travelling in peak season or popular cities.

If you decide to camp, stay in hostels, or do an RV then you will possibly be okay with winging it.

Campsites can book out in peak season though, especially in popular National Parks!

5. Flying To and Around the USA

Flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles

Travelling to America from Australia, we prefer to fly into Dallas International Airport (DFW).

Dallas is best if you are traveling to the East Coast as it gets you closer and often means less plane changes to get to your East Coast destination.

If you are exploring the West Coast, it’s better to fly into Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO).

Flying can be exhausting if you are flying direct from Australia with no stopovers to recover from jet lag.

Travelling to USA from Australia takes approximately 13 hours (to LA) and 16 hours (to Dallas).

Hot Tip:

Plan plenty of time in between your flights so you can make your connections.

NO, two hours is not enough time to get off an international flight in LA or San Francisco and catch your domestic connection!

I cannot tell you how many times I have sprinted through various airports in the US, especially challenging with kids!

When you clear immigration you must pick up your luggage and go through security again for your connecting flight, even though you are in the same airport.

In the US, they don’t have separate airports for domestic and international. They are housed in the same section, so it means no water bottles (with water) coming through, and long and chaotic security lines.

Be prepared to get undressed – lose your shoes, belts and jackets.

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a dream trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips to America and see incredible sunsets like at Pacific Beach in San Diego
Sunset at Pacific Beach in San Diego

When flying between major cities, you can usually get direct flights. Outside of that, there is higher possibility you will have to change planes.

Factor this into your itinerary and travelling time.

You won’t need to clear immigration when you leave the country which is strange.

Immigration coming in to the US has mostly been slow.

LAX has improved somewhat with my recent entries, but most of the international flights coming into LA seem to land at the same time early in the morning!

Parents

If you have young kids, make sure they have been to the toilet on the plane and fed, as you’ll be standing in long lines clearing customs!

Extra Comfort seats flying to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

We know what’s it like to get off a long flight with a tired, grump and hungry kid who always needs to go to the toilet at the most inappropriate times!

For us, Dallas by far has been the best. Less flights landing at once, and quicker through immigration.

Be friendly and polite to the custom officers. Even though you have your ESTA or tourist visas final entry permission is up to the custom officers.

Searching Flights to the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a dream trip to the USA. Click inside now for travel tips on travelling to America.
Boston Common on Memorial Day

Check Skyscanner or Momondo to find great deals on flights to the USA. Then go direct to the airlines own website.

And don’t forget to pop into your local travel agent. They can have great deals.

My parents saved $900 on their flights to the US by popping into Flight Centre just to check and there was a surprise sale on.

Domestic flights within the US are frequent, and you can fly almost anywhere. They are competitively priced, although I find quite expensive to what they used to be.

But they are notorious for charging you with extra fees – like baggage.

You’ll have to pay $25 to check in any luggage – you don’t get any luggage allowance unless you have status.

Some airlines, like United Airlines, will now charge you for overhead baggage on the plane.

Unlike Australia, however, they do not weigh your check in luggage. Now I understand how so many travellers in the US can travel carry-on luggage only.

Major airlines include:

You can book via their websites, or compare fares and book using sites like Skyscanner.com

Package Deals

When booking a trip to the USA, package deals can be a low-stress option for travellers who don’t want to organise their flights, accommodation and on-the-ground transport separately.

For package deals that include flights, hotel and car rental, check a site like Expedia.com and travel agents.

If you book your ticket from Australia, including domestic transfers in the one reservation, you will not have to pay extra for your luggage on the domestic flights.

6. Getting Around the USA (apart from flying)

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning your dream trip to the USA. Click inside now for travel tips for travelling to America
Vermont Route 100

Flying domestically can be such a nightmare.

With long lines and delays, sometimes it can be better to get to your different destinations in other ways.

I understand the importance of security but dealing with ever growing security measures and chaotic airports due to a large population has taken the fun out of flying.

We prefer a USA road trip as much a possible.

Our general rule is if the destination is less than four – six hours away we’ll drive.

We recently drove from Raleigh, North Carolina to New York City (8-hour drive) as it was cheaper for our family of four than flying, even with the expensive parking tickets and tolls!

The classic American road trip is always fun as there are so many quirky roadside attractions and cool places visit in America.

Train Travel in the USA

Train travel in the USA
Amtrak Surfliner. Image by DepositPhotos.com

Trains connecting US cities are operated by Amtrak.

You can buy Amtrak train tickets online or at stations. The earlier you book the better deal you’ll get. You can book up to 11 months in advance.

Amtrak also offers USA Rail Passes for 15, 30 or 45 days.

If you have the time, it’s possible to cross the country by train travel, seeing a lot more than you would from a plane.

Bus Travel in the USA

Buses and coaches run between major cities and serve some rural areas.

Greyhound is the largest provider, covering all 48 states as well as Canada and Mexico.

Tickets can be bought online, at bus stations, over the phone or at some convenience stores. You can get deals sometimes booking online. I’ve ridden the Greyhound once and that was enough.

Megabus, is a cheap bus service that is often raved about, mostly for the incredible deals you can pick up – like $1 fares.

Totally worth it when you can snag a deal like that. They serve more than 100 cities.

USA Road Trips and Car Rental

Vermont Route 100
Vermont in the fall

America really is a driving destination, except if you are visiting major cities like New York or Chicago.

But to be honest, when you visit the USA you will have a better experience in most places when you road trip USA with your own vehicle.

Good news is fuel is cheap!

We have always found the best car rental deals in the US with RentalCars.com (using them since 2007).

  • Be sure to check with the rental company on collection what the fuel costs are – sometimes you can get an excellent rate if you buy a tank of fuel upon collection. That way you can return it empty and secure yourself against running late and not being able to top up the fuel and so pay premium price.
  • GPS may be a good ad on service if you have limited Wi-Fi on your phone and can’t access Google Maps. (Um, what did we do before Google Maps – oh that’s right, paper maps!)
  • Put all drivers on the rental agreement (you may have to pay per additional driver)
  • Although you may pay extra, sometimes one way drop offs may work in your favour.
  • Be sure to thoroughly inspect your car and record any defects you see before you leave with your rental car. Capture photos with your phone.

Read More – 19 ways to save money on rental cars

Important Information About Rental Car Excess

You may snag an unbelievably cheap rental car deal on the internet for your USA road trip, but when you arrive to pick up the car, you learn that it has minimal insurance coverage and huge excess fees.

You’ll be offered collision damage waiver policies which can double your daily rate. Not such a great deal after all.

We’ve been caught out with this before, arriving after a long flight, tired and flustered and just saying yes (with a grunt) without realising we could get it way cheaper elsewhere.

Rental car companies know this will happen and it’s how they lure you in with cheaper daily rental rates.

You can get cheaper collision damage waiver (or excess waivers) through other insurance providers.

An Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy will cover those high excess the rental car companies want to charge, saving you from having to purchase their expensive collision damage waivers^.

We have a discount code exclusive for our readers offering up to 10% off Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policies. Just use the code YTRAVEL online or over the phone! Note: Up to 10% means if there is already a discount running on the policy, the code will make the difference up to 10% in total. 

USA travel tips
On the road in Colorado

Look out for toll costs – we paid nearly $60 in tolls driving from North Carolina to New England on Interstate 95. We were not expecting that at all, so you’ve been warned.

The I-95 between DC and New England is dreadful.

Check the law in the state you are visiting to see if you’ll need an international drivers licence. We’ve never needed one, but we have mostly always driven in our own vehicle or had a US driver’s licence. Best to know for sure.

Bus Tours and Group Tours

If a bus tour is more your thing, or small group independent USA tours, check out these companies:

  • Insight Vacations – every part of the USA, from east to west, and north to south.
  • Trafalgar – bus tours for the 35 to 65-year-old demographic.
  • Intrepid Travel – small group specialists who cater to a range of styles and budgets.
  • G Adventures – small-group tours in a responsible and sustainable manner.

7. Finding Wi-Fi & Staying Connected

Finding wifi in the USA

The biggest question you want to ask yourself is, how much do you want to be connected to the internet and for what purposes?

I know you do not want to let a single Insta and Facebrag opportunity pass you by, and in the US,  you will find a lot of opportunity to do that.

But, is that why you’re really traveling on a USA trip?

Unless you really need to be connected for work purposes, I’d encourage you to disconnect as much as you can and just enjoy the trip you’ve spent a lot of time planning and saving for.

We all need time to unplug, and holidays are the perfect way to do that.
Leave the stress of being permanently connected in your office and home.

Finding Free WiFi

If you only need to be connected to stay updated with family and friends and the odd social update, you’ll get plenty of opportunities in the US with the plethora of FREE Wi-Fi available.

In fact, you could probably get away with using that for your whole trip, even if you wanted to be connected a little more.

Almost all hotels and accommodation rentals like Airbnb offer free Wi-Fi now.

Plenty of cafes and restaurants will have it, and even grocery stories and movie theatres.

Popular attractions will as well, because they want you to share your photos of their attractions (with their hashtags of course).

However, remember that the more people in an area using the same Wi-Fi, the harder it will be for you to get decent speeds.

And for Netflix binge watchers, your downloads will often be limited with free Wi-Fi.

Although we’ve stayed in plenty of hotels that offer Netflix as part of their service and many Airbnb’s will have that all hooked up to their in-home entertainment systems.

If you are using free Wi-Fi, we recommend using a VPN service to keep your data private and secure. We have a review of this service here.

Wi-Fi Service Providers

If you are an intense internet user and want your own Wi-Fi connection, there are a couple of options:

  1. Roaming devices like WiWander and SkyRoam will give you that, although I feel they can be expensive for travellers on a holiday. I prefer WiWander. You get more data with them and the connection was super-fast. SkyRoam for me have been an underperformer.
  2. Pop into a Verizon store in the US (the best service connection) or AT&T and by a local sim card with a short-term plan. When we visited Denver in 2016 on a short trip, we got a $60 plan which gave us unlimited Wi-Fi, and local calls and texts for the month.

Double check when you sign up to any plan, but the plan may include free texts to international numbers.

Our plans with Verizon do, which is great for when I quickly want to tell my Mum something.

8. Accessing Your Money on your USA Trip

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA. Click inside for travel tips for America and to see beautiful places like Akaka Falls in Hawaii
Akaka Falls, Big Island of Hawaii

Accessing your money in the States will be, in part, dependent on what kind of cards you have back home.

Getting accessing to your money in America is easy as there are ATMs everywhere and, unlike Australia, everyone takes credit cards and debit cards.

I’ve rarely come across cash only establishments. That can be good news as you won’t have to carry around lots of cash, and you may be able to rack up some reward points.

However, it might not be good news if your card issuer charges you a lot of fees.

Using ATM’s

Withdrawing money from an ATM in the USA, that is not your banks ATM, can have hefty fees.

Average is $3 (on top of what your card issuer charges) but I have paid up to $6 before on a cruise. I know. Outrageous!

Check if your card issuer has a relationship with a bank in the US, so you can withdraw money from the ATM without being charged a fee.

HOWEVER, some banks charge an international conversion fee on any money you withdraw, which is outrageous. Most will charge it only on card purchases.

As Australians, our favourite method of accessing money in America is the Qantas Cash Card, (or even the Virgin Global Wallet). Both of these are the best when it comes to fees.

You won’t be charged any fees when using the card like a credit card AND you’ll earn points.

You also have low fees when withdrawing money from an ATM. Be sure to withdraw large amounts at a time, so you don’t get stung with too many fees.

You will need some cash on hand when you travel in the United States to pay for all those tips!

Hot Tip:

If you can access a bank account in the USA, the best way to access your money is to transfer money using OFX. They are by far my preferred way and have saved me hundreds of dollars in fees and good conversion rates.

You may be able to pay for accommodation and tours using OFX and pay via direct deposits.

9. Cost of Travel in America

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for planning a trip to the USA. Dreaming of visiting NYC? Click inside to learn more!

It’s a clever idea to know what the costs of travel in America will be before you leave so that you save and bring enough spending money.

Accommodation:

  • Low budget: $50 – $100 a night
  • Mid-range: $100- $250 a night
  • High: $250+
  • Airbnb: $80 + (varies widely depending on type of property)

Food

This can vary widely depending on where you are visiting. Popular destinations will be much higher.

  • Fast food: < $6
  • Coffee:
    • $2 for drip
    • $3.50+ for espresso
  • Alcohol:
    • $5+ pint of beer (look for happy hour prices and local bars to reduce it)
    • $5-10 glass of wine
  • Healthy takeout meals: $7-10
  • Restaurants:
    • Appetisers, wings and burgers: $5-10
    • Entree (main meals): $12-$18 ($25 for classier restaurants)

Transport

  • Fuel: Will vary state by state. Here in North Carolina it’s currently (Feb, 2018) around $2.20 a gallon, which is about 60 cents a litre. California can be double that. The GasBuddy app can help you find good fuel prices.
  • Flights: avg around $120 a leg (what we have experienced so far, but can vary widely)
  • Buses: as mentioned with Megabus you can get as little as $1, but also fares around $10. My greyhound trip from Huntsville to Nashville (2.5 hours) was $30
  • Rental cars:
    • Budget: approx $200 per week (good for 2 people + luggage). We’ve had to upgrade before when arriving to see our budget car and realising we couldn’t fit us all in with our luggage.
    • Mid-range: approx $250 – $300 (good for 4 people + luggage)
    • High-end: approx $350 – $500
  • Train: Our 7 day unlimited pass to ride the New York Subway cost $32 p/p
riding the subway New York City
Go down!

Sightseeing Costs

This is hard to give you a budget for as it does depend on your preferences, family size, type of activity, and city.
Take advantage of the free activities (of which there are a lot of), free museum days and attraction days, and use sightseeing passes and check Groupon for any local deals.

But your careful research from step 3 above will give you a good understanding of these costs before you leave for your dream USA trip.

Two things to be aware of when preparing your finances for your trip to the USA

1.Taxes

Sales taxes are added onto the purchase price once you pay.

It’s super annoying and still catches me by surprise. Tax varies by state, but you can expect to add on anything from 0% to over 8% of the purchase price.
2. Tips

Again, this is a cost to add on to your bill.

As an Australian, you are going to hate tipping and it can become costly. We’ll have a entire post on it with plenty of tips to help you as it can get confusing.

Basically, you are looking at 15-20% extra for any services you receive.

It’s one reason I prefer to stay in Airbnb’s and will prepare my own food or eat at take outs rather than restaurants. It can seriously eat up your travel money.

10. Travel Insurance for the USA

USA Travel Tips - 11 tips for visiting the USA on your dream trip to America. Click inside now for important travel tips

Don’t travel to America without travel insurance. Just don’t.

A friend’s son here in North Carolina recently broke his arm. Hospital costs were $30,000. Even with their health insurance they still had to pay several thousand dollars.

It’s insane.

Anything can happen on your travels and the last thing you want is your dream USA trip to turn into a bankruptcy nightmare.

For a small investment, you get a ton of security and peace of mind.

We always say,

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel”

The US is the only country in the world where my luggage has been lost or delayed on a flight and multiple times at that.

Flights can also be delayed due to weather (especially in snow storms) and it’s very easy to miss a connecting flight, especially when travelling to America from Australia.

Be sure to include any extra adventurous activities you may be doing so you can ensure your coverage is adequate e.g. Skiing.

And nominate any pre-existing conditions so you can include a waiver for them should you require help when traveling in the USA.

Stand up paddle boarding in Mission Bay - one of the best things to do in San Diego
San Diego, California

Hot Tip:

Get your travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and/or accommodation so that you are covered in case of any trip cancellation emergencies.

And what happens if:

  • You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
  • A hurricane damages your destination
  • You get sick or injured on your trip
  • Your luggage is lost or stolen
  • You lose your passport

All travel insurance policies will have specific ones for the US and the cost of them will be higher than travelling in other countries.

We were a customer of Allianz Travel Insurance before we became ambassadors and have been impressed with the customer service.

We have experienced a very smooth claims procedure for our cruise trip interruption thanks to Hurricane Irma.

I also spent time with the Allianz team in New York last month, learning more about the products and the emergency medical assistance.

I was very impressed with the quality of care and the focus that is given to the customers safety and health. It is Allianz’s number one priority.

We have a discount code exclusive for our readers offering up to 10% off* Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policies. Just use the code YTRAVEL online or over the phone!

Note: Up to 10% means if there is already a discount running on the policy, the code will make the difference up to 10% in total. 

11. What to Pack for Your USA Trip

Delsey Helium Aero Luggage - one of the best travel suitcases for style, ease, and durability.
INNSIDE New York Nomad Hotel, NYC

This will depend on what season it is when you visit the United States, and for how long.

But generally, you don’t need to pack a lot for your trip to the US.

North America can be cheap for many travel related items, so you can always pick up anything you forget.

Leave room in your suitcase for shopping as you can find some great shopping deals at US outlet stores. And then there is Amazon!

However, depending on the Aussie dollar rates at your time of travel, the shopping might not be so good.

You’ll know the basics of what you normally pack when you travel, so I won’t go too in-depth here.

Here are a few tips specific to the USA:

  • Bring any medical prescriptions you may need. You do not want to refill them in the US. We have a medical packing checklist here. 
  • Ladies, in the US, tampons are usually only of the applicator kind. Bring your own if you don’t like them. Otherwise, you can get them at Whole Foods stores and Trader Joes.
  • Electrical adaptors and voltage. This international travel plug adaptor lets you plug in your charger, phone, and laptop. USA operates on a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz. It can be dangerous to use an electrical appliance that is rated at a voltage different from the supply and it may affect the performance of your appliances. Your laptops, for example, will be much slower to charge. You may need to use a voltage converter or transformer whilst in USA.
  • Even if you are traveling in the summer, be sure to pack a cardigan or sweater. Americans are crazy on air conditioning so you will freeze whenever you step indoors.
  • Pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes and hiking shoes (more tips on finding the right travel shoes here). America is full of great cities and exceptional outdoor activities. You’ll be using those feet quite a bit – at least I hope you will.

Booking Your Trip to America

Accommodation: Book hotels and apartments in the USA directly on Booking.com, or read hotel reviews for the US on Trip Advisor.

Flights: Skyscanner and Momondo are time saving flight search engines and help you find your cheapest flight.

Car Rental: RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands.

Tours: Viator is a Trip Advisor owned company and offers small group tours to popular attractions.

Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. It covers unexpected medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost or damaged luggage by an airline etc. Get a quote from Alliance.

Travel Gear: Columbia has been making quality and affordable travel clothes and gear for over 70 years.

Suggested Guidebooks: Lonely Planet’s USA Guidebook and Road Trip USA  

We hope you found our USA trip planner post useful? Any questions or travel tips you having for visiting the USA please leave them in the comments section down below!

*Discount based on standard premium rates and applies to International Comprehensive policies only. Please note some discounts may have already been applied to premiums when a product is purchased through a certain channel (for example, online) (Original Discount). In such a case, this discount will equal the amount required to make up the difference between the Original Discount and the total discount offered under this voucher. Discount applies to standard premiums only. No discount will be applied to other premium components.

Allianz Travel Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFS Licence No. 245631, trading as Allianz Global Assistance, on behalf of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708. Any information or advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the Product Disclosure Statement available at allianz.com.au before buying this product.

^Terms, conditions, limits, and exclusions apply. Please see the Product Disclosure Statement for more information. If you purchase a policy, Allianz Global Assistance receives a commission which is a percentage of your premium – ask them for more details before they provide you with any services on this product.



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5 Places to Visit in Montana for Superb Fall Hiking and Wildlife …


It’s August, and I’m already lamenting the loss of summer. I feel my time to enjoy the sunshine and swim in our pool is being consumed by endless tasks. I’m ready to escape the daily grind and get back to nature before it’s too late.

The only good thing about the impending close of summer is that autumn follows.

As much as I adore the fullness and warmth of summer, I love fall even more.

It’s a spectacular, colorful celebration of change—and possibly the only time humans feel compelled to embrace this one constant in our lives.

Visiting Montana in the Fall
Chief Mountain in Glacier National Park in the fall. Credit: Visit Montana

Fall is also a great time to get outdoors and appreciate nature. The cooler temperatures make for more pleasant hikes, the summer crowds have thinned out and the animals start moving to lower elevations, which is great for wildlife viewing.

Summer is a time I often relax at home and enjoy the fruits of my labor; fall is when I come back out to explore again.

As we plan for our upcoming RV road trip across America, Montana is on my mind.

We recently shared the incredible Native American cultural experiences you can have in Montana, now we’re sharing with you (in partnership with Visit Montana) the incredible hiking and wildlife viewing you can experience when you visit Montana in autumn.

mountain goat Montana wildlife viewing

Montana has a greater variety of native wildlife than anywhere else in the lower 48. From bison to mountain goats, grizzlies to wolverines, wildlife viewing in Montana is abundant and spectacular, especially in the national parks and wildlife refuges.

There are endless things to do in Montana in the fall. Here are some of the best places to visit in Montana during this season for hiking and wildlife viewing.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Is there a national park more iconic than America’s first national park? Now you may be thinking, “hang on, isn’t Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming?” Yes, but parts of it also extend across the border into Montana, and three park entrances are located in Montana.

Oh, the beauty that a geyser can bring!

Yellowstone has more than 900 miles of hiking trails, ranging from short and easy day hikes to multi-day treks. You can see geysers, colorful hot springs, mud pots, multiple rivers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and, of course, wildlife.

Beaver Ponds Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Springs Yellowstone National Park (800 x 533)

You might be expecting to see beavers on this 5 mile Yellowstone hike, but they aren’t the only furry friend that calls this national park home.

This Yellowstone hiking trail is known for its bear activity, so be on the lookout and come prepared. I’ll admit, I am scared of grizzly bears, but it gives me great comfort to know many people hike the trail without any trouble and there are lots of bear safety tips out there.

Click here to read wildlife viewing safety guidelines in Montana.

black bears montana (800 x 571)

The trail begins at the lower Mammoth Terraces with a 350 ft. climb up the hill. The Beaver Ponds Loop hike then takes you to unique ponds nestled in the forest and open sagebrush meadows with expansive views down to Yellowstone River. It’s an area known for elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, beaver and waterfowl.

Being a loop walk means the scenery and surprises will be different on the entire hike. I know loop walks motivate our girls more than a return one.

This Yellowstone hike is of moderate difficulty with a gain of 350 feet and is in the Mammoth Hot Springs Area. The recommendation is to start at the Mammoth Terraces so you have a shorter uphill section.

Yellowstone Llama trekking

llama trekking yellowstone national park (800 x 534)

Looking for a unique hiking experience in Yellowstone National Park?

Let a llama lead your way. Your gentle, long-eared hiking buddy will walk with you on beautiful trails while carrying your load.

Experienced guides will help you explore Yellowstone backcountry, teach you about the park’s ecosystem and help you find wildlife in their natural habitat.

Yellowstone Llamas offers multi-day backcountry pack trips in Yellowstone National Park with knowledgeable guides and gentle, well-trained llamas.

Enjoy hiking, camping, wildlife watching, fishing and good food. Treks are suitable for families and young children as well as groups of adults.

Here are tips for visiting Yellowstone National Park with kids.

Glacier National Park

Montana fall hiking and wildlife viewing

The scenery in Glacier National Park is said to dissolve your stresses and cares in an instant. In the fall, autumn leaves burst with color complementing the epic mountain scenery.

Glacier is the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and to Hudson’s Bay, making it the Crown of the Continent, a precious and important national park.

It’s a huge national park that stretches over into Canada and includes 762 lakes, 563 streams, 175 mountains, over 700 miles of hiking trails and 26 active glaciers. This is Big Sky Country after all!

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Grinnell Lake Glacier National PArk Montana (800 x 529)

Want to see the best that Glacier National Park has to offer?

Then jump on the Grinnell Glacier hike, known to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world and, because it showcases everything that makes Glacier epic, one of the most popular in the Glacier National Park.

I’m talking about lakes, waterfalls, forests, alpine views and the park’s most iconic glacier, Grinnell Lake.

This is a 10.6-mile hike roundtrip from the trailhead, but it can be reduced to about 7 miles with a concession boat ride from Many Glacier Hotel (fee required and reservations recommended.)

The hike follows the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine and elevates you to breathtaking views of the Angel Wing mountain peak, the Garden Wall of the Continental Divide, and Grinnell Lake.

The stunning aqua-blue water of Upper Grinnell Lake is a sight to behold with the receding glaciers along the mountains surrounding the lake. What a way to finish a climb up. Be sure to stop for a while and savor the reward. If you leave early enough, you’ll get there before the crowds.

Bear in the Fall Montana (800 x 572)

Look out for bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats and bears along the trail. Be sure to take bear spray and proper hiking supplies.

Depending on fitness, the trail is moderately difficult. It is strenuous due to its length and an elevation gain of 1,600 feet.

Cracker Lake

hiking Cracker Lake Glacier National Park (1) (600 x 696)

Cracker Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park. This beautiful turquoise-colored glacial lake is surrounded by a natural cathedral of towering walls and peaks.

One feature is the great North Face of Mount Siyeh towering over Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park. This giant wall is one of the tallest in North America, and it has only been climbed once.

The popular Glacier Park hike to Cracker Lake is over 12 miles roundtrip with a 1,400-foot vertical gain in elevation. It includes wooded forests, grand views of lakes and mountains, creek crossings, distant waterfalls, mining ruins, possible wildflowers and wildlife, and a relaxing swim in the lake if you need a cool down.

Although would swimming be a thing to do in Montana in the fall? We recommend saving this for a summer hike.

moose in glacier national park montana wildlife viewing
Credit: Glacier NPS

There have been moose sightings at the lake, and marmots, which are large squirrels, live around the campsite. Mountain goats frequent this area—it’s also bear country, so put your singing voices on and make a bit of noise.

Wildlife Viewing from an Open-Top Red Bus

REd bus tour Going to the Sun Glacier Montana (800 x 532)
Credit: Visit Montana

If you’re looking for effortless wildlife viewing, especially with kids, then jump aboard the popular open-top Glacier Park Red Bus tours. This allows you to see and photograph wildlife from a safe distance.

These 1930s-era vintage buses with roll-back tops accommodate 17 people, four across on bench seating.

Not only do you get to relax and watch the wildlife, but you also get insider information about Glacier National Park from knowledgeable Red Bus drivers. Tours last between 2.5 and 8 hours, depending on which one you choose.

National Bison Range

National Bison Range Montana (800 x 532)

You cannot visit Montana without bison watching.

The Great Plains were once home to 60 million bison. It hurts my heart to know that now Montana is one of the last places where bison live in much fewer numbers.  They’re mostly found in Yellowstone National Park and at the National Bison Range in Montana.

The National Bison Range is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the country. President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range in 1908 to provide a permanent home for bison. The 18,500-acre range home to about 300-400 bison.

antelope national bison range montana (800 x 521)
Credit: Visit Montana

Because of its open grasslands, the Bison Range is a perfect place for the public to enjoy some excellent wildlife observation and photography.

Other large wildlife found on the Range include elk, white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote and ground squirrels. Over 200 species of birds also call this home including eagles, hawks, meadowlarks, bluebirds, ducks and geese.

The National Bison Range is only about an hour drive from Missoula. Big Sky Safaris offers guided tours of National Bison Range and the nearby area with a local nature guide. It’s most cost-effective for groups of 5-10 people.

Wild Horse Island State Park

Wild horse island state park Montana kayaking (800 x 533)
Credit: Visit Montana

At over 2,100 acres, Wild Horse Island State Park is the largest island in the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It is situated on Flathead Lake and abounds in opportunity for hiking, fishing, swimming and kayaking.

Wild Horse Island has been a landmark since the Salish-Kootenai Indians were reported to have used it to pasture horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes. Wild horses can still be seen on the island, although in very small numbers.

One is all you need to place you in a spirit of wonder!

The island is known for more than just horses. Bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles and falcons make Wild Horse Island a great place in Montana for wildlife viewing.

hiking at Wildhorse State Park Montana (800 x 533)
Credit: Visit Montana

The island is for day-use only and maintains about 4 miles of trails. Follow the trail to the top of the island for a picnic in a hidden caldera-like formation. Walk up to the rim for a stunning 360-degree view of Flathead Lake, Polson, Bigfork, Lakeside, Kalispell, and on a clear day, even Whitefish and Glacier National Park!

To visit Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake, you will need a boat to access this primitive state park, or you can kayak or paddleboard over to the island (about 45 minutes.) Sea Me Paddle offers guided kayak trips to the island.

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park (600 x 906)
Credit: Visit Montana

When you visit Montana, you will spend a lot of time looking at mountains and hiking up them. Now it’s time to explore the belly of the mountains at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.

Montana’s first and best-known state park showcases one of the most highly decorated limestone caverns in the Northwest—President Theodore Roosevelt even designated Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park it a national monument on the same day as the Grand Canyon. It was named to honor the famous explorers who crossed the park property, although they did not discover the caverns.

The impressive geological features of these Montana caverns include stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. The only way to see the caverns are by guided tours of the cave. These tours range from easy to adventurous and some even cater to those with physical limitations. Bring a sweater, as the caves are naturally cool year-round.

The kids will love the two-hour Classic Tour with its stalactites and stalagmites, the famous Beaver Slide and occasional bat sightings. The adventurous will love the Wild Cave Tour, where you can explore the caverns with only headlamps. Be prepared for a lot of bending, crawling and duck waddling.

The tour includes a short hike through gorgeous mountain scenery from the visitor’s center and back.

With over 3,000 acres of the park above ground, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking and biking.

More than half of the trails are naturally carved by the hooves of deer, elk and even the occasional mountain goat. The park has 10 miles of well-marked, maintained trails that lead through remarkable changes in habitat.

For a short, easy route, follow the Nature Loop Trail at the upper picnic area. Hikers looking for more of a challenge can follow the 6-mile Grand Loop Trail, which runs between the camp’s two visitor centers and gives a good overview of the park.

The park has a large campground with 40 campsites, a tipi and three cabins.

Fall in montana hiking and wildlife viewing (800 x 533)
Credit: Visit Montana

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some fall hiking and wildlife viewing in Montana. I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be with the golden glow of autumn.

I am so excited to visit Montana on our RV road trip across America next Spring/Summer. We plan to create a lot of content to help you learn more about the amazing things to do in Montana, with kids especially!

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What are some of your favorite hikes in Montana for wildlife viewing?



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Group Travel: 17 Tips to Plan a Happy Multigenerational Family Va…


Are you torn over the idea of group travel and a family vacation with your kids and their grandparents?

You can see how it will be an amazing bonding experience for everyone.

With mum and dad and my kids in Nashville, Tennessee

But, it’s hard enough to plan a trip just with your children, let alone considering the stress of group travel planning with your parents as well.

Just like traveling with kids is worth it despite how hard it can be, so is bringing along the grandparents for the journey. Just think of the extra pair of hands you’ll get for help, and possibly even a date night out with your partner!

We’re here to help you plan a happy multi-generational family vacation along with Allianz Global Assistance who we are family travel ambassadors for.

Our Multi-Generational Family Trip Experience in the USA

Chimney Rock, North Carolina
At the top of Chimney Rock, North Carolina

In May this year we road tripped with my parents from Dallas to Boston for one month.

We hadn’t seen them since we moved from Australia to North Carolina 14 months before, so it was a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together, especially for our kids with their grandparents.

At the same time, my parents were able to visit many places in the USA they’ve dreamed about for years.

It’s not easy to plan for group travel. The more people you have, the more interests and diverse travel styles, and the more that can go wrong.

But our USA road trip went even better than I hoped. One reason it went so smoothly is because of the travel planning and scheduling that was done before our family vacation.

On Broadway in NYC to see Wicked
On Broadway in NYC to see Wicked

We’re usually more open ended and don’t book too much in advance. But as I mentioned in this post, for this trip I had it booked and organized before we left.

Planning for travel while you are already traveling is super exhausting and time consuming. I don’t recommend it when you are traveling in a large group, especially if that involves multigenerational travel.

You want to actually enjoy the trip you’ve worked hard to create.

I learned some tips along the way to help your group travel experience across the ages go smoothly.

1. Cater to Everyone’s Style, Budget and Interests

Watching the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park
Watching the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park

Before the trip, consider all travelers’ interests, bucket list dreams, travel style, travel comfort, and travel budgets.

Have a conversation about this at the beginning stage of the travel planning.

Write a list of everyone’s must do items and fit them in as best you can. It doesn’t mean everyone has to do them, but you can work a plan so those who want them most can.

We split up as a group a couple of times in Nashville and Memphis as my parents wanted to experience attractions we had previously done before.

Instead of taking the kids and having them complain, I took my parents whilst Craig took the girls to do fun kid things instead.

Gracelands in Memphis
Mum and Dad at Gracelands in Memphis

Consider everyone’s budgets, so you can book the right style of accommodation and attractions. Having an awareness of expected travel costs during the planning phase will help everyone have a better time on the road.

Carefully consider the time you have for your family vacation.

We had to reduce our six weeks travel plan down to four weeks once we realized our parents could only come over for four weeks.

It helped us be more strategic with our road trip direction and dropping a few places that may have been cool but weren’t essential.

You can always save more for your next multigenerational family vacation.

2. Have a Group Organizer

Franklin, Tennessee
In Franklin, Tennessee

Choose one central person as the group organizer for the trip.

Work together to see who the best person for the job would be and then say goodbye to democracy. It will be cheaper and faster to have one boss!

Obviously, since I’m an expert in travel, we live in the US, and were traveling with my parents, it made sense for me to take control.

Once I knew what the bucket list items were, knew what my parents were interested in based upon years of conversations with them, and what our time frame was I could work on creating a plan.

Having one person to plot this out and see all these connections makes it easier than managing different viewpoints coming in at once.

Collect the viewpoints first and then have someone put it all together.

3. Use a Google Spreadsheet for Group Travel Planning

Exploring Martha’s Vineyard

A Google spreadsheet helps make group travel planning easier and interactive.

On our spreadsheet I had a column for:

  • dates
  • accommodation
  • itinerary ideas
  • driving distances
  • notes to add in any questions, suggestions or concerns.

You can also create a folder in Google Drive to add in booking confirmations and receipts etc. for easy access while you are traveling.

This is especially handy if you have multiple people in your group taking care of different travel arrangements.

My parents could then easily check what was happening each day and tell me what looked of interest to them.

Exploring Nashville

It made it easier for me to know what to schedule in and book, and whether it was cost effective to purchase city sightseeing passes or not.

For those with parents who aren’t tech savvy, stick to the simplicity of a Google spreadsheet and regular phone conversations.

If you have the group organizer this should flow easily and effortlessly.

If you like using apps for travel planning, particularly for group travel, then Travefy comes recommended as a good travel planning app for building your trip together with a group through sharing of itinerary, notes and discussions.

4. Choose the Right Mode of Transport for Group Travel

USA road trip
No, we didn’t cruise around in this, lol.

Be sure to choose the right mode of transport when you travel in a group, so you don’t exhaust everyone’s energy and finances.

Road tripping is a wonderful way to experience multigenerational travel. It’s easy, flexible, and the kids and grandparents can play games and chat.

Thankfully, we have a Kia Sedona minivan so could fit the whole family in.

Consider luggage space as well as people space. We purchased a Yakima Skybox for the top of our car so all of our luggage could fit in as well.

USA road trip mini van
Our Kia Sedona

If you’re renting a car, will you rent one or two cars? If it is two, who will be the drivers? If you have two cars, how will you communicate and ensure you end up in the same place?

Be sure to consider all of this before you set off on your multi-generational trip.

In the cities, it can also be cheaper to catch Ubers or Lyft in a large group, rather than public transport.

After doing the math in Boston, we realized Ubers were about the same price for all of us on the train, so why not get there with ease, comfort and at a faster pace?

If you are flying together, Uber, or private car transfers will possibly be the cheapest and easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel.

5. Consider Group Travel Accommodation

Lodge on Lake Lure views
On the deck of our lodge in Lake Lure, North Carolina

What accommodation is best for multigenerational travel?

Staying in hotels can get expensive when you are traveling in a group with more than 4 people as you typically have to book two rooms.

Unless you can get great deals, or find suites, it’s better to book apartments or villas or vacation homes like Airbnb.

It will be cheaper and is nicer to share a home together.

That’s why you’re traveling together in the first place, right, to hang out? Staying in separate hotel rooms takes this bonding time away.

But you can stay in some awesome hotels, like our hotel in San Antonio.

View of The Alamo from the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio, Texas
View of The Alamo from our hotel room at The Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio

Plus we did get sick of eating out all the time as well, so it was nice to have a home with a kitchen to cook in for dinner or breakfast. It will also save you a lot of money.

If you are booking hotel rooms, you can sometimes get interconnecting rooms, which can give it more of that homely feel.

We had the family suite with interconnecting rooms at our hotel in NYC at the INNSIDE New York Nomad. The girls loved opening the door to Nan and Pop’s room to check if they were ready to head out and explore their favorite city in the world.

6. Use Booking Sites You Trust

Getting some blogging work done at INNSIDE New York Nomad

Spending hours trying to find the perfect deal to save $50 on a room can be a complete waste of your time and energy.

Can you use those four hours to create more than the $50 savings?

One way we save on time is to use booking sites we like and trust. Our preferred sites are Booking.com and Airbnb.

You can easily share your bookings and trip information with all the parties in your travel group.

Plus you can find apartments on Booking.com as well, which is super helpful as sometimes Airbnb can be expensive or booked out.

Sometimes if I have points, or can collect substantial points, I’ll book directly with the hotel.

The stylish INNSIDE New York Nomad hotel in NYC.
Our hotel of choice in NYC – INNSIDE by Melia in Chelsea

The hotel chain we use the most is Hilton. It’s a brand we trust, we get discounts for being Hilton Honors Members and they have a range of property types to suit all families.

Double check your dates and prices, including extra fees like cleaning, as these can make a significant difference.

In my exhausted state, I accidentally booked what looked like an absolute deal for a night in New York, on a night we couldn’t get a room for less than $800.

I only realized once the confirmation came through that I booked it for that night rather than the next week when we were arriving!!

Luckily Hilton were compassionate about my mistake and refunded me the money because I am a loyal Hilton Honors Member!

7. Purchase Sightseeing Passes

Statue of Liberty tour - one of the best things to do in NYC

Sightseeing or city passes are a fantastic idea for popular destinations like New York City, especially if you are traveling in a large group with different interests.

They usually cater to a variety of attractions and will save you money if you plan on visiting a few.

The Sightseeing Passes, or City Passes, also help you plan your daily itinerary.

As they often have time or attraction limits, you’ll put more thought into a clearly defined schedule each day, so you can be more efficient with your sightseeing.

You’ll know what you want to see and when. Plan to visit the busiest attractions as soon as they open so you miss the lines.

8. Allow for the Unexpected

JFK Museum, Dallas
JFK Museum, Dallas

Our itinerary was booked and scheduled in advance with attractions and activities before we left.

I didn’t plan anything on our first night in Dallas as my parents were flying in from Sydney, so I knew they’d be jetlagged and tired.

But, when I realized we were staying around the corner from Dealey Plaza we decided to go for a walk to check it out. My parents are big JFK fans, so I knew they’d appreciate it.

While there we noticed the JFK Museum.

We had only an hour before closing but decided to go in and check it out as we wouldn’t be here again. We all loved it and are glad we made that spontaneous decision.

It was a highlight for Mum and Dad.

9. Book Your Group Travel in Advance

Bilmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

No winging it on your multi-generational trip.

Book travel in advance especially when traveling in a large party, and especially on a USA road trip.

The US is a popular destination and things can quickly book out. I almost forgot to book our ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and remembered just in time before it was full.

Same goes for accommodation.

We had one night I had not booked accommodation for in New York. There was a mix up with our booking for INNSIDE New York. As we left it so late we could not find accommodation in New York under $800 a night.

It was a crazy busy night with various things happening in the city. We ended up somewhere in New Jersey in an Airbnb which took away a night of New York glamour from us!

10. Plan for Meals

Arcade Diner in Memphis
Breakfast atthe famous Arcade Diner in Memphis

If I were to plan this road trip again, I would spend more time researching places to eat as this was very time consuming to do each day on our trip!

Especially as we are a family of various dietary needs.

Ask people for recommendations, read blog posts, and a simple Google search like “gluten free places to eat near x” can make your research quick and efficient.

Once you have a list of places you want to eat, you can even make a reservation.

Some places in America, particularly in popular tourist destinations like Nashville and New York, can have long wait times.

My research on Magnolia Table in Waco let me know that it was best to turn up as early as possible for breakfast after the 6 am opening.

I rearranged our plans for an early Dallas departure to get to Magnolia Table in Waco by 8am. We only had a 20-minute wait, but if we were a couple of hours later it would have been up to a four-hour wait!!

magnolia table restaurant waco tx

Because my technophobic Mum saw me quickly find so many wonderful places to eat, and other things on my phone as we traveled across the US, she is now using her smart phone at home to find cool places.

She was excited to tell me on the phone that she found a great gluten free cafe a 10-minute walk from her house because she said, “Google. Where is a good gluten free café?”

See how travel can transform you?

11. Plan for plenty of Restroom Breaks

Younger, and older generations tend to need frequent bathroom stops.

Rest stops can be miles apart on highways so when you see one coming ask who wants to stop and use them.

Some tours can last over an hour long so be sure to stop in at the restroom before you start your tour!

Always ask where the nearest restroom is when visiting an attraction in case you need it later. If you are doing your own walking tours in various city areas, research restrooms en route.

We were caught out a couple of times, especially in New York. A simply google search “Public restrooms near me” will help. There is always McDonalds or Starbucks.

12. Incorporate Time to Absorb the Moment

See the beautiful sunset in Menemsha in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Mum and Dad taking in the sunset in Martha’s Vineyard

Schedule in time for coffee and cake, or meal times to sit and talk about what you just experienced.

We did so many amazing and thought provoking experiences on our road trip, it was always wonderful to sit after it and talk it over with Mum and Dad.

It’s how you process, learn greater insights and develop further curiosities.

Move Slowly When Traveling With Multi-Generations

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

My family and I didn’t follow this tip!!

My parents are both pretty fit and strong, and I only operate in one gear, which is fifth.

I was confident they could handle the pace of our USA road trip, and they did awesome, especially considering that long-flight from Australia to Dallas.

If you have a long flight to start off your multi-generational travels, you may want to have the first day of rest.

We had the afternoon and evening to have a good sleep after their arrival in Dallas and then, after an early start and the morning in Waco, had a few hours’ drive and a restful first afternoon in San Antonio exploring the Riverwalk.

San Antonio River Walk, Texas.
Riverwalk, San Antonio

Because we did move so fast, I feel like time sped by and we didn’t get time to savor one experience before loading another one on top of it.

I didn’t like this, but I don’t know the solution to it, except don’t do as much!!

But on a trip like this the objective was to do as much as we could, as it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

14. Consider Any Physical Challenges

Chappaquiddick Island, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

My Dad had two knee replacements last year. He’s as strong as an ox and can still move well and walk long distances, but he’s also not a superhero.

We planned for more rest times and we took morning jogs out of the itinerary!!

If you are traveling with grandparents who have had replacements, be aware that you’ll be body scanned every time you go through security at the airport or at many popular attractions.

My Dad would let security know before he went through he had replacements and they’d often just go straight to the body scan.

My Mum, Craig and I have a few extra dietary concerns, so we had to consider this when planning for meals, always looking out for supermarkets as backups.

Whole Foods Market came to our rescue on more than one occasion.

15. Select one Person to be the Photographer

arched bridge san antonio-river walk texas
With mum and dad in San Antonio

It can get a bit much in a large group travel experience for everyone to be taking photos. So it’s a clever idea to choose one person to take care of the photography.

It’s less time consuming and less chance of heads being chopped off. Then you can share the photos with each other at the end.

My Mum and Dad took a few photos on their own small camera, but Craig was mostly responsible for taking the photos on the trip.

He made sure to capture a lot of Mum and Dad in the moment of the travel experience, plus the typical “I was here photos” with everyone.

Central Park in NYC
Mum and Dad exploring Central Park in NYC

They were delighted with the photo memories they now have of our four-week road trip.

16. Money Tips for Group Travel

We put many of the travel expenses on our credit card, so we could take advantage of reward points accumulation.

If you have this set up and your parents don’t, or vice versa, consider doing this to help the relevant person accumulate more reward points.

Splittr is an app that simplifies the process of splitting the bill.

It works offline and integrates currency conversion, adding expenses as you go and then settling them into the home currency.

You can tag who is responsible for, or contributing, to certain bills and then a final bill is given to each traveler as a PDF.

If the grandparents are visiting from an international destination, you may want to consider them transferring money to your bank account via OFX.com.

This will save them a substantial amount of fees and low currency rates the banks typically give.

I use ofx.com all the time for my international money transfers and they have saved me thousands!

If I was to do it again, I’d put all the travel expenses on our credit card and then tell Mum and Dad to wire the money to me at the end of the trip using OFX.com.

17. Don’t Leave Home Without Travel Insurance for Multigenerational Travel

At the Silos in Waco with Mum

Even if you are traveling domestically, get travel insurance, especially for grandparents!

As much as you can prepare and plan for travel, there is still a lot that can unexpectedly go wrong.

You want to travel with peace of mind to know you are covered if something unexpected or an emergency happens.

Even though we had a problem free trip, and often always do, we always get travel insurance, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, because you just never know.

If something unexpected does happen and you are not insured, you can be up for a lot of money AND inconvenience.

So don’t shrug off this step. It’s one of the most important vacation planning tips!

What happens if:

  • You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
  • There is a terrorist event
  • You get sick or injured on your trip
  • Your luggage is lost or stolen
  • You lose your passport
  • A hurricane damages your destination

Like last year, when Hurricane Irma interrupted our Caribbean cruise, it cost us an extra couple of thousand dollars to get home because we couldn’t cruise back to the Port of Miami and had to fly home from Cancun.

Thankfully we had travel insurance to help us cover those unexpected costs. Get a quote. 

Now you’re all set to travel!

Go create some special memories with those you love most and appreciate this opportunity to spend quality time together.

Now to convince my parents to come over and do it all again next year! If only that flight wasn’t so long!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and I have received financial compensation. But all opinions about family travel are our own.

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Have you been on a multigenerational family vacation before? Can you add any great planning tips for group travel?



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10 Best Italy Honeymoon Destinations…


Hey! We are Michael and Alexandra from the travel blog Couple’s Coordinates and today we are sharing our 10 best Italy honeymoon destinations.

Positano, Italy - one of the best Italy honeymoon destinations, or even just for your Italy vacation.
On the beach in Positano

Our relationship and travel have been entwined since the inception; having traveled to more than 30 countries together over the last 5 years.

Many of our major milestones have taken place on the road including our engagement in Positano, Italy, and our wedding in Bora Bora.

Having lived in Florence, Italy, we have become experts on the country of Italy as a great option to take your honeymoon vacation.

Dreaming of a Europe honeymoon? Italy is a fairly sizable country with a myriad of topographies.

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From the boot to the islands, you’ll find mountains, rolling country hills, dry arid desert-like areas, white sand beaches, and of course, vineyards.

The train system and economy air providers have made intra-Italy travel incredibly easy and affordable. As such, you and your partner can very easily see some (or all) of the destinations below on your Italian honeymoon.

We suggest visiting at least three destinations on your honeymoon so that you can experience the different regions of Italy.

10 best Italy honeymoon destinations

Northern Italy

1. Lake Como (Lago di Como)

 Italy honeymoon itinerary - Bellagio, Lake Como, is one of the best places to visit in Italy on your Italy vacation.

A romantic honeymoon doesn’t always require white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water.

The gorgeous deep blue water of Lake Como and the mountains that envelop the town of Bellagio make for a charming and relaxing honeymoon.

If Bellagio is a nice enough escape for George Clooney, suffice it to say it will be perfect for you and your new spouse.

Lake Como is lined with a number of towns, Bellagio being the most popular and beautiful. If you have enough time on Lake Como, it is worth taking the ferry to the neighboring towns such as Varenna, Como, and Menaggio.

Ligurian Coast

Cinque Terre and Portofino are the most romantic and most popular towns on the Ligurian Coast (northwest coast of Italy).

2. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, Italy - One of the best places to visit in Italy during your Italy honeymoon.

5 (cinque) towns littered throughout the mountains along the Ligurian Coast make up what we know as Cinque Terre.

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare (from south to north) are uniquely architected fishing villages; each resembling a 152-count box of Crayons.

Each town is unique, yet incredibly similar.

For Italy honeymoon purposes, you’ll find that Monterosso al Mare is a fantastic choice. The long beach provides endless opportunities to sunbathe and relax.

The 5 towns are connected by one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done; finishing with a pathway known as Villa dell’Amore, or the way of love.

The paved pathway between Riomaggiore and Manarola is often closed due to rain and mudslides; so note that you might have to train between these towns.

 Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore

While in Cinque Terre you can enjoy the aesthetic beauty, the delicious Ligurian cuisine, hiking, swimming in the sea, laying on the beach, and even boating or fishing.

The coastal mountains are lined with vineyards, offering visitors plenty of unique varietals for wine tasting.

Here is how to plan a Day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence.

Cinque Terre Trip Planning:

3. Portofino

alex from couples coordinates in portofino italy on the ligurian coast

Portofino is a quasi-extension of Cinque Terre.

The gorgeous, colorful, town is not far north of Cinque Terre and is a similar, perhaps more bougie version of Cinque Terre.

In Portofino, you’ll find similarly bright colored buildings to those in Cinque Terre, similar Ligurian cuisine (trofie al pesto, local fish, and fruity white wines), and beautiful mountains that line the coast.

One thing that you’ll find more of in Portofino is luxury yachts. The water seems to be a parking lot for the rich and famous.

The idea of “old meeting new” is personified in this beautiful village. Come to think of it, Portofino would make a great hideout for a Bond villain.

If you’ve seen the movie Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan anchors his and Naomi’s yacht, the Naomi, just off the coast of Portofino.

If you get bored lounging and drinking prosecco on a boat, you can reach the adjacent town of Santa Margherita on foot or by bus. You can also train from Santa Margherita to Cinque Terre.

Central Italy

4. Florence (Firenze)

Florence, Italy - a must visit destination in Italy on your Italy honeymoon itinerary!

Ahh, Firenze! Our second home. Our love. Our solace.

Florence offers newlyweds a unique Italian honeymoon opportunity that doesn’t involve white sand beaches and tropical drinks with the umbrellas.

Florence was the heart of the Renaissance and remains the historical nucleus of a country that was dominated so long by Ancient Rome.

If you and your spouse are looking for a honeymoon rich in history, delicious cuisine, and viticulture, you ought to add Florence to your list of honeymoon destinations.

Aside from food and culture, Florence is aesthetically beautiful.

Duomo Italy - view from the Grand Minerva Hotel pool
View of the Duomo from the Grand Hotel Minerva pool

The center and the Oltrarno are separated by the Arno river and surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan hillside.

The bridges that are littered throughout the city make for a perfect spot for a sunset picnic. Regardless of the time of year, Florence invariably boasts beautiful sunsets.

Tuscany is home to some of the best wine in the world, the famous bistecca Fiorentina (or as they call it in Florence, simply bistecca), and a world-renowned gold trade.

Be sure to taste some wine from the surrounding Tuscan vineyards of Montalcino, Chianti, San Gimignano and more – you’ll love Brunello, Chianti, and Vernaccia.

Sunset in Florence, Italy
view from Piazzale Michelangelo

Centrally located in Italy, Florence is a short drive from the towns of Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and San Gimignano and is only a short train ride from Rome and Milan (90 and 100 minutes, respectively).

If you spend your honeymoon in Florence, be sure to enjoy wine tasting in Tuscany, take a cooking class with a local in Florence and learn to make pasta, fiori di zucca, bistecca and other Tuscan dishes, and enjoy the famous museums of the Uffizi and the Accademia.

Florence is also the birthplace of gelato, so be sure to eat your body weight in gelato before you leave.

You deserve it.

Related Post – 6 fabulous restaurants in Tuscany you must try

5. Rome (Roma)

The Colosseum, Rome - a must visit for your Italy honeymoon itinerary, or any Italy vacation.

What Florence was during the Renaissance, Rome was before the fall in the year 476 CE.

Rome became a ruin of itself during the dark ages and beyond, but was resurrected during the reign of Mussolini.

Today, Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world as tourists hope to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans at the Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican.

When you visit Rome with your partner, rent a Vespa and explore the city like a local.

When you visit Rome on your Italy vacation, get around like the locals on a Vespa!

On your Rome honeymoon, enjoy the juxtaposition of ancient and modern architecture and revel in the incredible feeling you’re inevitably going to feel as you explore the most historic city on earth.

Trevi Fountain, Rome - a must visit on your Italy vacation or Italy honeymoon
Trevi Fountain

Southern Italy

6. Positano

Positano, Italy

We have a special relationship with Positano after getting engaged on the beach in 2016.

Since 2015, we have made an effort to visit Positano at least once each year.

Positano is the quintessential coastal town of Italy. The mountainous landscape of the Costiera Amalfitana – Amalfi Coast – is even a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Positano, you’ll find our favorite restaurant in the world: Da Vincenzo. Serving local seafood dishes and handmade pasta on a patio overlooking the center of Positano, Da Vincenzo is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.

Plan a romantic dinner here after you’ve enjoyed a day on the beach with your new husband/wife.

Positano, Italy - romantic honeymoon destination in Italy, or for any Italy vacation

From spending the afternoon on a boat to relaxing on the beach, hiking the Path of the Gods to kayaking in the sea, there are loads of romantic things to do in Positano.

Italy honeymoon destination - Positano, a romantic honeymoon destination for your Italy vacation

 Positano Trip Planning:

7. Amalfi

Amalfi, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is so beautiful, so romantic, and so unique that we had to include it on our list of romantic honeymoon destinations in Italy.

Amalfi is about a 30-minute drive from Positano and can easily be reached by car, bus, or even boat.

The fishing village with a pier is quite similar to Positano, but a bit less crowded and a lot less steep.

In Positano, you’ll have hundreds – wait, thousands – of steps to ascend and descend on a daily basis. Amalfi also features more white buildings as opposed to the array of colors you’ll find in Positano.

Amalfic Coast, Italy - one of the top Italy vacation spots for your Italy honeymoon

From Amalfi, you can easily walk to Atrani (a more quaint town on the Amalfi Coast) and you can hike up to Ravello (one of the more popular towns along the Amalfi Coast that sits up in the mountains and offers panoramic views of the coastline).

8. Capri

Capri, Italy - must visit destination on your Italy vacation and Italy honeymoon itinerary
Capri

Situated a 30-minute boat ride both from Positano as well as the Bay of Naples, Capri is the famous Italian isle with sheer cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and famous blue grottos.

Capri can get crowded and touristy in high-season, but if you book a nice hotel with a pool you can avoid the crowds by only leaving to go to the beach.

The beaches on the backside of Capri are generally only visited by locals and those with boats, leaving the rocky beaches empty.

This is the perfect romantic place to relax and enjoy your honeymoon.

Capri, Italy - top honeymoon destination in Italy or places to visit for your Italy vacation

Be sure to take the gondola ride to the top of the island to enjoy a view that is, as the Italians say, “Mozzafiato,” – breathtaking.

You might just find yourself singing the old Frank Sinatra song, “‘Twas on the Isle of Capri that I found her, beneath the shade of an old walnut tree. Oh, I can still see the flow´rs blooming round her. Where we met on the Isle of Capri.”

Capri, Italy - one of the top Italy vacation spots, and places to put on your Italy honeymoon itinerary

9. Mondello

Mondello, Italy - a beautiful destination for your Italy honeymoon or Italy vacation

Up to this point, you’ve probably heard of most of the destinations we included on this list. However, most people – even those who have visited Italy once or twice – aren’t familiar with the town of Mondello.

Mondello is a gorgeous seaside town on the coast of Sicily and is more so a vacation destination for Italians than it is for locals.

Mondello is the image you likely conjure when thinking about a gorgeous Sicilian village where you’d like to retire.

White sand beaches, perfectly clear blue water, and restaurants filled with delicious Sicilian cuisine are encompassed by massive cliffs on either side of the town.

Put simply, Mondello is an Italian bubble that we hope never pops.

Underwater in Mondello, Sicily

 Mondello Trip Planning:

10. Sardinia (Sardegna)

The island of Sardinia is paradise both for those looking to relax as well as for those looking for some outdoor adventure.

For the more adventurous types, the island is host to a plethora of activities such as rock climbing, boating, fishing, and hiking.

There is a reason Sardinia is known as the “Caribbean of the Mediterranean.”
Cala Gonone, Sardinia, Italy - beautiful place to visit on your Italy honeymoon or Italy vacation

Italy vacation - Cala Goloritze on Sardinia - beautiful place in Italy for your Italy honeymoon

Italy honeymoon destination - Cala Gonone in Sardinia, Italy - beautiful place to visit for your Italy vacation

Italy honeymoon destination - Cala Luna near Cala Gonone in Sardinia, Italy - picture perfect spot for your Italy vacation

Booking a Trip to Italy

Accommodation: Book hotels and apartments in Italy directly on Booking.com, or read hotel reviews for Italy on Trip Advisor.

Flights: Skyscanner and Momondo are time saving flight search engines and help you find your cheapest flight.

Car Rental: RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands.

Tours: Viator is a Trip Advisor owned company and offers small group tours to popular attractions.

Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. It covers unexpected medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost or damaged luggage by an airline etc. Get a quote from Alliance.

Travel Gear: Columbia has been making quality and affordable travel clothes and gear for over 70 years.

Suggested Guidebook: Rick Steve’s 2018 Italy Guidebook and the Rick Steve’s Italian phrase book. 

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We hope this helped you plan your Italy honeymoon itinerary. Any questions or comments write them in the comments section below!



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How to Stay Cool and Protected in Summer with Columbia Sportswear…


Thank you Columbia Sportswear for sponsoring this post. While this was a sponsored opportunity from Columbia, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Columbia gear for travel

As we always say, travel does not have to stop once you have kids! And for us, that especially includes SUMMER travel.

Growing up by the beach in Australia we’ve always chased the sun.

And now that we live in Raleigh, North Carolina, even though we’ve fallen in love with the four seasons here, there’s still something about summertime that’s very appealing!

As much as we enjoy getting a little cozy during winter now in Raleigh, that only lasts a few weeks until we start looking forward to welcoming the warmth like a long lost friend!

Columbia clothes for travel

But no matter where you are during summer, whether you’re on a family vacation or at home, the glaring heat of the sun is something not to be taken lightly.

We never realized how much the heat impacted children until we started traveling with kids.

And we’ve seen first-hand how the heat can quickly wipe out our kids, physically and emotionally. 

I’ll never forget the meltdown our eldest daughter had in the most important temple in Thailand. It was a typically HOT and HUMID Bangkok day in the middle of a summer vacation, and she just lost it.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The tantrum in a public space (yes YOUR child will do it one day!).

The heat reduces tolerance levels so they can get highly agitated and antsy quickly.

And of course there are other things to contend with when the heat comes out: sunburn, stickiness, stinky sweat and the burning sun.

But you don’t have to let the summer heat get you down!

Kayaking with kids and using Columbia clothes to keep you cool and protected during summer. Click through to see more clothes and tips!

In this post we want to inspire you to embrace the summer sun and get outside and stay outside despite the heat.

Whether at home or on our travels, we’re always about getting out in nature and enjoying the great outdoors, no matter the temperature.

And take it from us, travel with kids can be stress free, especially if you have the right gear!

Yes, it’s important to protect your kids from the sun, to keep them cool and happy, especially on those hot days.

Introducing Columbia Sportswear

Columbia clothes for summer travel - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

We are excited to partner with the Columbia Sportswear Company who focus on apparel that helps you to stay cool and protected, with gear for the trail or the water, or outdoor casual.

And their brand story totally resonates with us – Columbia gear allows you to stay outdoors longer during the summer months!

In case you don’t know, the Columbia brand was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and has been focused on making no-nonsense apparel for more than 70 years.

I sat down with our kids to choose some gear from their summer sale. And in this post you’ll see us put that gear to use whilst kayaking, hiking, biking and stand up paddle boarding.

Plus, down below are some quick tips for summer travel with kids!

Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Columbia Gear - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

You know by now that two of our favorite family outdoor activities are stand up paddle boarding and kayaking.

We love the stillness and serenity of just being out there on the water with the sun on our back and breeze on our face. 

And Kalayra loves using the board for a platform to perform her other love of doing hand stands, cartwheels and other gymnastic moves, lol. 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Columbia Gear - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothing for kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Savannah is a little more water cautious, so she doesn’t often embrace SUPPing. However, she loves kayaking, so we like to jump in a tandem kayak together to explore.

Kayaking with Columbia Sportswear - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Kayaking with Columbia Sportswear - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothing for the lake or beach - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

What Savannah is wearing:

You might prefer boating or fishing, either way Columbia has UV Protective Clothing – keep an eye out for their “OMNI-SHADE™” tag when shopping.

On the trail around the lake

We live near several lovely lakes in Raleigh, and as much as we love having grown up on the beach in Australia, we are really taking to lake life here in North Carolina.

Besides getting out on the water on a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddle board, we also enjoy walks around a lake.

Columbia clothing is perfect for trail walks around a lake - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia gear for kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

On the trail in the woods

Nature has that amazing calming effect, and hitting the trails in the woods, or forest, or even along a mountain ridge is not only good for our health but also our sanity.

Hiking or simply walking in nature is a fantastic way to unwind from the stresses and complications of life.

Hiking in the woods wearing Columbia clothes - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Despite being somewhat physical, hiking with kids is always one of the most relaxing and memorable things we do.

We’re lucky here in Raleigh to have access to a great Greenway system and plenty of trails, we’re only an hour from the coast and four hours from the Great Smoky Mountains!

But no matter where you live, there are more than 200,000 miles of trails throughout the U.S.

Get out there and explore! 

Columbia clothes for hiking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for hiking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for hiking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia gear for hiking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia clothes for hiking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

On the bike

Besides exploring on foot, our other favorite way to get out there in nature and hit the trails is on our bikes.

Columbia clothes for biking with kids

Columbia clothes for biking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Columbia gear for travel with kids

Columbia Sportswear for biking with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

Quick Tips for Summer Travel with Kids:

  • Time your activitiesgo hiking early to beat the heat of the day. Everybody’s energy is better in the morning and the later in the day the crankier our kids get.
  • The earlier you start, the less people you’ll have to deal with (we’ve noticed American’s like to sleep in, lol).
  • Stay hydrated – even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink, and ensure your children are taking sips of water every ten minutes. They will dehydrate more quickly. Forget juices and soft drinks, it will dehydrate them further.
  • Choose hiking and biking trails that are best suited to the level of your children’s age and fitness. However, our girls often surprise us with just how far they can walk.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of quality and practical gear – we attempted to hike to the top of Australia’s highest peak (Mt Kosciuszko) but didn’t have appropriate gear and it ended up a disaster.

Kaylyra likes her fashion, and she soon realized you don’t have to compromise on style and looking fashionable when it comes to Columbia clothes.

This is a good thing, because if the kids aren’t stressing about their clothes, they are bound to have more fun.

Stylish Columbia clothes for travel with kids - click through to see more Columbia apparel and tips for what to wear for travel and leisure!

And because we travel with kids often, we do our best to cut back on packing for a trip and appreciate travel clothes that are versatile.

It’s not always possible to duck back to the hotel after a day of sightseeing to get changed for the evening, so having travel outfits that can be worn casually throughout the day but are still dressy enough for getting around town are a bonus!

Shop The Columbia SALE for Summer!

 Visit the Columbia website and grab some gear from their Summer Sale which ends 8/14.

You can save up to 50% off select gear. Learn more here. 

Other Ways to Shop Columbia Apparel online:

You can shop by category, by activity, by and by technologies.

There is gear to keep you cool. And gear to keep you protected.

Save Money with their Loyalty Program

Don’t forget to join the Columbia Greater Rewards Loyalty Program.

You get Free shipping all the time, and you can earn reward points on every purchase, plus receive member only offers!

What Columbia apparel would you like to add to your summer travel wardrobe?

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