by Lola Akinmade on 18/09/14 at 1:17 pm
Like millions of others, I have been plotting my round-the-world journey and absolute cultural immersion for years.
Sometimes, a lengthy trip just isn’t possible. For various reasons (family commitments, financial priorities and other responsibilities), you may end up working a 9-to-5 gig. This means you are given a few fleeting vacation days off a year, often amounting to just two weeks. That’s 14 days out of 365 you can dedicate to venturing into the unknown.
Deciding how to use those days can be quite the challenge for those who equally love their careers and also love to travel. Having dealt with that situation numerous times myself, I’ve managed to figure out the best ways to stretch your vacation days into a full-blown adventure.
#1: First Decide How to Spend Those 14 days
Do you want to take two (2) longer stints or four (4) short city breaks? Do you want to travel halfway across the world, or just hop over the Atlantic?
Choosing how to allocate those days is based on your individual travel style and travel goals for the year. A reasonable travel goal could be this: You want to volunteer in Nicaragua, experience San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, and take a city break to Krakow, Poland before the end of the year.
Remember: You may also want to save a few days for when you are summoned by family for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
#2: Yes, Do Travel Around Holidays
By traveling around holidays twice or thrice a year, it allows you to make the most out of your allocated days.
Planning your trips around holidays means you can save vacation days.
For example, if you want to travel to Spain and spend 9-10 days, leaving on a Friday evening and returning the following weekend, with Monday being a holiday in-between means that you will travel for 10 days but only take four (4) work vacation days. This leaves you with a balance of eight (8) vacation days.
By traveling around holidays twice or thrice a year, it allows you to make the most out of your allocated days.
#3: Have Flexible Travel Plans
You can argue that airfare prices might be higher around holidays. By picking holidays that fall around or flank the international travel off-season (for example, Memorial Day weekend in May or Labor Day weekend in September), you will find reasonable prices.
For travelers intently seeking cheap vacations, this means watching for low fares and being able to travel on a whim. Airlines such as United and Delta send out regular emails with loads of international airfare sales.
#4: For Short City Breaks, Use Budget Airlines to Cut Costs
Four or five day city breaks mean leaving mid-week (for example, on a Wednesday evening) and returning on a Sunday (or Monday if it is a holiday). This means you take only two vacation days off (Thursday and Friday), but use up your weekend as well.
For example, if you want to travel to Dublin or Edinburgh for a short break, flying to a larger hub like London will be much cheaper than directly to your destination. From London, you can hop on one of the many budget airlines like Easy Jet and Ryan Air which run roundtrip fares as low as 20 pounds ($40). If you’ve already looked into cheap travel insurance then you’ll be making a huge saving.
These budget airlines also fly to many cities in Europe such as Sofia, Bulgaria and Poznan, Poland so your city break options are limitless.
#5: Traveling to Farther Destinations Like Asia or South America on Only 12 Days
A short break to Buenos Aires or Tokyo seems very unrealistic; however, don’t strike them off your list just yet. Try focusing on one activity, event or festival when traveling to farther destinations.
If your goal is to go hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you can take a 10-day longer stint (weekends included of course!) and visit Peru for this specific purpose. You can also visit Cuzco or nearby cities as a daytrip.
#6: Use Time Differences to Your Advantage
If you travel eastwards to Europe from the US, you will move ahead a couple hours. If you travel westwards to Central and South America, you will fall behind a few hours. So returning from Europe on a holiday Monday means you arrive on the same day. This obviously does not count towards your vacation days.
When traveling to South America, you will arrive on the same day you depart, which means you will not lose any additional days.
#7: Volunteer Internationally
You can still get to off-beaten locations and paths by volunteering for 7-12 days (including weekends) with international organizations that operate in less touristy locations. You can work at an orphanage in a remote part of Central America or work with school children in Cambodia.
GlobeAware offers short-term (one week) volunteer opportunities that focus on cultural awareness and sustainability. This will focus your trip by allowing you to interact with the locals, and give you a real insight into their way of life and customs.
#8: Explore Your Own Backyard
Whether it is visiting Chinatown in San Francisco or learning more about Native American culture in the Southwest, you can still immerse yourself in culture without leaving the country. (Tim Patterson wrote an excellent article on the topic of local travel)
Overall, nothing beats extended travel and total immersion. As an avid traveler myself, I operate under that school of thought. Until you get to that point personally, you can still work with what you have.Full Story
If you’ve already visited a lot of the major tourist destinations across the globe, perhaps it’s time to consider thinking outside the box.
There are many countries around the world that were once regarded as too dangerous for travelers, or that have not had much tourist infrastructure in place, that are just starting to come into their own.
Whether you’re looking for picturesque scenery to admire, animal sightings to tick off your bucket list, or architecture and cultures to examine, there are plenty of unexplored destinations that you can visit now, before the masses descend on them.
If you’re keen to travel to a new nation in the coming year, read on for some of the top spots to consider.
1. Myanmar (Burma)
A fast-emerging destination that is sure to draw big crowds soon enough, Myanmar is finally back on track to lure tourists.
The country spent years oppressed by a brutal regime, and there was a tourism boycott in place for 15 years.
However, a few years ago, when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, the boycott was lifted and the country previously known as Burma moved from a military to a democratic government.
Tourism numbers have been on the up and up since, with around a million visitors heading to the country last year, and seven million international tourists forecast to visit in 2020.
This beautiful, and culturally rich, nation is fast becoming one of the most exciting spots to visit in Asia. It provides an enticing mix of stunning scenery, fascinating temples, and cultural experiences for travelers to enjoy.
Due to many years of oppressive authoritarian rule, the country feels like it was stuck in a time warp.
Visitors can take in the slow pace of Yangon, and glittering golden stupas, as they explore this part of the world that feels like the Asia of old.
When many travelers think about the largest country in Central America, they picture the violence of the 1980s Contra Wars that tore the country apart.
However, Nicaragua is no longer a dangerous place to visit as it once was. This very picturesque nation today has the feel of Costa Rica from three decades ago, and is the perfect place to travel on a budget.
Although Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, the nation actually boasts decent infrastructure, with well-maintained highways, easy Internet access and a good range of accommodation and restaurant options.
Journey to this “Land of Poets” to explore natural beauty that will take your breath away.
Check out cloud-forest covered volcanoes, tropical rainforests, cobblestone streets, palm-tree covered islands, and rows of colonial relics.
Note that, while Nicaragua has a couple of international airports, it is generally more affordable to fly into nearby Costa Rica and then head north by bus.
Many travelers book tickets to Rwanda in order to set out on an epic wildness adventure — that of tracking the awe-inspiring gorilla.
The “Land of a Thousand Hills” is home to one-third of the remaining mountain gorillas in the world, as well as the same percentage of Africa’s bird species.
Due to the 1994 genocide, as well as reports of ongoing rebel activity in the regions of Rwanda that border the Democratic Republic of Congo, many tourists have been staying away from this beautiful part of Africa.
However, this nation is a land of vast beauty, epic wildlife watching, volcanoes, islands, tea plantations, and a fascinating culture.
The country’s government is investing heavily in tourism and infrastructure, and expects visitor numbers to grow rapidly.
Indeed, total revenue collected from the tourism sector in 2013 was $293 million, but this number is expected to reach $860 million by just 2017.
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina was devastated by the brutal civil war of the 1990s, but this remarkably undiscovered region of Europe has since made great progress in restoring peace and stability.
If you loved visiting Croatia but found the crowds too much, especially in summer, make sure you put Bosnia and Herzegovina on your list for your next holiday.
This European treasure is also full of amazing scenery, fascinating history, and an interesting mix of people, but the country has not yet seen the same influx of tourists.
Visit Sarajevo to celebrate the city’s revival from the war; hike through the rugged wilderness of Sutjeska National Park; and turn back the clock when you enter the Herzegovina region in the south.
Skiers can also enjoy excellent snow during the winter months in this part of the world.
We’re living in the golden age of travel for digital nomads. Essential tech gadgets are getting smaller, faster, better, and even more portable every year. Here are just five we’re already excited about for 2015 and it’s still only January!
Toshiba Encore Tablet
In the wake of the iPad mini, a torrent of compact tablets are now available. Many are even more compact and ultra-affordable. Many, like Toshiba’s Encore Series, even run a full version of Windows 8.1. The best part is that the Encore Mini can easily be found for less than $100. Several configurations are offered including the Encore 2 WT8-B32CN with an 8.0-Inch Display, Intel Atom 1.4 GHz Processor, 32 GB Flash Memory, and 1 GB RAM Memory. And it weighs just .84 pounds!
The newly launched Skiplagged is wisely taking advantage of a well-kept secret among professional travelers. In fact, the tactic often works so well that United and Orbitz have sued the site’s owner, Aktarer Zaman, and he’s even started a GoFundMe page to help pay for his mounting legal debt.
The gist is that it takes advantage of “hidden city ticketing“:
Basically, you book a flight past your destination, with your target destination as a stop on the route, and save more than if on the direct route.
Keep in mind that it works only for one-way tickets with no checked baggage. A word of warning: airlines seriously frown upon this. Travelers who do this often enough could lose their frequent flyer status and privileges.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
First there were ultrabooks and the iPad (and all its subsequent followers); now Microsoft has released the Surface Pro 3. It’s one of the most exciting hardware developments for travelers, particularly those of the ultra-minimalist variety. It’s essentially a combination tablet and PC — detach the screen when you only need the tablet portion; reattach the keyboard when you’re planning on more heavy duty typing tasks.
Unlike many tablets, the Surface 3 is a legitimate PC with the flagship i7 model offering up to 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. It also runs Windows 8.1, is just 0.55″ thick with the keyboard attached, and weighs just 2.4 pounds. The i3 model starts at just $799, but the premium i7 will set you back up to $2,000.
Affordable Merino Wool
Hikers and active outdoor folk have known about merino wool for years. It’s like a miracle fabric: lightweight, ultra soft, comfortable, breathable, and most importantly it retains its warmth even when wet. Without hyperbole, I find it to be the ideal clothing for almost any situation. Pull on a few layers of merino wool and you’re able to conquer just about anything.
Of course the clothing itself isn’t new. What is new is the amount of players in the merino wool game. It used to be that you had to shell out big bucks to premium companies like Icebreaker (who we still love by the way) and Triple Aught Design (I rarely ever leave home without the above picture Praetorian Hoodie). Now, travelers can score solid merino wool products at their local Target for much less. Instead of paying $200 for a high quality sweater, prices have dropped below (in some cases, well below) $100.
Wireless Travel Router
Hotel WiFi is notoriously awful. For some reason, the industry’s idea of “free” means “speeds akin to 1999″. There are a number of devices that aim to get around this or at least make it more bearable. Portable travel repeaters have been around for years — they’re essentially powered cubes with a built-in antenna that amplifies your hotel’s WiFi signal. While these often work, they do require at least a hint of a signal to work in the first place. That’s not always possible if you happen to be in a hotel’s dreaded dead zone where the WiFi is free and plentiful for everyone but you.
Which is where the latest crop of travel routers step in, turning a hotel’s stronger and often more reliable wired internet connection into a private WiFi cloud just for you. Simply plug the router into a power outlet, connect it to your room’s wired Internet outlet, and you’ll be surfing The Daily Puppy in no time.
The ultraportable HooToo TripMate Elite Versatile is highly reviewed and doubles as a dual USB charger. The ZyXEL 3-in-1 Wireless N Pocket Travel Router is almost as well reviewed and costs less than $25 (via Amazon).
The post 5 Travel Tools + Gadgets We’re Already Stoked About for 2015 appeared first on Vagabondish.