Top Ten: Barcelona (Top things to do and see in Barcelona, Spain)

 

Top Ten Barcelona Take 2

Photo Copyright: Labyrinth – daniMU https://www.flickr.com/photos/justmuit/4887814630/

1. Attend a FC Barcelona futbol game at Camp Nou.  There is no better way to experience Spanish culture than to go to a soccer game.  The Spanish love their futbol, and go crazy for the sport. There is no doubt it will be an experience to remember.

2. Relax in Park Guell. While I’m sure you’ve seen this on every Barcelona list, the park truly won’t disappoint. Take a snack, sit back, and relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and art.

3. Picnic atop the old air bunker in Carmel.  Located in La Rouira in the neighborhood of Carmel, a WW2 bunker boasts one of the best views of Barcelona.  The spot is relatively unknown to tourists and is a perfect spot to relax or enjoy a picnic dinner, especially at sunset.

4. Watch a show of the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. If you love the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, check out the Magic Fountain.  Layers of fountains perform shows nightly complete with lighting and music.  Head there sooner than later, you don’t want to miss the show, and you’ll likely want to stay for the next one. View the schudule here:  http://bit.ly/POYRtQ.

5. Casa Mila.  Like most of Gaudi’s work, Casa Mila offers some very interesting architecture.  Even if architecture and buildings aren’t your thing, Casa Mila is worth checking out for the rooftop.  The house offers a great rooftop view of the center of Barcelona.

6. Explore the labyrinth at Parc del Laberint d’Horta.  Challenge yourself in the cypress tree maze in Barcelona’s oldest park.  The labyrinth is not your typical tourist attraction, but it offers a quiet break and something different for visitors to do. 

7. Day trip to Sitges.  Spend the day in upscale Sitges, known for its great beaches and vibrant gay scene. You can take the bus or train to the city in under an hour of travel time and less than eight Euros.  The city is renowned as one of the most charming towns on the Catalan coast.

8. Eat tapas. As much as possible.   Tapas are Spain’s greatest contribution to civilization (in my humble opinion).  Why the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit and offer complimentary bites to eat with your beer is beyond me.  An excellent way to avoid spending large amounts on food and also to avoid eat large amounts of food.  Read more about tapas in Barca here:  http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/restaurants/tapas-barcelona.html.

9. Dine on Catalan food in Gracia.  Grab dinner or lunch in one of the many modern Catalan restaurants in Gracia.  The neighborhood is north of the city center and is regarded one of the most typically Catalan neighborhoods in Barcelona.

10. Hit the beach.  You can’t miss the beaches when you visit Barcelona. Just be prepared to see more of people than you may wish, and make sure to keep an eye on your belongings.

The Best Hotel Booking Sites

Travelocity. Orbitz. Priceline. We’ve all heard of them, and likely booked through them, but what makes one booking site better than another? The majority of the time hotel prices vary little to none between different booking sites.  So does it matter what site you use? While the short answer may be no, tough competition between sites has resulted in perks for travelers.  If you’re not earning a bonus for booking your hotel, you’re missing out.  Below are our favorite sites to book through.

Groupon.com (Getaways).

I know what you’re thinking.  Groupon offers deals at subpar hotels to increase their traffic. While this may be partially true, there is more to the story.  Groupon recently partnered with Expedia to create a new section of Groupon Getaways where you can book a number of rooms at market price.

Why would you book through Groupon if you’re going to pay the same rate as any other travel site? Groupon offers 5% of you hotel cost back in “Groupon Bucks”. In other words, you get 5% as a Groupon gift card to use on future purchases.  So if I spend $600 on 3 nights in a hotel, I’d get $30 in Groupon Bucks.

If you don’t travel very often (or you just love instant gratification, like I do) Groupon is a great option to get a return now, instead of waiting to hit a reward through other programs like Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards.  So scroll past all those hotels offering Groupons you wouldn’t stay in, and check out the Market Price section.

Groupon Hotels

 

Hotels.com (Welcome Rewards)

Hotels.com offers a program where when you book 10 nights at a qualifying hotel (almost all hotels are qualifying) you get a night free.  The catch, your free night is valued at the average of the cost of the 10 nights you previously booked.  In other words, you can’t book 10 nights at Days Inn then cash in your free night at the Ritz.

While this is essentially a better deal than Groupon (you are basically getting 10% of you hotel cost toward the cost of a future room), if you don’t book a room through Hotels.com within a year from your last stay, you will lose the nights you have built up.  So if you are not a regular traveler, a site with instant rewards is a much safer bet.

Hotelscom

 

Rocketmiles.com

Relatively new to the scene, RocketMiles let you earn frequent flyer miles for booking your hotel through them.  You can earn thousands of miles from booking a room through them, the earn rate varying between hotel chain, room price, and selected airline miles. For example, a 2 night stay at the $120 Holiday Inn in San Diego will earn me 2,000 Rapid Rewards points (Southwest), while staying at the Hard Rock will earn me 6,000 points.  If you like to use airline miles, it is definitely worth checking this one out.

rocketmiles

 

TheSuitest.com

If you’re in to getting a great deal, be sure to check out thesuitest.com, which will let you know what you should be paying for a given room. The site surveys the price of the room over time and tells you the fair rate, any recent changes, and how much you’d be saving on any certain day.  It will also let you know if trends suggest the price may decrease in the coming days.  A great tool for booking rooms far in advance! You may want to book through another site after checking the value of rooms at the Suitest since they don’t offer perks for booking.

The Suitest

 

Trivago.

To know you are getting the lowest price available, check Trivago.com. Trivago compares the prices of the same hotel room across almost 200 different sites and shows you where the lowest price is available.  As I stated earlier, there is typically very little different between the prices of a hotel from site to site, but there are exceptions, and often these exceptions are on obscure sites you would have never checked. While the site doesn’t offer an incentive to book through them, it’s a great place to search.

Trivago

 

Bonus Rewards.

Hotel Points.  Unless you frequently stay at the same hotel chain, hotel points can be fairly useless. However, many airlines have partnered with some hotel chains such as Hilton, Starwood, and Hyatt to allow guests to earn frequent flyer miles in place of hotel points.  Create an account to earn points at your hotel of choice, then switch the earning style to your favorite airline in your profile.

Additional Points.  Many airlines also offer shopping portals where users can register their frequent flyer numbers and gain miles while purchasing goods online.  Groupon is commonly offered on these sites, so you can gain a fairly significant amount of miles when you book your hotel through them.  I earn 3 miles per dollar spent through the Southwest portal and MILES through American Airlines. Here are some of the more common airlines:

-www.aadvantageeshopping.com/

-rapidrewardsshopping.southwest.com/

-www.mileageplusshopping.com/

Likewise, many credit cards (especially travel cards) have shopping portals where you can earn extra points per dollar at Travelocity and other major travel booking sites. 

How to Choose the Perfect Hotel Room

So you’ve decided to take a trip and you need to book a hotel room.  Choosing a hotel room can be incredibly overwhelming, especially with hundreds of hotels to choose from and thousands sites you can research and book through.

To me, there are three main important things to keep in mind when booking a room: location, rating, and price.  These may seem obvious, but finding a room to fit the criteria can be quite the task.  Below are some steps and resources to help you find and book a room without wanting to pull your hair out.

The location of your hotel can make or break a trip. In an ideal world, I would plan out all of the things I wanted to do and see in a destination and look for a hotel close to as many of those as possible. However, if you’re a procrastinator like me, you’ll need to book your hotel before you’ve even thought about your activities.

 

Look at a map of hotels to find prime locations.

Typically, from looking at a map of hotels in a city you can judge good locations from noticing where there are groups of hotels. This will give you a good idea on the areas to look into. If a hotel is not near many other hotels, it is likely it is not in a good spot to access attractions.

Map of hotels from Hotels.com

Map of hotels from Hotels.com

While booking a room on the outskirts of town may save you quite a bit, add the cost of coming in and out of town and the amount of time that takes and I think you will likely find most of those savings have disappeared.

 

Check out the neighborhoods in your destination.

Often there are multiple groups of hotels, grouped in different neighborhoods.  Certain neighborhoods may be quieter at night and thus better suited for families, whereas other parts of town may have a lot of nightlife.  It is helpful to look into the different neighborhoods of your destination to determine if the spot you chose fits what you are looking for.  You can view descriptions of each neighborhood on sites like travel.usnews.com/ (also my favorite site to check for the best time to visit a destination).

Check travel.usnews.com Neighborhood descriptions.

Check travel.usnews.com Neighborhood descriptions.

Zooming into your selected neighborhood and filtering the options with a price range or star rating should narrow your choices down to a manageable level of hotels to research.

 

Read the Negative Reviews:

There are a number of sites to read reviews of hotels from including the well known TripAdvisor and Hotels.com. Wherever you choose to read reviews, you are likely to find similar positive reviews on most hotels.  The negative reviews (and the date which they were written) often have more insight of the flaws of the hotel.  The negative reviews may be concerns that members of the staff were not helpful, which may not be of much concern.  On the other hand, negative stories can contain stories of uncleanliness, the rooms being misrepresented, or recent construction issues.

Reviews of recent constructions issues may be cause for concern.

Reviews of recent constructions issues may be cause for concern.

 

Check out the User Photos.

Most hotels can look high quality in professional pictures.  Sites like TripAdvisor offer photos from users, or “traveler photos” to see what the rooms look like when they aren’t photographed by professionals.  Great place to get an idea of what your expectations should really be.

traveler photos

 

After reviewing user photos and ratings of the hotels in the area you would like to stay in, you should be ready to book yourself a room! Look for our article about the best sites to book hotel rooms tomorrow.

 

Have any other great resources fellow travelers should know about? Let us know!

 

 

Top Ten: Las Vegas (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Las Vegas, Nevada)

 

Top Ten Vegas

Photo copyrights: Cirque du Soleil – Fen Lebalme https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcatch/11759354524/
Dinner in the Sky – www.dinnerinthesky.com
Skydiving – Michael Saechang https://www.flickr.com/photos/saechang/5810769510/

 

Las Vegas has something for everyone.  The eclectic group of people that travel to  “Sin City” daily couldn’t be more different on the outside but they all share one thing… the desire to have a good time.  From the lodging, to food, to bars 164 feet off the ground, the choices are endless.  Try a few of these things and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

1.   Club it up at the Pool

The intolerable heat can be hard to bear, so why not kill two birds with one stone and hit up a pool club?  Drinks, tanning, and (mostly) beautiful people make these a fun alternative to the local Y pool.  If anyone knows how to throw a pool party, it’s Vegas.

2.   See the Bellagio Fountains at Night

Going off every 15 minutes between 7 PM and midnight, the Bellagio fountains are especially amazing at night, adorned by lights and music.  Watching a fountain show or two at night is a must for every Vegas visitor.

3.   Take a Helicopter Tour to the Hoover Dam

There’s never a dull moment on The Strip, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to take a detour.  Catch some amazing aerial views on this great trip for the whole family.  Alternatively, you can also take helicopter tours from Vegas to the Grand Canyon and even land at the bottom for a picnic dinner.

4.   See a Show

It might sound trite (as it did to me) but in terms of entertainment value you can’t beat it.  These productions are made over-the-top and for the masses, but that’s what makes them amazing.  From Britney Spears to Penn and Teller, there’s a show for everyone.

5.   Fly at Indoor Skydiving 

If free falling from an airplane scares you, try indoor skydiving.  Vegas is home to the first indoor skydiving facility, which imitates the feeling of flying through the sky.  However, if you are looking for Justin Bieber, try elsewhere. The star was previously banned from the facility for life.

6.   Get more than you fill at a top notch buffet.

Vegas is known for its spectacular cuisine, but most notable are the top notch buffets.  Try the Bellagio or the famous Wynn Breakfast Buffet.

7.   Have Dinner in the Sky

If you’re trying to spice up your dinner, look no further….but don’t look down.  Suspended 164 feet up the air with a full-service bar and dinner, this gem is a thrill-seekers paradise.

8.   Experience the Lights on Fremont Street

Just a few miles away from all the hustle and bustle of the casinos is a sky full of lights.  Old Vegas has plenty to offer in terms of activities and a light show that few cities can top.  Shows occur hourly from 6 PM to midnight.

9.   Gamble… Unconventionally

Gamble in Vegas?  Original.  So why not try your luck to something you’re a little more accustomed to, like beer pong?  Check out the newly reopened O’Shea’s for a different experience.

10.   Rooftop at the Rio

There’s nothing better to start your night off than a drink overlooking the strip.  Take a cab down to Rio, a small jaunt from the Strip, and enjoy a beautiful panoramic view 50 stories up.

How to Fly Successfully on Budget Airlines

How to Successfully Fly on Budget Airlines

Taking a budget airline flight can be very cost effective, but only if you can successfully avoid all the hidden fees and traps.  Navigating the regulations of budget airlines, such as Ryanair, Wizzair, and EasyJet, is similar to trying to understand the rules of the Federal Tax Code.  Here are a few tips to help you travel with ease and maximize the little space you have.

1)      Location, Location, Location.  Budget airlines can offer the crazy low prices they do for multiple reasons; one of these is by offering flights out of tiny airports that don’t get the traffic of the mainstream ones.  One example of this is The Paris/Beauvais airport which Ryanair regularly flies out of.  This airport is not really located in Paris, but in the neighboring city of Beauvais over an hour’s drive away from the heart of the city. Airports outside main cities require special travel arrangements and take more time.  In the Paris example, you should arrive at a bus stop to the airport over 3 hours before your flight at a cost of 15 Euro.  Don’t rule out these tiny airports right away, but remember to factor in the added cost of getting to them and the extra travel time to make sure the plane ticket is still a steal.

Map of the Paris-Beauvais airport in relation to Paris

2)      Always pre-print your boarding pass.  Some budget airlines may charge up to 60 Euro to print your boarding pass at the airport if you do not print it before hand.  Even worse, the ticket may not be available to print more than 24 hours before your flight and 4 hours or less before the flight.   Be sure to check the time restrictions to print off your ticket and research a place to print the ticket within that timeframe to avoid paying an extremely hefty fee.

3)      Choose your suitcase wisely. Budget airlines love to pick out travelers with baggage that is outside of the specified size to make them pay for breaking the luggage guidelines. Pack in a backpack or some form of bag that you carry on your person instead of a rolling bag.  Every time I witnessed someone get stopped by the “baggage police” (which happens very often), it was someone using a rolling suitcase.  They love to make everyone with a wheeling carry on try to fit it in the little metal cage that is the measurements of the restrictions.  Can’t get it in? Pay a large fee.  Our backpacks were usually larger than these rolling bags, but never got questioned.

Carrying a rolling bag is like carrying a giant target.

Adapters vs. Converters: Which do you need?

If you are planning a trip to a country that uses different plugs than your own, you must be sure to pack an adapter or converter if you want to use your own appliances or chargers.  The task of choosing which one is necessary is a little more complicated.

-Adapters are plug extensions that literally only change the shape of the prongs that go into the outlet.  In other words, adaptors do not change anything about the way your device functions, but just change the plug of your device to fit another outlet. For the adaptor pictured below, you plug a U.S. device into the plug adaptor effectively making it fit into European plugs.

Image 

– Converters: Converters are also almost always adaptors, but instead of just changing the type of prongs on your plug, they adjust the amount of electricity that goes through your device. If your device is not a dual voltage appliance (see below for more details about this), then you will need a converter.

Image 

How to determine if your device is dual voltage: Most devices will have a sticker on the plug specifying the details of that appliance (see photo below).  Look under the “input” section on this sticker, if your device states a range of voltage (such as 100-240v in the photo below) then your appliance is dual voltage.  If there is only one numberstated here you will need a converter; if there is a range then you will only need anadaptor.

ImageElectricity sticker specifying voltage information

 

Some devices, including most hairdryers, will have some form of knob or switch which you must change from the lower voltage setting (typically 100 or 120v) to the higher voltage setting (usually 240v).

Imagethe black circle at the bottom of the dryer changes the voltage input

 

If your device is not dual voltage and you do not use a converter, one of two things is likely to happen.  First, your device may just heat up more than usual but may still work.  This is common with straighteners (even dual voltage ones).  Since the voltage is higher, the device gets hotter than usual.  Be very cautious when using a device with a different voltage, multiple girls I know have singed their hair using their curling irons and straighteners because they did not move them quickly enough through their hair with the excess heat.  The second thing that may happen, is the extra voltage will fry your device and it will cease to work completely.  Even if you use a converter this may happen since they are not the most reliable devices, despite the cost and quality of the converter.

It is best to buy dual voltage devices before you leave, or just pick up a cheaper version of your hair dryer or iron once you get to your destination country.  Avoid taking expensive appliances as the change in voltage can cause them to break very easily.

Here is a list of each country’s plug type and standard voltage:  http://www.starkelectronic.com/fzfv.htm

Itinerary: 4 Days in Reykjavik, Iceland

Thanks to a Groupon Getaways deal, my mom and I found ourselves traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland for a 4 day, 3 night trip. Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, has a population of around 320,000 and is often described as a little, big town. The people are incredibly friendly, and everyone we encountered spoke English with us. Due to the size of the city, I was originally concerned we wouldn’t find enough to do to fill our 4 days, but that turned out to be quite untrue.  Below was our itinerary:

Iceland Day ONe 

We arrived at the Reykjavik airport around 6:00 AM, took an hour long shuttle bus into town to check into our hotel (we stayed at the Icelandair Natura as part of the Groupon package).  We decided our best bet to beat jet lag was to get out and see the sights instead of going straight to bed.  We arranged for a whale watching tour through Special Tours, which picked us up from the hotel and brought us back after the tour. We were very lucky to see quite a few minke whales as well as a few humpbacks and some porpoises.  We then stopped by Icelandic Fish and Chips for dinner and decided to join on the Sterna tour to view the Northern Lights. Sterna picked us up from the hotel (as most tours do) and took us out in search of a good spot to see the Northern Lights.  Sadly, we did not see any, but we did get some hot chocolate and Icelandic doughnuts -a perk of Sterna’s tour.

Iceland Day Two

We began our second day with the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour, which led us thorough the town of Reykjavik to see the sights. If you are headed to Iceland, definitely check out www.iheartreykjavik.net where you can find answers to most of your questions, great recommendations, and activity links.  After our tour we stopped by the most famous restaurant in Iceland, the hot dog stand. Definitely a must, and surprisingly delicious. Next on the agenda was the ride to the top of Hallgrimskirja (a church and major landmark) to catch great views of Reykjavik.  After our day’s activities we headed back to the hotel to find out our Northern Lights tour had been cancelled for the evening. However, this meant we got to enjoy an incredible dinner at Grill Market. I highly, highly recommend this place, though it cannot be considered budget-friendly. We tried whale, horse, and reindeer mini burgers, all of which were delicious.

Iceland Day Three

Day Three we had arranged for a Golden Circle tour, which includes famous sights such as Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Park, Gulfoss Waterfall, and Volcanic Craters.  The tour takes over 6 hours since all the sights are spread out, so it will take most of your day.  We chose to go with Sterna for this tour as well, since they offer a noon departure time. All the other companies’ tours began at 9, meaning there would be tons of people getting to the same sights around the same time. We were pleased to find most attractions we not very crowded when we arrived.  Sterna (and most companies) offer a second Northern Lights tour for free if you do not see the lights on your first try, so we headed out to see the lights once again. Still unlucky and there was no activity, guess we will have to make another trip to see them.

Iceland Day Four

 

Our final day in Iceland was really a half day since our flight departed around 5 PM.  So we brunched on delicious crepes at Cafe Babalu then headed out to the Blue Lagoon, one of the best known sights. I have a fear of not being able to see under water while being in it, and this water did not help that concern at all. The water is completely opaque and the bottom is rumored to be muddy (water shoes recommended). Needless to say, I could not convince myself to get in.  The lagoon also smells of sulfur and there is a power plant in the background (the lagoon is actually a result of this power plant, not a natural occurrence), so keep your expectations low. Conveniently, the Blue Lagoon is kind of on the way to the airport. So you can bring your luggage to the lagoon (where they have luggage lockers) then head to the airport after. Reykjavik Excursions sells tickets for Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon to the airport, so you can save some money doing this.

Overall our time in Iceland was a delight, and we did not have enough time to do everything.  I would have liked to take a trip down to the South Coast as well as to Snaefellsjokull Peninsula. Special Tours also offers a Northern Lights Boat tour that I think would have been an interesting alternative to the other lights tours.   Locals are very friendly and helpful and the food is delicious, eat all the seafood you can get your hands on!

 

Top Ten: New York City (Top Ten Things to Do and See in NYC)

Top Ten NYC

1. Take a Water Taxi Ride.  One of the best ways to see New York
City is to take a circle tour around the island of Manhattan to see the city
from each side.  You can also cross off the Statue of Liberty, since most of these tours will go right by the statue.  New York Water Taxi offers a hop-on, hop-off version of the circle to maximize the bang for your buck.

2. Paddle-boat or Stroll Through Central Park.  Central Park is a must see for New York City visitors. The huge park offers many activities and has street vendors selling souvenirs and food alike. You can paddle-boat in the park or enjoy a picnic lunch while you people watch.

3. Window Shop on 5th Avenue or Madison Avenue.  Nothing epitomizes the Upper East Side lifestyle quite like the shops on 5th Avenue. From FAO Schwartz (the toy store made famous in the movie Big) to Bergdorf Goodman (an upscale department store only found in NYC) there are many interesting shops and window displays to be seen.

4. Eat at Grimaldi’s Pizza.  One of the most famous pizza joints, there are a few Grimaldi’s pizza locations to dine at during your stay in NYC. The best known in under the Brooklyn Bridge, and makes for a great stop to fuel up before you trek across the bridge back into Manhattan.

5. See a Show.  New York is home to many famous shows and theaters. There are many options to choose from from Broadway to Off Broadway, to free shows from upcoming actors and actresses at the NYU theater. There is something for everyone.

6. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Take the subway (or a ferry) across the bay and walk the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn into NYC. Great views from all angles of the bridge. Prepare yourself for crowds, the bridge is typically busy and the walking paths could be wider. Alternatively, you can bike ride across the bridge; the crowds can make this difficult though, and it is harder to stop to take photos and enjoy the view.

7. Relax on the High Line.  The High Line was once elevated tracks for freight trains. After threats of demolition, the tracks were transformed into a city park. You can walk the former tracks and enjoy interesting views of NYC or relax on one of the many benches or seats along the path.

8. Grab a Burger at Shake Shack. A favorite of many locals, the original Shake Shack can be found in Madison Square Park serving delicious burgers, shakes, and cheese fries. Expect to wait in a long line to grab one of these burgers. You can check the line length before you go by viewing “The Shack Cam” on the Shake Shack website.  There are multiple locations throughout the city if you want to skip waiting outdoors or the massive lines of the original location.

9. Visit St. Paul’s Chapel.  Often overshadowed by the 9/11 Memorial, St. Paul’s Chapel lies across from the site where the World Trade Centers once stood. The oldest standing church in NYC didn’t have a single window broken from the collaspe of the towers. The Chapel became the hub for recovery workers after the attack and is now filled with panels of items collected from the rescue workers and visitors in an incredibly moving and humbling display.

10. Go to the Top of the Rock. The less crowded alternative to the Empire State Building, you can ride the elevator to the top of Rockefeller Plaza for great sky views of NYC. Not only do you get to avoid the crazy crowds of the Empire State Building here, you also get a great view of the famous building from the Top of the Rock. Go right before sunset and you can catch both day and night views of the city.

How to Survive Long Flights: 12 Tips to Help You Keep Your Sanity on Long Hauls

There are many great destinations around the world to see, but some require a long flight in order to get there.  Here are a few ways to help you to not go crazy on that long flight.

1)   Pack a spare comfy outfit.  While wearing comfortable clothes on a flight is a given, even your most comfortable outfit may become uncomfortable after an extended period of time.  Pack an extra outfit in your suitcase that you can change into should the clothing you wore onto the plane become uncomfortable.  Even if you don’t need it for the flight, you can change into it upon landing to help you feel fresh or have a backup in case your checked luggage gets lost.  Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes that can be easily removed.

2)   Bring good headphones (and two pairs).  Many pairs of headphones will start to hurt your ears after extended wear.  Bring a set of a different kind to relieve your aching ears.  Invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for extra peace and quiet.

3)   Choose your seat cautiously.  If you typically choose aisle or window seats, think very carefully about where you should sit on a long flight.  Sit in the aisle and you may have to deal with people getting up and down often and may struggle to sleep in an upright position.  However, choose to sit by the window and you may get trapped in your seat by those sitting next to you.  Check if there are exit row seats available as they allow a little extra leg room.

SeatGuru shows you the optimal seat on your flight

Check out www.seatguru.com to find the best seat on every flight. It will show you the layout of your plane with each seat ranging from red (bad) to green (good seat). It will also show you the amenities available on the plane.

4)   Bring a pillow and blanket.  Nothing makes your cozier than your own pillow and blanket.  Check out the Lug Nap Sac I wrote about in “Travel Accessories We Can’t Go Without.”

Lug Nap Sac Travel Blanket & Pillow

5)   Leave the extra carry-on bag behind.  While it may be tempting to pack two carry-on bags, you will regret it when you want to stretch out your feet.  Try to keep your luggage to what will fit in the overhead.

6)   Bring food and water.  There is nothing worse than being on a long flight when all the meal options are terrible.  Prepare like the airline will not serve you any food instead of banking on eating what they serve or waiting for a flight attendant to bring you a drink.

Check www.airlinemeals.net for what you can expect to eat on your flight.

7)   Continue your daily routine.  If you wash your face, brush your teeth, etc. every morning and evening, bring the items you need to continue this regime.  Not only will it give you something to do for 5 minutes and a reason to get up; but it will help your body register the end of the day/start of a new one.  It may sound strange, but changing into sweat pants, and preparing like I am going to bed helps me relax and actually get some sleep on a long flight.

8)    Prepare for the dry air.  Recycled cabin air gets very dry.  Make sure to drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated to avoid extreme jet lag.  Make sure to pack eye drops, lotion, and chapstick to protect your skin from being in dry conditions for an extended period of time.

9)   Walk around regularly.  Get up at least every few hours and walk around just to get your blood flowing.  If you sit for an extended period it can cause cramps and other health risks.  Some travelers like to wear compression socks on long flights to increase the blood circulation in their legs.

10)   Bring back support.  If you often experience back pain (or even if you don’t) bring some form of back support to keep your body from aching upon your arrival.  Bring a lumbar support pillow to allow extra support for your back.

Adjust-Air Portable Lumbar Support

11)   Prepare entertainment for 1 ½  times longer than the flight.  If you have a 12 hour flight, don’t bring only a book that will take you 13 hours to read.  You are bound to either get bored with it or finish it faster than you expect.  When you are bored and in a contained space, it is hard to keep yourself focused.  Bring options to choose from to keep you entertained (movies, games, magazines, books, work, etc.).

12)   Take airborne before you go and/or while you are in the air.  A long flight can do a lot of damage to your body and immune system. Take airborne and other vitamin and mineral packed supplements to make up for this damage.  There is nothing worse than getting sick right when you arrive at your destination.

Top Ten: Rome (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Rome)

Top Ten Rome


1. Tour the Colosseum.
An obvious choice, there is nothing like the Colosseum. It is Difficult to imagine the extreme events that occurred in the complex.  To jump the long lines, pre-purchase your ticket to tour the Colosseum by either buying a Romapass or buying a joint ticket at the Roman Forum.

2. Throw a Coin in the Trevi Fountain. Another must in Rome. All the coins thrown in the fountain are collected daily and donated to charity.  The fountain is typically very busy, try visiting in the evening for less of a crowd.  There are also rumored to be multiple great pizza places around the piazza, perfect for dinner after your evening fountain visit.

3. Eat your weight in Gelato. It’s no secret that Italy is known for having excellent gelato, and there are no shortage of gelato shops to chose from.  You should get gelato multiple times from various places since many offer their own specialty flavors. I’ll always recommend you search for some Kinder gelato. It’s just so good.  Check out Il Gelato for some particularly innovative flavors.

4. See Rome from Above at Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (Il Vittoriano). For the best views within Rome, ride to the top of the Il Vittoriano.  A highly controversial monument for locals, the giant structure is said to only be avoidable to the eye by being on top of it. 

5. Explore Eataly Roma.  Often describe as the “Italian Whole Foods” Eataly Rome offers specialty foods and goods.  Local chefs and products are often featured here. Stop by to grab some food from one of the many restaurants inside, or to pick up some good, inexpensive wine to enjoy later. The chocolate section is a must-see and a great place to pick up something good to bring home to loved ones.

6. Get a View from the Top of Gianicolo Hill. When you need a break from the bustle of Rome, head out to Gianicolo Hill, which offers a spectacular view of the ancient city.  Enjoy a peaceful walk and check out the sights from a different view.  The hill is near the neighborhood of Trastevere, discussed below.

7. Wander around and Dine in Trastevere.  A quaint neighborhood just south of the Vatican with many affordable shops and restaurants.  Walk through the streets to get a better picture of the non-tourist part of Italy.

8. Relax on the Spanish steps. Another major landmark, the Spanish Steps are undoubtedly one of the best places to people watch. Tourists and locals alike fill the steps each evening. Grab a bottle of wine or a slice of pizza from a neighboring shop and hang out on the steps for an Italian experience. Perfect spot to spend an evening.

9.  Visit the Eerie Capuchin Crypt. Not for the faint of heart, the Capuchin Crypts are one of the most unique visitor spots in Rome.  The bones of former monks are arranged in designs in a tribute to their service. The experience is both haunting and interesting, and undoubtedly different from other tourist spots.

10. Wednesdays with the Pope. Almost every Wednesday when the pope is in town, a Wednesday morning address is held for general audiences. Religious or not, it is exciting to see the famous figure in action. The papal address is either located in St. Peter’s square or in the auditorium.  If it is the latter, you will need to pre-order tickets, best to check with your hotel.