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Home / Travel Tips / Family Travel / Family Travel| How to win at parenting on your next flight

Family Travel| How to win at parenting on your next flight

Updated: May 22, 2017
By: Krystal Rogers-Nelson

Mom and son checking out an airplane before flyingFew things are more precious to parents than creating memories with their children. From travelling to new places to visiting family members, I treasure the moments I’ve shared travelling with my child.

Getting there by plane, though, can be nerve-racking. We’ve all seen the open letters and blurry phone videos posted online of disastrous airplane experiences involving kids. Confining a child to a small seat or a parent’s lap on an airplane is a herculean task.

But flying with kids doesn’t have to turn into a miserable excursion parents must endure. If parents prepare for the worst-case scenario, the airplane ride can evolve into a fun adventure with kids. Here are flying tips, packing essentials, and relaxation must-haves for you and your little ones.

Pay Extra and Book Early for Good Seats

Federal regulations allow children under twenty-four months to fly without a seat as a lap child. Though it sounds great to save money on tickets, babies are divas and may require some extra room. If you can afford it, pay extra for seat perks to keep your baby happy:

  • Book a bulkhead seat. If you book early enough, you can pay for a bulkhead seat that has extra legroom. These are the first row of seats that don’t have another row in front of them, so your child won’t have a seat back to kick and another row of people to torture.
  • Getting the best seats for your familyBuy another ticket. Pay extra so baby can have their own seat next to you. If your baby has a separate ticket, you can bring their car seat on the plane, too, and strap them in for the duration of the flight. Babies are typically much more comfortable in their snug car seat than wiggling in an adult’s lap.
  • Bring a travel vest or baby carrier. If you check the car seat as baggage at the airline’s front desk (this service is free, but bring a trash bag or car seat bag to wrap the car seat while it’s stored with the rest of the luggage), consider using a baby carrier or a travel vest for your child. Both will keep your baby strapped to your chest so you can attempt to relax hands-free during the flight. And, if I’m being honest, carriers and vests keep my baby from sliding off my lap when there’s turbulence.
  • Secure an aisle seat. Nothing is more annoying that constantly climbing over your fellow passengers to take your toddler to the bathroom for the fifth time or to bounce your restless baby down the aisle. If I can’t take up the whole bench with my spouse and kids, I book an aisle seat because it’s so much easier.

As of 2015, average passenger load factors for domestic flights were the highest they’ve been in over ten years, according to the Bureau of Transportation, with that number dropping minimally in 2016. These factors influence how airlines handle family seating. Though you could formerly expect a gate agent to rearrange passengers so children and parents could sit next to each other, those days are long gone. Parents will have to navigate this situation themselves, asking neighboring passengers to switch their seats. But you can take some steps to solve this problem.

  • Book early. The earlier you book, the more likely you will secure seats side by side.
  • Pay extra. The peace of mind will be worth the extra money.
  • Check in early. Check in right at the 24-hour mark before your flight so you can hopefully rearrange your seats if need be.
  • Contact customer service. Use a public social media site like Twitter or Facebook to ask for help from the airline.

Over Anticipate Food Needs

Eating a bananaThere will likely be zero plane food to interest your child outside of tiny cups of soda. And a hangry child is miserable for everyone to endure. Pack lots of food options for your child, but stay away from too much sugar to keep them calm. Granola bars, fruit pieces, and cheese sticks are easy options that are hard to spill. Remember to follow the TSA guidelines—no canned food or liquids.

The one exception to this rule is formula, breast milk, and even juice for a baby. Those liquids can be screened separately if they’re over 3.4 ounces. Keep your baby drinking or at least sucking during takeoff and landing, when the changing air pressure is painful for children who don’t understand how to yawn and pop their ears. The sucking motion will open the ear canal and relieve the pressure.

For my toddler, I bring a sippy cup or water bottle with a straw, since airlines don’t have cups with lids. I make sure my child is either drinking out of the sippy cup or eating something chewy, like fruit snacks, during takeoff and landing to help with the pressure changes.

Pack a Bag of Distractions

To keep my child quiet and occupied, I pack a few new trinkets. I wrap up the toys for him to open during the flight, which adds to the excitement. Stay away from anything with lots of tiny pieces, like DUPLOs or LEGOs—trust me. The airport floor is a black hole that will claim a tiny toy piece, never to be found again. Magnetic toys and anything that features buttons (like an old calculator) are entertaining and less likely to get lost.

I include some easy arts and crafts in my arsenal of tricks, too. I pack some small, inexpensive items that keep my child occupied for long lengths of time. Triangular crayons are a genius item to bring on plane trips because they won’t roll off tray tables, and sticker books are another fun, small option to pack.

Make Technology Your Best Friend

Family Illustration getting ready before the flightNo judgement here: hand over your phone to your kid the moment they’re bored on a flight. It’s a great way to kill time without disturbing other passengers, so give your child free reign of a tablet or smartphone. Before you leave, download new games and movies for your child. I pack some kid-sized headphones, too, so the rest of the passengers won’t give me the evil eye when they are forced to hear the “creature report” on Octonauts.

Before you get to the airport, also spend some time toddler-proofing your phone. Otherwise, your child may take control of your phone and remove apps, randomly call a stranger, or browse questionable YouTube videos.

While these general tips will help you avoid most of the struggles when flying with your children, each age group is different and presents their own set of travelling challenges. Here are some age-specific tips, along with packing essentials to help your little one feel happy and safe on a flight.

For Babies

Packing Essentials: Extra diapers, change of clothes, blanket, milk/formula

Take Nap and Bedtimes into Account

It’s cute when parents think their baby will sleep through a red-eye flight. I’ve made that mistake, and I caution you: don’t do it. Schedule your flights around your baby’s sleeping routine. Chances are small that a baby will peacefully slumber through a red-eye or nap on the mid-day flight if it doesn’t match their sleep schedule.

Make Kindness Your MO

Treat everyone on the plane with kindness, even the unhelpful stewardess and the eye-rolling passengers. If I’m overly sensitive to the other passengers and the fact that none of them want to sit near a baby, they reciprocate with kindness. One parent went so far as to make goodie bags for the passengers around them on their baby’s first flight. Though you’re certainly not expected to make a mini care package to your fellow travelers, a kind gesture goes a long way.

For Toddlers

Packing essentials: Sippy cup, smartphone, new toys, comfort item

Give Them Lots of Love

Children are keen at sensing their parent’s stress, and they can then mimic those feelings, especially as toddlers. Be ready to shower your child with extra hugs and kisses during your flight. The affection will ease their fears in an unfamiliar place and reassure them that everything is going to be alright. I make a point to check in on my toddler’s wellbeing frequently on a flight and offer my lap as a pillow and my hand for back rubs.

Bring a Comfort Item

I always bring my child’s lovie, his special toy he can’t leave home without. A favorite plush animal or blanket helps kids feel happy and safe when they’re on a potentially scary airplane ride. But keep a vigilant eye on the lovie—the last thing you want is to misplace your kid’s favorite item.

For Older Children

Packing Essentials: Small carry-on, simple crafts, tech devices, kid-friendly headphones

Teach Proper Etiquette

While a lesson in airplane courtesy will be ignored by my toddler in my home, older children will often listen to and hopefully follow behavior standards on a flight. Advise them to refrain from any actions that will disturb other passengers or brand you as “that family” by the flight crew. This includes talking loudly, aggressively playing with the tray table, touching all the buttons, repeatedly moving the seat up and down, and using the aisles as a lap track.

Put Them in Charge of Their Bag

Past toddler-hood, I put my child in charge of their own carry-on luggage. Consider a backpack or a small suitcase with wheels. I give my young child free range to pack their bag, reminding them that I make final editing decisions. Books, self-containing toy sets, and card games like Go Fish are great items for older children.Todder adventures on thier first family trip abroad

Flight Relaxation Tips for Parents

Once my little ones are happy, I do some things to keep myself comfortable on a flight, too. Here are some ways parents can relax during air travel.

  • Bring a good travel pillow. Travel pillows come in all shapes today—from a three-armed J pillow to an expanding foam pillow. The extra neck support relieves tension in my neck and shoulders that builds up if my child acts up during the flight.
  • Change into slipper socks. Removing my shoes during a flight is a tiny bit of relief, but I don’t want to walk around on the plane without my shoes. I bring a pair of slipper socks that I change into so I feel hygienic while I walk around the plane.
  • Use a face mist. Airplanes are notoriously dry—the outside air pumped in is void of moisture at high altitudes. Face mists are my favorite way to hydrate my face. Full of calming scents, they’re a wonderful luxury to indulge in throughout the flight.

You can never be too prepared for a flight. Even if the flight doesn’t go well, go into it determined that you won’t feel guilty if your child has a YouTube-worthy meltdown. You are a great parent, and a flight is a small blip of your child’s life.

What’s your number one life saving tip when flying with your little ones?

Comment below, and share this article with friends who are planning a summer getaway with their kids.

Home / Asia / India / Discover India| Epic Guide to 10 Best India Road Trips

Discover India| Epic Guide to 10 Best India Road Trips

Updated: May 5, 2017
By: Borderless Travels Team

India Rickshaw Driving

Yes, it’s almost the time of the year when you should pack your bags and hit the road, but that great North American & European past-time deserves the new hot spot of Asia. Irrespective of how many birthday candles you have blown out, you need to discover your next Asian road trip adventure.

India and a great road trip across Thailand offer what we hope will show you new world with impressively beautiful routes or destinations that will help you discover Asia in a new light

1. Driving from Mumbai To Goa India

Yes, its legendary ‘Dil Chahta Hain’ route! Fun, frolic and feni! Whenever holiday plans are tossed around, it is hard to resist the charm of this route. Driving on National Highway 48 is a pleasurable experience with several food joints to satiate your taste buds en route before you reach the party state of India— Goa.

Approximate Distance: 607.9 kms (via NH 48)
Estimated Drive Time: 10 hours and 34 minutes

2. Driving from Jaipur to Ranthambore India

Indian Bearded Man

Presenting a perfect mélange of mustard fields and vast open spaces, the highway that takes you from Jaipur to Ranthambore is as picturesque as you wish it to be. Start your journey early in the morning from Jaipur and head over to State Highway 24 which proceeds through various villages, like Lalot, Bassi, etc. Consider yourself lucky, if you spot a tiger in Ranthambore wildlife reserve!

Approximate Distance:  180 kms
Estimated Drive Time:  2 hours and 47 minutes via SH 24

4. Driving from Bengaluru to Nandi Hills India

Fall head over heels in love with the beauty of this beautiful road trip that takes you to Nandi Hills from Bengaluru! Once you reach Nandi Hills, be ready to get the warm welcome from various rare species of birds and plants. Even if you are not a history lover, plan a visit to a Tipu’s Drop, where Tipu Sultan used to condemn prisoners by throwing them to death.

Approximate Distance: 70 kms via NH7
Estimated Drive Time:1 hour and 45 min

5. Driving from Chennai to Munnar India

If the scorching heat of Chennai is bothering you, it’s time to travel to Munnar to enjoy the pleasant weather out there. Once you reach the destination, either unveil your adventure side by indulging in activities like paragliding, rock climbing, etc., or spend time in learning tea-making process. Spending some quality time in the lap of nature is also a nice idea!

Approximate Distance: 586 kms
Estimated Drive Time: 10 hours and 39 mins

6. Driving from Delhi to Agra India

Thanks to Yamuna Expressway, Taj Mahal has come closer to the national capital. In fact, so close that Delhiites can plan their quick weekend getaway to Taj Mahal—the seventh world of the wonder—without complaining about an exhaustive journey through jam-packed roads. After Taj Mahal, it’s time to visit Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Get lost on an incredible Agra adventure or enjoy a wonderful Agra tour before adding Jaipur to your list and making it a Golden Triangle! The rich heritage of the city combined with its hospitality reflects the beautiful culture that is so typical of Jaipur. After sightseeing, it is the time to visit Chokhi Dhani, which is an ethnic village offering all types of entertainment options like dance, music, food, etc.; in royal styles.

Approximate Distance: 232.7 kms via Taj Express Highway/Yamuna Expy
Estimated Drive Time: 3 hours and 35 minutes

Taj Mahal from the Arga Fort India

Taj Mahal from the Arga Fort India

6. Driving from Puri to Konark India

Don’t make a mistake of considering this as just any other route. In fact, what it offers is every traveller’s dream. The Puri-Konark highway is one of those fabulous roads to do photography which when you start will compel you to drain the entire battery of your camera. The canopy formed by trees on both sides of the road, the cool breeze and the tranquil beauty will enthrall, now and forever! Famous for the Sun Temple, Konark witnesses the presence of artists, dancers, and musicians throughout the year. Don’t miss Chilka Lake in Konark which is also the second largest lagoon in the world.

Approximate Distance: 35.5 kms
Estimated Drive Time: 49 minutes

7. Driving from Dehradun to Nainital India

A car trip from Dehradun to Nainital is filled with all the scenic beauty, including hills and great weather, making some perfect shots for photography. You can enjoy the delectable taste of cuisines at Chandni Chowk— not the busy area of Delhi but a quiet restaurant on the Mall Road of Nainital. For an adventurous soul like you, there are options like rock climbing, trekking, etc.

Approximate Distance: 285.2 kms
Estimated Time: 7 hours and 26 minutes

Nandi Hills Deccan Plateau Karnataka, India

Nandi Hills Deccan Plateau Karnataka, India

8. Driving from Manali to Leh India

This long stretch that sees visitors only a few months in a year, will test you, scare you and mesmerize you. The experience of riding through tough terrains in your car is something which you will always cherish in your life. With the snow-capped mountains smiling at you and distant valleys welcoming you with their open arms, you will be amazed to see the exotic beauty of Mother Nature.

If you have a travel partner who also knows driving, you can cover the distance between Manali and Leh in one day, otherwise, it is advised to have a stopover at Sarchu before recommencing your journey.

Approximate Distance: 474 kms
Estimated Drive Time: +24 hours

9. Driving from Kalimpong (West Bengal) to Zuluk (Sikkim) India

If you are a daredevil traveller, the trip from Kalimpong to Zuluk is an apt choice for you. Over the last few years, the hilly terrain of Zuluk has risen in popularity as a picturesque tourist spot due to its 32 wild hairpins and bends. The pristine clear view of Kanchenjunga makes the trip memorable.  West Sikkim is also home to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institutes Mountaineering Base Camp.

Approximate Distance: 87.2 kms
Estimated Drive Time: 3 hours 14 minutes

Landscape Gangtok Sikkim, India

Landscape Gangtok Sikkim, India

10. Driving from Assam India to Thailand

Undoubtedly, it is an incredible road trip passing through some of the lovely mountains and valleys in the northeast region, taking travellers to Thailand, all the way from Assam! During your trip, you will pass through stunning Assam, Megalya and Manipur before reaching Myanmar and finally, Thailand.

You can spend a day at Myanmar which is widely appreciated for its exotic cuisines, breathtaking views, and Bagan— the place which is known for its superb architectural splendor. The sunset view of Bagan is something which you should not miss.

Approximate Distance: 2,146.1 kms via Ah Myan Lan
Estimated Time: 43 hours

Logistics: Know how for a successful India road trip

A road trip doesn’t mean impulsive travelling. A lot of preparation needs to be done before heading out. So, let’s start:

Choose your vehicle wisely: Indian roads are always ready to surprise you. You will experience some extreme road conditions and landscapes across its length and breadth. So, don’t underestimate the power of potholes as they can disrupt even the journey of an SUV. Be careful while choosing your vehicle.

Take it easy: A road trip doesn’t mean a long stretch without a halt. Spare a few days to make proper stops at places that interest you. Remember, it is a vacation, and not any exercise regime that you have to complete.

Tuk Tuk Agra India

Tuk Tuk Agra India

Have a Travel Companion: Long drives aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if feasible, travel with a person who has good driving skills. Also, if you’re driving with four people, make timely rotation of seats.

Carry essential items: For a smooth journey, carry some basic road trip essentials that you can buy for almost nothing!

  • Flash light
  • First Aid kit
  • GPS/Navigation System
  • Toolbox

Getting your vehicle repaired: Get your car isn’t a rental and your traveling with a friend or buying it make sure it’s repaired and properly functioning before taking a trip. At the service station, inform people about your plans of long drives so that they can do a proper check of your vehicle. Also, while you are on a road, hit a repair centre at the first sign of a trouble. Don’t take any risk on unknown terrains.

Carry cash: Seems simple but is essential because while driving you’ll come across a lot of toll and police check posts. Make sure to carry enough cash to pay toll taxes. Here, change comes handy. As for police check posts, you might be subjected to a lot of checking as your vehicle bears other state’s registration number. Make sure you have all the valid car papers, including driving license, registration paper, car insurance, etc.; to avoid hassles.

Do advance hotel bookings: To avoid any last-minute fiascos, make your hotel bookings much in advance. It will help you get some good rates as well.

Essentials: Two must have insurance policies for a safe and smooth journey

Car Insurance

Never ever start your road trip without having a comprehensive motor insurance for your vehicle. When you are on a road, accidents can happen not because of your carelessness, but because of the fault of the other driver. The reason is simple—You can have a control over you and your vehicle but you can’t control the other person! So, it is best to have a comprehensive car insurance policy which will come handy in case of any accident or loss or damage to your vehicle. For instance, if you meet with an accident, contact your car insurer in India who will come to your rescue and help you recoup all losses or damages.

If a damage happens to another vehicle due to your fault, the insurer will cover third-party liability as well. You can also add roadside assistance cover to your main car insurance policy and enjoy assistance during mishaps, like flat tyre, mechanical breakdown, dead battery, no fuel, etc. Some insurers also arrange for alternative accommodation if the vehicle repairing time is over 12 hours and the breakdown/accident spot is more than 100 kms from the address as stated in the policy document.

Nandi Hills Forest India

Nandi Hills Forest India

Imagine, you are on a Delhi-Agra highway or driving through the Nandi Hills Forest when mechanical failures halt your journey or the fuel tank of your car goes below the reserve point and there is no petrol pump nearby. What will you do—make SOS calls to friends or spend the night on a road? Both the situations are less than ideal.

However, if you had purchased a roadside cover, your one call to the insurer would have helped you. For instance, in case of a flat tyre, the insurer will send a mechanic to replace the flat tyre and in case your vehicle runs out of fuel, the insurer delivers emergency fuel to the breakdown/accident location.

Travel Insurance

Some audacious people also include foreign locations in their road trip itinerary and make only a half of their journey by road and the rest by air. In such a case, it is necessary to buy a travel insurance before embarking on a journey. Though you are on a vacation, accidents and emergency situations aren’t! So, buy a comprehensive travel insurance policy which will come handy in case of situations like a personal accident, losing your passport, a personal liability, etc.

Get Set, Go

Now that you know where to find some of the worlds most epic road trips it’s time to plan your next visit to India and discover your next epic life experience!

Home / North America / USA / Travel America| 5 Best Car Camping Spots in Southern Utah

Travel America| 5 Best Car Camping Spots in Southern Utah

Updated: May 1, 2017
By: Krystal Rogers-Nelson
Utah, US - Southern Utah Camping in the wilderness (iStock)

Utah, US – Southern Utah Camping in the wilderness (iStock)

While Yellowstone National Park may get a lot of attention, southern Utah’s national parks are waiting to steal your heart. Utah hosts striking red rock formations and diverse wildlife like gray foxes and desert horned lizards. Rivers slice through deep canyons. Cool lakes, perfect for dipping in after an afternoon hike, abound. You can even spot petroglyphs and other testaments of humanity’s attempts to tame the wild.

Even though Utah doesn’t fall in the ten largest states, it still has the third-most national parks—which means you don’t have to travel far to visit them all. The Mighty Five national parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion—listed here follow a travel itinerary starting in Salt Lake City and finishing near Las Vegas. Each section below includes must-see sites, best campgrounds to stay at, and a safety tip to keep you well rested, protected, and ready for adventure.

1. Arches National Park

Utah Arches

Utah, US – Delicate Arches in Utah’s Arches National Park are created from centuries and millennia of weather wear (Eric Nelson)

Arches National Park owes its name to an obvious feature: arches, naturally formed in the rocks. You will see many arches from bulky ones to ones so ethereal that they seem like something out of a fantasy novel. Delicate Arch is the most well known, and you should make time to see it. Try taking an early morning hike to beat the crowds (and the heat).

When planning your trip, be aware that the main camping area, Devils Garden Campground, will be closed for construction until November 2017. There are plenty of other BLM campsites nearby, such as Goose Island and Granstaff. But reservations go fast, so you may want to venture further out toGoldbar, Kane Creek Rd.  You can also try your luck at getting an individual site, but they are first-come/first-serve, so you need to get there in the morning and act fast.

Safety Tip: Visiting a national park puts you in close proximity to desert flora and rock formations.  Make sure to pack a 1st aid kit for hiking that can handle scrapes, sprains, and cacti spines.

2. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands possesses four distinct areas separated by rivers. Some sections showcase majestic cliffs, mesas, pinnacles, and domes. Others are home to the Green and Colorado Rivers, which you can raft. Must-see sites include Island in the Sky and Mesa Arch.

You won’t find any proper campgrounds inside the park, but multiple options exist outside it. Squaw Flat Campground and Willow Flat rest near the Needles District and Island in the Sky, respectively. The Bureau of Land Management maintains much of the land in and around Canyonlands, so you can always rough it and pitch a tent.

Safety Tip: Many of the hikes in Island in the Sky are family friendly, but come prepared. Some of the hikes involve steep ascents and require good hiking shoes. Canyonlands is also more remote and far from services, so it’s a good idea to pack an emergency kit in your car and note that cell service may be spotty.

Green River Utah

Utah, US – Gaining perspective overlooking Green River Utah’s Canyonlands National Park,(iStock)

3. Capitol Reef National Park

Once inside Capitol Reef, you’ll see why Native Americans termed it “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.” The park’s prismatic colors and historical sites, which include a harvestable fruit orchard, will capture your attention and possibly your affection.

Campgrounds for Capitol Reef are on a first-come-first-serve basis. The best sites include Fruita Campground, Cathedral Valley, and Cedar Mesa. Fruita offers more amenities while the other two are more primitive.

Safety Tip: Like the other southern Utah parks, you’ll do a lot of walking in Capitol Reef. Take plenty of water with you, even if it means your pack is a little heavier. You won’t regret it. Make sure to balance your water intake with salty snacks like trail-mix or add a powdered electrolyte drink to your water bottle.

Capitol Reef

Utah, US – Capitol Reef “land of the sleeping rainbow” (Bob Rogers)

4. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon boasts the largest number of hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) in the world, and the landscape feels magical, resembling castles in a fairytale. The park also displays ancient bristlecone pines, with some approaching 1,800 years in age. Also considered an oasis for stargazing, you can attend special Astronomy Ranger programs where you could see over 7500 stars on a moonless night!

Most travelers stay at a campground because of the chance to see the stars, as well as to see the sunrise and sunset transform the surrounding sandstone. The best-known sites include North and Sunset. Both accept reservations between May and September. You can also find yurt rentals nearby.

Safety Tip: Bryce Canyon starts at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, so swath your skin in sunscreen to avoid sunburns and drink lots of water.

Bryce Canyon

Utah, US – Bryce Canyon National Park (Bob Rogers)

5. Zion National Park

Zion tends to be the most visited national park in southern Utah, perhaps because of the Virgin River and the park’s towers and monoliths. For must-see sites, put Angel’s Landing (age 8+), Emerald Pools, and Weeping Rock on your list. Observation Point is also one of my favorites. Child backpacks are essential for hiking with babies and small children, though there are some paved paths that can accommodate strollers or wheelchairs.

Zion Observatory

Utah, US – Posing at Zion National Park Observatory in Zion National Park Utah (Krystal Rogers-Nelson)

Most people prefer to stay at the Watchman or South campsites. Travelers who enjoy a more rustic site may wish to stay at Lava Point, which is over an hour drive from the main entrance of the park. Watchman requires a reservation, but the other two are open. To stay off the beaten path but in luxury, reserve a spot at the glamping site Moonlight Oasis.

Safety Tip: Some of the hikes, like Angel’s Landing, have specific paths marked to keep you safe. Stay on the trails to make sure no one gets hurt.  If traveling with young children, consider a child GPS tracker since it can get crowded on the shuttle, at the trail-head and hiking on the popular trails.  I personally have found the My Buddy Tag to be useful with my rambunctious three year old, though cell coverage may vary depending on where you are in the park.

Overall, you can’t lose no matter which national parks you visit in southern Utah.

Have you been to any of southern Utah’s Mighty Five before?

Comment and share which places to camp are your favorites.

Home / Asia / Cambodia / Angkor Wat Tips| Help yourself tour Angkor Wat like a boss

Angkor Wat Tips| Help yourself tour Angkor Wat like a boss

Updated: March 9, 2016
By: Danielle Aniceto
Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap, CM – Arrive at sunrise to capture your perfect picture at Angkor Wat Cambodia (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Showing up at the 6:00 am sunrise at Angkor Wat was not exactly what I expected it to be. Being a Lara Croft fan myself, I was hoping to have to swing down from a jungle vine into an undiscovered tomb and watch the sunrise from behind a mysterious untouched ruin. Instead, I arrived to a field full of people with the exact same idea. Having to fight for a place in the crowd for the perfect sunrise view, I couldn’t help but think what the rest of the day exploring would be like. It wasn’t exactly as I imagined it, but it was still pretty spectacular.

Angkor Wat is full of tourists, but if you can accept the fact and use a little imagination, you can have a lot of fun. Here are the tips and tricks I came up with during my visit to get as much time with my inner Lara Croft as possible and the least amount of time avoiding being in someone else’s photograph.

Angkor Wat photo

Siem Reap, CM – Capturing sunrise at Angkor Wat Cambodia (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

1. Sunrise at Angkor Wat

If you are into getting that beautiful sunrise photo at Angkor Wat, I would recommend you still go but not exactly at sunrise. Google the time of the sunrise at Angkor Wat the night before (it will depend on the time of year) and plan to arrive 15/30 minutes after. This will guarantee the best light for photographs and ensure that most tourists would have already left.

Angkor Wat Mistake: Most people arrive too early and get sick of waiting in the crowd by this point.

2. Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat is definitely a splendor to witness. The only problem, once again, is that everyone else wants to witness it at the same time too. I would recommend trying to go off the beaten track for a more authentic and reflective experience. It can be done! Just avoid the flow of the crowds and explore the ancient temples for enjoyment, not to go where everyone else is.  Trust yourself and discover what other people are missing.

Angkor Wat secrets: Start at a less well-known temple in the morning. Such as Bayon or Angkor Thom. Large tour groups always start at Angkor Wat.

If you want to learn about the history of Angkor Wat, I would suggest hiring a tour guide. The books that are being sold all over the grounds for various prices, are also a good idea but may not provide the interesting and more intimate details that the well-trained multi-lingual guides do.

People at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap, CM – Hundreds of people taking photos at sunrise at Angkor Wat (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

3. Bantaey Kdei

This temple complex takes up a lot of square footage and if you tire of crowds, it is one of the least busy temples in Angkor Wat. There are many passages and doorways to venture through and you can get that awesome picture beside a massive tree with fewer tourists to compete with.

4. Ta Phrom

The temple from the Lara Croft movie. The Tomb Raider temple was definitely a sight to see. However, it is also one of the most popular temples because of the allure of the large trees that grow throughout the complex.  If you’re not afraid to venture off you can find a space to get your photo but beware of the most famous tree from the 2001 film version of Tomb Raider.  You won’t get a moment alone there.

Ta Phrom secrets: After 3:00 pm, many tourists start clearing out of the temples. Perhaps the best time of day to get that selfie you were dreaming of.

Tomb Raider Tree

Siem Reap, CM – The famous Tomb Raider tree at Ta Phrom temple in Angkor Wat Tomb Raider tree Ta Phrom Angkor Wat (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

5. Angkor Thom

This temple is stunning and a lot of fun because there are tones of small temples throughout the forest in the surrounding area. This is a temple where you can really get off the beaten track and explore!  Remember the Angkor Wat temple complex is massive and if you’re willing to explore you’ll find hidden treasures that represent the spiritual setting these temples were designed to embody.

Angkor Thom secrets: Just don’t get stuck in the tall grass with the huge spider webs. I am still not sure what kind of spiders were hiding in those webs but I am glad we never found out.

As one of the most famous temple systems in the world Angkor Wat will far exceed your expectations.  Just remember that there are many temples to explore and all of them are several kilometers apart so be prepared to spend a lot of your day enjoying the jungle by tuk tuk (yes, you should definitely spend the little money it costs for a tuk tuk).

No matter how many times you visit you’ll always feel like you’re just scratching the surface of Angkor Wat’s mysteries.  So be kind to yourself and take my advice, get the three-day pass. It is well worth it, and with a little imagination and some childish enthusiasm, you can really make the experience your own.

Have fun and safe travels!

Home / Asia / Japan / How to buy a cellphone in Japan

How to buy a cellphone in Japan

Updated: April 30, 2015
By: Ian Yacobucci
TOKYO, JAPAN - Buying a prepaid cellphone in Akihabara (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

TOKYO, JAPAN – Buying a prepaid cellphone in Akihabara (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

With wifi and roaming plans it’s easy to keep in contact with family members and friends these days, but what happens when you need a cellphone to stay connected with new friends while you’re working in a new country.

I found it important to buy a prepaid cellphone in Japan because I wanted to be a part of the community I was living in.  The problem was that getting a prepaid cellphone in Japan isn’t as easy as most countries.

I learned the hard way because the last time I was working in Japan I wasn’t able to get a prepaid cellphone.  Back in 2008,  getting a prepaid cellphone wasn’t an option. Back then, even wifi didin’t exist, and I wasn’t interested in buying a several hundred dollar cellphone under contract for a three month work trip.

Today, if you’re needing to get connected with your community in Japan, you can stop wondering “if” you can get a prepaid cellphone in Japan and start the process to getting one.

You can easily get a pre-paid cellphone or a contract if you’re planning on working in Japan. However, if you’re just visiting for a short time it’s easier to either go without a cellphone and use internet services like Skype and Magicjack, or rent a cellphone from a Japanese airport (which you return upon your departure).

As an expat, before you get a cellphone in Japan, there are a few things you need to have with you.

1.  You need to have a residency (alien) card that you’ve already registered with city hall.

2.  You need your passport.

When buying a cellphone there are two options to choose from. The first is a pre-paid option where you buy a phone and add money to a sim card. The second option is to get a cellphone under contract. If you want to get a contract you need to make sure that you’re going to be in the country for two years or more because the minimum contract period is two years, no exceptions, and no cancellations.

If you’re living in Tokyo here’s a breakdown of how to get a cellphone, how much it costs and where you can get it.

SoftBank – Prepaid option

Phone:

The cheapest option is the 2000¥ ($20 USD) option for the phone.   There is also a 5000¥ ($50 USD) option if you’re interested in watching TV on your phone.

Prepaid Card:

There are two prepaid options. The first costs 3000 ¥ ($30 USD) and the second costs 5000 ¥ ($50 USD). There are no deals for buying the more expensive card, it just gives you more money.

What you get:

Unlimited texts – 300 ¥ for 30 days

National calls – 9 ¥ for six seconds (price as listed in the SoftBank cellphone brochure) or 90¥ per minute

Where to get a prepaid cellphone in Tokyo:

If you’re in Tokyo the best place to buy a prepaid cellphone is at “Yotobashi Camera” located in Akihabara

  • To go to Akihabara station
  • Take the Showa-Dori (Akihabara Electric Town) Exit
  • Turn left and you’re there

Happy Travels!

Yak

Home / Travel Tips / Travel photography tips for incredible photos

Travel photography tips for incredible photos

Updated: October 15, 2014
By: Ian Yacobucci
Sample freeze frame photo shot with an SLR camera.

Sample freeze frame photo shot with an SLR camera.

Travelling with an SLR? This travel photography guide will guarantee you come home with the best travel pics.

In today’s digital age anyone can become an expert with a digital camera. Automatic settings make it easy for any user to create great pictures. But for the traveling photographer who wants control of their camera, and come home with travel pictures that are sure to impress their friends and family, manual is the only way to go.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you capture the best travel photos. If you’re tired of letting the camera control your pictures it’s time to take action so you can capture that perfect sunset, portrait or action shot. Whether its surfing costal South Africa, taking in a sunset or trekking in the Philippines, with these simple tips you’ll be ready to capture the perfect images you’ve always wanted.

Shutter Speed and Aperture

These five tips will help you capture the images you want by controlling the aperture and shutter speed. Remember, in order to meter properly you are going to have to adjust both the aperture and shutter speed. These tips will help you get the pictures you want letting you control the shutter speed an aperture. Regarless of whether you’re using manual, shutter speed priority, or aperture priority using these presets will get the results you’ve been longing for.

Freeze action – Shutter Speed 1/500 – 1/1000

To get that perfect image surfing, cliff jumping, or cruising along a busy street on a scooter a fast shutter speed is what you need. In order to freeze an action shot try to use the above shutter speeds. Remember to adjust the aperture in order to meter correctly preventing under or over exposure. You can also use a fast shutter speed to capture a clear picture of a crashing wave or freeze frame a waterfall. With this setting your action shot options are limitless.

A misty waterfall shot in Rain mode.

A misty waterfall shot in Rain mode.

Rain – Shutter Speed 1/60

Forget rain, how about a misty waterfall or a crashing wave. If you’ve ever wondered how professionals get those flowing images of a river, waterfall or crashing wave, blurring the rushing water to create a whispy effect try using a slower shutter speed. If you want to capture water droplets falling on an object this shutter speed will do it. Have some fun practicing and see what you get.

Use the 'f-stops' to focus on your subjects.

Use the ‘f-stops’ to focus on your subjects.

Close up – f4-5.6

Wondering how to get that perfect close up shot try using the f-stops above. These settings will allow you to capture the image clearly while slightly blurring the background. The larger the f-stop or aperture the more clear the background will be.

The 'who cares' aperture is great for landscapes or architecture.

The ‘who cares’ aperture is great for landscapes or architecture.

Who cares – f8-11

To capture those landscapes or architectural gems try using a “who cares” aperture. If you’re not trying to show depth use an f-stop between 8-11 to get that group shot or mountain shot. Using a “who cares” aperture is also good to keep as a preset. After taking a picture you should always go back to your preset. Using a shutter speed of 125 and aperture of f10 you will guarantee that if you need to take a quick image your camera will be ready and you won’t be stuck fiddling around.

Show Depth – f22

If you want to show depth in your image capturing something in fore, middle and background than an aperture of f22 will do the trick.

Rules

  • Fill the Frame – Stop trying to get all that background in the picture. If you want a great image zoom in and fill the frame. Show your audience what you’re seeing don’t distract them with all the background stuff.
  • Minimize Distractions – Check your background for distractions. If you’re taking a portrait shot an there’re telephone wires in the background you’re going to take away from the person in the picture. Minimize those distractions and I’ll guarantee you’ll make that person look really good.

Metering

Metering takes practice, in order to meter properly you need to let the perfect amount of light into the camera. Adjusting your aperture and shutter speed will allow you to control this. But where do you point your camera to meter correctly. These five rules will help you meter correctly for the five most popular landscape shots.

  • Sunny – meter the sky
  • Sunrise/Sunset – meter side of the sun
  • Dusk – Meter the dusky sky
  • Costal/Lake – Meter reflection (water surface)
  • Green (forest) – expose -2/3

Depth of Field

All in focus – focus 1/3 into the picture (5ft)

If you have an old camera like me sometimes getting things into focus can be a bit of a challenge. Often I find myself flipping on the manual focus and working from there. If you’re stuck, and the automatic focus isn’t giving you what you want, try to use manual focus. I’m always taking classroom shots and the automatic focus sometimes zones in on one student and blurs the others. When trying to get everyone or everything within your image in focus concentrate on making 1/3 of the image clear or 5ft into the picture.

Have fun!

Yak

Home / Travel Talk / Ian's Travel Thoughts / Is travel the answer to the 20-something crisis of existence

Is travel the answer to the 20-something crisis of existence

Updated: April 2, 2014
By: Ian Yacobucci
Making friends in the Philippines

With a traveler mindset you can make new friends anywhere :D

You did it! You did what every teacher and parent told you to do; you reached for the stars, followed your heart, and worked to achieve your dreams.

Perhaps you’re one of the top 3% of the world population who spent at least one semester going to post secondary education. If it clicked for you and you made it through, now you have a diploma, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or maybe even a doctorate putting you in the top 1%.

School wasn’t for you; screw it. You went right to work, apprenticed, found a job that paid twice as much as your friends who wasted their time studying things they’ll never use, and now, just like the rest of us, you’ve come to realize you’re not where you expected to be.

The reality for many 20-somethings is that they’re not as happy as they should be. Perhaps you’re the one who has a job you dislike more days than not, didn’t meet the soul mate you were supposed to marry and settle down with, realized that growing up meant debt, car insurance, rent, a mortgage, and buying more and more stuff that you don’t even use.

With all the luxuries so many of us are afforded in western countries, its amazing to think how many of us are unhappy, confused, wondering if there’s more to life, and thinking about how great it would be to just pick up leave and travel the world.

Why shouldn’t you get out there and experience life? Life wasn’t meant to be spent sitting behind a desk on a computer by day followed by the same number of hours glued to your smart phone by night.

In today’s modern world, we’re so busy that we don’t even have time to meet people; in turn creating social lives that revolve around binary interactions translated by a computer.

Which brings us all to the ultimate questions we keep asking ourselves at work, during our gruelling commutes, at dinner, all day every day, day in and day out. The questions that need you to stop making excuses. The questions that only saying “yes” will answer.

Will traveling make me happy? Will it cure the disappointment of real life? Will it change my life for the better?

Just the other day you saw a friends Facebook post that read, “loving life” with a picture of them swinging from a jungle vine into crystal clear blue water with a bunch of fun loving people who’s smiles were so big they looked like freakin’ bananas, and you wished you could be there.

The best part about being alive today, is that if you want to experience life on the road traveling the world without a care, you can. To be honest, travel probably won’t change your life in the way you expected, but that’s the beauty of if.

There’s no guarantee that if you travel life’s disappointments will be gone because life isn’t always easy. That being said, you will be a different person because you’ll learn.

You’ll learn that the world is a big place with different people, cultures, foods, and natural wonders.

You’ll learn that we as a global population have more commonalities than differences.

You’ll learn about the simplicity of life and that you don’t need more and more stuff to make you happy.

You’ll learn that sleeping under the stars is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be scary.

You’ll learn that sharing a meal with new friends and talking about life is just as good as the craziest party you’ve ever been to.

You’ll learn to respect and understand everyone’s differences and celebrate their uniqueness.

You’ll learn that people are inherently nice and that love is all around us.

You’ll learn who you are as a person, and if you’re lucky, what you really want to do with your life.

You’ll learn how to listen; to yourself, to people, and to the world.

You’ll learn that money is important but it shouldn’t be your only priority.

You’ll learn that living a life with love, friendship, community, learning and new life experiences is worth more than any object.

You’ll learn why the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” exists.

You’ll learn to break down stereotypes.

You’ll learn that it’s okay to wear the same unwashed clothes for weeks a time.

You’ll learn that you can live out of a backpack comfortably, that you don’t need technology, and that just sitting somewhere can be inspiring.

You’ll learn to trust, love, and be a part of something you never knew existed; something that’s bigger than all of us.

You’ll meet new friends, new loves, new foods, new cultures, new places and new people.

And when you come home…

You’ll know who you are. You’ll know how to listen, love, and trust yourself. And most of all, you’ll know that life is a journey that’s different for everyone, and that’s a good thing.

So go out and travel, or stay home and be happy with what you have. Just stop making excuses for why life isn’t what you thought it would be, and start figuring out ways to change your perspective!

Happy Travels,

Yak

What have you learned from traveling?

 

 

Home / Travel Tips / How to plan a trip to Europe

How to plan a trip to Europe

Updated: November 20, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Hanging out on the hillside in Kotor, Montenegro

Hanging out on the hillside in Kotor, Montenegro

It’s finally happening; you’re going on your dream trip to Europe! You’ve convinced your family that you’ll be fine, you saved up enough money (you think), your friends are totally jealous, and before you know it you’ll be there.

So, how do you plan the perfect Europe trip?  After nearly 10 years of traveling and working in Europe I found five questions, the answers to which will help you start your journey.

1. How long should I go to Europe for?

When planning a trip to Europe time is usually everyone’s major constraint. Most people choose to go for vacations which last and average of 10 days to 2 weeks, but that’s not traveling.

When you go on vacation you usually end up only spending one or two days in each location, and from there you don’t get to experience much of the rich and diverse culture, history, and people that make up Europe.

You’re different; you want to experience Europe not just get a taste of it. The ideal Europe trip should be a minimum of 1 to 2 months long. If you can find time and money to go longer, amazing! If not, 1 or 2 months in Europe is enough time to experience a few countries thoroughly or several countries quickly.

2. How much will Europe cost?

A good rule of thumb for longer travel in Europe is to budget about 1000 Euros per month. This is a relatively generous sum for most budget travelers, but if you’re only going for a month or two you don’t want to cut many corners. Just go and enjoy it!

I like to put a max budget of 50 Euros a day, which includes transportation, food, accommodation, and going out. Some day’s you’ll spend a lot less that that, other day’s you might max it out.

Giving yourself a daily budget will keep you thinking about your spending and prevent you from blowing it all on one crazy night partying Belgrade (although, that would make for a great story).

3. Where should I go in Europe?

When I plan a trip, I usually like to find countries to start and end in. You’re also going to want to pick countries that are close to each other so you can take buses, cars, and trains from one place to another.

Another rule of thumb is to start in a country that is cheap for you to fly in and out of. Then, end in a country that’s cheap to fly back to the country you started in.

For example: if you fly into Frankfurt, Germany you can travel to several neighbouring countries easily then get a budget flight back to Frankfurt and get a return flight home.

My recent trip went → Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Spain, England.

4. How to get around Europe?

There are a lot of options for getting around Europe. One option is to use European car share websites (I used www.carpooling.co.uk) where you find rides with people who are driving from one destination to another. You simply pay a little money and join them.

You can also use buses, trains, boats, and airplanes. Doing your research to find the cheapest option takes a little time but once you get used to it you’ll be able to find your way around a few nights before.

Don’t plan too far ahead or you won’t be able to be spontaneous, and might have to pass up on something really cool.

5. Where to stay in Europe?

Finding accommodation is easy with new hostel websites. The hard part is deciding which hostel to choose. I’d recommend talking to people you meet along the way, and not planning to far ahead, because word of mouth is the best way to find a gem of a hostel.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can join Counchsurfing, which is a great way to meet amazing people and really learn about the European city you’re visiting. With Couchsurfing you get to stay with people who actually live in the city. They can often give you inside tips and staying with them is free.

For a quick rundown of how to start I think this should do. Of course, I won’t tell you everything because you need to discover and experience Europe your own way, but these answers will guide you in the right direction.

If you have any other tips or tricks feel free to post them!

Happy travels,

Yak

Home / Travel Talk / Ian's Travel Thoughts / 5 steps to happiness by finding the traveler in you

5 steps to happiness by finding the traveler in you

Updated: November 13, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Making friends in the Philippines

With a traveler mindset you can be happy making new friends anywhere

Being a traveler is more than simply traveling and exploring new countries, it’s a mindset. It means that you aren’t afraid to step into the unknown, experience change, explore something new, and always be learning.

Travelers explore new places, people, foods and cultures while meeting new friends along the way. More than that, travelers are doing what they want and challenging themselves in new ways everyday, which makes them some of the happiest people on the planet.

But do you have to be in a foreign country to be happy living life this way?

So often I hear people say, “I’d love to scuba dive or volunteer to help people around the world”. I love hearing these dreams and ideas but they’re always followed with an excuse like, “I can’t go by myself” or “I don’t have time right now”.

This is not a traveler’s mentality. Travelers are happy because they make an effort to follow their interests, discover their dreams, and step outside the societal conventions that constrain people. Travelers happiness comes from figuring out a way to make things happen, and that’s why their stories are always followed by, “I wish I could do that”.

The thing is, you can! You can find that happiness by adopting a traveler mindset right now. You can start by exploring something you’ve always wanted to try, see, do, or learn. Being in a foreign country doesn’t bring you happiness as a traveler; adopting a traveler mindset and taking a chance does.

Here are 5 things you can do to find happiness by waking the traveler inside you!

1. Listen to yourself

Many people are afraid of trying something new and doing things on their own. I often find the old high school mentality of ‘that’s not cool’ or ‘why wouldn’t you do that with friends’ prevents people from being a traveler. You have to listen to yourself and do what you want to do because that will make you happy. Stop thinking about what other people would think if you join a choir or audition for a play. Trying something new will make you happy, so listen to yourself and do it!

2. Be confident

To do something new is difficult. It’s scary taking a chance and putting yourself out there. Taking an art class or starting a new job is going to be hard. You’re probably going to suck at first, you’re not going to know anyone, and what if you hate it.

Who cares! You’re there because you want to learn, improve, and challenge yourself which will make you happier.  Be confident in who you are and your abilities, nurture what you know your good at, and improve yourself in what you’re not. Be confident and you will instill confidence in others, in turn making you successful and happier in everything that you do. And if you do hate that new job, you’re still going to learn something new so be happy anyways.

3. Don’t wait for others

You’re the one who wants to take hip-hop dance classes, help out at the local food bank, study a new language, or go skydiving.  Trying something you’ve always wanted will make you happy.  So why are you waiting for your friends to join before you do it? I guarantee that if you start to do something you’ve always wanted to try, your friends will be inspired to follow. And if they don’t, you’ll make amazing new friends and be happy with your new hobby anyway.

4. Make time

Everyone is too busy to be happy doing something they love! How are you supposed to take a scuba diving course when there’s TV, work, Internet, family and friends? It’s hard to put down the broom and sweep tomorrow because the house needs to be cleaned today…hold on, does it?

Make time in you in your schedule for you. Figure out a way to do something you want to do. In all honesty, finding an hour or two a week to take a class or join a club isn’t a big deal. Heck, how many times have you missed out on something because you sat around wasting time on the Internet or watching TV. Start using that time productively and do something that will better you, inturn, making you a happier person.

5. Do some research

Find what you’re interested in then figure out a way to do it. Doing things you’re into will make you a happier person. Living in the 20th century we have access to more information than anytime in human history. With the the Internet and a few clicks of a button you can find resources, phone numbers, directions, and everything else you need to get involved in an activity that you’ve always wanted to do.

I know it’s easier said than done, but that’s just another excuse. Everyone has the potential to find happiness by living like a traveler.  You just have to find it within yourself, and realize that only you can make things happen.

Here are a few things I’ve done with a traveler mindset that have made me extremely  happy over the years:

Thumbs up for trying something new

Thumbs up for trying something new, challenging yourself, becoming a traveler and finding happiness.  Now go out there and be happy!

Learned how to play hockey as an adult
Joined a new hockey team of strangers
Tried stand up comedy
Gone to a concert of a band I didn’t know
Tried a job in television
Took a mountaineering course
Started rock climbing
Joined an adult swim club
Tried a sprint triathlon
Learned to change my car oil
Took up guitar
Read a book someone recommended
Took a new job I was scared of (more than once)
Enrolled in a beginner acting class
Learned how to surf
Sang on stage
Learned how to scuba dive
Went out with people I didn’t know well
Checked out an opera by myself
Tried a new martial art
Learned how to fly fish (not that well)
Learned how to snowboard

If you’re a traveler at heart and are finding happiness by challenging yourself,  doing something new, and learning at home right now share your story by commenting below. Tell the Borderless Travels community what you’re doing and motivate others to find happiness by becoming travelers in everyday life too!

Happy travels,

Yak

 

Home / Travel Talk / Interviews / Interview| Become a better blogger with advice from Victoria of Pommie Travels

Interview| Become a better blogger with advice from Victoria of Pommie Travels

Updated: April 11, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Victoria Brewood Pommie Travels

British born Victoria Brewood, renown travel blogger of Pommie Travels  (Photo by Pommie Travels)

In order to get the inside scoop on what travel blogging is like, and how you can improve your blog, Borderless Travels caught up renowned travel blogger Victoria Brewood of Pommie Travels.

So Victoria, you were recently nominated as travel blogger of the year. What makes your travel blog unique and how do you attract readers?

I felt pretty honoured to be nominated for travel blogger of the year, there are so many good blogs out there. I’m a solo female traveling the world- I know there are a few solo female travel bloggers out there so I can’t claim to be ‘unique’ on that one. But unlike many bloggers who have saved up for round-the-world trips or quit their 9-5 jobs, I have actually never really had a ‘proper’ job. I’ve been traveling and doing the blogging thing since I graduated from university in 2008. I’ve had a couple of extra jobs on the road- I worked in Bali making event videos for this famous sunset venue called Ku De Ta, and I also worked as a bartender in Portugal for 7 months- but since about the end of 2010 I have made my money purely from online income- blogging, copywriting, travel writing and helping people maintain their blogs.

I guess when I write my blog posts I try to imagine your average traveler, and what they are looking for when they come to my website. I attract readers by sharing my content as much as I can, and helping them out if they have questions. I don’t claim to be a brilliant writer, I’m just trying to give people the information that I wish someone had given me.

Pommie Travels in Cambodia

Victoria Brewood in Cambodia – Pommie Travels (Photo by Pommie Travels)

Most people envision travel blogging as a hobby, but you’ve turned it into a job. How do you make a living from travel blogging?

To be honest I never started travel blogging as a hobby. I set it up with the mindset that I could showcase my work and maybe get some travel writing gigs.

Firstly, I make money from advertising on Pommie Travels. I run a Bali guide which is monetized with affiliates and google ads, and my new baby is a vacation style site called Fashion’s On Vacation. I’m hoping to eventually starting an online e-boutique for travel accessories on that one.

I’ve done a fair bit of freelance copywriting work, and I write travel articles for various online travel magazines and companies. I also help people with their WordPress blogs; for example they might ask me to design a header, customize their theme, or create a newsletter campaign.

Social media seems play a big part in travel blogging. What social media do you use and how do you use it?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Google + and Instagram. There are always new social networks popping up, but you can’t manage them all, so I’m sticking to those for now. I would rather focus on a couple of social media networks and become a useful authority, than spread myself too thinly. I tried to get into Stumble Upon for ages because I heard that it generated high volumes of traffic, but my heart wasn’t in it and I wasn’t using it regularly enough. There’s a new app called Vine, which is like Instagram for video, but I haven’t really go into that one yet.

How do I use it? I use Twitter primarily like a text messaging service to communicate with other people in the industry. It’s always useful at conferences when we need to arrange to meet up! I find that my ‘normal’ friends aren’t really on Twitter.

I use Instagram for making photos look pretty and it’s the first social network I update when I’m doing something. I use Facebook to share pictures, ask my readers questions, and follow other blogs on the news feed. I feel like Facebook is quite image-based. I still can’t get into Pinterest and Google + that much, but it’s important to have your Google + account connected to your blog so you get that nice author image in the search engines. I’m trying to shoot more videos for Youtube as it’s the second biggest search engine after Google.

Beach pic pommie travels

Victoria chillin’ on a beach in S.E Asia (Photo by Pommie Travels)

Many travel bloggers struggle to grow their readership. What are some strategies to increasing blog traffic and getting people interested in your site?

The million dollar question!

I have come to the conclusion that guest posting on all sorts of different websites is the best way to get people interested. It takes time and it’s not paid, but it gives you great exposure. Don’t just guest post on travel blogs, guest post on anything related to your area of expertise- perhaps finance, fashion, blogging or business. If you can get published on sites like Huffington Post or National Geographic, that will give you a huge boost!

Post regularly and optimise your posts for SEO using the Yoast plugin, as this will increase the number of people finding you through search engines. The more posts you write, the more your traffic should go up. Think about what people might search for in Google, and incorporate that into your title.

Make sure you have social media profiles set up for your site so you can share your posts. Put your social media links in your email signature. Comment on other blogs that you find interesting, as they might check out your site if you comment regularly. Interact with other bloggers and share their stuff too if you like it.

It sounds obvious, but write useful, engaging content. You have to really step up your game here as there are so many blogs all over the Internet. Write detailed posts broken up with subheadings, and include links to any relevant websites. If another blogger has written something really useful about that topic, include a link to that post too. Link between other posts you have written to increase the time visitors spend on your site. Perfect your craft, and try to improve your writing/photography/video skills.

Lastly, make sure your site looks pretty! It’s your shop window after all.

A lot of travel bloggers participate in travel blogging conferences and I noticed you recently attended TBEX. What do they offer and how can blogging conferences help travel bloggers?

Travel blogging conferences are brilliant for networking. If you want to succeed in travel blogging, other travel bloggers have to know you exist. It’s a community, and if people are friends with you, they are more likely to promote and share your stuff. Travel blogging conferences are a fantastic platform to introduce yourself to other bloggers, swap business cards and bounce some ideas back and forth. Really they can be a lot of fun, especially when there’s a free bar! I usually go for the parties, the socialising and catching up with my blogging friends.

As for the seminars and talks, however, I have to be honest…I don’t really find them useful. I am an information addict, so I read lots and lots of online blogs for blogging tips. I never really hear anything I haven’t heard or read about before. The seminars are probably useful for beginners, but not someone who has been doing it a while.

I did so many conferences last year and unless you sign up to be a speaker they cost a lot of money, so this year I’m trying to take a break.

Pommie Ready to Climb

Victoria ready to climb! (Photo by Pommie Travels)

Established travel writers and bloggers can often find themselves on press trips. Are press trips fun and how do you get them?

I got most of my press trips through World Travel Market in London, which is a global travel industry event that takes place in London every year. It’s a great place to arrange meetings with all the top dogs from the PR companies and Tourism Boards. I look at where I might like to go, and which tourism boards are open to working with bloggers, then I find out if they are running any press trips in the future. I swap business cards, then send them a follow-up email a few days after the conference.

More often than not I just randomly receive an email in my inbox inviting me on a trip. Sometimes I have no idea how they even found me! Press trips can be great fun because you get to do some incredible things, although I find them to be very exhausting. They are usually quite short, and jam-packed with activities. Often you have to get up early in the morning, you’re out all day, and then there’s dinner and a nightlife tour! There isn’t much opportunity for sleeping, blogging or doing your own thing, although I think PR companies are discovering that it is better to give bloggers more free time.

In the future I would like to see travel bloggers paid for their work. It can be so tempting to snap up these opportunities, but it’s no good taking free trips if you can’t afford to put food on the table. The way I see it- I have to take time out of my schedule when I could be working on things that would make me money. Yes I get to do something fabulous, but it’s not FREE because I am writing about it and providing all sorts of social media coverage in return. I know bloggers who would rather just pay for their own travel because it means they don’t have the pressure of having to deliver.

 Finally, if you could give two tips on how to improve a travel blog what would they be?

 Tip # 1: If you’re trying to make money from blogging, then I really think you need to have a product. Whether it’s an e-book or something else, I think this is what will make you some cash. If you create your own product to sell, you can make money while you sleep. If your blog is the shop window, you need to make sure it looks attractive, so invest in your web design. There are a lot of ugly blogs out there…make sure yours isn’t one of them! Remember, the simpler, the better. I experiment all the time with different

Tip # 2: Improve your content, and your brand. I know this has been said a million times before. I think the key is to put yourself in the reader’s position, and ask yourself if you are giving them anything useful. Don’t be afraid to reference other websites around the Internet to help illustrate your article. Ignore what you have read elsewhere and give your honest thoughts. Show your face in pictures, so you readers know your were there. The thing that differentiates you from other blogs is your own personality, so let it shine through! And one more thing…make it easy for people to navigate your website and find your content, so your old posts don’t go unseen!

Victoria Brewood Pommie TravelsVictoria is originally from Manchester in the UK but has visited 32 countries on 5 different continents since 2008. After graduating from university, she decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so she packed her bags to travel the world as a digital nomad. Pommie Travels is a solo female travel blog featuring travel tales, photos, videos and practical tips for the various destinations she has visited. You can Tweet Victoria @pommietravels and follow her adventures on Facebook.