Category Archives: Travel Tips & Hacks

Travel light, but travel right!

Though I was never actually at risk of packing Crocs, a fanny pack or tube top, I do think it’s important to review your packing list for trends, local customs and potentially embarrassing faux pas for every single trip.

For example, you will not be permitted in churches, for service or tourism, if you have bare knees or shoScreen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.25.07 PMulders in Italy. Similarly modest attire is expected in Dubai, and extends beyond mosques to include public spaces such as shopping malls.

Pinterest is a great resource for visual packing lists. Perfect for pulling together whole outfits and seeing the latest fashions. And travel blogs for notes on the local customs and real-life experiences.

Of course, make sure you have seasonally appropriate clothing in your luggage. You don’t want to get caught without a raincoat if it’s rainy season on the coast.

Regardless of destination, I won’t leave home without a hat, slippers and good walking shoes.

The hat for hair emergencies, weather issues, and a chic look.

The slippers for my tired tourist feet when I get back to the hotel. Even soft little ballet slippers do the trick and take up no luggage space. Oh, and because…hotel carpet.

Walking shoes. I walk and walk and walk on vacation. I feel that it’s one of the most effective ways to explore a destination and really see things. No one likes blisters from silly trendy shoes that look good but are not practical.

What’s the one thing I tend to forget? Believe it or not…. sunglasses! This is my blind spot, my forgotten amenity. I typically leave them in the car when I reach the airport. And as a result, I’ve had to buy replacements on the road a few times.  I have the funny yellow ones from Bermuda, the glitter crusted ones from Vegas and the cheap ones that broke after an hour in California.

And when it comes to volume, pack less than you think you need. Infact, just pack half, if your hotel has a guest laundry room on site. Truly, I’d much rather spend 1 hour doing laundry while on vacation, than drag around twice the wardrobe and pay a checked bag fee.

Do you overpack? What are your tips for travelling light and travelling right?

 

Cash Back from North Dakota

When was the last time you were in North Dakota? Do you still have your receipts?

Did you know that Canadians are eligible to claim their sales tax back on purchases made in North Dakota? You can even file your paperwork on-line.

Simply go to the North Dakota government page and select the “Canadian Refund Online Application.”

Purchases of food, lodging and gas are not eligible for a tax refund, however take-home goods like electronics, clothing and toys are.

You have up to 3 years to submit receipts and claim your refund.

Links:

North Dakota Government

Eligibility 

Disney Cruise Twitter Party

If you’d like to learn more about a Disney Cruise, their home ports and destinations, there’s a Twitter Party taking place February 3rd, 8pm Eastern/7pm Central.

What’s a Twitter Party? It’s an on-line event hosted by a moderator(s) and focuses on one company or activity. It is an audience participation event. You can follow along on Twitter using the designated hashtag and following the moderators’ accounts. Typically there are prizes to win for participation. The event lasts just one hour, so mark the date and time on your calendar.

The hashtag for this party, which is open to Canadians only, is #Disneyfamilytravel.

The host is @listentolena

The Disney Cruise Line official account is @disneycruise

There are $1200 in prizes available to be won!

Did you know that the Disney Wonder sails a Vancouver to Alaska route each summer? They have been since 2011. If you’d like to know more about that specific route, do ask me. I quite enjoyed that cruise and so did my kids.

See you at the #disneyfamilytravel Twitter party this Wednesday!

 

20 second margarita

Doesn’t everyone love a travel hack? This one was inspired by my recent trip to San Diego.  If you’re at home, this one comes together pretty quick, is smooth and tastes great.

Just cut the lime, salt the rim & add ice to the glass. Then pour, stir, enjoy.

I love a good margarita! Or should I call this one, the at home mom-garita?

Patron reposado tequila, Brisk lemonade, ice, lime, salt.
Patron reposado tequila, Brisk lemonade, ice, lime, salt.

Do your photos reflect your memories?

The thing about travel photos is that they don’t tell the whole story. The true story gets muddled even further when those photos are prepped for Instagram. This isn’t a slam on Instagram, far from it. I think that global photos bring us a brighter more accurate picture of what the world has to offer. And it’s absolutely your choice to pick what you share with the world, and in what form

My point is this, are you tainting your own memories when you enhance or only share the perfect photos? I want to make my case by showing you a series of photos that I took at La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California.

I’m in love with this first photo. I think it’s spectacular. My money shot. But it doesn’t accurately reflect my experience.

 

This sweet baby was huddle in the centre of the pod.
This sweet baby was huddled in the centre of the pod. His eyes were open for mere seconds. Taken with my Canon 510s. This photo is completely unedited. I haven’t even cropped it, though I did consider cropping out the scar of the other seal in the right corner, however, I think it shows his age and life marks and they are an appropriate contrast to the seal pup.

 

Taking a step back, you see the whole pod of seals as they lay on the beach.

The photo was taken around 11am that day.
The photo was taken around 11am that day. Don’t they look peaceful and relaxed?

 

Let’s take one step further back. But still make sure the shot is tight and deliberately angled.

Here I am posing for a quick photo with my new friends. I love this picture. First time I've ever had the chance to pose with seals.
Here I am posing for a quick photo with my new friends. I love this picture. First time I’ve ever had the chance to pose with seals. (Unedited)

 

Same pod of seals, same beach, less than two minutes later than the above photos. Completely different picture of the experience, isn’t it?

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This one is taken from 4 paces back and a different angle, purposefully to show the crowd of visitors assembled. The seals are notable unhappy after a few folks got too close. Hipstamatic lens used to show the mood.

 

This last photo is shown from the viewing platform at street level, about 5 minutes after the first photo (of the baby) was taken.

Quite the group isn't it? On a Monday in January.
Quite the group isn’t it? On a Monday in January. Can you still see the seals in the centre?

 

My memory of this moment during the vacation, is of the big picture, the crowds and the whole perspective. However, I do still get lost in the moment of the baby seal and his soft eye when I look at it. An entirely different feeling about that day. And while I have already shared a couple of the seal photos on my Instagram feed, I have withheld the photos of the baby feeling that it was intimate and a real treasure, personal to my experience and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to share it with the world.

So, which picture is the “right” one to share?  What view of the scene do you relate to? Which of these pictures is the true reflection?

I’d love to hear your comments! Please share.

Travel Tip: Border Run

Are you feeling the pinch of our weak Canadian dollar?  You’re not alone. Thousands of Canadian snowbirds are cutting their trips short, or staying home. With an exchange rate near $1.45 per $1 US it has made travel to the United States far less attractive or affordable.

Don’t despair, you may still be able to afford a border run for your Cherry Coke and your Powerball ticket. The key is to do your homework. With a drop in Canadian tourists, many of our neighbouring American cities, like Grand Forks and Minot are sweetening the deals. When was the last time you were offered a room at a brand new hotel for $70?

The key is to do your homework and think frugally.

  1. Research before you go. Don’t assume you will find deals when you get there. Go to sites like EzMarketing.ca and print your hotel coupons first.
  2. Call and deal locally. The 1-800 numbers for booking hotels are not routinely updated with the local specials. Look for the franchise Facebook pages and check there for current deals.
  3. Look for hotels with added value, like free breakfast, manager’s reception or in-room kitchenettes. Many hotels will also offer area coupons (for restaurants and shopping) at their front desk.
  4. Time to order pizza. Grab a large pizza to share, rather than going out for a sit down meal for 4.
  5. Speak up. Ask for Canadian specials by e-mailing the tourism sites and getting on their mailing list.

www.visitgrandforks.com

https://www.facebook.com/visitgrandforks/

www.visitminot.org

In this situation, it is to your benefit to think and act locally. Southern states, like Texas and California are less likely to offer Canadian deals. However, if you have your heart set on a sunshine trip, the same tips will apply. Research and get connected to find the deals that fit your budget.

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