All posts filed under: Travel Hacks

Travel Dilemma: Heartbreaking Interactions with Southeast Asia’s Child Beggars

While begging occurs widely throughout Southeast Asia, we were struck by the prevalence of child begging in Siem Reap. Frankly, it caught us off guard. Should we help out or abstain? What were the economics behind it and what potential social repercussions would we be compounding? Being approached by a young child was alarming. She would hold your arm, look up at you with large brown eyes and say, “I no want your money, I am huuuuuungry.” Sure, she was small, as most Asian people are, but something was off. She didn’t look hungry. I needed to research this a bit further. Here’s what I uncovered online. Common Child Begging ‘Scams’ Kids are effective beggars because adults are more predisposed to giving children money. This encourages parents to put their children on the street, which is especially dangerous given that Southeast Asia is commonly acknowledged as a hotbed for human trafficking. It also encourages parents to pull kids from school and forces kids to roam the streets late at night as drunk bar patrons mill about. The …

Visiting Vimy Ridge Made Me a Better Canadian

One of the highlights of my 2014 trip to France was visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. For many of us, Vimy is simply something we learn about in middle school; something we recall again during Remembrance Day ceremonies or see played out in Hollywood mini series. But you don’t have to look too far down the lineage of a Canadian family to find a relative who served in World War I. We visited on an inconspicuous Sunday in May, and we were hardly the only Canadian visitors. Our Canadian National Vimy Memorial Experience We departed Paris in the morning, arriving in Arras around 11:00 a.m. We arrived at the visitor centre by cab not more than 25 minutes later. Before the taxi left us we collected a business card from our driver which came in handy later, when we had a bilingual staffer call a cab to collect us. At the visitor centre we first signed up for the free 1 p.m. tour, then watched a short documentary and picked our way through the interpretive exhibit. Following that, we walked …

Light + Cheap Decor Perfect for Personalizing your Destination Wedding

  Opting for a destination wedding I was a bit worried it would feel like a resort wedding versus our wedding. I didn’t have much in the way of photography provided by Melia Varadero (a property we had never been to) so I didn’t have a clear vision of what we were working with. My solution was to bring decor items with us. They needed to be compact but have high impact. They should be light enough to travel with yet inexpensive enough to leave behind. It just so happened that I was shopping for decorations in November. Turns out, Black Friday is a huge opportunity for brides to score steep discounts. Some items were reduced as much as 40% off with free shipping. I’d estimate we spent about $400-$500 on extra decor items which felt adequate. Here’s what we brought: CHAIR SASHES $2.95 USD for a 5-pack from chaircoverfactory.com These pops of colour communicate your wedding’s theme, colour scheme and personality. Melia Varadero did not have the champagne-gold sashes I was after so I easily sourced them online. …

It’s OK to get Married in Cuba Just for the Havana Photo Shoot

I left Cuba married and heartbroken. You see, I fell madly in love with Havana. I adored her pastel hues, crumbling architecture, and the vintage cars. I loved the doorways that lead to concealed courtyards coated in dust and draped in nostalgia. Most of all, I loved the city’s decaying beauty; it’s as if Paris was stowed away in an attic for half a century. The love affair was a brief 16-hour whirlwind romance; I left Cuba intoxicated by Havana and wanting more. Two days after the wedding we drove to Havana in a 60+ year-old vintage Chevy  to don our wedding attire one last time for a photo shoot. As the city awoke we wandered aimlessly photographer in tow, champagne and cigar in hand. We ducked through walkways, into lobbies and through public squares. By mid-morning we had attracted a small crowd of admirers and paparazzi. I wondered what they’d do with the photos they snapped of us. Would they print them and put them on their fireplace mantles? Likely not, so why the invasion? They fired away with such dedication …

I’m a cover girl!

Just kidding, I’ve only ever had a magazine photo published on the last page and now the sixth. I’m photographed in Havana holding the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Traveller, which of course depicts Cuba. Here is the original image, snapped by Cindy Langley.

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Machu Picchu

I was surprised by how easy it was to travel Peru…in fact, it was almost too easy. (Who complains about that though?) In a brief 500 words, here’s all you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu. Trekking Machu Picchu Trekking with porters typically takes 3 to 4 days. A ton of operators can guide you along the Inca Trail, but there are alternate routes too: Salcantay, Chaski and four others. It’s worth noting the Inca Trail closes each February for maintenance. How to Visit Machu Picchu Independently You need to make your way to Aguas Calientes, a town tucked deep in the Peruvian jungle. There is no road access so you need to get there by train. There are two affordable rail companies: Inca Rail and Peru Rail. Trains depart from the town of Ollantaytambo and it takes about two hours to reach Aguas Calientes. Travelling in economy class the cost is $120 USD (or so) round-trip. Trains depart at various times of the day and it’s wise to book your ticket in advance. You can do so online, just make sure …

Backpacking: How to survive the dreaded overnight bus trip

The best way to survive one is to avoid overnight bus travel all together. But if you really must, here are some tips to live by: 1. Never assume there will be a washroom on board. Carefully consider how much liquid you consumer prior to and during the trip. 2. Stock up on food. The bus will likely make a few stops but you’ll be at the mercy of whichever vendor the company has negotiated a stopover with. Usually they are large, cafeteria style restaurants with disappointing food options and a host of toilets around back, which you’ll have to pay to use. (Bring toilet paper!) It’s best just to order a takeaway sandwich or two for the road and hit a 7-11 for snacks. 3. Wear layers. Buses often run air conditioners overnight and it can get very cold. Make sure you bring a long sleeve shirt and consider packing a sleeping bag liner. 4. Essentials: Baby wipes and/or toilet paper, earplugs, and a flashlight if you intend to read. 5. Remember, you get what you pay for. …

Ride Like a Local: How to not crash a motorbike and ruin your trip

Wherever you go you will notice backpackers wrapped in bandages. Unfortunately, not all of those wraps are concealing brand new holiday tattoos. In fact, most are the result of injuries suffered from scooter/motorbike crashes. (Since I’ve mentioned it, don’t get a tattoo. Tattoos heal best out of water and direct sunlight.) If you’re considering a bike rental here’s what you need to know: Only attempt to operate a bike if you are an experienced automobile driver. Save motorbike rentals for the Thai islands or smaller northern cities (Chiang Mai, Pai, etcetera). PS – they drive on ‘the other side of the street’ in Thailand. Most rentals shops require you to surrender your passport as collateral. Ask other backpackers with bike rentals about reputable shops. Some people will tell you never to leave your passport as a damage deposit. This is one of those decisions you’ll have to cut your backpacker teeth on, so to speak. Bikes come in automatic or manual transmission. If you’re taking one on a multi-day road trip (say from Chiang Mai to Pai) …

Essential Safety Tips for Backpackers

  Backpacking is usually pretty safe but obviously there are times when we are especially vulnerable. Here are some tips for staying safe: Watch your bucket! It is really easy to slip something into the wide mouth of a bucket, sand included. I found taxis to be ultra-scammy in Southeaset Asia and tried to avoid them in Bangkok. Travel with a buddy; the more the merrier. Watch the meters in Vietnam especially. They tend to rise strangely fast… Ensure your door guest house or hotel door is always locked. Check that the windows are locked before leaving (especially if you are ground level) Be aware of your surroundings and any new ‘friends’ If something is too good to be true, it usually is If a tuk-tuk driver offers you an exceptionally cheap fare, he will usually make you stop by his friend’s shop. He will receive cash or a gas voucher in return. Inspect a room before taking it to ensure you’re comfortable with the amenities, fire escapes, hotel ambiance, and the room’s proximity to common areas Plan your schedule …

DIY: Easy and Free Wedding Invitations, Destination Welcome Letters + Thank You Cards

  When you’re planning a wedding it can seem like the costs are never ending. There are so many expenses to cover, from beauty services to dress to favours to décor and more. I say, whenever there’s an opportunity to DIY something with professional results, get all over it. Here are two ways I saved hundreds of dollars on paper goods and printing. What I will show you can be used for save-the-dates, wedding invitations, destination welcome letters, wedding day itineraries and thank you cards. Option 1: pick a design then have it customized and locally printed Originally I went to Etsy.com and found an invitation design I liked (pictured above) from Sea Paper Designs. I sent the money, the designer added our names and dates, and then I downloaded a zip file. I easily sourced a local printer, emailed him the documents and picked up the proof same-day. Total cost: $34USD (design) + $35 CAD (printing) + cost of stamps   Option 2: use Canva.com to painlessly create your own design Unfortunately, when it came to ordering …