Why it's important to prioritise self care when you travel

Self care is really important if you are travelling for any length of time. It will help you to keep up your energy levels so you can actually enjoy your adventures.

Drink Water

This is really important - when I’m on holidays its a habit that always seems to fall by the wayside. Unless you want your skin to get flaky and to feel tired all the time of course. Keep a water bottle handy whenever you can and just remember to occasionally take a pull from it.

Exercise

Now before you panic - by exercise I don’t mean pack your gym clothes and go for a run every day - unless you want to. All I mean is do something active on purpose. Stretch in your hotel room or walk or go for a swim.

Take time to rest

The longer the trip the more important it becomes to make time to lounge in your hotel room, take a bath and read or nap for awhile. You may think travel is relaxing but being places where you don't know the language, have to deal with problems that you don't easily know how to find the answer to and even the simple fact you don't get to go back to your own house at the end of the day take a toll that adds up over the weeks.

Use Your Brain

Inevitably when you are on holidays you will get bored. You don’t think that you will because you’re somewhere magical but inevitably you’re on a train for six hours or you’re in your hotel room and you aren’t tired enough for a nap but you really need to rest your feet.

When this happens be ready to entertain yourself - and what’s even better is this is a great chance to do all the things that you don’t have time for in your normal life - read, listen to podcasts, learn a language, write a novel.

Disconnect

Can I tell you a story? Mike and I were standing in the Acropolis museum looking at the Caryatids which are these incredible statues of women - incredible because they managed to hold up a temple for thousands of years without the women having necks resembling that of the All Blacks. Essentially - not a moment to ever forget.

Around us a bunch of American teenagers milled. All of them were on their phones or complaining about being in a museum and it was truly depressing to see - how awful that this genuine wonder of the Ancient World was less interesting than Snapchat.

Please please please switch off, disconnect, put your phone away on holidays. These are moments that you cannot get back. They are not the same as the moments where you are standing in line at the grocery store or on your commute. They are truly precious.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


How to hack packing for long term travel

Over packing is the curse of long trips - the first time Mike and I went to Europe I went a little nuts with my clothes because I had never been away for so long and I just didn’t know what I needed.

I learnt my lesson and the second time round I pared my packing all the way back and I still think I could have taken less!

You want less, not more choice when you’re travelling. When you’re heading out every day for an adventure you won't be particularly interested in having endless choices for clothes.

Don’t panic though - I don’t think you should sacrifice style just so you can pack less clothes. It’s not about packing your track pants and sweatshirts - it’s about curating the nice clothes you already have so that you only take the bare essentials.

I’ve tried to make these tips as general as possible but ultimately these tips are based on my personal style + gender. So if you’re not keen on any of these tips feel free to disregard them.

What to pack

  • Only take one or two bottoms: Take your favourite pair of jeans and a pair of shorts or a skirt.

  • Pack a handful of tops: I would recommend prioritising comfort when making your choices

  • Flesh out: With dresses, an extra skirt, shorts or pants. Remember to only pack as much as you need either:

    • To last one week

    • To last between access to a laundry

  • Shoes: Only pack three pairs of shoes - MAX. On our last trip I took my boots, a pair of flats and a pair of fancy shoes because we were going out somewhere nice for Christmas.

How to pack

  • Roll your clothes: I know this sounds like one of those weird myths but you absolutely have less wrinkled clothes and let you pack more into less space.

  • Unpack when you get there: Regardless of how long you're spending in a place the easiest thing to do once you get to your accommodation is to unpack what you plan on wearing for the days that you’re there. It seems like more work but ultimately it saves you rummaging around and messing up your rolled clothes every morning. I love taking a bit of time when I arrive in a new place to unpack my clothes and also my toiletries, shoes and entertainment. Repacking takes a lot less time than you think and it really helps to make a place feel more like home and make you feel less like a guest.

  • Utilise packing cubes: I know packing cubes are going through a bit of a moment right now. There are lots of different packing cubes available but I just use large zip lock bags. I don't use them for my actual clothes which I'm happy to roll but I do use these bags for my underwear, jewellery and chargers/cables. It keeps things together rather than having them loose in your bag.  I also use different toiletry bags to separate my morning face routine, night face routine and make up.

  • Have a laundry bag: It seems so strange but when you're living out of a suitcase it's hard to remember where you're at in terms of clean clothes (particularly underwear). Having a laundry bag handy makes it easier to keep track of when you're starting to run out of clean clothes.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


The unofficial textbook on getting around when you travel

One of the biggest things to consider when you travel is how you're going to get around. That's what this post is hopefully going to help you with! It's divided into two parts. Part One is all about travel between countries and cities. Part Two further down looks at travel where you’re at your destination.

Part One

I absolutely recommend you book as much of your transport in advance - especially when you’re travelling between countries. It can really help things run smoothly when you’re there - particularly in avoiding issues with language barriers.

Planes

Choosing your airline should be based on one consideration - how long is your flight. For myself living in Australia most flights are lonngggggggg and so I have no problem going with a slightly more upmarket airline to get that little bit of extra comfort, nicer food and more entertainment options.

On the flip side for our short flights within Europe we took full advantage of the incredibly cheap options available. I didn't mind so much about getting the most comfortable flight available - instead I was much happier prioritising price. It blew my mind that we could fly (with baggage) from Rome to Athens for under $300 AUD for two people. 

Trains

Whenever you can - take the train. It really involves you in the country in a way flying doesn’t. Some of my favourite memories are of Mike and I flying through the countryside on a train - particularly in places like Switzerland where the scenery is ridiculously beautiful.

Feeling close to nature also makes time go so much faster than when you’re on a plane - there were multiple days where we were on a train for over 5 hours - and it never felt like a long time because you get more space, you get natural light and you can take coffee on the train without getting dirty looks from staff members.

Lastly trains are normally a lot more affordable than planes, and not nearly as cramped and uncomfortable as a bus.


Part Two

Public transport

In our last trip whenever we couldn’t walk we took public transport - to and from train stations, airports and on adventures out to ancient ruins. Amazingly this was less stressful than negotiating the language barriers and lack of local knowledge that comes with taking taxis.

Google Maps is really useful for working out public transport options - you just put in your location and your destination and it will suggest car, bike, walking and public transport routes for you.

Walk

Wherever and whenever you can - walk. It is the absolute best way to see a place. I am fascinated by the way people live and walking in cities really make me feel like I know a place compared to seeing it from the back of a taxi or a bus.

Obviously this isn’t always possible, but most cities are walk-able. Mike and I walked well over 12 km one day in Paris and it is absolutely why I fell so in love with the City of Lights. You will also see things you will would never otherwise have seen - foreign cities are full of things that are so familiar and yet so different to what you see every day.


But what about...

I'm yet to hire a car or use an Uber in a foreign country. I love Uber in Australia but I don't feel like I can give an opinion of using it as a transport method until I've used it somewhere unfamiliar. The same goes with hiring a car. 

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


How to use Trip Advisor effectively

 If you haven't heard of Trip Advisor before, it's a community reviewed website that covers hotels, motels, B & B and hostels. It also has restaurant reviews and travel guides for lots of major cities. It's my secret weapon for booking accommodation, finding restaurants and learning more about fun things to do. I'm really excited to share how I use Trip Advisor effectively to make my holidays more magical.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not being paid by Trip Advisor at all for this - in writing it I realised it sounds like I'm sponsored by them but I'm not. I just really love their website.

Booking your ACCOMMODATION

Finding accommodation that's in budget, in a good location and is a nice place to stay can seem very elusive sometimes. Never fear though, I have a fairly specific method that I use to find a good place to stay and I’m really excited to share it with you. This method has been honed over time and through many, many hotel bookings.

  1. Select your price range (in your local currency): Trip Advisor let's you narrow the search down by price range which is perfect but make sure it's in your own currency - conversion rates can vary a lot and doing this makes sure you stay in budget.

  2. Narrow down by rank: Trip Advisor has different sorting options and I recommend using the Ranking option, this is the rating Trip Advisor users give from highest to lowest.

  3. Now we've filtered we can start investigating what's left: First a warning - the top hotels in the ranking are most likely going to be big chain hotels. They get good ratings because of their size and familiarity but they are a perpetual disappointment - they look pretty but they never have the same level of service or personality as the smaller places. So give those a miss as often as you can and instead:

    1. Start with the highest rating and work your way down.

    2. When you go into a listing read the last five comments people have left. This will give you a great snapshot of the place. It also gives you clues as to any problems with the accommodation.

  4. Check the location: Use the map to see where it is in the city. As one friend told me once - just because a place is called Hotel Venice doesn't mean it's actually in Venice. It also helps with the other end of this spectrum, Trip Advisor comments saying "It's not very close to the city". I'm not sure what most of these comments mean as very rarely is the accommodation legitimately far from the centre of the city.

  5. Go with your gut: Ultimately you could look at 50 hotels and never feel like any of them are perfect. The aim isn't perfection, it's about picking a place that ticks enough of your requirements.

A final point - I always book through the hotel rather than Trip Advisor - even when I might get a deal with Trip Advisor. There are arguments on both sides of this but I like the control I have over the communication with the hotel. When I'm travelling for a long time removing the third party makes me feel more confident.

researching fun things to do

I'm not known for returning to places I've been to previously (Paris and Lucerne are so far the only two repeat offenders out of a possible 14). This means I'm always researching new to me places for all the fun things you can do. The Trip Advisor app comes with travel itineraries for many cities. I've never followed any of the itineraries exactly but I use it as a really good starting point for learning about what I might want to do in the city.

Finding good restaurants

Eating is possibly my favourite part of travelling to new places and so finding interesting places to eat is very important. I definitely think some of the best meals I’ve had were in places that Mike and I just wandered past and decided to check out - highlights include the best ramen I have ever eaten (in Tokyo) and an incredible seafood pasta in Rome (in a place called, no joke, De Niro).

Average meals are the flip side of the taking your chances with restaurants - and that’s where doing a little bit of prep and research can help to out. That way you are guaranteed at least one meal that is delicious.  I know this article is titled "using Trip Advisor effectively" but I actually have a few suggestions for finding delicious places to eat. I hope you don't mind me straying a little from the chosen topic:

  • Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor can be a bit hit and miss because it is relying on the opinion of individuals but you can find some real gems. My favourite restaurant in Venice and my favourite restaurant (so far - I can’t commit to forever) in Paris were both Trip Advisor recommendations. You can also save recommendations so you can start plotting good places to try months in advance.

  • Travel blogs (and vlogs) of people you trust: Local Milk, Smitten Kitchen, A Beautiful Mess and The Cherry Blossom Girl all have travel guides as part of their websites.

  • The hotel you’re staying in: Sometimes they can suggest super touristy places but on our recent trip to our hometown the apartment where we stayed gave us some amazing recommendations - most of which made their way into my Adelaide Bar Guide. So ask for their suggestions, do a bit of Googling to avoid tourist traps and who knows what you might find.


Five quick and simple tips for safer travel

When you travel it’s so important to remember that where you are going is full of people exactly like you. People who go to work, who fight with their families and love their favourite coffee shop. The media can make the  world can seem really scary, but it really isn’t that bad. 

It makes me so sad to think that people might not travel the world because they think the second they leave they are going to be mugged or kidnapped or ripped off. The world is so magical and there is so much to learn from seeing how others live.

Of course this doesn’t mean not being cautious and I have a few tips below for being safe without being silly:

Keep an eye on the news

Most hotels have wifi or newspapers so just keep half an eye on what’s going on - especially if you’re going to multiple places. We were about to travel to Paris on the eve of the Charlie Hedbo attacks. When we saw the terrible news we immediately checked what was going on in terms of travel and also checked in with our families to let them know what was going on. We still went to Paris and I have very fond memories of our time there - but we were far more conscious of regular check ins with family and keeping an eye on flights.

Be aware

I don't think you need to strap your belongings to yourself but you are more likely to be pick pocketed in tourist areas, so be discrete and aware of your belongings when you’re in tourist attractions. In addition the police in some places (such as France) can demand evidence that you are allowed in their country at any time so keep your passport on you (or other travel documents).

Scams are real! Here is a list of the most common ones, and Lonely Planet also has useful information. We’ve never been scammed badly; we once ended up paying 10 euros for a rose in Vienna (we had just gotten engaged so we were suckers for romantic gestures) and donated money to a “deaf and blind charity” (again about 10 euros) that definitely wasn’t a charity. The one that we managed to dodge but could see people being suckered in to was the “gladiators” offering to take photos with people outside of the Colosseum, and then immediately demanding payment. Don’t feel too bad if you do get suckered in, just don’t ever give credit card details or real information to anyone and try to get out of any scam without giving over too much money.

Be respectful

Although you shouldn’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells in different cultures, it is worthwhile doing a little research before you go about anything you should be aware of, such as:

  • Being conscious of any photos you take. Many landmarks and tourist sites are culturally, historically or spiritually significant, and it’s important to be aware of what kind of photos are respectful to the original intention of the location.

  • Be aware of any important etiquette; are you expected to cover your head in religious locations? Is there a polite way to greet people (or an offensive way you shouldn’t greet people)?

Be Cautious

Keep some cash in your bags at the hotel as well as photocopies of your passport and other photo ID and for the love of god purchase travel insurance. If you don't keep all your eggs in one basket it will be less terrifying if something does happen. Also if you're travelling in a group make sure all of your phones are unlocked to make calls overseas. 

Don’t tell taxi drivers or other strangers too much about your travel plans. I was actually the worst for excitedly telling taxi drivers that we’re heading off on an adventure for a few weeks until my husband pointed out that means they know the house (and all our belongings) would be empty for weeks. Don’t be like me, be vague in any descriptions of travel plans or accommodation.

Don't be an idiot

Don’t take stupid risks you wouldn’t take in your home country. If that alley looks super creepy and you’re by yourself don’t walk down it. Most places are no more or less dangerous than your home town so just act like you would at home.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


The ultimate guide to surviving a long haul flight

At the airport

Get there early

It is very stressful worrying about whether you are going to miss your flight and so it’s very important to give yourself a decent amount of time to get to the airport.

I recommend taking the estimated time it should take to get to the airport and doubling that time to be safe - I can’t count how many people have told me that they missed their flight because they didn’t know about roadworks or train lines closures or because their car broke down. I also recommend leaving an hour to check in, check your bags and get through security.

I know this might seem like a lot of time and often you will end up with time to spare. Honestly though the time goes past really quickly - especially if once you get through you make a beeline to a bar or cafe for a coffee or alcoholic beverage of choice.

Be Nice

I have been bomb checked multiple times, had my bags searched for nail scissors that didn't exist and had my husband detained (temporarily) because he had travelled to a high risk country as part of his military service and every time I have smiled and been helpful and this makes the experience 100 times more pleasant.

I have also seen people bring downright rude and unhelpful and let me tell you a little secret from someone who works in customer service for over a decade. If you are a dick, we will make things hard for you. We will take longer to do simple things. We'll say no instead of yes.

So, the lesson for the airport (and you know, life) is don't be a dick - they are doing their job and they will bomb check you regardless of whether you are nice as pie or a tosspot - so how that goes for you is entirely in your hands.


On the flight

Let’s be honest here - long haul flights are not fun for anyone. Particularly if (like me) you live in Australia and flights of over ten hours are the norm. Ultimately there is only so much you can do to make an economy flight comfortable (I mean that’s why business and first class exists after all) but there is definitely ways you can make the experience more positive.

Getting comfortable

When deciding what to wear it’s important to dress comfortably both in the literal sense of the word and also in the sense that you need to feel comfortable with people seeing you in this outfit.

Of course everyone has a different level of personal comfort but what I would suggest is wearing something stylish but comfortable for around the airport and for the first part of the trip - I have a dress I wear every time that’s made of jersey material and is short sleeved  which is perfect for all the changes in temperature you can go through when travelling. I also pack some actual pyjamas to wear for “night-time” on the plane to help me get some sleep.

In addition I always pack a loose cardigan and a pair of socks - most airlines these days do provide socks and blankets but you never can tell how cool the plane will get (or how much you trust the blankets to be clean).

Lastly neck pillows are a must have, I know they are dorky and carrying them through the airport is embarrassing but it’s been a game changer for us when we travel. The first time we flew to Europe we tried to get by on the tiny pillows the airline provided. I got no sleep and neither did Mike. The second time around we both had neck pillows and not only did it make the thirteen hours on the plane more comfortable but we both actually got sleep!

Self Care

Self care is so important on long flights to help you to recover more quickly from jetlag. Firstly it is so important to hydrate regularly. I learnt this tip after our first flight to Paris, I had forgotten my water bottle and had to survive on the water provided by the flight attendants. Anyone would think I had been in the desert for days from how parched I was at the end of the flight.

I definitely recommend packing a big water bottle in your carry on, remember to make sure it is empty otherwise you won’t be allowed to take it through security, and fill it up before you board the plane. Also it may go without saying but where you can avoid caffeine and alcohol.

I also recommend taking advantage of any layovers - most large international airports offer some kind of services these days to help weary travellers. For example Changi airport offers showers, massages, lounges for having a nap and even prayer rooms. Many airports also have yoga rooms.

If I was to make one suggestion it would be to take a shower. Pack some travel sized versions of your normal face wash, body wash, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste to make the most of it.

Keep yourself entertained

The most important thing to remember on a long haul flight is to give yourself as many options as possible for entertainment. You don’t want to do the same thing for thirteen hours in your every day life - that doesn’t change just because you’re on a plane.

If you want some recommendations on how to entertain yourself I wrote a whole post on the subject that covers all my favourite ways to keep myself busy.

Getting some sleep

Sleeping on a plane is incredibly illusive. I can’t say I’ve cracked the code but I definitely have picked up a few tips for improving your chances of getting some shut eye.

Firstly, brush your teeth and wash your face. Perform all the normal rituals you would perform if you were in your house to help set your mind up for sleep.

Now let’s get comfortable. Recline your seat back as far as it will go. Use the neck pillow I know you’ve gone and purchased. Also use the pillow the airline has provided (either prop it against the window or use it to help support your back).

Take a melatonin pill. Put on own your socks and if necessary the socks the airline provided. Pull your blanket up high and put on a guided meditation - Headspace, Calm and Buddhify all have some specifically designed to help you to get to sleep. Once the meditation is done put on a playlist to help you sleep - I like the rain forest sounds one on Spotify. Lastly pull your eye mask down and let yourself drift off to sleep.


How to avoid the top five stumbling blocks of first time travel

Deciding to travel for the first time isn't without its challenges. I've definitely faced my own share of mental stumbling blocks on my various travels. So I thought I would share these stumbling blocks with you - and some tips to help get past them so you can enjoy your holiday as much as possible.

Not making time to rest

I am definitely an all go kind of girl when I’m on holidays - I want to do all the things, eat all the food, drink all the wine. I want to squeeze out as much fun as possible. I mean after all I’ve normally spent the last 12 months saving for this - I’m not letting a cent of that go to waste.

Of course this isn’t the healthiest way to approach a holiday - an event that is meant to be relaxing and recharging. Thankfully my husband is a lot better at chilling out than I am - he definitely sees the value in spending the afternoon hanging out in the hotel room having a nap. The ROI (that's return on investment for all you non-business speak geeks out there) on a holiday isn’t just the amount of adventures you have - it’s how relaxed you are as well.

Wanting to see it all

So you've spend a few thousand on flights to a magical new place and you want to make the most of the time you have. I mean there is a chance that you may never come back to this amazing place. Might I suggest an alternative? Always leave a reason to come back. I haven’t seen inside St Paul’s at the Vatican, we didn’t go to Burano or Murano in Venice and even though I’ve been to Paris twice we’ve barely seen anything north of the Champs Elysses.

It’s so easy to feel bad about missing places - but whenever I realise we won’t have time to see something I just tell myself “this is a reason to come back”.

Being scared

Travelling to a foreign country is scary. Before every trip I have been on I have thought at some point, “going overseas to a country where I don’t speak the language and the culture is different sounds like a bad idea. I should stay here in my safe, familiar home forever”.

The summary of my thought process when these fears rise up is: “feel the fear - do it anyway” Just remember being scared is totally normal - it’s not a sign that you shouldn’t travel. It’s not a sign that you should cancel your flights. It’s just a sign that growth and change is scary - and that travel is something that allows you to grow.

Preparation VS Spontaneity

For a long time I thought that being organised when you travel was akin to being “boring”. Travel is meant to be unstructured, unorganised and unplanned. Planning a holiday would make you one of those people in sitcoms who have an itinerary broken into 15 minute increments - and we always know that those people are shown the futility of organisation by the end of the episode.

There is something to be said though for being organised. In general you find nicer places to stay, better places to eat and more interesting places to visit.  It makes you more willing to embrace spontaneity - not less. Although some of our favourite adventures have been on a whim - one of the best meals we had in Italy was at a place recommended by people we met at Christmas dinner in Venice - I would have been far less likely to take a chance on it if I didn’t already have a delicious meal already planned for the night before.

Trying new things

It’s surprisingly easy these days to go to a new country and experience exactly nothing new. Between global chain stores and the universal love of Coca-Cola it’s easy to have no new experiences. Fight the urge to stick with what’s familiar! Try the the weird beverage from the vending machine - sure it might taste like cigarette water (true story that happened to me in Tokyo) but you’ll never know if don’t try it. Go into restaurants where the locals eat - it’s intimidating of course but it is almost always a lot more fun. And if the waiter offers you raki - you say yes*!

*Assuming of course that you are legally allowed to drink and do consume alcohol. Drink responsibly and so on.

Bonus: You take yourself with you

So this is something that Hilary Rushford has talked about a lot on her various platforms in the past (I've linked her Instagram because it's a good starting place).What she talks about (and what I have experienced myself) - is that you are still you when you travel.

So if you get anxious or nervous you won't just leave that element of your personality behind when you aren't at work. Sure you won't get anxious about your inbox anymore - but you might get anxious about missing flights or running out of money.

I'm still working on learning how to give room when I travel for myself and the quirky elements of my personality that I don't really like. 


How to entertain yourself on long flights

Spending hours on a plane has limited ability for excitement. Sure initially it’s fun but that wears off quickly. I am fiercely determined to occupy myself on any flight I get on - being bored on a flight really does make it go approximately one thousand times longer. Here are my current favourite ways to entertain myself on a flight:

Podcasts

We all know that I am a podcast obsessive and you can check out my favourite podcasts right over here. When I travel I download a bunch of episodes so I can listen whether I’m near WiFi or not (I use the Stitcher app). I also sometimes resist the urge to listen to episodes from my favourite podcasts in the lead up to a trip so I have lots to listen to when I’m away.

Colouring

My favourite thing to pair with listening to podcasts is colouring. So far I’ve taken big colouring books on flights but I recently discovered small colouring books (I mean I say discover like they were hiding from me but obviously they weren't) and I’m excited to give these a go next time because I think it will be more convenient; for both me and the people in the seats around me. I use Derwent pencils (which are so fancy) when I colour.

I’ve also started using a colour by numbers app; there are a ton out there, and a lot of them can be used without wifi (I cheat and just “start” a bunch before I get on the plane so it downloads the image). It’s a good work around for short flights if you don’t want to be lugging your art supplied with you.

Games

There are tons of really awesome games you can download to your laptop these days - not just games like Candy Crush but adventure and puzzle games as well. My current favourite is the Nancy Drew games - they are just difficult enough to hook me in without being so difficult that I get frustrated. I’m so excited to download a game (or two) to play next time we fly.

Read

I love books and I always take at least one with me on the flight. I try and make it something a bit lighter that will suck me in rather than a more serious tome. I also buy a few magazines (favourites include Peppermint, Gourmet Traveller and Collective Hub). Lately I've also been really into Audible for non-fiction books.

Write

I always journal when I travel but lately I have also been taking my laptop with me on flights so that I can do more free-form writing. As much as I love the idea of having a beautiful notebook that I could write in between staring pensively out the window and sipping a martini the reality is my handwriting is awful and as a leftie I end up with stains on my hand. A laptop removes those obstacles and lets me pour out ideas.

Music

When I’m reading or writing I like to listen to music. Spotify is my app of choice for listening to music. I always make sure I have at least one playlist downloaded so I can play it offline. Normally it’s something atmospheric and peaceful, some of my favourites are:

TV & Movies

Most airlines these days have some pretty awesome choices of television shows and movies. I do recommend leaving TV and movies until you have exhausted all your other options. It’s much better to do all of the more “active” entertainment choices first and leave movies and TV for when you are just too exhausted (inevitable on a long haul flight) to do anything else.


Five rules for excellent travel photography

It's no secret that I love photography - and travelling is a great way to practice and experiment. I don't think it is at all necessary to have a super fancy camera either. Our first trip to Europe and our week in Japan were all documented on a point and shoot and I am still incredibly proud of those photos.

Don't use your flash

My biggest pet photography peeve when I travel (aside from selfie sticks) is seeing people with beautiful DSLR cameras who are using their flash to take a picture of something like the Eiffel Tower. Regardless of whether you are using your SLR, DSLR, point and shoot, phone or ipad - actually scratch that please don’t use your ipad, it’s a dick move - you do not need need to have your flash on. The only time I will accept you putting your flash on is if you are taking a portrait picture at night.

Play around with light

So what do you do to get good photos now that your flash is off? You learn to play with light. Use it to enhance your photos. I’ve included a few examples below of photos I’ve taken where I have really focused on using the light to capture the moment. Once you start experimenting with light it will become your favourite thing to do.

Tips for photos at night

If you can, sit down or lean your camera on something to help keep it steady. Take a deep breath in and breathe all the way out before taking the photo. Keep trying - night photos are worth it when you get them right! Once again I have a few examples below of photos I have taken at night.

Be respectful

I have three points to make regarding being respectful: 

  1. Be aware of your surroundings: I am very conscious of taking photos of people (especially children) when I'm out and about. Many people aren't comfortable with them (or their children) being shared publicly. I try not to take photos directly of people without their permission. One of my favourite photos ever is of a young boy in a classic car in Paris one morning, not long after the Charlie Hedbo attacks. The light was perfect and at the last moment he realised I was taking a photo and shot me the cheekiest grin. Although I am so proud of this photo I will never show it publicly because I didn't have the parent's permission to do so.

  2. Be understanding: I once took some photos of some beautiful flowers on my phone. Afterwards someone came up to me and asked why I had taken a photo of them. I explained that I hadn't and it was of the flowers. They asked to see the photos and when they saw that they were in the background they asked me to delete the photo. I said yes and deleted them immediately. My point is; it is not your business to know why someone may not want to have their photo taken - and if someone asks you to delete a photo that features them please be understanding enough to say yes and delete them immediately.

  3. Read the signs: If it says no flash photography please do not use flash photography. If there is a sign saying no photographs then don't take any photographs. Rules regarding photography are there for a reason, sometimes to protect the place you are taking photos (such as the catacombs in Paris) and sometimes to protect the sanctity of the place (for example in a church). Some moments are simply not meant to be documented.

What do you want to remember?

I’m just going to give it to you straight, this tip is the best way to get the kind of photos you go back and look at multiple times as well as not infuriating your fellow travellers.

Think about what you want to remember in 20 years. What moments do you wish you had captured? I bet you if you think about it the thing you won’t wish you had captured was a blurry up close photo of a painting in the Louvre. It will be the light in Tuscany, or your morning coffee, or the sweet rabbit you saw on top of the Palatine Hill (though that last one may be just me).

But - I hear you say - what if I want to remember that I saw the Mona Lisa or that insane meal I had. Well this is where journals come in - I write a journal every time I travel and also use it to store ticket stubs and other paraphernalia. It lets me save all these important things and gives me a chance to write about what was happening and gives me a really nice down time task for lazy afternoons and train journeys. I know not everyone is a writer but I do think anyone can jot down the moments they want to remember that maybe don’t qualify for a photo.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


How to budget for your trip: A Beginner's Guide

One of the biggest challenges when you want to travel is money; both saving enough money and ensuring you keep your money safe whilst you travel. It's definitely something that has weighed on me and worried me on almost all of our adventures.  Over time though I've picked up a few different tips to help me budget better & keep our money safe when we're away.

Setting a budget

Setting a dollar figure for your budget is ultimately a personal choice - what’s affordable for me may be out of budget for you and vice versa. So I won’t be talking figures, only about how to work out a figure that makes sense to you. The reality is without funds you can't travel, and I have come to the conclusion over the years that you should aim to primarily travel on your own funds rather than using credit cards or loans. Of course this isn't always possible (it hasn't been for us) but working out your budget early on can help make sure you do save the money you need to travel.

Before starting to plan your budget make sure to take into account the conversion rates. This is the secret killer of budgeting because you can spend all this time working out how much you need to save in your local currency only to realise that it’s worth half the value of the currency of where you are going.

Planning your budget can be broken down into five simple steps:

  1. Firstly work out your flights: This is always the biggest expense for me so it's always the first thing I save for.

  2. Next up work out a maximum you would be willing to spend per night on accommodation and multiply that by the amount of nights you’ll be away.

  3. Now do the same for your daily budget, working out a maximum spend and multiplying by amount of days you’ll be away. Make sure you include food, drink, local transport, entertainment and shopping in your daily spending. Lonely Planet is a good resource to work out what different daily amounts will get you and what different basic items cost.

  4. Inter - country (or city) travel is next and it’s always a bit tricky if you’ve never been to a place before. Again Lonely Planet is a good resource for finding the names of public transport companies and hire car services, and also gives tips about what the best options are (in terms of the time of year and cost associated). Most websites will then give you an idea of how much a ticket  will cost to buy, or how much a car will cost to rent.

  5. Lastly remember to budget for travel insurance - it’s non negotiable. 


Money while you travel

Having money and feeling secure about your funds is very important when you travel - often you're dealing with a huge chunk of money that you wouldn't normally have. I actually have to thank my husband for the tips below - he handles all the money when we travel and he’s got a really good system.

  • Have some of the destination currency on you before you leave: Nothing is worse than landing in a country and just wanting a coffee or a sandwich and not having some cash to buy said items.

  • If you have a layover make sure you have cash in the currency of the country the airport is in.

  • Take cash out in blocks, only enough for a few days at a time - initially we did this unintentionally because we didn’t have ATM’s in every city for our local bank but it did make us feel better because we didn’t have a huge wad of cash in our bags

  • Just put your daily budget in your wallet - at the end of the day anything left over carries to the next day.

So why cash? If you rely on card you can’t guarantee that everywhere will have the capacity to process EFTPOS payments. It also prevents you from overspending because you can see how much cash you have left. Lastly if you’re taking cash out in blocks and then storing some of it safely in your hotel if you then lose your wallet you still have cash you can use.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo