Things I wish I knew about Travel

Thank you for joining me for another monthly edition of ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’! For those that are reading this for the first time, I regularly post tips based on my personal travel experiences once a month! For the month of August we have decided not to travel anywhere but instead to enjoy the beautiful summer in Toronto, especially since the long sunny days and warm nights are limited in Ontario!

Let’s get to the good stuff. Today’s topic of discussion is a list of things I wish I knew about travelling before I got hooked on the travel bug!

Enjoying the summer in Ontario
With the rise of social media, travel blogging, and remote work, more and more historical places are becoming overcrowded with tourists and the infrastructures can not sustain the number of people. Example, every year Amsterdam holds a canal Pride parade. This past year, sections of the canal were blocked off to prevent so much foot traffic. Another Dutch fact: cities around the Netherlands sink at an average of 3 millimeters a year, and lately some cities, like Gouda, are sinking at an accelerated rate of 10 mm a year!
Gouda, The Netherlands
Which leads me to my next point, try to visit places now that will be difficult or even impossible to see in the future. With travel becoming more affordable, tourists are visiting popular sites well beyond it’s designed capacity (some ancient places have double the amount of visitors than what UNESCO has recommended), leading to damage, or over crowding. Venice (Italy), Santorini (Greece), Taj Mahal (India), Barcelona (Spain), Dubrovnik (Croatia) are just some of the cities that are now monitoring the entrance of crowds, restricting cruise ships, levying tourist taxes, or even have protesters in the streets picketing against extra visitors!
Santorini, Greece
There is such thing as an off Season. Yes, there will be cheaper prices and fewer tourists, however there is less opportunity to enter and enjoy some of the popular sites. Museums may be closed, undergoing renovations, or have off-season hours that you are not aware of. We experienced this downside while spending Christmas in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, read more here.
Empty streets in Spain at Christmas
There is a reason why nobody else has ventured to that particular destination you desire, during that time of year. More often then not it is due to the weather! Check out the temperature before you book your flight, it could be the opposite season of what you are expecting. There could be hurricanes, extreme heat warnings, or worst yet, SNOW. Ideally, travel in temperatures that you are most comfortable with. We LOVE the sun, so we know we are not going to enjoy a trip as much if we are landing smack dab in the middle of their winter. Read more about our trip to Copenhagen, Denmark in the winter months here.
Cold in Copenhagen
Unfortunately, political and civil unrest occurs throughout the world. Stay up to date on worldly conflicts, protests, travel warnings and restrictions as they will no doubt lead to a miserable experience if you end up travelling somewhere that is unsafe.

Do you consider any of these before booking your next adventure? Did I miss anything? What else do you wish you knew before booking your latest getaway? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Whimsical Winchester & Virginia

When you travel, you open yourself up to new food discoveries, learning a different culture, exploring an unfamiliar landscape and making new friends. To do this, you can prep, map out and plan until you are blue in the face, but things do not always go accordingly. You can not control traffic, border crossings, accidents, weather or restroom locations (don’t ask). Regardless if things go according to your itinerary or not, you need to remain flexible, adapt and overcome to get the maximum out of your trip. Pleasant surprises are often what makes a good trip great. Virginia was one of those trips!
Blue Ridge Parkway
We recently traveled to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and on the way made stops along the Shenandoah Valley, which borders the Blue Ridge Mountains. My time and experience there was short but sweet. The charming area left an impact on us as it was magical in every possible way (Are you a maple tree? Cause fawk that was sappy).
DInosaur Land
The Southern hospitality lived up to its reputation as we were greeted so generously by the locals at every stop. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather perfect, and the activities endless. To learn more about my must-see things to do while passing by Virginia, please check out my latest article at Master Travellr. There I provide insights into our short visit, along with a list of places that I personally recommend seeing. Let me know what you think!
Luray Caverns
I have also posted a video of our visit to Dinosaur Land (located in Virginia) on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly. Watch it HERE!

Special thanks to the following for the generous hospitality and incredible resources:

Do you have any questions about Virginia? Planning a trip there soon? Have you been there before? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Why you should travel with a Backpack!

Travel Tip Tuesday
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! After a 2 month hiatus to return to life back in Toronto, from Amsterdam, I am back with more monthly tips and tricks for your next travel adventure! After binge-watching Marie Kondo on Netflix, purging through our stuff to move back, and sifting through any unnecessary belongings that had accumulated over time, I want to take a moment to focus on the effectiveness of packing light.

I love having wardrobe options with matching jewelry, day and night shoes, and numerous hat options; but after spending many weekends living out of a backpack, I’ve learned how unnecessary it can be. I’m not saying to wear the same outfit all weekend (you do want some variety in your Instagram photos, and need to be prepared for all weather types), just find articles of clothing that can be mixed, matched and layered (if necessary). Pairing this plan with different accessories each day can refresh your look, but more importantly, leave more room in your backpack or reduce weight – your back will thank you.
Wearing a backpack in South Africa
Traveling with just a backpack means that you don’t have to wait for checked luggage and won’t have to stress about lugging around a bag with wheels up long staircases, or wish you had additional arms to carry more stuff. This is ideal if you have an early or late flight (as you can stroll in a bit closer to your flight, and not waste time in a line to get your luggage weighed and tagged). It also means that you can walk a bit faster with just what you need on your back, and cover more ground seeing more landmarks on your trip. Perhaps the most important of all, with a well-balanced bag that fits you properly, it greatly reduces the strain on your body and you may even forget you have a bag on at all! – great for stairs, terrible in antique shops.
Wearing a backpack in Bordeaux
When packing your knapsack, I find it’s ideal to roll up your clothes. I’ll pre-steam the wrinkles out, and then neatly and tightly roll everything so I can pack more. That also leaves space for your toiletries, makeup, an empty water bottle, socks, undergarments, accessories, etc. Always leave a tinnnny bit of room for any souvenirs you may pick up along the way, optional if that’s not your jam. Also, a hot tip, since this is your carryon item on flights (so you don’t need to be separated from your belongings), you usually also get a personal item. For us, that usually means my purse, my husband’s prized procession (his camera) or a fragile purchase from an antique market.
Travel with a Backpack
So next time you are luggage shopping at The Bay or Bently, don’t forget to consider a nice sturdy backpack. For ample back support get one with straps that clip along the chest, they don’t look nerdy or touristy at all, says my husband. Or go for the Eddie Bauer stowaway packable backpack. I love that you can use it all day and then fold it up into a tiny bag and store it when you don’t need it! For more tips on how to make the most out of the space in your knapsack, check out my tips on travel makeup options HERE, or learn how to cut down on hair appliances HERE.

Do you travel with a backpack? Do you have any travel questions that you want me to cover in my next monthly post? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

To travel, or to vacation? That is the question!

Do you enjoy travel? Or would you rather go on a vacation? Confused? Well, I truly believe there are fundamental differences between both, making it a relevant topic for this month’s Travel Tip Tuesday!
Travel Tip Tuesday
The great thing is that both options are fun in their own way, and each has its time and place. It really just depends on how much you like to relax and explore. So let’s compare!

What vacation means
A vacation typically includes room service, an all you can eat buffet or menu designed specifically for tourists, access to an open bar, and multiple bikini options packed in your suitcase. Your vacation may include soaking up the sun on a beach, relaxing in the spa, and a never-ending drink at your side. This could be on a large ship or on an all-inclusive resort, with not a worry in the world. It is a huge battery charge for yourself, a well-deserved treat away from your busy demanding life. Simply, vacationing is spending a lot of money to do nothing, typically in warmth.
Cuba
Vacationing means leaving your stress at home, relaxing, indulging, maybe finally catching up on some reading and enjoying the luxuries in life! It consists of eating as much as you’d like, and maybe even turning off your cell phone for a bit! This can be costly but often you can find great getaways that do not break the bank.
Relaxing in Santorini
There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, from time to time we all need this. Not just for the ample amounts of vitamin D, but for our cortisone levels, the bags under our eyes, and our overall health. Studies have proven that those that take the time to vacation have a better outlook on life, more motivation to achieve their goals, and less risk of heart disease! Put that in your next vacation submission. This is will actually benefit your workplace!

So what is the difference?
Travel is not always about the relaxing, it can even be stressful! Travelling is about integrating yourself into the new culture. Often we will fit in as many churches, museums, or palaces as we possibly can in one day. If we are not tired by the end of the day, we haven’t seen enough and will work harder to ensure we try more traditional food and drinks, talk to the locals, walk around and go off the beaten path. It can be less focused on regenerating yourself and more on pushing yourself to make new discoveries both personal and trip-related. Encompassing a “travel trip” means less time on a beach or ship, and more time, well, traveling. Although you may actually sleep less, and eat less than you would at the buffet, it can be incredibly transforming. You get to learn all about new cultures and can develop new friendships that last a lifetime.
Exploring in Trinidad and TobagoOur choice
Over the last 2 years, we have traveled all around Europe and have been on at least 30 trips in that time. But we have yet to vacation since visiting the Caribbean prior to moving to Europe. I prefer it that way. I love creating a jam-packed, colour coordinated itinerary and experiencing new places to the fullest. I get enjoyment out of guessing a new transit system, finding a new favourite food spot and learning about the history of that region. Don’t get me wrong though, I am always up for lying at the beach with a margarita by my side! We find that on a 4-day trip, we like to have 3 of those days itemized to the half hour, and one day more at leisure to slow down or revisit areas that we thought were special.
Travel or Vacation? Palma De Mallorca
So what do you prefer? What is your trip style? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Frankfurt!

Frankfurt, Germany
Before we left Europe to return back to life in the Six, we enjoyed one last weekend of traveling. We made a final stop in the financial capital of Germany, and arguably Europe, Frankfurt. This charismatic city is the 5th largest in Germany, and a global hub for tourism, education, and transportation. Frankfurt was so surprising, that I want to share with you all the interesting finds we made on our trip!
Frankfurt At Night
1) It is tall! Like really tall – 14 out of the 15 tallest skyscrapers in Germany reside in Frankfurt. After being surrounded by so many flat buildings in Amsterdam, it was a nice treat to visit a city filled with high rise beauties, similar to what we are used to in Toronto. Though Commerzbank Tower is the tallest at 259 m, Main Tower (200 m) was my fave because of the 360 panoramic views! Highly recommended. Since Frankfurt is often referred to as Main-Hattan because of its rockin’ skyline resemblance, there are 7 Spiderman hidden all over the city. An artist set them up randomly to ensure that Frankfurt gets its fair share of comic book characters as well. We could only find two. How many have you found?
Spiderman
2) Red lights are not just in Amsterdam. That’s right, you can stroll the red light district in Frankfurt as well. Reminder to tourists, no photos are allowed to protect the privacy of the workers. Don’t stray too far at night, it’s pretty close to the train station where the safety levels are in line with Chicago at night (it was really sketch – times 10). They are making efforts to clean up the drugs and crime, though it is recommended to just stay clear of the area.
Red Light District
3) Fake it until you make it. The famous Instagram spot, Römerberg, is picture perfect with its old row houses (now converted into shops and restaurants). Going to burst your bubble here, these are not actually authentic; they were reconstructed after being destroyed in WW2, to bring in more tourists. You can find this charming area in Altstadt (old town).
Römerberg
4) When life gives you apples, make apple wine! In Frankfurt, you can find lots of German beer and unlimited sausage, but don’t forget to sample some authentic apple wine (apfelwein)! Yup, that’s a thing. I wasn’t a big fan of it; it tastes just like cold apple cider vinegar to be honest.
Apple Wine
5) When we travel around Europe there are usually numerous amounts of tourists on the weekends. Frankfurt was not the usual. Most people drive into work during the week; therefore on weekends, the streets are pretty empty. Comparable to the financial district in Toronto. I’m not complaining. It was a nice change to stroll and window shop without feeling overcrowded! On the other hand, that meant lots of buildings were closed.
Flea Market Finds!
Apart from all these cool facts, there are more than enough activities in Frankfurt to keep you occupied for a weekend. They have ample museums (most closed on Monday’s, so watch out), free churches, The Eschenheim Tower (the oldest and most unaltered building in the city center, from the 15th century, and you can go to the top for free!), archaeological finds, shopping malls and an awesome flea market on Saturdays along the Main river!

Have you been to Frankfurt? What did you think? Let me know of your German travels in the comments below! Auf Wiedersehen!

Cheers,
Melissa

Holiday Travel

Thanks so much for all your comments, questions, and support this past year! Due to popular demand, I will continue my monthly ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’ posts! Since the holidays are wrapping up (see what I did there?), this month’s tip is dedicated to traveling over the Christmas season.
Travel Trip Tuesday
On previous Christmas vacations, my husband and I have traveled to the Caribbean, and for the most part, it was seamless. The trips were on the pricey side since our dates were not flexible, though this was offset by the near limitless alcohol, constant parties and the weather was heavenly. This is the only way to really enjoy the holidays when traveling, in my opinion.
A Sunny Christmas Vacation
This year we tried something a tad different. We celebrated Christmas in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and dashed off to Copenhagen, Denmark, to catch the New Year’s fireworks. Though both trips were fun filled in their own way (and stay tuned as I will be posting more details on each trip very soon), they were difficult this time of year. Having known what we know now, we would have done it differently.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Due to Palma being in their offseason, coupled with the last remaining businesses being closed for the Christmas holidays, many of the attractions and restaurants were closed for Christmas and New Years. We found that museums closed early (if they were even open at all), open restaurants were far and few between (and adding in our GF/ Vegetarian needs was a blast), some excursions were not running, and often it was a ghost town between mid-afternoon and late at night. In warmer countries like Spain this is not a huge issue, however, Copenhagen is collllllld. So walking around aimlessly can be tiring. Why not stop and have a drink you ask? Well, Denmark is expensive (like Zurich, Switzerland expensive) and who wants to spend their whole trip held up in a bar? Then add the cold chill and it’s probably not even healthy to spend the entire day walking around in the winter wind.
Copenhagen, Denmark
Don’t get me wrong, both countries had a lot to offer and were beautifully decorated for this time of year; just be prepared to do extensive research before packing your bags and booking your flights. Instead just go on a guided tour or an inclusive resort to ease the stress of planning and just enjoy relaxing away from the holiday stress! Better yet, get out of the city, rent a car and drive around for a few days; this is when we typically have our most fun.

Want to see more from our trip to Mallorca, Spain? Check out my YouTube video on Mellie Telly HERE. If you enjoy it please be sure to like it and subscribe!
Palma Decorations
Do you travel for the holidays or do you prefer to stay in town with the fam jam? Any stories of traveling during the Christmas season? Do you have questions for me to cover on my next ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Become a Photographer

Well, folks, this is my last monthly travel tip of the year! I can’t believe how fast 2018 has gone by! If you want me to continue my Travel Tip Tuesday monthly blog posts, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Travel Tip Tuesday
This year has been very busy for travel; by the end of the month, we will have covered 12 countries in 12 months. Since returning to Canada last Christmas, we have been to Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, France, The Czech Republic, Germany, South Africa, back to Canada and France, and soon flying to Spain and Denmark. It has been an epic year, and I feel so incredibly lucky for all the adventures! I know one day the years will go by faster and faster and may eventually blur together, so my take away for this month’s tip is to take lots (and lots) of photos when you travel!
Take Photos!
Each trip is unique and if you travel like us, it may be your only time visiting that city or country for several years. The places you eat, visit, and people you meet, will likely only happen once in a lifetime. So don’t be shy about taking photos (or videos). Photos will help you remember when you are older, can be shared with family members who are not able to travel, will be a learning tool for younger generations, and are really the ultimate souvenir!
Souvenirs
Souvenirs can start to clutter your home, break in transit, or take up space in your bag. Don’t get me wrong, we collect plates, magnets, etc when we travel, but photos are priceless. They literally cost you nothing!
Tourists
It’s OK to look and act like a tourist, it is your trip after all, so take your photos! Obviously be smart about where you store your phone and how you carry your camera though, especially in busy public spaces prone to pickpocketers. We like to use a general rule that our photo taking opportunities should not impact surrounding people. For instance, taking photos should not block other people’s views, hold up lines, disrupt traffic flows or draw too much attention. Most importantly, once you capture that picture perfect moment, put your camera away and simply enjoy being in the moment and take in your surroundings. What does it look like? Taste like? Smell like? What is something unique about what you are seeing or experiencing? Make sure you actually enjoy it with your own eyes and not just through a lens. Don’t just walk from one landmark to the next to get a single photo just to prove they have been there because honestly, nobody cares where you have been. Travel for you and your personal experiences. Pictures are great, living in the moment and truly enjoying the experience is best; when you relive the moment through your photos in years to come, the memory will mean more because it will be a strong emotional experience.

My last note: To cut down the time spent to capture “the shot”, take some photo lessons or watch some tutorials online. Minimizing time spent behind the lens allows for more unobstructed experiences.

Do you like to take lots of photos when you travel? Do you have any travel questions for next year’s Travel Tip Tuesday posts? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Money Money Money

Travel Tip TuesdayToday is Travel Tip Tuesday! Novembers tip is about finances, not necessarily my strong suit, though a topic that should be covered, especially when so close to Christmas shopping. When travelling we all hope for a picture perfect trip with no frustrating situations, and often the unexpected can happen. Here are some ways to protect yourself from money theft and getting stuck in an unpleasant vacation.

When travelling, I always pack several different cards with me (both debit and credit). Even if the intent is not to use all of them, sometimes your bank may block a card, or your card simply won’t work in that specific country (It’s happened to me in Poland and South Africa). So just in case, I always bring a few cards which are all linked to different outlets. I would suggest keeping at least one tucked away in your room, in case your purse or bag gets stolen! On that note, it may be a good idea to give your bank a heads up that you will be travelling – depending on the institution you may be able to do this online for convenience.

Cards are great, and as they say, cash is king…sometimes. Some restaurants will not accept cards, in Europe you may need change for the water closet, and transit can be tricky to pay for when in a rush. Flea markets are usually cash only and normally a good way to bargain is by only showing them a small bill or a few coins. Cash is also good in case of emergency! I also suggest splitting between your wallet, bag, sock and money belt. It will seem a bit ridiculous, especially when taking off your shoe to pay for something, it will at least offer some protection against losing everything to an opportunistic pickpocket. This hidden cash can get you a meal, somewhere to sleep, and a call home for help.

I never owned a money belt until we went to South Africa. And now, I think they are a great investment. I’d suggest not using it as a replacement for a purse and only for the essentials (this includes your passport/residence card, one bank card, a photocopy of health cards and a bit of cash). Have it hidden under your clothes, and don’t go digging for it in public. This way even if your purse gets snatched, you can still get home.

I get this sounds a bit paranoid and over the top; as safe as you may feel in your surroundings, you never really know what can happen when abroad in a strange land. Neighbourhoods can look fantastic when the sun is up, which can drastically change after sunset. Why test it? Be prepared and therefore you can worry a bit less about logistics and more about enjoying your trip!

Money

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa Part 2

South Africa
If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest doing so first! South Africa is way too amazing to cover in just one post so I have split my top 10 favourite stops into two posts. So let us dig right in with what to know for your Safari game drive!
Elephants in South Africa
6) Park It: We did two game drives through Addo Elephant National Park. This park is the 3rd largest in all of South Africa and was created in 1931 to provide sanctuary for the remaining elephants in the area.  The cool thing is that all the animals and vegetation in the park are originally from that area. The park rangers prevent the influx of animals (such as giraffe and cheetahs) and any vegetation that does not actually originate from that area. They have over 700 elephants, along with buffalos, rhinos, zebras, antelope, hyenas, monkeys, ostrich, lions (rare to see as they only have 14 in the entire park) and the largest population of the flightless dung beetle! Our first drive was insanely early in the morning (up for 3:30 am), and it was chilly! Be prepared with layers, it is cold. We thought ahead and brought fleece, gloves and hats. We were there in September, which is their spring, so most days have a bit of a crisp breeze, with a nice warm afternoon in the sun. I found that the animals were more active on our second drive in the afternoon, as the watering hole was the meetup spot for almost 50 elephants!
J Bay
7) Surfer Dude: If you are a surfer, or think now is the time to learn, ride the waves in Jeffrey’s Bay! Jeffrey’s Bay is in the top 5 most famous surfing destinations in the world and hosts the annual World Surf League. This town was pretty quiet during our visit, as summer has not started yet, but I can see the potential during the peak surfing season for sure. It did have some cute souvenir shops, an awesome beach with a quickly rising tide, and beautiful accommodations at Mandyville Hotel, who were super accommodating to us with gluten allergies (which is quite rare).
Cape Town
8) Cape Town: A must see on this side of the Western Cape is Table Mountain. You can get to the top via a cable car (book your tickets ahead online and be prepared for a long line up), or by a 2-hour hike. We opted for the cable car as we had limited time to explore and wanted to spend most of our time viewing from the top, turns out, either option takes the same amount of time during peak times. Once there, you will have incredible views of Cape Town and it’s Harbour on one side, and the never-ending ocean on the other. The landscape is rocky with some bushes and adorable Dassie’s running around (A gopher like animal, actually related to the elephant family surprisingly). We were lucky enough to experience this at sunset and had a view that would give Santorini a run for its money. However, if you stay that late you will have to wait for HOURS to take the cable car down, and be prepared for lots (and lots) of butting on epic proportions. In Cape Town, I would also suggest my usual, a free walking tour. That way you can explore the city on foot safely with a guide, and learn about the history and politics of the country. We did feel rather unsafe in Cape Town, we were harassed for about 6 blocks by an aggressive homeless man and nobody stopped to help us out. We ended up going into a store and waited for the person to leave. It really ruined the vibe of the city for us.
South Africa
9) Townships: I don’t recommend heading to a Township on your own. These government made neighbourhoods have high poverty and practically no employment. They are so bad that even our Uber driver would not venture to one. If you do, go with a guide in at least a small group and ONLY during daylight hours. I’m not even exaggerating this. We made a quick stop at Kayamandi Township and met with a wonderful local who made homemade Xhosa treats such as amagwinya (deep-fried dough bread, not so great for your stomach If you are GF) and chakalaka (a vegetable spicy relish, great for vegetarians). She also explained the traditional wardrobe that women would wear to a wedding (how fitting since we were on our honeymoon) and filled our stomachs and hearts. Within the first 30 seconds of exiting her house, we had someone threaten us for our cameras, so we quickly got into the van and left.
Baboons
10) Baboons: If you are driving along Cape Point, you are bound to see these creatures at some point (usually near mountains) We stopped to take photos of the baboons on the side of the road. However, I warn you not to get too close. As adorable as these old world monkeys are, they are not pets. They can be very aggressive (especially if you have food) and are incredibly smart (they can zip open your purse, inspect your lipstick and open car doors). So make sure to leave space between you and them if you decide to get out of your car! Also, watch out for traffic, but that’s a given.
Elephant Hugs
The great thing about driving in South Africa is that every 100 Km, the scenery drastically changes. The ecosystem is so diverse that one moment you are gazing up at snow-topped mountains, and the next fields of the canola flower. Instead of cows you will see Springbok (an antelope, apparently they taste delicious), and will constantly want to stop for photos, guaranteed! I had no idea that South Africa would be so rich in landscape, really I envisioned walking into The Lion King, but it is so much more than that. It is a beautiful country with an immensely long list of things to do and see, filled with welcoming people, magnificent wildlife and delectable food. If you have the opportunity, book your tickets and go see for yourself!
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHYPhotos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Check out my YouTube video on Mellie Telly, for the Top 15 Things To Do in South Africa HERE. Planning a trip to SA and want to save money? Use promo code: MELLIETELLY during checkout at Hotspots2c Tours (the company that we used, love and trust) and get 5% OFF YOUR NEXT TOUR! Or book through this LINK.

Cheers,
Melissa

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