Road Trip Tips

Another month means another travel tip – this month let’s talk road trips. I find this very fitting as I have just journeyed to the States via car twice in the past month, accumulating over 5000 km! If you follow my socials then you’ll know that we spent the May long weekend in Allegheny National Forest (in Pennsylvania and New York), and have just returned from a beautiful drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains (spread between Virginia and North Carolina). So here are some tips that we learned along the way…
Travel Trip Tuesday
Bring a cooler
A cooler is a great way to save money by purchasing groceries and limiting the number of times you eat out at restaurants. We also find that pulling over for a scenic picnic is much quicker than stopping at a restaurant and ordering a meal. One caveat is that import laws forbid from bringing in our go-to nutritional snacks through the border. Instead, recommend to stock up on vegetable chips, chocolate, and cold refreshing drinks. Then once you make it past border control, stop for groceries and ice and voila you have meals for the next few days. Having a cooler allows to save on time and money and enables to be more efficient to see more attractions and purchase more fridge magnets!
GPS
Buy a GPS
Everyone has a phone with Google maps, though a good quality GPS unit is a godsend for traveling. I’ll admit, at times we used our phones to find the address of the location to type it into the GPS, as the GUI is not as clean as Google Maps and it had difficulty finding desired locations. A GPS screen is much larger than most cell phones (our GPS has a 7” screen), does not have distracting pop-ups of incoming messages, does not burn through your data (which is important to note when traveling abroad) and does not lose signal as frequently as cell phones in the mountains. Our GPS allows changing the notification defaults, such as when you are speeding. Example, it is possible to set the limit to only provide an audible alert when you are 9% over the speed limit. This is helpful if you have a lead foot or if you are traveling in an area where the speed limit is better reported as the speed minimum and you do not want the GPS reminding you every 30 seconds that you are speeding. After using the GPS for the last two trips, I do not know how we traveled without it before. I like knowing what percent of the trip we are at, estimated arrival time, the speed limit on the road and our real-time speed – this helps me with being the Nav-o to make recommendations to speed up or slow down to avoid those marked speed trap cameras.

Play Music
You can only play ‘guess the license plates’ for sooo long (turns out I don’t even know the game I am playing, it’s counting not guessing). After a while, you will need some tunes as caffeine for the mood. So have a pre-set playlist, such as THIS ONE from Spotify. You can rely on the radio (so many rental cars have nowhere to insert a CD anymore), but you may end up with less than ideal stations. Our options were country, religious, or static. At times there was only one station and it seemed like the DJ was juggling plastic bags as he was playing music.
Navigator or Photographer?
Know your Role
Before heading out into the sunset, make sure everyone in the car has been assigned a role and knows what it is. That way there is no confusion with navigation, arguments over who is DJ, snacks captain, or knowing who is going to keep the driver entertained while the rest of the car is napping. The whole part of a road trip is enjoying the journey, so do so without conflicting ideas or expectations of what is to come.
Washroom Break & Photo Op
Pit Breaks Rules
We have an unwritten rule (well until now I guess), that we fill up the gas when the tank is ¼ full (or empty, depends on which way you look at the glass). I digress, the reason we do this is incase we end up going off the beaten path unexpectedly, or go longer than anticipated. It has come in hand a few times when we had no cell service and the GPS was no help in finding the next available gas station. Since we are on the topic of stops, always use the washroom when you can. You never know when the next stop will be. Don’t have to go? I don’t care, force it! Multiple bathroom breaks are annoying and frustrating. It takes so much longer to reach your destination, and you have to re-pass all the traffic you just passed. In our car, if one person goes, we all go, and it reduces the number of breaks.

Emergencies
I know, I know, I constantly preach about packing light. But don’t skimp on the necessary precautions that could save you in unpleasant situations. If you are road tripping always be sure to have a first aid kit, flashlights, a warm jacket, a snack, some cash, a car charger for electronics and lots of water. Not to sound like a negative Nancy, but you really never know.

Do you have any road trips in your near future? Agree with my tips or have your own to contribute? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Do you want to watch some of our road trips? Check out these new videos on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly:

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

Dryer Sheets & Travel

It’s time for Travel Tip Tuesday! I know I am a bit late this month, but planning a wedding this summer kept me quite busy. For anyone who is interested in what it’s like to plan a wedding overseas, stay tuned for future posts! It will be loaded with lessons learned, jam-packed with personal DIY tips and the pros and cons of being an expat bride to be from abroad.
20180427_101625
So back to the tidbit of today… let’s keep it simple. Bring dryer sheets everywhere! Don’t laugh, not only are they super lightweight, but they have an abundance of uses apart from the dryer. The first and obvious is to cover up any smells. Not just in your bag, but for your shoes, or even in your accommodations. There you can repel bad smells in the bed, dresser drawers or the trash bin. I’ve even heard that the smell of dryer sheets can keep unwanted visitors away such as insects, bed bugs and mice!
sunday market (16)
Dryer sheets are also great for preventing static on your clothes or hair, so feel free to use them to tame your mane before taking a selfie. They can also be used to remove deodorant from clothes (just rub it away), removing sand after a visit to the beach, and freshening up that questionable rental car. Who knew such a small item, which takes up virtually no room, could be so useful!

Does anyone else have one of these tucked away in their purse or carryon at all times? Want to know more? Leave a comment below! Stay tuned for more monthly tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

Love is in the Hair

It is that time again for Travel Tip Tuesday! Today, I’m going to talk about hair! In the time of Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube Vlogs, how do you maintain great photogenic hair, without overpacking on products and appliances while on trips? What’s your secret?
Travel Tips
My first tip is to purchase mini travel sample sizes of the bare minimal essentials (I like to have serum and hairspray at all times). When purchasing these items, ensure they are under the travel regulation size (you can also purchase larger sizes to use for refilling the travel bottles when needed). We often opt out of Hotels and sleep in Air B & B’s, which do not always offer the cute free shampoo bottles, especially not hair colour friendly options. So I fill mini bottles of my own choosing from home.
Curlers at Breakfast
I find the easiest hairstyle to maintain is beach friendly waves. If I spend the time straightening my hair, it often curls from the European heat anyways. So after a quick blow dry in the morning, I roll up my hair in curlers and let them set while I sip on my morning coffee and indulge in breakfast. After that, a quick brush through and spritz of hairspray is all you need. Let’s face it, when you are travelling your hair is not expected to be perfect. I also rather spend more time checking out the sites, then myself in a mirror.
Wearing a hat
Often there is no blow dryer available at our accommodations. When that happens, which is quite often in Europe, I just sleep with the curlers in wet hair and good ol shower cap it when showering in the morning. If it’s really hot, or you feel unmotivated, might I suggest just going simple by wearing braids, or wrapping your hair in a bun after your morning shower. Personally, my hair does not always cooperate and can dry frizzy when I go for these options. If that happens you can always cover up with a super cute scarf or hat (which is also a great way to protect yourself from the sun). And when in doubt, go with dry shampoo. It can be your best friend!

Do you have any hair travel tips to share? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below! And stay tuned for more monthly tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

Last Minute Travel

Grab your agenda, it’s time for travel tip Tuesday!
Travel Tip Tuesday
Sometimes travelling on a whim can actually be the cheapest. And that is not easy for me, the organized – itinerary making – over planner, to admit. For example, our trip to Trinidad & Tobago from Canada, or really most of our European weekend getaways from Amsterdam, have been last minute spontaneous decisions.

So how do you go about this? If you can, search on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, the prices are usually at their lowest then. Next, I like to follow travel Facebook groups which often post last minute deals or promos (such as YYZ deals). If you find a deal you like, act quickly! Great deals often go VERY fast! I also like using sites such as Tickettipper.nl (which will list great travel deals in Europe), and Skyscanner (to book according to the best price). Some airlines often have last minute deals on their site, such as Transavia. The most difficult part is getting the time off, so I preach the tried and true, “Better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission”. I only know of one story where that failed, he only missed a day of his trip and had to book a new flight. But, it is a risk one has to take to get the best deals.
My Plan
Keep in mind that when you leave it this late in the game, you may not have much selection in your destination. But if you just want a weekend away, and are not particularly picky about where you want to explore, give this a try!

Are there any sites that you suggest? Let me know! And stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel On A Budget

sunday market (6)It’s that time of the month for Travel Tip Tuesday! Are you travelling on a budget? Look for free things to do! Most cities offer some tourist attractions that are free or by donation. This can include museums, churches, graveyards, parks, gardens, beaches, waterfalls, hiking and more! Some locations have special free days once a month on big tourist attractions as well (such as the last Sunday of the month in Rome, where most attractions are free including the Colosseum and Roman Forum), or cheaper rates on unpopular nights (enjoy discount tickets at The Rom on Friday nights in Toronto and Thursday nights at The Bata Shoe Museum).RomeHere’s the catch; other people are also looking for these deals and the free days can come with higher than normal lines to get in, and perhaps can overcrowd your perfect Instagram shot. So go early, have patience, bring snacks and be prepared.Tourists at VaticanYou all know by now that I am a huge advocate for the pay by donation walking tours (such as Sandeman Tours), as they allow you to see parts of the city through the eyes of a local.  I recommend doing this at the beginning of your trip, in case you hear of something you want to check out that is not on your itinerary!ArtWant to see more vintage artefacts without spending a dime? Check out high-end antique or art shops. This is a great option if you are a budget traveller, and sales staff are typically more than willing to give you a full history lesson regarding a particular piece.  If in doubt, Google is your friend! Ask it anything!

Any other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Cheers,
Melissa

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