Month: August 2016

Road Trip: California’s Pacific Coast Highway

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway isn’t exactly the most ‘original’ or trips, but I question the need to be original with travel  – at least the need to be original all of the time. I trust that the many, many travellers before me had good reason to tackle that route, be it recommendation or the mere reputation of the trip as being one worth taking the time to do.

In this blog post I’ll share with you our road trip journey, what we did and why I think the crowds of tourists – in this case – are correct!

San Francisco

Having driven over from Yosemite National Park, we spent a few days in the Bay City. I blogged about this some time ago, so you can read about my stay here.

Monterey

After 4 days in San Francisco, we took the scenic drive to Monterey. There were two things I was most excited about when we decided to visit Monterey: seafood and whale watching.

Let’s first address the whale watching situation. You can book a whale watching trip which lasts around 4 hours, either for a morning session or an afternoon session. Given we were due to continue the drive south after the trip, we booked morning tour tickets with haste!

In hindsight I’m extremely thankful that we chose a morning trip because it meant there was less content for me to throw up over the back of the boat.

Yup. Sea-sickness.

seasickness

Never before had I suffered from travel sickness. My first experience of motion sickness was in fact only 10 months prior to this – and was the result of jumping out of a plane over Queenstown, so seemed reasonable.

This sea sickness was like nothing I’d experienced before. 45 minutes into a 4 hour trip, I was barely able to lift my head off the handrail at the back of the boat without inducing another wave of retching. This was highly amusing to my husband, who was remarkably unaffected by the choppy ocean swell. It was less amusing for the other slightly sea-sick passengers, who also began to spew once they had seen my green tea soy latte expelled from my mouth at speed. Despite the sickness, I did manage to see some whales, dolphins, seals and other marine life.

monterey bay

The calm of Monterey Bay

My top tip? Take a travel-sickness pill even if you don’t normally suffer from motion sickness!

Once we hopped off the boat I felt fine within a matter of seconds, at which point I then became ravenously hungry! Queue scoffing a smoked salmon sandwich before heading to a restaurant for chowder and crab! You really must sample the fresh seafood when you’re in Monterey Bay!

seafood monterey

Carmel

Carmel beach boasts one of the best sunsets in the world. Head here in the evening, park the car and gaze out over the shore line and you’ll see the sun visibly dive over the horizon in a haze of golden orange.

We took the drive down from Monterey, taking a hot drink and sitting on the white sandy beach. We were not alone, as many of the locals walk down to the beach to witness the evening ritual.

On the night we went, there was significant cloud cover, yet the sunset was still mesmerising. What’s strange is the speed at which you can see the sun setting. It’s something you really ought to see for yourself if you’re stopping in the area. Check online for the estimated sunset time, because the whole thing is over in 20 minutes so you could easily miss it if you’re not careful!

carmel beach sunset

Santa Barbara

Before I visited the US, if I had been asked to imagine a Californian Surfer town, the picture I conjured in my mind’s eye bore a remarkable resemblance to the reality of the experience when we finally arrived in Santa Barbara. One long sweeping beach, ocean waves, a chilled out vibe and the smell of salt in the air all contribute to a feeling of relaxation and youth associated with that culture.

Arriving late afternoon, we took an evening stroll on one of two piers before settling down for an al-fresco dining experience at a charming Italian restaurant.

*We actually cut dinner short because of a minor disagreement, resulting from spending 2 weeks consistently in each other’s company, no doubt!*

Having slept off any residual marital irritation, we headed (together) to Sambo’s beachfront café. Given that it was recommended to us by a local, expectations were high!

From the moment the complimentary home-baked mini-muffins landed on the table as we perused the menu, I was SOLD! Even though ‘Biscuits with Gravy’ (flat dry scones with creamy sauce, to those outside of the USA) was a little unusual, I enjoyed my Sambo’s experiences immensely nevertheless!

sambos santa barbara

Los Angeles

Many of our friends remarked – prior to our holiday – that we probably wouldn’t like it in LA and that 2 nights was therefore plenty of time to see the sights. I’d have to say, I’m glad I heeded their advice!

Los Angeles is like no other city I’ve ever been to. It appears not to have a true ‘heart’, instead sprawling over many miles and making tourism somewhat a pain-in-the-ass.

My favourite part of LA was Santa Monica. Hours could be lost browsing the shops, padding on the beach and trying out arcade games. I left there having finally learned what ‘Skeeball’ is and having picked up a self-help book* in Kitson. How very LA.

skeeball

Griffith Observatory is also worthy of a mention. A visit after sun-down allowed us to take in panoramic views of the city and escape the traffic, noise and perceived ‘tensions’ we felt driving through Little Armenia. Take the time to queue for a view through the telescope! It’s worth the 10 minute wait!

griffith observatory

We stayed at a renovated old-hollywood hotel not far from where many of the studios are based. One thing I noticed whilst staying at the hotel is that many of the inhabitants seem to behave as if they are constantly in an audition! People walk around singing loudly, wear full make up and heels to the pool and do not appear to eat. In our 2 nights in the hotel, I saw only 2 people eating in the on-site pool café.

We took a drive out to Beverley Hills – clearly a very wealthy area and a desirable place to live – and visited Fogo de Chao for an evening meal. It’s similar to Bem Brazil or Fazenda in the UK, only with valet parking and a slightly bigger salad bar. It also had valet parking. The necessity or even desirability of valet parking is something I still cannot comprehend.

fogo de chao los angeles

San Diego

By this point in our trip we had been touring for around 3 weeks! We had already taken in the sights in New YorkVegasDeath Valley and Yosemite National Park before we hit the coast. Naturally our pace began to slow down when we reached San Diego!

San Diego Zoo is world-famous and home to one of very few remaining Giant Pandas. We visited the Zoo on a very hot day and were slightly disappointed that many of the Animals were ‘missing’ – perhaps taking cover from the intensity of the Californian Sun.

flamingos san diego zoo

Having paid a visit to San Diego Zoo, I remain conflicted about zoos generally. On one hand, I think they’re distasteful and that the sterile, unnatural surroundings are somehow cruel. On the other hand I think they’re important in terms of looking after animals (and to some extent species) who would not otherwise survive in the wild.

We were staying over on Coronado Bay – a retreat from the city but only a 20 minute journey by car. We stayed at the Loewe’s resort which was excellent and despite the weather being horribly overcast we spent the final day of our trip by the pool and in the Jacuzzi chatting with fellow travellers about beer, fracking in Tulsa, and what it’s like to live and travel outside of the USA!

candelas on the bay

Amazing food at Candela’s restaurant on the bay!

The Verdict

There’s a good reason why this remains a popular holiday for those who live in the US as well as those visiting. If you’re stuck for time then do as well did and cut out some of LA – don’t skimp on time in San Francisco or starve yourself of the ability to pull over and take in the views along the coastal road. The road trip isn’t supposed to be a sprint, after all! Take the time and enjoy the journey!

*the self-help book was called ‘You Are A Badass’ and was written by a very witty and non-preachy Jen Sincero. It was the beginning of a new-found appreciation for self-help, self-discovvery and provided me a massive kick up the ass, which resulted in me writing a book and starting this blog! Worth a read!

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How to Endure a Long Haul Flight

I’d been on the plane for around 4 hours and it was time to go to the bathroom for the third or fourth time. I drink a lot of water when flying so that I’m well hydrated, but this has the rather negative side effect of a constantly full bladder. On this occasion I was pretty desperate and the nearest unoccupied bathroom was the one beyond the curtain.

I dived into Upper Class – went about my business- then returned to my seat so as not to disturb the sleep of the people resting soundly after the evening meal.

*Sleep. Wouldn’t that be nice*

4 hours later I’d managed little but a light snooze for 20 minutes or so, and with another 3 hours to go I was beginning to feel an unusual amount of resentment towards anyone who had managed to fall into a reasonably deep sleep – even those outside of the luxury of upper class.

That flight was my first long haul flight as a 5’10” adult. I hadn’t been prepared for the nature of the task ahead of me when I sat on the tarmac at Heathrow, eagerly awaiting our landing at Hong Kong International Airport.

I had several more long haul flights ahead of me in the 3 weeks that followed, so I had to come up with a strategy to tackle the boredom, lack of sleep and general feeling of entrapment before I boarded the next flight.

Having done a few more long haul flights – in economy and premium economy but never first class- I have a few tips of my own to share with you which might make your long haul flights more bearable!

Bagsy a Spare Row

“For weight distribution reasons (and for organisation) passengers must remain in their allocated seat for take-off and landing but for the rest of the flight, passengers and crew are free to move around the cabin.”

That’s what you’re told when you’re boarding. I don’t know the science of it all, but I’d like to think my 10 stone didn’t have that greater impact on the safety of the plane, otherwise we would have to spread out the babies and evenly distribute the morbidly-obese as well, right?!

If you can, ask a member of the crew if there are any spare rows where you could stretch out and have a sleep. On low occupancy flights there’s a chance you could get 4-5 hours of shut-eye across the middle 4 seats, which believe me is an absolute luxury if you can manage it!

If you don’t want to ask – board as one of the last passengers so you can assess the cabin, looking for which seats remain empty, as you could bag those later.

What if someone else wants 1 or 2 of the 4 seats you’ve bagged? If you’re lying down it’s fine – you’re either asleep and not to be disturbed or pretending to be asleep therefore not to be disturbed. If they ask, it’s up to you whether you want to rudely decline, pretend not to understand or give in.

Personally I think the equitable thing to do is to offer to give up all 4 seats after you’ve had a proper sleep. Neither of you will be able to stretch out on 2 economy seats so 5 hours of proper sleep each is better than 10 hours of shuffling from one bum cheek to the other.

Pack Indigestion Tablets

 Settling comfortably in economy isn’t always the easiest thing to do – nor is sleeping upright. Add to that the mix of free drinks and eating outside of your normal eating pattern (due to time zone differences) and it’s easy to suffer some unintended stomach consequences.

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Pack an array of stomach settling tablets as a precaution. They weigh next-to-nothing, can stay in your hand luggage and will be indispensable when your pretzels start repeating on you at 33,000ft.

Pack a ‘Refresher’ Kit

There’s something about travel – especially across several time zones –which can leave you feeling pretty gross. Make sure you take something with you to allow you to wash your face, moisturise, brush your teeth and re-style your hair (which will be a mess after wriggling around trying to sleep against those little pillows).

If you’re doing two back-to-back long flights, pack a change of top and a change of underwear so you can start the second leg of the journey feeling refreshed, having changed in the airport. This also has the added benefit of killing a bit of time between flights!

Drink Up (But Not The Wine, or the Coffee)

One of the mistakes I used to make was to have a couple of glasses of wine to ‘knock me out’ for the rest of the flight. The plan was flawed, given that two glasses of wine isn’t really enough knock anyone out and alcohol actually makes me suffer from restless sleep (if I can sleep at all). Avoid coffee too – drinking a known stimulant probably isn’t the best way to prepare for a sleep.

A friend of mine works for Virgin Atlantic as Cabin crew and recently advised me that she drinks as much as 3-4 litres of water on each flight. The crew actually swear by maintaining hydration to reduce the effects of jet-lag and keep your skin and body feeling at least part-normal after such a long time in recycled air. I tried it, and despite 13 bathroom trips over 9.5 hours I did feel much better than when I have alcohol and managed sleep for several hours – even when upright!

8-Glasses-blog

Wear Your Best Gym Gear

Hear me out. Whilst this might sound a little bit strange, I’ve found that the best travel clothing is actually my smartest running tights and a vest, a breathable but warm zip up jacket and my most flexible comfy shoes: my Nike Frees. I don’t look particularly glamorous when I travel, but I dress like that for the following reasons:

  • They’re flexible and designed not to be irritating to wear. They basically feel like pyjamas!
  • Gym leggings typically don’t have buckles or zips that could dig in when you sit down
  • They’re warm enough for whilst on the plane, but usually made of breathable sweat-wicking material, so will remain comfortable if you’re landing in a hot place (like when we flew to Vegas from Manchester in July)
  • A zip jacket is much easier to remove than a hoody
  • You can wash and dry them quickly (because of the quick drying fabric) so you can use them again for the return journey (leaving more space for holiday purchases in your luggage allowance!
  • I’ve learnt the hard way that heels are not an option when I have to walk / stand for so long in an airport (cheers, Atlanta)!
travelling outfit 1

Yoga pants and Nike Frees are the way to go for Long Haul. Jeans? You’re kidding right?!

Can’t Sleep? Channel Yoda and Meditate 

Ok so maybe you can’t actually meditate – or at least not knowingly – but you can try shutting your eyes and thinking of nothing for at least 15 minutes. Creating a peaceful silence in your own head will more than likely either lead to sleep, or leave you feeling a little bit more rested than before. Either way, it’s worth a try!

Take Breaks Between Films 

Films are a good way to pass a couple of hours at a time, but if you binge watch 3 films you might find yourself disappointed by how long there is left until landing time.

Instead, watch a film – do something else – then watch another film. You’ll appreciate the second film more after a break, and if you give yourself chance to realise you’re tired then might even manage a nap.

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Avoid Exotic Foods

For obvious reasons, avoid unusual foods in the run up to a long flight. You don’t want to spend the journey locked in the loo.

Give Yourself Meaningful Tasks to Complete

Many of us will know the feeling of running out of time to compete a task. When we focus on getting something done rather than the passing of time, suddenly time flies.

When I’m flying, I typically give myself a target such as writing a chapter of my book or writing a blog post. If I’m not writing, I’ll try and finish a book I’ve started at home and never completed. I’d also recommend downloading and listening to some interesting podcasts such as TED talks. You might as well learn something whilst you’re sat there… right?!

in flight entertainment multitasking

In flight entertainment / blogging / research multitasking!

Avoid Becoming a Default Babysitter

It’s very important to set the boundaries early-on if there’s an inquisitive child sat in the seat in front of you. If you’re too friendly and encouraging of them leaning over the seat to interact with you then you’re in danger of becoming a source of entertainment for the remainder of the flight. I’m not saying ignore them, but initiating a game of peek-a-boo or I-spy probably isn’t sensible.

Last But Not Least – Jump Time-Zones!

If you can, try to adjust to destination time as soon as possible after boarding the flight. Most airlines will help you do this, but if your journey is in two legs –such as Manchester to Auckland – then your final destination time will be different to stop-over time. Bear this in mind when deciding when it’s best to try and sleep. Personally I take whatever sleep I can get!

ENJOY THE FLIGHT… AND THE HOLIDAY OF COURSE!

The 5 Week Wanderer

 

my favourite travel apps

My Essential Travel Apps

Apps for days. That’s what you’d have if you downloaded an app for everything – because let’s face it – there pretty much is an app for everything now.

In this week’s blog post, I’m telling you which apps I think are a travel-lover’s must. 

Google Maps

Despite being a bit of a data-drainer, I think google maps is one of my most indispensable apps when travelling. I use it to pinpoint where I want to go and then wander freely around cities stress-free, and without the need to rely on a big  folded city map!

Not only is it great for walking, I use it in the place of expensive sat-nav hire when ‘m driving overseas. The cost? Just the daily rate you pay for having access to all the data you usually have I your package – but to use overseas. For me, this means £3 per day in  Europe and £5 per day in the USA. Personally, I think that’s a small price to pay to avoid a) getting lost or b) navigation related arguments.

google maps

 

Holiday Pirates

For those who haven’t used holiday pirates before, it’s a cheap-deal finding holiday metasearch app. This means that there’s a team of people sat somewhere (in Holiday Pirates HQ) who dedicate their time to searching for the best holiday deals online before enlightening fellow ‘pirates’ to the greatest deals found on the net that day.

It’s inspiring, brilliant and will fuel your wanderlust like never before.

Add to that the potential to hear about ‘error fares’ (i.e. incorrectly priced airline tickets which are dirt cheap) and the potential for holiday bargains is immense! I saw (but missed out on) an incredible deal once for return tickets to Australia for less than it costs to get into London on the train!

It’s an absolute must if you’re not sure when or where to go on holiday. If you don’t already have it, download it NOW!

holiday pirates

Pinterest

Pinterest is my favourite App for discovering things I hadn’t realised were out there to be seen! The concept – in case you haven’t come across it before – is that of a pin board. Instead of cutting out pictures from a travel brochure and articles from travel magazines and pinning them one by one onto the cork pin board, you can save them on your own ‘pin boards’ within the app.

Articles spanning the internet are therefore available in one central ‘library’, each of which is represented by a charming picture. You either pin articles / sites put into the Pinterest general library by other ‘pinners’ or you can pin directly from the world wide web, as you wish!

It’s great for infographics, like ’10 things to do in Las Vegas’ or similar!

pinterest

 

Airline Boarding Pass Apps

Make your life easier and save the planet. Download the app of your chosen airline and check in online. Typically you can then proceed to the gate, show your phone and board. If you have nothing to check in to the main hold, then this means you don’t even need to make contact with the airline until you get to the gate, meaning less queues and more time wandering around in W.H.Smith.

The main benefit for me is that I’m far less likely to misplace my phone than a paper boarding slip!

ryanain-new-app-boarding-pass

Any Addictive Games App

Bejewelled Blitz. That’s what got me through the dark times on  the long return journey from Bali. Any slightly addictive game which requires little skill or concentration (therefore is possible when operating under sleep deprivation) will do the trick!

bejewelled

Instagram

Who wouldn’t want to see pictures of their mate riding a giant inflatable unicorn in an infinity pool in Bali? Instagram is great for snapping and sharing travel pictures, and requires much less prose than facebook. Twitter? Why should I limit what I have to say?!

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Whatssapp

There’s no easier way to update friends and family on mass than via a whatssapp broadcast. Easy peasy! It’s also good when you’re in vastly differing time zones, as you or your family members can mute notifications for 8  hours as they sleep, then check for messages in the morning!

whatsapp_logo_1

StubHub

I’ve spoken about stubhub before – I used it when we were in New York to get cheap last minute tickets to the Yankees v Red Sox Game. It’s a trading platform for unwanted event tickets and there’s some real bargains to be had.
Search for ‘near me’ in the app and see what pops up. Many of the tickets are available as e-tickets, meaning once purchased you merely need to find your way to the venue and show your phone to gain entry!

stubhub3

Most of the above are related to your holiday experience, rather than the booking process. for more tips on booking, check out my holiday planning page or these links:

  1. Save money on hotels
  2. Last minute holidays without the stress
  3. Holiday maximisation