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Tulum is Hell on Earth.

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A wide beach on a sunny day in Tulum, Mexico
Posted: 12/14/20 | December 14th, 2020

Hell is a town called Tulum. Watched over by Mayan ruins and buttressed by the ocean, this is a place of pothole-filled streets, overpriced taxis, terrible traffic jams, and out-of-touch yuppies, celebrities, influencers, wannabe gurus, COVID deniers, and well-to-do folks looking to “find themselves” in overpriced retreats, hotels, and bars.

It is a town where one can overhear tech deals and talk of the “the China flu,” Instagram algorithms, and an upcoming drum circle within the span of a few minutes.

I came here with low expectations. I’d seen all those perfect shots of Tulum on Instagram, read the articles, and spoken with other travelers.

Tulum was influencers paradise, which likely meant it wasn’t mine.

But I wanted to see what all the hype was really about. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe I was just being a stubborn old goat.

Nope. Tulum was even worse than I had imagined.

A sleepy little town during my last visit in 2011, Tulum is now a mecca for jet-setting millennials, celebs, hippies, and spiritual types. It is a place where they come to do all the things they can do back home — but without the cost, in better weather, and with more international people around.

It’s become another Bali or Goa: a relatively cheap retreat for Westerners who want to drop in, drop out, live in their bubble, eat açaí bowls during the day, and party all night long. Here, in expensive beachside boutique hotels, they eat in Miami-style restaurants while listening to the latest EDM music.

They aren’t in Tulum to experience Mexico. They come here for their little bubble.

I wanted to love Tulum. I kept thinking to myself, “What am I missing? What do they see that I don’t?”

Tulum isn’t all bad: the ruins, set above the beach, are immaculately preserved, there are lots of cenotes (sinkholes) to swim in nearby, the beach is truly world-class, and the food downtown — especially the taco stalls and seafood restaurants — are excellent.

Noamdic Matt posing near ruins on the beach in Tulum, Mexico

And the design of those boutique hotels and restaurants, with their minimalist esthetic and use of wood, plants, and lights, is quite stunning. The “Tulum esthetic” as it is called is actually beautiful.

The reason Tulum is hell is not that but the people.

There are just too many tourists behaving badly here, acting as if they weren’t guests in someone else’s country. And it kept rubbing me the wrong way.

Travel is a privilege — and the people who come here don’t seem to appreciate that. Most are simply re-creating their own cultures rather than trying to enjoy Mexican culture.

And, while I did enjoy some of those bougie restaurants and beach bars, I don’t travel in order to just re-create my life back home. I travel to experience a destination. I want to talk to locals who aren’t serving me food, eating a roadside taco stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and just trying to get a sense of life here.

Of course, not all travel has to be deep. Sometimes you just want a vacation. Sometimes you just want to jet off to a beach destination and drink from coconuts before going back to “the real world.”

I’m not irked by the ones that come to Tulum for that.

It’s the folks who are here long-term, feigning a deeper spiritual enlightenment and extolling the “magic” of this place, that seem hypocritical to me. They come to Tulum and pretend they are some magical spiritual quest or to work remote. But all they do is stick to their own Westernized bubble.

They then complain about the locals, crime (fueled by their own desire for drugs), and, in the same breath, lament things are changing — even as they’re excited about a new airport and wonder where they can find a Whole Foods–style grocery store. (Yes, in the expat group I joined, someone actually asked that question.)

It’s these folks, the ones who make up the majority of Tulum’s visitors, that made me hate Tulum. Especially, now, during COVID.

A lot of people come here because they know they can escape public health restrictions in their own country. In fact, a lot of the “COVID is a hoax” folks move here, bars are packed, and group events happen all the time. In fact, the week I arrived, Tulum had a festival called Art with Me, which became a superspreader event.

While I think there is a safe way to travel and am not in the “no movement ever” camp, I think it’s just super reckless to pretend COVID doesn’t exist and go about your business. Most of my time was at my Airbnb, eating at outdoor restaurants or stalls, and on the beach alone. I got to enjoy the best of Tulum away from the worst of it.

After all, the traveler is a guest in someone’s home and should treat that with respect. To fly to a place, attend events that increase the risk of COVID, act like it doesn’t exist, refuse to wear a mask, and leave the locals to deal with the consequences (or catch it and take it back home) is just an irreprehensible thing to do.

***

Clearly, I’m not the yoga/burner/let’s talk about chakras kind of guy. And I have many friends who love Tulum and will go back over and over again. The “scene” in Tulum is simply not for me. There’s too much unsustainable development egged on by people who “care about the environment” but are all too happy to stay in overpriced hotels that have to constantly run generators since the hotel zone has no infrastructure.

Years ago, I said I’d never return to Vietnam. Age and experience have shown me I was wrong to judge Vietnam so harshly on a first visit. Every place deserves a second chance.

But, after seeing what Tulum has become, I doubt I’ll visit Tulum a third time. Maybe if I become super-rich and can avoid those bougie $800-a-night hotels or decide that, actually, drum circles really are for me.

So, dear traveler, if you’re like me and travel to learn about the country you are visiting, an extended visit to Tulum probably isn’t for you. There’s not much of Mexico to be found in the overpriced boutique hotels, shops, retreat centers, or restaurants selling pizza, pad thai, açaí bowls, and juice cleanses.

Come for a quick trip to the ruins, swim in a few cenotes, eat the wonderful street food, dine at the hole in the wall local restaurants, and wander the downtown area.

Then leave skip the rest with no regrets.

Because the rest is an unsustainable and overdeveloped hell hole of fake influencers, wannabe celebs, and people tearing down paradise.

And it’s not worth your time.

Book Your Trip to Mexico: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Mexico?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Mexico for even more planning tips!

The post Tulum is Hell on Earth. appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Patreon News: More Perks, Posts, and Other Updates

Posted By : webmaster/ 34 0


A traveler meet-up for the Nomadic Network
Posted: 12/10/20 | December 10th, 2020

Over the past few years, we’ve worked hard to make sure that our community believes that traveling is attainable. We’ve built a company based on the premise that you can take the trip of your dreams without breaking the bank — and we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of readers do just that.

It’s great reading emails from people who have taken the leap and booked flights that they always dreamed of and traveled to places they always wanted to visit.

Earlier this year — all the way back in the century we call March, when the world shut down and travel stopped — we watched our traffic dwindle down to zero in a matter of days. So we brainstormed ways to continue to serve our community during these uncertain times.

One idea that felt right for us was to create a community-funded Patreon page, a members-only subscription service that allows people to support their favorite artists and online creators.

Keeping the community connected and inspired was an important factor in the creation of our Patreon page. Last November, we launched The Nomadic Network (TNN), a community where people can create local chapters and hold travel-centric events to help each other travel better, cheaper, and longer. Our goal then was to take this amazing online community we have created over the last twelve years and bring it offline, to foster real-world connections and friendships.

But then COVID came. In an effort to keep the travel community alive, connected, and inspired, we started two initiatives: virtual TNN events and a Patreon page. Both aimed at serving our community and boosting our travel spirits during these uncertain times.

Patreon has been a huge success, and, based on your feedback, we’ve recently made some changes, adding in more content, Q&As, and even some cool swag!

Now, as a patron, you’ll get:

  • Monthly live Q&As with me!
  • Travel planning calls with me!
  • Calls with the team
  • Free tickets to TravelCon
  • Access to all our TNN events and virtual replays
  • Autographed books
  • Postcards from me when I’m on the road
  • Private Instagram posts
  • Exclusive personal blog posts I don’t share elsewhere (for example, I’ve written about when I tried boxing in Thailand, shared chapters from my book that didn’t get published, and told some crazy hostel stories, to name a few!)

Moreover, we added the following new perks:

  • Patrons now get early access to certain blog posts and the ability to give feedback and suggestions before they are published on this website. This applies to “thought pieces” where I discuss some ideas I’m working through. In short, you’ll get to help guide the direction of this website!
  • We are now making T-shirts, so you can have a symbol of your membership (and hopefully spot others when you travel).
  • We now offer our weekly TNN webinars as replays that you can watch whenever you have time. We record them all and upload them to Patreon each week. It’s the only place they can be replayed!

And finally, Patreon now allows for annual memberships. If you become a patron now, you’ll get one free month!

You can sign up by clicking here.

While the information on this site will remain free, Patreon allows you to be part of a broader community and have more interactions with our team and community members. It also helps ensure that this website and the community around it will be around for a long time to come.

I started Nomadic Matt with the simple dream of teaching people how to travel. That hasn’t changed. It never will.

But being part of our Patreon gets you exclusive perks, content, and access that will help sustain this community while improving your travels and give you access to events that are patron-only.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Sincerely,

Nomadic Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Patreon News: More Perks, Posts, and Other Updates appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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14 Great Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip

Posted By : webmaster/ 38 0


A hiker walking on a trail toward snow-capped mountains
Posted: 12/7/2020 | December 7th, 2020

Buying a travel backpack is one of the most important purchases a traveler will make. A backpack isn’t just where you carry your stuff — it’s your home.

Your bag is an important investment. You want one that can handle the abuse that comes with traveling the world on a budget. You’ll be living out of this bag for weeks or months or years. You’ll be hauling it on hikes and across hectic cities, stuffing it onto crowded buses, and flying it around the world.

If you’re like me, you want a bag that lasts. I’ve had my bag for five years (my previous one, before it got lost on a flight, lasted ten), my community manager has had his backpack for seven years, and the director of our charity FLYTE has had hers for eight.

You’ll need a bag that works for you — but what works for you might not necessarily work for someone else. So, before diving into how to pick a backpack for travel, I want to mention the most important features you need to consider as you evaluate my favorites listed below. You want backpack that has:

    • Water-resistant material
    • Lockable zippers
    • An internal frame
    • A padded hip belt & shoulder straps
    • Multiple openings (not just a single top opening)
    • Lots of compartments
    • A contoured/padded back

And be sure your backpack fits your body too. Don’t get one that’s too small or too large as it will hurt your back. Proportionality matters!

To help you save money and stay comfortable as you travel the world, below are my top 14 travel backpack suggestions.

In a rush? Here’s a list of only the best travel backpacks:Best Overall Travel Backpack: REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Digital Nomads: NOMATIC 40
Best Backpack with Wheels: Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L
Best Backpack for Women (Under 50L): REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Women (Over 50L): REI Traverse 65
Best Backpack for Men (Under 50L): Osprey Farpoint 40
Best Backpack for Men (Over 50L): REI Traverse 70L

 

The Best Travel Backpacks: Detailed Review

Best Overall
REI Flash 45 Pack

REI Flash 45 Pack

The back paneling on this pack is breathable, and the handy water bottle pocket is located near the front of the hip belt so you never have to take off your backpack to get a drink. The design is great!

SUMMARY:

  • Size: 45-47L
  • Compression technology
  • Movable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible

Check Best Price

While that backpack is my favorite, here are some other packs that you can’t go wrong with either:

Image

Travel Backpack

Details

Men’s Osprey Aether AG 60

  • Size: 57-63L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, and dual front compression straps
  • Large front J-zip, detachable daypack, hydration sleeve, plenty of pockets

Men’s Osprey Farpoint 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Two front compression straps and two internal compression straps
  • 15-inch laptop sleeve, large zippered panel, padded handles

Women’s Osprey Fairview 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Dual front compressions straps
  • Large zippered front panel, pockets, padded handle, laptop sleeve

Women’s Osprey Ariel AG 65

  • Size: 59-65L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, dual front compression strapsails
  • Large J-zip at the front, sleeping bag compartment, removable sleeping pad straps, removable daypack

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack

  • Size: 62-68L
  • Upper and lower side compression straps
  • Adjustable harness and hip belt, lots of pockets, hydration sleeve, FlapJacket to protect against bad weather

Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L

  • Size: 50L
  • Quick-deploy shoulder harness and padded back panel
  • Converts to wheeled luggage; has inner and outer mesh pockets, and attachment slots for a day pack.

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Padded hip belt, shoulder harness
  • Laptop sleeve, lots of pockets, lockable zippers, padded handles for toting

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

  • Size: 40L
  • Padded straps, detachable waist straps
  • RFID protected pocket, cord organizer, laundry bag, laptop and shoe compartments

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Anti-Theft Adventure Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Breathable shoulder and waist straps
  • Built-in rain cover, main compartment accessible through back panel, smart zipper security

Women’s REI Flash 45 Pack

  • Size: 45-47L
  • Compression technology pulls the pack’s load up and inward so that the pack is closer to your center of gravity
  • Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, 3-D contoured hip belt

Women’s REI Traverse 65

  • Size: 61-69L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

REI Traverse 70

  • Size: 66-74L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

Osprey Talon 44

  • Size: 44L
  • Seamless lumbar-to-hipbelt support
  • Breathable back padding, lots of pockets, narrow design, and water resistant material

***A good travel backpack will last years and make all your journeys better, and those on this list are some of the best on the market.

But not every one of these bags will work for you. Some will be too narrow or too wide. Some will be too tall or too short. For that reason, you’ll want to spend some time trying your bag on and making sure it’s comfortable. Choosing the best travel backpack — the one that works for you, even if it’s not on this list — is what’s most important here!

This isn’t just a purchase; this is an investment. Remember, it’s not just a bag: it’s your home.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt's How to Travel the World on $50 a DayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A-to-Z planning guide that the BBC calls “the bible for budget travelers.”

Click here to learn more and start reading it today!

 

 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post 14 Great Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

Posted By : webmaster/ 45 0


a camera in christmas lights
Last Updated: 12/2/20 | December 2nd, 2020

Travelers can be a fickle group of people to buy gifts for. We’re constantly coming and going, we usually don’t carry a lot of stuff with us, and no two travelers are alike so finding the perfect gift for the traveler in your life can be tricky.

While a plane ticket is never a bad idea (I’m a window seat in case anyone is thinking of getting me one), I’ve put together this ultimate holiday gift guide for travelers as there’s a lot of great travel gear out there these days that helps people travel cheaper and better.

Even me, the gear-adverse traveler, likes a lot of this stuff!

This is stuff I actually think is super useful. No nonsense. No fluff. Just the best gifts for intrepid travelers and globetrotting nomads!

 

Gifts Under $25

1. Packing Cubes

travel packing cubesPacking cubes are an awesome tool to help you stay organized while you travel. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or traveling with half a dozen suitcases, packing cubes will keep you organized as you travel the world. They come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to store items big and small. If you know a traveler who needs a hand staying organized, this is the gift for them! (If you want something nicer and better quality, check out these ones!)

Buy now on Amazon!
 

2. Travel Padlock

Master travel padlockThis simple item is one of the most important for the budget traveler. Since many hostels have lockers, backpackers need to have their own travel lock when they’re on the road. While you can usually rent them at hostels, those prices add up after a while. I never leave home without a lock because I know it will come in handy.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

3. Earplugs

travel ear plugsAnyone who has ever stayed in a hostel knows that a quality pair of earplugs is a necessity. From chronic snorers to late-night drinkers to copulating couples in creaking bunks, hostels are known for their less-than-quiet accommodation. Add some earplugs to your shopping list. Because the gift of a good sleep is priceless!

Buy now on Amazon!
 

4. DryFox Quick Dry Travel Towel

sea to summit travel towelUnless you’re only staying at hotels or using Airbnb, you’re going to need to bring a towel when you travel. Having a lightweight, quick-drying towel makes a huge difference when you’re on the road since regular towels are too bulky and heavy (and they take a long time to dry). Get a travel towel for your next trip so you can travel light. They’re a compact, quick-drying solution that every backpacker needs. (Use code “nomadicmatt” for 15% off your purchase!)

Buy now at DryFoxCo!
 

5. Travel Adapter

travel adapterNothing is more tedious than arriving to a new destination only to realize you can’t charge your devices because the electrical outlets are different. That’s why you’ll need a travel adapter. They’re a simple accessory. There’s a million out there but this is one I use as it covers every region of the world and comes with USB ports too. It’s cheap, easy to use, and lightweight. Everything you need in an adapter.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

6. Scratch Travel Maps from Landmass

travel scratch mapScratch maps are a fun way to keep track of your past travels while helping you stay inspired as you plan your future trips. You simply scratch off the parts of the world you’ve been. Simple. Easy. Landmass is my favorite company that makes these, though there are plenty of other companies that make them now so you can find them in all sorts of sizes and colors.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

7. Passport Holder

travel scratch mapA passport holder is a must-have for any avid traveler. Not only does it protect your passport from wear and tear, it makes your travels much more convenient. Most passport holders have slots for your travel credit cards as well as any cash you have, making it a safe and convenient way to keep your valuables secure while you travel. While there are tons of expensive and fancy passport holders out there, a simple one will get the job done and save you money in the process (money you can spend on more travels!).

Buy now on Amazon!
 

8. Toothpaste Bites

Bites toothpaste jar with spilled toothpaste tabsTraveling with liquids is always a pain. They’re a hassle at airport security and, when it comes to toothpaste, there is a lot of waste. The plastic tubes end up in landfills and you can never really get all the toothpaste out of the tube. Enter toothpaste bites. These dry tabs of toothpaste that come in a recyclable jar (no plastic!). They take some getting used to but they’re an eco-friendly option for the environmentally-conscious traveler. (And they clean your teeth well, which is also very important!)

Buy now at Bite!
 

9. Hand-drawn Food Maps

hand drawn food maps from Legal NomadsThese are unique, hand-drawn typographic maps of food from Legal Nomads and artist Ella Frances Sanders. They make a thoughtful gift for anyone who loves to eat and travel (and who doesn’t!). They come in a variety of sizes too! Jodi’s maps are the best! (Use the code NOMADICMATT to save 10%)

Buy now at Legal Nomads!
 

10. Moleskine Notebook

moleskine travel notebookI never leave home without one of these. They are the perfect notebook for journaling during your trip as well as for writing down travel notes such as directions, contact information, and language tips. I think everyone needs to write more during their travels so they have something to look back on (other than photos).

Buy now on Amazon!
 

11. Travel Books

The Alchemist book coverFew things can inspire you to travel like a good book. They can transport you to new places and keep your wanderlust stoked while you work towards making your own travel dreams a reality. If you’ve got an avid reader who loves to travel on your holiday list (or if you’re just looking for something to read over the holidays), get a travel book. Books are the best gift in the world and on my Amazon page you can get a list of all the best travel books I’ve read over the years.

Here is my list of favorites on Amazon!
Here is my list of favorites Bookshop!
 

12. Celiac Travel Cards

Legal Nomads celiac logoMy friend Jodi from Legal Nomads created these helpful travel cards for anyone traveling with Celiac disease. They are in-depth resources that communicate your concerns to restaurant staff in a way that allows anyone traveling with the disease to have a worry-free meal. If you or someone you love has Celiac disease, these travel cards are a useful resource! (Use the code NOMADICMATT for 10% off!)

Buy now at Legal Nomads!
 

13. Dry Shampoo

Lush's dry shampoo in a clear plastic bottle
Dry shampoo is a convenient liquid-free alternative to regular shampoo. It’s a useful minimalist solution for budget travelers who travel carry-on only and an eco-friendly choice as well. Natural dry shampoos absorb the grease and oil in your hair, keeping it clean while you’re on the road — and with minimal effort too. It works for all types of hair and hair lengths as well so you don’t need to shave your head or do anythign drastic either.

Buy now at Lush!
 

14. Ten Years a Nomad

$50 a day by Matt KepnesThis book is my memoir about my ten years traveling and backpacking the world, my philosophy on travel, and the lessons I learned that can help you travel better. It takes you on a trip around the world from start to finish: getting the bug, the planning, setting off, the highs, the lows, the friends, what happens when you come back — and the lessons and advice that come with all that. People have been really enjoying and connecting with it and I think you or any other traveler would love it!! (Plus, getting it helps support everything we do here!)

Buy now on Amazon!
Buy now on Bookshop!
 

15. Donate to Charity!

flyte charity logoFor the traveler in your life who has everything, why not make a donation to charity on their behalf! FLYTE is an awesome charity that I started back in 2015 to help high school students in underserved communities experience the transformational power of travel. Every year we send a new group of students abroad, but we can’t do it without your help!

Donate the gift of travel today!
 

16. Get the Books to Get You Outdoors!

the Comfortably Wild book cover
If you’ve been following my blog, chances are you’ve noticed I’m not much of a camper. Sure, I love the outdoors but I never sleep well in a tent. That’s where “glamping” — a mix of “glamorous” and “camping” — comes in. My friends Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek wrote the go-to book on glamping in North America. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes the outdoors but also appreciates a little extra comfort.

And for more outdoor adventures, my friend Renee wrote an in-depth guide to America’s National Parks called Roaming America. It’s full of detailed itineraries, insider tips, and personal recommendations. It’s a must for any road tripper or nature lover on your shopping list!

Buy now on Amazon!
Buy now on Bookshop!
 

Gifts Under $100

 

17. Menstrual Cup

A menstrual cup being held by a womanMenstrual cups are reusable, eco-friednly feminine hygiene products. While I can’t speak to their effectiveness personally, tons of female travelers I know are huge fans. It can be a hassle trying to find the products you need while abroad, making this a simple, effective, and affordable addition to your toiletry kit.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

18. Trtl Travel Pillow

a comfortable travel pillowTravel pillows are perfect for those long-haul flights, delayed buses, and airport naps. Every traveler needs to have a travel pillow on hand to maximize that downtime and time in transit, and Trtl pillows are the best on the market. They help prevent jetlag and make even the longest, most uncomfortable trip a little more bearable.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

19. Suavs shoes

suavs shoesSuavs shoes are super versatile and durable, making them perfect for traveling. Whether you’re just exploring the city or in need of something that looks a bit fancier, these shoes can do it all so you don’t have to pack multiple shoes. They are flexible, light, washable, and breathable. I love them! (They look great too!)

Buy now at Suavs!
 

20. Travel Headlamp

travel head lampThis is a handy tool for both backpackers and anyone looking to do any hiking or camping. In a hostel, a headlamp is helpful if you need to check in or out but don’t want to disturb your fellow travelers. For outdoorsy folks, they’re useful for hiking, setting up camp in the dark, and for emergencies.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

21. LifeStraw

lifestraw water filterEnvironmentally, pollution from single-use plastics is something every traveler has witnessed. And, monetarily, when you’re traveling, continuiously buying water gets expensive. Do your part to help the planet by traveling with a reusable filter. LifeStraw is an awesome brand with a built in water filter. The filters last 5 years so you save money on changing them too.

Buy now on Lifestraw!
 

22. Superstar Blogging

Superstar BloggingIs there someone on your list looking to start a new career? Why not give them a leg up and enroll them in Superstar Blogging! We offer comprehensive courses on blogging and travel writing that outline everything you need to know to succeed in the travel industry. You’ll learn from me and other top travel experts on how to level up your game, reduce mistakes, and get you heard above the noise!

Buy now on Superstar Blogging!

 

Gifts Over $100

23. Travel Backpack

REI Flash travel backpackIf you’ve got a budget traveler on your holiday list, a travel backpack is the gift that keeps on giving. A well-made bag will last for years and through dozens of adventures. Having a reliable travel backpack is one of the most important items for a traveler.

My favorite bag is the Flash 45 from REI but other companies worth checking out for high-quality bags are Osprey, Nomatic, and MEC (for Canadians).

Some bags worth checking out are:

(For a different backpack, check out my guide finding the right backpack for more options!)

24. Versatile Travel Clothing from Unbound Merino

Unbound Merino wool shirtThese travel clothes are some of the most versatile on the market. Made from merino wool, Unbound offers clothing that can be worn daily for weeks (and months!) without getting smelly. They are perfect for the traveler who wants to pack lighter. I really love the material, they’re comfortable, they hardly ever need a wash, and they last forever!

Buy now at Unbound!
 

25. Eco-friendly Luggage from Samsonite

samsonite recycled eco-friendly travel luggageIf you’re in need of proper luggage, Samsonite has been a go-to brand for durable, reliable luggage for ages. Now, I’m a backpack guy but I love this new luggage set. It’s made from 100% recycled plastic! Every little part of it! I can get behind something that environmentally friendly. It also comes with a limited 10 year warranty too in case something goes wrong.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

26. MacBook Air

MacBook air laptopThis is my favorite travel computer. It’s light, it’s powerful enough for regular use, and the battery life lasts a long time. While an iPad might be another potential travel choice, I find the Air much more versatile — especially with their new M1 chip. You can just do a lot more with it. When I’m on the road, this is the laptop I travel with.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

27. iPhone

iPhone 11While not a cheap phone, the iPhone 12 has such a high-tech camera that you don’t need to take a traditonal camera with you when you travel. It has a solid battery life, a grat lens, beautiful screen, and, is overall, just awesome. True, I’m an Apple fanboy so I might be biased but hey, it’s my list!

For a less-expensive phone with an equally awesome camera, check out the Google Pixel. It’s less than half the price and has an excellent camera.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

28. Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones

Bose QC35 headphonesThese are ideal for those long flights or bus trips as they block out background noise so you can read, work, or sleep without being disturbed. The wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are fan favorites and my go-to brand. They are comfortable, rechargable, and do an amazing job at removing background noise. If you’re on a budget, consider the QuietComfort 25 instead.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

29. Mophie External Battery

mophie external batteryThese days, we all travel with numerous electronic devices like phones and tablets. It can be hard to keep them all charged. An external battery solves that problem. Two high-output USB ports make this external battery incredibly convenient, and it can charge up to 100 hours of battery in one go.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

30. Kindle

a kindle from AmazonWhile I personally prefer to read physical books, I can’t argue against the convenience and simplicity of the Kindle. Hauling around physical books is a pain if you’re traveling often. With a Kindle, you can pack over 1,000 books into a single device and many versions can also use apps and access the internet. It’s a wonderful gift for the avid reader.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

31. GoPro Hero 9 Black

gopro heroEvery traveler needs a camera, and few are as versatile and durable as the GoPro. They’re incredible for photos and video no matter the climate. They’re waterproof and are perfect for both everyday city exploring as well as more extreme and adventurous activities. They’re just awesome. If the Hero 9 is too pricey, grab the 8. It’s just as good and a bit cheaper!

Buy now on Amazon!
 

32. Fashionable Travel Wear from Bluffworks

A man wearing a Bluffworks suitFor fashionable travel and work clothing, check out Bluffworks. Their versatile travelwear is perfect for business trips, romantic getaways, or for any trip where you want to look your best. Their clothing balances comfort and style, making them the perfect choice for the fashionable traveler. Best of all, they donate a portion of their profits to our charity FLYTE!

Buy now at Bluffworks!

***

Whether you’re searching for the perfect holiday gift for a traveler in your life or just looking for some holiday inspiration for yourself, this list will help you find an awesome gift for the holidays. No matter your budget, there is something here for you that will help you level up your travels or the travels of a loved one.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

Photo credit: 13 – Electric Teeth

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Black Friday Sale: Get up to 50% off!!

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Nomadic Matt Black Friday Sale
Posted: 11/24/2020 | November 24th, 2020

Hello, everyone! It’s that time of the year again, thanks to all those online deals, we all do our holiday shopping.

And we’re no different than anyone else in that regard.

As we do every year, we’re going to participate in this mass consumer event by putting all our guidebooks and courses on sale.

From right now until Monday, November 30th at 11:59 pm EST, all our books and courses are up to 50% off. Moreover, we doing a special release of all our previous TravelCon recordings.

Here’s the rundown of our Black Friday sale:

Books

This year, all my guidebooks are 50% off. While you might not be traveling right now, you can still start planning for a future trip — and my guidebooks are perfect for that! Each book just $4.99! Here’s a list of all my guides, which are available via PDF or Kindle:

Additionally, if you want to buy all the books together, you can do so for the ultralow price of $39.99. That’s 57% off the regular price! Just click here to get my entire collection of guidebooks!

These guides will help you collect points for free travel and explore destinations away from the crowds. They encompass my vision of travel: affordable, untouristy, unpretentious, and filled with good local eats!
 

Business & Writing Mentorship Programs

Nomadic Matt speaking at the WDS conference
If you’re looking to start a blog, get readers, rank high in Google, make money, or grow your existing business, my hands-on mentorship program can help you do just that. With it, you’ll get personalized help and feedback from my team and me. This isn’t a course. It’s a class where I’m here to help you create your strategy, show you our processes, and help you succeed online. It’s hands-on.

Moreover, on December 1st, we’re raising the price of this mentorship to $79 per month or $599 a year.

But, right now, you can get it at the current price of $49 per month or $399 per year and, when you use the code twomonths, you’ll get 50% off your first two months of membership! You’ll be grandfathered in at our current rates for life. You’ll never get a price increase for as long as you’re a part of the program.

So what’s included?

You’ll get behind the scenes of how I run my website and give you all my tips, tricks, and secrets to running a successful blog. I share metrics, screenshots, and all my numbers. I show you how I create products, grow my email list, make money with affiliates, write sales pages, network with other bloggers, get media coverage, and so much more. It comes with:

  • Weekly Q&As and strategy calls
  • Unlimited tech support (you break it, we fix it!)
  • Professional feedback and edits on your blog posts
  • A community forum to interact and network with other students
  • A collaboration board so you can get links and guest posts to gain readers faster
  • Bonus webinars from the most successful online creators in the world
  • Real-world assignments to keep you on task

It’s even beneficial if you’re an existing creator. Here’s what Jeremy from Travel Freak said:

“Though I’ve been blogging for 5+ years, I still found Matt’s program extremely beneficial. It helped me to rethink my strategy and come up with a more long-term and sustainable business model. Even as an established travel blogger, this program was useful because it helped to change my mindset and taught me advanced tactics I didn’t know. The information he shares is required to run a successful blog and business in today’s climate.”

So, if you’d like me to be your blogging teacher, click here to learn more about the coure and join today.

Don’t forget to use the code twomonths to save 50% on your first two months.

Additionally, we have a writing mentorship taught by OG travel writer David Farley, who has written a best seller book, taught at NYU and Columbia, and hosted a National Geographic series. This program gets into the nitty-gritty of becoming a better writer. You’ll learn how to improve your writing, self-edit, become more descriptive, draw your reader in, come up with story ideas, pitch editors, and even make a living as a writer.

Additionally, David and I will give you feedback and edits on your writing throughout the course. No one improves their writing alone — and no other writing course offers this kind of hands-on help.

Plus, you’ll get over 12 hours of interviews with other travel writers and editors in order to learn their best practices for improving your writing and starting a career as a writer.

Here’s what Whitney thought of the program:

“This program surpassed any writing course I have ever taken in college, as a homeschool teacher, or as a travel professional. I really enjoyed the content and how it was presented, along with the fact that I could send in my writing for David and Matt to review and give feedback on. This program is really is the best of the best! Thank you, David and Matt!”

Click here to learn more and join today. (Don’t forget to use the code twomonths to save 50% off your first two months.)
 

TravelCon Virtual

Oneika Raymond speaking at TravelCon
If you missed out on TravelCon 2018 and 2019, we’re bringing back our virtual recordings for a limited time. We recorded all the talks from both events — and, now, you can now get BOTH conferences’ recordings together in one special package. That’s over 60 hours of information on running a successful blog from the best minds in the travel and entrepreneurship worlds.

You’ll get talks from speakers like Cheryl Strayed, Mark Manson, Tony Wheeler, Oneika Raymond, Ryan Holiday, Glo Atanmo, Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad, dozens of DMO representatives, Rolf Potts, Wandering Earl, Lola Akinmade, Kash Bhattacharya, The Planet D, Renee Roaming, Dalene and Peter Heck, Kristin Luna, Gary Leff, Johnny Jet, Vagabrothers, Hey Nadine, Kristin Addis, Alex Baackes, Pat Flynn, Steve Kamb, and so many more names!

In total, you’ll get talks from over 100 of the top experts in travel and marketing!

From now until the end of Monday, you can get this massive repository of knowledge and behind the scenes information. All our talks have tons of actionable advice you can implement right away.

Just click here to get all these recordings for just $99 USD.

This is your last chance to get all of TravelCon’s excellent programs for one low price. We won’t offer this again.

***

So, that’s it! That’s our sale! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer them. Our sale goes until Monday night EST, so don’t delay!

– Nomadic Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Black Friday Sale: Get up to 50% off!! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary

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People canoeing on the bright, clear waters of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Posted:

Spanning 9,306km (5,780 miles) and six time zones, Canada is the second-largest country in the world. It’s home to rugged coastlines, vast prairies, dense boreal forests, towering mountain ranges, and upwards of two million lakes.

But what makes Canada special is its people. It’s a place that embraces its diversity and that encourages people to be friendly, caring, and polite.

Due to its large size, though, traveling across Canada can be a little challenging. Domestic flights are prohibitively expensive due to low competition and, outside of the eastern part, trains don’t go many places.

That means if you really want to see Canada, you need to drive.

To help you explore this amazing country, Chris Oldfield, our Canadian team member, helped create this suggested itinerary for a one-month road trip. It’s packed, since you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. However, it’s also not too rushed (though you can easily extend this out to six or eight weeks as well).

(Note: Canada is huge, and there are many routes and itineraries you can take. This one is by no means comprehensive but instead meant to give you a good overview and introduction to the main cities and sights.)
 

Days 1-3: Vancouver, BC

The towering skyline of Vancouver, Canada overlooking the ocean
Kick off your adventure in Vancouver, one of my favorite Canadian cities. It’s tucked between the ocean and the mountains, making it a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors.

It’s also the third-largest city in Canada, so there’s plenty to see and do while you’re here. There’s an amazing foodie scene here too.

Here are a few suggestions to help you start your trip off right:

  • Visit Granville Island – Granville Island is a shopping district in the middle of the city. It’s also a hub for foodies. Explore the public market, grab a beer at Granville Island Brewing Company, and wander the cool shops. There are also galleries, some performing arts venues, and all kinds of events and festivals held here too!
  • Enjoy the view from Grouse Mountain – Ride the gondola to the top, where you can enjoy the view over the metropolis and mountains. There are lots of trails for hiking in the summer and sections for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. You can also hike to the top (which takes 1.5–2 hours) and then take the gondola down for just $15 CAD.
  • Relax in Stanley Park – Located in the heart of the city, this enormous park (a 400-hectare natural rain forest) is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown. Its waterfront path right on the Pacific is a nice place to go for a stroll, swim, or bike ride. There are also sports fields here and over 20km of trails.
  • Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge – This 450-foot long suspension bridge stands 230 feet high and offers views of the surrounding forests and trails. I don’t love heights, but it’s worth it for the view! Tickets are $54 CAD.

For more suggestions, here’s a detailed list of things to see and do in Vancouver.

Where to Stay

  • Cambie Hostel Gastown – Located in the historic Gastown district, this hostel has comfortable beds, a small common room for hanging out, and access to The Cambie, the hostel’s bar.
  • HI Vancouver Downtown – Tucked into a quieter part of town, HI Vancouver Downtown is in a good location for exploring the popular Granville and Davie Streets, which offer plenty of cafés, bars, clubs, restaurants, and shopping.
  • Samesun Vancouver – With cozy pod beds, clean bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and free breakfast (including eggs and hot cereal), this is my favorite hostel in the city.

Here is my complete hostel list with even more suggestions!
 

Day 4-5: Whistler, BC

A calm lake with a small floating dock near Whistler, BC, Canada
Located 90 minutes from Vancouver, Whistler is home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America. If you’re visiting during the winter, be sure to hit the slopes.

In the summer, there are tons of outdoor activities to enjoy such as hiking, swimming, cycling, zip-lining, and bear watching. There’s also a 4.4km peak-to-peak gondola where you can enjoy the stunning mountain vistas that envelop the region.

Where to Stay
Airbnb and will be your best choices here. Book in advance, as they get booked fast!
 

Days 6-8: Banff National Park, AB

The vivid waters of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta
Next, head east to Banff National Park. It’s an 8.5-hour drive, so you can break it up with a stay in Kamloops or just muscle through in one go.

Banff is home to two of Canada’s most picturesque (and most Instagrammed) locations: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. They are incredibly popular sights, so get there early to beat the crowds.

Beyond snapping some Insta-worthy shots, there is plenty of hiking to enjoy in the surrounding mountains. It’s a beautiful place to relax in a rustic lodge or cabin or go camping (you can rent camping gear if you don’t have any).

Be sure to spend some time in the town of Banff as well. It’s a touristy resort town but it’s also super quaint and charming.

Where to Stay
Airbnb will be your best option if you’re on a budget. If you feel like splurging on a luxury resort or lodge, use Booking.com.

For camping, you can use this government website to book a site in the park.

Note: If you have more than a month for your trip, consider a stop in Jasper National Park before heading to Banff. It’s an extra nine-hour drive from Whistler but the natural beauty here is jaw-dropping (seriously, google “Jasper National Park” — it’s stunning!).
 

Days 9-10: Calgary, AB

The towering skyline of Calgary, Alberta during sunset
Calgary, an often-overlooked destination, is just 90 minutes from Banff and worth spending a couple days in. It’s a cosmopolitan city with a rough and wild cowboy charm to it. There’s plentiful hiking, kayaking, skiing, rafting, and camping all nearby. And the city itself is one of the liveliest in Canada, especially during the Calgary Stampede in July, which attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world.

Here are a few things to see and do during your visit:

  • Attend the Calgary Stampede – The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo. Expect chuckwagon races, bull riding, concerts, carnival rides, and endless fair food (deep-fried butter, anyone?). Tickets start at $18 CAD.
  • Visit Fish Creek Provincial Park – Fish Creek sits along the Bow River and is perfect for walking, cycling, and rollerblading. In the summer, people come here to fish, swim, and barbecue. It’s a fun, relaxing place to get some exercise and enjoy the weather.
  • Go brewery-hopping – Calgary has a huge number of brewpubs and small craft breweries. Citizen Brewing Company, Cold Garden Beverage Company, and Big Rock are some of my favorites. You can take brewery tours for around $25 CAD or do a brewery tour for around $90 CAD.
  • Take in the view from Calgary Tower – Built in 1967, the Calgary Tower commemorates Canada’s Centennial. From the top, it offers an uninterrupted view of the Rocky Mountains. The observation deck has a glass floor that adds an extra thrill to your visit (if you like heights, that is). Tickets are $18 CAD.

For more suggestions, check out my comprehensive free guide to Calgary!

Where to Stay

  • HI Calgary City Centre – This is the best hostel in the city. It’s newly renovated, has a full-equipped kitchen, includes towels, and the beds are comfy.

If the hostel is booked, use Airbnb. Be sure to book in advance if you’ll be here for the Stampede.
 

Days 11-12: Regina, SK

The small city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in the summer
Located seven hours east of Calgary, Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, is named after Queen Victoria (regina is Latin for “queen”). The province is incredibly flat and dominated by farmland — which is why it’s often overlooked.

Home to under 240,000 people, Regina is a small city that’s worth a quick visit. Here are some suggested things to see and do while you’re here:

  • Visit the Royal Saskatchewan Museum – This natural history museum was opened in 1906 and is home to the world’s largest T. rex cast as well as an insightful exhibition on Canada’s First Nations. It’s an educational place to visit if you’re traveling with kids.
  • Watch the Roughriders – The CFL (Canada’s answer to the NFL) is popular here as Regina is home to one of the league’s best teams, the Roughriders. If you’re visiting between June and November, catch a game at Mosaic Stadium and get rowdy with the locals! Tickets start at $32 CAD.
  • Tour the Legislative Building – The Saskatchewan Legislative Building was built in 1912. It’s a National Historic Site and Heritage Property and is home to one of the tables used by the Fathers of Confederation when they drew up their plans to create a united Canada. Take a guided tour (they last around 30 minutes) and learn about the province’s history.

Where to Stay
Airbnb and Booking.com will be your best choices here, depending on your budget and what kind of accommodation you’re looking for.
 

Days 13-14: Winnipeg, MB

The city of Winnipeg, Canada during the warm summer months
Winnipeg is one of Canada’s up-and-coming destinations. The capital of Manitoba, it’s located six hours from Regina and is home to a burgeoning food scene. There’s also a growing arts and culture community here too.

While it’s known for its harsh winters, Winnipeg has been working hard to evolve into a world-class city. Slowly but surely, it’s succeeding. Stop by for a day or two and check out some of the city’s best sights:

  • See the Canadian Museum for Human Rights – This museum highlights the crises and evolution of human rights in Canada and around the globe. Opened in 2008, it’s the only national museum outside of Ottawa.
  • Watch the Blue Bombers – For more CFL action, catch a Blue Bombers game. The team was founded in 1930 and is one of the best in the league.
  • Explore the Forks National Historic Site – This urban park is a relaxing place to read or have a picnic. At the intersection of two rivers, it was historically significant for trade between indigenous people and Europeans, with human settlement going back as far as 6,000 years.
  • Visit the Royal Canadian Mint – If you’re a collector or are just curious how coins are made, stop by the mint. It’s made over 55 billion coins for 75 different countries. Over 1,000 coins are made every second here! Tours are $8 CAD.

Where to Stay
If you’re on a budget, try Airbnb first. If you’re looking for a hotel, Booking.com has the best rates.
 

Days 15-16: Thunder Bay, ON

A statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox in Thunder Bay, Ontario
Time to head to Ontario! It’s an eight-hour drive, so you can stop along the way to break up the trip (there are tons of parks, campgrounds, and small towns you can stay in along the way).

Tucked away on the edge of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is one of the biggest cities in Northern Ontario. It’s just an hour from the US border and is one of the sunniest cities in Eastern Canada.

Here are some things to see and do while you’re here:

  • See the Terry Fox Monument – In 1980, cancer-survivor Terry Fox set out to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He did so on just one leg (he lost the other to cancer). He managed to run for 143 days straight (5,373km, or 3,339 miles) before his cancer returned and he had to call off his quest.
  • Go hiking in Sleeping Giant – Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located on Lake Superior and offers 80km of hiking trails, including both short day hikes and multi-day routes.
  • Visit Fort William Historical Park – This park is where the reconstructed Fort William is located, a fur trading post from 1816. There’s a traditional blacksmith, cooper, and canoe builder, and you can interact with actors playing the various people you would have met here in the 19th century.

Where to Stay
Airbnb doesn’t have many options here, but if you can find one, they start at $45 CAD per night. For hotels and motels, use Booking.com.
 

Days 17-19: Algonquin Provincial Park, ON

A sweeping vista of forests in Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada
It’s time to get away from it all and spend some time in nature. Algonquin Provincial Park spans a whopping 7,653 square kilometers (2,955 square miles) and is home to black bears, moose, foxes, beavers, wolves, and all kinds of birds and plants.

There are several different campgrounds in the park, dozens of hiking trails, and over 1,500 lakes (it’s massive!). You can also rent canoes and kayaks to explore and go deeper into the park. Multi-day portages are possible too.

Even if you’re a newbie camper and don’t have gear, you’ll be able to rent what you need to have an enjoyable, relaxing getaway for under $50 CAD per day.

Days 20-23: Toronto, ON

The iconic skyline of Toronto, Canada as seen from the island
Perched on the coast of Lake Ontario just a couple hours south of the park, Toronto is often considered the New York of Canada. While it doesn’t have the charm of cities like Vancouver or Montreal, it’s the country’s biggest, most diverse city. In fact, since 50% of the population is foreign-born, it’s considered one of the most diverse cities in the world.

There’s a ton to see and do here. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Visit the CN Tower – The iconic CN Tower stands 550m tall and is a fixture of Toronto’s skyline. It offers panoramic views, shopping, and 360-degree dining in its (expensive) restaurant. If the weather is nice (and you have some extra money to spend), you can also walk along the outer edge of the tower. It’s touristy and expensive but fun!
  • Relax on Toronto Island – Spend an inexpensive day at Toronto Island Park and enjoy the beach, play volleyball, have a picnic, and take in the view of the city from the water.
  • Visit the ROM – The Royal Ontario Museum has thousands of artifacts and specimens spread over 20 exhibits. There are displays on dinosaurs, ancient China, indigenous Canadians, medieval Europe, ancient Egypt, and more. It’s the best museum in town and a fun place for kids and adults alike!
  • Hit the beach – The beaches near Lake Ontario are a relaxing way to spend the day during the humid summer. You can stroll along the boardwalk, eat at one of the many restaurants, or rent a boat and head out on the lake. Some of the best beaches are Cherry, Woodbine, and Centre Island.
  • Wander Kensington Market – This bohemian neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of alternative restaurants and shops. It gets quite bustling in the summer, and there are often free concerts too. It’s one of my favorite places to wander around!

For more suggestions as well as money-saving tips, check out my free guide to Toronto!

Where to Stay
Hotels in Toronto are expensive, so use Airbnb if you’re on a budget. If you do want to stay in a hostel, Planet Traveler Hostel is the best in the city.
 

Days 24-26: Ottawa, ON

The Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario
Next, head east to Canada’s capital. While Ottawa doesn’t get the love that cities like Toronto and Montreal do, it’s definitely still a city worth visiting — especially if you’re a history buff like me!

Located four hours from Toronto, it’s is full of historic buildings and museums, and is just a short walk from Québec (Canada’s French-speaking province).

Here’s what I would focus on in Ottawa during your stay:

  • Wander the Byward Market – This massive market is full of restaurants, shops, and open-air stalls. There is a lot happening all year round, though in the summer it’s bustling with fresh produce and many local artisans. If you’re looking for a souvenir or just want to people-watch, this is the place!
  • Visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization – While technically not in Ottawa (it’s across the river in Québec), this world-class museum is one of the best in all of Canada. It does an amazing job of showcasing Canada’s entire history, including some insightful exhibitions on First Nations. There are lots of kid-friendly exhibits too. This museum shouldn’t be missed!
  • Try a beaver tail – These are not actual beaver tails, don’t worry! They’re delectable desserts resembling a flat donut, made of fried dough and covered in all sorts of sweet toppings. They’re a must!
  • Visit the Canadian War Museum – Canada is known as a peaceful nation, but it’s been involved in its fair share of conflicts too. This museum does an excellent job of highlighting Canada’s military history. It has exhibits on both world wars as well as modern conflicts Canada has been engaged in.
  • Skate on the Rideau Canal – Every winter, the Rideau Canal is frozen over and turned into a massive skating rink that stretches for miles (it’s the longest skating rink in the world). If you’re visiting during the winter, you can rent skates for around $20 CAD if you don’t have your own.

Where to Stay

  • Ottawa Backpackers Hostel – This laid-back hostel has some of the cheapest accommodation in the city. The dorms are spacious, it’s social, and it’s right near the Byward Market.
  • HI Ottawa Jail Hostel – This hostel is located in a former jail. The rooms are small (they’re former cells), but it’s an incredibly unique space — and a little spooky too!

 

Days 27-30: Montreal, QC

The skyline of Montreal, Canada in the summer
Montreal is one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world. Just two hours from Ottawa, it’s located in Canada’s only French-speaking province, Québec.

Personally, I think it’s one of the best cities in Canada. The Old Town looks like something straight out of medieval France, and the French-inspired cuisine and eclectic nightlife (especially the jazz clubs) leave little to dislike.

Here are my suggestions for things to see and do while you’re here:

  • Wander Old Montreal – This is the most attractive part of town. It has cobblestone streets, and its historic gray-stone buildings date back to the 1700s. Some of the city’s finest museums and art galleries (such as the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History) are here too.
  • Hike Mount Royal – For a view over Montreal, hike up Mount Royal (after which the city is named). You can also jog, picnic, or just people-watch around the park too. It’s a relaxing green space.
  • Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica – This 17th-century Gothic Revival basilica has dual towers that are reminiscent of Notre-Dame in Paris. Its interior is stunning and full of religious paintings, colorful stained glass windows, and gold-leaf decoration. There’s also a 7,000-pipe organ. A 60-minute tour costs $15 CAD.
  • See the Museum of Fine Arts – This huge museum has over 43,000 works of art. There are both permanent galleries and rotating exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. Admission is $24 CAD.

For more suggestions, as well as money-saving tips, check out my guide to Montreal!

Where to Stay

  • HI Montreal – HI Montreal is just a two-minute walk from the metro, offers both dorms and private rooms, and has a pool table. There’s also free breakfast and daily activities, including bike tours, walks, a pub crawl, and even poutine tastings!
  • Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal – Located in the historic area of town and a short jaunt to the city center, it has an eclectic and artsy vibe. Free breakfast is included, and there are plenty of common areas for relaxing and meeting other travelers.

Here are some other great hostel suggestions too!

***

With a month at your disposal, you’ll be able to experience the majority of Canada’s sights and cities without having to rush. And, with an additional 10-21 days, you can add more of Québec and the Maritimes, Canada’s rugged and picturesque east coast.

Canada is such a massive, diverse landscape. It truly has something for everyone. While this itinerary only covers a portion of Canada, it does give you a peek into just how awesome it is.

Book Your Trip to Canada: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Canada?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Canada for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 8 – Cameron MacMinn

The post Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Coronavirus and Travel: What You Need to Know (Plus Resources)

Posted By : webmaster/ 285 0


A solo traveler standing on a log in Alberta, Canada
Updated: 16/16/20 | November 16th, 2020

Since March, Coronavirus has devastated the world. Millions have gotten sick, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives, and entire economies have been shut down. In just a matter of weeks, entire countries completely locked themselves down and closed their borders to visitors.

For the first time since probably World War II, travel — an industry that relies on human movement and employs 10% of the global workforce — completely stopped.

As the months have rolled on, we’ve seen some countries re-open……and then return to lockdown, while other destinations are doing well and have reopened to (some) tourists.

And that process creates a lot of questions. There are a lot of variables and rules are constantly changing.

How do you know which countries are open? How do we find out new visitation rules? Will travel insurance apply during the pandemic? What is flying going to be like? Are hotels and hostels safe? What attractions are open? Should you even travel now?

To help you figure out what to do and where to find information, I created this post to get the ball rolling. (Note: This post will be continuously updated as more information becomes available. Its last update was November 16th, 2020.)
 

What Destinations are Open?

The list of countries that are opening in the coming weeks and months grows every day. Some are opening for all international visitors, while others are opening only for neighboring countries. Some countries, like the US, Iceland, and Bulgaria, have bans on visitors from certain countries. French Polynesia, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas are making people show a negative test result within 72 hours of their flight. Same for Austria (as long as you’re from one of 31 approved European countries).

On the other hand, Cambodia wants a $2,000 deposit to cover any potential COVID expenses while Albania, Turkey, and Mexico have no restrictions and are completely open.

In short, there’s a lot of varying rules to sort through.

That means you’ll need to do specific research based on where you want to go if you want to travel this summer or fall. Luckily, there are a few websites that will make that research straightforward.

First, here is a helpful (but not user-friendly) map from the International Air Transport Association showing you which countries are allowing flights.

Second, The Points Guy and Travel Off Path have breakdowns on the current travel rules for virtually every country in the world. These are the best places to start if you’re looking to see what countries are open.

If you’re from the US, Skyscanner also has a handy list of state-by-state restrictions as well as restrictions by country and flight cancelation policies/information.

You can also download the travel planning app App in the Air for ongoing travel restriction updates. Their app is pretty awesome as it will let you sort airlines by what their policies, lets you know what airports are doing, and has information on health checks too.

Additionally, if you’re heading to Europe, this official map from the European Union will let you know which countries are open.

Third, check the official government’s Foreign Office or tourism board as they will have the most up-to-date information.

If you’re not sure how to find those websites, simply Google “(country name) foreign office” or “(country name) official tourism board.” Additionally, “(country name) COVID travel update” will get you a good list of official websites too. They’ll have the best information on potential quarantine rules, test requirements, and other restrictions.
 

Where Can I Find the Most Current Case Count Information?

If you want to see the current status of a destination’s number of active cases, this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University is kept up-to-date.

However, I prefer Worldometers because it’s a bit more user friendly and you can parse down the data a bit more.
 

What are Airlines Doing?

Flying for the foreseeable future is going to be a lot different. Currently, most airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks, though enforcement is inconsistent. The boarding process has also changed to reduce interactions and support physical distancing.

Some airlines (such as Southwest) are not booking any middle seats to maintain a safer distance between passengers (however, this only lasts until December 1st, after which they will start selling middle-seat tickets again).

Most airlines are operating as usual, which means you may be on a full flight (with fewer flights available, a lot of the most popular routes are fully booked)

If you are thinking of flying soon, here’s a helpful post about the risk of catching COVID on an airplane.

As for cleaning, many airlines are majorly disinfecting planes in between every flight. For current policies, here’s a list of the major airlines and their current procedures:

If you are flying or otherwise traveling alongside other people, here’s some important hygiene advise:

  • Wash your hands frequently (or consider wearing latex gloves).
  • Wear a mask.
  • Refrain from touching your face.
  • Wipe down your seat or seating area with disinfectant wipes (because people are gross and so are planes).

On the plus side, many airlines have changed their cancelation policies, which means you can often change your flights without penalty now as well (check your specific airline to see if that’s an option before you book). I doubt that will last a long time but, as airlines try to get people in seats, they will make changing your flight easier as a way to do so!
 

What are Hotels, Hostels, and Airbnb Doing?

Accommodations in many cities have been closed or forced to operate at reduced capacity. Most of the major chains that are open (or reopening) have committed to enhanced cleaning routines. Some of the key changes hotels are embracing are:

  • Temperature/health checks of guests on arrival.
  • Enhanced disinfection and cleaning of the check-in counter and common areas (pools, fitness centers, etc.).
  • Adjustments to common areas to maintain social distancing.
  • Extra disinfection for the most-used items in hotel rooms (door handles, remotes, light switches, etc.).

Most hotels have also changed their cancelation policy to make bookings more flexible since the situation is so fluid. Here are statements and policies from the major hotel chains so you can review their changes and commitments for yourself:

And if you’re looking to learn more about Airbnb and how it is responding to the current situation, here is their Coronavirus policy and update page.

As for hostels, there’s so many that it’s hard to say what all the hostels in the world are doing. There’s no hostel association where members have to adhere to certain guidelines like in other industries. But here are a few policies from some of the larger hostel chains to give you a sense of the industry right now:

Be sure to reach out to the hostels directly as they will be best positioned to answer your questions.
 

What About Tour Companies?

Many tour companies are not even selling tours right now so you’ll need to check ahead to see what companies are still offering tours during your travel dates. Here are some travel updates and policy changes from my favorite tour companies:

Be sure to double-check the company’s cancelation and refund policies in case they start selling tours again but have to quickly shut down in case of another update. You don’t want to be stuck without money.

For everyday activities in a city, simply check the local tourism office. They will have up-to-date information on what attractions are doing as well as information on changes to public transportation.
 

Will Travel Insurance Cover Me?

Most travel insurance does not apply during a pandemic. This is especially true if your government has issued warnings not to visit specific regions or countries. In fact, some travel insurance companies are not even selling insurance right now in light of the situation. But, as the crisis has continued, many travel insurance companies have adjusted their policies.

World Nomads, Medjet, and Safety Wing all offer some kind of COVID medical coverage so if you get sick while traveling, your medical expenses will be covered. Check their policies for specifics though.

Additionally, if you want to make sure you’re covered beyond medical expenses, here’s what I suggest you do:

  • Purchase “cancel for any reason” insurance policies or plans that include comprehensive trip interruption and cancelation coverage.
  • Make every purchase on a travel credit card that also has insurance as a backup.
  • Visit only destinations that do not have any government warnings.

 

How Soon Should I Book My Trip?

As I update this on 11/16/2020, the situation is still in flux. Countries have opened and closed, often leaving travelers stranded on short notice.

If you want to travel, I would book everything within one to two weeks before departure. Keep an eye on case counts and, if cases are still low where you want to go, you should be fine. If cases are rising, you run the risk of new restrictions happening at a moment’s notice.

There’s plenty of deals out there since there are so few people traveling right now. Usually, prices rise and booking last minute means you’re paying more but that old adage isn’t true at the moment.

Additionally, I wouldn’t go anywhere if you can’t get a COVID test within 72 hours of your departure. Proof of being COVID negative might be suddenly required of you. Plus, you want to make sure you aren’t sick or an asymptomatic carrier. It’s important to be a good human and to make sure, that if you are going to go anywhere, regardless of the rules, you aren’t bringing COVID with you.

***

It’s nice the world is starting to open up again but, personally, I think it’s best to focus on travel within your own borders right now until the international situation becomes a bit better organized, guidelines are clearer, and we see the clearer effects of reopening on destinations. I’m traveling domestically but internationally? I’m very much in the “wait and see” camp.

But, with guidelines coming out relating to COVID and travel, you can at least start to understand rules and what to expect when you do start to travel!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Coronavirus and Travel: What You Need to Know (Plus Resources) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My Favorite Books of 2020

Posted By : webmaster/ 63 0


A woman in a bookstore looking at books on a ladder
Posted: 11/12/2020 | November 12th, 2020

This year hasn’t been what anyone expected. As COVID has reminded us, you never know what tomorrow will bring. And, this year, it didn’t bring too many great things (especially for folks like myself working in the tourism industry).

However, if there’s been one silver lining, it’s that being home this much has allowed me to supercharge my reading. While this year started off slow, since COVID, I’ve been averaging a book (sometimes two) a week. (I mean, after all, what else am I going to do?) Books that have sat in my bookcase for a long time were finally opened.

So, as I look back on this year as it comes to an end, I can find at least one good thing about it!

And, since it’s been an entire year since I a post about my current favorite reads. (As we head into the holiday season, a book is always a good gift idea!) Here are all the books I’ve read this year that I’ve loved:
 

Looking for Transwonderland, by Noo Saro-Wiwa

Looking for Transworld book coverThis was one of the best travel books I’ve read in recent memory. I absolutely loved it. Author Noo Saro-Wiwa returns to her Nigerian homeland from London to learn more about her heritage, country, and her father. It’s filled with vivid descriptions, engaging prose, and wonderful dialogue that gives a lot of insight into the country and diversity of Nigeria. It’s a must-read.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

The Invisible Hook, by Peter Leeson

The Invisible Hook book coverThis book is about the economics of piracy in the 1700s. It’s a fascinating look at how pirates created constitutions, workers’ compensation programs, governed themselves, and used branding to minimize battles. Turns out, everything you think you know about pirates is just flat wrong. You wouldn’t think a book on “the economics of piracy” would be interesting but you’d be wrong on that account too!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Atomic Habits book coverThis cultural bombshell of a book teaches us that small changes to our habits can create big results and help us create systems to achieve our goals. It was a good guide to how to structure your life for maximum pleasure (like waking up early to read!). While I do a lot of what he suggests, there were some tidbits that made me rethink my own habits. It’s the most practical habit creation book I’ve read.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

See You in the Piazza, by Frances Mayes

See You in the Piazza book coverFrances Mayes is famous for sitting under the Tuscan sun, but in this book she and her husband Ed take you off the tourist trail and around thirteen regions in Italy. Just as wonderfully written as Under the Tuscan Sun, this look at Italian food and culture was inspiring and informative, and it will fill you with wanderlust. It makes me want to go to Italy as soon as all this COVID stuff is over.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

An Arabian Journey, by Levison Wood

An Arabian Journey book coverLevison Wood is a British author who likes to go on long walks. He’s walked the Nile, the Himalayas, and the Americas. In this book, he spends months walking across the Middle East during the height of the Syrian civil war. I’m a big fan of Wood: his engrossing stories are filled with people and interesting facts about places. I found myself devouring this book as quickly as his previous ones.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Great Influenza, John M. Barry

The Great Influenza book cover This is a fascinating look at the 1918 flu pandemic, covering how the flu works, public health measures, and other aspects of what happened during the outbreak. There are a lot of lessons here that we could (re)learn as we battle COVID. Skip the entire first section though: it’s a really boring history about the main scientists and doctors and not needed at all. After that, though, the book really picks up.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Stardust book coverI love the movie Stardust and it was only after listening to Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass did I realize it was based on a book that he wrote! So, I picked it up and devoured it in a few sittings. The story kept me saying, “And then what happened?”, which is what you want any book to do. It’s a very wonderful book that will have you daydreaming about adventure.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Meeting Faith, by Faith Adiele

Stardust book coverFaith Adiele is a very talented travel writer and also super nice — one of my favorite humans. This book chronicles her life in Thailand and how she became the first black Buddhist nun in the country. It’s a remarkable book about finding your place in the world.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Nerve, by Eva Holland

Nerve book coverWritten by fellow travel writer Eva Holland, this book is on the science of fear. What causes it? How do we get over it? And how does it relate to adventure? Using her desire to get rid of her own fears, she deep dives into the science of fear and what we can do about it. Eva is one of my favorite writers and she knocks it out of the park with her first book.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Tracks, by Robyn Davidson

Tracks book coverThis book follows Robyn Davidson as she travels solo across the Australian outback in 1980. It was riveting, and as someone who has visited some of the places she went, I found it to be a super interesting account of what they looked like long before I came through. I was captivated from page one of this thrilling tale of grit and adventure.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem book cover Some friends turned me onto this sci-fi trilogy that involves aliens, space exploration, human psychology, and the terrifying concept of “a dark forest” that I haven’t stopped thinking about. The third book is my favorite. It’s perhaps one of the greatest sci-fi trilogies I’ve ever read and I’m super psyched Netflix is making it into a series!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Yellow Envelope, Kim Dinan

The Yellow Envelope book coverThis book by Kim Dinan was an engaging travelogue about a woman who felt uneasy in her marriage and life in Portland. After convincing her husband to travel the world, they head on an adventure that tests their marriage. Along a journey that lasts longer than they thought, Kim finds her place in the world. It’s a stoy found in many travel books but I enjoyed her writing and tales very much.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers book coverThis is probably now my favorite Malcolm Gladwell book. It’s an amazing look at how we (frequently fail to) communicate with each other. It talks about how we default to truth and make assumptions about people’s intentions. We often don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to understand why they are reacting the way they are — and usually fail to ask too.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere book coverAfter Stardust, I picked up another Gaiman book. In this fantasy, an everyday Londoner, Richard, gets caught up in “London Below,” a world where the supernatural takes place without people above knowing about it. Incredibly well written and filled with vivid imagery, this is my favorite novel of the year.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Ten Years a Nomad, by me!

Ten Years a Nomad book coverAnd, finally, since I haven’t mentioned it in a few months, if you haven’t picked up a copy of my book, now’s a great time to do so. My memoir follows my ten years backpacking the world and talks about the ups and downs of life as a permanent nomad. It’s my treatise on long-term travel and something I poured my heart and soul into. Be sure to come to our December Book Club meeting on it!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
***

This has been a great year for reading, and I’ve found some wonderful titles and incredible new authors. COVID may have ruined my travel plans, but I’m an even more devout reader now. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments.

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P.S. – If you’re looking to get any of these books and are from the US or the UK, I highly recommend Bookshop. It supports independent booksellers — and still makes sure you get your books fast. The discounts aren’t as big, and obviously, there’s no Kindle, but if you’re still getting hard copies, please support your local bookstore. I know it’s super hard not to use Amazon (I default to it too often), but these small stores need our help!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years.

My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

The post My Favorite Books of 2020 appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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12 Things to See and Do in Bristol

Posted By : webmaster/ 92 0


The colorful buildings along the waterfront in Bristol, UK
Updated: 11/11/20 | November 11th, 2020

While most travelers who visit England only visit London, there are actually a lot of other gems in the country worth exploring.

One such place is Bristol.

“Bristol? There’s not much there.”

That was the standard reply from locals whenever I mentioned I was heading to Bristol.

Needless to say, I had low expectations. But I visited anyway. After all, there’s no such thing as “must-see” — and that means there’s no such thing as “must skip” either.

On arrival, I found a hip college town with amazing eateries, great ethnic food, wonderful things to see, and plenty of green space.

Bristol is like the English version of Seattle. Most travelers seem to use it as a base for trips to Bath, and never fully explore this city, giving it only a brief glance before heading back to London.

This is a mistake.

With a population of around 500,000, Bristol is the largest city in southern England (after London) and is also one of the largest shipping ports in England. It received a royal charter in 1155 and, until the rise of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester during the Industrial Revolution, was one of England’s largest cities.

Bristol suffered extensive bombing during World War II and a subsequent decline in its manufacturing industry. Today, the city is a vibrant college town. The University of Bristol dominates the city and the students provide a lot of income and jobs for the community.

To help you make the most out of your visit, here’s a list of my favorite things to see and do in Bristol:
 

1. Bristol Cathedral

The historic exterior of the Bristol Cathedral in Bristol, UK during sunset
This beautiful cathedral was consecrated in 1148 and was built in the Romanesque style (and has a similar design to Notre Dame in Paris). Originally named St. Augustine’s Abbey, the cathedral stretches over 300 feet and while much of it has been rebuilt, some of the original building remains.

Tours are available on Saturdays at 11:30am and 1:30pm for free, though a donation of 5 GBP is suggested.

College Green, West End, +44 117 926 4879, bristol-cathedral.co.uk. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm and 11:30am-3pm on Sundays. Dress respectfully as this is a place of worship. Admission is free.
 

2. Wander King Street

Originally laid out in 1650, King Street is a fascinating, historical part of Bristol. It used to be where the old sailing barges docked after their journeys from South Wales. Now the area is the heart of the theatrical district and features outstanding bars and restaurants. There are even some pubs from the 17th century that are still standing, such as The Hatchet Inn which was built in 1606!
 

3. See the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Looking out at the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, UK
This is Bristol’s most famous landmark. Suspended high above the Avon Gorge and River Avon, the bridge opened in 1864 and provides sweeping views of the river and surrounding parks and buildings. It was also where one of the early bungee jumps in the UK was held in the 1970’s. The bridge stretches 1,352ft (412m) and handles almost 10,000 vehicles per day. There’s a small visitor center nearby where you can learn more about the bridge and its history too (it’s open daily from 10am-5pm).
 

4. Check out St. Nicholas Market

This is a lively, bustling market with more shops than you could go through in an afternoon. There seems to be an endless number of farmers’ stalls with amazing local produce, second-hand bookshops, and vintage clothing stores. The market dates back to 1743 and is the perfect place to wander, explore, and people watch.

Corn St, +44 117 922 4014, bristol.gov.uk/web/st-nicholas-markets. Open Monday-Saturday from 9:30am-5pm.
 

5. Visit the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The exterior of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol, UK
Established in 1823, this museum covers a little bit of everything — from archaeology to dinosaurs to English history to art. The expansive variety keeps things interesting so even non-history buffs will enjoy it. It’s the area’s largest museum and one of my personal favorites. While there are tens of thousands of items in the museum’s collection, it’s not too overwhelming and easy to see in a few hours. Plus, like all public museums in England, it’s free!

Queens Road, +44 117 922 3571, bristolmuseums.org.uk/bristol-museum-and-art-gallery. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission is free.
 

6. Take a Walking Tour

Bristol is an old city and has been an important port for almost a thousand years. With so much history, it should come as no surprise that the city has collected its fair share of ghost stories. To hear some of the tales as you explore the city, take a haunted walking tour with Haunted and Hidden Ghost Walks. Their tour lasts 90 minutes and is well worth the 5 GBP!

If haunted walks aren’t your cup of tea, take a street art tour. Bristol is home to several works by Banksy as well as tons of other murals. Tours from Where the Wall last 2 hours and cover the city’s best works of public art. Tours start a 7.50 GBP.
 

7. See the S.S. Great Britain

The deck of the S.S. Great Britain ship docked in Bristol, UK
Located in the harbor, the S.S Great Britain was the world’s first steam-powered passenger liner. It took its maiden voyage in 1845 and was actually the longest ship in the world for almost a decade. (It’s 322 feet long).

Unfortunately, since it was so big it took a long time to build (it took 6 years to complete) and the owners went bankrupt not long after it was launched. It ran aground not long after and was sold for salvage. After being repaired, the ship was used to ferry passengers to Australia from 1852-1881 when the ship was converted to all-sail. It was scuttled and sunk in the Falkland Islands in 1937 where it stayed for 33 years until it was recovered, hauled back to the UK, and turned into a tourist attraction.

Great Western Dockyard, +44 0117 926 0680, ssgreatbritain.org. Open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission is 18 GBP.
 

8. Have Fun at WetheCurious

This science and art center is an educational charity dedicated to cultivating curiosity. Opened in 2000, it’s home to over 250 interactive exhibits, making it a fun and educational place to visit if you’re traveling with kids. They have a planetarium, 3D printers, and exhibits covering the human body, magnets, animation, and more!

1 Millennium Square, +44 0117 915 1000, wethecurious.org. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission is 14.50 GBP.
 

9. Relax at the Downs

The spacious green fields of The Downs in Bristol, UK
The Downs (Clifton Down and Durdham Down) are a protected parkland on the edge of the city. Spanning over 400 acres, they’re within walking distance of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge and make for a nice place to relax, stroll, and watch the locals play sports.
 

10. See Cabot Tower

The tower, which stands 32m (105ft), was built in the 1890s to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Italian explorer John Cabot’s departure from Bristol and his ultimate “discovery” of North America (he was the first European to visit North America since the Norse Vikings in 1,000 CE). The tower is constructed from sandstone and has a narrow staircase inside that you can climb to take in the sweeping view.

Brandon Hill Park, +44 0117 922 3719, bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/brandon-hill. Open daily from 8:15am-5:15pm. Admission is free.
 

11. Visit Blaise Castle

The exterior of Blaise Castle ina park in in Bristol, UK
Built in 1798 in the Gothic Revival style, this “castle” is actually a sham — it’s not a real castle but rather a look-alike built by a wealthy family just for the fun of it. It’s essentially an ornamental building, offering sweeping views over the surrounding 650 acres and the Avon Gorge. There is also a nearby historic home that has been converted into a museum where you can learn more about the castle and its quirky history.

Kings Weston Rd, +44 117 922 2000, bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/blaise-castle-estate. Open daily from 7:30am–7:15pm (5:15pm in the winter). Admission is free.
 

12. Ride the Avon Valley Railway

An old steam engine on the Avon Railway in in Bristol, UK
This railway, which dates back to the 1860s, once connected Bristol to Bath. Today it’s a three-mile heritage railway where you can ride a steam-powered train. There’s also a fully-restored Victorian train station and get a sense of what traveling was like at the turn of the last century. For hiking enthusiasts, there’s a walking trail beside the tracks if you’d rather explore on foot.

Bitton Station, +44 117 932 5538, avonvalleyrailway.org. Open daily from 9:30am-5:15pm. Steam train tickets are 9 GBP while diesel train tickets are 8 GBP.

***

I thought Bristol, with its old industrial-turned-Bohemian charm, made for a great place to spend a few days. There were historic houses to visit, a few good museums, and some wonderful parks. Its image as an industrial center still lingers on in most of England, making it a place few go or want to explore.

But that works out for the rest of us. For while everyone else heads off to Bath, we can have the city of Bristol to ourselves.

I suspect one day the word will get out, but, at least for now, Bristol remains a hidden gem and a city that is well worth a visit.
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you’re not looking for a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on England?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on England for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 6 – Nilfanion, 9 – Nilfanion, 12 – Graeme Churchard, 12 – velodenz

The post 12 Things to See and Do in Bristol appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Should You Travel During COVID-19?

Posted By : webmaster/ 56 0


Nomadic Matt posing for a photo in Hawaii while traveling
Posted: 11/9/2020 | November 9th, 2020

These days, due to COVID-19, the subject of travel elicits very strong reactions from people — and rightly so. Whenever I post travel tips on social media and forget to include the words “at a later date” or “when it’s safe,” a chorus of commenters tell me it’s irresponsible to promote travel during a pandemic, that everyone just needs to stay home, and I should be ashamed of myself (yes, some people really say that).

Many people were being “travel shamed” for traveling over the summer – even if that trip was somewhere remote.

But, as I wrote in my article on flight shaming, shaming doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t make someone change their behavior; it only makes them dig in deeper, since shaming comes off as an attack on their character. And no one wants to think they’re the bad guy.

And what about those who rely on tourism to live? How do you tell 10% of the world, “I’m sorry, you have to go hungry and become homeless. We can only travel again when there’s a vaccine available for everyone! Good luck!”?

When COVID struck in March, we were told to stay home to “flatten the curve” so we wouldn’t overrun our hospital systems. In many countries, that happened. In others, especially the United States, it didn’t.

And, now, as the pandemic rages to new heights in many parts of Europe and the United States, a lot of people have COVID fatigue and are starting to travel again (not just to relocate somewhere for months but for a short, leisure trip).

But should you? Is it right to travel during COVID?

COVID-19 is very real. I had it. Friends of mine have had it. I know people who have lost relatives to it. The virus is six times deadlier than the flu and spreads much quicker. (And, as we enter flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, we now have to worry about that too.)

But, on the other hand, this isn’t the Middle Ages (or even 1918). We know the best practices for reducing the spread of infectious diseases that many countries in the world have implemented (Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Iceland, and Thailand to name a few).

Doctors and researchers discover treatments and vaccines much quicker than in the past (today, as I publish this, Pfizer just announced very promising vaccine trial results).

Now, I don’t fault anyone for wanting to stay home until there’s a vaccine. I have friends that haven’t left their house since the pandemic began. People have a right to be cautious.

But does that mean we should shame people who don’t stay at home?

As someone who took a summer road trip, I know there are ways to travel while reducing risk.

I think we need to treat the virus and travel like we treat STDs and sex. We can’t pretend people aren’t going to have sex (or in the case of the virus, come in contact with other people), but we can arm them with the best information about practicing safe sex (reducing one’s risk of contracting the virus), wearing protection (masks), and the need to get tested often.

When I started writing this article last month, cases and hospitalizations weren’t rising so rapidly as they are now. I think we should, in part, mostly stay home and away from people. Social distance, wear a mask, and be smart.

But, just because the United States and Europe are a basket cases, doesn’t mean everywhere else is. There’s plenty of places that are just fine – and they want visitors.

I still think there’s a safe way to reduce risk and travel. There are many common sense things you can do to be safe:

  • Get a COVID test before you go
  • Always wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Maintain social distance
  • Avoid large gatherings

Next, follow all the rules. If the state or country you are visiting has strict rules, follow them. A friend recently went to Jamaica, where the government says tourists can only visit certain areas. But he decided to get an Airbnb instead, outside those areas, and I was extremely disappointed to hear that. Two French tourists broke quarantine and caused a second wave in Iceland. Follow the rules wherever you go.

Third, don’t move around a lot. The more places you go, the more you increase your risk of getting (and spreading) it. Wear a mask, practice proper hygiene, social-distance, and avoid crowds. I see too many people going around different countries like it’s all fine. Or complaining when they have to wear a mask. Take the same precautions you would at home — not only to protect yourself but also the people in the destination you’re visiting.

***

When I wrote about my trip to Maine, many people admonished me for going, even though I got tested beforehand and spent most of my time there by myself.

I understand the knee-jerk reaction to traveling right now (“It’s a pandemic!”) but I think it’s important we move past our fear as more is learned about the disease, countries create tourism protocols, testing becomes more widespread, and better therapies are rolled out.

We’re eleven months into this crisis and, while all pandemics end, this one isn’t going to anytime soon. As many doctors have said, this is our new normal for the foreseeable future – and we have to adapt.

I think we’re past the part of this where any travel is 100% irresponsible

If you’re going to be responsible, get tested before you go, know you aren’t bringing the virus, and practice “safe travel” in a destination that is letting you in, I don’t see an ethical issue here.

You definitely shouldn’t travel if you don’t plan to follow the rules like Kira here or can’t get a test before you go. That just makes you a selfish jerk – and the world has enough of those.

As someone who lives in the United States (a hot spot), I’m more on edge about COVID because it’s everywhere here — but every place is different, and there are areas of the world that are safe and that want people to visit.

If you’re not comfortable traveling, that’s fine.

But, as testing is rolled out around the world (even by some airlines), treatments get better, and countries take precautions to reduce the spread, I think travel is possible and, when done responsibly, not unethical to do. Follow the rules. Be safe. Wear a mask.

P.S. – Even having the ability to travel right now is a serious luxury and, as such, it’s all the more important to be extra responsible and a good human being. Take care of the communities you are visiting. With great power, comes great responsibility. Remember how lucky you are to travel. Please remember your privilege and be respectful of local rules.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for over fifteen years.

My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

The post Should You Travel During COVID-19? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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