The Venetian resort town of Bibione is a beautiful destination for a beach getaway. The gold sand beach hugs the crystal clear waters of the upper Adriatic Sea, providing a lush backdrop for a sun and surf vacation. The beach has been awarded the coveted “Blue Flag,” an award given to beaches that are managed with great care for the environment.

One of the things that impresses visitors to Bibione is just how much beach there is, stretching over six miles with a depth of almost a quarter-mile in spots, providing plenty of space for frolicking in the sand, sunbathing and recreational activities. Families love that their children can play in the abundant sand, always finding an activity with newfound friends.

During the summer the water temperature reaches 77 degrees Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius) creating a perfect swimming environment. For landlubbers there are hiking and cycling paths (20 miles worth) along the beach.

Venice is only an hour from Bibione. Bibione is conveniently located only 35 miles from one of the world’s most magical cities: Venice, just one hour by train. For those days when you want to add a little culture to your beach vacation, head over there to stroll its romantic byways and canals and perhaps take a sunset gondola ride with the sun casting its golden rays over the Grand Canal.

The Pineda ApartHotel in Bibione, Italy

An excursion just around the corner from Bibione is the Lagoon at the Valle Vecchia (Old Valley). Venice is famous for its lagoon but Bibione also offers this treat with nature. Coastal pinelands abound with more than 150 bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise and providing a tranquil idyll during your stay in Bibione.

 

One of the best options for staying in Bibione is the Pineda ApartHotel, which is located just a block and a half from the beach. When we travel we like stay in places with a kitchenette. It’s easier to prepare some of our own meals and also provides a better value while in vacation. The apartment units at the Pineda ApartHotel offer kitchenettes along with terraces to catch sea breezes. A short stroll away is the Bibione Thermae, where massages and beauty treatments turn your getaway into a spa holiday.

Pineda ApartHotel in Bibione, Italy

Overall Bibione provides the ideal combination of sun, sand, culture, nature and sports activities.

This post has been provided by the Pineda ApartHotel.

Even though we try not to look like tourists while traveling, there are still some places where visitors stand out and are approached by people trying to separate them from their money. To scam artists, tourists who are not familiar with local cultures or the language are an easy mark. In our travels we’ve picked up several tips for how to avoid scam artists on vacation.

How to avoid scam artists

Beware of anyone who approaches out of the blue with an overly friendly invitation. We’ve had several offers to join someone for coffee or a drink so they can “practice their English.” It seems harmless enough, but this is a widespread global scam where “marks” are taken to a local coffeehouse, teahouse or bar and then charged exorbitant prices, which only revealed when the check comes. At that point, the proprietor and scammer may use the threat of violence to make the person pay the bill. Here’s a detailed story about a solo female traveler who fell prey to a teahouse scam.

Avoid street sellers offering you a “great” deal. One night in Shanghai Larissa let Michael wander off on his own for a bit, figuring he couldn’t get into too much trouble. In the heart of downtown he was immediately accosted by a young man who whipped out a piece of cardboard that had pictures of various Apple products and high-tech devices glued to it. They were all for sale at record low prices if Michael would just follow him to his shop conveniently located up a dark alley. Michael turned him down so the seller flipped the card over to the other side where there were pictures of women in various stages of undress. They also had price tags next to them. Since there was an obvious language barrier Michael just pointed to his wedding ring. The enterprising seller then made a universal gesture making a pumping motion with his fist while saying in stilted English, “How about hand job then?” Larissa is now more cautious when Michael wanders off unsupervised.

Vintage telephones

Don’t touch that dial. We had just checked into our hotel room when we saw a note by the phone warning guests about a potential scam. Here’s how it works. Someone calls your room and says they are from the front desk and are having trouble processing your credit card, “Could you please repeat the number or give them another card?” Not really thinking the guest complies. Unfortunately the call came from outside the hotel and you just gave your credit card number to a complete stranger. We have to admit, this is a good one that a tired traveler could easily fall for. It is part of a growing trend of calling hotel guests to extract their private information.

How to avoid scam artists

Watch what you wear. Don’t wear clothes that scream “I’m not from here. Please scam me!” In particular, avoid items that show where you are from. I caught the man above leaving a train station in Italy. (Train stations are the source of many scam artists since they are crowded and passengers are often confused or tired upon arrival.) He’s proudly wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt while his wife trailing behind is attired in a Detroit Lions shirt. Not only are they announcing to potential scam artists that they are Americans, they are also sharing their hometown/state. In this case, it’s easy for someone to approach them by starting a conversation about Michigan or the Lions. Being from the midwest they’re probably too polite to rebuff him and the con artist is off to the races.

Be cautious when strangers are eager to pose with you in photos. A local family approached us on Tiananmen Square, saying they wanted a photo with us for good luck. While posing, Michael felt the grandmother’s hands rummaging in his pockets. After realizing they weren’t Larissa’s he immediately stopped our impromptu photo session.

Michael avoiding scam artists

Play dumb. This an effect that Michael has perfected through years of practice dating back to elementary school.  When approached by potential scammers, you should feign confusion about what they are saying. Since English is the lingua franca of scam artists the world over, Michael pretends he doesn’t speak English and says so in Russian, which most of the scammers don’t speak (except, of course, in Russia).This usually puts off the scam artist because the whole foundation of their con is communication. Thus frustrated, they quickly move on.

Don’t believe anything that seems too good to be true. While strolling on Red Square in Moscow, a man dropped a wad of U.S. currency right in front of us. Immediately, another fellow picked it up and offered (in broken English and hand gestures) to go somewhere quiet with us to split this unexpected bounty. Which, of course, would have ended up with an alley mugging. Nyet, thanks.

women pickpocket banner

Avoiding pickpockets. Here are our guides to avoiding pickpockets on vacation. While pickpockets are not as overt as street scammers, they are potentially more damaging.

Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to be on the alert when traveling in a gritty urban environment or crowded outdoor market, but what about when you’re in a genteel setting, say being out for a bike ride in a park in Montreal? Here’s a tale of being stolen from in broad daylight in the unlikeliest of places.

We hate to make travel sound like a dangerous undertaking with potential risks lurking around every corner. For the most part it is not. Don’t be so afraid of being conned that you don’t enjoy yourself. Just be aware of the potential pitfalls that are out there so they don’t ruin your vacation.

Please share in the comments section below any scams you’ve come across in your travels!

Pin it!How to avoid scam artists on vacation

We’re global nomads who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Several years ago I traveled to Israel on a business trip and ran up a $900 mobile phone bill in 3 days. The coverage was good and the connection so clear that when the phone rang I forgot I was 8,000 miles from home and in “roaming mode.” BIG OOPS! It was a huge wake-up call (pun intended) that I needed some tips for using mobile phones overseas.

Most major cell phone companies offer some type of international plan, meaning the phone you have in your home country will work overseas. Coverage in populated areas is typically good and international alliances between carriers makes the voice/data/text experience seem like you’re in your own backyard.

using a cell phone overseas

Such good connections make it easy to forget international roaming charges, which can really add up. If you answer a call from a friend who didn’t realize you were out of the country you might be spending several dollars on a conversation that could easily wait until you were back home. Meanwhile, surfing the ‘Net to check out bistros near your hotel for dinner may end up costing more than the meal itself.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these costs. We’ve picked up a few tips for using mobile phones overseas that will help prevent running up huge bills:

Capitalize on WiFi

Save your web surfing for when you have access to a WiFi connection. Some hotels and resorts charge a hefty daily fee for internet access, so consider your potential usage and do the math to determine if it’s cheaper than roaming charges from your home carrier. Fortunately free WiFi is available in shops and cafes the world over, seek those out to do your surfing.

Helpful tips for using cell phones overseas

Use VoIP for voice calls

Many carriers now allow WiFi calling with your own phone number. In cases where this doesn’t work, use phone apps such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Viber to place voice calls over an Internet connection. This is particularly useful when you are communicating with someone in the country you are visiting, since for them calling or texting to a foreign number can be expensive. While traveling through Prague last summer virtually every local we met used WhatsApp to connect with us–including our 70-year-old Airbnb host!

Also: resist the urge to answer calls from home while you’re out and about; even the simple act of telling a friend you’ll call them later can add to your bill. Leave a voicemail message that you are out of the country. Chances are they will tell you to call when you return home.

Communicate via texts

For many cellular carriers, texting is the cheapest way to communicate. Check before you travel to learn what they charge for texting in the country you’ll be visiting; they may offer an international texting plan for a flat fee. In the US, T-Mobile offers unlimited text and data while traveling in over 140 countries at no extra charge for contract customers, along with a fixed per-minute fee for voice calls. We used this on our recent trip to seven countries Europe and found texting worked everywhere (the data is at local cellular speeds, which can be slow, so we saved our internet use for WiFi).

Mao-Mausoleum

 

*note: When investigating international texting with your carrier, be sure to get the rates for texting from a foreign country. Many carriers also offer plans for texting from your home country to a specific overseas destination (often popular with people who have relatives there). The fees are usually different.

Purchase a local SIM card

Those traveling for extended periods in a given country may find it useful to have a local phone. Provided a phone is “unlocked” you can purchase a SIM card in that country which will give you a local phone number and service. In the US, many phones are “locked,” meaning they are tied to a specific carrier while you are under contract. Check with your US carrier about unlocking a phone. If unlocking is not possible, purchase a cheap prepaid phone in said country for local calls and use your smartphone with WiFi for everything else.

*note: If you opt to purchase a local phone or SIM card for extended travel, check with your home carrier about suspending your service before you leave. In some cases you can have your monthly fee deferred until you return home.

These tips for using mobile phones overseas have saved us a lot of unnecessary fees over the last several years. We spent three months in Central Europe last fall and I managed quite well with texting and VoIP. I only had about $3.50 in roaming charges, for one call when I was nowhere near WiFi. I’ve come a long way.

Local Hero phone booth Scotland

Using these tips you shouldn’t end up like this poor guy, scrambling for a pay phone. 🙂

We’re global nomads who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Is a Eurail Pass worth it?

If you’ve ever dreamed of wandering around Europe with no plans and a flexible schedule you might consider buying a Eurail pass. This special train ticket allows those with not many time constraints to travel over the majority of the continent. But a key question to consider is, “Is a Eurail pass worth it?”

Eurail pass Prague train station

Starting out with a Eurail pass from the Prague train station.

It depends on how you want to travel and your budget. If you’d like to wake up in Prague one morning and say, “I think I’ll go to Berlin today and maybe Copenhagen tomorrow,” the Eurail pass provides that flexibility without having to buy a ticket for the individual legs of your journey. You’ll also avoid ticket lines at European train stations (which can be long) or having to order online. (Except for trains in certain countries which we’ll discuss below.)

What is a Eurail pass?

A Eurail pass is a train ticket that lets you explore up to 28 European countries on the continent plus Ireland. Note that England, Scotland and Wales are part of a separate BritRail pass. The Eurail pass can be delivered to customers across the globe and even in Europe. (That the physical tickets they have to be physically shipped rather than something you can download or just show bar code on your smartphone is somewhat outdated.)

Dining on a European train Prague to Budapest

The meals on European trains put Amtrak to shame.

They come in many varieties: Global Pass for up to 28 countries (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (including Northern Ireland), Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey), Select Pass (four bordering countries), Regional Pass (two bordering countries), and the self-explanatory One Country Pass. They can be used for a range of travel days (such as 15 continuous days or 10 days in a one-month period).

How much does a Eurail pass cost?

The price of a Eurail pass depends on several variables: which one you buy, how many countries you want to visit, how long you are traveling for and how many days of train travel you want.

For example, a Eurail Romania Pass which provides 3 travel days within 1 month starts at $81. A Select Pass for 10 days of unlimited rail travel within France, Germany, Italy and Spain during a 2-month period costs $684. The top Eurail pass, good for 3 months of continuous travel within all 28 countries costs $1,784. As you can see, flexibility comes at price—so it’s important to determine what type of trip you’ll be taking. If journeying to only a few destinations on a fixed itinerary you might be better off buying individual tickets and not purchasing a Eurail pass.

Florence Italy train station ticket window

You want to avoid slow-moving lines like this one at the Florence train station.

It’s important to note that for travelers aged 26 and older the Eurail pass is only available in first class, that is unfortunate since European trains are quite comfortable in second class and the option of purchasing a second class ticket would be a lower cost choice. There may also be some added fees: during our recent trip to Europe we learned that high-speed trains in Italy required a seat reservation fee of 10 Euros per person on top of our prepaid pass. This added 40 Euros to the cost of a round trip ticket for a couple, not something you expect when you’ve already purchased a pass. In France the reservation fee is even higher.

A good resource for comparison pricing and determining whether or not a Eurail pass is worth it is RailEurope (www.RailEurope.com). While this is a competitor of Eurail pass, it provides an easy to use web site. There you can price out train tickets for individual routes you might take on your European journey and compare them to pricing for the various Eurail passes. Factor in the freedom and flexibility that Eurail provides to help make your decision.

Further information about Eurail pass is available at www.Eurail.com.

If you found this useful, please share with others–pin the image below!

Evaluating the flexibility, service and cost of a Eurail Pass

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Four years of constant travel have made me a stickler for luggage. During this entire time I’ve been on the search for the perfect wheeling tote bag, one that could hold my computer and a few other assorted accessories. I wanted something to supplement my standard 22” suitcase.

Ever since we started our nomadic life I’ve used a large shoulder tote from Baggalini for my computer. It’s been sturdy and reliable, and is okay when I strap it on to my suitcase to wheel about the airport. But when I check luggage I’m left with a heavy bag to slog around the airport on my shoulder. I needed something like my existing tote bag, but on wheels.

Perfect wheeling tote bag-underseat - 1This Delsey rolling tote easily fits under an airplane seat

My list of requirements for the perfect wheeling tote bag was simple, but specific:

  • 2 wheels, with a telescoping handle
  • Large enough to hold my computer while it’s in a protective sleeve
  • Small enough to fit under the average airplane seat
  • Narrow enough to navigate airplane aisles easily
  • Lightweight—no sense starting with a heavy bag, then adding more weight
  • A large open compartment that could store virtually anything (note: there are many wheeling briefcases available, but the pockets are designed to store files. They don’t work if you’re looking to pack a camera, shoes or anything chunky.)
  • A trolley sleeve—that simple strap on the back that allows you to slide the bag onto the handle of your main suitcase. (For those times I’m wheeling all my luggage around together.)

Perfect wheeling tote bag - 6It took 3 years of research, but I finally found the perfect wheeling tote bag, the Delsey Quilted Rolling Underseat Tote. I’ve had a few of their bags in the past, and they are well-constructed and reliable, so I felt comfortable purchasing this one. The price–around $80 plus shipping from either Amazon or eBags– seemed reasonable.

It’s boxy enough to store a few chunky items, yet it still fits easily under an airplane seat (or in the overhead bin), so no tussling with the airlines about bringing it aboard. There’s a “portable office”-like set of pockets in front, which is handy for storing documents and work-related stuff, along with some outside pockets that give you easy access to a water bottle.

The quilting gives the bag a little protection against bumps (but I still wrap my computer securely—this isn’t marketed as a “shock-proof” bag). It has decent straps, which make it easy to lift, plus that all-important trolley sleeve for attaching to my suitcasePerfect wheeling tote bag - 1

The trolley sleeve, which allows a bag to slide over the handle of a wheeled suitcase, is a MUST for any carry-on bag.

I purchased the bag a few months ago and have field-tested it on our 3-month trip through Europe. It has fit nicely under airplane seats and wheeled smoothly through airports, train terminals and city streets. It’s also lovely to not have a 20-pound weight hanging off my shoulder.

Kelsey Rolling Underseat Tote-InsideThe bag has also worked well as an “overnighter” on the few occasions when we left our vacation rental for a quick trip. I can stow a change of clothes, a pair of shoes, my cosmetics and still have room for my computer.

It’s a bit heavier than my old reliable shoulder tote, but I rarely have to carry it for any distance. It’s either strapped to my other larger suitcase using the trolley sleeve, or I’m breezily pulling it behind me on it’s own two wheels.

It’s the perfect wheeling tote bag—I’m SO glad I’ve finally found it!

If you’ve found this post useful, please Pin it to your travel boards!After 4 years of research I finally found the perfect wheeling tote bag for travel.

Note: when Michael saw it he was so jealous he ordered one for himself. Fortunately it comes in dark colors that aren’t too “girlie” for his he-man sensibilities.

I purchased the perfect wheeling tote bag from Amazon.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Since travelers stick out in most places and are obvious targets, protecting your wallet and avoiding pickpockets is very important when you’re on the road.   Once Larissa and I were posing with a group of elderly local women on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It was going well until I felt tiny hands groping inside my pocket. Fortunately I wear trousers with hidden zippered pockets and the would-be thieves were foiled. Zippered pockets are just one way to avoid pickpockets. Here are a dozen tips to protect yourself while traveling.

Tips for men to avoid pickpockets:

  • Never store your wallet in a back pocket. Never. I don’t care that’s what your father did and your grandfather before him. It’s like wearing a sign on your back that says “Please rob me.” Don’t think that buttoning the pocket protects you either. It’s just too tempting and easy a target.
  • Be on high alert after you leave a taxi. If you are being dropped off at a heavily trafficked location like a train station, airport or hotel, there are people who are watching to see which pocket your wallet goes into after you pay the driver.
  • Be careful of people who approach with a clipboard in hand asking you to sign a petition for some “good” cause. In Europe these are known as “chuggers,” short for charity muggers. While you are distracted by the clipboard in your chest, they are sliding their hands into your pockets below.

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  • 15180887_m copyBe aware of signs that say “Caution: Pickpocket Area” or something similar. Would-be thieves hang out near these signs. Why? When people read them they subconsciously reach for their wallet to make sure it’s secure, while also revealing its location.
  • Be careful in “cattle chutes,” that is, any area where you are forced to go slower such as a subway turnstile. Those are prime spots to get you when you are focusing on something else while also slowing down, making yourself an easier target.
  • Don’t wear expensive jewelry or watches. Ostentatious shows of wealth indicate to thieves that there’s more cash to be had in your wallet. I wear a cheap Timex watch I purchased over 10 years ago for $18. It tells the time just as well as a Rolex or Bulova. (Added benefit: It doesn’t set off airport metal detectors so that’s one less item to remove.)
  • I don’t like inconvenient money belts or cumbersome pouches that are worn around the neck to hide my money. I want my cash secure but reachable. To do this I wear pants that have hidden zippered pockets. Lately I’ve been wearing P-Cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants by Clothing Arts. They have so many hidden pockets I’m still finding a few.

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Note the tab that buttons over the zippered pocket for extra security. If you prefer for convenience not to use the tab, there’s a button to the side to attach it so it doesn’t cover the pocket.

  • Know the thieves’ techniques. On a crowded train or street they’ll bump the intended victim. Typically the tourist will then pat the pocket where their wallet is to make sure it’s still there, while also revealing its exact location. Whenever I get bumped like this I’ll pat down several pockets to ensure my wallet is not missing. Although I end up looking like a hyperkinetic third-base baseball coach giving the hitter signals, I don’t reveal where my wallet is.
  • Don’t keep valuables in your backpack, unless perhaps they’re buried under a week’s worth of dirty clothes. The outer pockets of backpacks are so vulnerable that someone can take your money and even leave you some change without you being aware of it.

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  • Fanny packs (or bum packs for you Brits). Do I really have to say that for so many reasons a fanny pack should not be part of your traveling gear. Not only are they vulnerable, nothing screams “Look at me! I’m a tourist!” like a fanny pack.
  • Don’t get pickpocketed electronically. New credit cards with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can be scanned while still in your pocket. Purchase cheap RFID sleeves to slide your cards into and foil electronic pickpockets.
  • Camera bags. A camera bag that obviously looks like a camera bag, particularly one with a Nikon or Canon logo or something similar is a no-no. There are camera bags out there that just look like ordinary shopping bags that don’t tell the world a $1,000 item is lurking inside. They even have padded compartments to protect your equipment and lenses. While you’re at it, change out the logo covered strap that came with the camera for something more inconspicuous. Sometimes just the strap poking out from the bag due to a hastily stowed camera is enough to give away the camera’s presence. Here’s an extensive review of camera bags that won’t make you stand out in a crowd.

Retrospective-5-Pinestone-2 camera bag copy

Pickpockets are everywhere, particularly where tourists congregate. Earlier this year the Eiffel Tower was temporarily shut down due to problems with pickpocketing gangs. Be aware of your surroundings and follow these tips to come home with your wallet, and pride, intact. Here’s our cautionary tale of mixing it up with pickpockets on the Buenos Aires subway.

These tips for men to avoid pickpockets is obviously geared towards, well, men. Please provide any suggestions from your travels below. Here’s Larissa’s guide for how women can avoid pickpockets.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Twelve tips for men to avoid pickpockets while traveling--and in everyday life!

Before we left last August I wrote a post about what I’d be packing for a year. I made some good choices, but there’s nothing like experience to tell the tale. Now, after over nine months of travel, here is a status report on that most female of items: shoes.

I said that I would be bringing four pairs of shoes but I added a 5th pair just before we left, and I’m glad I did.  I know, I know, my husband only brought two pairs, but that’s a guy thing. Here’s a review of women’s travel shoes I packed and how they’ve worked out.

Review of women’s travel shoes

Keen Hiking Sandals:

review Womens travel shoes keen sandals

The Keens in action truffle hunting in the mud on a wet day in Italy. The sandals are waterproof but Larissa is not, hence the plastic bags.

        • The plan: I chose sandals over hiking shoes/boots because I knew I’d be in warm climates and wasn’t planning any really heavy-duty trekking. I also wanted a shoe that would be easy to pack. I chose the Venice H2 by Keen because they were open enough to feel like a sandal, but sturdy enough to provide support on long walks. They are also waterproof.
        • The result: Good choice. I wear them when we’re out for a long day of walking in a non-city environment (they are not particularly chic). They are comfortable and sturdy. The waterproof aspect makes them easy to clean off in a sink or tub if I get them mucked up a bit. An added bonus is that I can wear socks with them, which makes them cozier on chilly days.
        • Here’s how to buy women’s Keen shoes.

City Walking Shoes:

      • The plan: I lived in Philadelphia and appreciated a good pair of walking shoes that were dressy enough for city living. A few months before we left I purchased the Helika loafer by Waldlaufer in a black patent croco pattern, which would match my mostly-black wardrobe.
      • The result: Good strategy, unreliable shoe. They looked nice, and were sturdy and comfortable . . . until they broke. Yep, broke. We were visiting Ho Chi Minh’s tomb in Hanoi on a rainy day and my foot felt wet. I assumed I had stepped in a puddle, but when we got back to our hotel I saw the entire sole had split in two. The shoes had only minimal wear, and I had spent $168 for them. Since I was on the other side of the world, I couldn’t take them back to the store. I replaced them with a pair of Italian-made Fly Flot loafers, style #33217, which were about $90 in Israel. Decent-looking, comfortable and, so far, sturdy.

Waldlaufer shoes review problem

The Waldlaufer shoe with its cracked sole.

Flip-flops:

      • The plan: Multi-purpose, easy to pack and comfortable for walking. I packed a pair of black Fit Flops Walkstar Classics that were already a few years old. I figured I could replace them with something cheap if they broke.
      • The result: Multi-purpose, easy to pack and comfortable for walking. No need to replace them, the things wear like iron. It turns out if I wanted I could buy replacement Fit Flops in almost any country I’ve visited, they seem to be the go-to comfort shoe for women everywhere.

Ballet slipper flats:

review of womens travel shoes Puma Zandy Ballerina

While they don’t make me as graceful as Natalie Portman in Black Swan, they’re pretty comfortable.

      • The plan: These were the last-minute addition to my packing list. I wanted something closed-toe that I could wear without socks and were also dressy enough to wear with skirts. I got a pair of Puma Zandy ballerinas, which are sort of a hybrid between a simple sneaker and a shoe.
      • The result: Good choice. Their athletic shoe heritage gives them a little more support and sole cushioning than a typical shoe, meaning it’s great for walking. They’re a little sportier than a shoe, but can still work with skirts. They also take up very little space in my suitcase.
      • Here’s how to buy Puma Zandy Ballerina shoes.

Heeled Sandals:

Womens travel shoes Aerosoles Sandal

These Aerosoles were great at home but are not the best for travel.

      • The plan: I wanted something a little dressier for going out. I couldn’t imagine an entire year without heels. I brought along a pair of Aerosoles Hedge Maple sandals that I had field-tested at home before leaving.
      • The result: Okay, I blew this one. My least-worn pair of shoes, and probably a dead weight in my suitcase. They’re comfortable, but a little too confining for serious walking. The wedge soles take up valuable space in my suitcase. I probably would have been better off with a simple pair of slings. As I write this I realize these sandals will not be making the move to our next destination. Hey, that’s liberating!

Bring shoes that are comfortable, multi-tasking and sturdy. Fortunately there are several manufacturers that manage to put together all of those features in a decent looking shoe.

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!I strip down to the bare toes to share my best--and worst--travel shoes for women, based on 5 years of full-time travel

Links to other articles you might find helpful:

A woman’s guide to packing cosmetics

A woman’s guide to packing for a year

What types of shoes have you found useful while traveling?

(NOTE: All these shoes were my own purchases, these are not paid endorsements.)

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We found an easier way to get around Paris. Download this Paris Metro map pdf and you’ll always know where you are in the City of Light. This official city map is difficult to find (we’re not sure why), so we’ve made it available for you below.

The entrance to most Paris Metro stations display the map "avec rues" (with streets). Get your own free copy to navigate like a local!

Paris’ public transportation takes visitors just about anywhere. The traditional Paris Metro map shows the train routes as a series of colored lines. That gives a you general idea where the lines are located in the city, and how they relate to each other. But it doesn’t show you, the visitor, exactly where you are compared to the actual streets above ground.

Paris Metro map avec rues (with streets)

Screen shot of Paris Metro map ave rues
A screenshot of the Paris Metro map avec rues

But we’ve found a better Paris Metro map: the grand plan lignes avec rues (lines with streets). It has three unique features that make it especially useful for visitors:

  1. The map displays the metro lines with all their twists and turns
  2. It overlays the lines on the actual city streets
  3. The map includes icons of major tourist sights

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues (It’s free!)

YES! Finally you can look at a map, figure out exactly where you are and where you want to go, then make an informed decision about how to get there. Additionally, when you arrive at your destination stop, you’ll be able to determine exactly where you are in the city. For me, one of the most frustrating things about taking a subway/metro is walking through the various underground passageways that twist this way and that. The typical metro map only displays how the train lines relate to one another, not to the city itself. By the time you pop up above ground, you are completely disoriented as to where you are.

Classic stylized map of Paris Metro
The traditional stylized Metro map is most useful for determining how the lines relate to each other, but it doesn’t tell you what’s going on at street level.

Heading to Paris? Compare Paris hotel prices using this handy tool!

With the map avec rues, you can figure out your location pretty quickly. Once you get above ground, a quick look at a few street signs will tell you where you are in no time. You can also make more informed decisions about where you’re going, and the best route to get there.

For example, take a look at the screen shot excerpts from the two different types of maps below. The traditional “cartoon,” or stylized map is on the left, the map avec rues is on the right. They both show the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. Assuming you want to visit both Left Bank attractions, you use a map to plan your day. Using the “cartoon” map at left, it appears that the first stop might be “Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel” to visit the Eiffel Tower. Then, after doing a quick Google search for the best metro stop for Les Invalides, you’d get three possible options: “La Tour Maubourg,” “Ecole Militaire,” or “Varenne.” Back onto the Metro you go, change trains, and pop up near Les Invalides.

Now, plan out the same excursion using the map avec rues (above right).With the metro lines overlaying the actual city streets, it’s easy to see that Les Invalides is fairly close to the Eiffel Tower. You probably won’t need to jump back on the Metro at all! Additionally, you can see that you have several options for which line to take to the Eiffel Tower at the outset. And take a look at the “Ecole Militaire” stop. It’s right between both sights, AND it drops you off in front of the large park where most people take those sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower—Score!

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues

In this larger view of the Paris metro map “avec rues” you see exactly where the metro stops are, along with major streets in the neighborhood.

Paris Metro map PDF (and hard copies)

The Paris Metro grand plan lignes avec rues is published by RATP, Paris’ public transit system. The Paris Metro map pdf is available on the RATP website, but it’s a little difficult to find. That’s why we’ve made it handy for you to download here:

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues (OUR FAVORITE!)

The map is easy to use on a phone or tablet.

Hard copies of the Paris Metro grand plan lignes avec rues are technically available at city ticket offices. According to Paris info.com (the official Paris tourism) website,

“There are detailed street maps, plans of the “arrondissement” or maps showing the public transport network. You can obtain free maps from the ticket offices in metro stations, in the department stores and at all the information centres of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (the latter is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Russian!).”

However, paper copies of just about everything are getting more difficult to find these days. We suspect (but we don’t know for certain) that this map may no longer be in print. Once existing stock is depleted, it may not be replenished. Therefore, if you are an “old school,” hard copy kind of person, it’s probably not a good idea to count on picking up a copy once you’ve arrived in Paris. We recommend downloading the PDF file and printing it out before you leave home. (If you’re able to find a hard copy once you’re there, consider it a bonus! 😊)

Certainly there are Paris Metro route finder apps that can be downloaded to smart phones or tablets. But based on our experience, this is one case where “a map is better than an app.” The map shows the big picture, giving you options to determine which routes are best for you. Apps, in our experience, don’t always give the best recommendations. (Plus the map is free, and doesn’t take up much memory in your phone or tablet, so what have you got to lose?!)

Armed with this user-friendly map, anyone can soon be navigating around Paris like a native. This map helped us find these less crowded sights in Paris, as well as Pere Lachaise Cemetery. And while we were riding the Metro, we enjoyed some of these entertaining Street Musicians of Paris.

Heading to Paris? Compare Paris hotel prices using this handy tool!


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Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here. SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave

When we departed Philadelphia in 2011 we thought we’d explore the world for a year and then figure out what we wanted to do when we grew up. We started writing stories about our journey on this blog and for a new series called “A Year in the World” for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Somehow we branched out to other media outlets and became bona fide travel writers.

But for all the destinations we explored and wrote about on six continents, we didn’t cover the city we knew best, Philadelphia. After seeing so many exotic places when we returned to Philly we approached it with fresh eyes, as if we were discovering it as first time visitors.

Then a funny thing happened. In late January, 2014 Globe Pequot Press, a major regional travel guide publisher in Connecticut, contacted us. They asked us if we’d be interested in writing a book about Philadelphia. They had enjoyed our stories about other places and figured we’d do a good  job writing about our hometown.

You see Boston, which has more sports championships than Philly but in our humble opinion has way less historic sites, has had something called a Freedom Trail for over 50 years. It’s a well-marked guide to Boston’s revolutionary sites. But Philadelphia has nothing similar that connects the sites where America was founded, so we had to create one. Oh, and our deadline was four months. Piece of cake, right?

Philadelphia Liberty Trail-an informative and quirky travel guide to the city's historic districtI turns out a deadline is a good thing for us! Last month Globe Pequot published the result of our efforts: Philadelphia Liberty Trail: Trace the Path of America’s Heritage. This 224-page book takes a fresh approach to the founding of America. It’s part historical narrative and part travel guide that goes beyond Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell to immerse visitors in history right where it happened.

During our research we unearthed little known historical tidbits such as: Benjamin Franklin’s Electric Turkey Experiment; Lydia Darragh, the Quaker woman who saved the American army from destruction; the church that in the 1790s was the precursor to the modern Civil Rights movement; and the home where soda was first introduced to America in 1807, by a doctor no less!

We also talk about unusual events like America’s first dumbest criminal. In 1798 the first bank robbery in America took place at Carpenters’ Hall in Philly. The man behind it, Isaac Davis, was arrested when he started depositing large sums of money in the very same bank he had just robbed. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Philadelphia Liberty Trail-Ben Franklin "Key" statue, funded by school children

The trail we created is about four miles long but we’ve broken it into several segments. Easy-to-follow maps guide the visitor and since this is a book we wrote, there are also Pit Stops to rest weary legs and get a cookie (always important for Michael) or other treat. Complete with lodging, dining, family-friendly options and practical travel information, Philadelphia Liberty Trail is the indispensable guide to exploring America’s most historic square mile.

Here’s how you can buy Philadelphia Liberty Trail on Amazon.

If you get a chance to read the book we really hope you enjoy it. It was a lot of fun to write and discover our hometown once again.

Oh, that guy at the top of the page? He’s Matt O’Connor, the CFO (“chief flag officer”) at Humphry’s Flag Company, right across from–you guessed it–the Betsy Ross House.

Note to Philadelphia area readers: We are speaking at Penn State’s Great Valley campus in Malvern, PA on April 8th. Topics will include the Philadelphia Liberty Trail and travel tips from our 3+ years on the road. Here is the information for this free event: Penn State lecture. We’ll also be signing books at the Visitor Center at Independence National Park on Flag Day, June 14th, 2015 from noon to 4 p.m. Hope to see you there.

Any American citizen or legal resident that flies more than once a year should consider TSA Precheck and Global Entry. They are two of the Trusted Traveler programs established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow expedited security processing for low-risk travelers. Read more

Locals warned us to be alert on the Buenos Aires subway, or  “subte,” because the city is the pickpocketing capital of the world. Most major cities have petty crime so we were careful, as we are anywhere, but also wouldn’t let it affect our plans to go out and explore the vibrant city.

On our very first day riding the subway we managed to get a little too close to one pickpocketing and even had an encounter with one of the thieves. We had just stepped off the train at the crowded 9 de Julio station and were part of the scrum headed towards the exit.

Suddenly a man wearing a dark blue t-shirt bumped up hard against my left shoulder. I was ready to give him a Philly elbow back to clear some space when the man abruptly stopped in front of me. This set off my antenna.

Then I noticed that another man wearing a green hoodie, about three feet in front of me, had a white liquid dripping on his shoulder. A common ruse is to squirt something on the potential victim. This marks him to the pickpocket gang, which usually consists of three people, and sets up the next part of the con.

Buenos Aires subte subway two people

Passengers like these know to be extra vigilant.

One of the thieves said to the man that his sweatshirt was stained and started wiping it off to distract him. I tried to warn him but Larissa was standing right next to one of the pickpockets and I wasn’t sure if the whole thing was just a diversion to get to her. I called out “Riss, Riss!” and waved her over to me.

Meanwhile, as the victim was turning to look at his stained shoulder his wallet was lifted by the third man. A woman a few feet away noticed this and yelled at him that he has just been pickpocketed. The man who had bumped my shoulder agreed and pointed down the platform in the opposite direction of where his partner was running towards the exit. I finally managed to convince the victim that the guy pointing was in on it too so he finally ran up the stairs after his wallet.

In the meantime I grabbed the shoulder of the thief who was still there and yelled in my best high-school Spanish, ‘Polizia! Polizia!” Unfortunately I sucked at Spanish and people just stared at me oddly. The thief looked stunned to be accosted but recovered enough to say in his best movie English, “Fu** you!”

I was out of Spanish expressions at that point and called the crook a shrimp (he was pretty short) holding my fingers an inch apart for emphasis. Since no police were forthcoming (for all we know I yelled for a plumber, but we didn’t see anyone running up wielding a plunger either) I parted ways with the criminal.

Buenos Aires subway subte mural

 The tile murals on the subte are gorgeous, just don’t get too distracted by them.

A “charity” mugging in Paris

This was the second time we’d come across a pickpocketing on this trip. In June we rode the Eurostar train from Paris to London. On board we met an Australian couple who had been robbed just outside the Gare Du Nord station in Paris. When they got out of their taxi they naturally reached for their wallet to pay the driver. This let potential thieves know which pocket their wallet was in.

As they walked away from their cab they were approached by several young women with clipboards who said they were getting petitions signed for a charity. We see these people everywhere, including our fair city of Philadelphia. Most are legitimate but the British have come up with a great name for them, chuggers, as in charity muggers.

The woman held the clipboard up to the tourist’s chest and used it as camouflage for her hands to pickpocket him. We hadn’t heard of this scam before and thought we’d pass it along so you can be aware of it.

What scams have you seen in your travels?
28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Michael and I have been on the road for over three years now with no fixed address, yet people still ask us where we call home. We finally have a good answer: we live at Airbnb. We thought it would be useful to explain how Airbnb works.

We don’t work for them, nor do we live at their corporate headquarters (although considering their funky new offices in San Francisco that might be fun). We’ve used Airbnb on four continents, and in the past year alone we’ve spent about 200 nights at Airbnb properties: if Airbnb were a country, we’d qualify for citizenship.

Airbnb has changed the way we travel. We still stay in hotels, but when planning destinations, Airbnb is the first place we check for lodging.

There are several reasons why we keep going back for more:

1. Multiple Lodging Options:

No matter whether you’re looking for a luxury condo in Buenos Aires or a spare bedroom in Nashville you can find it on Airbnb. I like the variety; when staying somewhere a week or longer we prefer a house/apartment to rent, whereas for a night or two a private room in someone’s home is perfect. Think of it as “Aunt Mabel’s spare bedroom (with better furniture) meets Couch Surfing, meets VRBO.”

how airbnb worksThis Buenos Aires studio is a far cry from couch surfing

2. Cost:

A big advantage here. It stands to reason that going direct to the source would be more cost-efficient. Plus the more “homey” aspect means you’re foregoing costly things typically associated with hotels, like daily maid service. Note: Airbnb does tack a service fee on top of the quoted price, but on the whole it’s still a better value than comparable hotels.

3. Off the Tourist Track:

Staying in someone’s home puts you in a residential neighborhood, whether a city high-rise or a country farm. It’s a real pleasure to get away from motels at interstate exits or lodging in touristy locations. We loved our flat in the Cihangir neighborhood in Istanbul where all the grocery stores delivered — and we got to know the guy in the video shop.

how airbnb worksOur quiet residential neighborhood in Istanbul

4. New Friends in New Places:

The whole Airbnb experience tends to draw hosts who genuinely like to entertain and share info about their hometown. A dialogue begins with the reservation, so you already know someone local by the time you pull into town. Our host in Memphis joined us for ribs at the local barbecue joint and in Malta we received a homemade version of the island’s traditional Easter cake. We even met one host’s father: a 90-year-old D-Day veteran who literally shared “war stories” with us. We’ve stayed in touch with many of our Airbnb hosts and now have friends all over the world.

how airbnb works-D-day veteran90-year-old D-Day veteran “Beamy” Beamsderfer, the father of one of our Airbnb hosts, shared war stories with us

5. Easy to Use:

After traveling full-time for over three years I’ve used just about every vacation rental website out there, and Airbnb’s is by far the easiest. Searching for places is simple, the pricing structure is clear and booking is done by credit card once you’ve set up an account. I’ve recently noticed other websites styling their design to look virtually the same as Airbnb, yet the search functions and variety of properties Airbnb has on offer are still the best.

6. Personal profiles and reviews:

A big part of the Airbnb experience is establishing an online profile and collecting reviews — for both hosts and guests. Think of it as an online booking site and TripAdvisor all rolled into one. The system is designed so you can’t pad it with fake reviews, thus crappy lodging or disrespectful guests are easily weeded out and don’t stay on the site for long.

how airbnb worksWould you trust these people in your home? Fortunately our Airbnb profile says we’re good houseguests, so our Nashville host Jeff let us (and our visiting nephew) strum away!

Even if you’re not constantly on the road like us, adding Airbnb to your lodging repertoire will give you new options and change the way you travel. There are still times when other lodging options are a better fit, such as when we spent a week in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip for the full-blown thick-of-the-action experience, or when we needed to find a quiet writer’s retreat for three months to finish our latest book.

But on balance, it’s fairly accurate to say we live at Airbnb. It’s our (sort of) home address.

Note: We have fully paid for all of our stays.

***Get a $20 Credit on your first stay***

Thinking of trying out Airbnb? Take advantage of Airbnb’s referral program.  Sign up here: Airbnb new member. You’ll get a $20 credit on your first stay over $75.

 

To follow our journey around the world in search of the tasty and quirky and get travel tips subscribe here.

We’ve been on the road since 2011 with no home and no fixed address. Whenever we meet people they are surprised that we are true nomads. The first question we often get is, “How do you live a nomadic life?” Here are some tips for wandering the world.

How to live a nomadic life

how to live a nomadic life bedouin camp

1)      Give it up — If you have a house, sell it: if you have stuff, get rid of it; if you have an office-based job, leave it. If you’re going to wander the world, you don’t want to be weighed down by things back home.

2)      Put yourself in a box — Life sometimes intrudes on the fantasy of chucking it all. You’ll need a place to receive the occasional mail. Set up a P.O. box or use a trusted friend or relative’s address.

3)      You can bank on it — The Internet that is. Set up banking and paying all your bills online. The good thing about a nomadic life though, there are many less bills to pay. No cable, WiFi, mortgage/rent, home insurance, real  estate taxes, utilities; well you get my drift, it’s a lot cheaper to be  a nomad.

4)      To store or not to store? — That really is the question. Although we got rid of most of our possessions before leaving, we still had enough junk left over to fill a 10’ by 10’ storage unit. We thought it was stuff we’d still need or want. Guess what? We were wrong.  After returning to the U.S. we got rid of the remaining items.

5)      The telephone game — I got rid of my cell phone before leaving in August, 2011 and have lived without one ever since. It’s remarkably freeing. Set up a Skype account so you can still keep in touch with those you want to call. Think of all the time you just freed up by not checking voice mail or texting all day.

6)      Book it — Libraries are a wonderful resource on the road. Almost every town has one, they offer free Wifi and are quiet, air-conditioned places to hang out. We skim through the used book rack to buy $1 books. If we stay someplace for a week or more we get a library card so we can check out books and DVDs for free.

7)      Playing doctor — Health insurance is a major issue. Check into plans for travelers but be aware that some of them require you to have a base health insurance policy first. Many nomads get minimal coverage or go places where health care is so cheap they travel without insurance. We have a basic policy and skip things like medical evacuation coverage. We had our own health insurance for years before we started our nomadic life. Unfortunately under the ACA the price has gone up. You’ll have to choose the plan that works best for you.

8)      The world is flat — Skip the hotels and rent flats or apartments. They are a cheaper option for long-term travel. See our tips for long-term apartment rentals. During our journey Airbnb has become our default rental site to the point that we now live in “Airbnb World.”

9)      Go the extra mile — When we were traveling around the world we rented a car where we needed one. Back in the U.S. that got expensive so we bought a car. You’ll put on many miles as a nomad so skip the gas guzzler and get a car with great gas mileage.

10)    Take a break — Constantly moving from place to place can get tiring. We try to stay a minimum of a week anywhere. We’ll also set up firebreaks where we’ll stay at least a month or two to recharge our batteries and catch up on our writing. When that happens Larissa even makes the investment of buying a bottle of ketchup. I’m concerned though that it could be a gateway condiment and the next thing I know she’ll be buying mustard and relish.

Bonus tip: Don’t worry, be flexible — Every place you stay may not be as comfortable or as nice as you like. We’ve had relatively good luck in this department, mostly due to Larissa’s thorough vetting of our rentals. But the beauty of living a nomadic life is that if you don’t like an area, you’ll soon be moving on. And if you do like it, then you can stay longer.

Any questions you have or tips you’d like to share?

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We’ve been traveling the world for almost three years now and recently wrote a story for Huffington Post that asked “how is America different from the rest of the world?” That story struck a chord among readers who suggested more areas that set America apart.  Read more

Yelp and Trip Advisor are our go-to web sites for finding reviews of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. They are usually pretty accurate but it’s important to weed out the reviewers whose opinion you shouldn’t trust. Also be aware that Yelp viewers skew younger than TripAdvisor so take that into account when comparing places. Here’s our guide for how to read TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews:

Watch the star ratings: Ratings go from 1 to 5 stars. Ignore the 1 and 5 star reviews. When someone says it’s the worst place they’ve ever been they are so hyperbolic you can’t trust the review. The same goes for those 5 star reviews that seem as if they were written by the hotel or restaurant’s public relations agency. The reviews that contain the best information, both pro and con, are usually in the 2 to 4 star range and are written by discerning, observant travelers.

2014-05-29-NZcrematoriummotel2.jpg

Seek reviews from locals: Look closely at the reviews written by locals. Visitors from far-flung locations rave about certain famous cheesesteak places in our hometown of Philadelphia, but Philadelphians tend to say they’re not that good. Local reviewers know what other options are available in their hometown and are less likely to be suckered by a place that relies on the tourist trade.

We love the English but: “Mustn’t grumble” is a common expression in England. But when it comes to reviewing a place we want to hear the bad stuff. The reviews will state where the person lives so if it’s someplace like Melting Cheddarshire, England you can skip the review. A typical English review will read, “The hotel caught fire at 2 AM and we had to be evacuated. But it had been feeling a bit nippy anyway so we appreciated the extra warmth and the firefighters were charming blokes.” So beware. You might want to be careful with Canadians too, they’re just too damn nice to say anything bad.

2014-05-29-Namibiaroadtripburnedcar575x438.jpg

Great gluten-free options: People who need to avoid gluten have a serious medical condition but “gluten-free” has morphed into the latest diet fad among foodies.  The latter group is so excited when a restaurant offers gluten-free options that it clouds their judgment of the meal and results in over-the-top enthusiasm for the place.

Great vegan options: See gluten-free above.


I love New York but do they love anything back?
As a native New Yorker I know them pretty well. When I see a review from someone in Manhattan I know to skip it. Although they are sometimes clever in their criticisms, someone who complains that the 800-count sheets only had 767 threads (they know because they counted them) is probably too critical for me.

2014-05-29-HongKongKrampHouse575x431.jpg

I normally don’t like _________ but I loved these: If someone doesn’t normally like, say, pizza, are you really going to trust their judgment when they find a pizza they do like? When I’m looking for a pizzeria I want to hear from true aficionados who know the difference between a good one and cheese-topped cardboard. (Or heaven forbid, Chicago style pizza.)

They only take cash: I’m astonished when I read complaints about cash-only establishments like donut shops where the bill might come to two bucks. But I’ve stood on line behind enough hipsters using a debit card to buy a Red Bull that I shouldn’t be. They’ve become the modern-day equivalent of the little old ladies who still write checks at the supermarket. If someone isn’t responsible enough to walk around with five dollars in their pocket, do you really trust their opinion about anything?

2014-05-29-farmtotablemovementrestaurant575x459.jpg

My kids/grandkids love it: Sorry but I’m not taking restaurant recommendations from a runny-nosed five-year-old. Unless of course I’m taking my runny-nosed five-year-old niece out to eat.

People who have written only one review: There are many reviewers who have only one review on Yelp or Trip Advisor. Typically the review is either so over the top positive it was probably written by a fake identity who is related to the owner, or it is so negative that it is written by a competitor. Be very suspicious of anyone who has taken the time to set up a reviewer account but then only writes one review. Perhaps the place really was so horrible that they just had to take the time to tell the world about it, but be discerning if you read these.

It was AMAZING!!!: The word “amazing” is so over-used these days that it doesn’t really say much beyond, “Hey I didn’t get food poisoning or bed bugs.” When you come across the overuse of this hackneyed term skip the review and find someone who’ll describe the place in more detail.

Meh: If this word is used, usually in the first sentence, stop reading and move on. The person is obviously trying to sound trendy and really has nothing to offer you. See remark about New York above.

What other suggestions can you offer?

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We meet some incredible people on our travels who make Larissa and me seem like a couple of slackers. Such an encounter happened when we were visiting Death Valley National Park on a typical steamy summer day. With the temperature hovering around 114 degrees we saw a young man wearing a luminous lime-green vest, long sleeve shirt, long pants and a broad-brimmed straw floppy hat as he pushed one of those baby jogging strollers full of food and camping gear. Since we were roasting in our shorts and t-shirts we just had to ask what the heck he was doing.

Michael Stafford is a 27-year-old native of Erie, Pennsylvania who is walking across America. He set out from Virginia Beach on January 4th and hopes to reach the San Francisco area by mid-July. It’s truly an awe-inspiring accomplishment and reveals the life of someone who doesn’t worry about what lays beyond the next bend in the road. The 2007 Penn State graduate is remarkably composed about his accomplishment so far.

Michael Stafford walking across America supplies (800x658)

The walk is not part of some grand plan. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for the past eight years. It’s always been sitting there in the back of my mind,” Michael said. He takes back roads and avoids interstates, the better to experience the sweeping landscape of America and its small towns along the way.

I asked him if he would be like Forrest Gump, see the Pacific Ocean, turn around and repeat the journey in the other direction? That’s when his obvious weariness kicked in, “Oh no,” he replied. “I’ll just want to rest.”

As for his plans after he reaches his goal he is remarkably sanguine. What will he do next? “I don’t know, but it’s okay to have unknowns in life. I’ll find something that will come up,” Michael stated.

After our chat with Michael we climbed back somewhat guiltily into our air-conditioned car. As we pulled away Michael gave us a wave as he took off down the lonely road deeper into Death Valley.

walking acorss america death valley

You can follow Michael’s journey on his blog at Mike Hikes. For those of you seeking tips for a similar journey he was wearing Naot sandals.

Another remarkable traveler we’ve met is Vladimir Yarets, a deaf mute motorcyclist form Belarus who is motorcycling around the globe.

To receive free updates and valuable travel tips sign up here.

After traveling around the world for almost threee years we’ve noticed many ways how America is different from the rest of the world. From the proper way to eat pizza to how to tell time, here are a few of our favorites: Read more

When we arrived in Dubai we were struck by how modern the transportation system was but after two months in Southeast Asia we could have used these tips for riding the Dubai Metro. Asia had been hot and sticky and we really wanted to go someplace dry. After learning that Emirates offers flights to Dubai on a daily basis we headed there on a direct flight from Bangkok.

As the plane approached Dubai we saw the skyline popping out of the desert like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Shiny modern ziggurats soar skyward, the largest of which, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, is the tallest building in the world.

Dubai looks like something out of Flash Gordon from the air and continues with this futuristic feel on the ground. When we boarded the Dubai Metro we were a bit taken aback that there was no driver in the front car. The entire system is fully automated and driverless. After we got used to that fact, we realized the Metro is a great way to get around Dubai and offer these tips for riding the Dubai Metro

tips for riding the dubai metro

The futuristic Dubai Metro stations are easy to spot.

Find and book the best experiences in Dubai!

Here are 10 tips for riding the Dubai Metro:

1) There are two lines: Green and Red, with more on the way. The two existing lines cross each other and then run parallel so be sure to check a Metro map before starting your journey to see which one you need.

dubai metro map

dubai metro ticket machine nol2) The system is cashless. Purchase a “nol” card at a vending machine or at the ticket booth and put a designated amount on it. Then you swipe it over a card reader before entering the boarding area. Note that only Visa and MasterCard are accepted for payment. One-way fares range from AED 1.8 to 5.8. (About 50 cents to 1.60 in U.S. dollars.)

3) Don’t be alarmed that there is no driver or any other human on board running the trains. The system is completely automated which is a bit startling at first but you get used to it.

4) Because there is no driver, the view from the front car is not obscured by a driver’s cabin. The train operates mostly above-ground, so the front window offers the best views of the ever-changing skyline whizzing by. Train geeks will want to ride in the front car. But be careful because . . .

Dubai metro riding in front (640x458)

5) Each train has a car reserved for women, which may be the front car for that train so check the signs. I learned this one the hard way one day when I wondered why my fellow passengers (all female I later realized) were all staring at me. Eventually one approached and pointed to the “Women and Children Only” sign. Oops. Women are not limited to this car though and may ride in any car.

6) Don’t get confused by the Metro station names. Most stations on the Metro are named after the nearest important building, which in Dubai tend to be malls and bank headquarters that often start sounding alike. Pay attention to your stop.

dubai metro signage

7) There are separate cars for First Class but the ride is so short they are not worth paying for. The regular cars are cleaner and more comfortable than any subway we’ve ridden on before.

8) If you plan on cycling around Dubai, be aware that bicycles are not permitted on the trains.

9) Because Friday is a Day of Prayer in the United Arab Emirates, the Metro does not start service until 2 PM.

Dubai metro fish sign (300x292)10) Last but not least, do not carry fish on the Dubai Metro. That seems like an odd one but there were signs at the Metro entrance warning against carrying fish on board. That’s not something we’ve seen before.

For more information visit: Dubai Metro.

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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