Travel Essentials So Good They Actually Deserve A Spot In Your Carry-On

As someone who enjoys traveling and shopping (and shopping while traveling), I’ve ended up with more gadgets than I’d like to admit—many of which have claimed they’d make my life easier. Is that true for some of them? Sure. Others have proven to be a complete waste of money and precious space in my luggage. (Which is the ultimate sin TBH.) Luckily, my screen time is embarrassingly high and my For You Page knows me so well it can pretty much predict my every thought, so I’ve found some of the best travel items that would actually earn a spot in my carry-on. And because I know you’re busy enough tracking flights to sift through the BS, I put together a list of essentials you should immediately add to cart. 

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Beis Backpack That Could Literally Fit A Weeks Worth Of Clothes

I’ve never been influenced faster than the day I saw someone “pack with me” in this backpack. I hit the “add to cart” button pretty much immediately. It might sound dramatic, but this bag is truly magical. Listen, I know we all hate when people brag about packing everything in their carry-on, but when I can pack 10 days worth of stuff in my Beis backpack, you better believe I am screaming it from the rooftops.

Shop it: The Backpack, $78.00,

Bluetooth Adaptor for Two So You Don’t Have To Share AirPods (Ew.)

In-flight screen time is truly sacred. I don’t want to waste it watching something I don’t care about—I want to guilt my fiancé into watching a RomCom with me that I may or may not fall asleep in the middle of. This dual bluetooth adaptor allows us to watch together and ensures he doesn’t start the movie a half second before I do, preventing him from spoiling all the good parts. 

Shop it: MEE audio Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmitter Adapter, $49.99, Amazon

Budget Airline Bag Your Wallet Would Be Proud Of

Bringing a personal item on a budget airline is truly a gamble—you never know if today’s the day they decide it’s too big. For my sanity, I got this $10 bag that’s specifically made to avoid this risk. I don’t travel budget airlines often, but I figure if I’m risking it all to save a few bucks, I’ll at least make it as stress free as possible.

Shop It: Foldable Travel Duffel Bag, $14.99, Amazon

Portable Squatty Potty Because I Know You Dread Leaving Home Without It

Okay, if you’ve crossed the bridge into being a Squatty Potty user, you know there’s no turning back. There’s nothing delicate about my digestive system when traveling and finding out they make a portable version that folds up and fits in your bag was life changing. No more worrying about how you’ll survive a week without it.

Shop it: Squatty Potty Porta Traveler, $29.99, Amazon

Suitcase Drink Holder To House All Three Essential Travel Beverages

No matter how many times I go to the airport, I always enter into a state of absolute chaos. My hands are constantly full of everything I own, and I always manage to misplace my phone even though I swear I just had it. Add an overpriced coffee and a freshly-filled water bottle (post-TSA, duh) to the mix and I’d be screwed. Now I just add it all to this drink holder hanging from my luggage, because that’s the only way I can physically manage all of it.

Shop it: WALNEW Luggage Travel Cup Holders, $14.99, Amazon

Feature Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

These Things Make It Easier To Pack, Because I’m Never NOT Going To Wait Until The Last Minute

It’s that time of year again when I pretend I’m still in college and escape somewhere warm for spring break…even though technically spring break is non-existent in the corporate world. And while I’d like to think I’ve matured since the all-inclusive, binge drinking, spring break bikini days, my packing habits certainly haven’t.

What can I say? I’m a procrastinator. I tell myself that I work well under pressure, but really I’m just too lazy to be bothered until 30 minutes before I have to leave for a flight. Because I’m a last-minute packer, I always end up bringing 15 bathing suits, 10 pairs of shoes, and enough anxiety to run a small town into the ground—and that’s just a 5 day trip. Thankfully, I’ve found a few tricks through the years that have helped transform my suitcase from a dumpster fire to feeling like I (sort of) have my shit together.

Betches may receive a portion of revenue if you click a link and purchase a product or service. The links are independently placed and do not influence editorial content.

These Packing Cubes That Will Keep Your Sh*t Organized

Once you try packing cubes, you’ll literally never go back. It’s truly a game changer if you’re the kind of person who tends to overpack. (In other words, all of us.) It helps you organize the different types of clothing you’re bringing while the compression lets you pack twice as much shit in one carry-on. That’s a win-win.

BAGAIL Compression Packing Cubes, $29.99, Amazon

Toiletry Bag For Your TikTok Influenced 10-Step Skincare Routine

The only time I’m actually proud of the way I store my beauty products is when I’m traveling. When I’m home, I pretty much just throw everything under the sink in such an disorganized way that I’ll be swearing that, “my sister must have stolen it” when I can’t find my favorite lipstick. This solves that issue and makes it so easy to ensure I have every step of the 10-step skincare routine I learned on TikTok with me at all times.

BAGSMART Toiletry Bag with Hanging Hook, $29.99, Amazon

Travel Containers So You Don’t Risk Losing Your Full-Size

Speaking of my 10-step skincare routine—there’s literally no way in hell I’ll be risking an explosion of my new vitamin C serum on the plane. Plus, if I put all my full-sized skincare products in one carry-on, that’s all I’d be packing. This set offers so many different container options, from sprayers to jars. The possibilities are endless.

Morfone 16 Pack Travel Bottles Set, $22.58, Amazon

Cord Organizer So You’re Not a Hot Mess On the Plane

This might feel a little high-maintenance, but I’ve never been more thankful for this organizer than when I’m sitting in a coach seat made to fit a toddler, rifling through my bag looking for a phone charger. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

FYY Electronic Organizer, $12.99, Amazon

Travel Jewelry Box Upgrade From a Ziploc Bag

For as long as I can remember, I literally packed my jewelry in a ziplock bag. And every time, while trying to untangle a bangle from a necklace, I would swear that I’d never do it again. I’ve finally come to my senses and purchased this jewelry case. It’ll keep your jewelry more organized than Khloe Kardashian’s pantry.

Travel Jewelry Case, $50,

Laundry Bag To Keep Your Clean Sh*t From Smelling

No one talks about the struggle of packing your shit up at the end of the trip. I would venture to say it’s one of the most depressing times of life. Let’s not forget the struggle of keeping clean and dirty clothing separate. Kind of like the packing cubes, this helps organize your dirty clothes and keep them away from your clean ones, so they don’t infect your entire suitcase with the smell of BO.

JHX Dirty Clothes Bag, $14.99, Amazon

How I Renewed My Passport In 5.5 Hours

Before you hop on this journey to passport renewal utopia, let’s just say it’s rather on brand for me to take some out-of-the-box measures to get shit done (I play by the rules, but this passport renewal experience isn’t necessarily the vibe for everyone). Tl;dr: if you have a real thirst for international travel, some extra airline miles, and friends with couches in various major US cities, this could be the solution for you!

As you might imagine, I didn’t do too much international traveling in the last year-ish. I was lucky enough to post up in Bermuda and work remotely last fall with an old Bermudian college pal, Caitlin (and holy smokes, shout-out to all my night owls—being 1 hour ahead of ET, when you work east coast hours, was a game changer). Whilst in Bermuda in October 2020, my passport was expiring, and there was an impending hurricane ahead of my return to NYC, so I was able to go get an emergency passport (valid for 1 year) issued at the US consulate on the island, in order to get home to Brooklyn.

Fast-forward to September 2021, Labor Day weekend for Caitlin’s wedding in Bermuda. I had not even thought about my passport since I was last in Bermuda, thanks to, you guessed it, COVID. For US citizens, Bermuda merely requires that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay. So, my lil emergency issued passport, expiring in October 2021, worked just fine for me to take my 90-minute flight from NYC to the island.

A few days into my trip, I received a call… from Paris. And, when Paris calls, you answer! This full story is for another time, but I was in the thick of some *virtual* discussions for an exciting new project, and needed to pop to France the following week to talk shop, IRL.

Unlike Bermuda, most countries require 3-6 months’ passport validity beyond your arrival date in order for you to enter their country (basically, so they don’t have to deal with you getting stranded on their turf). France requires 90 days. Meanwhile, I had just over 30 days validity left on mine…

Before COVID, there were third party services that you could pay a fuckton of money (~$400-$1000) and they’d help rush you a passport in 24 hours to a week’s time. Those services are no más—you now need to work directly with the US government to renew that bad boy.

Pro tip: If you have any interest in getting it renewed in this lifetime, do NOT mail it in via the standard renewal process. AND before you waste 30-60 minutes of your life calling to make an appointment, ensure you’re eligible for expedited renewal. You either need proof of an emergency or urgent travel (aka a booked international flight that’s within 72 hours of your (hopefully) soon-to-be passport renewal appointment).

To Get Your Passport Renewed In 72 Hours or Less, Follow The Steps Below:

  1. Pull up your confirmation email for your upcoming travel
  2. Call the national passport information center: 8774872778
  3. Wait on the phone for like 45 minutes—it sucks, but it’s worth it
  4. Explain your situation (i.e. your passport is about to expire and you need to travel abroad on X date). Just get to the point; there’s no need to embellish (also that’d be illegal and bad karma).
  5. The rep will ask for your date of travel, destination and booking confirmation code. If they don’t have an appointment available  in your city, ask if any other offices in the US have availability. (This is the step where you have to be particularly committed—I flew from NYC to Houston, as it was the only office in the country that had an opening due to a cancelation.)
  6. Once your appointment is confirmed, they give you a confirmation code (write it down! And don’t lose it). They will give you a courtesy call 24 hours before your scheduled slot to remind you.

Prepping For The Big Day

You’ll need the below items for your appointment. I was able to take care of all of this down in Houston one day in advance:

The Big Day!

Just like any important meeting, show up a little early! The appointment is inside a government building—bring your ID and all of the aforementioned items, but travel lightly if you don’t want to get slowed down checking in with security (you’ll have to remove electronics, jewelry, etc). 

My passport renewal appointment was scheduled for 9/8 at 8am. I showed up at 7:30am, and met some new pals on the security line who had similar stories as I. One dude was a fellow Brooklynite who was as wild/curious/reckless (call it what you will) enough as I to fly down to HTX to get things sorted for his upcoming trip to Mexico City. 

After bidding farewell to my electronic cigarette at security, I headed upstairs and was ushered to a counter where I submitted my docs, paid the fee, and was given a receipt stamped with a pickup time of that same day at 1:30pm.

Depending on when your travel date is, your pick up time will be either that same day or the following days ahead of your travel. When you return to pick it up, they’ll have you verify that all the info in your passport book looks good—then you’re good to go!

Sure enough, 1pm rolled around, and I had a brand new, crispy passport in hand for my 9/9/21 flight to Paris!

Here’s the thing: best case scenario (which is what happened), I got my passport in time to cross the pond. However, worst case scenario, if things didn’t work out (i.e i forgot one of my forms, etc. etc., who knows), I was able to explore Houston, a new city I’d never been to before.

Images: Manu Prats / Stocksy; Jaime Getto

Being Pregnant In a Pandemic Made Me Realize My Travel Habits Were Toxic

If I was to describe my pre-pandemic life, you could easily tell what I did for a living simply by seeing the suitcase by my door and the heavily stamped passport. Up until COVID-19 decided to decimate all that we held dear, I made my living as a travel writer for the past three or four years. But now that the world has come to an indefinite standstill and we’re making like hideaway hobbits, I’ve had to pull a pandemic pivot with my career, like countless others in my industry and many others. 

But if there’s been a silver lining to the whole “my adventures as a travel writer coming to an abrupt halt” thing, it’s been that I’ve acquired a whack-load of introspection. I’ve taken some time to reflect upon the places I’ve traveled to (nearly 70 countries) and it dawned on me that many of my travel habits were actually toxic. This realization came from an unlikely source: my pregnancy

In lockdown, my husband and I were grateful to have some solace in a safe space to strengthen our relationship (and as a result, why we decided to try for a baby). But in pre-pandemic times, I hardly ever saw him. I was hopping on a plane every 2-3 weeks, chasing foreign destinations, deadlines, and pitches. However, what was once exhilarating quickly became exhausting. I was always in a frenzy. While my body was physically in Abu Dhabi, for instance, my mind was elsewhere. I was obsessed with chasing that elusive notion of being a “jet setter”, someone who could boast about how she visited X amount of countries in a short period of time. And I’m not a travel influencer by any stretch of the imagination, but clearly something was causing me to dread the feeling of having my feet on solid ground in one place for too long.

Very quickly, travel became a drug I was hooked on—it became an almost toxic game of being proud that I was never home, that I was always in an “exotic” destination. As a result, I lost touch with my value systems and identity. I missed out on major milestones like loved ones’ weddings, and my connection to my homeland of Toronto, Canada dwindled. It was like I was pretending it was “cool” to treat my city like a layover, rather than a place to put down roots.

Why did I succumb to this behavior? TBH, I think it was easier to interact with strangers in foreign places. There’s nothing at stake, no risk of judgment or fear of their reactions. Additionally, at that point in my life, I was going through a LOT of life changes. I was severing ties with abusive individuals, attending more intensive and draining therapy sessions, getting used to my fiancé’s side of the family and contending with all those new dynamics, feeling pressured to have and honor large wedding traditions and plan the wedding, dealing with the expectation of moving into a larger place shortly after, being asked about having babies and starting a family—all at the same time. It was all-consuming and overwhelming. It was too much for me. I went from a life that was manageable and comfortable, me and my boyfriend living in our cozy apartment, to suddenly being handed this chaotic tsunami of life-altering stuff. So what did I do? I escaped. I fled the country as often as possible. But clearly, this was not a sustainable solution, because every time I touched down from my latest trip, real life was becoming more fractured with many unresolved issues I didn’t want to deal with.

The worst part was that this travel-based blur never fully afforded me a sense of purpose: I didn’t appreciate the opportunity enough to absorb the incredible nuances of each destination I was in, which included the people, culture, and beauty that surrounded me. I remember being on a four-hour sailing excursion in Croatia bobbling along the Adriatic Sea. Instead of soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells, I felt frustrated, restless, and anxious. I decided that this was a waste of time and that I could have used these precious minutes instead to be on land and hit up as many landmarks as possible. I was too preoccupied with this arbitrary checklist, and having a “what’s next” mentality almost stopped me from enjoying it at all. 

I guess it’s true what they say about getting your priorities in check when you have a mentally and physically life-altering experience such as having a tiny human grow inside you. The surge of hormones, the more frequent Zoom sessions/calls with my midwife, the slew of regular phone/virtual therapy sessions—all coupled with being in lockdown—acted as the catalyst to the introspection I needed to reflect upon my life. Lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to figure out my travel habits weren’t good for me. Ultimately, I realized that I need to grow up and be a responsible adult (and future parent) who can teach my child about travel being an incredible privilege and not a right. I’ve also realized that less is truly more. When it comes to exploring new places now, I’m going to focus on quality over quantity.

When I first began traveling for a living, I hoped travel would shape my core being, but in the past year, it dawned on me that it actually caused me to lose touch with myself. It also explains why, when I was abroad, I would fill my arbitrary agenda with random stuff to do. When left to my own devices, I was super uneasy in my own skin. In previous stories I’ve written for Betches, I mentioned that I’ve contended (and still do) with a myriad of mental health issues. In a nutshell, these elements hijacked my identity and I was filling the void with travel (in addition to using it as a form of escapism from IRL problems). It will take some time, but this realization was revelatory, and now I’m taking time to rediscover who I am, simply by trying out and testing random activities and determining what appeals to me (so far I’ve tried pottery, painting, strategy-based board games with hubby, and archery). With a renewed sense of wonder, I will now approach travel with more thoughtfulness and grace I probably couldn’t have conceived of in my pre-pregnancy and pre-pandemic days. 

Imags: Clement Souchet / Unsplash

How TF Are We Going To Travel Post-Pandemic? 

We’re approximately two months into quarantine and everyone’s going a little stir-crazy. We’ve started dreaming of where we will travel once restrictions are lifted and we enter back into society, emerging from our homes as little house gremlins in need of vitamin D and sobriety. Over the last 10 years, the travel and tourism industries have grown exponentially with the help of technology, making it easier than ever to plan a trip. But this expansion has stalled as a result of travel restrictions and isolation in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. As we stay home and try to flatten the curve, many people have started to consider how to travel in the future—while praying that their 2020 vacation days will carry over to 2021. While it’s difficult to predict when we’ll be able to travel outside of our one-bedroom apartments again, there’s no doubt the industry will change as a result of the pandemic. So, as travelers, how will we spend our holiday time and how the f*ck is the industry going to bounce back?

Can We Get A Refund On 2020?

The travel industry supports nearly 10% of the world’s global jobs, and that doesn’t even take into account its supply chain for things like farmers who provide food to hotels, and restaurants who rely on the tourist season for foot traffic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue in the travel and tourism industry could be lost due to COVID-19. With such an impact to a large global industry, the vicious cycle of people having less disposable income to spend on travel and people in travel-related jobs being laid off, begins. Travel influencers are shaking in their latest ShoeDazzle collection clear-heeled boots.

No sector of the industry will go untouched, meaning we’re about to experience a huge change in how we travel as companies try to adapt. Many organizations in travel were ill-equipped for a financial crisis, only preparing for a positive trajectory continuing from the last few years. A recent article from National Geographic on how coronavirus is impacting the travel industry states that “international carriers, including Delta and United Airlines, had less than two months of cash on hand to cover expenses before the coronavirus hit.” I mean, same, but I’m a millennial with student debt so that’s to be expected, not a gigantic company. Plus, I don’t think my stimulus check compares to their $25 billion bailout. I guess all those oversize bag fees and change fees were a lot more important than we thought.


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TSK TSK!!! | credit/permission @kacoleman

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Hotels are another part of the industry with unprecedented losses. Seventy percent of hotel employees have been laid off, and the projected occupancy rate for 2020 is worse than during the Great Depression. Yikes. Hotels also may have more difficulty bouncing back and recouping losses than other sectors, since they will likely need to offer steep discounts to entice travelers. While offering cheaper rates is probably necessary to draw us out of our sweatsuits and into swimsuits after months of a 90% carb diet, doing so is not exactly sustainable for hotels, putting them between a rock and a hard place.

the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all this is that I should continue to not go on cruises

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 2, 2020

Cruise lines have essentially been the face of the pandemic with horror stories all over the news about onboard quarantine of infected passengers and ships unable to dock. The cruise industry has faced the most intense struggles of any sector and is not currently part of the government bailout. One saving grace for the industry could be its affordable lines for those looking for a cheaper travel option. And things appear to be looking up for cruises, as a rep for Carnival Cruise Lines told TMZ that its bookings were up 600% from the previous three days once the company announced they would resume travel in August, and that their bookings were 200% higher than those Cruise Planners received during the same period last year. Just when I thought we would all wake up and realize that cruises are basically floating environment-killers that spread disease.

The Year Of Realizing Things

While projections are looking bleak for the travel industry, there is a lot of optimism around the opportunities for change and growth in every industry, especially travel. This might seem hard to believe right now, since all anyone is doing is baking banana bread, but they say this is how innovation starts. 

In a recent webinar with LinkedIn, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky predicted that we’ll see decades of revolution condensed into weeks. Confident in people’s desire for travel and need for connection, Chesky is certain that we’ll see a resurgence in the industry. He sees it resurfacing slowly in a few steps, starting with domestic vacations, and traveling by car rather than plane. This means that smaller towns and remote areas would return to normal levels of tourism faster or even see growth (plus, cars are less bad for the environment than planes). We may also see a change in travel itineraries. Pre-pandemic, traveling was all about visiting landmarks (getting the best Instagrams) in high-density cities and checking off bucket-list destinations (the places everyone else in your feed has been to). Chesky claims we’re likely to see the end of that mindset, so be prepared for lots of rolling unpopulated hills in your Instagram feed. We’re not saying Iowa is the new Mykonos, but like, maybe we are. 


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if only we could actually escape. where’s the first place you’re traveling once we’re able to?

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We can also expect leisure travel to resume before business travel, as conferences and large events are not expected to go forward in 2020. Additionally, with everyone adopting remote work, there may be a huge shift in the need for these events at all. With so many people working remotely, and companies realizing that you can be productive outside of the office, more people will likely relocate or not be tied to a city. As a result, there will be more demand for long-term stays in places like hotels and Airbnbs, as people take their work anywhere in the world. 

We might also see emergence of new technology as we start traveling again. Think about it: Uber and Airbnb rose from the 2008 financial crisis, looking to provide more affordable ways to travel and for others to generate income. So we could see new innovations rise from the ashes of the pandemic. This could be in the form of robots in airports or start-ups looking to better handle travel disruptions or detect fevers. Maybe we’ll finally get hover cars, who knows?

Another important change will be people’s increased concern regarding health and safety, which would affect every aspect of travel. That girl Clorox-ing her armrests and tray table before take-off is no longer a crazy germaphobe, she’s doing the bare minimum to avoid getting sick. You were concerned about the cleanliness of your Airbnb when booking? You can bet this is much more of a concern post-pandemic. *Googles the dirtiest part of an airplane*

Part of the industry most heavily affected by new sanitization standards and personal space could be the activities and adventures sector, valued at $254 billion in 2019. Some companies might not be able to adapt. Can you imagine going zip-lining and using the same gloves or helmet as the person before you? Or sleeping on a cramped boat with 20 other strangers during Yacht Week? These activities were hotbeds for germs before the virus, now we’re just hyper-aware of them. We might consider our own, more spacious accommodations over experiences like sailing along the Dalmatian Coast or the through the Greek Islands on a cramped boat with 20 strangers.

Wake Me Up When We Can Leave The House

Over the last 10 years, the travel industry has grown exponentially with the help of technology. This has made it easier than ever for people to hop on a plane, but that growth has come to a halt in 2020. However, in areas like China where the virus has already peaked, domestic travel has resumed and brings some hope.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the U.S., it doesn’t seem like we’ll be back to “normal” anytime soon. There are few that industries have suffered as much as travel since the beginning of 2020, but the challenges bring opportunities for change. While it may take time to rebound, we will return to travel and see new breakthroughs in the way we visit our own countries and the world. Maybe if we keep ordering tie-dye loungewear, we’ll accumulate enough travel points for a trip in 2021. For now I’ll settle for margaritas in my living room and making my Zoom meeting background a tropical location.

This article has been updated to reflect the correct amount of the airline bailout.

 Images: Russ Widger / Unsplash; betchestravel / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter

How To Feel Like You’re Traveling Without Leaving Your Couch

Quarantining for this long can be hard. Let’s be honest, as much as we’re all enjoying drinking any time of the day or “bettering ourselves” by learning a new skill (is anyone actually doing that?), being stuck at home still sucks. As someone who travels full-time, like many of you, I’m bored with being home all the time. Taking walks in my neighborhood just isn’t cutting it, so I’ve decided to travel—travel from home, that is.

In this fast-paced digital work-from-home age, we can do almost anything from home. It’s time we started traveling from the comfort of our own homes too. Below, I’m sharing several ways you can satisfy your wanderlust without ever setting foot outside your house. No need to shower, get dressed, or pack a bag. Just sit back and enjoy these travel experiences from your bed, couch, or other indoor destination of choice.

Virtual Tours

Virtual travel may be the next best thing to actual travel. Destinations and attractions do not want to be forgotten about while we’re all stuck at home, so many of them have set up ways you can “visit” from wherever you are. Capture the essence of Santa Barbara, explore Australia, or even visit one of my favorite UNESCO World Heritage sites, Angkor Wat, all without having to put on pants.

Virtual tours of Santa Barbara allow you to drop in on a wave at Campus Point, stroll the Santa Barbara waterfront, or get a glimpse of the animals at Santa Barbara Zoo or see what’s blooming at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

Ventura Harbor Village offers webcam viewing of the harbor, plus a nightly live stream from the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club. 

Italy’s Emilia Romagna region has crafted a list of virtual tours and experiences for those of us who would rather be in Italy right now. Tour art exhibits, street art, or take a virtual history lesson. The City of Bologna broadcasts filmed concerts every Friday and Saturday. 

Prefer to travel down under? Australia Tourism has curated a YouTube playlist of 18 quintessential Australian experiences. Ride along the Great Ocean Road or go underwater at the Great Barrier Reef. 

If you missed out on your bachelorette party, the City of New Orleans also has several virtual tours, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, National WWII Museum, the Audubon Zoo, and many others. Okay, so that’s probably not exactly the bachelorette rager you had planned, but there’s something to be said for a little cultural enrichment (and you can bring your mixed drink along for the tour).

Did you know you can use Google Maps to travel virtually? Yeah, it’s not only good for directions. Google Maps Treks offers street-view treks of some of the most amazing spots on the planet. One of my personal favorites is a trek through the temples of Angkor. You can also raft down the Colorado River, head out on a polar bear safari in Canada, or visit the Taj Mahal. Your solitary walk around the block just got a little more interesting to look at. 

Movies & TV Shows To Inspire Your Wanderlust

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a basic bitch when it comes to my favorite travel movie: Eat Pray Love is one of my biggest inspirations that led me to a life of full-time travel. I’m pretty much living proof that a movie can do more than satisfy your wanderlust temporarily; it may just lead to a lifetime as a travel addict.

Catch Me If You Can – Follow Frank Abagnale Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he forges and fibs his way around the world, impersonating an airline pilot. Just don’t try the cons at home, ok?

Midnight In Paris – Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, this movie takes you back to the Jazz age of Paris. 

The Motorcycle Diaries – This 2004 film is based on the memoirs of Che Guevara as he and his friend travel from Brazil to Peru by motorcycle. 

Up In The Air – After months of quarantine, even business travel sounds exotic. Watch Anna Kendrick and George Clooney navigate the world of corporate downsizing and the road warrior life. Honestly, I would kill to pay $15 for a beer at an airport bar at this point.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – This British comedy-drama takes you to India with a group of British retirees that includes Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. This is a great movie for those who want to move overseas for a simpler life. 

Under The Tuscan Sun – The Eat Pray Love before Eat Pray Love. Diane Lane plays a middle-aged American divorcée who buys a villa in Tuscany. Goals, tbh.

The Bucket List – Follow Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as they stare down mortality by knocking items off their bucket list. From the French Alps to the Taj Mahal, this movie will definitely feed your wanderlust. 

Parts Unknown – Anthony Bourdain breaks down borders around the globe while breaking bread with people from every walk of life.

Bizarre Foods – Andrew Zimmern travels the globe and eats anything and everything.

Booze Traveler – This Travel Channel show follows Jack Maxwell as he travels to learn about local drinks and the stories behind them.

Places to Love – The OG solo female traveler, Samantha Brown, shares all of the places around the world that we should check out. Watching her show is like getting the inside scoop on the best non-overdone places to travel, before it becomes saturated by everyone on Instagram.

Online Cultural Experiences

Looking for a more interactive cultural travel experience? Look no further than Airbnb Experiences Online, where you can experience the local culture and connect with locals. Learn magic tricks, musical instruments, or learn how to make Mexican street tacos with a professional chef.

Travel By Taste

Valerie Wilson / trusted travel girl

Nothing helps you dive deep into a culture quite like the local cuisine. One of the best parts of travel is trying authentic dishes and drinks in each destination. Recreating one of your favorite travel meals at home is a great way to relive memories of your trip. Check out some of these international inspirations and start making your grocery list.

New Orleans is one of the best foodie cities in the world, and they’ve compiled a list of traditional New Orleans dishes that you can make at home. 

My Switzerland has a huge list of Typically Swiss Recipes, from Rack of Lamb to fondue and meringue.

If cooking seems a bit overwhelming, how about this recipe for the Original Cuban El Floridita Daquiri recipe?

Or you can try these easy travel-inspired recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients or equipment.

Plan A Trip

Valerie Wilson Trusted Travel Girl

The anticipation of an upcoming trip has been proven to make you just as happy as the trip itself. So now is the perfect time to start planning your next vacation—just maybe hold off on making any non-refundable purchases. Not only will trip planning boost your mood during quarantine and give you something to look forward to, but travel has never been cheaper than right now. Airlines are being super flexible with flight credits, so you can book a trip now and get a flight credit if you have to cancel. I’ve spotted round-trip flights from New York to Paris for less than $300. If that’s not an instant mood-boost, I don’t know what is.

Images: Valerie Wilson

What You Need To Know About Canceling Trips Because Of The Pandemic

Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by COVID-19. Now raise your hand if this pandemic caused you to miss out on a long-awaited vacation. (You can’t see them, but both my hands are raised right now.) If you’re like me, you might be wondering WTF our rights are when trips get canceled for any reason, whether it’s coronavirus related or not. Do we pull a Karen and ask for the manager? Should we accept that voucher credit or fight for a full refund? Allow The Points Guy CEO and founder, Brian Kelly, to fill you in on everything you need to know about canceled trips, especially during this pandemic. 

When Are You Entitled To A Refund Or A Credit?

Great news! Thanks to a recent update from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Kelly says, “airlines must refund passengers in the event flights are canceled, significant schedule changes are made, or government restrictions prevent flying due to the coronavirus outbreak.” This means that if they cancel your trip to or from anywhere in America, you’re entitled to get your money back. If you cancel first, you might only get a voucher for the face value of what you paid. So before you call JetBlue to bail on your trip to Aruba in June, he recommends waiting it out as long as you can (in hopes of scoring that $$$). 

If you do wind up getting a voucher, Kelly says it’s always worth asking for additional value. I can confirm that I’ve done this in the past and 100% will do it again because it works. So yes, we WOULD like to speak to a manager, TYVM. 

  What About Canceling Hotels & Airbnbs?

Right now, Kelly says, “most home sharing companies and hotels are being more flexible than normal, even allowing cancellations of no refund, pre-pay reservations.” So if you need to be the one to cancel your Airbnb lake house or Hilton suite next month, NBD. He claims the best way to get in touch with someone is by calling customer service or reaching out to the brand on Twitter. 

“You can typically cancel a trip directly on the site, but if you’re looking for a full refund, getting typically isn’t automatic and will require you to call and speak with a representative,” he adds. “Some airlines like Delta allow you to text via app so you don’t wasn’t time on the phone. There are also apps out there, including one called DoNotPay, that will wait on hold for you so you don’t have to.” Whoever came up with that app idea is a genius, just saying. 

Are you one of the lucky ones who always reaches the least forgiving associate? Join the club. If you run into any trouble with a certain phone agent, do one of Kelly’s favorite tricks: politely hang up and call back. He says sometimes you can find a nicer agent who’ll be more likely to help after you end the first call and try again… which is a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Oh, and as hard as it may be when you’re stressing over potentially lost money, don’t forget to be nice to all customer service members right now. “It’s important for travelers to remember that these airline representatives are going through this pandemic, too,” reminds Kelly. “Try to be as kind and patient as possible.” Fine. I guess I won’t flip out on Susan when she tells me I need to be put on hold for the third time in five minutes.

So What’s The Deal With Travel Insurance? Should You Get It?

Trip cancelations are exhausting. Contacting companies and waiting to see if they’re going to give you back your hard-earned cash is way too much of a hassle. Is travel insurance the tripsaver we all need from now on to save us from these future struggles? Well, better question… WTF is travel insurance? 

Basically, Kelly explains that people invest in travel insurance to protect their purchase in the event that they need to cancel or modify their trip for whatever reason. Bad news, though: Epidemics and pandemics are rarely covered under travel insurance policies… because let’s face it, how often do these crises happen? Before buying anything, Kelly reminds to “always make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the policy you’re planning to purchase and what it does and does not cover” to make sure it works for you. “If you’re nervous about booking upcoming travel or you just recently booked travel, you may want to consider a cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) add-on policy,” he suggests, “Typically, you’ll get back 75% of your trip and you can cancel for any reason within a set time frame.” That sounds great and all, but just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for a policy like that. The investment might be worth it for anxious travelers, though. 

Can You Get Perks On Your Next Trip If Your Last One Sucked?

Whether you had endless COVID-19-inspired delays on your last flight or your hotel room wasn’t sanitized enough to make you feel safe from exposure, you might be able to score some benefits on your next trip. “If you complain appropriately to an airline about a past experience, you’re likely to get a voucher,” says Kelly. It might be tempting to turn this into a habit if you’re a thief you keep having mediocre experiences, but try to complain only when you NEED to. “Some airlines who equip their flight attendants with iPads or devices can check to see if you’ve had a bad past experience, but don’t count on it. It never hurts to give feedback regardless so they can work to make the experience better.” From personal experience, complaining about bad hotel stays and flights (when warranted) almost always scores you a free stay, refund, credit, or an incentive to come back, too. If you need help writing a lovely ~feedback~ letter to a company with just the right amount of passive aggression, DM me. I got you.

Does It Make Sense To Sign Up For A Travel Card Right Now?

If you recently had a negative experience but you’re not a big complainer (who are you?) but still want some kickbacks, Kelly also suggests “opening an airline credit card, which will give you perks like early boarding, free checked bags, and/or more legroom seats.” Down to sign up for a new travel credit card to prepare you for future trips once this pandemic is over? He claims your best bets right now are flexible currency cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum card, where you can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners. Once you get enough points and miles, you can redeem them for cash, rewards, trips, or flight seat upgrades so you can be a bougie b*tch in first class while the old you would’ve begged for another bag of “free” chips in Row 26.

Ugh. All I know is I can’t wait to be back in the air in cheap AF Row 26 again. After two canceled trips and being cooped up inside for months because of COVID-19, I’ll never take traveling for granted again. Ever.

Images: @stilclassics / Unsplash; GIPHY (3)

Should You Cancel Your Trip Because Of Coronavirus? What You Need To Know

If you’ve recently watched the news, listened to the radio, or heard a terrified old woman in a Best Buy warning her kid not to take her mask off because she might die (like I did the other day), then you know the Coronavirus is a super hot topic RN. WTF is the Coronavirus, anyway? Well, coronaviruses have existed before this year, but the newest strand of the virus, COVID-19, is what’s been freaking everybody out since it hasn’t been previously identified in humans and doesn’t have a treatable vaccine or antiviral therapy yet. According to Cassie Majestic, MD, the Coronavirus is a common virus that typically “presents as a respiratory illness consistent of cough, fever, and shortness of breath and can appear from 2-14 days after exposure.” She adds, “Symptoms range from mild to severe. These symptoms can progress to pneumonia, fluid buildup in the lungs, and stress on other organs such as the kidneys.” Yikes. And if you’ve kept any sort of tabs on COVID-19, you know this sh*t is basically all over the world, and people, especially travelers, are freaking out. So if you’re traveling anytime soon, what should you know to stay as safe and healthy as possible? We spoke to Cassie Majestic, MD and Eudene Harry, MD to get the lowdown.

Which Travelers Are More At Risk?

Old people? Babies? People who don’t wear masks? WHO’S AT RISK HERE? “Travelers over the age of 50, those with chronic illness, and those with compromised immune system may have a higher risk of contracting and getting sicker from any virus, including the COVID-19 strain,” warns Eudene Harry, MD, who’s board certified in both Emergency Medicine and Holistic Integrative Medicine. Believe it or not, she says being in an airplane may not increase your risk as much as you’d think. “Based on research, using the flu model, your risk of contracting a respiratory illness on an aircraft is very low. To be at risk, you’d most likely have to be sitting directly behind, in front of, or right beside the infected person,” she explains. Thank god, because the chorus of sniffling kids on my recent flight made me veryyy nervous. Dr. Majestic adds, “patients who are immunocompromised, elderly, or have other complex medical conditions are typically at higher risk for a poor outcome” (aka getting the virus or presenting worse symptoms of it).

Should You Reschedule Your Vacation?

I just flew to California last week and I’m still alive to write this article. I’m also heading to Quebec in a couple of weeks. IMHO, I’m not going to let this outbreak stop me from living my life, but less skeptical people are debating canceling their upcoming trips. So is that smart, or an overreaction?

It depends on where you’re going. “The CDC has established areas that it recommends that you do not travel to unless it is necessary. So far, these areas are Iran, China, Korea, and Italy,” says Dr. Harry. “These areas seem to currently have the most amount of active transmissions. The CDC has classified these countries as Level 3 areas of concern and recommends rescheduling visiting these countries, if possible.” 

Dr. Majestic also suggests regularly checking your flight status and airline website for Coronavirus updates, airline tips, and restrictions that are being modified on the daily. “Consider postponing travel to countries with a significant number of outbreaks. I only say this because you risk being exposed and/or infected and then seen as high risk when you return to your home location. This could, in turn, lead to request for quarantine and days off from work without pay or disruption in your daily schedule.” So you’re saying I could go on vacation and then get another 14 days off work? Hmmm….

In all seriousness, if you’re supposed to visit any of those spots in the near future and you may be more susceptible to COVID-19, maybe consider like… not going until the hype dies down? But whether you wanna play it safe or play a game of serious Risk is up to you.


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How To Stay Safe While Traveling RN

If you can’t cancel or reschedule your trip, or you just don’t want to, don’t go into a stress spiral (not at all speaking about myself). “Do yourself a favor and be aware of any restrictions in the area you are traveling to and how you can be best prepared,” says Dr. Majestic. Here’s what you can do to reduce your odds of contracting the Coronavirus during your travels.

1. Practice good hygiene.

There’s a lot more to “good hygiene” than regularly showering. “This means washing and sanitizing (with an alcohol-based sanitizer of at least 60%) your hands often. It’s also helpful to wipe down any public surfaces you may be using, especially if you’ll be eating there,” says Dr. Majestic. Dr. Harry adds that you should be washing your hands frequently with soap and water for AT LEAST 20 seconds. So sing your ABCs or the “Happy Birthday” song at least twice and get those hands clean.

2. Avoid touching your face.

Especially your mouth, nose, and eyes. “Refrain from touching your mouth or nose at any time, unless your hands are clean,” warns Dr. Majestic. “ spread through respiratory droplets coming in contact with mucosal surfaces. It’s not spread by simply breathing in the same air as someone else,” says Dr. Harry, which flawlessly leads us to our next tip…

3. Don’t wear a mask.

Yup, you read that right. Both docs do NOT recommend wearing a mask to prevent catching the virus, so don’t worry about the mask shortage everyone’s flipping out about. “CDC does not recommend wearing masks to prevent getting the disease. In fact, there’s concern that this may have the opposite effect,” explains Dr. Harry. “People wearing masks tend to fidget with the mask, thus frequently bringing their hands in contact with the face. Also, most masks are designed to keep droplets in, not keep them out. So, masks are best worn by people with an illness.” Only wear a mask if YOU are sick. Otherwise, don’t do it.

4. Keep your distance from sick people.

Stay FAR away from anyone constantly sneezing or hacking up a lung. “Maintain your distance (approximately 5-6 feet) from those who are coughing or sneezing. If you cough or sneeze, do so into a Kleenex or into a flexed elbow,” says Dr. Majestic. First of all, you should be doing this anyway. Avoiding crowds can help, too. Hate people? Perfect. All the more reason to voluntarily quarantine yourself for the sake of ~good health~.

5. Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.

Keep your immune system high by resting and hydrating as much as you can before, during, and after your trip. All the more reason to nap and drink (water, not margaritas… sorry).

Moral of the story: stay safe out there. And “if you experience respiratory symptoms and fever, and have traveled to an area with coronavirus outbreak or have close contact with someone who has traveled to these areas or tested positive, you should seek medical care for testing,” says Dr. Majestic. Don’t be a hero; if you feel sick, stay home. If you travel anytime soon, may the healthy odds be ever in your favor. (Wish me luck.)

Images: Pexels, GIPHY (7)