Hello Ms. MIA, Where Have You Been?

I was asked recently asked at a Toastmaster’s meeting, “what do you procrastinate on?”

Honestly, this question took me a bit off-guard. I’ve always considered myself on top of things I am passionate about, and my gut clenched at what I took as a negative question to answer in front of the group, which usually I try to dodge. It was in a quick few seconds I found my truth…

I procrastinate on things I am most passionate about. I quickly sped through things I’ve been procrastinating on:

  • my travel blogging
  • my preparation of public speeches
  • reading
  • growing my personal business

But why?

So I answered to the group… I have a genuine fear of the things I’m passionate about and what motivates me, drives me, makes me happy… to have an expiration date. I keep kicking the can at unused potential than to see it in fruition and eventually that adrenaline, rush of excitement to wear away.

I share this because I’ve realized that as of late I have done a lot of self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-improvement. Inadvertently this has caused me to further delay my blogs, which truthfully has been one excuse for why not instead of what blog is next. I have personally challenged myself to challenge myself to get back to doing what I love… and if I discover that what is a current passion loses flame, then I’ll find a new one or further develop myself to find a deeper purpose for personal growth.

On a deeper level…me spending this time with myself has caused me to step away from a lot of things. I’ve found it easiest to go in my metaphorical “cave” (for those who have read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus know what I mean…yes, I relate more to a man’s preference to find answers solo than to discuss the emotions).

My first step to bouncing back to potential… a Youtube video. My personal attempt at being more vocal, honest, and transparent in what I am doing. My personal delivery in trying to reach out each of you in RAW form (unedited) so you can get to know me past the black and white text, and an attempt to break the social norm right now of being “followers” of one another, and having no idea who really is on the other side of the phone.

About Me

With an upcoming trip to Ireland, and some trips mapped on the calendar, I’ll be back in a more purposeful way… you just watch!

 

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in NYC

Back in the Day….

I’m going to take you back quickly to 5th grade, for me. I was sitting in class and this one girl, Lauren, made mention that she was reading a new book series. You guessed it. It was Harry Potter… I heard the story plot she was raving about and kept thinking, magic… that’s stupid. The following year, 6th grade, the teachers were forcing kids to “want” to read. So, we were tasked with reading a number of books throughout the year. By this point everyone was reading Harry Potter and I was wondering what all the hoop-la was about. So, giving in to peer pressure I read the damn thing. And to my surprise… although I tried to fight it in front of them…I loved the first book. I forced myself to read, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in its entirety before watching the trailer (yes I waited so long to read it was becoming a movie).

To this day… there hasn’t been a book, series, that I had felt so connected to the characters, so out in a different world, so committed to see through to the end. Each page flowed to the next with anticipation, heartbreak, and excitement.

After completion of the book series I was kind of bummed. I mean it all made sense, school had to end for Harry…

Growing Up…

Fast forward to college… I figured out that Platform 9 3/4 was an actual platform located in King’s Cross Station in London. This was one of my first international trips, this one with my mom. And you better believe visiting the platform was on the list. Walking throughout the station remembering parts from the movie, surreal.

Later…I heard that Universal Studios was going to open a Harry Potter section of the park. I kid you not, I had to be one of the firsts to go. Having gone with my friend, Gaby, I was in awe. From first view of the castle it was heart filled excitement. Butter Beers for those who wished, but the best part was entering the castle… the pictures on the wall talked (just like in the books and movies), the staircases moved, the attention to detail was not missed. I remember repeatedly just saying “but this all looks too real.” I again went back in when Universal when Gringotts Wizarding Bank opened. Again, in awe.

Just Recently…

Needless to say, when I heard that play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was releasing in London I was geeked with excitement. I immediately started my search for flights, hotels, tickets, etc. What I didn’t budget for was the immediate sold out play when I went to go in for the purchase! Months later I was checking my work e-mails, and found out that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was coming to NYC! I signed up for the mailing list, and waited for the release of tickets. Having learned my lesson about the sold out tickets for the one in London… I set an alarm and upon the release time frantically clicked, refreshed, and attempted to book my ticket.

Cost…

Single-ticket in the worst seats $1,100 (for both Part I & Part II). I couldn’t digest that. I told myself I would let the hype dwindle down and keep periodically checking. Following weeks I checked with prices going down no more than $699. And then… talking about needing to see the signs… I received an email from an airline company reminding me that I had 40,000 miles that would expire if I didn’t use by the end of May. I looked up various places to go and visit, needless to say for me to not have to pay anything my choices were between Orlando, Chicago, Baltimore, or New York. New York was the pick. After I booked the flight I again went to look at ticket prices and saw on StubHub there was a single-ticket left for a Saturday afternoon/evening show, and the price…. $299. SOLD!

The Play…

I had never been to Broadway, and all the raving of the theatre scene IS what everyone cracks it up to be. From walking up to the front doors with the Lyric Theatre decked out in Harry Potter posters, signs, etc., the magical feeling was in tact. Walking into the big ballrooms with many small clothing stores, and a food area, you could feel everyones’ excitement. I mean, whoever is willing to pay $299+ per person to see MUST love Harry Potter, yeah?

I found out my seat was literally the furthest back row, but it did not stop the experience. The play picked up where the books left off. Harry has kids who are entering Hogwarts, and his son has to figure out how he is going to fill his dad’s shoes. I’m purposely leaving out the plot as being a visitor of the play we have been told to #KeepTheSecret of the story.

But Wait….

I do want to take the opportunity, though, to share that although the main characters since the book have changed, and the quirkiness of what is the play is a bit different with a lot of the typical theatre-like skits, it was magical. Most impressive were the special effects of the play. There were times when characters were going back in time and the whole stage vibrated, and you could hear the audience go “ooooh.” There were also times when people would go through walls, phone booths, and fireplaces and it seemed so real I forgot I was watching a play with real people and it wasn’t an edited movie. A very well-done production, which I am sure literally is setting benchmark for future play performances.

Was it worth the time & money? 

Absolutely! I live by the saying that “we only live once, so we better live purposely.” Of course time and money don’t always come to balance, but when it makes sense, GO… do the things you dream of doing, see the plays you wish you wanted to see, take a trip by yourself even if you’re scared of feeling alone, just go out and LIVE. Live, laugh, love, and learn.

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10 Places to See While in Beijing… COUNTDOWN

10. Chinese Doctor 

If you’ve never been to see a traditional Chinese doctor, it is an experience whether you choose to believe their practices or not.

I remember walking in a school of medicine downtown Beijing with my mom (as part of a tour) and sitting waiting to this doctor to do a free consultation. I was hesitant at first since the room they put us was not of a traditional US patient room it was more like a movie theatre (sketch or no?). I mean… comfortable chairs and a big screen tv in the front. We watched a movie for 5-10 minutes going over traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the ways they tell symptoms: through examining your tongue, and feeling your pulse through your wrist.

After the movie the doctor came in with his students started his consult with the person closest to the door… first feeling her pulse, then looking at her tongue. The translator asked a couple questions “are you in pain now” and “what is your stress level 1-10.” After 30 seconds the doctor diagnosed her with two herbal solutions to her back pain, and left shoulder problem. Total cost for those herbs ($500+ USD). I looked in shock. In 30 seconds this lady bought what was recommended. He moved next to my mom, said she was healthy then moved to me. I had made up my mind before even being consulting my answers to his comments were going to be no, because I wasn’t going to try anything from a man who couldn’t even speak my language to tell me what was in what he would recommend. He commented “you work in an office,” “you are happy…that’s good,” then asked,”do you have menstrual problems in your lower stomach?” I laughed and said no. He gave me a look like he could tell I was lying. Afterward I had asked Danielle (the lady who was with us on the tour and spent so much money on the supplements) why she trusted him. She mentioned that she has had terrible shoulder pain and when she is stressed it causes her arm to not go higher than her chest. She added that she was amazed that someone who didn’t know her could have known that so she wanted to try it. After her story I reflected back on what the Chinese doctor told me…. he was right, I do work in an office, I am happy (most of the time), and he was spot on about having troubles with my menstrual cycle. Now, looking back I will always wonder how he knew.

So, not say you have to go– but if looking for an experience and in China you should see what the Chinese doctor would say to you. Share with me if you do!

9. Silk, Jade, and Pearl Stores 

Do you know that silk comes from a worm? And that when layered across each other it is not humanly possible to break real silk? And, did you know to tell whether or not you are buying silk you just twist it, and if it wrinkles it’s fake? This is the stuff you’ll learn by going to a silk shop. I made the mistake in coming here as the last part of the trip, by then I hit my budget for what I could spend and did not have the $50 for the pillows that were softer than a babies bottom!

As for pearls… I GUESS if you try scratching a pearl with a knife and you wipe away the residue and it looks like it was never scratched then it’s real. I don’ know they are super cheap anyway, so if this style of jewelry is your thing get you some!

AND did you know that jade is the stone of China, since it brings luck, happiness, and longevity. Lord knows I needed it. And, it’s true if you go to the actual Jade factory they have the cheapest. I was a skeptic on how prices would jump up/down based on where I was and ended up missing the chance in buying a real jade from the factory, and instead bought a knock off that ended up costing the same (the Jade factory was too far to go back).

These thee places are traditional Beijing visits if looking to wander and be more immersed in culture.

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8. Beijing Zoo- Panda Exhibit 

I had seen koala bears in Australia, so I had to go see the pandas in China right?!

I am so conflicted in how I feel about zoos. The millennial in me hates the idea that we catch animals and put them for showcase and encourage the capture by paying an admission ticket. Then the other half of me rationalizes in saving animals in the wild that are going near extinct, nursing them to health and then mating them to increase their population, for future release. I’m on a tangent….

If you’re about the zoos, go see the biggest pandas you can imagine! You should see these!

7. Ming Tombs

I made the mistake in not researching this place to understand the historical importance, because I thought my tour guide would help bring me to speed. But when you can’t understand the tour guide you quickly learn the importance of knowing where you’re at before you go!

Let me fill you in… in China there is a rich history of many emperors and other government powers that have made lasting impressions to current cultures and traditions.. A lot of these have been dated back to the Ming Dynasty which spanned for nearly 300 years starting in the 1300s. The relics, clothes, replicas of goods (clothing, silvers, jewelry, sketches) found, buried, and treasured from this time cane found at the Ming Tombs.

The tour starts above ground where you can see the original brick and cement walls from the Ming Dynasty. As you walk toward the back you can start to enter different sacred buildings, prayer temples, and toward the end can go underground to see replicas of the tombs. If you’re at all a history guru, you should check out a tour here to feel a part of a history very different than our own.

6. Tea House

I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea! Little did I know that China is one of the main distributors of tea; I had thought it would have been India.

If you’re in China it is tradition in their culture to serve your tea to welcome you to their home, store, or hotel. Most commonly you’ll be served Jasmine. But, at the tea houses throughout Beijing you can enjoy Rose, Citrus, Jasmine, Black and Green Teas. They show you how to property pour tea, how to blend tea with cut-up fruit, and how to greet guests by using tea. This is an experience that had me wanting to return home for a tea party! This is a perfect stop if you’re looking to add some balance and zen in your trip to Beijing!

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5. Shopping Center 

If Time Square tickles your fancy, the Beijing shopping center will not disappoint! This city center was full of people, street food/venders, shops, and also the entrance way to the city center plaza where you can get a bunch of authentic Chinese delicacies including  living scorpions on a stick.

This was one of my most memorable stops of the entire trip to China, and one I would highly recommend! Food recommendations: caramelized strawberries, fresh mangos and pork buns!

4. Temple of the Heavens

This beautiful temple is located on Beijing’s south side, where many ceremonies occur. The temple was made to represent the balance between heaven and earth. If you visit I’d recommend going early, otherwise you’re bound to have someone if your perfect shot!

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3. Summer Palace

If you’re looking for the best IG photo-worthy photos, here is your place. And, you must go near sunset. This beautiful park is situated along the water and has many tiny treasures to find as you walk through, over and under the many trails and paths! It is here, too, that many of the locals fly their kites, make prayer/wish ribbons, and go to enjoy the tides that come and break near the bridges.

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2. Forbidden City/ Tiananmen Square

Have you seen Mulan? The large square at the end of the film you see where Mulan saves the emperor from the Huns… that’s near Tiananmen Square and part of the Forbidden City. If you’re going to China this is a MUST. What I didn’t know was the limited access one has to enter the Forbidden City, especially during Chinese New Year. Luckily for us (mom&I) we planned months in advance for this tour which allows us within the walls of the 100+ acres totaling 999 buildings (why not 1000? They count earth as the last room).

Spending the time/money to make it here won’t disappoint, just ask the 15 million annual visitors!

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1. Great Wall of China

What is a trip to China without seeing the iconic Great Wall of China. Yes, it is as beautiful and as grand as you see in photos. Yes, it’s worth the journey to go! Yes, it spans over the eye can see, and yes, this made this trip to China 100% worth it. So much so I will have a separate blog dedicated just for it!

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15 Things to Know if Visiting China

The stresses of planning for any trip can be a lot. Considerations to hotel, flight, food, and transportation are all things to consider prior to leaving. Especially, in China where the required visa forces you to have your trip booked in advance. Often times we forgot of the little nuances and cultural changes once we get to our destination. Below are 15 things to know if visiting China if you’re planning a trip.

15. No One Speaks English 

I used to think there were two universal languages, a smile and English. That was until I visited China. English is rarely spoken by most people, in fact asking for help is almost pointless unless you have the translation in the Chinese language, thank you Google Translate. I thought this language barrier would make it hard place to visit, but pointing and asking for a “photo menu,” in most places gets you where you are trying to go, or eat. To help, I recommend you bring a map that has the places you are looking to go before adventuring out because all road names are in Chinese & if trying to limit the use of your phone the good old fashion map works great. I found, most hotels have English & Chinese version of their maps, which was a huge help. 

14. Cell Service and WiFi 

Before leaving for this trip I was happy to find out that I would have, with Sprint, free 2GB of cell speed and texting in China. Call costs were minimal costing $0.20/minute. Researching AT&T for my mom, we found that cell service with the company was about $10/day. Needless to say, the costs are quite minimal if needing to connect. 

If you are looking for free, Wifi was available at most common areas, but when hopping on was extremely slow. 

*Tip: Bring a charging stick, or port. It was rare to find any charging stations when visiting places. As a result, when you did find them they were always packed. 

13. Don’t Rely on Your Credit Card, Bring Proper Chinese Currency

It is rare that I bring cash with me at all. But, after reading some blogs before I left on this trip I discovered that American credit cards are rarely accepted in most places. In fact, the only places that accept them we had found were in the shopping areas the tour groups would take you; and trust me you’re paying a premium for it; the cost of the products in these areas are a lot more than you can pay in the markets. 

If looking to transfer monies at the airport, the cost typically to do so is a $10 service fee and the exchange rate difference. To get more, this requires you planning ahead and knowing how much you want to take with you in advance and getting the currency exchange with your local bank. Estimated time to get the monies back is 7-days, for it to be guaranteed in time. By me waiting until I got to the airport I ended up losing $70USD in fees and exchange rate, where my mom only had $10USD with Chase. 

The Chinese money can take you a lot further than anywhere I’ve visited. Normally, I would say bring $50USD/day for food, transportation, and misc. costs. But, food on average is 50RMB/meal ($7USD). I’d say 650RMB ($102USD)/week would be comfortable (food & transportation). 

*Helpful Tip: The common currency in China is WeChat & UnionPay (credit card). Both of these require a Chinese bank account be established with pre-paid funds in order to make purchases. 

12. Get Comfortable in Bartering, or Accept Losing Money 

I’ve never been too comfortable in trying to find what something is worth. Maybe because I have been so used to the American culture where everything is fixed, where the value has been pre-determined and where supply/demand seems to have worked. In China, you’ll find it an easy place to barter especially when choosing to walk away and the price you were getting comfortable in paying is slashed in half, and has you again question the value. 

My suggestion is before buying anything walk around and understand the varying prices, this also helps with buyers remorse. 

From my experience food should never be more than 40RMB (and that’s for a full meal including drink), and gift goods should be no more than 50RMB. In one instance my mom and I were haggling for cheap earrings, she started at 100RMB, by the time we were walking away for the 4th time she was down to 20RMB, and we finally negotiated at 15RMB (Yu Garden). Same place, different store we were interested in potentially getting a necklace that would have the English name with Chinese translation next to it and she started at 150RMB, and when walking away negotiated herself down to 20RMB. That’s right. You’ll know which places allow you to barter, because whenever you walk away they will lower their price and the places with fixed pricing usually have it listed in the door way (almost none of them). 

And, if looking for real jade. Ask for the Jade of pearl. The ones with lighter green are worth more, and on average are around 80RMB (for 1 inch by 1 inch), and can go up to 3300RMB. In the Yu Garden you’ll find the best in what you’re looking for, and because there are so many vendors they are willing to take a lot less so they have your business rather than their neighbor. I ended up getting a Jade of pearl Buddha for 15RMB. 

11. Don’t Bother Renting a Car if Beijing or Shanghai is Your Destination

Typically, I like the option to leave, and feel liberated by having a car. However, due to many affordable and abundant public transportation options, and the high traffic & aggressive drivers I’d say using public transit would be more relaxing. 

By far, the most cost effective way to travel is by bus. It is 2RMB ($0.03USD) for each bus transfer. This allows getting around to be extremely cheap! The most difficult part of taking the bus is figuring out which bus to take and what stop to get off at. This is where going to the nearest hotel and pointing using your map becomes quite handy. 

If you elected to use your cell service, you can always use Google maps to find where you’re going and just hop off when you know you’re nearing. 

*Mindful Tip: If using the bus you must have exact change. If needed, your hotel can provide you small change. 

**We found that costs for taxi cabs started at 20RMB, and based on the distance went up from there. To best estimate we found it is approx. 5RMB/5 mins.

10. Booking at Hotel Near the City Center Pays its Benefits

By now, most of you know that I love AirB&B and prefer a more authentic cultural stay, than to stay at hotels. This trip I chose to book a hotel because (1) the tours I booked would pick-up/drop off from your hotel, very convenient, and (2) I wanted to visit many of the tourist attractions which most in China are near the city center and within walking distance of the “first ring” of hotels. 

The best way to find your hotel for your stay can be using booking sites like Hotels.com, and sorting by distance and cost to the city centers. 

If visiting Beijing I would highly recommend the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel it was $100/night + breakfast. Because we were staying more than 4 nights they upgraded us to a suite with no additional cost. And, the breakfast…FABULOUS. All you can eat food, they had a pastry section, cereal, fruit, egg, lunch/dinner food area, tea, and coffee areas. The hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the Time Square of Beijing, which was full of high-end stores, as well as from the outside market(s) with authentic Chinese foods and stores. 

If visiting Shanghai I would recommend the SSaw Boutique Hotel. Right when you walk in it smells like an Abercrombie store, that was a great start. The hotel was the cheapest hotel within a 15 min walking distance to Yu Garden (a must see if looking for the Chinese style buildings, food markets, and handmade gifts). The cost was $89/night. Upon entrance they welcomed us with tea, recommendations based on the weather (raining) and time (since it was a holiday). Additionally, they went as far as booking our massage for us, and provided us a map and directions to the nearest bus stop in order to get there. Unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed, they had an online app that helped lay out unbiased opinions of where to go and what to see including estimated costs, open/close times, and feedback from their guests who have tried the places. This was a treat as this leg of our trip was not as planned as Beijing.  

*FYI: The beds are not mattress-like, what you expect in the US and other places. They are more of a box-spring. At home I have a plush and soft bed, so this was quite different. After the first night, I realized this relieved a lot of back pain. 

*Mindful Tip: Be prepared to have them put a hold on your credit card for incidentals, similar to what they do in the states. They run your card and pull the amount, and when you check out, they run it again to provide a refund. The first hotel we stayed held 1200RMB ($189USD), and the other held 400RMB ($63USD).

9. To Be Early is to Be on Time, and to Be on Time is to Be Late- BYE!

We found that in the Chinese culture, being early is to be on time. Most of our tours had hotel pick-up at 6:30a, and almost always showed up 15 minutes earlier. Keep this is mind because it goes for the use of bus, trains, and scheduled appointments. And, if you show up exactly when you’re supposed to then you’re too late and they leave without you. My mom and I watched many trains and tour guides leave without their necessary people. Maybe we Americans should start doing this to get people to value each others’ time just a little bit more. 

8. Second Hand Smoking, Expect It

I am convinced that the Chinese don’t wear the masks due to the smog/air pollution, but rather because of all the people smoking. I have never been in a place where avoiding walking next to a smoker was nearly impossible. Beijing was full of smokers. I ended up buying perfume to spray my clothes at the end of each night. 

7. Get Pushy, or Get Behind 

I used to think the asian women at the grocery stores in the states (weird saying because I’m asian, but I consider myself Americanized) were rude because they pushed you without saying excuse me. Well now, I believe it to be culture. People here push their way through to get from point A to B. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many people, or if because the value of time is so important in their country and they don’t want to wait on someone who isn’t ready. 

When my mom and I went to the zoo, we thought we were waiting in line for the cotton candy to find out a women with her money ready pushed her way to the front and got service. 

Because of this, I recommend planning out meeting points throughout the trip in case you get lost in the shuffle. Especially since when the “walk” line turns green it’s a free for all on how you make it across the street, and if you aren’t forceful enough you will be bullied behind everyone. 

Also, just know that people in China stand closer together, and personal space may not be what you’d be used to. Again, I think this goes along with saving the time.

6. Where’s the Toilet & Toilet Paper?

You better start learning how to squat before you leave. In most places there are no toilets as we are used to seeing them. They are holes in the ground. You use them facing the door, and when you’re done usually they auto flush if they have a sensor, or it will auto flush when you open the door. Also, bring/buy toilet paper before you need to go. Most places don’t have the luxury of carrying the paper for you. 

When on a tour your guide will generally lead you to the nicer “10 star rated” toilets. But, most of the time you’re on your own. 

5. No Tissues, No Problem, They Spit  

I read a lot before I came to China that a lot of people spit. Come to find out when visiting it is because they don’t use tissues instead you’ll see them plug one side of their nose and blow. Sounds unsanitary for us, but you’ll notice it quite a lot. For peace of mind, you’ll find in midnight hours the streets are thoroughly washed. But, keep this in mind if you ever drop something if it’s worth picking it up. 

4. Book a Tour Guide 

In most English speaking places it is easy to create a self guided tour. But, in China finding anyone who speaks Chinese is difficult, so best understanding significant places, is truly best by planning ahead through various travel agencies and travel sites. If you need recommendations just ask me! 

In Beijing, we had two tours planned, (1) Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, Jade Palace, and a Tea House and (2) Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Chinese Doctor & Foot Massage, a Silk Shop, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and a Pearl Store. These tours gave us an overall understanding of culture, understanding of customs, and historical significance of places seen. 

These tours in Beijing are quite cheap compared to tours I’ve booked in other countries. For an 8 hour tour, including lunch and transportation we paid $40-$70 per person. 

In Shanghai, we elected not to take any guided tours. Instead, we elected to do a hop on/off bus, that had English speaking recordings that are sensored when passing certain buildings. My mom and I have historically found these quite fun to give a good lay of the land when we are unfamiliar of where to go. 

3. Authentic Chinese Food is Different than American Chinese Food

Many people before visiting China told me not to expect the food to what we are used to having in the US. In my opinion the food was comparable, just not filled with salts and heavy sauces. The sauces were quite light. 

On one of our tours we found that based on the region of China you visit, the food varies. In the north (Beijing) the foods are more salty and fried, in middle/east region (Shanghai) the foods are more spicy, and in the south region the foods are more filled with rice and organic veggies. All of which were palatable and tasty. But, not what we are used to tasting in a US Chinese restaurant.  

2. If You Plan on Visiting More than One Chinese City, Use a Train!

Prior to visiting we knew that we were going to visit three different places throughout China. Similar to the US there are methods of airplane from one part of the country to the next, but can be quite expensive. We found that taking the train was the most cost effective and time saving option. 

We took a train from Beijing to Shanghai, then from Shanghai to Guangzhou. From Beijing to Shanghai the train was about 4 hours and cost approximately $200USD, and from Shanghai to Guangzhou took about 8 hours and was about $300USD. 

1. Arrive to the Airport Early, I Recommend at Least 3 Hours

To have more peace of mind I recommend that before you go to your flight make sure you call your airline and retrieve the ticket numbers, and your airline carrier name. Most people at the airport only speak Chinese so figuring out that these are the two things you need before you arrive will save you an hour; or at least that’s how long it took my mom and I. 

My mom and I had booked our flight to/from using Delta, however, when arriving to the Guangzhou airport we found out that “Delta” did not exist. Instead the carrier name was China Eastern. Once we found this out we thought our hurtles were past us. Come to find out that the American flight confirmation is not enough, the ticket number is also needed; which isn’t known until seat assignments have been arranged. Calling your flight carrier to retrieve this information is easy, so long as you have cell service. 

*Helpful Tip: You can not check-in if you are within 45-minutes of your flight, you are too late. And, you can’t board if you’re within 15-minutes to your gate.

Guest Blog- Italy!

All About Italy!

Guest Blogger: Jen Elmore

Ever since Pinterest was created in 2010, I have spent countless hours scouring through the travel boards and daydreaming about the picturesque images of Italy. Every village looked like a postcard, every meal looked divine, and every dreamy little beach screamed romance. My husband and I finally booked our dream vacation to Italy and traveled there in 2016. The trip was perfect, however, the planning and preparation getting to that point was less than seamless just because there was so much to see! Therefore, I could not be more excited to be a guest blogger and put together my ideal itinerary if you want to try to see all of Italy on a tight timeline and do not want to spend hours on research.

Capri

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Capri came highly recommended to me by multiple friends, and after spending three days there, I PLEAD with anyone going to Italy to please spend time there. I have been very fortunate to travel to amazing places on this earth, and Capri is by far the best place I have ever been. To get to this beautiful little island, fly straight into Naples and take a 40 minute high speed ferry into the island. The island itself is small and you can explore the entire place in a few days, however I would spend a week there if I could. We stayed in Capri 3 nights today – spent 2 days in Capri and then took a day trip to Positano.

Where to stay:

The island is split into two parts: Capri and Anacapri. Capri is full of nightlife, shopping, and fun town squares. Anacapri is quitter and more laid back. We stayed at an exquisite Airbnb in Anacapri, which is on the far side of the island and away from all of the touristy crowds. I have never seen sunsets so vivid and views so beautiful that I have from the front door of our Airbnb. The owner Genny and his family live in the main house and built the entire home from hand. They were exceptional hosts and I am so happy to have met such a wonderful Italian family.

http://www.villadalessandro.it/

What to do:

Capri is an island of relaxation and romance, but there is still plenty to do and explore.

  • The Blue Grotto: This is world famous and something that was at the top of my list and was conveniently just steps away from our Airbnb. It is a cove with white sand on the bottom so the rays from the sun make it appear bright blue. The waves are crazy so you need to take a boat into the cove but then you can get out and swim around. It was one of our favorite memories together!
  • Private boat rental: We got a cute little private boat (http://www.giannisboat.com) and absolutely loved it. It was an adorable boat with pillow beds, coolers full of wine and beer, and an extremely knowledgeable captain. This is by far the best way to see the entire island and its secret coves. We did lots of swimming and snorkeling and saw some of the bluest waters either of us have ever seen!
  • Hike and get lost in the winding streets: One of our favorite things was just walking and exploring the beauty of this island. You can take a chairlift to the top and take in the views, or you can hike it yourself I you are feeling adventurous.

Where to eat:

Pro tip – Italians eat LATE. We never made reservations because every time we ate around 7 or 8pm, we were the only ones there! Also, Italian house wine is GOOD and cheaper than water. So don’t be shy, indulge!

  • Da Paolina: This was the best meal of our life. The restaurant itself is the definition of romance and is in the middle of a lemon tree forest! Their specialties are lemon sauce and lemoncello! We also had the best caprese salad of our life here (hint…caprese salad was created here)
  • Da Digiorio: This was steps from our Airbnb and overlooked the ocean and sunset. They had extremely fresh seafood and it has just come in from their fisherman, so we got to go into the kitchen and literally pick our fish out!
  • Ristorante Matertita: We loved this adorable restaurant. It was right in the Anacapri square in front of a beautiful church. We ate vodka sauce gnocci here that was out of this world and had some of the best Rose we had in Italy.

Positano

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When I close my eyes and imagined Italy, I imagined Positano. We knew we wanted to go to Positano, but we didn’t have the time to stay everywhere, so we ended up making Positano a day trip out of Capri and it ended up being perfect! You can take a 30 minute ferry out of Capri in the morning, and then take a ferry back in the evening. It ended up being plenty of time to see everything and truly feel like we got the Amalfi Coast experience. In a lot of ways, I preferred this because Positano is a major hub for cruise ships, so it was extremely crowded with tourists and it was just a chaotic feeling. Also, it is extremely expensive to stay there, so a day trip was the best of both worlds.

What to do:

  • Wander the streets: If you are a big shopper, you will love it here although it is very high end. The streets wind like crazy so we loved just getting lost and exploring. Walking around was the best way to take in the sights and see the beauty.
  • Have lunch at Le Sirenuse Hotel: This place is PRICEY…however, it is very well known because it has the best view of Positano so tourists flock here to take pictures. It was worth it. When I walked out on the balcony of the restauraunt I literally gasped in awe….there in front of me was THE Pinterest picture I had seen so many times and imagined how awesome it would be to see it in person. Well there I was, seeing it, and it was so special.
  • Rent a beach bed and relax: Laying around people watching was one of our favorite things to do. Completely surrounded by beauty and drink in hand, we spent hours just doing nothing and it was the best.

Rome

Rome

Rome was an absolute must see for my history obsessed and very catholic husband. Even though Rome is a big city and there is a ton to do there, I recommend spending only 2 days in Rome as it is more than enough time to see everything you want to see.

Where to stay:

The best neighborhood to stay is a cute little area called Trastervere which translates to “the other side of the river.” While it is pricier than most areas, it is very quint, trendy, and has some of the best restaurants in Rome. It is also centrally located to most of the big sites to see.

What to do:

  • The Vatican: This is an obvious one, but if for some reason you feel like it might be overrated and not worth the hype, wrong. It is worth seeing. My husband loves the catholic church so we went all out and did the 3 hours tour which takes you through the basilica and the museum. It is very long so if you are not extremely interested about the Church, I would skip the tour and just walk around yourself through the church and the square.
  • The Colleseum: Another “worth the hype” experience. It was unbelievable to see the ruins and imagine how the romans were able to build such massive structures.
  • Trevi Fountain and the Parthenon
  • largo di torre argentina: This is a ruins site that Caesar was murdered at, but now it is an actual cat sanctuary for the city cats. I am obsessed with cats so of course I had to see it, and there are literally hundreds of cats who live in the ruins and are fed and vaccinated by the city. Even if you don’t like cats, it was actually a really awesome sight to see!

Where to eat:

  • Dar Poeta: Our favorite pizza in Italy!
  • Ristorante Della Ricciotta: This was the cutest boutique restarautant in Rome. Very small and it felt so personal, we also had some of the best pasta here.

Florence

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Florence is the definition of an Italian city. We spent 5 days here total, however only 2 of them in Florence but then 3 of them as day trips out of Florence. It is a great home base for day trips because it has a great central location. I recommend doing day trips to other cities because that way you don’t have to deal with the hassle of packing and checking in and out of hotels so much.

What to do:

  • Ponte Vecchio
  • The Duomo: This is the giant church in the main square, and by far the prettiest church in Italy. Make sure you climb the tower all the way to the top for INCREDIBLE views of Florence.
  • The David: I hate museums, but wow. David really was overwhelming. The statue itself was MASSIVE and extremely intricate, it is absolutely worth it to see.

Where to eat:

  • Bucca Mario: Florence is very well knows for Florentine steak and this place does it the best. The steak itself was bigger than my head and it was worth the price.

Day Trips!

Day Trip- Tuscay

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I am a huge wine lover so I knew I wanted to see Tuscay, however we just didn’t have the time to really do it, so a day trip was the perfect solution. I recommend using Viator.com which is a website that has a tour for anything you could think of. We ended up doing an entire day tour that took us to multiple wineries in Tuscay where we could tour and taste the wines (https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Taste-of-Chianti-Tuscan-Cheese-Wine-and-Lunch-from-Florence/d519-5070CHIANTISAFARI)

This was one of the highlights of our trip and I am already planning on coming back just to spend time in Tuscany.

Day Trip– Cinque Terre

Day Trip

Okay so I know I say a lot of things are my favorite part of my trip, but this is one of my favorite parts of our trip! Cinque Terre translates to “5 towns” and essentially is exactly that. There are 5 towns all lined up along the coast and each one is the cutest Italian village you could ever imagine. We took a tour to see it all (tours are the way to go) and were so happy we did. Each town is connected by a train or a hike. The views were absolutely spectacular and I highly recommend you add this to your trip! https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Cinque-Terre-Full-Immersion/d519-6274P35

Day Trip– Venice

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I always knew we wanted to go to Venice, but I had friends actually tell me they didn’t like it so I worried scheduling it into our trip. Again, that is why day trips are perfect. We booked a train ticket and it was about 2 hours to Venice. I literally want to stop being friends with the person who told me not to go to Venice, because it was the absolute best way to end our trip. We had nothing planned in Venice, you simply go to get lost in the streets. There are no cars there so no streets. Streets are canals and the entire town is a maze full of turns and dead ends. We explored for a full 6 hours and stopped as cute cafes for lunch and drinks. PLEASE GO TO VENICE. Every corner was cuter then the next and I constantly had to stop for pictures, I wanted to gag it was so cute. I am so happy we got this memory, especially and it may not be around in the future as it is actually sinking.

We trained back to Florence that night and flew home the next morning. All in all our trip was 10 days. A lot to squeeze in, but it can be done. Italy is magical and if you have the opportunity to go there, do it!

 

A-Z Travel Tidbits To Take!

A: ppreciate your surroundings! The only regret I’ve ever had is not living in the moment when I’ve been at a place; often times I have a laundry list of places I want to visit and lose purpose of the whole point I’m there… to enjoy & create memories!

B: ring layers when packing! Yes, it may 80 degrees when you get there, but what happens when Mother Nature decides instead it’s going to rain and you have nothing to wear, CA-CHING! Money is spent, and nothing is worse than spending your “fun money” on clothes because you didn’t bring those layers!

C: onvert your money before you leave! Often times the fees associated to converting money at the airport and in the country your visiting can be expensive. Checking conversion fees at various banks before leaving can spread your dollar.

D: o what is on your wish list, or IG likes! We’re all guilty for loving certain photos on social media, and then put it on a wish list, then when upon arrival find other things to occupy our time. Make it a point to do what you initially wanted to do! Live with no regrets!

E: njoy! Be spontaneous and try things you wouldn’t normally try, within reason. Life’s about creating memories and making the most of it!

F: ollow your gut…when your surroundings tell you something is off pay attention. Traveling somewhere foreign is often fun, but it also means that you can become a target. It’s nothing to fear, but when your gut is telling you something become more aware!

G: o some where new! Traveling somewhere you’ve been, or deciding between two tours/things to do… select the one that you’ve not done, or could do anywhere else. Take advantage of where you are, I mean… why not!

H: ave cash, and your debit card in case! Yes, credit cards are now the most common form of payment, but USD is the most universal currency. Even if just $100 bring some cash in case! There were a couple times I assumed credit cards would be best to avoid credit card theft, etc. & the places I was going didn’t accept card, but guess what… USD cash worked even in Spain! P.S. in France you need to pay to use the toilets and more for toilet paper, caa-ching!

I: nvest in good walking shoes. This sounds like common sense, but really. Don’t cheap out. Nothing is more annoying than your feet hurting, and wanting to avoid paid $$ for shoes when you’re already traveling on a budget.

J: ournal your favorite memories! I’ve found that sometimes just writing out at the end of each night what highlights I had helps me better recall the memories! Try it!

K: eep your passport/visa on you. Just for safe keeping it’s better you have your valuables on you, rather than housed in your hotel/Air B&B. Maybe it’s paranoia, but I always worry that I will be stuck stranded in a foreign country with no way home because I’ve misplaced my passport. I bought a spandex belt that has two holes to allow for items to be stowed, and it fit under my pants; in other words, won’t fall out, and I can tell I have it on me.

L: earn popular foreign terms. Learn how to say “which direction is,” “how much,” “please,” “thank you,” “exit,” “can I have,” “yes,” “no,” “what is your name,” “sorry I don’t understand”

M: ake sure to leave earlier than you think for your return flight! Generally, people come back from vacation in the knick of time for work. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get through the airport, security, and to the gate. To save some time, check to see what the normal security time takes at your airport, know which gate you’re at and look at where it’s located in the airport on your way there, and have your pockets cleaned and packed in your carry-on before you even touch foot in the airport.

N: ever try free food being offered. We all heard as kids not to take candy from a stranger, but when we grow up we willingly take everything that is free, AM-I-RIGHT?!

O: rganize what you need readily available before arriving at the airport. This tip comes from being the frantic and panicking one searching for my drivers license/electronic boarding pass when I finally made it to the from the security line. And, this tip comes from being the one annoyingly being behind the person doing what I had done. Just saying! What you need through security: drivers license/passport and boarding pass. If you’re traveling internally, you’ll also need your itinerary!

P: lan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your itinerary. The most common regret I’ve heard from people and their travels is when they returned back from their trip they saw a photo of a place they wish they would have seen while there. If you research top places in advance you can pack in the most, and not spend valuable time while there to figure out what’s next.

Q: uickly check if the country your visiting has tips included in the price before going out to eat. (I was going to put this under a different letter, but was struggling with Q words!) You’d be surprised how many countries include gratuity in the food price, not even broken out on the bill so you wouldn’t know. I make it a point to research this before you start eating out to save costs throughout the trip.

R: esearch your flights before booking. You’ll find leaving Tuesdays and returning Wednesdays often times is the right combination to find the cheapest flights. If you try this combo, and do it at least 60-days before your flight you have some flexibility to save a pretty penny.

S: hut off your phone! Live in the moment, be present. Often times we become comfortable with our little 2×4 screen that we forget to look up and see what’s in front of us! I’ve made it a point when traveling to keep my phone on airplane mode and live in the moment, get lost a little, and interact with those around me! It makes for a much more complete vacation/trip.

T: ake photos! I am sure you don’t need me telling you, but take the photos of the places you stop at that you like, the candid captures of people you’re with… those are the storytelling  memories you want to have. Don’t worry the scenic typical IG shot is nice too!

U: se hand sanitizer frequently. Did you know our bodies become more immune to bacteria based on exposure? So if going somewhere new I would suggest bringing that handy dandy $1 travel sized bottle!

V: antage point photos! Get them by taking a photo from a perspective that differs than the one every one else is going. This could mean getting the Eiffle Tower from inside an adjacent building rather than pointing the lens at the tower head-on

W: alk frequently. Use the opportunity while traveling to get in a good exercise by traveling from point A-B, not only is this healthy but it allows you to fully experience the smell, sound, and exhilaration of the new place.

X: erox your itinerary. It’s always good to have extra copies handy. Ensure you have your address written down in both the foreign language and in English! Do not put your room number on the itinerary, keep this in a separate location, I put my room key with the room number in my wallet or in a separate pocket. In case something gets stolen you don’t want someone able to find you!

Y: ou’re on your own for the next two… I’m not that clever! But hope the rest of these have been helpful!

Z:

A Whole Trip in a Carry On!

I have inherited the name “Dora the Explorer,” not because I roam where ever my heart takes me, but because I’ve mastered the skill in packing a 2-week trip in a single carry-on.

Yes, I know from people telling me… most peg me for a pre-madonna who would have not only carry-on(s), but several checked in bags. But, haven’t you heard to not judge a book for its cover! So, how do I pack 2-weeks in a carry on? Here are some cheats!

1. Pack Half of the Clothes You Think You Need

I remember when I first started packing clothes I wanted a variety of clothes and plenty of options. Here’s how to accomplish both:

  • Select clothes that you can mix-match, giving the illusion you have many outfits but you’re really wearing the same clothes in different assortments.
    • If you’re going on a 5-day trip; pack 3 shirts, 3 pants, mix match!
  • Don’t overpack for the unlikely, we all have wanted to pack the shorts & tanks even though where you’re going is only 40 degrees, because we are thinking “well it’s just a tank top” and then find ourselves with 10 tank tops and ended up using on 1 or 2. Am I right?
  • Stack What You Want & Cut it in Half; not kidding. You’ll find when you travel frequent you travel a lot more for the unknown that what’s necessary. Once you think you have everything you need, cut it in half. I bet you get to the number ratio in footnote 1. Just saying
  • Roll Your Clothes; roll your clothes, this allows more! If you’re bringing bigger shoes for carryon, I shove my delicates in the shoes. If you have case of stinky feet put your delicates in a zip lock before shoving them in the bad boy. Swim wear goes in the other shoe.

Here’s what I normally bring for a 5-day trip: 1 swimsuit, 3 shirts (tank tops included), 3 pants/shorts, 2 pairs of shoes (cheat below), 6 undies, 3 socks, and toiletries that will fit in a large-size zip lock bag! I’ll make the toiletries a separate blog, there’s enough madness I have learned through that.

2. Bring More by Wearing More 

If traveling to somewhere cold (even if you’re leaving from somewhere warm), wearing your heavier clothes through the airport will allow you to bring more!

  • Pick 2 Shoes & Wear the Heaviest; Yup! Pack a comfortable pair of shoes and one that you want to bring, wear the heaviest at the airport and lug around on your carry-on the lighter pair. YES, sandals count as a pair!
  • Bring 1 Jacket and Wear it to the Airport; There are certain travel (clothing) essentials you have to bring just in case and a jacket is one of them. Even if it’s 80 degrees outside bring a coat, but wear it through the airport. Plus, this has saved me when freezing in the airplane!
  • Ladies, Extensions… Some of you have asked me when I wear extensions have I worn them through airport security, yes. Do they go off in the scanner, most times. Is it embarrassing when they pull me aside, no. Most airports are equipped with technology that shows where the metal pieces are, and when they see it’s your head they just tap, tap, tap. Because you’re a woman, only women can touch you, so they usually know what’s up, or will give you the disappointment look of FAF (Fake as F*), but just smile! Confidence sometimes has to be bought and if clipping in fake hair gets you there, AYYEEEE you go! LOL

3.  Toiletries & Size Limits

I believe we are down to 3 oz. on what you can bring on the airplane…

  • Purchase the airport approved empty containers from CVS or Walgreens. I usually bring shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. If you need more than one 3 oz. then fill up two with what you already have at home!
  • Next time when you’re getting a haircut as if they have sample size of the shampoos/conditioners of the yummy smelling stuff they used on your hair. Sounds cheap, but seriously
  • Take with you the complimentary shampoo/conditioner a the hotels you stay even i you don’t use them on your immediate trip. You can bring them for next time!
  • Only take with you what you can fit in a large zip lock bag! It makes it easy to take out of carry on for airport security (although I keep mine in my carry on, having it in a zip lock still helps them quickly identify my things in the x-ray.

What I usually bring: tooth brush, travel size toothpaste ($1 at CVS), deodorant, 3 oz shampoo, 3 oz conditioner, 3 oz lotion, comb, mascara, eyeliner, mascara, and chap stick.

Be mindful that carryon requirements differ based on what airline you choose to fly with. This has also been a consideration before booking a trip, because airlines such as Spirit & WOW Air charge to breathe…

If you have additional tips/tricks post them in the comment section!

 

Do You Need a Travel Visa? Tips if You Do!

Although your passport takes you to 174 of the 195 countries in the world, what do you do when you want to visit one that doesn’t meet the mark? Apply for a visa!

When I first started traveling it was easy to select places to go that required only a passport, I mean 174 countries should be easy. And, I’ll be honest I’ve feared booking a trip and then finding out at the airport you’re denied access. Come to find out when you book your flights it will tell you before you checkout if a visa is required, and that’s what happened when booking for China.

Some of the countries that require a tourist (“holiday”) visa no matter how long the stay include the following:

  • China
  • Algeria
  • Brazil
  • Egypt
  • Nepal
  • Vietnam

Before planning your next visit, check out this link to see if the country you’re visiting requires a tourist visa. Also! There are some countries that require a visa is staying an extended time, so be mindful of that as well.

Know, that that you have to have your itinerary complete, with flight and hotels booked before applying for a visa. Sounds odd that you’re investing in a trip before granted access, but it’s true. I have some recommendations:

  • Pay the extra $10 when booking your hotels for the cancellation insurance
  • Purchase flight insurance
  • Plan ahead! For me this was somewhat difficult because I like to plan tours, etc. as I near a trip when I’ve done more research, but this becomes pivotal because planning logistics will become important for presenting your itinerary. Essentially, the embassy is looking to be able to find you and know that you have accommodations in advance of approving you.

What I didn’t know when deciding on China is how much a holiday visa costs! And, it’s not cheap. Especially considering that everything needs to be booked in advance. Prices for visas ranged from $250-600 depending how quickly you needed your visa, and depending on which company.

After doing some research I chose Passport & Visas.

The company had good reviews that mentioned two key words for me… “reliable” & “responsive.” As a frequent traveler, these two words become pivotal in making big decisions. I placed my order 12/2 and received 12/28. There were some questions back from the company during the interim regarding our accommodations and letter of referral (required if you’re not a part of a tour group). The company had very quick response times when following up on my order, and had a good tracker on their website to let you know where my application was in the process (similar to when you order a pizza). Was really quite impressive.

After you’re approved they return your passport with the visa sticker in your passport. Just like that!

Other random facts: 

There’s an expansive list of things you have to have before you even start the application process. I recommend acquiring all the documentation you need before you purchase your order, so that the estimated return time is actual. I found it taking me a half day in getting everything situated to submit for ordering, they included:

  • Small passport photo taken within 6 months– you can get this done at Walgreens or CVS for $20
  • Have to provide your passport, & they will return back after approved or denied access (Passport has to be valid and not expire within 12 months of your visit)
  • Copy of your drivers license
  • Itinerary of where you’ll be on what days and where you’re sleeping
  • Proof of accommodations (that it has been paid, or booked)
  • Completed electronic visa application for the country you’re going (be mindful of what color your ink has to be)

*Some of the requirements may be different based on where you’re going

I will report an update to this post when I return from China, on experience through customs using a visa. But, assume you just have to show evidence of what was presented for visa application!

Where to Go Next? Take a Quiz!

Everyone loves a good self-assessment quiz… so why not figure out where you should go next by taking one! As odd as this sounds, I’ve taken the quiz below whenever I was curious where I should go next… how about you try!

Where to Go Next!

If you’re ambitious, share where your location is by commenting below, if enough people have the same maybe we can make a group travel trip out of it!

Mine… was Switzerland! And, I think the description is pretty accurate!

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Next Stop…China. But, why?

DiscoverChina

I’ve always contemplated pinning up a map and throwing darts to decide where to go next. Well, wait, I did try that once but ended up being a small country in Europe that when I researched didn’t tickle my fancy, so I ditched the idea. Point is… there’s a reason for the places I pick to visit, and it’s time I start sharing in hopes that one day it will help you, too, decide!

So, why China?

(1) It’s a place I’ve never been; another country to cross off the list!

Fun fact about myself… I consider myself as an introvert to those I don’t know (so much so that I am now a member at Toastmasters to help get myself over the fear of talking to complete strangers). My initial interest in traveling abroad was to accumulate experiences and see, firsthand, places that I’ve never been so that I could relate more to people as I met them. Little did I know I would catch the travel bug after stepping out of the country for the first time, and I realized that traveling is more than relating to people when I returned, but submerging myself in cultures I never knew, and meeting people who live differently than I do. China, is a country I’ve never been and only heard/seen through others’ stories. I’ve been postponing this visit related to costs, and needing to research more about places to visit. I try to avoid visiting until I feel researched enough to not regret going and missing a landmark I didn’t know of…

And, it so happened that the time I was budgeting time off for this trip, landed on the Chinese New Year… I mean, c’mon! I mean if that isn’t a sign, what is!

(2) It’s a place with a landmark that I’m afraid if I wait to see I’ll never see again 

This sounds crazy, but it’s really a factor I consider… with all the crazy that happens in the world, I want to ensure that the places I see first are things that I worry about possibly not sticking around for when I get older. I know, you’re thinking the Great Wall of China is miles long and isn’t going anywhere, so may not be as relevant as other places to visit, but I don’t ever want to live in wondering “what-if.”

I’ll share with you a story…a couple summers ago I had waned to go to Disney World to ride the Tower of Terror. Instead, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter made the list. A year later when considering places to visit I again thought of Hollywood Studios at Disney and found out the ride was transformed to a different ride and no longer exists. Now, I have just the memories from when I was 7 replaying of what it was like when I went on it as a kid, and not relived in my adulthood. I know traveling to see landmarks internationally may not seem comparable, but this is what I fear in places that I visit. If it’s something I fear to be gone and not see in my adulthood, it moves higher on the list. Other places on the list, currently, is Egypt, Italy (I believe in global warming and am fearful the waterways won’t be there forever), and Machu Pitchu.

 

(3) There are multiple places that I’ve accumulated desires to go in the country

Nothing is more thrilling, to me, than visiting multiple places in one trip. Not only does this help give me a well rounded impression of the places I visit, but allows me to check off multiple places without having to go back in the near-future while I visit places I’veneer been.

Generally, I wait until I have a list of 5 places before I book a trip. For China it included: Great Wall of China, Ming Tomb, National Olympic Stadium, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Place and Temple of Heaven. After doing some research, I have found some inspirations for the Avatar movie, and may have to come back and visit! Sounds silly, as I haven’t even got there yet, but I try not to push too much into each day in hopes I can live in the moment and truly appreciate where I am!

*If you’re looking to figure out what not to miss try starting by doing a quick Google search of the place you’re visiting, and see Google’s recommended top places. If you’re looking for something more tailored to your liking search for tours in the area and write down your favorite spots, and pin all the places into a map and create your own self-guided tour!

(4) Affordable downtown hotels/Air B&B’s that are within walking distance of public transit 

Believe it or not, being able to get all the places on the wish list/itinerary needs to be considered before leaving for a trip! How can one travel on a budget if the cost to get to places on the itinerary costs the same as getting there!

To start my search I use AirB&B to see how much rooms are downtown (I generally don’t book unless the room costs are $50 or under), see if there is public transit nearby (see how much it would be for multi-day passes if staying a while), and last pin all the locations you want to visit to see if it’s centrally located. To be most cost beneficial stay at the same place if in the same city. This will reduce the transaction costs for booking, and will save time/costs to transport luggage if you’re not solely a carryon traveler.

I was surprised to see how many options there were in Beijing. I had always heard that the city was very populated, and had made the assumption that going would be very costly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that costs ranged from $20-$400/night. This made hitting my $50 or less budget quite easily! Because I booked it cheaper, I went wild and booked a $80/night hotel in Shanghai the second leg of the trip; I’m being serious!

(5) Flight prices are within $1000 to/return

No matter where you’re traveling around the world, you should be able to find a hotel flight there with the base cost to/from for $1000, or less. It’s all about tracking prices and knowing when to book. A cheat for this is going during the off-season of the place you’re visiting, or booking ahead (3 months or earlier) before leaving on a busy time! The easiest way to track the flight prices is typing in the dates and places you’re visiting through Google.com/Flights> tracking prices!

Additionally, if you’re trying to use points making sure you have a credit card that gives incentives for using the credit card for travel purchases; example is the Delta Skymiles Credit Card; that way, you get discounts for going to places you would anyway, and often times (I’ve found) get double points that allow you to use those points for your next trip!

AMEX Delta Skymiles: You get 2 free checked in bags each flight, up to 70,000 free sky miles for your next trip (I used mine for a free trip to Vegas), and $100 credit card credit if you spend $3,000 or more within the first three months! Here’s a referral link to get the perks above! Apply for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved! Apply Here!