3 Exciting Cities to Consider When Vacationing in the US

This is a collaborative post. The content in this post was not written by me, however, the author is credited in the post.

Hey Everyone! Welcome to a new post. This particular post was written by Alex from WonderWithAlex. I hope you find her tips as inspiring as I do.

Austin, Texas: Outdoors, Arts and Live Music

Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a lively city known for its tech jobs, diverse culture, music festivals, art, gourmet cuisine and distinctive history. The unofficial slogan for this fun-filled city is “Keep Austin Weird.” The slogan aims to promote local businesses and preserve Austin’s unique culture. If you’ve never been to Austin, it comes highly recommended as you won’t find any other city like it in the world!

Austin Outdoors

Austin is a dream destination for those who love being outdoors. From hiking, kayaking, boating and beyond, Austin’s beautiful trails and lakes won’t be a disappointment. Zilker Metropolitan Park is Austin’s “Most-Loved Park” offering kayaking on Lady Bird Lake, swimming holes, scenic trails, and a host of other outdoor activities. Looking for a little rock climbing? Check out the Barton Creek Greenbelt! Or maybe you are looking to see a waterfall or two? Then you’ll want to hike River Place Nature Trail or McKinney Falls State Park.

Austin’s Art & Music Scene

Austin is well known for its creativity. If you’re looking for live outdoor music and art festivals, Austin is the city for you. The South by Southwest (SXSW) music and film festivals are a hot topic in Austin—offering film screenings, comedy shows, art galleries, concerts and more. Or if you happen to be in town during the Austin City Limits music festival, be sure to check it out along with 450 thousand other people! Two weekends filled with live music concerts in the middle of Zilker Park.

If you can’t make a festival while you’re in town, don’t worry! Austin’s local art and live music spaces are vast. You can find an art exhibition or live concert just about anywhere, any day of the week.

New Orleans, Louisiana : Culture, Cuisine, and Festivals

New Orleans (NOLA) is the city of music, culture, Cajun food, Creole cuisine, and colonial architecture. From the iconic New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest to authentic cuisine, this must-visit city is a melting pot of sounds and flavors.

Experience Cajun & Creole Cuisine

Many people don’t know the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine and use the terms interchangeably. While both cuisines are from New Orleans, they come from very different cultural backgrounds.

Cajun, or “country cooking” is a combination of French Acadian and Southern cuisines typically found along the bayous of Louisiana. Cajun cuisine is typically well seasoned and consists of hearty stews and soups.  Boudin, a Cajun sausage, and Jambalaya are two popular examples of Cajun cuisine. If you’re looking for authentic Cajun cuisine, Mulates, Zydecos Cajun Kitchen, and Cochon Cajun & Southern Cooking are just a few of the famous Cajun eateries in New Orleans.Creole on the other hand, is a blend of European, African, Caribbean, Native American and Hispanic cuisine. Many creole dishes are tomato based, while Cajun food is not. Creole dishes include a version of Jambalaya, authentic red beans and rice, Creole Chicken, crawfish, and more. Wondering where to find these delicious foods? Check out Mr. B’s Bistro, Café Sbisa, Mandina’s, and the bucket-list worthy Commander’s Palace

NOLA Festivals

New Orleans loves a good festival! If you’re looking to make your ears happy, then the Jazz and Heritage Festival is for you. People fly in from all over to attend this festival. Interested in learning a little culture through music? Then you’ll want to check out the VooDoo Music and Arts Experience or the Cajun Zydeco Festival. And let us not forget the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival where you can get the best of two worlds in one place– music and food.

Miami, Florida : A Beach-Worthy Vacation

If you’re looking for an entertaining vacation by the beach, then Miami, Florida is the city for you. Miami’s subtropical climate with short, warm winters, make it a highly desirable vacation destination. From islands and water sports to swimming and sunbathing, Miami’s beaches are clean, beautiful, and waiting for you. If you’re seeking a little relaxation in the sun, visit Miami!

Best Beaches

Miami has 20-miles of coastline making for the ideal beach destination. Looking for a family friendly and private beach experience, then you should check out Surfside beach on the North end. Maybe you’re looking for a little “freedom,” then you’ll want to go to Haulover Beach— it’s Miami’s famous nude beach! And of course, there’s always a good time to be had at the famous and iconic South Beach (SoBe)!

Nightlife

Looking for a party and a good time? Miami is filled with dance clubs and bars! Miami’s most popular and famous club is LIV Miami, which is known for celebrity sightings in its VIP section. Looking to be entertained? Then you’ll want to try E11even. This dance club by night, venue by day, is filled with neon lights, trapeze artists, burlesque dances, and celebrity performances. If you’re wanting something a little more seductive, Gold Rush has some of the best cabaret performers Miami has to offer. This is a very short list of your bar and club options, but Miami’s entertainment scene won’t disappoint.

Thank you so much Alex for the wonderful post! You can find more about Alex at WanderWithAlex.com

How to Travel from Home

The past year and a half have been difficult. And that’s putting it mildly. We all know someone who has suffered from COVID, and many of us know someone who has died from it. International borders are mostly shut, most of us are stuck at home; and a lot of us can’t leave. If you’re like me, and you probably are if you’re reading this post, you miss travelling. Facebook has been reminding you of your travel memories. You still have all those travel photos you haven’t organized yet; perhaps sorting through those will get you through the pandemic – it won’t, but you can try.  But what do you do when the cabin fever starts to kick in? The four walls of your house are becoming overly familiar, you’re starting to miss the cheap hostels that you used to torture yourself by staying in, and you wish you were buying coffee from an airport on your way to your next trip destinaton. I have some great tips below for you if you feel like kicking this feeling in the butt…at least for the time being.

1. Zoom those International Friends

Yes, I went there – Zoom *eyeroll*. Are you sick of zoom yet? I certainly am. But even though we all might be feeling like Zoombies, having a ‘face to face’ conversation with those friends overseas really helps. Perhaps they can leave their house where they are and can show you their small corner of their country – and you can show them your country. Mental health has been one of those things that isn’t talked about enough, ever, especially during this pandemic and it has decreased significantly since COVID started. Having just one zoom convo with an overseas friend, or an interstate friend, you haven’t seen in a while can really boost your confidence – and perhaps the four walls of your little home will feel a bit bigger.

2. Geoguessr

I absolutely love this game. A friend mentioned it to me when the pandemic started and I have been addicted since. The premise of the game is you select a place in the world and you have 5 rounds to guess where you are, and each round you’re in a different part of that place. For example, you choose the United Kingdom – the map maker has chosen heaps of random places in the UK and you have landed in 5 of those places. I absolutely love this game because I can choose to go to any country in the world and feel like I am almost there – much like going into street view on Google Maps (I know I am not the only one that has done this several times over the past year), but with a twist that will make your time in the map a bit more fun.

3. Google Arts and Culture

Do you love going to Museums while Travelling? Or how about travelling around a city by foot? Google Arts and Culture is able to bring the world to you. You can scroll through Van Goghs artworks, find out more about Japanese cuisine, or play a cultural crossword. One of my favourite things about Google Arts and Culture is being bale to virtually walk through the Modern Museum of Art or the Victoria & Albert Museum. Culture is at your finger tips, even when you’re boxed in your little home in your corner of the world.

4. Books

Now this might seem like a given but I can’t recommend this enough. Books can transport you to anywhere in the world, and often places that aren’t even in our world. If you have an itching desire to go to Hawaii, you can look up ‘Books Based in Hawaii’ and there you will be for the time being. Goodreads is amazing for this! I think that I have bought the most books I have ever bought in my whole life during the pandemic – I have no shelves left! But at least I can travel between Middle Earth and Cornwall anytime I want. Another good idea is finding a travel writer – I recommend Bill Bryson – and you can live through their stories as they take you to country after country. The Lonely Planet also has a diverse collection of really good travel books. If you some spare cash, you could subscribe to a travel magazine – you never know, this could inspire you for your first trip out of the pandemic.

5. Learn to Cook from another Cuisine

Do you remember visiting that place with that really amazing dish? Perhaps try to learn how to make it? Or you can set a different cuisine for each night of the week – Monday is pizza night, Tuesday is curry night, Wednesday is Thai night…and so on. One of the best things about travelling is being able to try new foods and with the internet at our fingertips we are able to reach thousands of recipes from across the world. The Pandemic might be a good excuse to stick to the 2 minute noodles, but we both know Pad Thai is so much better.

6. Virtual Tours

While the pandemic has been terrible, for the obvious reasons, many great things have been created or discovered because of it. Most tourist industries have suffered a great loss to the lack of travelling in the pandemic, but many have adapted to the growth in people being online. This kind of fits in to Google Arts and Culture as you can do many virtual tours through there. However, not every castle and museum will be on there. Not every tour is free – some I have found cost around $20 aud, others might be more expensive or free. Many places also have live cams – if you get bored of the farm animals in the UK, there are plenty of live cams of animals in Africa.

7. Travel Films and Shows

A classic idea, which you might already be onto by the time you’re reading this. With many people subscribing to Netflix and other streaming services, we have a multitude of travel films and shows at just a click away. My favourite documentary hosts are Tony Robinson, Rick Stein (technically hosts cooking shows), and David Attenborough (an icon!). There are many other types of travel films available as well, Into the Wild being one of my favourites. Travel TV shows are another amazing way to pass the time, while being in the travel mindset. They are often packed full with amazing stories from all around the world – I highly recommend the Railway Journeys series by George Bradshaw, Men in Kilts with Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish and any cooking show you can find.

8. Plan a Future Trip

This might sound a bit depressing because you would be planning a trip you aren’t sure you can go on it yet, however, planning a future trip can really put your agitated mind at rest. This is really good for those mad budgeters (like me), and overplanners. So far, I have planned 7 potential trips with my friend – we will probably only go on one, if at all. Planning a trip can take a long time, and it can be fiddly, but we can all agree it is one of the most fun parts of travelling. I recommend keeping trip advisor open and having your spreadsheet + word documents open!

9. Travel Locally

Some of us are lucky and we are able to travel locally. If you can, do it! As I said before, many tourist industries across the world have suffered because of the pandemic so lets support our local areas. Go to that winery you always drive past but never go into, or perhaps take the dog for a camping trip to the nearby national park for the weekend. Whatever your local region has, go out there and discover it! There are so many parts of my local region that I didn’t know we had – who knew we had so many wineries and breweries nearby.

10. Join a Travel Group

Travel groups are an amazing way to connect to people while travelling, but as we are all in the midst of a pandemic, we are all in the same boat – none of us are travelling as much as we would like. I’m apart of a few women only travel groups, which are fantastic! When I go to a new country, I know there will be someone apart of one of those groups that would like to meet up for a coffee. But, alas, none of us are going to do that anytime soon – unless there are some people in your region and you can meet up. Sometimes they might even have virtual meetups – see point 1 about zoom! On these groups you can also just talk about all things travel.

11. Travel Themed Subscriptions

Magazines aren’t the only things you can subscribe to! There are numerous amazing travel magazines out there, but there are also heaps of travel related subscriptions services. You can join a travel themed book club or subscribe to a box of delicious food from overseas. Instead of going into the world, you can bring the world to you.

12. An International PenPal

This is something I have done with my friend Taryn from Texas (Check her out at TarynUpTheMap). We write each other letters every month or so and honestly, it is wonderful! We get to tell each other what is happening in our lives in lockdown and we get to send each other stuff in the envelopes! I can’t recommend this more. While it might seem redundant in the age of instant messaging, but receiving a written letter can be incredibly satisfying. Sometimes travel facebook groups organize penpals with people in the group – which can always be fun.

Organise your Travel Photos

You may have already done this, I certainly have. But many of us get home from a trip and leave our travel photos unorganised – they sit in our phones or cameras, we occasionally look at them and reminisce, post on insta, and that’s sometimes it. However, what you can do is sort through them all! Going through all your travel photos while you’re stuck at home can be quite sad, but it can also be fun to go down memory lane and escape for a moment. I have organised my photos by trips – so my trip to the UK in 2019 is in a folder call “2019 UK Travels”, and each photo is labelled with the year 2019 and the location of the photo – then when I really want a photo of Stonehenge all I have to do is search it in my google drive. It will make things easier in the future and it can help you think about previous travels while you’re stuck at home.

So there you have it, some ideas to keep sane while in the pandemic. Remember, this won’t last forever. As the wise old Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us,” and “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer,” which I think is incredibly relevant in these times. You will step on a plane again. You will be packing your suitcases soon. The pandemic will pass, but right now, all we have to do is decide what to do with the time we are given – perhaps you will do some of the things in the list above.

Tell me what you think below? How are you going in the pandemic? Do you have any tips for travelholics?

Don’t forget the like and share!

How to Plan Your Next Solo Trip

You’re finally taking the leap to go on your first solo trip. You’re excited, nervous, but excited. You’ve been scrolling through Pinterest, Travelgram, and Facebook Travel groups, you’re incredibly inspired. It’s now time to plan, but where do you start? What do you pack? What are you supposed to do? Well, first things first – read below and I’ll tell you how to plan your next Solo Trip.

1. Know Where You’re Going

This might seem like a given, but it is a vital step in planning your next trip. You know you want to go to Asia, but you’re not sure which country yet. Make a moodboard, brainstorm, scroll through Pinterest. Why do you want to travel? And what do you see most? What do you want to be doing on your trip? Surfing? Australia is a good choice. Visiting castles? Perhaps the UK. Find out what you want to see while travelling and settle on a country, or countries!

2. Research the Place You’re Going To

This goes hand in hand with point 1, however, this deserves to be a whole point. You know where you’re going, but you know nothing about that country. Yes, I have mentioned it before and I will mention it again – Facebook Travel Groups! This is a great way to find out the best places to visit in the country you’re going to. It’s also coming from real people who live there or have been there before. This goes with point 3 but look at itineraries to see what the best places to go to. I also recommend researching the more practical details about your destination, i.e., national language, main cities, etiquette that might be different from where you come from. Also, with COVID-19 being a pandemic across the world, you should check if you can actually get into the country. You’ll also need to check the climate – I don’t recommend thongs (aka flip flops) and shorts in Switzerland.

3. Start Making a Budget

This kind of goes with the next point, but making a budget should go first because you don’t want to book accommodation or activities you won’t be able to afford. This will also help you determine a lot about your trip – how you travel (i.e. car or train), where you stay (i.e. hotels or hostels), and kind of things you get up to. This also goes hand in hand with the above point. Research the country you want to go to and see if your budget will match up with how expensive that country is. If you don’t have a heap of money, then perhaps Switzerland wouldn’t be the best place – A 4 Star Hotel in Romania is $85 aud per night, a 4 Star Hotel in Switzerland is $500 aud per night. A Budget is definitely an important thing to do when you start planning.

4. Start making an Itinerary

You know where you’re going, you have your budget, now what will you be doing there? Make sure you know what your travel style is as you make your itinerary – do you like cruises? Or bus tours? Or travelling by train? These are all very important things to consider as they will impact how you organise your itinerary. I also recommend knowing which days you’ll go to certain places as this will ensure you won’t have any mishaps on your journey.

5. Get Organised

Depending on your destination, you might need a visa. You also might need to update your passport. Another thing to keep on top of is your vaccinations, especially with COVID-19 now spreading across the world, you’ll need to be prepared with vaccinations.

6. Find Your Accommodation

You should always book at least your first night of accommodation. This will allow you to have peace of mind when you arrive at your destination, and you won’t be looking for a place after a long journey – you’ll probably be exhausted. Also, if you’re travelling around during the summer then it’s likely that a lot of accommodation will be almost booked out or will be completely booked out. I also recommend finding accommodation that has at least 4/5 stars, or better 5/5, and make sure you research all accommodation options. You’ll want somewhere that’s close to the city centre and the train station – you don’t want to be walking alone at night back to your accommodation, especially when its far away. Plus, walking anywhere for ages is never fun when you’d rather spend the day exploring, rather then getting from Point A to Point B. I’d also recommend using Trip Advisor for reviews, these ones are the most honest and will be more factual to how the accommodation actually is. Once I trusted the reviews of Hostel World for a particular hostel in the South of England (I won’t name and shame but check out my trip advisor review for Bath Hostel). There was 1 toilet on my floor, I was in an 8 bedroom dorm and there were other dorms on my floor. The toilet sink was leaking. I couldn’t find the showers until the end of my stay there – they were 3 stories down and there were 3 showers between several dorms, which had between 4-8 beds each. Despite being in England, only 1 member of staff (out of atleast 8) spoke English – the rest pretended to speak to not speak English to the guests (and spoke English to other staff members). So, as a rule of thumb, do your research.

7. Give Your Trip Itinerary to a Trusted Person at Home

Now, this isn’t to make your loved ones at home jealous by reminding them you’re on holiday and they’re not, that is why you post on social media. I highly recommend giving a family member, or a trusty friend, your trip itinerary so someone knows where you are while you’re travelling. They will be able to know where you’re suppose to be and they’ll know where you’re suppose to be staying. In case you’re not where you’re suppose to be or something goes wrong, they have the right information to help you out.

8. Plan How You Will Feed Yourself

This is incredibly important as you’ll need to know where to get food, what kind of food your budget accomdates for – a good idea is to buy some basic items at the supermarket for breakfasts and lunches, and perhaps for some dinners as well, and then you can treat yourself to bakery breakfasts, pub feeds or a 5 star restaurant every now and again. I was once in Inverness when I didn’t plan my food properly – my hotel said they had room service and they didn’t, everything was closed, I hadn’t eaten much and all I had were shortbread biscuits. I tried ordering food from Uber Eats, but that had saved my hostel address in York so I accidentally ordered a Pizza in York and not in Inverness. By 1am I was incredibly hungry and there was nothing open, I also couldn’t afford to eat at the hotels restaurant. I learnt to budget more carefully, and to plan my meals while travelling!

9. Make sure you have planned to have fun!

This is where Pinterest, Google, and those trusty travel Facebook groups come back to good use. This may be a no-brainer, but actually, make sure you’re doing things you will enjoy. No point going to Stonehenge if you have no interest in it (btw I highly recommend it 😉). Don’t go to a place because it’s recommended by literally everyone, go to it because you’re generally interested in it. If you’re going to have more fun shopping in London than you would be by visiting Stonehenge, then go shopping (Stonehenge has been there for 3000 years, it can wait a few more days for you to visit…or not visit).  

10. Use Trip Advisor

You’ve probably heard of this amazing site, and if you haven’t used it for your travels yet then this is your hint to make an account. Wherever I go, I will always use Trip Advisor to be my trusty advisor to know about the place I am going. It is stacked full of reviews on almost everything, from accommodation to food to top tourist sites. The amazing thing is, it’s free and you can have an account, which will allow you to save, or favourite,

There you have it! My top tips for how to get started on planning your next solo trip. Of course, there is a lot more that goes into trip planning, but that’s for another post. Hopefully, these tips will help you get started and feel more confident about planning your next adventure.

8 Day Trips from London

You’re in London, you feel like you have explored this city back to front and you want to get out of the city. Are you considering a Day Trip? Excellent! I have the list for you. London is the gateway to England, and a lot of the UK, and is close to many English treasures. Most of these places are around 2 hours by train, but are easy enough to get to.

1. Stonehenge + Salisbury

1 hr 20 mins from London to Salisbury. 20 mins from Salisbury to Stonehenge.

Technically, Stonehenge can be done in half a day, so you could merge this day trip with another – I recommend Bath. Stonehenge, originally constructed in the Neolithic period, attracts hundreds of visitors a year (without COVID, obviously). It is incredibly interesting and I highly recommend visiting. While in Stonehenge, I recommend visiting Salisbury. You’ll have to stop here anyway to get to Stonehenge, so you have a perfect opportunity to explore this wonderful city.

2. Avebury

It takes 1 hr 50 mins to get from London to Avebury by train.

Much like Stonehenge, the Avebury stone circle is an ancient site built in the Neolithic period. However, there is a Tudor manor nearby and a pub down the road. I recommend staying at Avebury longer than you would at Stonehenge. There is plenty to do in this pretty village. The village is abundant with boutique stores. With the Celtic roots of Avebury, there are a lot of celtic, and withcy, type stores. You can easily spend a day, or afternoon/morning, in Avebury.

3. Bath

It takes 1 hr 20 minutes by train to get to Bath from London.

Bath is one of the most stunning towns near London. With lots to do, from shopping and historic sites, you won’t get bored in Bath. When you’re here, I highly recommend going to one of the boutique stores, a local café (my favourite is the Green Rocket), the Roman Baths, and the Bath Abbey. One of the amazing things about Bath is that it has many beautiful locally owned stores and cafes (plus some typical stores in the main square). The locals really cherish the local history of Bath and it shows through the local boutiques. The architecture is also amazing, as can be imagined, a lot of it is historic. If you wanted to, you could merge this trip with Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, if you have a car.

4. Cambridge

It takes around 1 hr to get to Cambridge from London.

Now, when asked about places to go in the UK most people will say Oxford and/or Cambridge. I have only been to Cambridge and I LOVED it. It is one of the oldest university towns in the UK and despite its history going back hundreds of years, this city has a modern charm mixed with its historic atmosphere. It’s most famous sites are the university buildings, which I recommend visiting, however, there is so much more to see. The Fitzwilliam Museum is incredibly interesting with its beautiful architecture and interiors, and an amazing collection of historical artefacts. I also recommend going punting! For those not familiar with this term, it’s similar to going on a gondola ride. You go in a low lying boat, a punt, and you can row yourself down the river Cam or get a Punter to row for you.

There are many trains going to Cambridge from London and is very easy to get to.

5. Surrey

It takes about 50 mins by train to get from London to Woking.

Surrey will always be close to my heart as I have visited this beautiful county several times when visiting family friends. This county is filled with beautiful hiking treks, stunning villages, and national trust treasures. Surrey is also the home to Wisley, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society, which is amazing to visit. I recommend visiting one of the National Trust houses and gardens, which are hold collections of art, and sometimes might have a farm shop. My favourite little village is Shere, here you can get a nice ice-cream or have a wonderful pub meal.

6. Windsor

From London, it will take you around 55 mins by train.

Windsor, the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II and her late husband Prince Phillip. With just a train ride away from London, Windsor is the perfect day out. Windsor Castle alone can take up 2-3 hours, the rest of the day can be spent exploring this beautiful city. You could try one of the great local pubs, the LegoLand Resort, or St Georges Chapel. This city is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend taking the time to soak up the history of this town.

7. Hampton Court Palace

It takes about 40 minutes by train to get to Hampton Court from London.

The United Kingdom boasts an array of incredible palaces and castles, but one iconic palace is Hampton Court. Henry VIII lived here with Anne Boleyn, after the Tudor times, it was occupied by the Hanoverians who built extensions onto the original Tudor buildings. This palace is a sight to behold. From the many beautiful royal rooms to the servant kitchens to the beautiful gardens, a visit to Hampton Court would be a day well spent.

8. Cotswolds

1 hr from London to Chippenham. 20 mins from Chippenham to Castle Combe.

Named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a reason, the Cotswolds is one of the most stunning regions of England with iconic little villages and beautiful countryside. On my visit I went to Castle Combe, which is incredibly stunning and I recommend putting it on your list, I recommend spending 2 hours here. However, little did I know, there was a lot more of the Cotswolds I could see in a day. Other must-see villages include Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Lower Slaughter. It takes about 2 hours to get to the Cotswolds from London. It might be more difficult to see the entirety of the Cotswolds if you don’t have a car, however, Castle Combe is easy to get to via bus and train from London.

I hope you liked this travel guide to Day Trips from London. I would love to hear your travel stories! Please share your thoughts below.