9 Useful Travel Gifts for the Traveler on Your Shopping List

Need to buy a gift for a traveler?

 

There are so many lists of holiday gift ideas for travelers, but they often include useless gadgets or kitschy trinkets. You know what I’m talking about—map-shaped necklaces and pictures with cutesy quotes. Sure, these items are adorable, but they aren’t especially useful travel gifts. If you want to get the travelers on your shopping list something they can really put to use on their next trip, check out these nine useful travel gifts.

Compression Socks

Flying can take a toll on the tootsies. Sitting for a long time can cause a traveler’s legs to swell. Compression socks squeeze your legs to keep blood flowing and minimize swelling. They’re a useful travel gift for anyone who takes a lot of long-haul flights.

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All-in-One Electrical Converter

There is nothing worse than electrical converters with lots of separate pieces that are easy to lose and clunky to carry around. Without fail, parts go missing or the wrongs ones get packed. An all-in-one converter ensures the traveler on your shopping list is never without the parts they need when they need them.

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eReader

Books are heavy and impractical to take on long journeys. Lighten the load for the traveler on your list with an eReader. Be sure to get one that’s got a lot of battery life. The tablet-style eReaders tend to last only a few hours. These aren’t ideal for long-haul flights or lengthy layovers. Go with a more traditional eReader, like Kindle Paperwhite (my personal favorite).

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Sewing Kit

I can’t tell you how often I’ve popped a button or got a hole my leggings while on the road. Travelers often plan on wearing things a few times per trip, so rips and tears can put a real snag in their plans. A mini sewing kit can be a true lifesaver and the ultimate useful travel gift.

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First-Aid Kit

Whether it’s a blister that cropped up on a long walk or a burn from a flat iron, accidents happen. Make sure the travelers in your life are well-prepared for whatever comes their way.

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Packing Cubes

Travelers are always looking for ways to save space in their bags. Packing cubes keep everything neatly nipped and tucked. They’re especially fantastic for those times when the TSA does a bag inspection and everything falls out all over the place.

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Toiletry Bag

Toiletry bags take a beating. Bottles and tubes burst inside causing a mess. Or they get overstuffed and rip at the seams. There are always new styles coming out that use stronger fabrics or offer more convenient ways to organize items.

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Document Organizer

In a mobile world, why would anyone need a document organizer? Travelers still need to carry around paperwork, including vouchers for places that don’t accept mobile tickets, money in all kinds of currencies, passports, visas, and proof of vaccinations. A document organizer can be a saving grace.

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Selfie Stick

From the desert dunes of Morocco to the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, a selfie stick is a great way to get the perfect picture. Selfie sticks are a particularly useful travel gift for the solo traveler on your shopping list.

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If you’re tired of buying gifts that get shoved in a box and forgotten, these nine useful travel gifts are ideal for the travelers on your shopping list.

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3 Tips for Traveling with Medications

Are you traveling with over-the-counter or prescription medications?

 

If you need to take regular doses of medication, you’ll want to make sure you have everything with you when you travel. A lot of people assume they can simply put everything they need in their suitcase or carry on. But it’s not always that simple. In fact, there are actually a lot of rules and regulations, from airport security checks to border crossings. Follow these three tips for traveling with medications to ensure you arrive at your destination with everything you need to enjoy your vacation.

1. Keep It in Your Carry-On

traveling with medications

Be sure to pack any prescription medications in your carry-on, even if you don’t take them regularly or don’t plan on taking them during your flight. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people break this golden rule for traveling with medications—even yours truly. While it’s pretty rare, bags do sometimes go missing. It’s a hassle to replace lost medications in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t have a copy of your prescription. There’s also the possibility that your medication isn’t readily available in other parts of the world. That could really ruin a holiday.

If you’re asked to check your carry-on at any point in your journey due to overcrowded overhead bins, be sure to remove your medications first. On a recent trip, I thought I’d won the lottery when I found out my flight offered valet service. For those of you who haven’t experienced the wonders of valet, it’s when the flight crew takes your bag as your board the plane and returns it to you as you exit. Since I knew there was no chance my bag would go missing, I didn’t remove my asthma inhaler. I only use it a few times a week, so I figured the chances of needing it over the next few hours weren’t very good. Wrong…almost as soon as I took my seat, I felt my chest constrict. Don’t make the same mistake.

2. Passing Airport Security Checks

traveling with medications

Savvy traveler or not, these days, you’d have to be living under a rock not to know the 3-1-1 rule for packing liquids and gels, like shampoo and perfume, in your carry-on. But the rules are a little less black and white when it comes to traveling with medications. Generally speaking, there are no restrictions on the amount of medication you can pack in your carry-on bag, even if it’s in liquid form. As long as the amount of medication you’ve packed seems reasonable for the amount of time you’ll be away from home, you should be good to go. And prescription medication in liquid form does not need to fit in the standard 1-quart bag. That said, you must inform security officers of any liquid medications larger than 3.4 ounces at the start of the checkpoint process so they can do additional screening.

It’s a good idea to keep all medications—over-the-counter and prescription—in their original containers. Don’t cram them all into one case to save room in your suitcase. You’ll also want to let security offices know about freezer packs, syringes, and other items related to your medications. It doesn’t hurt to have a letter from your doctor explaining the reason for your medications or medical supplies, especially if they involve injectables. Keep in mind that some airlines will not allow you to take needles onboard for security reasons. Always be sure to check with your airline just in case.

You can find a comprehensive list outlining the rules of thumb for different types of medications on the My TSA mobile site or app. Simply select the type of medication you plan to pack, and the site offers tips about what you need to do to get it through security without any hassle.

3. Getting Across the Border

traveling with medications

Just because you’re not flying the friendly skies doesn’t mean the rules for traveling with medications don’t apply to you. It’s a little-known fact that you may not make it across the border in another country if you’re carrying certain kinds of medications. Be sure to check if there are any restrictions or special requirements when it comes to bringing medications across the border into another country. For example, some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, won’t let you bring codeine into the country without obtaining permission prior to your trip. Always check with the consulate or embassy of the place you plan to visit to see if you can bring your medications into the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website often provides links to the local authorities that can help guide your choices. All you need to do is enter the country you’re visiting to find lots of helpful travel medical information.

If you’re headed out on vacation and are planning on traveling with medications, be sure to follow these three tips to be sure you have a safe and worry-free holiday.

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3 Tips for Knowing How Much Money to Bring on a Cruise

One of the tops questions when it comes to cruising is how much money to bring.

 

The good news is that when it comes to the cruise itself, you don’t actually need any money at all. You could—quite literally—come as you are, and you wouldn’t need to spend a dime. That’s because most cruises are more or less all-inclusive. Your fare includes your room—known as a cabin or a stateroom on a cruise ship—as well as your food, transportation to all cruise ports, and onboard entertainment. Of course, if you want to spend more money on a cruise, there are plenty of ways you can upgrade the standard offerings to make your vacation even more memorable. But you don’t have to spend more than your base fare if you don’t want to. Now, most people usually end up dropping a few dollars on the ship and in the ports they visit, so you’ll like want to stash a bit of cash in your wallet. But how much? That’s where things get a bit sticky. Check out these three helpful tips for knowing how much money to bring on a cruise.

Find Affordable Pre- and Post-Cruise Accommodations

 1. Paying for Onboard Activities

Money to Bring on a Cruise

When it comes to onboard activities, you actually don’t need any physical cash. In fact, the ship won’t let you pay in cash for any of your purchases. Either when you check in online or when you arrive at the port, you’ll be asked to provide a credit card for each person staying in your room. You can each use a different credit card or the same one—it’s entirely up to you. Every time you buy a poolside cocktail, a shore excursion from the activities desk, a souvenir from the shop, or play the slots in the casino, the charges will go straight on your credit card. It’s that easy. Of course, this also has its disadvantages. It’s easy to lose track of your spending and end up with a hefty bill at the end of your cruise. A great way to prevent any unexpected surprises is to ask guest services for a breakdown of your charges every day or two if the cruise line doesn’t offer an app that lets you see for yourself.

Pro Tip: It’s easy to get carried away treating yourself to a few extras when you’re on vacation. Set yourself a daily allowance and do your best to stick to it!

2. Traveling to Popular Destinations

how much money to bring on a cruise

If your cruise itinerary is headed to popular places like Barcelona or Rome, it’s pretty safe to assume they’ll accept plastic. Pay for any purchases over $10 using a credit card to reduce the amount of cash you need to carry. Have a bit of pocket change in case you want to eat at a street vendor or buy a souvenir from a mom and pop shop. I usually recommend taking the equivalent of $20 to $30 in local currency per day. It’s enough to grab a coffee and a magnet. If you need more, popular destinations will likely have an ATM where you can get more cash on the go.

Pro Tip: Your bank likely won’t accept any coins for exchange when you return home, so make sure to use them all up first. Save the bills if you can.

3. Venturing into Parts Unknown

how much money to bring on a cruise

Knowing how much money to bring on a cruise gets a wee bit trickier when you’re headed into less popular parts of the world. Typically, itineraries offered by river cruises or sailing ships venture into smaller ports that larger ships can’t get into. Sometimes, these places are so small they don’t have an ATM or the ability to accept credit cards, especially in Asia. That said, these places tend not to offer a lot of high-priced items for sale, so you don’t have to worry about having a lot of cash on hand. You’ll likely be able to get by with $20 to $50 in local currency per day, depending on how thrifty you want to be. At markets in Southeast Asia, you can get a whole new outfit for under $10, for example.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to a place like Mexico or the Caribbean, they’ll likely accept U.S. dollars, so you may not need to exchange any money at all. 

Follow these simple tips for knowing how much money to bring on a cruise and you’ll be all set for an awesome vacation you won’t soon forget.

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The Only Item You Need on Your Topical Vacation Packing List

Wondering what to pack for your tropical vacation?

 

Putting together the perfect tropical vacation packing list is always a challenge. Shorts, tanks, and swimwear are obvious choices for a casual day on the beach, but if you’re someone who likes a little more coverage, there hasn’t always been a lot of lightweight, fashionable options. Until now. I’ve discovered the perfect ensemble for any occasion. It’s fun and flirty, comfortable and cute. It’s the boho jumpsuit, and it’s truly the only item you need on your tropical vacation packing list.

As someone who breaks into hives every time the sun kisses my skin, I struggle to come up with cute clothes that are appropriate to wear when the Mercury rises over 80 degrees. What’s more, I like to be uber comfortable when I’m not obligated to dress up for work. When I came across the boho jumpsuit, I knew I had found the perfect balance between comfort and fashion. Thanks to the way the flowy fabric drapes over your body, the jumpsuit looks like a dress, but because it’s got pant legs, it gives you a bit more leeway in terms of when and where you can wear it. I’ve done everything from hike through muddy rice fields to dine at a gourmet restaurant while wearing a boho jumpsuit. It all depends on how you style it.

The rayon jumpsuit is the ideal solution for places where the humidity is high since they don’t tend to stretch out when they’re drenched in sweat. And the great news is that they’re wash and wear. You can easily rinse them out in the sink at the end of the day and hang them over the towel bar to dry. By morning, your boho jumpsuit is ready to go for another day. If it’s wrinkled, don’t worry. The wrinkles will likely release shortly after you start walking around, and if they don’t, just say it’s part of the look. No one will know the difference.

Raining outside? No problem. Simply tie a knot in the bottom of each pant leg to turn them into capris! Headed to the beach, toss a boho jumpsuit on over top of your swimsuit as a coverup, and simply slip it off if you want to go for a dip. If you’re traveling to a place like Indonesia or Cambodia where there are a lot of temples or sacred places, it’s important not to expose too much skin. The boho jumpsuit has you covered—literally. It’s ideal for every situation.

tropical vacation packing list

If you’re like me, you prefer to pack light. The boho jumpsuit folds up into a neat little square that fits perfectly into any carry-on bag. Pick up a few colors (I have four), and you won’t need to put anything else on your tropical vacation packing list. During the daytime, wear a kimono or wrap with your boho jumpsuit to keep your shoulders from burning in the hot sun. It’s always a good idea to have on ein your bag just in case one of those sacred places is on your itinerary.

At night, turn your jumpsuit into the perfect outfit for an evening out by pairing it with a wide belt or statement necklace. You can even jazz it up with a pair of pumps or embellished flipflops.

 

From Southeast Asia to the Caribbean, I don’t know how I would get by without my boho jumpsuits.

paradise point st. thomas

Want to steal my signature look? All you need is a hair scarf, funky shades, and Birkenstocks.

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tropical vacation packing list

Comparing Affordable Cruise Lines: Which One is Right for You?

When it comes to sailing the high seas, there are plenty of affordable cruise lines.

If you think you don’t have the budget to take a cruise, think again. Nowadays, there are so many different affordable cruise lines sailing to such a vast variety of destinations that there is something for every budget. In fact, you can take a seven-day Caribbean cruise for just a few hundred dollars. And the best part is that it includes everything you need to have a fantastic cruise vacation—food, entertainment, games, dancing, swimming pools, and more! If you’ve got your sights on something a little more romantic, you can sail the Mediterranean Sea for just a few hundred dollars more. With so much competition for business, there are always sales and specials designed to grab your attention.

From river cruises to tall ships and ocean liners, there are so many options to choose from. So how do you know where to start looking for the most affordable cruises? It’s easy—Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean tend to offer some of the best rates. They also offer a lot of value for your money. Just because you’re traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you’ll be treated like you are. Even these affordable cruise lines spare no expense to make sure your vacation is one you’ll remember for years to come.
So, how do these four affordable cruise lines compare? Each one caters to a different audience, so you’ll want to be sure you pick the one that’s right for you.

Carnival

affordable cruise lines
If you’re pinching pennies but want to get away for a few days, Carnival typically offers the most budget-friendly rates. While the cruise line features a few other itineraries, it mainly focuses on Caribbean vacations. So, how does Carnival compare to the competition? Carnival caters to a younger crowd than NCL or Royal Caribbean. With music that ranges from Bon Jovi to Rihanna, most 30- and 40-something guests will feel right at home. Dr. Seuss-themed kids activities, Hasbro game nights, and Build-A-Bear workshops make Carnival the ideal cruise line for a fun family vacation. And just because you didn’t break the bank, doesn’t mean you won’t still get all the bells and whistles.

On sea days, Carnival puts on a delicious brunch featuring treats like French toast covered in your favorite cereal, as well as an afternoon tea. There are lots of other tasty treats, too, like Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on the Lido deck. While the quality of the theatrical performances isn’t typically as good as the other cruise lines, there’s still loads of live entertainment to keep you entertained, including late-night dance parties where the fun never seems to stop.

NCL

affordable cruise lines
NCL is like a well-balanced meal. It’s got a great mix of itineraries throughout North and South America, as well as Europe and Asia, and it offers them at truly affordable rates. Like Carnival, NCL tends to cater to a younger crowd. There are lots of lively dance parties every night and live bands that play throughout the ship. And while NCL DJs are known for spinning the latest tunes, you’ll find a mix of oldies, too. Since there are also a lot of guests in their 50s and 60s, there’s usually a lot of disco on the dancefloor. Who doesn’t like the Bee Gees and Donna Summer after all?

While there is a great kids’ program, NCL isn’t quite as family oriented as Carnival. However, the adult-only areas tend to be a little more exclusive and relaxing on NCL—Carnival feels a bit like a party all of the time. NCL’s Broadway-style shows are second to none. From the detailed sets to the flamboyant costumes and top-notch talent, shows like “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” are bound to knock your socks off. Looking for a good time? You’ll find it at the highly anticipated White Hot Party and Norwegian Night Out events, where the cast and crew join guests for a good time out on the deck.

On newer ships, NCL has started offering solo cabins. This means guests traveling alone don’t need to shell out the big bucks to cover the cost of an entire cabin. The bite-sized cabins offer everything you need for a good night sleep, and there’s even a special common area where solo travelers can meet up and make friends. It’s a massive money saver!

Royal Caribbean

affordable cruise lines
Of all the affordable cruise lines, Royal Caribbean is best-known for catering to an older crowd. While the rates are on the lower end when compared to Holland America or Celebrity, Royal Caribbean is has a bit of a higher price tag than Carnival or NCL, making it more attractive to travelers who have a bit more money to spare. However, it also has the best range of international itineraries and some of the largest most extravagant ships at sea.

Royal Caribbean has built its business on being the cruise line with the most onboard activities at sea. Forget about all of the places they travel—the ships are a destination on their own. From promenade shopping to ice skating and zip lining to surfing simulators, Royal Caribbean takes cruising to a whole new level. Even though the average age tends to be a little older—like grandma and grandpa range—families will have a blast.

At night, the vibe is a little more low-key on Royal Caribbean ships. Like NCL, you’ll find high-end Broadway-style shows, but the other entertainment is a bit more relaxed. The bands play a lot more of the golden oldies than top-40 hits, so don’t expect to dance the night away.

Whether you’re looking to party the night away, relax on your own, or enjoy onboard activities, these three affordable cruise lines have something for everyone. Everything you need is included in the price, but if you have a few extra dollars to spare, there are plenty of great ways to make your cruise even more special.

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affordable cruise lines

What Happens on a Cruise Ship in a Hurricane?

The thought of being stuck on a cruise ship in a hurricane is scary.

 

During hurricane season, the Caribbean becomes a hotbed for tropical storms. Each year from the beginning of June to the end of November, the conditions in the North Atlantic Ocean are ripe for a hurricane. If you’ve ever thought about taking a cruise at this time of year, you’ve probably wondered just what happens on a cruise ship in a hurricane.

Hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with—literally. They have the power to cause widespread destruction and devastation. As someone who has found herself at sea when a hurricane is about to hit on more than one occasion, I can understand your concerns. But I can also help shed a little light on what you can expect to experience.

CruiseDirect

Business as Usual

cruise ship in a hurricane

If there is a storm circling the area you’re scheduled to visit, you’ll likely get a printed memo when you check in at the port letting you know that the cruise line is monitoring the situation. Throughout the cruise, it’s likely you’ll have similar notes slipped under your door or left on your bed with the daily schedule. The captain will also make the occasional announcement about the general state of affairs, just to put your mind at ease. The last thing the cruise line wants is to have 4,000 panicked people in its midst, and there’s nothing like a good distraction to take your mind off of things. So the show must go on, and that’s exactly what will happen.

If you’ve been on a cruise, you’re familiar with the elaborate entertainment that happens each day, including poolside bands, karaoke competitions, and Broadway-style shows. There’s also a spa, several dining options, special events, like Build-a-Bear workshops, and more. Each and every one of these activities will likely go on per the schedule. You’ll be so busy enjoying yourself that you won’t have time to think about the storm brewing nearby.

Change of Plans

things to do in st kitts

Rest assured that cruise lines have access to the most cutting-edge, innovative meteorological and navigational tools available on Earth. Both onshore and at sea, a crew of people are continually monitoring the path of each ship in the company’s fleet. They’ve got your safety in mind, and if I’m being truly honest, they don’t want to lose a billion dollar ship at sea.

Your captain is not going to sail into a storm. If there is a possibility that your ship is in any way at risk, the captain will alter the itinerary accordingly. I happened to be sailing toward Boston when Hurricane Hermine hit the East Coast in 2016. The first day on the ship we were at sea, and on the second day, we were scheduled to stop in Boston.

Since the storm was headed straight for Boston habor, the captain opted to sail to our second stop, Portland, Maine, instead. We doubled back the following day so we could still see Boston. It was a minor adjustment to our itinerary, but we still got to stop in all of the planned ports. We were very minimally impacted, and thankfully, so we were the people of Boston.

About a year later in September 2017, we were on a cruise ship as Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean. We left from San Juan on a Sunday and made our first stop in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the following day. The beautiful vistas and friendly people were a highlight of the trip. Just a day or so later, the hurricane tore through St. Thomas, causing mass destruction.

We continued to Barbados and St. Lucia per the itinerary, arriving a day or two behind Irma. In St. Kitts, Irma took down some trees, so our shore excursion aboard a sightseeing train was canceled due to branches on the rails. That night, we learned our final stop for the trip, St. Maarten, had been canceled, and we would spend the day at sea instead.

Looking back, I’m sure we were included in news reports of ships being stranded at sea since that’s effectively what happened, but for those of us on board, we were clueless for the most part. There was so much music, fun, games, and food, that we didn’t know the difference. Those of us who had been watching the news were well aware that many of the nearby ports were closed and the state of the port of San Juan was still in question. But the weather was warm, the sea was calm, and the skies were blue, so rather than focus on how we were going to get back home, we kicked back and enjoyed the beautiful day.

We were safe and sound and didn’t experience the threat of Irma at any time, but my heart still breaks for all of the people who have lost their homes and loved ones at her hands. The number of people aboard the ship that complained about the changes in the itinerary astounded me. There were people suffering in the aftermath of the storm—but thankfully, we were not among them.

State of the Sea

cruise ship in a hurricane

Unless you’re up to speed on current events or watching the news in your stateroom, it’s possible you won’t even know there’s a storm nearby. During Hurricane Irma, my friends and family back home waited with bated breath to see a Facebook update from me each day. They were just certain I was going to blow right off the ship into the Atlantic Ocean. Even though we were traveling nearly the exact same route as the Category 5 hurricane, we managed to avoid her wrath. The seas were completely calm and the skies were blue. Despite the devastation she was wreaking all around us, we didn’t feel a thing.

To say we didn’t notice the inclement weather when we cruised along the East Coast in 2016 would be a lie. It was windy and rainy, and at times, the ship rolled a bit from side to side. One evening as I walked on deck, the winds were quite strong, and it was difficult to open the door to get back inside the ship. The crew eventually restricted access to the outdoors due to the high winds. By that time, the evening entertainment had started, and no one even noticed we couldn’t go outdoors. It was autumn in New England and too cold to spend any length of time outside at night anyway.

That same night as I lay in bed, the ship rocked gently on the waves, lulling me into a sound sleep (which is saying a lot since I suffer from insomnia). Being on a lower deck, I could see the waves lapping against the porthole window in my cabin. They were a little higher than the night before, but barely, and they certainly weren’t atypical of the waves I’ve experienced on a cruise sailing through perfectly pleasant weather conditions.

While I know there are times when cruises hit rough waters, it’s quite rare. The chance that you will experience tsunami-sized waves and tornado-strength winds on a cruise is highly unlikely. Often the way the news is reported makes it seem different from it actually is. My point is not to diminish what people who have been in these situations experience—it’s about letting you know that you shouldn’t let fears of being on a cruise ship in a hurricane come between you and your bucket list. Book that trip! You’ll be glad you did.

If you would like to help those who have been impacted by hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, you can make a donation to the Red Cross.

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cruise ship in a hurricane

Things to Do in St. Kitts in One Day — Historic Forts to White Sand Beaches

Though it’s just a wee island in the West Indies, there are plenty of great things to do in St. Kitts in one day.

 

With a population of just 50,000 people, St. Kitts is known for its vast sugar cane fields, warm, tropical climate, and white sand beaches. The capital city, Basseterre, is a popular cruise port for most major cruise lines sailing in the Caribbean. English is the official language of the island, and U.S. currency is widely accepted and expected from visitors.

things to do in St Kitts

Getting Started

Whether you cruise or sail to the island, a great way to get acquainted with St. Kitts is through a taxi tour. At only 18 miles long and 5 miles wide, it’s easy to tour the entire island in just a few hours. If you’re staying on the island for a few days, you’ll get a quick overview of the different things to do in St. Kitts, and you can select the best sites to return to later. Your hotel can help you arrange a taxi service. For cruisers, watch for the “Taxis and Tours” stand at the end of the dock before you pass through the terminal. They’ll have drivers waiting to whisk you away. Taxis may not be metered, so be sure to set a price before setting off on your journey.

things to do in st kitts things to do in st kitts

Pro tip: If you’re on a cruise, get off the ship as soon as you get clearance from the port authority. This way, you can catch an early tour and have all afternoon to lounge on the beach.

What to Expect

Islands tours cost about $20 per person and take you on a one-way road around the perimeter of the entire island, making a photo stop at a few local attractions along the way. You can choose to ride in an air-conditioned taxi or an open-air safari-style vehicle. While you’ll stay nice and cool in the taxi, you’ll get better pictures from the safari vehicle, so choose wisely depending on your end goals. Also, beware that the price of the tour does not include admission to any attractions. This can add up, so if you want to stop in at several of the sites, you may be better off taking an all-inclusive excursion through your cruise line or a tour operator.

things to do in st kitts

Most of the tour consists of driving around the island and taking pictures from the vehicle. However, you will make photo stops at a few locations, including the Black Rocks, where some locals also sell their wares to the visiting tourists. You’ll also drive through an area of rain forest on the way to Romney Manor, see the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga in the distance, and drive up picturesque Timothy Hill. The driver will also point out other areas of historic and cultural significance as you drive.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Scheduling Your Stops

The entire journey takes about two-and-a-half hours if you don’t stop for more than a few minutes at each of the photo stops. The driver will take the lead from the group and make extended stops at places like Brimstone Hill Fortress and Caribelle Batik. This can extend your tour time considerably, and costs can quickly add up.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

At some sites, there is no convenient place to wait while other members of your group visit the attractions. Brimstone Hill Fortress, for example, will not even allow visitors to wait in the parking lot. You will be left on the side of the road in a secluded area outside the fort. There are no shops, restaurants, or shady places to take cover from the hot sun.

Pro tip: Unless you’re part of a large group, you will likely be paired with other people on your tour. Before getting in a car, ask the driver to confirm the length of the tour, where it stops, and for how long. You’ll want to be paired with people who have the same interests as you so that you’re on the same page about the places you want to visit and for how long. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for a half hour or more in parking lots or on the side of the road.

Beach Visit

At the end of the tour, you can ask the driver to leave you at the beach for an extended stay. It will cost you a few extra dollars on top of the tour price to be dropped off here. The driver will ask you what time you want to be picked back up and will return at that time to get you—also for a small fee. The people in my group who chose this option were charged $4 extra dollars when they were dropped off, for a total of $24 for the tour. The driver charged $4 more to pick them back up.

The beach is only about 15 minutes from the port, and there are a host of duty-free shops to check out upon your return. In fact, it’s a lovely port with lots of great places to check out. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy a drink and pick up a few souvenirs. You can also make a pit stop at the National Museum of St. Kitts to check out the local history and culture.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Tour Alternatives

With such a warm climate and beautiful natural landscapes, outdoor activities are extremely popular in St. Kitts. As soon as you arrive in port, you’ll see a sign pointing you in the direction of water sports and other fun things to do in St. Kitts in the great outdoors.

For something a little different, take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. Once used to transport sugar cane across the island, this train now takes tourists on an 18-mile journey through the countryside. Complete the three-hour tour with a 12-mile bus ride. Sadly, Hurricane Irma had just breezed by the island days before I was there, causing a number of trees and debris to make the rails impassable, but this is my top choice for an excursion on my next visit to St. Kitts.

things to do in St Kitts

If you’re looking for fun things to do in St. Kitts in one day, start with a quick taxi tour of the island to make the most of your time.

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Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul: Museums to Malls

Better known as the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, together form the second-largest metropolitan area in the Midwest after Chicago.

 

The largest city in the state, Minneapolis, is known for its thriving arts scene and vibrant culture. On the other hand, Saint Paul, the state capital, features quaint communities with a historic vibe. Whether you’re looking to spend time in the great outdoors, enjoy an evening at the theater, or shop ’til you drop, there are plenty of things to do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Twin Cities are the perfect place for a city break. To make the most of your visit, consider booking one of the budget-friendly hotels near the airport. You’ll have easy access to both cities, as well as to a variety of nearby attractions, including the Mall of America and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Outdoor Activities

Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Image via Flickr by puliarf

If you love being one with nature, the Twins Cities are the ideal destination. Also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is well-known for its water sports, from fishing to waterskiing and canoeing to kayaking. Head to Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park to take a stroll along a paved walkway that connects several of the area’s most popular lakes. For even more outdoor adventure, visit Minnehaha Falls Park for a picnic lunch in one of the oldest and most popular parks in Minneapolis. Stunning scenery at the park includes a 53-foot waterfall and limestone bluffs.

Get up close and personal with the flora and fauna at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in Saint Paul. From giraffes to reindeer, there’s a huge variety of animals on display. Be sure to take a ride on the carousel and stop by the gardens to check out the exotic plants. At Rice Park, a green space in historic downtown Saint Paul, you’ll find festivals, concerts, and other events, as well as ice skating in the winter.

Arts and Entertainment

Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Image via Flickr by TBoard

With so many museums and historic sites in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, you want to plan your day carefully to take in as many as possible. For a glimpse into pioneer life, head to Historic Fort Snelling. Enjoy looking at the contemporary visual arts at Walker Art Center or the world-famous international art pieces featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Grand Avenue features some of the best restaurants in the area, as well as unique boutiques and relaxing spas. If the Minnesota Twins are in town, head to Target Field to catch a Major League Baseball game. At night, check out a live performance at Guthrie Theater or one of the three theaters that make up the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Other great places to take in the arts and culture of the Twin Cities include the Minnesota History Center and the Minnesota State Capitol.

For a vacation filled with fun outdoor activities and a wide variety of arts and entertainment, the Twin Cities are sure to check a few boxes on your bucket list. With so many things to do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, it’s the perfect place for a fun-filled getaway.

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Things to Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Holy Water Ritual at Tirta Empul Temple in Bali – A Wanderlust Experience

Tirta Empul is a place to purify your soul.

For more than 1,000 years, the Balinese have been coming to this sacred spot to do just that. Built on a bubbling spring that flows from the Pakerisan River, Tirta Emplul Temple is a popular spot for ritual purification. According to legend, Indra, a Hindu god, created the spring that feeds the temple’s 13 fountains, infusing it with magical powers as he did. Locals follow the Hindu religion bathe in the holy water to cleanse their souls and ward off evil. Tourists come to experience a truly special cultural tradition. Here’s what to expect from your experience if you plan to visit Tirta Empul Temple.

Tirta Empul

Getting There

Located in the Tampak Siring district, Tirta Empul is about an hour drive from Bali’s capital, Denpasar. I hired a private guide and was glad I did. It costs about $40 per half day, and it’s worth every penny, especially at a place like Tirta Empul Temple where it helps to have a local’s expertise to guide you. I wouldn’t have known what to do or where to go without my guide. And because you likely don’t want to take your camera in the water with you, your guide can take pictures of you while you bathe in the waters.

The Grounds

Tirta Empul opens at 7 a.m. daily and costs about $2 to enter the grounds. You’ll be given a sarong to wear over your own clothes. Be sure to return it when you leave. The earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to experience large crowds. Don’t be deceived by the featured image at the top of my post—this place is crawling with locals and tourists alike. How my guide managed to get a photo of me alone in the water is amazing to me.

Tirta Empul

A quick tour reveals the temple consists of three main courtyards, the Jaba Pura, or front yard, Jaba Tengah, or central yard, and Jeroan, or inner yard. Jaba Tengah features two rectangular pools with 13 “showers” each. This is where the purification ritual takes place, and there will likely be a lineup of people at each of the showers no matter what time you get to Tirta Empul. Don’t worry, they move quickly. You’ll likely also notice a sign posting the rules for entering the pools. Be sure to keep these in mind as you move through the temple.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: Tirta Empul is an active religious site for the locals. They often come to collect the holy water in jugs to take home with them. At certain times of the year, they flock to the grounds to take part in religious events. It can be extremely crowded during these times, so be sure to check in advance if there are any special ceremonies and festivals taking place and plan accordingly.

Change Your Clothes

Before you can enter the water, you need to change out of your clothes and into a special sarong that’s different from the one you received upon entry to the grounds. You can rent the sarong and a locker for your personal items for a buck or two. You’ll find them, along with the fitting rooms, to your left if you’re facing away from the holy water showers. There will be a small table with one or two people to collect the cash and hand you your sarong and locker key. Then, head inside to find your designated locker and stash your stuff.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: If you’re modest like me and don’t love changing in front of other people, there are large bathroom stalls at the back of the dark locker room that double as change rooms.

Guys can simply wrap the sarong around their waists, but the gals need to be sure all of their bits are properly covered. To tie the sarong, simply drape it behind your body and grab one end in each hand. Crisscross the two ends around your neck, and tie them together to form a halter. Your sarong will come tied with a red sash. Wrap the sash around your waist like a belt to keep the sarong closed.

Purification Ritual

Now that you’re in the proper attire, head back to the bathing pools. I plunged into the one on the right and got into the first line I saw. A kind man was nice enough to tell me I wasn’t doing the ritual quite right. You see, you need to start at the first shower on the left in the pool on the left and stand under each shower for the full effect. So, me and my soaked sarong climbed back out of the water and trudged to the first fountain.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: The temple is made from stones that get quite slippery when wet—and they’re always wet. Be careful climbing in and out of the water. Also, beware there are fish in the pools, so don’t be surprised if one swims by or brushes up against you.

There were a handful of people in line in front of me, so I watched diligently as each one approached the shower so I would know what to do. Some people said a short prayer before bowing their heads and using their hands to sweep water over themselves a total of threes times. Others skipped the prayer part. Some people brought offerings of flowers and incense, while others gathered water to take back home to their families.

Tirta Empul

There are formal traditions that are part of the blessing at Tirta Empul, but it can be a bit of a challenge to find someone to explain them to you. Alternatively, you can do whatever you want, so long as it’s low key and respectful. No one will judge you or look at you funny if you don’t put your head right underwater, for example. It’s all about what’s right for you. But be mindful of the locals who are at Tirta Empul as part of their religious beliefs, and allow them the time and space they need to perform the ritual. For them, this isn’t just an opportunity to snap a cool selfie, it’s part of an age-old cultural tradition. I chose to say a few words of kindness to myself before washing water over my head three times. It takes about 15 minutes or so to perform the ritual at every one of the fountains. Some people drink the water, though due to deteriorating water quality, it’s no longer recommended.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: It can be a bit of a challenge to keep your sarong from riding up in the water, and no one wants that to happen. Tucking it between your legs and shuffling your feet to walk is a great way to keep everything neatly in place.

Once you’re done purifying in the holy water, head back to the locker room to grab your clothes and change. then, drop off your wet sarong at the same table where you rented it earlier. Spend some time touring the grounds and taking in all of the amazing carvings before making your way home. You can even view the source of the spring water bubbling under the ground. It’s worth a look around.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul was one of the highlights of my trip to Bali. Throughout my experience, I felt like I was taking part in something truly special and cherished every moment of my time there. If you only have time to do visit a handful of sites in Bali, Tirta Empul Temple should be at the top of your list.

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Tirta Empul

The Six Best Island Vacations in Europe 

Guest post by Priya Ghatol

How about slowing down the pace and opting for an island vacation in Europe?

 

Surprisingly, Europe has an excellent collection of islands that are perfect for a barefoot leisure holiday or an adventurous expedition. They’re also an ideal way to escape from daily realities of life and the hoards of tourists that frequent Europe’s most popular cities. So, why not head to these exquisite islands to experience a unique European holiday?

Islands of Greece

Best Island Vacations in Europe

When it comes to planning an island holiday in Europe, Greece is on top of the list. This gorgeous nation is made up of a cluster of islands scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The moment someone mentions Greece, images of endless stretches of azure waters lapping on white sandy beaches and sunny blue skies surface in one’s mind.

Set in the southeastern Europe, Greece is a fabled land filled with rich culture and ancient civilizations. The country’s the Ionian Islands or the Seven Islands are known for their breathtaking panoramas, while the islands of Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, and Cerigo are steeped in culture and historical influences from many European settlements.

A cruise visit to each of these islands is a great way to explore the unique experiences they have to offer. An expedition into diverse landscapes, sheltered bays and caves, and serene lagoons with a backdrop of soaring cliffs are mesmerizing to behold. Santorini is one of the best islands to visit in Greece. Here, take in a sunset from the coastal township, and a stop for a photo opportunity on one of the picturesque whitewashed lanes lined with churches.

Isle of Skye, Scotland 

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Spectacular sceneries of rugged cliffs and clear lochs wait for you at Isle of Skye in Scotland. With a unique landscape of jagged cliffs and mountainous terrains dominating the panorama, Isle of Skye offers some of the most dramatic vistas in Scotland. Not the usual sight of open bright blue seas or white sandy beaches, Isle of Sky surprises you with misty brown mountains and clear waters.

If you’re interested in an island vacation that includes wilderness adventures, the Isle of Skye offers amazing hiking trails and walks of varying levels of difficulty. Hardcore adventurers can push their limits with challenging climbs. Those who love to stroll through nature can opt for pictorial walking tours to Coral Beach, Cuillin Mountains, Boreraig, and Talisker Beach to name a few places. On the way, you may even spot white-tailed sea eagles, puffins, otters, seals, whales, dolphins, and red deer. Stop by the Scottish villages of Portree, Dunvegan, and Trotternish for a pint of the finest Scottish malt whiskey. Have a pleasant time mingling with locals and savoring some Scottish meals.

Canary Islands, Spain

Best Island Vacations in Europe

A fusion of stunning beaches, spectacular natural sceneries, charming culture, and pleasantly warm weather, the Canary Islands are your answer to a tranquil Spanish holiday without the chaos of tourists. Considered as one of Europe’s best winter sun destinations due to their moderate climates, the Canary islands offer a thrilling island adventure amid extraordinary scenic settings. An archipelago set deep in the Atlantic Ocean, away from the Spanish borders, the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma offer sanctuary for those seeking tranquil escapes and cater to all kinds of beach lovers.

The unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, and glorious sunshine coupled with tropical forests that are dotted with waterfalls, quaint seaside villages teeming, and charming locals, the islands allure their visitors with spectacular natural vistas and a vibrant verve.

There is always an event or celebration going on throughout the year. For leisure seekers, relax on laid-back sunny beaches after a dip in the tepid waters or set sail into the ocean to spot dolphins and whales. For outdoorsy adventurers, hike on meandering trails, or try scuba diving beneath the deep blue waters. Take some time to visit the seaside hamlets and historic townships, and don’t forget to watch a superb sunset along the horizon or stay at the beach late into the night for an awe-inspiring star-gazing experience.

Madeira, Portugal

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Deemed one of Europe’s most exotic places to visit, Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago consisting of four islands that lie far away from the European coast. Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands, Madeira is a mountainous region rather than a beach destination.

Rich in verdant foliage, soaring cliffs, and mountain peaks, Madeira is a haven for adventure lovers. There are many activities to do here, such as taking a cable car ride that gives you wonderful aerial views of Funchal, exploring the historic sites, or taking in the colonial architecture. Take a self-drive tour to check out the beautiful churches overlooking the cliff edges and the vast expanses of water, try surfing one of Europe’s best surf zones, or gear up for an adventure trek on the misty Pico do Arieiro.

Madeira is a spectacular epicurean destination that is famous for its wineries. A haven for keen food lovers, it is a delight to delve into a delectable range of cuisines made out of fresh farm produce and seafood that is complemented perfectly with an array of the finest sparkling wines from the region. Tourists flock to Madeira during New Year celebrations for its warm weather and astounding fireworks display that is certified as the largest fireworks show in the world by Guinness World Records.

Sicily, Italy

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Italy is undoubtedly well known as a destination drenched in art, history, and culture, but the country also offers amazing experiences of blissful island living. Italy’s assorted islands and its coastal towns are quite famous for providing insight into the quaint lifestyle steeped in authentic Italian culture and cuisine amid spellbinding scenic vistas. Sicily is the largest Italian island, offering an intense blend of unspoiled sceneries that are reminiscent of a bygone era, refreshing scents, and delectable flavors.

The colorful coastal settlement of Taormina perched right the border of the gleaming deep blue Mediterranean waters is a sight worth taking in. Mount Etna is another must visit attraction that offers stunning nature park, and grottos to explore. The UNESCO sites of the Noto Valley and Villa Romana del Casale take you back in historical times, while the refreshing sights of rolling green vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards are enough to confirm that the palette of food you will be relishing in will be fresh and delicious. Forget about piling up calories and let yourself loose on an amazing array of delicious Sicilian dishes, such as pastries, croquettes, ricottas, breads, tomatoes, meats, and genuine extra virgin olive oil.

Iceland

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Iceland is a one-of-a-kind experience that needs to be visited at least once in your lifetime. In contrast to its name, Iceland isn’t a country covered in sheets of ice, but its sheer natural beauty is attributed to its glacial fields. Other landscapes include volcanic mountains and lava fields, making Iceland a place where ice and fire coexist in harmony. The landscape is marvelous and distinct. There are no lush forests or tall trees, just shrubbery and moss-covered uneven topography.

The natural splendor of Iceland is astounding and surreal. The island is speckled with magnificent waterfalls, volcanic terrains, gorgeous fjords, stunning beaches, and clear lakes. The long days here give you a feeling that tomorrow may never come, and you have loads of time in one day to explore the country. The black beaches of Laugarvatn Lake, Reynisfjara, and Vik, the icy blue glaciers of Jökulsárlón and Vatnajökull National Park, the dramatic multi-hued vistas of Westfjords, the natural hot pools at Krosslaug and Deildartunguhver are some of Iceland’s extraordinary sights that will be etched in your memories forever. If you are traveling in the right season, you can even catch the gleaming Aurora borealis in Iceland.

The beauty and warmth of these European islands act as a rejuvenating salve for the tired soul. Though set apart from the mainland, a trip to these islands is an unparalleled experience and is sure to leave you wanting for more of the European island lifestyle.


Author Bio: Priya is an avid travel writer who specializes in adventurous travel writing. Her blogs and articles give deep insight about various tourist places and act as a perfect travel guide for someone who is traveling to a place for the first time. Priya has exemplary research, writing, and editing skills, which allow her to easily match the reader’s intellect and interest. She has blogged extensively about her travel experience while traveling to several places like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Europe, Dubai, USA, Canada, etc. 


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