Category: Enjoying Travel to the Fullest

Three Things about My Denmark

Tell me your favorite thing about this country, and why:
Hygge! Pronounced like “Hyew-guh.” It’s a noun.

Hygge-issimo

Hygge-issimo

This is something only a Scandinavian culture could conceive of, and it informs a lot about the Danish people. What it basically means, and there’s not a direct translation into English, is a feeling of coziness, calm and good feelings among friends. Why hyyge? Winters are long, dark, and cold!

Atelier Tobias Jacobsen. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

Atelier Tobias Jacobsen. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

I see hygge in the architecture and interior design thinking in Denmark. I used to think Danish design was all about slick sterile surfaces, but it definitely is not!

Detail of PK22 Chair, Wicker and Steel. Photo by Jonas Forth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jforth/

Detail of PK22 Chair, Wicker and Steel. Photo by Jonas Forth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jforth/

I think it’s about that reassuring feeling of good stuff, stuff you want to share with people. Much of classic Danish furniture was designed with wood surfaces, teak in particular, and I think it’s an essential material for that furniture.

Arne Jacobsen Table, Teak Laminate. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

Arne Jacobsen Table, Teak Laminate. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

You see this in the food too, which for years was kind of bad-mouthed as clunky and old-fashioned (it’s not) but it’s really about this communal experience. It’s not all cheese, butter, fish and foraged food, it’s more like, here’s something we can share, and life is good when you can share things. Here’s to that!

Tell me a few things about Denmark that a lot of travelers miss, and that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss:
Copenhagen’s Illums Bolighus:

Illums Bolighus (after Lee Freidlander.) Photo by Thomas Ackermann: https://www.flickr.com/photos/angermann/

Illums Bolighus (after Lee Freidlander.) Photo by Thomas Ackermann: https://www.flickr.com/photos/angermann/

If you are an interior design nerd (with space on your credit card – airline miles!) this is a must visit! Four floors of thoughtful, iconic, inspiring, silly, outrageous and purchasable interior things (hygge anyone?) It feels like a museum in a sense, because of the care and thoughtfulness put into the display, the architecture of the building and the rarity of some of the items up for sale.

Illums Bolighus Exterior, Holidays. Photo by Suzanne Nillson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/

Illums Bolighus Exterior, Holidays. Photo by Suzanne Nillson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/

It’s right in the middle of central Copenhagen, easy to get to.
Smørrebrød:

Smørrebrød. Photo by CycloneBill: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclonebill/

Smørrebrød. Photo by CycloneBill: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclonebill/

Ask any Dane what their comfort food is, this is the answer, Denmark’s famous open-faced sandwiches. In many many ways they are Danish Tacos, in the Mexico City sense of a taco: a pure perfect bite where the taste of the main ingredient is an exclamation point (or whisper) and everything else is in support of it. Salmon – cold cured, smoked, fried, raw – is usually the major protein, and most of the bread is delicious Scandinavian Dark Rye. Everyone you will meet will have a very definite idea of where the best place to have Smørrebrød is, just ask!
The views inside and around the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art:

 Alexander Calder Sculpture, Louisiana Museum Cafe, Denmark. Photo by Sven Lindner https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenlindner/

Alexander Calder Sculpture, Louisiana Museum Cafe, Denmark. Photo by Sven Lindner https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenlindner/

It’s a short train ride away from downtown Copenhagen, and a short walk through a suburb. I remember very vividly seeing the best Gerhard Richter retrospective exhibit I’d ever (and will ever) see there. What really caught me off guard though was how incredible the building and its grounds are. I remember I found a small room there, with a view overlooking the Öresund strait into Sweden. The most incredible museum I’ve ever had the experience of being inside of and looking out of.

 

How to Trade Time for Money (and Vice Versa) While Traveling

One of the key skills that sets expert travelers apart is how they balance time and budget. What most people would struggle to do … they don’t!

If you had an unlimited budget, you could probably be picky about how much of your day you’re willing to spend doing things. How much time you’d spend to get yourself around, how much time you can linger over a glass of wine. Time is easy to find. Conversely, if you had months to spend you’d inevitably save money doing the same activity, just by spending a little more time in line, or waiting for the bus.

Here’s a few simple ways to save money by trading time, and how to smartly trade money for time. To be clear, sometimes spending time or money is not an either/or relationship.  Many of my favorite travel experiences were made by walking back to the hotel, or standing in line for food with the locals, or flying to a vacation in business class. You choose!

To save MONEY by trading TIME

  1. Stay in the next town over from your destination
    park_city

    Park City, Utah’s next town over is Salt Lake City, 40 minutes away.

    I learned this in my snowboarding days, but it works for nearly all travel. If I was going snowboarding in Jackson Hole, I’d stay in Driggs, Idaho, 30 minutes away from the resort. I’d save 40-50% over what staying in Jackson, Wyoming costs. 

  2. Prepare your own meals
    alpine_picnic

    Nothing wrong with this view

    I really look forward to eating the local food wherever I’m traveling. Doing that means dining out. But you can get a different but equally memorable experience if you prepare your own meal using local ingredients. You’ll need to shop, and that means going where the locals go. Another benefit!

  3. Spend time getting informed while on the road 
    gateau

    Half-price, if you’re willing to come on a Thursday. Credit: Juliana Su/Flickr

    As an experience-focused traveler, I really prefer to follow my instinct and let my feet and nose do the deciding. But this can get very expensive! What I do is get a grasp of what I would like to go experience, and then find the best deal going for that activity. Two examples: some culinary schools and academies have restaurants that serve the public awesome meals at rock-bottom prices, but only during limited hours. Museums too: many museums offer free entry but only on a particular day. This beats paying $25 or more for entry for each museum.  

    Louvre_by_Night

    Louvre, Paris. Free the First Sunday of Every Month

To save TIME by trading MONEY

  1. Fly Business class and sleep on the plane
    Business Class on Eva Air Credit: Edwin Leong/By Edwin Leong, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31769804

    Business Class on Eva Air Credit: Edwin Leong/ https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31769804

    For most overseas flights, this saves a day each way, so in effect your vacation is 2 whole days longer. Overseas Business Class is in my experience a bigger leap in creature comfort as well: food, entertainment and comfort are a big step up from coach on overseas flights. This also is true for sleeper cars on trains — the most tranquil place on many trains is the private berths, not to mention more secure.

  2. Take a private tour or book a private table
    kitchen_view

    Hard at work

    In many attractions, high demand means long lines, something to avoid at all costs if you’re careful with your time. Talk to your hotel concierge, and see if they can arrange a private tour for you. This also works for restaurants. Ask your concierge about getting a tour of the restaurant you’re interested in, and dining at the chef’s table, which is another word for the kitchen. I highly recommend it!

  3. Book a hotel room next door to your destination
    hotel_louvre

    Right Next Door!

    The most consistently time-saving technique I use is to sleep as close to the attraction as possible. For instance if you’re visiting the Louvre, stay in the 1st Arrondissement. Pricier! But a 5 minute walk beats 45 minutes.

  4. Take care of personal chores in the hotel 
    5 Stars. Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/streetcarl/ (Ben)

    5 Stars. Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/streetcarl/ (Ben)

    Ever wonder what’s the difference between 4 and 5 star hotels? The real difference? It’s guest services. Time taking care of the little things is time taken away from your visit. Small time stealers add up. In top hotels, you can arrange for most things to be done to be done for you. I especially like having my laundry done, it’s one of those things that feels like luxury when I travel. Haircuts, too. And of course, room service. 

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations. If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

How to Drink Beer Overseas

Not everyone likes beer, that’s OK. But if you do like beer, let’s talk a little about beer drinking overseas.

Ground rules

  1. Everyone has different tastes, so let’s not compare best beer or worst beer. I recommend Beer Advocate’s forums if you’re so inclined. No talking from me about best beer countries, either. Belgium has won, wins and will win again. Seriously, go to Belgium.

    CThe_Devil

    Speak of the Devil

  2. Tasting and drinking are different. You can taste and drink at the same time, but tasting is not what we’re going to talk about. Again: Beer Advocate.
  3. Drinking with besties beats drinking alone. Either bring your friends or make new friends. You all probably like beer, which is the basis of most lifelong friendships.

What the world drinks

Until about 25 years ago, when my dad would say “Hey, I just mowed that lawn because you were on your PlayStation, get me a beer” he meant “get me a lager.” Lager is what most of the world wants when they want to drink a beer, especially in countries without a beer brewing tradition. This is pretty much all of Asia, South America, and Africa. In these places, you’re pretty unlikely to find a locally made IPA or Double Russian Stout on tap.

CPliny

Not by a long shot. Image and Thanks to: Fred Rockwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/freeloosedirt/

You might find Guinness. In short, the local brew is going to be a lager, pretty much some kind of Dad-beer. Dad-beer is fine, you’re going to be okay.

A scenario

You’re in Sapporo, Japan. I recommend drinking the local lager (see what I did there >.> )  When the brew hits your lips, you will form a memory, one that is yours and yours forever, in a place where you are and this beer is from. Don’t make that singular moment – of being you, alive and in a bar in Sapporo, Japan – about drinking a Bud. Remember: drinking is not tasting. Drink the Sapporo. It’s sort of meant to be.

CSapporo

When in Rome

Let me just say it’s totally cool to drink your favorite beer brand if you’re overseas, by the way. By all means! This is not the forced multiculturalism academy. Vacations are about new experiences though, so when you can, embrace it fully. That even extends to wine and spirits, even if you prefer beer. In Bandol, France? Drink Bandol wine. Campbeltown, Scotland? Drink Springbank whisky.

CHello

When in Rome

Be nice to your bartender

CMy-Hero

My Hero

Be nice to your bartender wherever you go, but especially overseas. This guy or gal is going to keep an eye on you in a foreign bar. She is your friend, and you should keep it that way. Do this:

  1. In life, you start every productive relationship with mutual respect. Ergo, learn how to ask for a beer in the language spoken there.

    CEngland_Bar

    Be Nice to this guy

  2. Tip well, unless you’re not supposed to tip, like in France where they bake the tip into the cost, or Japan, where you pretty much never tip for anything. You should sort this out before you go out, ask around.
  3. I’ve never seen non-hotel bar service you can run a tab on in any bar overseas, so be prepared to pay cash for each round. Credit card acceptance in bars is spotty too. I don’t know why.

Cheers, Locals!

CCheers-to-you

Cheers (in your language)!

The other reason to drink overseas is to meet local people. In a foreign bar, there’s a chance you may be the most interesting thing there, so be gracious about the questions you’ll be asked, e.g. do you know my cousin, do you play football and do you own a gun. And If you have shaky native language skills, try to chat with the youngest friendly people also drinking.

CNew-Friends

Another tip: don’t sit by yourself at a table, drink beer at the bar, it’s much easier to meet people on neutral ground. Also, don’t let yourself get drunk, it’s hard to tolerate drunken people, no matter how charming. Lastly, regarding mutual attraction, I would stay on the side of discretion and less is always more.   

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations. If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals, Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Three Things about My Japan

Lei Ann Shiramizu is one of my most stylish, funny and witty friends. She is the co-proprietor of Momo, a store that’s elegant and vibrant at the same time, which is hard to do! She also loves travel to Japan, so I wanted to ask her:

Tell me your favorite things about Japan and why:

Being Japanese-American and born and raised in Hawaii, Japan is familiar and foreign at the same time. Different cities have such different characteristics, different personalities. True anywhere. But there’s commonalities: clean, polite, accessible and orderly. I feel safe and can enjoy the experience without worrying about my well-being.

Tell me three things about Japan that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss, and why:

  1.  Rent a bike in Kyoto
    Photo: Peter Birkinshaw/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/

    Kyoto by Bike | Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/ Peter Birkinshaw

    Kyoto is flat, it’s a very very bike friendly city, it’s also a casual practical biker scene. In the USA, people tend to ride bikes for exercise, not for simple transportation. Cycling is also a great way to get from temple to temple. Finally, you can ride along the river and see it at the right pace.

  2. Drink and eat at a Fukuoka City Yatai
    Fukuoka City Yatai/Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Fukuoka City Yatai | Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Yatai (loosely similar to a food stall or truck, but more like an open-air restaurant) are awesome. They are cheap too. But the top reason is you get to share the camaraderie of the people next to you. On my last trip, with my 80-year-old parents, we drank sake with a Japanese man who loved Hawaiian culture. So my mom sang Tiny Bubbles along with Japanese strangers!

  3.  Visit Mount Kōya
    Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/

    A temple on Mount Koya | Photo: Akuppa John Wigham (https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/)

    Mount Kōya (高野山) is a sacred mountain top. It’s considered the birthplace of Shinto Buddhism. It’s a sacred place! Getting there from Kyoto, be prepared for trains, planes and automobiles! When we got there, we were served the most amazing vegetarian meal you will ever enjoy, even if you’re not vegetarian. Be sure to partake of goma-tofu, the only place you will find this delicious black sesame tofu. There is also a graveyard at the temple. We walked through it at sunset. We heard the temple gong. It is something I will never forget. We stayed at a Shinto monastery. You have to wake up early and take part in morning prayers with the monks (and other guests.) Mandatory!

And 4,  Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns / Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns | Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima is beautiful and hopeful. The way I feel about Hiroshima is the way I feel about a person who had cancer, but then got healthy again. It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes. You shouldn’t feel guilty about Hiroshima, just go.

 Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations. If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals, Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!

Five Essential Mobile Travel Apps

We’re passionate about travel. We believe travel experiences should be accessible to everyone, and the tools and talents we’ve learned should be shared with everyone. Having a great experience on your next trip really does start with going places that you can have a great experience, and for us, having a great experience is easier and more predictably enjoyable whenever we use mobile apps.

My first use of a mobile device on vacation was in France, in 2004. I caused quite a stir in Bordeaux when I showed up at Bed and  Breakfast table using Map Point 2004 on my Windows Pocket PC 2002 device! It felt like it was from the future, and it’s fair to say that it was a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Here are five free mobile apps useful after you find a great deal on airfare. We chose these apps for their class-leading utility, ease of use and free price. Many of these could be replaced by a personal preference, and if you prefer your app over an app here, by all means stick with your app! Finally, familiarize yourself with these apps before you go on your next vacation.

Maps: Google Maps:  Google Play iTunes  Not getting lost in a foreign country means getting a map, and mapping applications, as long as you have bandwidth, are a practical and handy way to find your way on the road. Almost everyone has used Google Maps, so sticking with a familiar app is a good idea.

The best reason to recommend Google Maps is that no other map provider offers car/bike/ferry/walk and rail options in the same app. In many parts of the world, where booking a train ticket or getting a seat on a ferry is the norm, this is a key feature. This was only recently added to the app (it had been on the browser version only) so we can now recommend the app over the website. Finally, Google Maps has a great feature that’s missing in most other free mapping programs: airport interior maps. Finding an international gate in a new airport for a connecting flight can be stressful. Don’t miss your flight!

Airline Info: FlightView Free iTunes  Google Play FlightView Free is the best app for real-time flight information. When is that flight scheduled to arrive? Get an alert for that flight. Departure gate changed? Get an alert. Connecting flight changed? Get an alerted as soon as it happens. You can set custom levels of alerts, see real-time flight paths, arrival and departure times (or delays) all updated within seconds. You can even find out information about the plane model. Enter your flight info, the app does the rest. Essential. From OAG.

Translation: Google Translate: Google Play  Itunes The app offers text, speech and snapshot translation, meaning if you can take a pic with your smartphone, you have a great shot at translating the sign. Google Translate now includes French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Portuguese as offline translators for when you’re tight on bandwidth (more on that later.) We still recommend learning a few conversational phrases (and knowing what they mean when you are asked the same phrases) but traveling with a translator opens up another level of great travel experience.

Mobile Device on Vacation

Mobile is for more than pics on your next vacation

Spending and Budget: Mint iTunes Google Play

Saving a lot of money on a plane ticket is a smart way to experience travel. Overspending your budget can be fun, but it can take away the benefits of saving a lot on your next vacation airfare. Mint helps you track expenses and keep your budget in mind when you travel. Since online privacy and security are a big concern too, we feel safe recommending Mint.

Mint is now part of Intuit, who have been making personal finance software forever, so the user experience and features are great right out of the box. 

Itinerary wrangling: TripIt: Trip Planner iTunes  Google Play

TripIt places high on our list of essentials because it’s an easy and free way to keep your travel plans organized. If you forward travel confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com, TripIt will create a streamlined master itinerary for each of your trips that you can access anytime, anywhere, on any device—for free. If you have a Gmail account, it will do its organizing on its own – no forwarding necessary.

Key Features of Tripit are:

  • Instantly creates a schedule with all your travel details in one place
  • Imports travel plans directly from your email
  • Gives you access to your travel plans on any device
  • Adds your travel plans to your calendar for you
  • Keeps family, friends and colleagues in the loop
  • Stores essential travel documents and contacts

Amazing Airfare was created to offer travelers unbelievable discounts (in every case at least 50%) on airfare to international destinations.  If you’re a traveler looking to find the biggest discount, or just too busy to keep searching for incredible deals,  Amazing Airfare might be the ticket!

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you’ve got questions or comments, drop in your comment below, we love to hear from fellow travelers!