Tag: travel

Travel Swellness: 7 Ways to Make Solo Road-Tripping Better

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When driving alone, I can get bored pretty quickly. I think doing the drive from Toronto to Montreal as a passenger on the weekends every two weeks when I first moved to Toronto really made me develop a deep dread for being in a car for hours. So the idea of driving solo several hours alone has always been a bit daunting to me up until recently. Now having done it a couple of times, I have a few tactics to make driving solo for several hours easier:

Pack great road-trip snacks you’re excited to eat. I swear that having snacks to look forward to helps break up the drive into chunks of time. This is no different than a regular day for me; I’m always planning what I’m eating next. Some snacks I tend to pack for road trips: bagels, apples, almonds, sour patch kids, Pringles (the can makes it easy to eat in the car), Peanut M&Ms, and if I’m organized enough to pack a meal, I like making pita wraps because they’re easy to eat on the go. To drink, I bring a Sap Sucker and Bubly, although I do try to somewhat limit my fluids so that I can avoid stopping for a ton of bathroom breaks.

Plan for fun stops along the way. I used to only focus on getting to my final destination as quickly as possible.Now, I try to plan for at least one stop along the way so that I have something to look forward to. It might be at the beginning of the trip (for example, I’ve gone to San Remo Bakery to pick up doughnuts so that I have a sweet treat to look forward to) or a practical errand midway (such as Giant Tiger to pick up the last few cottage essentials–and I’m always checking to see if they’ve got the $6 bike shorts I scored two summers ago). Or sometimes I’ll stop somewhere touristy, such as the Big Apple in Cobourg. Incorporating stops helps to break up the journey; rather than facing a long, boring six-drive to Montreal, it’s only two hours til the Big Apple, and then another one or so til I stop for gas. This method of breaking up the drive into chunks reminds of running 10 and 1s; it’s easier to mentally wrap your head around getting through the next 10 minutes rather than hours of running (when in the thick of marathon training you’ve got those 30k runs as you near race day!). In fact, when I was getting drained completing the mileage for the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, I planned fun stops during some runs, including meeting my friend in the park to hike. Look how much marathon training has taught me, haha!

Plan your gas stop and bathroom breaks. Like in a marathon, for a road trip you need to plan when to fuel and when you go to the bathroom. I now know that I fill up on gas every three hours of driving or so; with that in mind, I plan my other stops accordingly–it’s all about spacing apart the breaks from driving and giving your legs a stretch and some fresh air (for Billie Jean, too!). When I get gas, I usually pick up a double-double at Timmies, too, cuz I’m a good ol’ Canadian, eh! It’s my little road trip ritual.

Have a playlist planned. I much prefer running with music or a podcast on my AirPods and I need entertainment for my drives as well. I only listen to a handful of podcasts regularly, so if I know I have a road trip coming up, I will save new episodes to listen to in the car. Podcasts really help the time fly by; I drove five hours to Meech Lake in the fall and by the time I’d listened to my favourites (Dave Chang Show, Smartless, Conan O’Brien, Spilled Milk, Fake Doctors Real Friends, and Recipe Club) I’d arrived! I’d take breaks in between podcasts for music. Since I don’t own a lot of music, I’ve very much enjoyed the Sirius XM subscription in the GM Canada cars. I set my favourites before I hit the road so I can easily switch between pop, hip hip, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. If you’re into audiobooks, download a few for your drive, I bet that’d be a great time to have a listen if it’s a format you enjoy (I find my mind wanders off when listening to audiobooks so they’re not my jam for road trips.)

Dress for the drive. You’ll want to be comfortable, obviously. For winter drives, I typically take off my winter coat and wear a sweatsuit or a sweater and leggings. More important than your outfit is your footwear; in the summer, this means wearing footwear other than flimsy flip flops (which can slip on the pedals) and for fall and winter, I opt for sneakers or boots that don’t have an overly chunky sole (too much of platform and I can’t feel the pedal!). Avoid wearng jumpsuits or onesies as your ootd; trust me, you do not want the hassle of getting half undressed at every bathroom pit stop!

Sing! Learn a new language! One of my IG followers suggested learning a new language while driving, and I love that idea! I haven’t tried it yet (although I am learning Italian with the Babbel app), but I do regularly sing in the car. If a boyband comes on or some classic 90s RnB, you’ll find my singing at the top of my lungs behind the wheel. I find singing helps keep you alert for the drive and you end up feeling more energized after you’ve belted out some Mary J Blige. And while I’m not really one to talk on the phone, if you love phone calls, use this time to chat with that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

Driving with confidence. Besides all of these little tactics I use for going on solo road trips,  for me a big part of what makes me comfortable and confident with driving solo is knowing the car I’m driving can handle the conditions and that its features help me drive more safely.

My recent test drive of the 2022 GMC Acadia AWD was perfect for my trip cottage-hopping. While the highways were clear, it was white-out conditions in Gatineau on the day I departed for Wentworth and the roads were slippery for most of my two-hour trek, but all-wheel-drive got me safely to my destination. And let’s hear it for the heated steering wheel and seats; much appreciated in the -21 degree weather (and I think the more comfortable you are, the more focused you are on driving)! Also, because I do not pack light, the ample trunk space (plus I put down the third row of seats to expand it) was put to good use with all of my cottage groceries, luggage and work-from-cottage essentials stashed in there; they didn’t have to be piled up, which would’ve blocked the rear window). The Acadia also had heads-up display is something I always appreciate as it helps me be more aware of my speed (when I get in a zone, I’m a little bit of a lead foot!), and the blind-spot detection light is super helpful for keeping you aware of your surroundings (even though, of course, I always do shoulder check before changing lanes). I will tell you that I never would’ve predicted I’d love GMC, but I do! Although I don’t love parking them (so big!) I do love being the big GMC SUV on the road surrounded by little cars. Maybe that confidence was BCE: Big Car Energy. Does this mean, ahem, size matters?!

(Side note: Just last year, an old SUV I was driving solo one day in the summer went dead right as I was in the middle of making a turn onto a busy downtown street. There I was, in the middle of the intersection with the car completely dead. Talk about panic! It makes me appreciate cars like this smooth driving GMC Acadia all that much more!)

How do you approach your road trips? I’m still learning (and I dream of one day driving to Banff and Jasper to hike with Billie Jean) so would love to know if you have any strategies for road tripping (especially driving solo). And more importantly, what podcasts should I add to my library for my next road trip?? ‘Cause I’ll need way more to listen to if I’m going to tackle longer drives!

 

Leave a Comment February 15, 2022

Travel Swellness: 2020 Travel Predictions

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Where do you see your travel taking you this year and in the decade ahead of us? Has what drives your decisions changed over the years? The experts at Booking.com have examined research and their insights from travel reviews and these are five trends they’ve identified that will impact how and where we travel in the years to come that I found most intriguing

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Let’s take it slow.

Rather than FOMO and racing through to fit in as much as possible, we’ll be going at a slower pace. Nearly half of travelers will be taking a slower mode of transportation as a means to reduce environmental impact and an even greater number will be opting for a longer route to experience the actual journey itself. This means methods such as bikes, trams, boats and even our own two feet will be more popular means of transportation.

Kinda sorta like when I run in the mornings to explore a city. Or take in the sights as I run a marathon (like I did recently in Istanbul, let me tell you, that was a slow pace, haha). And earlier in 2019, driving for many hours in Alberta was one of my all-time favourite trips and the drive wasn’t just about getting from point A to B, but was a defining element of the trip. How can you beat singing your favourite songs in the car as you enjoy the mountain views and brilliant glacial lakes around you? With the occasional mountain goat, bear or deer sighting, too!

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Let’s hear it for “second city” travel.

More travelers will choose second city travel, that is lesser known destinations, so as to reduce over tourism and reduce the impact on the environment. More than half of the travelers they spoke to would be interested in an app that suggested a destination where tourism would benefit the community.

Is taking the road less traveled of interest to you? I love the idea of this, especially having often been overwhelmed by crowd of people at popular sights recently, like at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. I think further to reducing over tourism and being kind to the environment, I think many people, myself included, like the feeling of discovery. Exploring that little gem that not everyone has been to.

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Pets are a top priority.

Pet-centric travel is set to explode. More and more travelers are taking their pets into consideration when it comes to their vacations. 34 percent will choose their holiday based on whether or not they can take their pets with them, in fact. And, good news, the number of pet-friendly accommodations on Booking.com continues to rise.

I travel semi-regularly with my dog, Billie Jean, and I can tell you she plays a big role in my travel decisions. We spent August in Brooklyn last year and also did a road trip to the Drake Motor Inn, and being able to travel with her simply makes life better. In fact, I was recently considering a trip in the next few months, but given that the accommodations are not dog-friendly, I doubt I will go on this trip.

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Snag that coveted reservation.

Culinary goals will be key in travel decisions. Booking a table at the hugely popular restaurant for an unforgettable dining experience is a trend that speaks to me. Just a few weeks ago, in advance of my trip to Thailand, my friend and I obsessed about where to book dinner and selected Michelin-starred restaurant Gaa as a decadent treat. And we were crushed to learn that Jay Fai was closed the days we were hoping to go early in the morning to get our name on the walk-in list. Several years ago, another friend and I diligently worked on getting a reservation at David Chang’s Momofuku Ko, clicking for a spot the second the reservations opened up and finally scored two seats at a late time. If Booking.com is correct that food-motivated travel is on the rise, this means I’ll have more competition when it comes to getting that coveted reservation, doh!

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Going the “all-amusive” route.

With limited time when it comes to vacations, more and more people are looking for vacations that can deliver all of the experiences and attractions they’re interested in. 57 percent would rather go on one long trip that offers all of the activities they’re into close together. Booking.com predicts will have the travel industry curating itineraries, deals and routes that encompass a healthy range of interests. This more time-efficient way to travel makes sense to me; I look to plan well-rounded trips when I’m setting an itinerary for myself, with time for culture, fitness, R&R and food (OK, food takes a higher priority for me, but I do like my travel to include everything! Unless it’s got a baby elephant, then all I need is to cuddle with a baby elephant and that is everything).

Do you have travel plans for 2020 yet? Where are you off to?

Leave a Comment January 2, 2020

Travel Swellness: New York Citypass

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As a longtime fan of Citypass (I’ve used it a couple of times in Chicago, and once in Toronto), I was happy to receive the New York edition from Citypass for this August. which I spent in Brooklyn with Billie Jean.

If you’re unfamiliar with Citypass, here’s how it works: For each city (Citypass is available in 14 cities), they’ve rounded up a group of the top sights to see. If you were to add up all of the admission prices for these attractions and compare it to the cost of the Citypass, there’s a significant savings. So the pass makes a lot of sense if your travel plans include seeing many of the sights included in the pass for your city. The New York Citypass costs $183.99, which is a savings of 44 percent on the six sights and attractions included.

The New York Citypass includes:

  1. Empire State Building
  2. American Museum of Natural History
  3. Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum
  5. Ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  6. 9/11 Memorial Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

How I used the New York Citypass:

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The Empire State Building. I actually am not sure if I have ever been up the Empire State Building… possibly once when I was a kid. Since that was a long time ago, I was keen on visiting this iconic building once again. I lucked out with beautiful weather the afternoon I visited, and it wasn’t too crowded. The displays they have along the way as you make your way to the observation deck are fun, too: the pics of celebs who’ve visited, the King Kong photo opp, the example of the old elevator (what beautiful art deco details!).

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The Met. I’ve been very interested in revisiting the Met as I haven’t been in several years. And I was even more stoked to visit because the Met Camp exhibit was still on while I was there. This was such an incredible exhibit (I loved how the over the top outfits were displayed), but it was overwhelmingly crowded, so much so we didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked at it. Also, a bit of a fail: I didn’t realize my ticket to the Met included also visiting the Cloisters. I visited the Cloisters a few days later and paid the $25 admission. In any case, you should definitely make the effort to take the subway uptown to the Cloisters. It’s been on my wish list for several years, but I never have enough time in New York to carve out the time to go there, but I finally did and it feels like a wonderful castle perched the top of a hill in a quiet park. You won’t believe you’re still in Manhattan when you’re there!

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Top of the Rock. So  you have to choose between the Guggenheim and Top of the Rock on the Citypass. The Guggenheim was what I chose initially to visit, as I was last at the Guggenheim more than five years ago. But I’ve also never been to Top of the Rock, and I knew the views from Top of the Rock are great (as my friend Jenn pointed out, the view from Top of the Rock is better in that you get to view the pretty Empire State Building from it). So I had decided I’d just use the Citypass on the Guggenheim, and pay to go to Top of the Rock. Then I did some recon and I saw that the Guggenheim is pay what you wish on Saturdays from 5-8 p.m., whereas the Top of the Rock costs $38. So up to the Top of the Rock I went, and it was fantastic. It was a windy, cloudy day, unfortunately but we still enjoyed our visit; the view looking uptown with Central Park stretching out before you is breathtaking. As for my plans to go to the Guggenheim on a Sunday, they never panned out, as I think I got too lazy to head there from Brooklyn on Saturday evenings.

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Circle Line Cruises. I chose the Circle Line Cruises over the Statue of Liberty (since the cruise would bring me by the statue anyhow) and I’m so happy because the night of the cruise there was an incredible sunset with the sky unbelievably vivid pinks and oranges and purples. It was phenomenal to be out on the water at sunset. I highly recommend this but be prepared to stand if you want to be outside (there are limited seats on the upper deck).

What I didn’t get to use the Citypass for:

I’d decided to put the American Museum of Natural History as low priority on my itinerary. I had planned to visit since I have never been, but then a friend pointed out it’d be very crowded with kids. I think I have romanticized notions of this museum from movies filmed in NYC, and in my head I hadn’t pictured it chaotic and filled with little ones. I would like to go visit on another trip to NYC, though.

I did plan to go to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, but somehow my time in New York flew by quickly and the one day I was in the area, I had timed my day poorly and ran out of time.

Why pick up a Citypass for your next trip?

Citypass offers great value if you’re able to fit in many or all of the sights, or if you’re a first time visitor to a city and love seeing all of the main sights when you’re traveling. Another benefit of having it? Citypass holders typically have quicker access to the sights (that said, I found that the signage is often unclear, so a few times I did end up waiting in the same line as everyone else).

Citypass is also offered in other cities I enjoy (such as Philly, Boston and San Fran) and others I haven’t had a chance to explore ever such as Denver and Orlando, so I’ll have to make sure to pick up a pass the next time I’m in these cities!

What are some of the ways you find savings when you travel?

 

Leave a Comment November 26, 2019

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