Travel can be a fun and exciting experience. Planning for travel on the other hand, can sometimes be a chore which can lead to travelers sometimes taking short cuts such as not packing a travel first aid kit. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I’ve traveled quite a bit with my maternal unit a registered nurse and she never leaves the country without an extensive first aid kit packed in her carry-on. If I'm being completely honest a first aid kit has come in handy several times during our travels. For those of you that are #teamcarryon and want to know the necessary essentials read on to find out more.
If you get travelers' diarrhea you may want to let it run it's course depending on how bad things get or what's on your itinerary. However, if your travel plans require that you stop things almost immediately then this is what you should take. I'm convinced my stomach is made of steel so this doesn't always make it into my kit.
This product is a multi-tasking superstar which treats everything from heartburn, upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea and the travel sized tube takes up almost no space.
3.DripDrop/Oral Rehydration Salts
If you come down with travelers’ diarrhea, get food poisoning or overexerted yourself in high temperatures trying to visit the Acropolis (true story), you’ll want to have these portable, tasty, and medical grade hydration packets at your disposal. I discovered these last year as I was preparing for my trip to Zanzibar which was in the middle of a cholera outbreak.
4. Tylenol/ Pain Reliever & Fever Reducer
Tylenol gets the job done, it's efficient at reducing fevers and relieving minor aches and pains.
5.Dramamine/ Anti-Motion Sickness
If you're prone to motion sickness or even if you're not, you'll want this at the ready to ward off any surprises.
6.Cortisone-10/ Hydrocortisone cream
Despite your most diligent efforts to prevent mosquito bites there’s always a rogue mosquito that attacks. You can use this cream to calm any itching and swelling/redness from mosquito bites or other critters.
If you start to feel a little stuffy during your trip you can take this to clear things up. Pro-tip, if you experience ear pain during flights take one of these before your flight and for 24 hours after and you should be in the clear.
These pills can be used to treat the symptoms of allergy, hay fever or the common cold. Pro-tip it’s great to pack this in your suitcase for your trip but make sure you transfer it to your EDC (every day carry) as you go about your sightseeing.
This stuff is very versatile and can be used in any number of ways.
Cuts and scraps happen when traveling and it's usually the smallest scrapes that are the most annoying and cause the most pain. In a pinch these can also treat blisters if you find that your shoes really weren’t made for walking.
Apply some of this ointment to any minor cut or scrape that get while traveling prior to covering any cut with a bandaid because gangrene really isn’t a good look.
12. Portable Pill Case
I love traveling with this compact pill case to keep everything organized. Even though it’s compact in size it has eight different compartments and the packaging is clear so you can see most of the contents with a quick glimpse.
13. First Aid Pouch
I use this cute zipper pouch to store all of my first aid items. It's large enough to fit all of the items listed but won't take up too much space in your luggage.
Depending on where I'm traveling to I also get a prescription for Cipro or a Z-Pack from my doctor to use just in case things get too bad. In addition to the items listed above be sure to pack any prescription medications that you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. To be on the safe side you should pack doses for a few extra days in case of flight delays, lost pills, etc. One final note, some prescription medications that are available in the US may be classified as unlicensed or controlled substances in other countries. Dubai in the UAE for example, has an extensive list of medications that are not allowed to be brought into the county. Be sure to check the status of any medication that you plan to bring with you prior to boarding the plane.
The reasons for travel are pretty universal: the desire to explore new corners of the world, to have an adventure or for bragging rights. The red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia check all those boxes and make for a trip that will inspire FOMO in all your Instagram followers.
Namibia is a small country on the the southwest coast of Africa. It gained independence from South Africa in 1990 but still ties its currency to the South Africa Rand (both Namibian dollars and Rand are accepted interchangeably). Also like South Africa, the primary industries are mining and agriculture, though more recently it has drawn film productions seeking a stark desert landscape in a cheap and politically stable environment. The most recent and high profile film to showcase the otherworldly landscape of this southern African gem is Mad Max Fury Road. That barren post-apocalyptic terrain exists, though with a lot more modern amenities and a lot less silver spray painted dune buggy racers. Those sand dunes developed over millions of years and now sit in the largest conservation area of Namibia, the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Because Sossusvlei is one of the largest tourist attractions in Namibia, there are a variety of options when it comes to how to experience these unique vistas. For the more independent traveler, there are camp grounds and RV parks located just outside of the entrance to the main dunes. If you want an upgrade but still have an independent streak, there are lodges that provide mildly luxurious safari tents (nice beds and hot showers) but still allow self catering, which is nice if you want to braai. And there are also luxury accommodations for a truly indulgent experience.
However fancy you decide to opt for with your sleeping arrangements, remember that there are no luxury short cuts when hiking up a sand dune. The most iconic dune is most likely Dune 45, which you’ve probably already seen without realizing it. Used as preprogramed art in Windows 97, this dune is one of the most photographed in the world and a relatively easy hike. Get there early, as the sun is rising, to capture the striking contrast of light and check back in later in the day to see how the shifting angle of the sun morphs the colors of the dune. The dune is 85 meters high, with a gentle incline and soft sand paths that are accessible for all ages and abilities.
But the true prize is found in the climb to the top of Big Daddy. Coming in at a whopping 325 meters, this is the tallest dune in the park and truly unforgettable experience. The scale is hard to gauge from the ground but the wall of red sand is stunning. A winding path leads you to the top, which is really just the point at which you decide you’d like to go down as the dunes undulate and transition into each other almost seamlessly. From the base of the salt pan to the highest height, expect between a 90 to 120 minute hike, depending on your ability and the weather conditions. Even in winter temperatures can reach into the 80s during the day, with Namibia getting about 300 sunny days a year as well. The wind on the dune can also be challenging to deal with, so expect to find sand just about everywhere you can think.
Once you’ve made it to the top of Big Daddy, taken enough photos to make your friends jealous and paused to take in the mind boggling view, you get to experience possibly the best part. Any way you choose, the route down the side of a monster sand dune will bring a smile to your face. You can choose to slide down on your butt, roll down like a barrel or march down tilted at a 45 degree angle, held in place by shifting sands that suck at your feet and give you a sense of what it must be like to walk on the moon.
Some other great things to see and photograph around the area are include the Deadvlie, a salt pan filled with blackened trees that Big Daddy surrounds; Sesriem Canyon, carved from the Tsauchab River over millions of year; and wildlife sightings, including native springbok and gemsbok as well as a nearby cheetah reserve and rehab center. And the best way to end the day is grab a beer or bottle of wine and watch Namibia offer one of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. And settle in as the night darkens to reveal more stars than you thought could fit in one sky.
Copenhagen is a city with no lack of beautiful and interesting sights. Stately palaces, storied churches, that iconic mermaid perched off the coast; all of these elements add up to a sophisticated European capital. But the Danes aren’t afraid to embrace modernity, at least when it’s high concept, mostly minimalist, uber-cool modernity.
Enter Superkilen, an art project disguised as a public park and playground that cut across a swath of gentrifying Norrebro, an area north of Copenhagen’s city center. Designed by BIG Architects (of NYC’s West 57 fame) and Topotek1(a German landscape architecture firm), the loose concept is that the park is divided into three color specific sections: black, red, and green. Plants and objects have been imported from multiple countries, including a fountain from Morocco, manhole covers from Zanzibar and palm trees from China. The diversity is representative of the neighborhood, long a melting pot area for immigrants to Denmark.
The bulk of the park is bordered by two main roads, Tagensvej to the north and Norrebrogade to the south, which makes it easily accessible by bus or foot from the city center. While certain attractions are obviously built with little ones in mind (as cool as it looks, please don’t get stuck going down the octopus slide), there are activities for grown ups, including seated swings, monkey bars and bike paths.
So, worth it? Absolutely. The biggest pro is that it’s free, so even if you’re unimpressed or not the type to climb monkey bars as an adult (no judgement but maybe live a little more), you only wasted some time and possibly bus fare. The second biggest pro is that it is the most amazing location for photos, so be prepared for your Instagram account to blow up. The only con is that there isn’t THAT much to do, but it’s a good place to goof around when you need a break from all the amazing food you’ll find in Copenhagen. Speaking of food, check out the hot new porridge spot Grod to fuel up before or after your play time.
If you love hummus, and who doesn't here's our list of the top 9 hummus spots in Tel Aviv. As it's a healthy and delicious snack your waistline won't suffer too badly if you try all of the places on the list.
1. Abu Hassan - Shivtei Yisrael St 14, Jaffa
2. Dani Ful - HaTkuma St 46, Jaffa
3. Merck Hummus Haasly - Yefet St 73, Jaffa
4. Shlomo and Doron - Yishkan St 29, Tel Aviv
5. Masabacha at Market HaCarmel - HaCarmel 11, Tel Aviv
6. Hummus Ful Ha-Hagana - Ha-Hagana St 71, Tel Aviv
7. Mashawsha - Pinsker St 40, Tel Aviv
8. Garger Hazahav - Levinsky St 30, Tel Aviv
9. Hummus Abu Dhabi - King George St 81, Tel Aviv
1.Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones//2. Kate Spade Classic Nylon Maia Travel Wallet //3.Henri Bendel Jetsetter Convertible Backpack // 4.White + Warren Cashmere Travel Wrap // 5. Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask // 6. Sockwell Women's Compression Socks // 7. 1byeOne 10,000 mAh 2-Port Portable Charger // 8. Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Silver) // 9. iPad // 10. Poweradd International Travel Charger // 11. J-pillow Travel Pillow
There are few cities that loom as large in the collective psyche as Jerusalem. Three of the worlds major faith traditions hold it to be one of their holiest cities, with claims dating back thousands of years. And for a city with as long and tumultuous as Jerusalem, it is somewhat surprising how vibrant and dynamic it is today.
Modern Jerusalem could be roughly split in half, with East Jerusalem being primarily Muslim and West Jerusalem being primarily Jewish. At it’s philosophical center, if not its geographic center, is the Old City, which is the Jerusalem imagine from ancient times. While it is certainly old and presents a Hollywood-like version of an ancient middle eastern city, the Old City has been leveled and rebuilt many times over the millennia. Part of the appeal of wandering around the old city is the stratification of history on display in the labyrinth of walls, streets, overpasses, alleys and homes that have evolved in this constantly shifting space. Walking on one street may take you down to the lowest part of a hill only to have you pop up a few minutes later above the roofs of some houses.
There are more religious sites in Jerusalem than its possible to discuss, so we’ll stick to the most important each from the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths. Located practically shouting distance from each other, it shows the challenges of respecting other traditions in a very limited space.
Possibly the most visually recognizable and iconic religious monument in Jerusalem, the golden Dome of the Rock is located on the Temple Mount, a complex of mosques, gardens and walking paths on the eastern side of the city. The Al Aqsa mosque is one of the most important mosques in the Muslim world and sits opposite the Dome of the Rock. Due to both safety concerns and religious respect, the Waqf (Muslim governing authority of the Temple Mount) and Israeli Government have made an arrangement that allows the mosque and dome to stay open but only accessible to Muslims. Non-Muslims may stroll the grounds around the site during specific hours (which are often subject to change or cancellation without notice by the Israeli Defense Force), though they must be respectfully attired in long pants and modest shirts.
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most photogenic sites in Jerusalem. It is one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture but parts have been rebuilt over the year. It was built in 691 on the site of the Roman temple of Jupiter, which itself was built on Herod’s Temple after the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The original dome collapsed in 1016 and was reconstructed 1021. The dome was gold plated several times during the 20th century. The turquoise, green and white tile, added during the Ottoman Empire, are stunning in the stark desert light. Gardens of olive trees create shaded spots to sit and reflect. It is believed that the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from here, using the rock inside the Dome as his stepping stone, as detailed in the the Koran.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest Christian sites, is less than 700m away from the Temple Mount. While it is a church, it could also correctly be called a church complex because it encompasses several holy sites under one roof. The two most important are the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the tomb in which he was buried. Called Calvary or Golgatha, the site of crucifixion is on a small upper level, accessible by a steep staircase to the right of the main entrance. Sand-filled basins for prayer candles surround the stone where believers kneel to pray and place their hands. The exterior is now decorated with pounded tin reliefs and mosaics depicting the anointing of the body of Jesus.
To the left of the main entrance, in the cavernous rotunda, is the burial cave. Only a few people can fit in at one time so pilgrims queue up for their moment. An oculus in the elaborately decorated ceiling allows for dramatic lighting. The interior of the tomb is low and crowded with candles and religious icons. Thought it can be a bit of a hectic scene with eager pilgrims elbowing their way inside, it is still a powerful place for anyone raised in the Christian tradition.
The first iteration of the church was built by the Roman emperor Constantine in approximately 325, replacing a Roman temple to Aphrodite that had been built to cover the burial cave. The tomb was excavated and covered in a thick sheath of marble, but the Rotunda wasn’t built until around 380. It suffered though earthquakes and fires before being almost entirely leveled in 1009 by at Fatimid caliph. Through an arrangement with the Byzantine Empire, the church was rebuilt in 1048 and played an important role for the crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. The current incarnation of the church dates at earliest to around 1555, when Franciscans renovated the interior, with the current Rotunda dating to 1870.
In between the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Western Wall. The closest remaining wall of the second temple to the holy of holies, built by Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, it is one of the holiest site in the Jewish religion. Currently, the wall is accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike, though it is partitioned by gender. While it is an active site of worship for devote Jews, it is fine to be a tourist there, as long as you act and dress respectfully, in modest clothes, full pants or skirts and a kippah for men (which are provided as you enter the site). The tradition is to write a prayer on a small scrap of paper and leave it in a crevice in the wall. You’re welcome, and sometimes encouraged, to do this even if you aren’t Jewish, though you may be “invited” to give a donation to a charity by an eager onlooker. To the right of the exposed portion of the wall is a religious library. Only men are allowed in this area (women have a separate area that looks into this section) and many bring sick family members in hopes they will be healed.
Jerusalem is a rare and unique place for many reasons. It seems to be a nexus for some many things, the multitude of faithful worshippers intersecting with everyday people trying to make a living. Tourists, pilgrims, zealots, Christians, Jews, Muslims, nonbelievers, babies and grandparents all wander the old streets of a city that has seen empires rise and fall. I’ve been several times and still don’t fully have a handle on how I feel about it but it is a compelling place that keeps calling me back. I can’t say that I ever had a profound religious experience there, but it is astonishing to walk streets with such a clear connection to history that is still revenant and vibrant in today’s world.
As I travel relatively often one of the best things that I did was enroll for Global Entry. Prior to enrolling for the program I would have to wait in the long customs and immigration line and when it was finally my turn to see an agent I was always asked 101 questions regarding the nature of my travels etc. One guy actually said to me "you sure travel a lot" and my response was something like "yep" but I really wanted to say something along the lines of "well that's why I have a passport" but thought wiser of it. When I learned about Global Entry I signed up immediately and I haven't looked back. Luckily at the time I had a credit card that reimbursed me for the $100 application fee.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program that offers expedited pre-clearance for approved travelers entering the US. Global Entry is currently available to US citizens and permanent residents and has been expanded to include citizens of the following countries:
To apply one creates an account on the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) fills and then fill out an online application and pay the $100 fee. You will receive an email if the application is approved and then you will be invited to schedule an appointment at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers. My interview was relatively quick and painless and if you schedule it on the same day that you leave for an international trip, you can use the Global Entry Kiosks when you return. The membership lasts for five years and if your passport expires within that time frame you can update your passport information via GOES. Another benefit to Global Entry membership is that it automatically enrolls you in TSA PreCheck.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck allows you to breeze through airport security without having to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jacket. Like Global Entry it is valid for 5 years and it only costs $85. I would caution that TSA PreCheck is not available with all airlines and all airports. So if most of your trips are international in nature you may not be able to benefit as much from TSA PreCheck so be sure to check the list of Airports & Airlines before signing up.
In 2013 I flew to Thailand to meet up with a friend from Dubai. I planned to have about 20 hours solo in Bangkok to recover from jet lag before heading to Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan. This was my first solo international trip where I didn't know another soul in the country.
After landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport I hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take me to my hotel. Unfortunately, I didn't print out directions to my hotel or have a hard copy of the address (rookie mistake #1). Thankfully, I had the address stored in my Tripit app and was able to pull it up for the driver. After a short ride I arrived at the Hotel Muse Bangkok without incident and had a friendly welcome and was offered a complimentary cocktail. Since I had such a long flight from NYC I decided to grab a bite to eat and a drink at the rooftop bar and call it an evening since I had a full day of exploring to do the following day.
The next morning before heading out to explore the city I walked to the Starbucks that I noticed during my taxi ride the day before. Almost immediately upon exiting the hotel I encountered a line of taxi drivers that were asking if I needed a ride and offered me unsolicited tours of the city. I politely declined their offers and one driver proceeded to ask me the whereabouts of my husband. Being quick on my feet I muttered something about my "husband" resting at the hotel which they seemed to believe. As I walked away I over-confidently thought to myself "I got this", which was a big mistake.
After my coffee I asked the concierge to write down the address of my intended destination and got into the first taxi in the lineup. I remembered to ask him to turn on the meter, which took a bit of convincing, but he eventually did. However, it took even more convincing on my part to get the driver to understand that I had no interest in going to his uncle's shop or visiting the floating market and by this point my confidence was waning that I'd ever see the Reclining Buddha at the Wat Po Temple.
I eventually made it to the temple and my confidence had inched back a bit so with a little pep in my step I headed off on foot to my next destination. People on the street seemed very friendly and nice and curious about where I was from. However, it didn't take long to realize that most of them had different motivations. After engaging an older gentleman I was misinformed that the temple I was planning to visit was closed and he insisted that I take a guided tour via tuktuk instead. I managed to finagle my way out of the city tour only to encounter a "friendly" history teacher who was trying to hook me with a similar spiel. No thank you!
The low point of my trip came as I was walking down the street and I noticed a bunch of pigeons flying around. The woman feeding them apologized and insisted that I too should feed them for "good luck". I declined her offered but she was insistent and since I didn't want to offend anyone in a foreign country I took the bag of bird feed and proceeded to feed the pigeons with reckless abandon. I started to walk away with the bounty of "luck" I had just accrued but was stopped in my tracks by the woman demanding payment!! Oh *ish I thought I've just been scammed. I initially refused to pay but her accomplice, a larger intimidating man walked up and had something to say about it. I managed to negotiate a lower ransom insisting it was all I had and they accepted and let me go. I then went to the mall where I proceeded to leave my debit card in the ATM.
I pride myself on being a street smart New Yorker but this trip definitely taught me that anyone could be taken for a ride if not at the top of their game while traveling. And be careful about that jet lag as it can really affect your judgment.
Looking back on the experience I can laugh about it now and it's made me a much smarter traveler. I'm tempted to test my hypothesis with a return trip to Thailand in the not too distant future.
So you've booked your dream vacation and you're counting down the days until take off. Now what? Here are the top 5 things you should do prior to take-off.
1. Travel Insurance/Trip Cancellation Insurance
If you booked your trip through a travel consultant like myself, he or she probably told you about the importance of purchasing a travel insurance/cancellation policy for peace of mind. If you're traveling domestically and already have a health insurance policy you're mostly in the clear. However, if you're traveling abroad, it makes sense to take out an insurance policy as the quality of medical care and facilities abroad can vary and they sometimes won't treat you unless you can prove that you can pay for their services. With travel insurance, you'll have that peace of mind.
On the other hand, if you've invested a substantial sum of money on your trip you may want to take out a trip cancellation policy in case of unplanned scenarios prior to your vacation. If you break a leg, or worse, prior to your departure date you may be able to recoup all or some of your trip expenses should you need to cancel. Coverage and policies vary so it’s best to do your research or talk with your online travel professional.
2. Visa Requirements
If traveling internationally it is important to check the visa requirements for the country that you are visiting on the US Department of State website.
A lot of countries have agreements with the US that don't require you to obtain a visa but there are many that do. Some visas can be obtained on arrival at the country you are visiting but unfortunately some require additional planning and must be acquired prior to boarding a plane. If you work with a skilled travel professional they can help guide you through this process.
3. Get Vaccinated
Again, if you're traveling internationally, it's important to confirm which vaccinations are necessary for the country you're visiting. To find out more information on vaccine requirements you can check out the CDC website.
Careful planning is necessary when getting vaccines as certain injections need to be completed at least 30 days prior to travel, if not longer. A lot of people skip this step however it is important if you want to remain healthy while traveling abroad. The good news about vaccinations is that once you are vaccinated from certain illnesses you won't require the vaccination again for your next trip. Most vaccinations last anywhere from 5 to 10 years and some offer lifetime protection.
4. Check for Travel Alerts and Warnings
Before traveling internationally it's also a good idea to check The Department of Homeland Security website prior to leaving. The website provides helpful information on short term travel alerts in the country or region that you may be visiting. The site also provides longer-term travel warnings for the places that you may simply want to avoid to remain safe.
If you are traveling for an extended period of time it is also a good idea to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the US Department of State. This program registers you with the nearest US embassy or consulate and notifies you of any safety or security information in your destination.
5. Call Your Financial Institutions/Confirm Fees
To ensure that you have access to cash and your credit cards abroad it's important to inform your financial institutions when you will be traveling. Otherwise you could be in for an unpleasant surprise when you try to use your credit cards abroad. Trust me, I speak from firsthand experience!! I called my credit card company before traveling but didn't inform them of all the cities that I'd be visiting during my trip and my credit card was denied during my layover at the Dubai Airport. It is a best practice to include all countries you will be stopping in, including layovers. Another best practice is to include a day or two buffer after your return date to account for any cancelled or missed flights.
Bonus tip: Get a second checking account! This tip applies especially if you're traveling solo or with friends and not necessarily with a significant other that you share accounts with. For my trip to Thailand I opened a separate checking account to avoid paying fees when taking out money. While shopping at one of the many malls in Bangkok I stopped to take out some money and unlike the ATMs that I was used to back home the machine held on to my card during the entire transaction. After the machine dispensed my money I walked away happy to have avoided paying surcharges. That happiness what short lived when I realized upon arrive on Koh Samui that my debit card was back on the mainland. Thankfully, I had the debit card from my regular bank so I still had access to liquid currency while traveling and all hope wasn't lost.
In 2007 I decided to move to Paris for seven months and I ended up staying for almost three years (that's a whole other story). When I first broke the news to friends and family most were very excited and happy for me and promised to visit. My maternal unit on the other hand was having none of it. She even told me outright that I wouldn't see her again unless I came back to New York.
A few weeks prior to leaving my maternal unit excitedly showed me her first ever passport but insisted that she wasn't going to use it to visit me (yeah, ok mom). Fast forward to the spring 2008 and the maternal unit was planning to be visit me in Paris for almost three weeks. I don't care how amazing your relationship is with your mother is, three weeks alone with no buffer and no plan could be disastrous. So plan I did!
I came up with an itinerary that would show her all the amazing sites Paris has to offer, including climbing the steps to Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Arch de Triumphe. From Paris we would travel to Rome for a few days where we encountered a transit strike and managed to haggle a deal on a new wheeled suitcase from a street vendor. We ate gelato almost every day, saw all the amazing sights and she even encouraged me to take a very much prohibited photo of the Sistine Chapel. After Rome we headed to Barcelona a city which the maternal unit absolutely fell in love with. She tasted her first paella, enjoyed strolls along Las Ramblas and was blown away by the colors, scents and different produce at La Boqueria Market and we both viewed in awe the breathtaking architecture oh Gaudi.
On our flights back to Paris, after about 10 days of travel she was already asking where we would be going next. This from the woman who had never traveled internationally previously and had no plans to visit me in Europe. And with that initial trip we've started a tradition that has taken us to Greece, Croatia, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam, and Tanzania. Some people may find it odd to travel with one's parent as an adult but these trips have been life changing in so many amazing ways and I wouldn't change it for the world.