Japan- What to Know Before You Go

Japan- What to Know Before You Go

We spent an incredible three weeks in Japan this summer and only scratched the surface of this culturally rich and incredibly beautiful country. Whether you're currently planning a trip or just curious about traveling to Japan, this post will answer some of the questions you may have. Is Japan expensive? What is a JR pass? Is it really a cash-based society? Do they speak English? Read on and find out.

A Magical Week in Kyoto

A Magical Week in Kyoto

For our first visit to Japan, we decided to stay in Kyoto for one of our three weeks, and it worked out perfectly. Kyoto is a cultural epicenter, having been the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. It is well preserved, being one of the few places spared during the WWII bombings due to it's cultural significance. From the iconic torii gates of the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine to the geisha district of Gion, Kyoto encompasses one's vision of Japan. You can easily spend a week (or a lifetime) in Kyoto, but it is also centrally located, making it an ideal basecamp for day trips to numerous places, including Nara and Himeji.

Top 5 Things to do in Japan with Kids (or if you're a kid at heart)

Top 5 Things to do in Japan with Kids (or if you're a kid at heart)

Japan is a great place for a family adventure. Besides being one of the safest and politest countries in the world, the kawaii culture is something to experience. From Hello Kitty trains to rows of gachopon toy capsule vending machines, kawaii is everywhere...and bound to make you and your kids smile. Another prevalent aspect of Japanese culture is the Shintoism and Buddhist influence. Besides the grand shrines and temples, there may be a little shrine in your AirBnB or a ceramic representation of an animal spirit (often kawaii such as the Tanuki) in front of a restaurant. Once your eyes are open to it, you can find them everywhere! Experiencing different customs and cultures with your children is the best education you can give them.  

14 Must-Have Travel Items to Add to Your Packing List

14 Must-Have Travel Items to Add to Your Packing List

It's often the little things that make or break a trip. Getting a poor night's sleep makes you grumpy or less likely to hike to that amazing waterfall. Your phone dying could be a minor inconvenience, or it could leave you stranded. Having a medical emergency or getting sick away from home can be scary or keep you in your room for days. While you can't prepare for everything, you can add a few essential items to your packing list that can turn trip-ruining disasters into minor inconveniences. Read on and travel with confidence knowing you can handle whatever your adventures throw at you.

How to Travel to Cuba

How to Travel to Cuba

If Cuba has been calling to you but the travel restriction held you back, read on to find out everything you need to know to travel to Cuba as a US citizen. The logistics and uncertainty of Cuba travel was actually a big part of the draw for me. I read that you can't visit from the US and you need to go through Mexico. I read the airport is a nightmare. I even read men aren't supposed to wear shorts. None of these turned out to be true. Don't worry, there are enough challenges to keep it interesting. This isn't a trip to Hawaii, embrace the adventure and you won't regret it. I will separate the fact from fiction and break down what you need to know before you go. 

Go to Cuba Now!

Go to Cuba Now!

I think we all picture colorful vintage cars when we think of Cuba, but that is only a small part of why Cuba is truly an unspoiled step back in time. Initially, I was so overtaken with the cars, buildings, and people, that I didn't even notice what was missing...McDonalds, Starbucks, billboards, and hotel chains. Yes, there really is a place left that we haven't ruined...but don't worry, we will. Go before it's too late!

Using Points: Hotel Bookings

Using Points: Hotel Bookings

This is Part 5 of the Travel Hacking Series, so may be a bit confusing if you are not familiar with the points game. If you are still paying for flights and hotels, you may want to start with Travel Hacking: Is it Right for You?, or read on for inspiration. While I take advantage of award nights and status through a variety of hotel cards (Marriott, SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG), this post focuses on optimizing point usage with hotel bookings. Read on to find out how to use half the points of booking through a hotel portal.

How to Stay Safe When Traveling Abroad

How to Stay Safe When Traveling Abroad

I was doing my health and safety research for my upcoming trip to Cuba and thought you might find my process useful. I will share the steps I take to understand current health and safety conditions, what I bring with me, and some key practices I follow to mitigate risk. I suggest taking these steps for any international destination, but particularly if you like to travel off the beaten path. Put safety practices in place now to help ensure many more adventures to come.

Universal Studios Front of the Line Pass - For Free!

Universal Studios Front of the Line Pass - For Free!

We were rushing through Universal CityWalk to get to the entrance of Universal Studios Hollywood when we were stopped by a women in an American Express jacket saying something about free front of the line passes. I'm normally (always) a skeptic, but my friend had just mentioned their amazing experience with front of the line, so my ears perked up. I had looked into purchasing these passes, but found them to be cost prohibitive at ~$100 each...ouch! We listened to her pitch, and as it turns out, it really wasn't too good to be true.

Cone of Silence

Cone of Silence

I was on a business trip to Argentina a few years ago when I learned a travel hack that would change my life forever. A road warrior exec at my company taught me the secret of the "cone of silence." Add this life-changing hack to your repertoire and change your travel experience forever. I consider myself a master of this dark art, but barely overcame an attack on the cone recently. For the first time ever, the cone of silence secret will be revealed, as well as the counter-measures I deployed in defense of the cone.