Category: Tips for Travelers

The Down Side of Solo Travel

The Down Side of Solo Travel

Last month, I took my first ever solo trip. I flew to Paris by myself, stayed in an Airbnb by myself, saw the sights by myself, and flew home by myself. In some ways it was an ideal trip. After all, I only saw the things that I wanted to see, spent as much time in each location as I wanted to, and made 100% of the decisions 100% my way. However, there were a few things that I didn’t like about traveling alone. And it doesn’t seem like anyone ever talks about the down side of solo travel. So here’s the ugly truth. Or at least, my ugly truth. Your mileage may vary.

1. You may spend a lot of time feeling self-conscious.

1a. Selfies

I have posted a selfie on the TravelAsMuch Instagram account exactly three times in as many years. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is I feel very conspicuous when I’m trying to take a selfie.

For millennials and those who are even younger, sticking that phone/camera up in the air as far as your arm will stretch is almost second nature. For me… not so much. I want to hurry up and get it over with before anyone catches me doing it. I hover somewhere between embarrassment that someone will think I’m vain and worry about inconveniencing others who want a photo without me in it.

1b. Restaurants

If you cringe at the thought of having to sit in a restaurant at a table for one, welcome to my world. Guess who ended up not eating a fabulous meal in a city known as one of the best in the world for great cuisine? This girl!

I just couldn’t bear the thought of eating a sit down meal by myself. I went to two restaurants to get dinner by myself on that trip, and while I managed to survive the ordeal, I definitely did not enjoy it. For the remainder of my meals in Paris, I went to Chez McDonalds (Lame, I know!) or bought groceries and fixed my own meals.

1c. Romantic Places

I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower by myself. Everywhere I turned, couples were kissing and taking their own pictures from that oh-so-romantic vantage point above the city. They even had a poster proclaiming it as the “Place to Kiss” with a special hashtag, #eiffellove.

And there was I, without Hubs, missing him dearly, and unable to express my love. I did, however, take a selfie and sent it to him later when I had access to Wifi.

The down side of solo travel: taking a selfie in a romantic place can be daunting.
Selfies in romantic places are just one reason why solo travel can be less than glamorous.

2. If you are an introvert, you will struggle.

I am an introvert. Which is not to say that I can’t talk to people I don’t know… just that it doesn’t come naturally. When I host women’s activities at my church, I think I do a god job of greeting everyone and being a good mistress of ceremonies. But being outgoing & friendly without an agenda takes so much energy out of me and causes me so much anxiety that I tend to avoid it if possible. If you are the type of person who never met a stranger, please know that I am in absolute awe of you. How I wish I could just strike up a casual conversation without feeling like a total dork!

So if, like me, you’re an introvert (with or without shyness), solo travel might be really hard for you. And doubly so if you go to a destination where you don’t speak the language well enough to have a conversation. As a non-French speaking introvert, I felt incredibly isolated on my Paris trip.

Sure, the first few days alone in Paris were great (well, once I finally got my luggage and recovered from the jet lag!), but after that… I didn’t feel like an independent woman on a spectacular journey of self-discovery and adventure. I just felt… dare I say it?… lonely.

I’ve considered whether I might have met more people if I had stayed at a hotel rather than in an Airbnb. Probably, but I absolutely loved the place I stayed. It offered amazing sunset views of the Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice church:

(Click here for a link that will get you up to $55 off when booking on Airbnb!)

3. If you’re indecisive, you will struggle.

I didn’t realize until I went on this trip how much I rely on the preferences, advice, and opinions of others. From the mundane to the monumental, I find it difficult to make a decision without consulting someone else.

The down side of solo travel includes not having someone to help you make up your mind.
Decisions, decisions…

Traveling alone means you have to make all of the decisions yourself. Without help or feedback from anyone.

In situations that are not clear cut, I can seldom make a decision without verbalizing the pros and cons of each side, running through possible scenarios, and checking in with others to make sure I’m not the only one who has considered these things. I like to use other people as a sounding board because:

  • Sometimes I overlook important details (like the fact that the subway will be closed when we get out of a particular venue and we will have to get an Uber instead)
  • I unwittingly let external factors influence my mood & decisions (hungry, angry, frustrated, tired – I make all of my worst decisions when I am in one of these states)
  • Sometimes I don’t think things all the way through to the end (yes, Julie, that wall mirror that’s 3.5 feet across is a perfect gift for Aunt Marjorie… but how are you going to get it home?)
  • And then there are occasions when I just don’t have a preference. I can’t decide because there isn’t any factor to sway me one way or the other. In those instances, I really just want someone else to choose for me.

So, while calling all the shots has a certain appeal, you might find it a little unsettling after a while. I really missed being able to get other people’s opinions.

4. You may worry about your safety.

I want to start off by saying that I did not once feel like I was in imminent danger when I went to Paris.

However! I do believe that the only reason I didn’t feel like I was in danger was because I was almost constantly fretting over it. As a woman traveling alone in a city with which I am not at all familiar, I had to think about my personal safety in all sorts of situations. Situations that, if I had been with other people, would not have given me a moment’s hesitation. Some of the precautions I took included:

  • Taking Uber instead of the subway at night. I didn’t think it would be in my best interest to be walking home alone from the subway station after dark, no matter how well-lit the streets were.
  • Making sure the Uber car’s license plate matched what the app said it would be. And even then, still asking the driver who he was there to pick up.
  • Not looking like a clueless tourist. In all honesty, I probably didn’t nail this one, but I did at least try. Rather than constantly referring to a map, I used my phone’s Google Maps app for directions.
  • Not using headphones in both ears. When I was using my earbuds, I only inserted one so that I could still hear what was going on around me. I did not want to be caught off guard or otherwise endanger myself.

So, Is Solo Travel Worth It?

There is a definite down side of solo travel, as I’ve outlined here. But as with most experiences, you are more apt to enjoy it if you don’t have unrealistically high expectations from the outset. Regardless of whether you travel by yourself or with others, you will maximize your satisfaction with the experience by doing adequate planning and preparation before hand.

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Product Review: Gemz Solid Shampoo

Product Review: Gemz Solid Shampoo

Sometimes, Facebook advertising really does work

I recently saw a Facebook ad for a solid shampoo product called Gemz. It showed how a small disc transformed into lots of lathery suds for washing even long hair. I was skeptical, but I decided to try it, since I am heading to Paris in two weeks. These discs will take up less space than a shampoo bottle, won’t leak onto my clothing, and won’t have to be put in a clear baggie at the TSA checkpoint.

When I went to the Gemz website, a couple of things really stood out:

  1. Gemz solid shampoo is fairly inexpensive, at roughly $1 per disc. Granted, given that one disc = one shampoo, it’s not as economical as using regular shampoo. But for traveling without the issues that liquid shampoo present, that’s a price I would happily pay.
  2. Shipping is free. Gotta love free shipping!
  3. Gemz solid shampoo is environmentally friendly. Not only is there less packaging than with a liquid shampoo, Gemz provides a postage paid envelope so you can return your empty packaging to them for recycling.
  4. Gemz offers multiple formulas – one for colored hair, one to tame frizziness, one that won’t weigh hair down, one to add volume, etc. They also offer solid conditioners.

So I placed an order – seven discs for $6.99. Prior to checkout, an offer to get a total of 14 Gemz solid shampoo discs for $11.99 popped up, which made the individual cost go from $1 to 86 cents. Normally, I wouldn’t take a risk on making a bigger purchase for a product I had never tried, but bargains are my kryptonite! I purchased 14, rationalizing that I could because of the free shipping.

I should note that I purchased these items myself. Gemz did not sponsor this post and has provided me no monetary compensation or free products. Everything I’m writing here is my 100% honest opinion without input from anyone else.

The Reveal – Part 1

I placed my order on a Wednesday and received a confirmation email saying that I could expect my package to arrive in 7-10 days. It arrived two days later! The contents of the box were:

Gemz solid shampoo is TSA approved and environmentally friendly

I got the 14 Gemz solid shampoo discs in a pretty mesh bag, a booklet about the product and how it works, and the postage paid return bag for the empty containers.

As you can see, I chose the “grandiose volume” shampoo because, well, I’m a child of the 1980s and I like big hair. There, I said it. Don’t judge.

Gemz solid shampoo - this tiny disc provides enough lather to wash even long hair.

I admit, I was a little nervous. The phrase “trying something new” is not one I usually utter in reference to my hair. I’ve had enough bad hair experiences over the years to know that trying something new, more often than not, will end in disaster. How can something that fits in the palm of my hand provide enough suds for my long-ish hair?

When it came time to give Gemz solid shampoo a try, I peeled back the foil seal and found this:

Gemz solid shampoo - minimal packaging and they will even recycle it for you

It looks a bit like a sponge, doesn’t it? Well, according to the directions, it kind of is. After removing it from the container, you place the disc in your hand and add water. Wait a few seconds and – voila! – you will have a pile of suds where the disc once sat.

Gemz solid shampoo - add water and wait a few seconds for the disc to turn into shampoo lather

Still, I was skeptical. That doesn’t look like enough to wash my hair. But I tried it. And guess what?

It was enough. I washed my hair thoroughly and completely with that little disc! (Also, as an aside, it smelled great!)

The Reveal – Part 2

I can’t say whether the Gemz solid shampoo really added a lot of volume (so few volume-boosting shampoos ever do with my hair, unfortunately). However, I dried and styled my hair as usual and I’m pretty pleased with the results:

My hair after using Gemz solid shampoo Grandiose Volume.

As you can see, that’s a good amount of hair to wash, and I had enough suds to do the job. I did find one bit of undissolved disc in my hair after it dried, but I am certain that was an error on my part and not a defect of the product itself.

I failed to make sure that the disc had completely dissolved before applying the suds to my hair. The video demonstration that Gemz uses to show how their products work shows a woman rubbing the disc/suds in a circular motion. I did not do that as thoroughly as I should have.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend Gemz solid shampoo for anyone, but especially for my fellow travelers! It’s a good product that you can feel good about using.

Product review of Gemz solid shampoo on travelasmuch.com
How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel… at Any Age!

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel… at Any Age!

Most kids, if we’re being honest, don’t really get the concept of travel. To them, a great vacation could be anywhere, as long as they get to stay in a hotel with a pool and cable television. So how do you get them to think about the world that awaits them outside of the hotel? How do you make them look forward to more than just surfing channels and swimming in an over-chlorinated pool? How do you get your kids to love travel?

Tip #1: Start Early

The sooner you start traveling with your children, the better. Whether it’s a trip to visit grandparents who live an hour or two away from you, or a week long vacation in another state or country, take your kids away from home as often as you can.

First time parents and/or those with very young children may find the thought of doing so overwhelming, scary, or just plain crazy. But trust me, the sooner you expose your children to the concept of sleeping someplace other than your own house, the better.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #1 - Start taking them on trips as early as possible.

Yes, you will have to bring all kinds of gear with you. Car seat! Stroller! Diaper bag! Diapers! Blankets! Wipes! Bottles! Toys! Portable crib!

How on earth can such a tiny human need

So.

Much.

Stuff!??!?!?

Well, the truth is, they don’t. Resist the temptation to over-pack. Only pack what is necessary and leave the “just in case” items at home. If you aren’t going on a mountain hike in a remote part of the world, you will probably be able to buy any incidentals that you need while away from home.

Tip #2: Model a Positive Attitude

Enthusiasm is contagious, and our offspring are always looking to us for cues on how they should feel about something. If you’re excited about going on vacation, they will be excited too.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #2 - Model a Positive Attitude and Show Some Excitement

If, on the other hand, you’re grumbling about how to make everything fit in the car, or having a near anxiety attack because you’re worried that you’ve forgotten something, all your kids will process is that going on vacation makes their parent(s) stressed and grumpy. Most parents, even the most loving ones, will be more likely to snap at, scold, or otherwise lack patience with their children when they are stressed or grumpy. So be uber-aware of your demeanor when planning for and embarking on your journey to avoid having your kids think of family travel with a negative connotation.

Tip #3: Involve Your Kids in the Planning Process

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #3 - Involve them in the planning process.

Regardless of whether you are a Type A vacation over-planner (like me) or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vacationer, you need to at least talk to your kids about where you’re going and what they would like to do there. Give them a list of three or four child-friendly activities and ask what they would be most interested in. Show them some photos or videos online so they can fully imagine what it would be like. Don’t assume that you know what they would like to do most… you might be surprised by their answers! If your kids feel like they helped plan the trip, they will be more inclined to enjoy it because they will have a vested interest in it.

A side benefit of approaching them about what they would like to do on the trip is that they may be more patient when doing things that aren’t as interesting to them. “Today we are doing something that Dad wanted to do, and tomorrow we will do what you wanted to do.” Kids will learn that a family vacation is just that – a vacation for the whole family to enjoy… not just them.

Tip #4: Have Them Document Their Travels

This is my absolute favorite tip for how to get your kids to love travel! Encourage your children to document their travel experiences in an age appropriate way. This could be as simple as videotaping an “interview” with your kids telling you at the end of each day what they enjoyed most. Again, their answers may surprise you! (My daughter’s favorite memory of our trip to Cornwall when she was 8 was leaving grapes along the fence rail for the seagulls, of all things. She is now 16 and she still talks about it. Would I have guessed that feeding the seagulls would be such a happy memory for her? Certainly not.)

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #4 - Have them document their travel with photos, artwork, or journaling.

If your kids are older, you can go a step further and have them keep a journal. Encourage them to illustrate their notes with drawings of what they saw/did. Alternatively, have them complete postcards to send to family and friends.

If they’re old enough, you could consider giving them a camera to take their own pictures as a way of documenting the journey. These little mementos of a trip – as seen through the eyes of your children – are priceless and they make the best souvenirs, in my opinion.

BONUS: writing and drawing are activities that they can work on in transit, which will keep them busy. It might keep you from having to hear “Are we there yet?”

Tip #5: Bring a Little Bit of Home with You

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #5 - Bring a little piece of home with you.

Let your kids bring one small thing from home that they really love. For younger children, this might be a stuffed animal that they sleep with. For older kids, a favorite toy. If you can’t take your pets with you, consider bringing a photo of them for your children to have on the table next to their bed. These pieces of home serve as small reminders that vacation is temporary, and they will soon return to the places, people, and things they know and love.

You could also make a game with their favorite object. For instance, take a photograph of their favorite toy/stuffed animal at every location you visit and let them make a scrapbook or story about it (see Tip #4 above).

Tip #6: Resist the Temptation to Use Screens as Diversions

Look, I get it. Traveling (especially by car or plane) for more than a few hours with kids in tow can be tedious at best. It can be hard even when you’re traveling without kids! But I beg of you, please resist the temptation to just hand them a phone or tablet and let them play games or watch videos as you travel.

The more engaged they are with their surroundings, the more they will enjoy travel. The more they are engaged with their family members, the more fun memories and traditions you will build on the trip. So let them look out the windows of the car or observe people at the baggage carousel in the airport. Let them see what makes a place different from home, and what makes it similar.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #6 - Don't give them a video pacifier, but rather have them look out the window as they travel through unfamiliar areas.

And if not handing your kids an electronic device to placate them while traveling seems unrealistic, think about what you did when you were a kid going places with your parents. There was life before we all adopted video pacifiers… there can be life after the fact too!

My own daughter, at age three and a half years, traveled by car from Maryland to Florida (that’s 14 hours not counting stops). She did so without a portable TV/DVD player and without playing games on anyone’s phone/tablet. We talked about things we saw while we drove, talked about how excited we were to be going on vacation (see Tip #2 above), made up games to play, and so on. There were no meltdowns. There was no whining. It was incredible, not to mention enjoyable!

Tip #7: Let Them Choose a Souvenir

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #7 - Let them choose a souvenir to take home (no matter how tacky)

If your kids are traveling with you, allow them to select a reasonably priced souvenir to bring home as a memento of their trip. If it’s something that they can start a collection with, even better, because then you’ll be on a quest to find one of those items at every destination.

One of my favorite things to have my children collect were the pressed pennies that have the name and an image for the place you visited. They are cheap – typically $.50 – $1.00 each – and fairly ubiquitous at tourist destinations. What’s more, most Penny Presses have an assortment of designs to choose from, so if you have multiple kids with you they can each get a different design.

Regardless of the souvenir they choose, though, it will prove a tangible reminder of the time they spent away from home and the fun things that they saw and did. The key is to let them choose what the souvenir will be. It doesn’t matter if they want a souvenir water bottle and you already have an entire drawer full of them at home. it doesn’t matter if they want a keychain, but they have no keys. Let them pick what they find meaningful and the chances are good that they will enjoy it for years to come.

Tip #8: Slow Down!

No one likes to be rushed. Especially young ones who are seeing new places, people, and things for the first time. So make sure that in your day to day travels on vacation, you are moving at a pace slightly slower than you normally would. Give them time to walk beside you without rushing to keep up, to ask questions about what they’re seeing, and to just stop for a moment to take it all in.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #8 - Slow down and give them a chance to take it all in.

Along those same lines, make sure you leave some wiggle room in your travel itinerary for the little ones. Build in some time for a nap, if needed. Time for a visit to a local playground at your destination. Time for relaxing. And yes, even time to enjoy the hotel pool and/or cable television.

Tip #9: Be as Hands On as Possible

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I love museums. I am a history geek through and through, and nothing excites me more than being able to see items that have witnessed hundreds of years of history and survived.

But history is kind of a weird concept to a child, and they aren’t likely to appreciate a museum with as much gusto as I would. For children to be engaged, and to get your kids to love travel, you have to give them opportunities to be as hands on as possible.

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #9 - Visit places with hands-on children's activities, or come up with your own

That doesn’t mean you have to forego the museums… but it may mean coming up with a scavenger hunt-style game for them to play while you’re going through the museum. Many tourist attractions these days will offer young visitors a way to stay entertained, whether it’s a touch tank at an aquarium or a craft activity at a museum. Exhibits with buttons to push are always popular with young ones, too. Check at the visitor’s desk wherever you go and ask if they have any children’s activities/exhibits.

Tip #10: Break the Rules… or at Least Bend Them

How to Get Your Kids to Love Travel - Tip #10 - Break the rules (or at least bend them) while you're on vacation.

Kids love to think that they’re getting away with doing something that they wouldn’t normally be able to do. And there’s no better time or place to let them experience that joy than on vacation. You’re away from home for a fixed period of time… why not let them enjoy a bit of special rule-breaking?

A few caveats, though. First, YOU should be the one to decide which rules are okay to break. Then make sure that the kids know they are only allowed to break those rules and no others. For instance, an 8:00 PM bedtime rule does not need to be enforced on vacation, but they absolutely must still follow the rule about brushing their teeth before bed.

Second, remind them (often, if need be) that this bit of rule-breaking is only happening because you are on vacation. Once you return home and to your normal routine of work and school, the rules will once again be in full effect.

Third, be prepared to reinstate the rules if behavior gets out of control. Sticking with the example above, relaxing the bedtime rule will need to be re-evaluated if it results in cranky, overtired children.

In Conclusion

Travel is something that everyone can enjoy – and children can come to love – if approached with a bit of creativity and enthusiasm. Your family vacations will be full of laughter, love, and memories to cherish for years to come if you get your kids to love travel.

#GOALS: 7 Tips to Help You Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List

#GOALS: 7 Tips to Help You Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List

The Bucket List.

The phrase “bucket list” – meaning a list of items you wish to complete before you kick the bucket (die) – was made widely popular in a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In the past decade, the phrase has become such a part of our culture that most people have a bucket list of some sort, even if it only exists in their head.

Most of us make a mental note or say, “I’d like to do that someday,” without giving much thought to creating an actual list. That approach, unfortunately, leaves us with a bucket list that may be incomplete or worse, rather generic. So here are some tips to make your ultimate travel bucket list not just tangible, but achievable.

1. Write it Down…

Bucket List Tips: Write it down.

Study after study has found that written goals are achieved more often than those that are not written down. And what is a bucket list, if it isn’t a list of your goals? Make sure you are keeping a record of your ultimate travel bucket list destinations. Documenting your desired destinations and experiences will ensure that you don’t lose track of any goals over the years.

2. …Or Type It Up

No one said your bucket list has to be on paper. Your bucket list can exist as a note in your phone, a Word document on your computer, or a series of well curated Pinterest boards. Use the system that works best for you.

3. Don’t Limit Yourself

It’s important to remember that a bucket list is a list of possibilities. If you think you would kinda-maybe-sorta enjoy jumping out of a plane and parachuting to the ground, go ahead and put it on your list. Even if you’re unsure whether you will ever be physically fit enough and/or brave enough to actually do it. Even if you won’t be able to afford it until you’re considerably older. Whatever your “even if” scenario may be, add it to the list anyway!

Some of my most rewarding experiences have been when I did something that I was afraid to do or lacked confidence in my ability to accomplish. Sometimes, as Susan Jeffers wrote in her 1987 best-seller, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

4. Be Specific & Creative

Ultimate Travel Bucket List Tips - be specific
Image via Flickr by Damian Gadal

I’d like to go to Ireland some day, and visiting that country has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. But a homemade CD of Christmas music that a friend’s husband made many years ago had a song on it that took my interest in Ireland up a notch or two.  The song “Christmas in Killarney” uses such vivid imagery to describe the town during the holidays! It sounded like a beautiful place, so I knew I had to see it… at Christmas, of course. My bucket list doesn’t just include “Ireland.” It says “Christmas in Killarney, Ireland.”

Another example is Italy. To say that I want to visit Italy is a gross understatement, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I included it on my ultimate travel bucket list that way. What I really want to do is:

  • Visit Venice
  • See the Colosseum in Rome
  • Admire the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pietà in Vatican City
  • Eat authentic pizza in Naples
  • Stay in a trullo
  • Tour the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
  • Visit Deruta and buy as much majolica as I can (a) afford and (b) legally take home
  • Go to the island of Monte Isola
  • See the ruins of Pompeii

I could go on and on. My point is: why reduce all of those wonderful experiences into a single line on your bucket list? For a truly ultimate travel bucket list, they should be individually named. Include as many details as you can.

Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t.

5. Make it a Work in Progress

Do not under any circumstances put your bucket list in an envelope, stick it in a drawer, and forget about it. Your bucket list should be continuously evolving. Add new places as you think of them (or discover them), and cross off the ones you have visited. You can change your mind about going someplace, too.

Remember: it’s on paper, not carved in stone. So make your ultimate travel bucket list an ever-evolving work that accurately reflects your desires.

6. No Pressure!

How to Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List: Do not set deadlines for your travel goals.

This one is difficult, especially for the more driven, Type-A personality people.  Avoid attaching deadlines to the items on your bucket list. While it’s okay to assign general priority levels to your travel goals, items on your ultimate travel bucket list should not have specific deadlines. Why? Because life is nothing if not chaotic. You never know when your travel plans may be derailed by illness, injury, or financial adversity. Prioritize which goals are the most important to you and work to achieve them first.

7. The Most Important Tip of All

Once you’ve created your ultimate travel bucket list, there’s one thing left to do: set about making those dreams a reality!  Devise a strategy for achieving those travel goals, one at a time. Save your pennies, plot your course, and go out into the world with the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something of the utmost importance to the only one who really matters: yourself.

 

 

How to Create the Ultimate Travel Bucket List
Goodbye, FOMO: How to Experience the JOY of Missing Out

Goodbye, FOMO: How to Experience the JOY of Missing Out

No More FOMO!

Euromonitor International recently released a new report “Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel” at World Travel Market (WTM) London. One of the emerging trends cited in the report is JOMO, or the Joy of Missing Out. Contrary to FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out), the Joy of Missing Out stems from a desire to unplug and enjoy face-to-face, live experiences.

Why JOMO?

Recent studies have found that most smartphone users are spending over five hours per day looking at their devices. Other statistics include the fact that most people will check their phone 200 times per day – that’s every six and a half minutes! Our addiction to our smartphones has gotten so bad that there is a name for the anxiety we experience when we are separated from them. Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.

When I went to Machu Picchu last May, I was astonished at how many people were looking at their phones. All around me, people were gazing at a screen instead of the historic and architectural wonder of the Incan city. Whether taking selfies, playing Pokemon Go, or texting family back home, everyone seemed to have a phone in their hand.  I was no exception:

(In my defense, this is a still shot from a Mother’s Day greeting I recorded for my mom – after all, it was Mother’s Day and I was in a different hemisphere of the world. And notice that Hubs, goofing off behind me, is holding his phone as well.)

How Do We Unplug?

The very first step is to decide that you want to experience your destination with undivided attention and no distractions. Yes, you will feel anxious. You may find that your hand inadvertently pats the pocket where your phone would normally be. You may experience momentary panic when you realize it isn’t there. But, despite those negative emotions, you will end your travel with a richer experience and abundant memories of all the things you saw and experienced.

Need ideas on how to experience your own Joy of Missing Out vacation? Here are some tips to help you make it happen.

  1. Travel to a destination that offers a variety of experiences, but not too many. Think Cornwall instead of London, Monte Isola instead of Rome, Watkins Glen State Park instead of New York City. In other words, go where the majority of tourists don’t go. The ideal destinations will have things for you to do, but not so many that you are constantly on the go and not relaxing.
  2. Choose a destination with an abundance of natural beauty and/or outdoor activities. Frankly, technology and nature are opposites. Surround yourself with one and you won’t think as much about the other.
  3. Consider a spa, or all inclusive resort. Those places are designed to offer everything you need, often with a focus on relaxation and pampering, without you ever having to leave the site. If you have ever said, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” a relaxing spa stay may be just what you need.
  4. Go remote. At the very edges of the civilized world, it may be difficult to find a cell signal, and wifi may be limited. Some of the best locations for a Joy of Missing Out experience are islands, national parks, and small towns where the internet access is limited.
  5. Remove the temptation. It’s okay if you lack the self-control to not glance at the phone. You are not alone, my friends! But there are simple steps you can take to remove the temptation. In order to truly experience Joy of Missing Out travel, your phones need to be left in the hotel room. Better yet, leave them at home! If you need to take pictures, get a point & shoot camera. They are small, inexpensive, and don’t come with push notifications or other distractions.
  6. Evaluate your JOMO experience.  I recommend keeping a handwritten journal about your Joy of Missing Out experience. Track how you are feeling each day in as much detail as possible. Use your notes to evaluate what the experience was like and to remind yourself about how it differed from other travels you have had.

And Finally, Some Encouragement

Taking a vacation with the intent of experiencing the Joy of Missing Out will seem difficult at first. It may even seem impossible. But with the right mindset, you may just find it to be your most rewarding vacation ever!

 

Forget the fear of missing out… here’s how you can experience the JOY of missing out when you travel! #jomo #unplug #digitaldetox

 

My Travel Planning Process

My Travel Planning Process

How to Plan for an Amazing Trip (My Way)

I recently found a great airfare deal and booked myself a ticket to Paris. Just me. No one else. This is my first ever solo trip, and I’m a little nervous but also very excited. Okay, considering that I don’t really speak French, I’ma lot nervous. But in the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “If there were a list of things that make me more comfortable, lists would be on the top of that list.” So I’m making a lot of lists in preparation for my trip.

Travel Planning Process: How I'm planning my first ever solo trip to Paris.

As I dive into doing this trip 100% my way for 100% me, I thought it might be helpful to show you what my travel planning process looks like.  But first, a disclaimer: I am a highly structured, type A, over-planning kind of person, even on vacation. If you prefer to be a little less organized more spontaneous than me, you might want to follow this guide loosely and omit anything that seems like it might be too much effort.

Step 1: Have No Destination or Date in Mind

travel planning process - if possible, and to save money, start out being flexible on destination or dates

Yes, you heard it here first. The best plan starts by having no plan. Amazing vacations often present themselves as unanticipated opportunities in the form of cheap airfare. When you choose your destination or dates first, you lose a lot of flexibility in how much you will need to spend. My family and I have flown from Baltimore to both Peru and Iceland for around $200 per person round trip. It can be done. And since we want to travel as much as we can, it only follows that we need to do it as cheaply as we can.  After all, money saved on this trip means more money for the next trip!

Step 2: Start Putting Together a Destination List

travel planning process - make lists of where you want to go

One of the first places I look once I’ve booked my tickets is Pinterest, which I have written about before. Pinterest is great because not only is it a place to find destination ideas, it’s also a place to keep destination ideas. As soon as I’ve booked a trip, I create a board for my new destination and start pinning away. At first I pin everything that looks even vaguely interesting. For instance, my trip is to Paris but I’m pretty much pinning everything in France that I find of interest. I’ll be able to go through later and scale down, but if I find 3+ points of interest relatively close together outside of the city, that might make for a good day trip.

Depending on how anal organized I want to be, I might then set up a different board for each day of the trip with the activities for that day. I realize that it sounds over the top, but when you’re in an unfamiliar place, it actually makes sense to plan a day’s activities according to where they are located. Less time in transit between points makes for more time to see the sights.

The only caution I have to offer about using Pinterest as part of your travel planning process is to not allow your board to become oversaturated with images. You only need one pin with helpful information about visiting, for example, the Eiffel Tower. You do not need eight to twelve pins about the Eiffel Tower because they all have stunning images to go with them. The more you look at pictures, the less impressed you will be when you stand before it in person.

Other sites I like to peruse for things to see at a particular destination are Roadside America (US travel only) and Atlas Obscura. Both of these sites offer tips for seeing things that are off the beaten path and not likely to be on every tourist’s must-see list. They also usually have some history attached to them, which you know I love.

Corollary to Step 2: Accept That You Can’t See it All

travel planning process: to stay sane, set limits as to what you can reasonably hope to see/do on your trip

Unless you are visiting your destination for a very long time, you will have to prioritize what things you want to see and do on your trip. You cannot realistically expect to see every great architectural wonder, museum, monument, cathedral, park, and restaurant in one week’s time.

If you compile a massive list of all the places you want to see, and add to it all the places someone (friends/family/blogger/travel guidebook) recommended that you see, you are going to end up with a very long list. And when you find that you only have time to do about 20% of the things on that list, you will probably be disappointed and/or feel like your trip has been a failure.

I prioritize my destinations into three distinct lists:  Must See (I will not forgive myself if I don’t do this), Should See (important in order for me to consider the trip a success), and If There’s Time (everything else). The Must See List should be reserved only for iconic sights and experiences – things that, if you don’t do them, you won’t feel like you really even went to that location. In the case of Paris, it would be visiting the Eiffel Tower and seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The Should See list will have a reasonable amount of attractions/activities – between one and four per day. The If There’s Time list, if you’ve kept track of all those recommendations, should be the largest list.

Step 3: Finding Lodging

Travel Planning Process: Things to consider when booking lodging on your trip

A lot goes into finding the perfect place to stay. Here are just a few of the things you must consider:

  • Expense – How much can you afford for this portion of your trip?
  • Area – What sort of neighborhood do you want to stay in? Hip and trendy, or residential and quiet? How safe is the neighborhood you’re considering? Do you want to have a room with a view?
  • Type of accommodations – Do you want complete privacy? Do you want to be able to fix some of your own meals? Do you want to stay someplace that provides you with breakfast each day? Will you need local staff to provide you with recommendations on where to go?
  • Convenience to public transport – If you aren’t renting a vehicle, you may want to make sure that you are within walking distance of a subway station or bus route

As for when to book, I’ve found that you want to do it far enough in advance that you have plenty of options (particularly if you plan to stay in an Airbnb or private home), but not too far in advance in case your itinerary changes. There is nothing worse than booking a place for an entire week, only to decide later that you want to spend part of the time elsewhere. I’d say three months ahead is probably a good window, but you can go with less advance booking if you’re staying in a hotel.

Step 4: Buying Tickets in Advance

travel planning process: consider buying tickets for attractions in advance online so you won't have to wait in line when you arrive

I will admit, this step is riskier than the others. The potential benefits of buying your admission tickets in advance are:

  • Little to no time spent waiting in line when you arrive at the attraction.
  • Allows you to start paying for your vacation expenses before you go
  • No need to worry about an event being sold out; your admission is guaranteed
  • Some venues offer a cheaper admission rate when booking online.

The potential drawbacks of buying your tickets in advance are:

  • Your plans change and you cannot go on the day for which you purchased admission
  • You forget to take your tickets with you when you go (or lose them, or they get stolen, etc.)

Now, as you can see, there are more pros than cons here. Also, in many cases, venues who offer online admission sales either are not date specific or will honor your ticket on a different date if you cannot use it on the date you originally booked. These days, you will most likely have an email or other electronic record of your ticket, which should suffice if the printed version got lost.

Step 5: Keep it Together, Girl!

travel planning process: keep your information color coded and organized in a binder or folder

This is where my type A super-efficient personality makes most people roll their eyes and groan. I color code all of the information I’ve assembled (green for financial, blue for nighttime activities, orange for daytime, hot pink for anything in the Must See category, etc). Then I make a folder or three ring binder with all of the information I will need for my trip.

I keep everything that I need together and sort it by day. Typically, each day’s packet will include:

  • a list of activities for the day
  • maps and/or directions on how to get from A to B
  • printed admission tickets if purchased online
  • brochures or other information about what I will be doing (opening and closing times, special significance, etc.)

It might be important to note that I do not carry the entire binder around with me – just that day’s pertinent documents. Apps are great, but I’m old school enough that I like paper. Using paper doesn’t have me at the mercy of finding a wifi connection.

YMMV

I cannot stress enough that this is the process that works for me. Following these steps is what gives me peace of mind so that I can relax and enjoy my trip. If you prefer to be impetuous and plan as you go, that’s great. You do you! The point is to be prepared for your trip, know what you want, and not spend valuable vacation time under stress.  Bon Voyage!

The travel planning process - practical tips to get the most out of your trip.

 

 

 

How to Become a World Traveler Without Going Into Debt

How to Become a World Traveler Without Going Into Debt

DEBT SUCKS.

That was a bumper sticker that I had on my filing cabinet for years. Big red letters on a black background. It was a reminder to me that once I finally got out of debt, I didn’t ever want to go back. The advantage of changing my lifestyle from being a carrier of large amounts of consumer debt to being virtually debt free is that I can travel now. Of course, I could have traveled then, too, but after the trip was over, there would be guilt and stress and, let’s be honest, arguments with my husband over money. I thought I would share how to travel debt free. If you’re committed to making it happen, it’s not that hard.

How to Travel Debt Free *

How to travel debt-free

* NOTE: When I use the term debt in this post, I am not referring to home mortgages.

Step 1 – Be a Gazelle

Your first step is to make a commitment to yourself and anyone you share finances/travel with that you are not going to incur more debt. And by commitment, I mean an iron-clad, no going back, tattooed on your forehead level of commitment.

Financial guru and author Dave Ramsey says in his Financial Peace University course that you have to have gazelle-like intensity. That may seem strange, but Dave explains that if you’ve ever seen a video of wildlife in Africa, you may have seen a cheetah or other predator trying to take down a gazelle. That gazelle runs away from the cheetah as fast as he can – practically flying! – as if his life depends upon it. (Because it does!)

How to travel debt free - gazelle-like intensity

In order to travel debt free, you need to be just as intense in your desire to put your debt-incurring lifestyle behind you. Total commitment, 24/7, 365 days per year. Nothing less will do.

Step 2 – Start Saving

Now, it may seem silly to start saving while you’re still in debt, but it’s important. And the sooner you establish the habit of saving, the better. I have found that setting a percentage to save (5%, 10%, 15%, etc) usually works better for me than determining a specific amount. Do what works for you.

How to travel debt free - set aside money for an emergency fund, even while you're paying off debts.
Photo via Flickr by 401(K) 2012

Why save? Well, all it takes is one emergency to plunge you back into debt. The heater in your house needs to be replaced, your pet needs emergency surgery, you’re in a car accident and you have a $500 deductible for repairs. Whatever the emergency may be, you will be better equipped to handle it if you have an untouchable emergency fund already set up.

Step 3 – Work Towards Paying Off Existing Debt

Do you know what debt is most often compared to? Slavery. Andrew Jackson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ezra Pound, Ambrose Bierce, and many other notable people have said that being in debt is like being a slave. It is also in the Bible’s book of Proverbs.

How to Travel Debt-Free: First you need to make a commitment to paying off your existing debts.

The analogy is a legitimate one. Think about it: You are working, but you don’t get to keep anything that you earn. Instead, you are handing it all over to your creditors. You work and work but never seem to make any headway. You never get to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Gazelle-like intensity is your path out of slavery to debt. Keep track of every dollar you earn. Pay your necessities, cut out everything that isn’t a necessity, and commit any leftover funds to paying off your existing debts.

Step 4 – Increase Your Income

This step isn’t a necessity unless you want to reach your goals a bit faster. You can increase your income by taking on a part time job to supplement your regular income, or you can do it by selling things that you already own.

How to travel debt free - sell your unwanted/unused items for extra money.
Photo via Flickr by r.nial.bradshaw

Whenever I need a little extra cash, I look for items taking up space in the house that might be more enjoyed and appreciated by someone else. I list items that aren’t high value or high demand on Facebook. Items that may sell better to a wider audience, I list on eBay. And if I’m looking to get rid of a lot of stuff in a short amount of time, I have a yard sale.

Regardless of how you choose to bring in extra money, this is the important part: do not use the cash to treat yourself to a meal out, new clothes, or whatever splurge item is your weakness. That money should go to either savings, or paying off debt, or both.

Remember, be a gazelle!

Step 5 – Once Your Debt is Gone, Set a Travel Budget

If you’ve followed the steps above, you are now debt-free. Congratulations! it’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

And, if you’ve followed the steps above, you also have some savings set aside. Don’t stop saving now! You will still want to have a healthy amount of money set aside for any big ticket emergencies that may pop up. But start a secondary savings for travel. It’s the whole reason you embarked on this journey, right?

Do your research and try to estimate what the following items will cost on your trip:

  • Transportation to and from your destination (air fare, train tickets, gasoline)
  • Transportation at your destination (rental car, gasoline, Uber/Lyft/taxi)
  • Lodging for each night you will be away (hotel, Airbnb, etc.)
  • Boarding for your pets, if applicable.
  • Meals & snacks/treats, alcohol if you like to party on vacation
  • Admission to museums, concerts, festivals, etc.
  • Special equipment – anything that you need to purchase in order to take the vacation, such as snow boots for Scandinavia or scuba gear for the Caribbean.
  • Souvenirs (if you always get a souvenir sweatshirt when you go on vacation, for instance).

Total it all up and that is how much you want to save before you go on your trip. If it seems unachievable, look at ways to reduce your costs (drive instead of fly, have a friend look after pets, shorten the length of your trip, etc.). If you find that it’s taking too long to come up with the total you need, revisit Step 4 above to speed up the process.

Then, when you’re on vacation, you will be able to enjoy it so much more knowing that it’s already paid for! Bon voyage!

 

How to travel debt free, regardless of your income and where you're going.
10 Amazing Items Personalized with Travel Photos

10 Amazing Items Personalized with Travel Photos

So Many Pictures!

Digital photography has made it easier for us to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We even carry a camera with us everywhere we go now, thanks to smart phone technology. But while we are taking more and more pictures, we also tend to be doing less with them. We might upload to Facebook or pull out our phone and show a friend, but for the vast majority of people, that’s it. Which got me thinking, why not utilize those photos in a creative way by getting items that are personalized with travel photos from our journeys abroad?

Now, I’m not talking about the standard items that you can get from Walmart or the local drugstore. Things like mugs, enlargements/posters/canvas prints, blankets, photo books, cell phone cases, tote bags, or mousepads.  I’m talking about taking it to the next level. Here are ten items personalized with travel photos that would make the ultimate souvenir.

Bookmarks

Bookmark personalized with travel photos
Personalized bookmark from Shutterfly

This personalized bookmark from Shutterfly would be a great way to remember your travels every time you open your book.  They cost just $6.99 for one or $16.99 for three, and come in a variety of designs.

Notebooks

Notebook personalized with travel photos
Personalized notebook from Shutterfly

This notebook can be made with a custom photo cover for $14.99 from Shutterfly.  Talk about a perfect travel journal!  There are a variety of styles and sizes, with stock images like the one above, or you can provide your own.

Keepsake Box

Keepsake box personalized with travel photos
Keepsake box from Mpix

This keepsake box by Mpix comes in a variety of designs, and measures 5 x 7 x 2 inches.  This would make a great place to store mementos from your trip, like shells found on a beach, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, or anything else that will remind you of your trip.  Cost is $55.

Luggage tag

Luggage tag personalized with travel photos.
Luggage tag from Shutterfly

The luggage tag is perfect to showcase your travel photos! They make a great conversation starter, too.  Plenty of designs to choose from at Shutterfly, just $11.99

State Photo Collage

State photo collage personalized with travel photos
These state photo collages from Minted start at $29 unframed or $42 framed.

What better way to remind you of a trip than a photo collage in the shape of the place you visited? These prints come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 8×8 to 44×44 inches, framed or unframed. Prices range from $29 (8×8 unframed) to $625 (44×44 framed with archival matting and UV safe plexiglass).

Beach Towel

Beach towel personalized with travel photos
Photo beach towel by Snapfish.

Take your travel memories to the beach with you on this 35×60 soft and absorbent beach towel by Snapfish. There are loads of customization options, and the cost is $39.99.

Shower Curtain

Shower curtain personalized with travel photos
Shower curtain from Shutterfly, $79.99

Want to decorate your bathroom in a travel around the world theme? This shower curtain from Shutterfly ($79.99) can be personalized with travel photos from your collection. Choose from a number of different designs.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles personalized with travel photos
Ceramic Tiles from Image Snap come in assorted sizes.

The great thing about ceramic tiles is that they are very versatile. You can use them as coasters, trivets, incorporate them into a backsplash or countertop, or hang them on a wall.  They are terrific accent pieces, and now you can have them personalized with travel photos.  Image Snap provides the tiles in a variety of sizes – 2″ square up to 12″ square, 3″x6″ subway tiles, and other assorted sizes. Prices start at $5.

Tea Towel

Tea towel personalized with travel photos
Tea towel from Shutterfly, $17.99

Want a little travel inspiration in the kitchen?  Get a tea towel personalized with travel photos at Shutterfly for $17.99. As with most items, there are several designs to choose from, so you can feature one photo or many.

Photo-a-Day Calendar

Calendar personalized with travel photos.
You can feature up to 365 travel photos on a custom calendar from Social Print Studio.

I’ve saved the best for last. Of all the items personalized with travel photos, this one is definitely my favorite! The tear off calendar by Social Print Studio costs just $40 and can feature up to 365 different photos!  There are a few caveats, though, so be sure to read their how-to guide before you start your order.

So, there you have it.  No need to keep those amazing travel photos locked away on your hard drive or in the cloud.  Now you can display them all over your house and be inspired for your next trip!

Header image photo via Flickr by ben.gallagher.

How to NOT be a bad tourist in Iceland… or anywhere else

How to NOT be a bad tourist in Iceland… or anywhere else

The Ugly Americans… and Italians… and Chinese…

Recently, I had the immense privilege of spending a week in Iceland. It was an amazing adventure, and I am so glad I went. There are probably very few places on earth as beautiful and geologically diverse as Iceland.

Unfortunately, because Iceland has so much to offer, it has been overrun with tourists in recent years. Not just in the summer months, when the island is lush and green and blissfully mosquito free, but even in the winter months. The nation has a population of just over 332,000, but has an influx of around 2 million tourists each year.

Now, while anyone can see that tourism will bring a great amount of money into the local economy, it also brings its share of troubles. Here’s my simple guide on how to not be a bad tourist in Iceland, or any other place you travel.

1. How to not be a bad tourist in Iceland: Stay on the designated walkways.

As I mentioned above, a large part of Iceland is beautifully lush and green in the spring and summer months. This is due in large part to the leafy Icelandic moss that grows here. Icelandic moss is incredibly fragile and, once damaged, does not grow back easily or quickly.

Justin Bieber caused an uproar when he filmed the video for “I’ll Show You” in Iceland because (a) he rolled all over the moss and went for a swim in the glacier lagoon, and (b) he shared those images via his social media accounts. Over 70 million Bieber followers are now under the impression that it is perfectly acceptable to do those things.

It is not.

Still worse is the tale of the campers who ripped up large patches of the moss in Thingvellir National Park to insulate their tents. In the words of the Gateway to Iceland web site, the land now has “many open scars.”

Most of the sites we visited have short rope barriers and a sign with a pair of shoes and the red circle/slash symbol of “don’t do this.” Yet at every single place, we consistently saw people stepping over the barrier and walking past the sign. And I don’t mean one or two. I mean 12-15 at any given moment.

how to not be a bad tourist in iceland

Not only was their behavior disrespectful to the host country who asked for visitors to not do that, it was disrespectful to the other visitors, who wanted to take a picture of the beautiful setting without having to crop or photoshop the rude tourists out of their photos.

I was particularly frustrated and shocked by the behavior of this group of tourists. They had the nerve to set up folding chairs in front of the waterfall!


how to not be a bad tourist in iceland

Others spent about ten minutes taking photos of each other throwing a frisbee around and taking pictures with the waterfall as a backdrop. I have no idea what the logic was behind that. The irony is that the tourists who disobeyed the rules in order to get 6-10 feet closer could have gotten just as good a selfie from behind the rope barrier.

2. How to not be a bad tourist in Iceland: Keep your drones in the car.

Most of the natural beauty sites and national parks in Iceland have signs clearly prohibiting the use of drones. But naturally, that didn’t stop anyone from disregarding those signs. So while we were out enjoying the beautiful snowy landscapes and cascading waterfalls, we had to listen to the high pitched wheeeeeeee of a drone flying overhead. It sounded like giant mutant mosquitos were coming after us. Very annoying, very distracting. Especially at a place like Namafjall Fumaroles and Mud Pots, where the scenery can best be appreciated not just by looking, but also listening:

 

3. How to not be a bad tourist in Iceland: Be safe.

If you don’t value your own life, at least consider the trauma and expense your plunging to your death would cause. There are very real dangers in Iceland. There are cliffs that drop off into frigid water or rocky outcrops. And then there’s the scary phenomenon known as a “sneaker wave.”

The sneaker wave is a mutation in the crashing surf that causes a wave to literally sneak up on you. You could potentially be in danger even if you’re just standing on the beach.  These waves have pulled unsuspecting tourists out to sea, where they drown. Signs all over the beach tell visitors to never turn their backs to the water.

Another astounding moment from our trip was when I spotted this tourist walking in the Kerid crater.

how to NOT be a bad tourist in iceland

In short, respect the nature in Iceland or it will knock the crap out of you. It might even kill you. No selfie is worth your life.

how to not be a bad tourist in iceland

How to not be a bad tourist in Iceland: The Bottom Line

Basically, it all boils down to (a) following the rules and (b) being respectful – of the host country and your fellow travelers. Please think before you act when you’re traveling.

how to not be a bad tourist in Iceland
Follow these three simple rules to stay in the good graces of the people who live and work in your travel destination.

Are You Being Spied on When You Travel?

Are You Being Spied on When You Travel?

Just Imagine This:

Say you go on vacation and later discover, to your horror, that there is a hidden camera in your hotel. Most recently, it was an Airbnb lodging that had a hidden camera in the smoke detector. But it could just as easily happen in a hotel room. Just ask Erin Andrews, the Fox Sports reporter who was secretly filmed through her hotel room’s peephole.

hidden camera
Photo via Flickr by Monchoocnom

Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent being spied on when you travel. Here’s how.

1. Know Where to Look – Which Room?

There are basically two reasons why someone would use a hidden camera. Either they want to make sure you don’t steal anything, or they want to catch you naked. If it’s the first option, you should be looking for cameras near items of value (high end electronics in the living room, for instance). If it’s the second, the bathroom and bedroom are the most likely locations.

2. Know Where to Look – Where Is It Hidden?

There are a million different ways/places to hide a small camera. Some examples of everyday objects that could be hiding a camera are a hidden camera wall charger, a clock, a pen, a light bulb, a smoke detector, a key chain, a clothes hook, and a picture frame.

It’s easy to slide from “protecting my privacy” into full-fledged paranoia when you think about all of the places they could be. But take a deep breath and approach it rationally. Here are a few pointers on where and how to look for hidden cameras. First, remember that a hidden camera cannot work without an exposed lens. So look for anything that might conceal (but not cover) a small lens.

Also, if you’re renting a home, check anything that looks like it was accidentally left behind by the owner. I’ve seen cameras concealed in water bottles and coffee cups. Did the owners leave a gym bag out? How about a shirt with buttons? Tissue boxes and pens are another likely spot.

Consider the placement of a camera when looking. It will most likely be on the periphery of a room, facing the center where people will be spending time. Or it may be facing a mirror that will capture the events of a room. If you see a mirror hanging in an odd place, that would be a good area to examine.

hidden camera

3. What to Do When You Aren’t Sure

If you can’t rely on your eyes to spot a camera, try your ears. Many cameras have motion detectors, and are dormant until someone or something moves in front of them. In an absolutely quiet room, you may be able to hear a click or whir sound as the camera activates.

Some people recommend using the flashlight of your phone to look for hidden cameras. Because camera lenses are glass, they will reflect light. Shine your flashlight around a dark room very slowly and look for the glint of a reflection.

4. Fight Fire with Fire (or Tech with Tech)

If your accommodation has wifi, you can use a network analysis app to see how many devices are connected to the network. If there’s no hidden camera installed, you should only see the router and your phone listed. If you see more than that, there is a possibility that a hidden camera is installed on the property. Something listed other than the router and your phone could be another “smart” device in the household, so keep that in mind before jumping to conclusions.

If all of this just sounds like too much work, I’m inclined to agree. After all, who wants to spend precious vacation time looking for something the size of a screw head? Not to mention being paranoid about the possibility of overlooking one.

Fortunately, there is a gadget that will help you find any hidden cameras in your lodging, and they aren’t expensive. I recommend this  Hidden Camera RF Signal Detector, which is in the $15-$20 range. For a professional grade device, you could get this Anti-Spy Amplification Signal Detector instead or about $80. In both cases, you don’t have to do much more than turn the gadget on.

Even cheaper is an app for your phone that will detect hidden cameras. There are many available, for both iPhone or Android, and they run $2-$5.

5. Okay, I Found One… Now What?

First and foremost, take pictures of the hidden camera and its location. Report it to management (hotel desk or Airbnb, whichever the case may be.) Then contact local authorities, as secretly filming someone in a private residence may be illegal in that location. If you’re really angry about it, you can use social media or place a call to local reporters. Third, find yourself another place to stay.

What not to do:  Do not destroy the camera. Do not angrily confront the property owner. Do not stay there after discovering the hidden camera.

If you’ve ever found a hidden camera in your lodging, I want to hear about it.  Leave a comment below!

 

Hidden Camera
5 essential tips for making sure you are not being secretly filmed in your lodging when you travel.

Disclosures:

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Pinterest image via Flickr by kimubert.