Travel Tips for Local Immersion

Traveling isn’t just about visiting sights and having fun. It’s also about getting to know a place, and its people, food and culture. It’s about immersing yourself in the local way of life and maybe even doing as the local do. For a proper local immersion, jump at the chance of doing some or even all of these things when traveling.


Visit Local Families or Small Villages. First thing’s first: travel cautiously. Do your research and make sure that the place you’re traveling to is safe enough. If it is, then you should certainly make arrangements to visit a small village where no tourists ever go or to meet with a local family. Hire a guide or do it on your own. In some countries, there are even programs that will match you with a local family and spend a day with one of the local families. It’s the best and perhaps even rewarding way to get a good glimpse of the local life.

Get off the Beaten Path. Many touristy spots are unavoidable, even absolute must when visiting a destination especially for the first time. Attractions like the Eiffel Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral and even the Santa Monica Pier at night are worth seeing at least once. But it’s just as important to get off the beaten track and see sights that are under the tourist radar. This lets you see a different side of the place you are visiting and even experience sights that are more popular with the locals.


Hang Out With the Locals. Whether over lunch, dinner, a picnic at the beach or drinks at a bar, find a fun way to meet and hang out with some of the locals. It’s a great way to get to know the people as well as their ways, what they like to drink, what they love do to during their free time. And they’ll let you in on all their best-kept secrets, from their favorite weekend spots to their favorite restaurants, and maybe even teach you their local dance.

Fried langosta and sides in Puerto Nuevo (Photo: Michelle Rae)
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Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Boneless Chicken with Brown Gravy and Macaroni Salad at the Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Eat What the Locals Eat. When traveling, you must sample the local fares and get a true taste of the local flavors. Eat the dishes that the locals themselves eat. With just a bit of research and review reading, you’ll find plenty of terrific restaurants and food stands that serve these dishes. Of course, you absolutely must pick and choose where you get the food. You wouldn’t want to get poisoning from food bought at a street cart or a restaurant with unsanitary cooking practices.


Go Shopping at a Local Market. Speaking of local food, don’t just eat out the whole time. Another fun way to sample the food is to visit a market or grocery store and go shopping. Buy some of the local products—cookies, chocolates, cheeses, coffee, hot chocolate, beer and even wine—and indulge. And once you’ve sampled everything, buy more of the stuff you enjoyed most and take them home as gifts to your friends and family.

Feed Your Wanderlust with Flea Market Finds, Part One

Indulging on delicious cuisine, meeting people, exploring new places, opening your eyes to other cultures and going on epic adventures are probably the top reasons why we love to travel. They’re certainly a few of mine. But there’s one other reason that keeps popping in my head whenever I’m planning a trip or choosing my next destination: SHOPPING!

Visiting a new country means a fantastic opportunity to buy indigenous, artisanal wares that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in your own country or city. You don’t know how many times I’ve started obsessing about a country all because of an Instagram photo (of a beautiful rug from Marrakech, a colorful bag from Cartagena or a darling hammock from Nicaragua.)

Often, when I’m not traveling, I keep myself sane by means of retail gratification (aka shopping!) Luckily, our flea markets here in Los Angeles are bubbling with products imported from Mexico all the way to Ghana, and it’s the perfect place for me to feed my wanderlust without having to leave home and spend a few thousand dollars.

Here are some of the imported, artisanal wares I found on Sunday at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena:

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Colorful baskets from Ghana – These normally cost about $45 at the market.


Purses from Colombia


Simple yet elegant umbrella from Thailand – This one was massive and only cost $175.

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Singing bowls from Nepal – The medium sized ones are $35 to $45 dollars. These are great for meditation.


Pastel pots from Mexico


Lanterns from Morocco – Some of these had bits of rust, but their designs are intricate!


Baskets from El Salvador – These are great for beach picnics or grocery shopping. The medium sized ones are about $55.


Moroccan-inspired rugs and poufs


Fabrics from South Asia

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Fabrics from Ghana – These are from $35 to $45. There were a few different vendors selling the same stuff, so it wouldn’t hurt to haggle.


Rugs and tapestries from India

Rose Bowl Flea Market is a monthly market that takes place every 2nd Sunday of the month at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. General admission starts at 9am. Tickets cost $9 per person.

Quick Tips:

  • Bring plenty of water, as water is not cheap inside the market.
  • Wear a hat and cool clothing, and apply plenty of sunscreen. It gets pretty hot after 10am.
  • Bring plenty of cash. Many vendors accept credit cards, but they might charge an extra fee. Most of them prefer cash.
  • See something you like? Shop around first. There are many vendors in the market that sell similar stuff, and you’ll probably find a better price elsewhere.
  • Bring a cart, if you plan on making several or large purchases.


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Clever Ways to Save Money When Traveling

If money is no issue, we’d probably find ourselves swimming in infinity pools overlooking epic panoramas, dining at the most expensive Michelin star restaurants, de-stressing at the most luxurious resorts, and going on the most epic adventures. But the hard truth is money is almost always an issue… unless you’re in the 1% of the population.

Just because we’re on a budget though, it doesn’t mean we can’t still have an amazing vacation. It just means we have to skip or cut back on the not so important things so we can splurge a little on the important ones when we’re traveling. Here are some tips on how you can save money and stay on your budget when traveling:


Pack a sandwich. Eating out while traveling is one of the biggest money drainers, but you don’t have to do it all the time. Stay at B&Bs, hostels and hotels that offer free breakfast. Pack a sandwich for lunch as well as some snacks—I spent several days in London having only a sandwich and a bottle of water for lunch, which actually turned out nicely because I got to enjoy them while people watching and relaxing along the Thames. Use your dine out funds mostly for dinner. And if you really have to eat out for lunch—there are, after all, some local fares that are only meant for daytime consumption—then find places that are cheap. There are a lot of food spots out there that serve amazing food at very affordable prices.

Take the public transportation. If you’re visiting a big city, chances are you can easily get around just taking the public transportation. Yeah, you need to do a bit of research and it’ll take some time to figure out the system, but it’ll be totally worth it, especially considering the money you’ll save not paying for cab rides. In busier cities like New York and London, taking the trains will even save you a lot of time. I’ve once spent an hour in a car trying to get to a restaurant in London due to heavy traffic… it would have only taken me half that time or less in the Tube.

Souk owner presenting his wares in Marrakesh (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Haggle when you can. I was one of those people who couldn’t bring themselves to haggle because I felt like I was cheating vendors out of their hard earned money. I’ve since realized that these vendors can usually afford to sell their wares at much cheaper prices than initially advertised. Proof: a merchant at a souk in Marrakesh once sold me a pouf for 40 MAD cheaper than we initially agreed because he didn’t have enough change to break my 200. In fact, in many places vendors actually expect their customers to haggle. So don’t be afraid to haggle—start at one third of the original price and work your way from there—and don’t hesitate to walk away if you can’t get it for the price you’re willing to pay.

Take advantage of free tours. Many hostels and hotels offer complimentary walking or bike tours that you must take advantage of when you’re on a tight budget. They might not be as comprehensive as those tours run by actual tour companies, but they’re usually informative and very useful for familiarizing yourself with the destination you’re visiting. It’s also a great way to meet fellow travelers and a perfect chance to ask a local—your tour guide—some questions you might have about the area.

Stay at hostels. Nothing beats the deliciousness of a luxurious hotel room and a plush queen sized bed that you have all to yourself. I personally prefer private hotel rooms myself, and if you can afford it, I would tell you to go for it. But if you’re on a tight budget, paying for a hotel room that will cost you $100 or more a day is simply impossible. Opt to stay at a hostel instead, where a comfortable bed will cost you anywhere from $15 to $75, if it’s really busy. Just make sure to do your research, as there are a number of crappy ones out there. The amazing ones—like Smart City Hostels by Safestay in Edinburgh, which has really good amenities like free reliable WiFi, complimentary hot breakfast and free walking tours; a cool pub; and very friendly staff—are worth every single penny.

Buy a pay as you go SIM card. You’re better off getting a pay as you go SIM card at your destination than paying for a 30-day international data plan from your service provider. When you get your SIM, simply purchase a cheap bundle that meets your minutes, text and data needs during your trip. You’ll save a lot of money and still enjoy good enough mobile privileges.

Travel with someone. Traveling alone can be such a liberating and unforgettable experience, but traveling with someone has its perks as well. Going on a vacation with your partner or a couple of your friends will let you split some of the bills and expenses on hotel rooms, meals, tips and even toiletries, saving you money that you can later use for some souvenir shopping.

Buy a city pass. Some of the bigger cities offer city passes that will give you free access to some or most of their main attractions. Some, like the London Pass and the Paris Pass, even include huge discounts to other sights as well as offer fast track entries. These city passes are usually very affordable and cheaper than paying for all those attractions individually. And they’re very convenient too.

Eat your leftovers. If you’re anything like me, you’re likely going to end up with plenty of leftovers when dining out. Take leftovers with you if you have any; they’re another meal or snack that you won’t have to pay for, saving you some cash. In some countries, it’s not customary to take your leftovers home. In fact, many restaurants in these countries like the UK don’t even carry leftover containers. Don’t sweat it; just carry around an empty container with you!

Pack light. These days, airlines will try and charge you for everything. That includes things that you think should be like choosing your seat and checking in your luggage. Check-in baggage usually costs anywhere from $25 to $100 depending on the weight. Save some money with careful planning, packing only the clothes that you’re going to need with just a couple of just-in-case pieces. This way, you can pack everything in a carry-on and you won’t have to pay for checked bags. Just make sure you have space in there for souvenirs.

Rack up the miles. Racking up travel miles in your airline or regular credit card, simply by making necessary, everyday purchases, is one of the best ways you can save money while traveling. You can use the miles you’ve earned to pay for travel-related expenses like airline tickets, hotel rooms, room service, some purchases and even cab rides. My favorite is Discover it as it doesn’t have an annual fee and it doubles your earned miles in the first year.


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All About England: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Go


Since England is an English-speaking country, first time travelers to the country tend to drop their guards. But during my first visit there, I was not only surprised by the many dissimilarities, I also ended up committing a few faux pas. The fact is there are many things about the country that are completely different from what we are used to. Here are some of them:

Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

1. People are, in fact, pleasant and very helpful. And they say actually apologize for things like accidentally bumping into you on the street.

2. The usually have separate faucets for hot and cold water. Careful not to turn the hot water faucet too far or you WILL get burned.

3. Your servers at restaurants will ring you up at the table, and not many of them will be pleased if you asked for wine recommendations.

4. Don’t believe the myth. The food is actually good and hearty. Definitely try the Full English for breakfast.

Sosharu (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Sosharu (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Nando’s (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Preserves and cheese, Borough Market (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Brindisa Tapas (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Brindisa Tapas (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
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Q Grill (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

5. They won’t let you order food at pubs unless you secure a table first, and not many do takeaways (that’s British for take out).

6. Speaking of pubs, many of them close early. Like 11pm early. Even in London.

7. The public transportation will get you literally anywhere. While planning for my trip in the Cotswolds, I was terrified that I’d get stuck somewhere in the middle of the country if I missed a bus. My fear was quickly dispelled as soon as I realized that even in the countryside, buses and trains run pretty regularly.

Bibury (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Chipping Camden (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Chipping Camden (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Burford (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
House in the Cotswolds (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

8. You need to keep up the pace during rush hour in London. That’s usually between 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning, and from 5 to 7 in the evening.

9. Some hotels, especially the cheaper ones, may not have in-room air conditioning. This may not seem so bad during the cooler months, but in the summer time, it CAN be torture.

10. They actually have good coffee and nice coffee shops. The afternoon tea, however, is a lovely affair that you must partake in at least once. I very much enjoyed the one at sketch in London.

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sketch in London (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
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sketch in London (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)


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Travel Tips for Visiting London for the First Time

London is an easy city to familiarize yourself with, so even if you come unprepared and decide to just wing it, you’ll find the city pretty effortless to become acquainted with and accustomed to. Still, it’s nice to be just a little prepared and look like you know what you’re doing. With these ten tried and tested travel tips, you might just even blend in with the locals.


Get an Oyster Card. Everybody in London either walks or uses the public transportation (or realistically, both). The city’s network of public transportation, which consists of buses, the Underground trains, National Railway trains, trams and even boats, is very efficient, very effective and the fastest way to get around (the trains especially). Before you start your London explorations, obtain an Oyster Card that you can “tap up”—meaning add credit to—at every National Rail and Underground station as you go. Oh, and do memorize these symbols below…

bustop – London bus stop symbol

179px-Underground – London Underground symbol

nationalrailicon – National Railway symbol

Get a Pay As You Go SIM Card. Unless you belong to an amazing cellular network, an international data plan might be just a tad too expensive for what you need. As soon as you get to London, visit a local store and get a Pay As You Go SIM Card, which allows you to choose and purchase a bundle that fits your needs best. These bundle are usually cheaper and provide more minute, text and data allowance. Best of all, you can purchase and activate a bundle through your phone.

Get a London Pass. If you’re planning on visiting many of London’s most popular attractions, London Pass will save you a ton of time, money and hassle. Starting at £59 for a 1-day pass, the passport will give you access to over 60 attractions at no extra charge, as well as discounts and extra perks at many others. Additionally, you’ll also get Fast Track access to a select few—the Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and the London Bridge Experience, for example—so you can beat the lines and save even more time.

Tower of London grounds (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Learn the Currency. Much like the rest of the city, the British pound or pound sterling is pretty straightforward but it’s still a pretty good idea to familiarize yourself with them, especially the coins. Londoners are usually very patient, but you still wouldn’t want to be holding up a line while you try to figure out which one’s 20p and which one’s 10p. The banknotes are usually £5, £10, £20 and £50 bills while the coins you’ll come across are usually 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. And when someone asks you for 5 “pee,” don’t freak out. They only mean 5 “pence”.

Skip the Cabs, Take the Tube Instead. London, like many metropolitan areas, is plagued with really bad traffic. This means that a £15 cab ride can easily turn into a £30 one during rush hour. With your Oster Card tapped up and ready to go, you can easily hop on a train to get to your destination in no time. It’s cheaper, faster and also very easy to figure out as timetables, directionality, connections and stops are displayed at every single station and every single platform. And if you’re still not feeling confident, simply use the Google Maps app on your phone. It’s pretty good at providing idiot-proof instructions on getting from one point to another using public transportation.

Visit by Neighborhood. While London is quite compact, every neighborhood in the city has a number of things to offer. If you have plenty of time in the city—3 weeks perhaps, I would suggest exploring it one neighborhood at a time. This will give you ample time to get to know each one—as they each have their own distinct personality as well as must see sights. Go for a literary walk in Bloomsbury, go shopping in Soho and Mayfair, visit the historical attractions in the City, enjoy arts and culture in Shoreditch, etc.

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Carnaby Street in Soho (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Look Right Then Left. If you come from a country where people drive on the right, which is basically most countries, it’s easy to get confused when navigating the streets on London. The whole United Kingdom drives on the left side of the road. While you might not be doing any driving during your visit there, this is still a very important tidbit to remember as you’ll need to remember which way to look when crossing streets. Always remind yourself to look right first and then look left. Look right then look left. Make this your mantra for the next few days until it’s practically second nature.

Stay on Your Left-Hand Side. Pedestrian traffic is much like vehicular traffic. Everybody walks on the left side, on the streets, up the stairs, at the stations… Or at least they should be. Most people do, but it can get a little confusing since most visitors and tourists don’t follow it. The best thing you can do is keep walking on the left side but pay close attention to oncoming traffic so you can dodge accordingly.

Take Some Day Trips. There’s a lot to see in the city itself and chances are you may not be able to see most of it during your visit. If you’re staying for two or three weeks however, it will be good and a nice change of pace to visit some of the smaller towns and cities outside London. Literally everything is a leisurely train or bus ride away. Take a couple of days or even weekends to visit Oxford, the Cotswolds, Bath, St. Ives, Weymouth, Brighton, Canterbury, or even Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Bibury in the Cotswolds (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Bath Abbey in Bath (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Get Some Clear Plastic Bags for Your Liquids. If you’re planning on visiting other cities in other countries while there—Marrakesh, Madrid or Lisbon, perhaps—it’ll be good to know some of England’s rules for air travel. One clear-cut rule that airport security is firm about is your liquids storage. They prefer that all flyers use a clear, resealable bag that’s about a little bigger than the Ziploc sandwich bags we have in the US to store their liquids. If you use the wrong container—a big Ziploc bag or a clear make-up bag, for example—chances are they’ll make you take them out and repack them in the preferred bag. Don’t worry, though. The airports usually have these bags on hand, whether for free or for purchase, so you can go to the airport and grab a couple before going through security. Also, bear in mind that every passenger has a limit of 2 bags max, so make sure to only bring the necessities.


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Flying Tips for Non Flyers

Visiting unbelievably beautiful places is a privilege that’s often hard to trade or resist; but to some of us, the ‘getting there’ part isn’t quite as enjoyable. If you’re a non-flyer like me—and by that I mean someone who isn’t comfortable with the act in general—flying to your vacation destination may just be the most irksome part of your holiday.

Flying is, however, an eventuality you can’t avoid if you want to see the world. There are, however, a few things you can do to make the experience as pleasant for you as possible.


Choose a Seat You’re Most Comfortable With

The window seat isn’t necessarily the best seat on an airplane. I find that while I do enjoy sitting next to the window for the view, the makeshift headrest and the control of the window shade, there are days when I prefer sitting in an aisle seat for several reasons including having access to the aisle if I need to stretch my legs or use the toilet and being able to easily get to my carry-on in the overhead bin. Decide whether it’s the aisle, middle or window seat that would fit your needs the most and reserve that seat, as sitting in one you’re most comfortable with will make that flight a lot less painful.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

Sure, it’s a good idea to dress up and look good for a flight, but in the end all that matters is your comfort. As long as you don’t look like you just crawled out of bed or haven’t showered in days, nobody will care how fashionable your in-flight outfit is. Besides, you can look good while still being comfortable. Loose-fitting pants, a pair of shoes that’s easy to slip off and on, and even underwear that won’t ride up are the way to go when you’re stuck in a tight space for a couple of hours or more. Plus, they’re good for your circulation.

Use an Eye Mask

One of several ways you can endure a flight is to actually sleep through it. But it’s not exactly easy, not when there’s always light coming from different sources—whether it’s your seatmate choosing to turn his reading light on when practically the whole cabin is dark or it’s that unshaded window across the aisle from you—keeping you awake. Try an eye mask instead. It doesn’t have to be Breakfast at Tiffany’s fancy, it just has to be effective. You can even purchase one at one of the stores at the airport.

Bring a Security Blanket or Pillow

To some of us, sleeping on a plane—unless of course you’re sitting in first class—can be challenging and frustrating. You can only put your seat back so far and the headrest isn’t exactly nice and fluffy. Some flights do offer complimentary blankets and pillows, but they’re not always available so bring your own just in case. Don’t lug a massive pillow or blanket around, however. A travel pillow or a small blanket will do, something good enough to help you sleep.

Flying over California (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Skip the Nonstop Flights

A two-hour flight isn’t so bad. But if you can’t stand being on a plane for hours at a time, a six-hour flight might be too long for you. I know it is for me, as I start to get antsy after four hours. Opt for a connecting flight instead, if you don’t mind extending your total travel time for a few more hours. Not only are they generally cheaper, they’ll also give you a chance to breathe, stretch your legs and maybe even grab a proper lunch at the airport.

Revel in Your Travel Quirk

We all have our little quirks that we cling on to like a security blanket. If you have a travel quirk—whether it’s tapping the side of the plane three times with your right hand before you board or falling asleep during turbulence because it rocks you to sleep (like me)—don’t hesitate to do it if it helps you feel at ease. Just make sure it doesn’t bother the other passengers.

Download Your Favorite Movies

Watch the free movie or movies the airline offers on your flight. Or if you have extra cash to spend, by all means purchase that in-flight movie you’ve been meaning to watch. Watching a movie is one of the best ways to distract yourself from the tediousness of a flight. Do remember though that some flights, especially the budget ones, do not offer in-flight entertainment so make sure you have your favorite flicks handy on your computer or mobile device. And bring a book or two with you to read as well.

Travel Light

I find that traveling light takes the pressure off a little. Not having bulky and heavy luggage to carry around with you allows you to relax a little and focus on yourself a little more. Plus you won’t have to worry about overhead bin space or having to wait forever for your checked in luggage at the airport.

Drink Plenty of Water

The super low humidity in an airplane cabin can be very dehydrating, and the longer your flight is, the more chance you have of getting dehydrated. If you’re already feeling uncomfortable or apprehensive about flying, being dehydrated can make you feel even worse. Make sure to drink plenty of water and leave the alcohol for when you’re back on land.

Chat with Your Seatmate

It may seem like an awkward situation at first being stuck in the same row as two or three other strangers for a few hours, but you’d be surprised how many people are more than happy to chat with their seatmates. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You’ll know immediately if they’re interested or not. If they aren’t, then you can go back to reading your book or watching a movie. If they are, then you’ll have another way of distracting yourself and you’ve also made a connection with someone.


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6 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy When Traveling

A vacation is pretty much synonymous to relaxation as well as indulgence. For many of us, it’s that rare chance in the year when we can leave all our cares behind, avoid the more arduous activities and possibly indulge in things we can’t always have in our daily lives—like heaping piles of food, perhaps.

Just because you’re on vacation, however, it’s no excuse to overlook your health. After all, you wouldn’t want to return from your dream vacation needing another vacation, or worse, nursing a debilitating virus. Here are a few very simple, tried and tested things you can do to stay healthy yet still enjoy your vacation.

Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to neglect drinking water when all those yummy drinks are an order away. The problem with these drinks is they’re so delicious and refreshing that you’ll end up having more than your fair share without noticing the stacking calories. Drinking healthy amounts of water while on vacation is a great way to offset your calorie gain as well as maintain the balance of your body fluids and stay hydrated (few are as dehydrating as that alcohol in your cocktails!). Best of all, drinking water is one of the easiest ways to reenergize.

Stay active. Take some time whether at the start of your day or at the end of it to squeeze in a quick cardio. Many hotels and resorts have a gym onsite with facilities at the guests’ disposal. With all that good food you’ll be sampling—some of them not as healthy as we’d like them to be, it’s easy to gain a bit of weight during your vacation. It only makes sense to balance that out with a little bit of workout and burn those extra calories from that 14oz steak or that large piece of chocolate cake you ordered the night before. And like water, it’s also energizing and a fantastic way to start the day!

Keep a balanced diet. Sure, you don’t get to indulge in amazing steak or lobster every day. It’s more than ok to treat yourself to those hearty lunches and dinners as well as those fruity cocktails. But at the end of the day, it’s still important to eat your fruits and veggies, and control your portions. A good way to keep a balanced diet is to start your meal with the healthier stuff and then leave some room for that hunk of meat or pasta dish you’ve been dreaming about. This way, you can enjoy the “good” stuff without overindulging.

Get plenty of sleep. It’s easy to lose track of time especially when you’re having so much fun or when you’ve got a lot of catching up to do with relatives you’re traveling with. Just make sure you don’t do it every night. A vacation is the perfect opportunity to rest and catch up on much needed sleep. Go to bed early, sleep in or even squeeze in siestas—traveler’s choice. Just make sure you get more than enough shuteye so you can start your days and end your vacation well rested.

Do some yoga. Aches and pains are normal when your itinerary is imbued with activities or when you’re participating in more strenuous endeavors like hiking, kayaking/paddle boarding and snorkeling. A fantastic trick to shoo the soreness away is to do some post-activity stretching, or better yet, an energizing yoga sequence. Yoga workouts are a quick and effective way to get rid of most of the soreness. They’re also a lovely way to reboot your body, getting it ready for another day of fun. There are many videos on YouTube that will guide you through a 20 to 30 minute workout; and some hotels offer yoga classes as well.

Squeeze in a massage. A spa treatment may be the best pampering you can give yourself, so shell out a bit of cash and treat yourself to an amazing massage. You’ll come out a more relaxed and happier you. Many hotels and resorts have their own spa onsite, and a combination of a full-body massage and aromatherapy is probably the yummiest and most satisfying. Before or after your treatment, take advantage of the spa facilities. There’s nothing like a good soak in a hot water plunge pool, or a few minutes under a glorious rain shower. Lastly, try to find a spa where they offer treatments right on the beach; the sounds of the waves will make the experience even more soothing.


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How to Make the Most of Your Disneyland Getaway

While it may not be as big as Orlando’s Disney World, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is just as packed with rides and attractions for both the young and the young-at-heart. Before you go, expect that you won’t be able to see the entire park, let alone go on every single ride there, in a day. However, you would want to get your money’s worth and experience as much of what the park has to offer.

Here are our ten tried and tested tips on how families with kids can make the most of their Disneyland getaway:


Come Early. Depending on the season, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure usually open around 9 or 10 am Monday thru Thursday, and Disneyland opens around 8 am Friday thru Sunday. One great way to make the most of your visit is simply to come early – not only will you have more hours to spend there, you’d also beat the crowds to the ride lines!

Jungle Cruise is one of the many attractions at the park with a FASTPASS.Jungle Cruise is one of the many attractions at the park with a FASTPASS. (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the FASTPASS. It’s completely FREE with your ticket purchase and super easy to obtain. A FASTPASS will help you bypass the long lines at some of the popular attractions, so you won’t have to spend 45 or so minutes of the time you could be spending on other attractions at the park. Simply go to a FASTPASS distribution station, insert your ticket and you will get a FASTPASS ticket with your Return Time to skip ahead. In the meantime, you can enjoy other attractions (ones with shorter wait times), grab a snack, visit the shops or just explore the park in general. Note that sometimes there’s a wait period before you can pull another FASTPASS, so use it wisely!

Start with the Attractions You Really Want. Don’t just go from one ride to the next, without a plan. Before you go, do your research and find out which attractions you want to see and rides you want to go on the most. Save the rest for later when you have some time to spare!

Family getting on the Little Mermaid Ride.Family getting on the Little Mermaid Ride. (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Don’t Ignore the Less Popular Ones. Especially when you have some time before your FASTPASS Return Time, don’t hesitate to go on the less popular rides. They might not be big hits, but you might just enjoy them. Consider attractions like Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, where your little mermaids get to ride on colorful clamshells and sing along Part of Your World with Ariel, and Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, where you and your little ones can explore caves and tunnels and cross a rope bridge.

Wear Comfortable Shoes. Think about it – if you’re not wearing comfortable shoes, your feet will hurt after a few hours of walking, and chances are, when your feet hurt you’d want to take a lot of breaks – which cuts into your fun time – and you won’t enjoy the rides as much since you’re in pain.

Just Avoid the Crowds. Skip the crowds and go on a weekday instead of a weekend, visit between holidays, or before and after school breaks.

California Adventure ParkCalifornia Adventure Park (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Buy a Park Hopper. While Disneyland is full to the brim with attractions, there will some rides you’d want skip if the thrill factor is too high or if the ride is too age-specific. If you have a park hopper, then you’d be able to hop on over to California Adventure next door, where there are more exciting, adrenaline-pumping rides that even the younger kids can appreciate. Kids 44 inches and up can take on California Screaming while kids 40 inches and up will enjoy the floating sensation going down The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Later, the whole family can cool down in the rapids on Grizzly River Run.

See the Parade. It’s normal for the little ones to start getting tired and grumpy, especially after all that exploring, so pick a nice spot on Main Street, USA where you can sit down and rest. Make sure that you have a good clear view of the parade – the festivities will perk your grumpy ones right up!

Wait for the Fireworks. It’s the perfect and most magical way to end your magical day at Disneyland – to watch the spectacular fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. In fact, it never seems like a complete Disneyland experience without it.

Grizzly River Run at California Adventure ParkGrizzly River Run at California Adventure Park (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Stay Another Day. A single day just isn’t enough to explore the park completely, and we bet your little princes and princesses haven’t had their fill yet. So why not book a family-friendly hotel nearby (and there’s a lot, on-site and off-site) and stay another day? You are on vacation so make the most of it. After all, if you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on something, it might as well be on experiences for you and the kids. And Disneyland is definitely an experience.


(Originally published on

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Seven Things You Need to Know About Oahu Before You Go

Oahu is a US destination, and yet it feels like a completely far off place thanks to its Polynesian roots that remain alive and thriving today. This uniqueness, coupled with its impressive mountains and stunning beaches, puts the island (and the rest of Hawaii for that matter) at the top of everyone’s–as pedestrian as this might sound–bucket list.

During our weeklong visit to ring in 2016, we discovered some things about Oahu that many wouldn’t know unless they’ve been there. And we thought we’d share them with you.

Below are some things you need to know about Oahu before your visit:

Boneless Chicken with Brown Gravy and Macaroni Salad at the Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. The food is really good. Everyone who has been to Hawaii has complained about how underwhelming their local food is. As a result, we kept our expectations low. Much to our surprise, Hawaiian food is actually pretty good if you know where to go. In fact, we ate like kings during our visit. The trick is to skip the Hawaiian fast food chains and go where the locals go. Click here to see our Oahu restaurant recommendations.
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Cinnamon Girl at Ward Warehouse in Honolulu (Photo: Michelle Rae)
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Eden in Love Boutique (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. There’s plenty of shopping to be done. Hawaii may be on the expensive side, but there’s something about walking along beachfront Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu’s main shopping strip, that just gets you in the shopping mood. And it has a lot of our favorite brands – from cheap H&M and Forever21 to the more expensive Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Coach. At Ward Village, there are specialty boutiques like Cinnamon Girl and Eden in Love that sell the most adorable items! And then there are also the Walgreens stores that carry pretty much every single flavor of Mauna Loa and Hawaiian Host imaginable! Needless to say, our bags were twice as full on our trip home.
Surfers at Puaena Point (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Surfing is THE way of life. Pick any beach in Oahu with good-sized but safe swells and you’re bound to find a surfer riding those waves. It’s to be expected, considering that the now internationally renowned sport originated in Polynesia and has been practiced in the Hawaiian Islands as far back as the 1700s. During your visit, why not do as the locals do? You’ll regret it if you don’t as surfing is one of the most exhilarating and liberating water sports there is. There are several local surf schools by the beach, if you haven’t done any surfing before. Not ready to stand on your board just yet? Body boarding is just as fun!
Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Don’t get too close to the turtles. These majestic animals are irresistible, but they are endangered and we should all do our part to preserve their species. Sometimes, people do not realize the difference between a simple touch and going as far as sitting on a turtle’s shell. So it’s best to just avoid getting too close altogether.
Ruins hidden in the woods (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Everything is less than 3 hours away, and yet one week is still not enough. You can pretty much drive around the island in a single day. It’s that small. But that doesn’t mean that a week is enough to explore and experience the whole island. There’s just too much to do from the busy streets of Honolulu to the quieter and more adventurous North Shore and everything in between. We stayed for a week and tried to pack in as much as we could, and we still missed a lot of stuff! Stay for two weeks or more!
  1. Everybody drives at 35 miles an hour! When you come from a big city like LA, the island’s slow pace might be a little hard to get used to. People certainly take their time doing stuff. This includes service at restaurants and driving. So if you’re used to doing things fast, you need to bring plenty of patience with you.


  1. Waikiki Beach is great, but you can do better. Waikiki Beach is probably the most touristy beach on the island, probably because it’s the most accessible. And while it’s nice and affords a beautiful sunset, it’s certainly not the best beach on the island. We actually visited a number of beaches during our trip and have a few favorites. Do your research before you go, and you might just find one that not a lot of people know about.


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Ten Important Things to Know When Traveling to Mexico

The enchanting land south of the border is one of the best destinations you’ll ever explore in your life. But like any other destination, there are things you must keep in mind during your visit to Mexico to guarantee your health and safety as well as to avoid unfortunate incidents that might ruin your vacation.

We’ve been to and explored different parts of this beautiful country now, and we’ve learned quite a few things during those visits that we’d like to share with you. Here are some important things you should keep in mind when traveling to Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae

Plan out (and book, if possible) your transportation before you go. Unlike in first world countries, finding transportation in most parts of Mexico does not come easy. Public transportation, even in big cities like Cancun, while extensive, is not as modern and easy to figure out. And in some places, driving is not recommended for tourists. Do a lot of research before you go. Determine if it’s safe to drive a rental car around the area you’re visiting (the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta are great examples) or figure out which public buses you can take to get you places and whether cabs are available for convenience. Better yet, have your hotel arrange drop offs and pick-ups for you.

Roaming plan goes a long way. Mobile service providers usually offer fairly inexpensive roaming plans that should cover you during your visit. Don’t make the same mistake we made and purchase one before your trip. It comes very handy if you’ll find yourself stuck somewhere because you missed the last bus or if there’s an emergency.

Don’t drink the water. Unless you’re staying at a resort that treats their water (Velas Vallarta, for example), don’t drink tap water in Mexico. Don’t drink it, don’t brush your teeth with it. Just don’t. It’s probably safe for the locals, but not for you. Buy bottled water from the grocery store and use that as if your life depended on it… because it probably does.

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Las Tlayudas de Playa, Playa del Carmen | Photo: Michelle Rae
Tlayudas from Las Tlayudas de Playa | Photo: Michelle Rae
Carnitas with chicharron in Playa del Carmen | Photo: Michelle Rae

Eat at local, non-touristy restaurants. Mexico has some of the best dishes we’ve ever had in our life – carnitas with chicharron as well as roasted chicken in PlayaCar, battered fish and shrimp tacos AND ceviche in Ensenada, carne asada tacos in the Riviera Maya, simply because we braved eating at local restaurants and food stands that most tourists don’t usually go to. Just make sure to do research beforehand and eat at those spots that get more traffic, so you don’t risk food poisoning. Travel and eat smart!

Our short list of Mexico restaurant recommendations to come soon!

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Local fishermen in Yelapa, Jalisco | Photo: Michelle Rae
Staircase in Downtown Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae
Guadalupe Valley, Baja California | Photo: Michelle Rae

Go off the beaten path. Don’t miss out on wonderful finds simply because you’re too afraid to stray just a little. Yes, some parts of Mexico are dangerous, but what most people do not realize is that the country is massive and most of it is safe, with locals who are warm, friendly and welcoming. Again, stay smart and do your research; but don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful beaches, adorable small towns, and probably some of the best memories.

Chichen Itza | Photo: Michelle Rae

Learn some Spanish. It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting a town under the radar or staying in a resort destination – it’s very likely that you’ll come across non-English speaking locals who you’re going to have to communicate with, even if it’s for something as simple as asking for plastic utensils at a restaurant. And learning a few basic words and phrases will help a great deal.

Carry cash. Small restaurants, some shops, taxis, buses and food stands especially do not accept credit or debit cards, so do make sure to carry enough cash around. Having cash around also makes it easier to tip your servers as well as the hotel staff. (And yes, they do tip in Mexico!)

Get a fast pass when crossing the border. Driving into Mexico from the US is so easy it’s kinda eerie, but driving back is a completely different story entirely. In fact, you might spend a few hours waiting in line in your car at the border crossing station with hundreds of other cars, and that’s not at all fun. See if your hotel offers fast passes for their guests; you’ll still have to wait in line but these fast passes can get you on the “fast lane” and cut a couple of hours off your wait time.

In Baja California near the | Photo: Michelle Rae

Skip the souvenir shops and buy the more authentic products instead. Trust us, most products you’ll find at a souvenir shop in Cancun, you’ll most likely find at a different souvenir shop in Cabo. When shopping for mementos to take home, look for stores that sell the more authentic products – Catrina sculptures, locally produced coffee and indigenous artworks are a few examples.

Cool metal sculptures on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta | Photo: Michelle Rae

Don’t pay to take photos with the animals. During your explorations, you’ll meet a couple of locals who will invite you to hold and take photos with an adorable lion or panther cub they happen to be carrying for a few dollars. It’s hard to resist, we know, especially if you’re an animal lover like us. However, the sad truth is these cubs are drugged to keep them tame and safe for tourists to handle, probably mistreated, and then dumped when they’re too old. We actually called a couple of animal rescue centers in the Riviera Maya the first time we encountered such activity, and they told us that some of these people are employed by drug cartels. Please, please do not support and encourage this type of activity.


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