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Saturday, May 21, 2022

People Are Traveling Again

2022 is the year people are getting back to travel, which is exciting, but also stressful. Between worrying about changing restrictions, high airfare, possible outbreaks, and large crowds, it's hard to be as excited about travel planning as before. You'll definitely be paying more for a lot of things, whether you intend to or not. Here's what else you can look forward to.

2022 is the year people are getting back to travel, which is exciting, but also stressful.

I know a lot of these apply to me, though many applied pre-pandemic. I have always looked for deals and always want a longer vacation. I hope, even if you don't spend longer at your destination, you spend more quality time with your family or other companions. Stop responding to work emails and calls as much as possible, or only reply early morning or in the evening. I also hope more people do more immersive vacations where they seek to learn more about the culture, food, and people. More of you will care about traveling more slowly, instead of cramming everything in in just a few days before hopping to another destination or going home. 
 
How will your travel plans change this year when  you return to traveling?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Getting Comfortable On the Plane

It's no secret that airfare is sky-high right now, so it's hard to really find deals that are that good. In order to save money, you're probably trying to go as budget as possible. With airplane real estate at a premium, it can be hard to get comfortable on flights when you're relegated to economy class, but there are a few things you can do to make your air travel less awful and more comfy.

With airplane real estate at a premium, it can be hard to get comfortable on flights, but there are a few things to make your air travel less awful.

Dress in layers - You never know if the plane is going to be hot or cold or what, so it's always smart to just layer up and then you can take off or put on a layer as needed. I tend to wear a tee or tank and a cardigan and also bring a lightweight scarf, in case there is a chill and I need to protect my neck.

Wear nonrestrictive shoes (so if your feet/ankle swell, they won't get worse) - Ask me how I know :) Slip on shoes are always good, but if you're trying to save space in  your bag, walking shoes are not a bad plane option either. Of course, you can always pop a pair of folding flats/slippers in your bag and change on the plane.

Invest in a pair of compression socks - If your feet or ankles swell on long flights like mine do from dangling off the seat, these are a lifesaver and easy to buy online or even at the airport. I love the compression socks and sleeves from Zensah.
Bring your own snacks - I like to be on my own schedule, plus I'm not willing to pay $8 for grapes and fake cheese, so I pack my own. It saves you money, you know what you're eating and you don't have to wait for the cart to get to you.

Don't forget your neck pillow - Sometimes, you just want to sleep until you get to your destination. Neck pillows are really useful, even if they look dumb. I have a favorite one (hint: it's not one of those c-shaped foam ones that don't work at all. We both use the FaceCradle and soon I'll be reviewing the Somniwrap from Travelon.

Grab a BIG bottle of water - Most attendants won't give you the whole bottle of water, and if you're thirsty right at take-off, it sucks to be you. Get the big bottle at the newsstand and you'll be happy you did. If you don't drink it all in the air, you still have it at your destination. So much hydration! I always bring a thermos to put my water in to keep it cold, but you can also save $7 and just fill yours up at a refilling station that can be found at many airports now.

Make use of the seatback pocket - Putting all your crap in the overhead? Pack a small bag with the stuff you definitely want while flying (magazine, e-reader, travel journal) and slip it under your seat or in the seatback, so you aren't getting up and rummaging in  your bag and annoying people. Nothing's worse than looking over and seeing someone's butt right at your eye level. In fact, invest in Airplane Pockets to keep your stuff together and keep germs away. (You can see us using ours in the top pic.)


What are some of your favorite ways to make air travel better?


Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated monetarily when you make a purchase through them. This helps me continue to run this blog, so thanks in advance.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Travelon's Greenlander Compact Sling

Summer is coming, and with it come farmers' markets, festivals, vacations, and more time outside. If you hate carrying around a bag, but still need to carry the essentials, then the Greenlander Compact Sling from Travelon is your new best friend. I wore it to an event downtown this past weekend and it was awesome.

If you hate carrying around a bag, but still need to carry the essentials, then the Greenlander Compact Sling from Travelon is your new best friend.

The compact sling is the perfect bag for travel as well. Walking through the airport can be stressful and having to dig through your bag for your phone and your passport or ID is annoying. Have everything you need within easy reach, while also not having to rummage in an over-large bag. 



This little bag wears like a crossbody, but the strap is unique, allowing it to come over one shoulder, but also sit at your waist. It's amazingly comfortable, and it sits right against your body, giving you a feeling of security for your necessities. 


I was able to get all the things I would normally take with me to the airport and on the plane, but also things I would take with me on an outing or to a theme park: cash, my ID, snacks, a battery backup for my phone, hand sanitizer, credit cards, and even my keys.


The front zipper pocket goes all the way down to the bottom of the bag. I was able to stash my phone in it on Saturday, so I always knew where it was and could grab it quickly for photos. If I were traveling, or going out, I would use it for sanitizer, my cards and cash, and probably lip balm. (I just noticed that this pocket has RFID-blocking technology.)


These things all slid right in with room for a spare mask if needed. I really love the contrasting zipper and zipper pull that gives the bag a bit of funky color, but makes it feel a little sporty, too. Not only does it look cool, but it doubles as a security measure. See that matching loop? (you can see it better in the title pic.) You can slide the zipper and pull into it and have some extra safety for your belongings.


The inside of the bag is larger than it appears, but it's also manageable and opens wide enough to see everything in it. I'm actually surprised how many snacks fit in here with my battery backup and phone cord. There's a separate slip pocket inside, too.

This slip pocket has RFID-blocking, too, so if you use it for your passport and/or credit cards, you're safe from hacking technology that wants to steal your information or identity. Nobody wants that, and I love that this little bag has that protection. 



It's not the only anti-theft feature either. The main compartment has a clip zipper, like most of the other anti-theft Travelon bags. It clips to a small d-ring on the body of the bag, so no one can unzip it without some effort. You'll definitely notice someone trying to tug your bag unzipped and failing if you're wearing it.



You also have the wide padded strap that is adjustable. It also has security features though. In order to keep this bag functional and lightweight, it doesn't have a large metal clip like some of the other bags do, but has a strong plastic buckle that can lock. This way, you can unbuckle it, wrap the strap around a chair or table when you are hanging out, re-buckle, and slide the lock into place. People won't be able to snatch your bag and run, either off your body or the furniture you attached it to.


The strap and the front, sides, and bottom of the Compact Sling are slash-resistant. I know this is a concern for many people who travel on public transit or go to music festivals where there are a lot of people present. 

Travelon is moving into more sustainable bags, so now you can feel like you're making a difference while also looking stylish. The Greenlander line is made of 100% recycled materials.

I'm sorry for the sun making this a terrible picture. I couldn't actually see my phone screen at all.

If you've got a birthday or graduation for a traveler coming up soon, this could be the perfect gift for them. I know I'll be using this for a lot of activities, because I love to have my hands free to take pictures or browse the market or to hold the dog's leash. There are endless activities where this bag will be super handy to wear. 

More details
Where to buy: Travelon website
Cost: $49.50 - take 20% off with my code SHEREENTRAVELS20%
Colors it is available in: Diamond Ash (shown) | Galaxy Blue (with gray & aqua accents) | Jet Black (with gray and lime accents)
Other specs: size: 5”W x 7.25”H x 1.75”D, strap length: 33-59", 100% certified recycled rPET material (made from recycled water bottles), water-resistant, spot-clean with a damp cloth.

Follow Travelon wherever you socialize:


Disclaimer: I was provided with the Greenlander Compact Sling for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Banksyland On Tour

Last week we had the joy of viewing international art at home. Portland is the first (and possibly only) stop on the tour of Banksy art called, appropriately, Banksyland. This includes art from a private collection, canvas prints of large building murals, videos, and possible recreations. 

Portland is the first stop on the tour of Banksy art called, appropriately, Banksyland. This includes art from a private collection and recreations.

While not all the pieces are original pieces, it's okay, because proceeds from your ticket go toward charity. Eric and I have been to the UK and seen a few of Banksy's pieces, including some of his famous rats. Obviously, we haven't been all over the city, and we've only been in the city for 3 weeks over the last 15 years, so it would be difficult for us to see many.

 
Banksy rats we saw in London


Banksy has art all over the world. Much of it is political- or human rights-related, and makes you think about everything around you in a different way, which can only be a good thing. Art should make you view things differently. Banksy has been doing guerilla street art for decades and has worked with other artists to create an anti-corporation defunct theme park exhibit and bought a boat to be used as a way to help refugees that don't live in an EU country, since distress calls from non-Europeans don't really get answered. 



Banksy has devoted a career to being anonymous, but also using his money for good and to make statements, whether social, political, or corporational. Greed is bad, war is bad, exploitation is bad. People can be and do good. Cops want to help people, but can get caught up in their power over people. Look for beauty everywhere, because it's there.



Banksy created a whole hotel museum full of Banksy art in Jerusalem to show the huge disparity in how people live within Israel. Called the Walled Off Hotel, a play on the Waldorf Astoria, you can actually stay in rooms here. Budget rooms are cheap and outfitted with Israeli military surplus. They are much like hostel rooms with shared bathrooms. In the same hotel, you can stay in a lavish suite. The photos themselves probably don't do enough justice to how it feels to visit.



I really enjoyed the transitions of the video art showing how a blank wall is transformed and how they can use things that are already on the street/sidewalk or even on the wall to make it personal. Clearly, you aren't getting the full experience with this exhibit, because they can't recreate the significance of the art on certain buildings, but when you can't travel, this is kind of the next best thing. Easily accessible art is always a good thing in my opinion, and is echoed by those that put on this show.



This show isn't huge, but there is a lot packed into a small space. You learn about the pieces and the relevance of certain things. You learn about Banksy's views of corporate greed, advertising, the government, war, and the beauty around us. You can watch a short video on the obtaining of that refugee boat, how corporations use advertising to exploit you, and how Dismaland, the anti-greed theme park, came together and was received.



You should know that this is an unofficial exhibition. Banksy did not endorse it, as he believes that art should be free and accessible to everyone. This is why almost all of his artwork is street art. Literally, anyone who walks past that building can view it, for nothing, and take their time to admire, enjoy, and critique it. If nothing else, I felt our money going to charity, even if it's just to enable more people to see and experience more art, was put to good use. 

There's also a very small gift shop that I didn't think was necessary, but there were some cool things in there, including Banksy-fied skate decks. What's your favorite traveling art show or permanent museum?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

How To Try Travel Sharing

It's no secret that travel share is a booming industry. With less mainstream ways to travel on a budget, it's easier than ever to travel the world without going broke. I'm all for going independent when I can to save some bucks, especially if I have plenty of traveler reviews to back up the safety and legitimacy of it all. 

It's no secret that travel share is a booming industry. With less mainstream ways to travel on a budget, it's easier to travel the world affordably.

Instead of staying in a hotel or eating at a traditional restaurant or going to the big box car rental places for some wheels, why not go local and more affordable?

 

Accommodations
I've been on the travel share bandwagon for a long time. While I love a hotel and still use them when needed, I love to feel more at home when I travel and enjoy having a kitchen and laundry at my disposal. If you do, too, try:
  • Airbnb - Indisputably the most well-known way to rent a vacation space. Choose from a room in a home to an entire apartment and everything in between. Get to meet locals where you can while making use of the spaces they aren't using. (Here's an account of one of my Airbnb experiences.)
  • Homeexchange - Want to really save some money? Swap your house with other travelers where you want to go. Take in their mail, feed their dogs and generally be them for the duration of your trip.
  • Homeaway - Like Airbnb, see a long list of spaces for rent, go through HomeAway, so you know your reservation is safe and secure.

Transportation
You may already be using Uber and Lyft to get around, but why stop there? If you want to drive on your own schedule, rent someone else's car while you're in town. See locals who can spare their wheels while you're visiting on these great sites:
  • Turo
  • GetAround
  • ZipCar - Unlike these others, these are shared cars in a city. Rent it by the hour. Pick it up and drop it off at a designated location.

Dining
I'm open to meeting new people and I love to eat. Now you can visit locals for homemade meals or meet someone for food at a restaurant. This is especially good for people who are traveling solo and don't like to eat alone and those that are really outgoing.

Other stuff
Sometimes you get to a place and realize you want something specific, like golf clubs or skis. Since bringing them with you can be crazy expensive, why not rent some from someone while you're in town? 
  • Loanables
  • BabyQuip - Rent baby strollers, car seats and more.
  • Baby'sAway - Same as BabyQuip, but great if you're traveling with more than one baby.
  • Spinlister - Need a bike? Rent one at your destination!
Travel sharing is perfect for those that want to help out individuals while also getting a hyperlocal experience.

Do you have a favorite travel share company?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

A Disney Vacation In a Box

So, I had such a fun time creating my own Destination Date Nights and then planning a Japan staycation for my friend, that I decided to do it again. We were meant to go to Walt Disney World in 2020, and then again in 2021, but with Covid, and then all the terrible laws and government since then, we postponed and then outright cancelled our vacation. Our friend was going to meet us down there. 

Since we haven't been able to take a Disney trip with a friend, I decided that she should still get to have that magic at home, whenever she wanted.
A bit of a behind the scenes pic

The disappointment from us all has been understandable, and we'll eventually get back down there for this trip, but for now that's not happening. Since we aren't able to take that trip, and she had never been, I decided that she should still get to have that Disney magic at home, whenever she felt the need.


Every staycation needs a backdrop, in my opinion, and to make this one extra special, I planned a two-step backdrop. At some point, I plan to do a Disney party, focusing on the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, so I figured I'd use the castle backdrop anyway. I purchased the one above on Amazon, set it up in the backyard, put on our (subtle) Disney gear, posed in front of it, and then took a bunch of photos. One of them was good enough to keep, and then I edited, cropped, and uploaded that one to make a new background. 

Other backdrops you might like: 

While I waited for my background to be printed, I put together the rest of the staycation. I wanted this to be an "experience", so there was a story and a layering system to everything in the box, meaning she would have to experience the trip in the way intended. Here we go:


Disney is more than just a castle, so I picked three of my favorite attractions and got the prints made of them. These help set the atmosphere. "Some people are just happy to be at the parks, surrounded by all the sights and sounds." 


"Jump on the monorail to City Hall and get your Birthday button, then head to your meet and greet with all the princesses." Some of our favorite things and must-dos were on the list to start off this staycation. If it's your birthday, anniversary, first trip, or whatever, a free button from City Hall is always fun. I tried to come up with a way to do a meet and greet that wasn't super cheesy, and knowing that I was going to include an actual birthday card, this pop-up card was an easy choice. 


I knew she would be spending her birthday with her mom and grandma, and souvenirs are always fun. Mouse ears are the ultimate souvenir, so I ordered 3 different princess ear headbands for them to all get in on the fun: Anna, Ariel, Belle



Of course, my visit is never complete without treats. Ya'll know I have a churro budget, and when she and I went to Disneyland a few years ago, I had 4 in 3 days, and Dole Whip, and popcorn, and some other things I probably didn't need. She loves sweets as well, so I wanted her to be able to enjoy her own churros at home, Mickey (and Donald) ice creams, and then I tossed in some Mickey cups I found at Party City to be used for sodas, adult beverages, or mini popcorn buckets. (Here are some similar ones on Amazon.) 


Parades and rides are hard to replicate at home, but luckily, there are people who film all the things, so I made YouTube playlist of some of the best rides and entertainment, then I included this at-home VR headset that you put your phone in, start your video, and then wear it like goggles. Stroll down Main Street, browse shops, watch a parade, ride Space Mountain. You name it, you can find someone who's filmed it on YouTube.

And, of course, no trip to the Magic Kingdom is complete without fireworks. Sure, they could watch fireworks on YouTube as well, and I included a link to a few, but what about fireworks at home in your house?! A company called Uncle Milton made a whole line of fireworks simulation toys about a decade ago. They were discontinued, but I found a bunch on ebay. This one is the fireworks light show launcher, which gives you all the best parts of fireworks. It makes the fireworks launch sound and projects static fireworks wherever you point it.

I wanted one for myself, and then I found out they had a Pixar version, so I bought both versions. They were used, but they worked perfectly and was the cherry on top of my staycation box. I sent her the Pixar one, which also projects Disney characters in the "sky" with the fireworks, and kept the generic one for myself and future party planning. (I wish I had thought to look on ebay when I wanted this for the end of a Weasley Wizard Wheezes themed Harry Potter party.)

This whole staycation fit into an extra large FedEx box (approximately: 11-7/8" x 10-3/4" x 11"), which is not huge, but a lot of items fit inside, and more would have fit if I hadn't wanted to layer things in a specific way. You, obviously, don't have to include as many things I as I did, or you can include more if your budget allows. 

Who would you send a staycation in-a-box to and where would you send them?


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated should you make any purchases through those links. Your purchases allow me to keep this blog running, so thanks in advance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Summer Vacations Can Be More Affordable

Travel is expensive. Travel in the summer is even more expensive, and airfare is rising quickly right now with demand and gas rates way up. Luckily, there are ways you can save on all parts of your trip, including activities. You can even find deals on entire vacations. 

Travel is expensive. Luckily, there are ways you can save on all parts of your trip, including activities.

Here are the sites I recommend checking out. 

Rakuten - formerly Ebates

Get paid to shop! Here's how it works: Sign up is quick and easy, then you're ready to shop! When you have a hankering to buy something, say, at Sephora, go to Rakuten, sign in, click on Sephora and it takes you straight to the main website. You must go through Rakuten, so they can track your purchase. At checkout, make sure you use the same email address you used to sign up on Rakuten and within a few days, your purchase will show up in your account. You can track your cash back total to see how much you saved and then every quarter, Rakuten sends you a Big Fat Check (if you choose that method) or a Big Fat Payment via Paypal. You even get $30 right now just for signing up and making your first qualifying purchase.

Groupon & Living Social

For those of you who don’t know what Groupon and LivingSocial are, they are daily deal sites that usually give you 50-90% off an attraction, restaurant, service or activity. We subscribe to each city we're traveling to (and use it at home as well) 3 months before we are due to travel and find great discounts on things wee were already going to see and do. Don't forget that you can also buy whole vacations on both of these, which can save you tons, especially if you're not picky as to where you want to visit.

Travelzoo

Travelzoo has a Top 20 each week that they put out with their best deals, but you can also search for trips and portions of your trip directly on their site for cheaper activities, tours and more!

CityPASS & GoCard

If you have a list of must-dos on your list, check the ones offered on the city card of that destination to see how many are offered on that card. You can save up to 55% on a list of attractions and activities when you use GoCards or CityPASS. If they aren't available for either of these cards, because you're going out of the country or just because they aren't, just Google "city card [destination city]" and often you'll find something that works.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, or PayPal cash.

Crowdtap

It's sort of like Swagbucks, but all you do is take short surveys about things like food products and banking. Usually, they take less than 5 minutes each and you can rack up points really quickly if you waste an hour or so on the site while watching TV or whatever. Use my referral link for Crowdtap and get a free 100 points to start.

With just a few extra steps in planning, purchasing, or saving for your trips, you can actually save enough to take a better trip, or even take another trip later in the year.

What are your favorite summer destinations?


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated for your clicks. This allows me to run this block regularly and bring you better tips, overviews, and more. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

National Travel & Tourism Week

National Travel and Tourism Week starts tomorrow, so I wanted to kick it off by talking about some of my favorite budget travel tips and destinations, and then destinations I have on my short list. Then, hopefully, you all can tell me about the places you've loved and would love to go to in the comments.

My Faves

While we haven't been super world travelers, we have gone to some pretty great places. I love going to new destinations and learning about different people and cultures and history. Some of my favorite places have been:
  • London - Clearly, since we've visited 3 times now and will go back again.
  • Edinburgh - Everything there is gorgeous and I can't wait to go back and also travel around other parts of Scotland.
  • Ecuador - I'd narrow this down to just Quito, but the country is beautiful and the people are lovely and the food is delicious (and really cheap).
  • Williamsburg, VA - Growing up nearby probably helped, but this little town is quaint and historic, plus Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens are must-dos.
  • San Diego - I love California and have been to some amazing towns there. San Diego has it all: a big city with a small city vibe, walkability, green spaces, great food. You name it!
  • Victoria, BC - This beautiful town has a little bit of everything for everyone. It feels a bit European, but it's more accessible. 
  • Philadelphia - I could have spent a few more weeks in this city, exploring the waterfront and city art. 

My Short Wish List

We've been including an extra trip in our schedules to get away from the bleak winters that can seem to drag on. Last January we went to Tucson, AZ and we already have next year planned. Here are some of my next trip wishes:
  • Palm Springs, CA - We'll be visiting with my mom in January 2023.
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Austin, TX - I think we may get there in January 2024.
  • Toronto
  • Sacramento - Yes, we've been there before, but we have family there and the city is super cute. We'd like to spend more time there.
  • Denver - I know there's more to see in the Mile High City, but we have been talking about going to visit the Meow Wolf installation there.
  • Albuquerque - There is the original Meow Wolf installation here, and we also have friends who have moved to Las Cruces to visit.

Some Budget-Friendly Travel Tips

I have a load of travel tips that can help you save money and time. Here are just a few:
  • Use Turo - Traditional rental car companies are great, but rates can also be crazy high, especially right now when they still don't have full fleets, and during the high season. If you can't find a good deal, try renting from an individual. I use the Turo app whenever I need to rent a car to see if I can support a person instead of a corporation.
  • Book attractions ahead of time - So, I'm a big proponent of having as much planned and taken care of before I leave for vacation, but booking ahead of time can actually save you a lot of money, since many places have online discounts.
  • Make lunch your main meal - You know I love eating. I keep snacks in my day bag. I plan whole days around where I want to dine. I always look for street food. I'm sure, like me, you like to go to nice restaurants when you travel. For these, I try to make lunch reservations for these places, because you get the same great food, but at lower prices.
  • Pack light - Carry-on packing is the only way I travel now. If I do check a bag, it's only for coming home from a trip with extra things I've purchased. I have perfected planning a small capsule wardrobe for each trip, which you can do, too, with a little practice. 
  • Travel in the off-season (or shoulder season) - High season is the most expensive time to travel and visit destinations. You'll also be looking at crowded attractions and activities. Look to travel outside of that timeframe and save money on airfare, accommodations, and even rental cars. You'll also save time, even if opening hours are shorter, because there will be shorter lines and fewer people everywhere. 
I hope you're excited about your next trips and doing them better, even on a budget. Tell me where you're going or where you enjoyed going in the past.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dinner In Vietnam At Home

Yes, we've started traveling again, but we enjoyed our Destination Date Nights so much, we've decided to continue doing them. This last week we had dinner in Hanoi, Vietnam. This week is the lead-up to Reunification Day. April 30th marks the day in 1975 when the two parts of Vietnam unified under the same government. 

Not only is Vietnam a great budget travel destination, it's also gorgeous and, exports some wonderful things (coffee, cashews, black pepper...), and is very proud of their culture, so you'll be able to easily immerse yourself when you visit.


Can't get to Vietnam just right now? Throw yourself an epic staycation instead. Here's how:


I wanted our table to be very simple and rustic, so I used a linen-colored table topper. I found this great playing cat planter that was actually made in Vietnam at World Market. Since the weather in Vietnam is hot and humid, they have a lot of tropical plants and animals. I added the closest flower I could find to plumeria and leaves that resembled monstera. A Vietnam flag gave a little patriotic flair.



I have quite a few tropical birds for an upcoming event I'm planning, so I also put out a parrot to join us.


I also picked up these fun sun plates and coral rainbow napkins at World Market, and then found matching cups at Target. I completed the look with chopsticks and then we were ready to dine. Both the cups and plates are plastic, making them affordable and lightweight to store. 


We enjoyed a light show waterside with a view of Turtle Tower on the banks of the Hoan Kiem Lake (or Sword Lake). This tower is over a 150 years old and was a respite for the King on his fishing trips. It's a symbol of patriotism and unity for the Vietnamese people. I imagine it's a very peaceful place to visit in real life. 


We listened to some Vietnamese pop music while we talked about Reunification Day and what it means to the people of Vietnam, plus what they do to celebrate the day. This was all a great backdrop for our dinner, which we chose especially from a place across town for their traditional dishes and drinks. 


We both had Vietnamese iced coffee, which made with sweetened condensed milk. If you can't do dairy, you can make this vegan with coconut milk/cream. Then we split the following: Vietnamese-style chicken wings in a caramelized garlic and sweetened fish sauce, Bún Đặc Biệt - a combo platter of grilled beef, shrimp, noodles, spring roll, and a salad of bean sprouts, carrots, and cucumbers - and a chicken báhn mì with yellow curry sauce.


We both have an aversion to cilantro, so I did ask for things without it. All of the food was delicious and more than enough for two people, too. The wings were sweet and spicy, which was unexpected, but awesome. 


After dinner we spoke about Old Quarter Hanoi's Train Street, where the train takes up 80% of the space between buildings. I read an interesting article at the beginning of the pandemic about the struggling merchants along the street that relied on tourism and regular locals to stay in business. The quarantine was very hard on them, but I also learned a lot about the people who ran the small cafes and shops. 


We also had dessert: red bean paste sesame balls. This is one of the more easily obtained desserts of the many, shall we call them, unconventional dishes that you will probably find in the region. You'll find a lot of fruit, tapioca, and mostly-savory desserts. I love a good bean paste though and these were done really well.


The dog came out to enjoy a little bit of staycation goodness (Pippa hasn't gotten the hang of selfies yet) and then later we watched some walking tours of Hanoi on YouTube.  




Ready to take your own Vietnam staycation? Here are some ideas on where to start:
  • Get a backdrop (or two). I have been downloading full res photos from photographers on unsplash and getting them made into tapestries on Zazzle through artist Canadapromo. (<--use my referral code to get a big discount!) The less mainstream your destination, the more you will have to improvise.
  • Get a nice vase/planter made in Vietnam
  • Add some great dishes & napkins on a neutral table topper
  • A flag
  • A Vietnamese cookbook (if you plan to do an entire feast yourself)
  • Vietnamese pop music (you can stream it free on Amazon Music or YouTube)
  • A travel guide to plan your trip. Here are some I would choose:
  • A Vietnamese game for your family to play like Gourd Fish Shrimp Crab Dice
  • Flashcards/book to learn some easy Vietnamese words
  • Or a book full of Vietnamese fairy tales
  • You can also make a yourself a sightseeing day with virtual tours on YouTube

I hope these spark some ideas for you and you have a wonderful "trip" to Vietnam with your spouse and/or family. Immerse yourself in a new culture, food, and language. 

Have you ever been to Vietnam or the surrounding countries?


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