An Amtrak Adventure

We have always wanted to explore the U.S. via Amtrak, as we love the idea of visiting the country via train or bus. We have heard and read lots of good reviews about Amtrak, especially that it’s known for being very reliable and offering a comfy mode of transport. We have planned our route below so you can use it for inspiration. We have visited some of the cities before, but we’d jump at the chance of going again!

San Francisco

We would start our trip in San Fran, as it’s a city that everyone falls in love with immediately. We definitely recommend hiring bikes and cycling over the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We would suggest taking the longer scenic route and then taking the boat back to the city after a long day of exploring.

You can’t write a post without mentioning food, especially when visiting America. You have to visit In-N-Out Burger, which is a burger joint that’s only in six states. You also have to try the bread bowls filled with chili con carne or seafood chowder, as they are specialities in San Fran.

“The Princess Diaries” is one of our favourite movies filmed in San Fran. Of course, we would take a ride on the tram and hop off and visit the amusement arcade to reenact that famous seen with the Queen of Genovia.

Los Angeles

We would definitely take a trip to the famous Barry’s Bootcamp and end the workout with a delicious shake in the summer sunshine. When in LA, you must visit the Hollywood sign. Take a walk to the Observatory Griffith to get that Instagram shot.

We would also visit the Walk of Fame, where there are over 2,500 brass stars on 18 city blocks. We would take a long walk and try to spot our favourite celebrities and public figures.

San Diego

We would of course love to visit Belmont Park and take a ride on the Giant Dipper. It was constructed in 1925, but it’s still the centrepiece of Belmont Park. We love amusement parks, and Belmont Park looks like so much fun.

We would also love to try a fish taco in San Diego. We would go to Oscar’s, as we’ve heard this spot sells the best fish tacos in town. We’ve been told we may have to stand in line, but it would definitely be worth the wait.

Las Vegas 

You can’t visit Vegas without stopping by a famous pool party. We love the Wynn and the Encore. They’re so much fun, and the atmosphere is incredible at both.

We would also spend an evening dancing the night away at Drais, which is a rooftop pool and nightclub that overlooks the Strip. You should also watch the incredible water display at the Fountains of Bellagio. It takes place seven days a week, and you can find the timetable here.

To take a break from a busy Las Vegas schedule, we would take a day trip to the Grand Canyon for the breathtaking views. If you have cash to splash, then you should definitely opt for a helicopter ride for an experience you’ll never forget.

Albuquerque 

We have always wanted to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, so we would set aside a few extra days to visit and properly explore this city. During our trip, we would stay at one of these hotels close to the Amtrak station.

We would kick our trip off with a tour of the Old Town, as we have heard it’s a reflection of the city’s Native American and Spanish heritage. We would also love to visit the ABQ BioPark, Paseo del Bosque, Petroglyph National Monument, and Sandia Peak Tramway.

New York

After spending a few days in Albuquerque, we would fly to New York. We would end our trip here because you can’t go all the way to America without visiting the Big Apple. You can read all about what we would get up to in Brooklyn here.

Now, where are our passports? We need to make this dream a reality pronto!

Whats in our hand luggage

For some people they will only travel with hand luggage – putting baggage in the hold is just so expensive anyway! When we go on short holidays we will ALWAYS travel with hand luggage, whats the point in paying the extra when you can usually fit everything into a small wheelie suitcase anyway. Additionally it means that you have your luggage with you all the time so as soon as you get off the plane there is none of that faffing about waiting for the carousel, plus the little panic when your suitcase still hasn’t appeared isn’t fun at all.

However for those longer holidays where you have check bags we thought we would share our hand luggage essentials so your holiday can run as smooth as ever.

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1) Spare underwear/clothes – this is number 1 because its SO essential you do this. If by that very unfortunate event your suitcase ends up halfway across the world in China you need to have some spare clothes and of course spare swimwear. We always pack a spare bikini and underwear in the event this might (and we hope never) happen.

2) Phone – this is most probs a given as we know everyone these days are glued to their phones, however it has to be on our list anyway. These days you can download the airline app and have your boarding pass on your phone, we LOVE this and it saves that stress of printing or losing your paper ticket. Paper is so old school now anyway 😉

3) Portable charger and cable – this is vital for your hand luggage to keep your devices fully charged. The cable is important because some airports have charging points and some planes also have charging sockets, so you will never have to worry about your phone running out of battery.

4) Magazine/books – you have to have something to read to occupy your time and in case of a delay too! We always treat ourselves to a magazine for holiday, because we rarely buy them otherwise. Plus once you have the magazines you can also read them by the pool. If you don’t want to carry so many books we recommend downloading kindle app to your phone or tablet, or even purchase a kindle.

5) Headphones – we use our headphones to listen to music on the flight or at the airport. However we often download programmes to watch on the flight onto our tablet, so will use headphones to catch up on our favourite TV show.

6) Moisturiser/lip balm/toothpaste & toothbrush – planes can make you feel so dry due to the air con so we always carry moisturiser and lip balm with us to keep our hands and lips moisturised. Brushing your teeth can make you feel ten times better about yourself and if you are travelling long haul then we would definitely recommend this one.

7) Socks – planes can be so so cold due to the air con, therefore we will always bring a pair of socks in our hand luggage – there is nothing worse than feeling cold on the plane. However if you are on a long haul flight they will provide you with socks!

8) Eye Mask – if you are on a night flight or a long flight then an eye mask will be your best friend! Eye masks are so small and easy to fit in your hand luggage, and may make that long plane journey not feel so long!

9) Local guide book – you may as well kill some time by flicking through the guidebook and getting ahead of the game with planning your trip.

10) Pen & paper – We always make sure we carry a pen and some paper with us. We always find we spend the plane journey planning the holiday and writing down the things we want to do and places we want to see, this often involves flicking through a guide book (see point 9!). Sometimes we draft out a mini itinerary too to make sure we fit everything in.

11) Anti-bacterial hand gel – this is a necessity as you never know what you are going to touch or if there will be any tissues to dry your hands. In addition aeroplane toilets are not exactly the nicest! We love ones that smell nice and fruity!

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Happy travels! 

A Tourists Guide to Paris

Paris is an amazing city and we were lucky enough to spend the weekend there at the end of April. There so much to see and do so we have written down the top 10 things to do when visiting Paris:

1) Eiffel Tower
Of course you have to see the Eiffel Tower when visiting Paris, although you don’t necessarily have to go to the top of it, sometimes you want it in pictured as its so iconic and if you have climbed up it it wont feature in your pictures. The best place to go for pictures directly in front of the tower is the Place du Trocadero, you can walk through the gardens and up the stairs and have stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. As for all places in Paris to get good pictures it best to go early and beat the crowds.

2) Arc du Triomphe
You can climb up the Arc du Triomphe and get amazing views of the streets of Paris or head to the Champs Elysees where all the amazing shops are with the Arc du Triomphe at the end. On the first Sunday of every month it is free to climb to the top of the the Arc du Triomphe.

3) Notre-Dame de Paris
This famous cathedral is located on the Ile de la Cite and is very popular with tourists so is a great photo opportunity. You can visit inside and climb to the top too. When here make sure you also visit the Ile Saint-Louis which is the slightly smaller island but has some amazing shops and restaurants. Make sure you also visit the green market stalls on the streets surronding the Notre-Dame de Paris!

4) Sacre-Coeur – Montmartre
Another touristy place you must visit when in Paris and great photo opportunities. This stunning church is located at the top of a hill. Whilst here make sure you visit the artist market, which is iconic for Paris and can be seen on many postcards! The Sacre-Coeur is also very close to the Moulin Rouge if you are a fan of the film then pop here for a picture outside the famous red windmill.

5) Galeries Lafayette
The Galeries Lafayette are a huge department store, so if you fancy a spot of shopping then head here. However we recommend you visit here for the free amazing views of Paris. If you head right to the top of the building there is a roof terrace that looks out over Paris and its not to be missed.

6) Boat trip
We went on a boat trip with a company called Bateaux Mouches which took us up and down the river with commentary. The commentary pointed out all the landmarks and also gives a brief history too which is interesting. The commentary is in English, French and Chinese. However there are many other boat companies to choose from and all as equally good.

7) Grand Roue
This is like going on the London Eye only much more cheaper. To ride this costs 12 euros and you go around twice. This is a different way to see the sights of Paris and get some pictures from high up. From the wheel you can see all of Paris so its pretty spectacular.

8) Palais Royal
These gardens and courtyard are stunning and the black and white pillars and perfect photo opportunities. Its best to visit early to avoid all the tourists to get a good pictures without massive of crowds spoiling it

9) The Ritz
This is the hotel that Princess Diana stayed in when she visited Paris. The Ritz is on the Place Vendome and is surrounded by designer stores including Rolex and Chanel. Its good to go here for some stunning photographs of the square, and oogle at the expensive cars.

10) Museums
We have put 2 museums into on point in order to make this list only 10 (oooops!). The Louvre is where the Mona Lisa painting lives, however be prepared to queue to enter the museum and also be prepared to see how small the painting actually is! If you don’t fancy going inside you can take some cool pictures with the famous glass pyramid. When visiting the Musse D’Orsey make sure you go and see the iconic huge clocks and take that Pinterest worthy picture! This museum is in a former station so inside it is pretty impressive.

 

Top 10 tips for solo travel

You never really travel alone, the world is full of friends waiting to get to know you

For most people the thought of going on a trip to another country on your own is extremely daunting and very scary. Well you are getting on a plane to possibly the other side of the world and visiting a country you have never been to before so of course it is going to be a scary thought.

However, solo travel is in my opinion the best way to see the world. When you are on your own you have to step outside your comfort zone, put yourself out there and meet new people, struggle to read a map on your own and decide what you want to do for the day or where to go next. The best thing about travelling on your own is you are complete control of your adventure, you decide where you want to go next or where you eat. The freedom is amazing and you are guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Below are some tips when travelling on your own

1) Just book it – You want to visit a country, no one to go with, once the flight is booked you kinda have to (well not really if you really chicken out!), get on the flight. Sometimes the scariest part is just making the plunge and booking the flight. Once you’ve booked it you will have completely mixed emotions; you will be so excited as you now have something to look forward to. However you will also have the feeling of OMG WHAT HAVE I JUST DONE! Don’t worry both is completely normal, and you’d be slightly worried if you didn’t feel just a teeny bit nervous. When booking a flight, make sure you shop around and find the best deal but also one that arrives as a decent time. You don’t really want to be arriving in a country by yourself late at night. Try to arrive in the morning or at lunch time, as this will give you plenty of time to find your way to your hotel or hostel. Make sure you also pre-book your firs nights accommodation. You don’t want to turn up to a place with nowhere to stay.

2) The sleepless nights or really weird dreams are normal – you are guaranteed to start over thinking things at night, just when you want to go to sleep. This may be on the run up to the trip or just the night before, it depends how much of a worrier of over thinker you are! The bizarre dreams are also expected, and even if you may not feel nervous or worried, your body weirdly knows! All of this is to be expected and it’s better to be prepared for this to happen.

3) Pack as little as possible – when you are on your own there may not be someone to help carry your bags for you so travel as light as possible. If you are travelling with a rucksack, you do NOT need a massive one, in fact the smaller the better because then you won’t be tempted to over pack. When travelling you are most likely to have to walk quite a lot carrying your bags, you basically are carrying your entire life with you. You may have to walk to the bus or run for the train, or the hostel may be a long walk away from the station, therefore you don’t want to feel like you are carrying the kitchen sink! Check out the post called ‘what’s in my rucksack’ for more information in regards to what to pack.

4) Unlock your phone – if you are travelling for a long time make sure you unblock your phone before you go. This way you can buy a sim card for the country and you will save yourself a fortune! I bought a sim card in both Australia and new Zealand and it was so handy. Quite often you need to call places to book trips or to confirm your place on a trip. In addition it means you have a number so you can keep in contact with the people you have met and arrange to meet up with them. It also means you can keep in contact with your friends and family at home, because you are going to want to message them every now and then. It also great to have a sim card with data as google maps will be your best friend if you get lost, or cannot find your hostel or bus station.

5) Smile – so you have arrived at your hostel and you are in a shared dorm with 12 other strangers. The best thing to do is the find your bed and smile at the people in your room or head to the communal area bringing your smile with you. When walking down the corridor, smile at people and say hello and they are most likely to want to talk to you.

6) Get advice/recommendations from other travellers – listen to what other travellers tell you, or ask people to recommend places to stay. When I was travelling Australia I was recommended hostels to stay at so I knew they would be good as people I had met loved them, and they were always right.

7) Communal areas are a must – try to book hostels with excellent communal areas or kitchens. I have stayed at a couple of hostels with no communal areas so it was harder to make friends and was much easier to feel lonely. Finding hostels with communal areas means everyone will hang out here so it’s the best place to meet other people. Quite a lot of hostels only have Wi-Fi in communal areas so it encourages people to chill out in these areas which is good!

8) SAY YES– when another traveller invites you somewhere, say yes! Mingling with other travellers is the best way to meet people. I had just arrived in Australia and no idea what I was doing and it was a girl in my rooms last night, she was going to the night market and invited me along. Of course I went with her and we got on so well that we are still friends now and regularly meet up for dinner and drinks. Even though I had severe jet lagged and was feeling very over whelmed I would’ve been silly to say no and had such a lovely first evening in Australia.

9) Take advantage of every opportunity– you only get the opportunity once so make the most of it. Face your fears and do that sky dive or jump out a plane. I have a fear of caves and small spaces but sucked it up and went inside the caves at Halong Bay, because I probably will never visit the caves at Halong Bay ever again! You do not want to look back and regret anything, so make the most of your time in that country.

10) Trust your instinct – always always trust your instinct because most times it is right. If you have a bad feeling about doing something don’t do it. Or if you think someone seems a bit dodgy, stop hanging out with them. If a situation doesn’t feel right then leave and walk away. In Hanoi I had booked into a nice hotel for my last night and on arriving I had a bad instinct about the place and the area I was in. I left the hotel and found a different one back in the centre of the city and it was the best decision I could’ve made.

Now go ahead and book your first or next solo trip and let us know where you are going? Trust us you won’t regret it!

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