A Backpacker’s Guide for Your Next Adventure

A Backpacker’s Guide for Your Next Adventure

Whether you’re setting out for a backpacking trip to Asia or Europe, preparing and packing your backpack can be tricky and it will require some thought and planning. Here’s a complete backpacker’s guide to the do’s and don’ts of packing.

Packing light is key but is easier said than done, when it comes time for you to actually sit down and pack. Our first instinct, especially for those more cautious packers, is usually to pack everything that comes to mind, just on the slight chance that you may have to use it once or twice.

Your backpack is going to be your life for the duration of your travels. Whether you plan to be gone for a couple weeks, or a couple months, you’re going to be wearing your backpack on your back the entire time. It’s important to remember this and only pack the essentials. A smaller, and lighter backpack will be less cumbersome for you. It’ll make you a happier traveller and make for a better backpacking experience.

Clothing

When packing your clothes, fight the urge to throw your entire closet in your bag. You’re not going to need everything, that extra fleece sweater is only going to take up space. Pack only a couple pairs of bottoms, shirts, a swimsuit and about six pairs of underwear. You can easily wash your clothes wherever you’re staying.

Sunblock

Be prepared for the weather. Research ahead of time so that you’re aware of your travel destination’s current climate beforehand. For those hotter destinations, you’ll want sunblock to wear while you’re out and about. Purchase a travel size, so that it doesn’t take up much room in your pack. You can easily invest in another sunblock if you run out on the trip.

Day Pack

Bring along a small day pack, so that when you are going out on day trips to tour the different cities and towns, you won’t have to carry your large backpack around all day. Keep your backpack back at the hostel, in a security locked room that they provide. This will make for much more enjoyable day outs.

Phrase / Language Book

Invest in a travel size phrase or language book for the trip. It doesn’t take up much room and it will come in handy when you’re trying to communicate and socialize with the locals.

International Adapter

Another great investment for the trip is an international adapter. Your phone is a great tool for booking accommodations, checking bus schedules and getting directions, you’ll want to keep it charged so that you’re prepared for anything.

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

For the past two years I’ve lived and worked in over a dozen countries, spending most of the year as a digital nomad living out of a backpack. It’s awesome. I talk to a lot of people back home that have never traveled, and have lots of questions about the basics. I compiled these into 10 tips to make that first international adventure go as smoothly as possible.

1) Start somewhere easy

Some places are easier to travel to than others. If this is your first time out of the country, it might be worth considering one of the easier destinations over, say 6 weeks on Bouvet Island or a quick jaunt up K2. But hey, if that’s what you want, go for it.

2) Get your phone sorted out

There are few things more freeing than an unlocked smartphone. If your phone is unlocked you can get, probably, a local SIM card for cheap high-speed data, wherever you go. Forget overpriced travel data plans like those from Sprint and Verizon. Local SIM cards are the way to go.

Unless you have T-Mobile. Their Simple Choice plans get you unlimited international data in nearly every country. It’s pretty slow, however. I wrote about them in The Best Cellular Plan for Travelers.

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

3) The right luggage

Buy a smaller bag than you think you might need (more on this in #5). Personally, I prefer a good travel backpack. Some people like the hybrid backpack/rolly-bags, but I find them cumbersome. Avoid regular rolly bags, they’re more trouble than their worth. Big suitcases should be avoided at all costs (unless you’re going skiing or something and need to bring a lot of bulky gear).

4) The right gear

I love a good, cheap, travel laptop. A USB battery pack is invaluable. I love noise cancelling headphones, but they’re probably a luxury for most people.

5) Pack light

This will be the hardest thing about travel. There are few harder urges to overcome than overpacking. “But I might need this!!!” is so common there are industries built around needless junk and charging you for heavy bags. Aim for 30 pounds, tops, for everything. If you don’t bring a lot of electronics, aim for under 25. You don’t need more than a week’s worth of clothes. You can do laundry everywhere. Seriously, travelling light will change everything about how you travel.

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

6) Cloud data backup

I had one friend drop her camera in a taxi and lose 3 weeks’ worth of photos, nearly her entire multi-country trip through Asia. Cloud backups are cheap and easy to use. I like Google Photos, but there are a ton of other options.

7) Apps for you and your family

Google Translate is the greatest app for any traveler, by FAR (download languages when you’re on WiFi, and it will work without a data connection). Google Maps is a close second (download an area on WiFi, and it too will work without a data connection).

What I also recommend is hooking your family with apps too, specifically WhatsApp and Instagram (or Skype or Messenger, etc). Keeping in touch while on the road is key for your mental health, and theirs. I mention Instagram because it’s easy to use for those who aren’t too tech savvy, and it allows cross posting to Facebook, Twitter and the like if you don’t usually use Instagram. Tumblr is another easy way to share photos and info, and I’ve met several travelers that use that as an easy way to blog goings on to share with the folks back home.

8) Don’t be afraid of hostels

Hostels aren’t things that Americans consider. There’s a mistaken perception that they’re dirty, rowdy, dangerous places. I guess some are, but most of the ones I’ve stayed at in the two years I’ve been travelling full time are nicer than most hotels.

Review websites like Hostelworld.com and Hostelz.com give you an idea about a place before you ever set foot in it. Best of all, they’re a great way to meet new people.

9) Lock your phone

Your phone, and what’s on it, is probably the most valuable thing you have on you. Phones are easily replaced. Personal data theft is way worse. Pictures, addresses… how many banking apps and websites do you have that automatically log you in?

Lock your phone. The swipey geometry designs may seem great, but after you use them a few times, the screen will be smudged in the exact shape of your passcode. Numbers and biometrics are safer.

10) Don’t make it easy for thieves

I met a first-time traveler from a tiny mid-west town. She walked around London with her iPhone 6 sticking half out of her back pocket. Theft is rare, but don’t make it easy. Don’t leave your bag on a table at a sidewalk café. Don’t leave your backback on your back on a crowded train. You’d be surprised how often I see people not doing these things. There’s nothing wrong with being a little cautious.

You don’t need to lash your belongings to your chest with steel cables every time you leave the hostel. Just, you know, be aware of your surroundings. If someone could casually pick up something, or pull it out of your hands without any effort, maybe that’s not the best place for it.

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

5 Common travel fears and how to overcome them

One of the most surprising reasons that people don’t travel isn’t a lack of money or time, it’s the fear and anxiety about all of the what-ifs? Even people who claim to have a strong desire to see the world have often never traveled more than a few states away from their homes because they just can’t seem to get over the idea that something bad will happen that will ruin their trip, or worse, put them in danger.

There are surely horror stories about terrible events happening to people traveling abroad in unfamiliar countries, but these are actually very rare events. You are statistically in more danger just driving to the grocery store in your home town. Read more to find out some of the most common travel anxieties, and how to overcome the fear of the unknown.

Going abroad is dangerous

Well, it can be, but so is getting in your car every day and fighting your way through rush hour traffic on the way to your mundane office job. You’re no more likely to encounter a dangerous situation abroad than you are staying right where you are, although how you deal with a crisis may need to be handled a bit differently.

Do a bit of research and educate yourself about the particular dangers at your destination, and take steps to avoid any known issues, like people that try to scam tourists. Get in touch with the local embassy when you arrive, and make sure you know who to call if you find yourself in need of assistance. Make sure you’ve researched the monetary system, so you know whether or not you’re getting a good deal when making a purchase. If you use common sense and plan ahead, there’s no more danger in traveling than there is in staying put.

I don’t speak the language

While it’s always intimidating to go to unfamiliar territory, going to a new place where you think you can’t communicate with the locals can be a terrifying prospect. English is becoming more and more common throughout the world, and most people in populated places will have a working knowledge of basic conversational phrases. People working specifically in tourism-related industries, such as hotels, airlines and tour guides will almost certainly have a higher level of English fluency.

Spend a few weeks prior to traveling learning some essential phrases, especially “please” and “thank you”. There are very few places in the world where you can travel that you will simply be unable to communicate, and as a novice traveler you should probably avoid venturing that far from populated cities. Begin your travel career in countries that are similar to your own. Enjoy European destinations or the UK. There is plenty to do without the inherent risks of culture shock or inadvertently offending the locals.

What if I get sick or hurt?

Most of the governments keep a travel advisory list for countries around the world. There you can find information about recommended vaccines, and what types of food and drink to avoid while traveling. Odds are if you do become ill, it will be a minor issue. For the record, diarrhea is the number one complaint of travelers. Make sure you bring some over the counter medications for common ailments and a small first aid kit, and you should be fine.

Prepare ahead of time and contact your insurance company about coverage for emergencies when you are abroad, as well as researching the hospital facilities available so that you can give some direction if you do wind up needing emergency medical care. In truth, most doctors and professional medical staff will likely be well versed in English no matter where you go, and there are good facilities that can be found even in the poorest of countries, as long as you know where to find them.

What if disaster strikes?

Disaster can mean many things to many people. Loss of identity papers, thieves, scam artists, terrorism, natural disasters, and the list goes on and on. This is where it’s important to remember that disaster can strike anywhere, even at home. You’re much more likely to have your credit card information stolen while sitting at your office than you are having your passport stolen while traveling.

If you’re truly concerned about violence or other political unrest, do your homework before you travel and avoid places with a higher risk. Stay in touch with family and friends, and have someone you trust back home keep some emergency funds for you – ready to wire to you instantly in the case of a theft or loss of critical documents. Again, remember that you can contact your embassy to assist you at any time when you are traveling abroad, but that incidents like these are truly very rare.

What if I get homesick?

It’s not really a “what-if?” It’s a what do I do when I get homesick?. It’s nearly impossible to make it through any journey without a longing to sleep in your own bed, or to curl up with your dog who is boarding at the vet’s office. Remember that it’s temporary and you’ll be home soon enough. Try to remember the reasons that you decided to take this journey, and consider the memories you’ve already made. Make appointments to regularly Skype with friends and family and stay in touch via social media. By the time you do return home, you’ll probably feel like it was over too soon, and wish you could have stayed longer.

If in the end you’re really unhappy, you can always cut your trip short and head home sooner, but you’ll probably find yourself wishing you hadn’t sometime in the future. Traveling is a wonderful way to bring excitement to your life, and once you get started you’ll most likely spend all of your free time looking forward to the next great adventure.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner in Amsterdam

Breakfast, lunch and dinner in Amsterdam

Breakfast will not leave you wondering how you will last out until lunchtime; the Dutch believe in statring the day with a hearty meal. The first meal of the day always served in your hotel in Amsterdam, is nearly always included free in the cost of your hotel room.

There are cafes and restaurants near Dam Square, round the red-light district and Leidseplein. You’re expected to tip. All cafes and restauruants include service in the check. This can be vary from 10 % in snack bars, 10 % – 15 % in most restauruants and to 27 % in expensive ones – but you’re still expected to leave a tip. Leave a further 5 % – 10 % depending on how you rate the service.

Most of the Dutch go in for a koffietafel, as evening meals have a tendency to be very high in carbohydrates. The best advice is: follow their example at lunchtime. There are over twenty-six types of cheese. There are numerous regional specialities to sample; one of the best is groene haring. Follow the example of the Dutch and eat it from the street stalls. It’s at its best during the first few weeks in May and makes a welcome change from hamburgers.

World’s Most Unique Travel Destinations

World's Most Unique Travel Destinations

A big part of travel is that feeling you get when experiencing something completely new, something you haven’t seen or done before. Many travel destinations offer an amenity or two that other places don’t–but there are only a few locations in the world that offer a truly unique experience.

Some of these places are wonders of nature–a spot where the flora or fauna can’t be found elsewhere, or where the mountains stretch the landscape to impressive formations. Other destinations are unique because of man-made features–entire islands created out of sand, underwater museums designed to decay, or hotels shaved from ice.

Hot or cold, undeveloped or overly elaborate, these locations offer something you can’t get anywhere else, which is as good a reason as any to plan a trip.

The Azores

Explore the dramatic natural beauty and bounty of crater lakes in this collection of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. Portuguese by language, it has a culture and cuisine all its own. Feast on the geothermally heated hotpots called cozido das furnas, which consist of mixtures of meats and stews and are a feature of the area near Sao Miguel.

Bhutan

High up in the Himalayan Mountains sits the world’s newest democracy, whose 30-year-old king has been instrumental in developing the country’s parliament, and injecting a democratic voice into Bhutanese affairs. The term “gross national happiness” was coined by the country’s former king, who began the Buddhist country’s path to modernization. It now straddles both the old world and the new, and has earned the nickname, “the last Shangri-La.”

Grindavik, Iceland – The Blue Lagoon

Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, recommends the stark beauty of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. “They call it ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ for a reason,” says Banas. “It’s one of those things that you have to do in a lifetime. You’re swimming in these silica mud waters, but then it’s snowing outside.” Stay at the Blue Lagoon Spa, where you can take a geothermal steam bath, or have drinks while you soak in the lagoon.

Cancun Underwater Museum – Cancun, Mexico

The brainchild of the artist Jason de Caires Taylor, the world’s largest underwater museum features 400 statues by the artist, in a dizzying array of poses and features. The just-opened sculpture park sits in shallow waters in Cancun, allowing snorkellers, swimmers, and scuba divers alike to witness the sculptures grow seaweed and barnacles, and begin to form a supplementary reef for area fish.

Madagascar

Madagascar, sitting approximately 225 miles off the eastern coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, is so remote, it’s been host to many one-of-a-kind evolutionary developments. Ninety percent of its native plant life is found nowhere else in the world. “It still feels like a lost wonderland, with unique and diverse plant and animal life,” says Tom Hall, a U.K.-based writer for Lonely Planet.

Punta del Este Resort and Beach in Uruguay

Punta del Este Resort and Beach in Uruguay

Punta del Este is a city and resort on the Atlantic Coast in the Maldonado Department of southeastern Uruguay. Although the city has a year-round population of about 9,280, the summer tourist boom adds to this a very large number of non-residents. Punta del Este is also the name of the municipality to which the city belongs. It includes Punta del Este proper and Península areas.

The city is located on the intersection of Route 10 with Route 39, southeast of the department capital Maldonado and about 140 kilometres (87 mi) east of Montevideo.

In 2011 Punta del Este had a population of 9,277 and 23,954 households and apartments. According to the Intendencia Departamental de Maldonado, the municipality of Punta del Este has an area of 48 km2 (19 sq mi) and a population of 15,000.

A Brief History of Punta del Este

The first Europeans to set foot in what is now Punta del Este were the Spanish at the beginning of the 16th century. However, the colonization of the area actually began around Maldonado at the end of the 18th century due to Portuguese expansionism.

Punta del Este and its surroundings (Maldonado and Punta Ballena) at the end of the 19th century were kilometers of sand and dunes, but in 1896 Antonio Lussich bought 4,447 acres (1,800 ha) of uninhabited land and there he started a botanical garden, Arboretum Lussich, and planted trees and plants from all over the world. Later the trees started to spread on their own, and now the area is full of mostly Pines, Eucalyptus, Acacias and various species of bushes.

On 5 July 1907, it was declared a “Pueblo” (village) by Act of Ley 3.186.[2] Its status was elevated to “Ciudad” (city) on 2 July 1957 by the Act of Ley Nº 12.397.

Punta del Este hosted an American Summit in 1967 attended by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. In September 1986, Punta del Este played host to the start of the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations. These negotiations ultimately led to the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994.

Passion, energy and mystery all in Hawaii

Passion, energy and mystery all in Hawaii

Hawaii is incredibly romantic destination. Perfect for a wedding, honeymoon or dream away. The fabulous beaches and luxury resorts, combined with the tropical climate means that you’ll fall in love with the island almost as soon as you land. You’ll be forgiven if you stay in comfort and luxury of your resort, with all your needed. Although if you never leave the station, you’ll miss the inspiring fear Marvels Hawaii has to offer.

Whatever your stay on this island is worth jumping through the Big Island to visit the Parc National des Volcans. Hawaii has many active volcanoes and there are five on the Big Island. Only three of the five are active and Kilauea is most active. He is the youngest volcano on Big Island and appears to go through a growth spurt in adolescents. Kilauea has been erupting since 1983. Every day he vomited enough lava resurfacing of 20 mile long road. This enormous quantity of lava has added about 500 acres of the Big Island area. The volcano gives with one hand he takes the other. Big Island has lost more than 181 houses, a church and a number of other buildings in the lava flow.

You may wonder why on earth we suggest you visit the active volcano. The Volcano National Park is perfectly safe if you pay attention to the park rangers. So it’s an incredible opportunity to see firsthand one of the most powerful displays of natural materials and the planet. The eruption of Kilauea is not about quick violent, is a persistent rise of the lava. Forms lava tubes that directs much of the flow toward the sea of lava tubes are a fascinating formation created by the lava of contact with the air much colder island. As the lava flow increases the size of the tube forms a unique ecosystem. We suggest you take a tour of the tubes. As you’re standing inside a natural element created by a lava flow active, please pay attention to the Rangers!

Hawaii Volcanoes are an integral part of the mythology and legends of the islands. Pele is the goddess of Kilauea volcano and its domain is. If you want a spiritual protection of the raw power of the earth, it would be wise to take some pork and gin with you. This is not to strengthen you, but should be wrapped in ti leaves and left as an offering to Pele. This goddess of fire is tempered celebrated in local art and tearing down forms of lava are called “Pele’s tears”.

It is not wise to take one of the tears of Pele as a souvenir of your visit. Many of those who have had to mail the stone back to Hawaii in an attempt to appease the deity who has the misfortune visited upon them. A local superstition, perhaps, but it is wise to respect the landscape of national park in the same way you respect a coral reef. As for the offerings of pork and gin, while in the presence of an erupting volcano that has been for 26 years there is no harm in keeping the local goddess happy.

Vacation Days in Corfu, Greece

Vacation Days in Corfu, Greece

It is great good fortune to spend a week in Corfu on the way to Greece. Seeing it from one end to the other, wandering through its olive forests and vineyards, brings on a mild, or, in some cases, a wild, intoxication without wine. What words fit the surrounding beauty but “Islands of the Blessed,” “Elysium,” “Garden of Eden,” “Paradise”? It is not Heaven, after all, for one sees here the poor, lame, blind, begging for small alms; but, as long as earth holds such corners as Corfu, it is not all cursed.

To the traveller who has felt the intoxication of such a region, and is impelled to report something of it, the impotence of words comes home with special force. Naught but the painter’s art seems adequate to report Corfu. And, furthermore, painter as well as poet might here well feel the weakness of his art. It is a great boon to have had this realm of beauty brought upon the retina of the eye, and so communicated to the soul.

One may, perhaps, be allowed to group the impressions that Corfu makes, and report them with a plainness that aspires only to the office of a photograph, resigning the attempt at coloring.

Before the eye lies one Corfu–the Corfu of today; but before the mind are brought two others-the Kerkyra of Greek history and the Scheria of Homer. The two latter compete with the former, and refuse the present beautiful scene a monopoly of attention.

The vegetation here is also Oriental — oranges, lemons, figs, forests of cactus and giant aloes abound. The four or five million olive-trees, many sixty feet high, are the characteristic features of the island. They form a beautiful background for the tall, dark-green cypresses. But the vine presses hard upon the olive. It is great good fortune to be here in the time of the grape harvest, even if one must miss the oranges and the olives. One day in September I walked to Palæokastritza, an old cloister on a rock looking out on the Ionian Sea, sixteen miles from the city. The way was through a continuous vineyard full of laborers. At this season of the year there is hardly a drop of running water in the island.

There are places where springs and brooks and even rivers have been and will be again, but there are none there now. The water in the wells and cisterns looks suspicious. But one has a substitute for water that is just about as cheap. For copper coin of the value of two cents a woman gave me a pile of grape clusters, enough for four men. On my return I managed to signify with my poor Greek to a man riding on a load of grapes that I would like to change places with him. For three miles I rode stretched out on the top of crates full of grapes, resting my tired feet, eating, by the permission of the driver, from the top of the crates, while from the bottom the precious juice oozed out and trickled into the dusty road. I felt that I was playing Dionysos. Then it was that the vintagers, many women and few men, came trooping picturesquely from the fields. They looked so happy that it seemed as if the contagion of joy rested in the vine. It seemed as if a touch of music would have converted them into a Dionysiac chorus.

If Corfu had no classical history, it would still be historically interesting. It has been spared that curse which rested so long on the rest of Greece-Turkish occupation. The Turks dashed their forces in vain in two memorable sieges against its rock forts. The high degree of culture here, as compared with the rest of Greece, outside of Athens, is partly due to this exemption. But there have been stimulating influences from without. Rome, Byzantium, Naples, Venice, and England have held sway here. The rule of Venice, to which the Corfiotes gave themselves voluntarily, as they had formerly done to Rome, lasted nearly six hundred years, with the interruption of the Anjou episode. This rule was mild and beneficent.

But, sweeping away the name of Corfu, which arose in the Middle Ages, and transferring ourselves back of all this foreign occupation and centuries of semi-barbarism, let us introduce ourselves to the Greek Kerkyra of Thucydides. Passing southward, a half a mile or so from the esplanade of the present city, one comes along an isthmus between two old harbors to an elevated peninsula, on which now stands the King’s villa in a beautiful garden. Here one is overpowered by historic associations. Here lay the proud Greek colony established by Corinth in 734 B.C., a colony that first set the example of filial ingratitude, and, feeling itself stronger than the mother city, joined battle with her and defeated her in the first great naval battle of Greeks against Greeks, in 665 B.C.

From this rising ground the eye dimly discerns in the distance, near the mainland opposite the southern end of the island, the Sybota Islands, where the later great naval battle between mother city and colony in the presence of an Athenian fleet gave the occasion for the dreadful Peloponnesian war. From this inner harbor, now abandoned and still, nearly silted up and yearly submitting to the encroachment of vines upon its borders, the proud fleet of Alcibiades and Nicias sailed for Syracuse. It was the alliance with Kerkyra, the key to the voyage to Sicily, that lured the Athenians to that ruin.

Little of this Kerkyra remains above ground. Perhaps much may yet be found below. About twelve years ago excavations by Carapanos laid bare a great quantity of terra-cottas. Perhaps it was a terra-cotta manufactory that he discovered. The ruins of an old Doric temple lie on the surface of the ground near a spring in an olive grove on the side of the peninsula looking toward the mainland.

The situation, 100 feet above the strait, among the olives and near an ancient fountain, makes one feel that he could have joined in doing honor to the dryads and naiads with the throng that used to meet here. One of the antiquarians of Corfu has lately advanced the view that these remains are those not of a temple but of a bath. Blessed bathers!

One need not linger too long over Kerkyra. It is a state which we cannot love. We cannot forget that before Salamis it held its fleet off the southern point of the Peloponnesus, waiting to see which way the great struggle was going to incline. When Athens concluded the alliance with her at the opening of the Peloponnesian war, many at Athens felt it to be an unholy alliance, and that the burden of hatred thus shouldered was almost a counterbalance to the winning of the second navy in Greece.

Greenland: Exploring the world’s largest island

Greenland: Exploring the world's largest island

Greenland may be North America’s closest geographical neighbor (just 16 miles from the coast of Canada at the closest point), but reaching the Arctic landmass has been, until very recently, quite a difficult and expensive venture for American travelers. With the May 24 inauguration of Air Greenland’s first direct route between the United States and Greenland, reaching the world’s largest non-continental island from the States has become much easier, though no less expensive.

For years, American travelers heading to Greenland had to first fly to Iceland or Denmark before catching a connecting flight to their final destination. On Air Greenland’s new, seasonal flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Kangerlussuaq, travelers touch down on the icy island in just five hours. The flights run during peak season, mid-June through mid-August, on Mondays and Thursdays. Roundtrip fares range from about $1,100 for a restricted economy class ticket to $2,600 for an unrestricted business class ticket.

Of course, visiting any of Greenland’s major towns besides Kangerlussuaq itself requires more travel – and more cash. With 85 percent of the island covered by an imposing sheet of ice, there are no roads running between the towns. Instead, travelers get around the country via domestic flights, helicopters and boat.

With a permanent population of approximately 56,000, it should come as no surprise that lodging and activity options are more limited than those offered in many other destinations in the world. But therein lies the beauty of an adventure in Greenland. We’ve put together a short guide to get you started planning a trip to this exotic destination.

Greenland: Exploring the world's largest island

When to Go: The summer months certainly offer the most optimal weather (temperatures even hit a balmy 70 degrees on occasion) conditions, but they also offer a chance to experience the midnight sun, Northern Lights and celebrations on Ullortuneq, Greenland’s national day. Air Greenland’s direct flights from Baltimore-Washington International run through Aug. 30, 2007. Whenever you choose to go, make sure to plan ahead. Flights and cruises fill up early, some up to a year in advance.

How to Get There: Independent travelers can book flights online through Air Greenland, but many leisure visitors opt to make arrangements through agencies experienced in arranging domestic transportation, lodging and excursions. Denmark-based Greenland Travel offers four-, five- and eight-day tours with options to visit glaciers, track musk ox, go whale-watching, view ice caps and fjords, hike coastal trails and experience traditional Inuit culture. U.S.-based Borton Overseas, Borello Travel and Tours and Scandinavian American World Tours offer a variety of four- to eight-day packaged tours and custom trips from Baltimore. For a complete list of tour operators, check out Air Greenland’s Guide to Package Tours.

Where to Stay: Except for Ittoqqortoomiit, Kangaatsiaq and Upernavik, every town in Greenland has at least one hotel, and some have multiple hotels, hostels and family-run bed and breakfasts. Popular lodging choices that many travel agencies suggest for tour groups and customized trips include the European-style Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat, Hotel Sisimiut in Sisimiut and Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk. The Greenland Guide lists several additional hotels, as well as contact information for local tourist offices. Travelers looking to arrange hostel, bed and breakfast and home-stay accommodations on their own should contact local tourist offices directly for availability and booking information. Visitors to the southern town of Narsaq will find several working farms offering hostel-like accommodations, as well as companies renting individual homes. Check with the Narsaq Tourist Office for more information.

What to Do: Greenland is a giant playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Opportunities for hiking and viewing animal life abound, as do boating excursions and cultural visits to Inuit villages. Of course, visitors can pass the time exploring shops and restaurants in major towns like Nuuk and Ilulissat, but the real adventures lie outside these population centers. In conjunction with World of Greenland, Air Greenland operates helicopter sightseeing trips departing from Ilulissat Airport to view Greenland’s arresting ice fjords and Disko Bay.

Whale-watching and kayaking enthusiasts will want to head to the island town of Aasiaat in the southern part of Disko Bay. The Aasiaat Travel Service can arrange boat trips, guided kayak day trips and whale-watching for visitors. Instead of taking a traditional cruise from the mainland, travelers with the seafaring spirit can charter the Kisaq from Nuuk and create their own mini-cruise. If you’re looking to take an icy plunge, the town of Sisimiut is home to the Arctic Center, the only full-service, PADI-certified dive center in Greenland. In the south, the Narsaq Tourist Office offers tours to Greenland’s ice cap, as well as excursions to Viking ruins and hiking trips.

Paris: City of lights, hotels and attractions

Paris: City of lights, hotels and attractions

The dramatic increase of French hotel prices over the past few years, especially in Paris, have led many tourists to shorten their holiday or simply pick other European destinations to spend their vacation.

However, some wise travellers have already pitched on a far more money-saving accommodation system which, it appears, may well become as popular as the traditional hotel business in the years to come.

Indeed, weekly apartment rental has become for many the best way to experience the city of lights without putting further strain on their holiday budget.

If the advantageous financial aspect of vacation rentals is a well-known fact, it is also the best way to live in the city just like one of its native inhabitants and forget about all the hassle of “not being at home”. Don’t want to go to the restaurant? You can have a romantic dinner at home! Don’t want to go to the bar? You can have a bottle of wine in your own private living room with your guests! It goes without saying that renting an apartment in the very heart of a city is certainly the closest way to experience Paris just like a true Parisian would.

Choosing your pied-à-terre in the city is now as simple as booking a hotel room and can be done in a few clicks. And with such a large choice of apartments or studios, travellers can now find an accommodation that will match their expectations in terms of size, budget or location, be it for adventurous backpackers or luxury travel addicts.