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Los Angeles - Round 3

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Los Angeles - Round 3

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For the third time, I visited the City of Angels. While the past two times I visited I did very touristy things, this visit was far more chilled out. I spent time with friends - old and new, explored the city, and ate plenty of food. While i don’t think I could live in LA, I love traveling there. Each time it’s different and each time I appreciate the city more. Here’s what I got up to during a long weekend in LA.

I stayed with my friend Katya, who I met while studying abroad in Singapore. She lives just outside of LA itself, and she let me crash at her place during my stay. She also drove me around all weekend, so thank you Katya!

Day 1

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The first day in LA was spent hanging out in Santa Monica. Katya was off volunteering for the day so I spent some time wandering around and shopping. Santa Monica is fun - they have the beach, the peer, so many food options, and so many cute dogs to watch. We started the day with breakfast at Philz Coffee before parting ways. I got the vegan donut and a Ambrosia Coffee with soy milk. It hit the spot. I had been deprived of Philz for MONTHS.

After some coffee, I wandered around alone before meeting up with a new friend, Jordan. We have some mutual friends, so it only made sense to say hi when I was in the area. We got lunch together at Huckleberry. Sorry, I didn’t get any pics. I thought it would be weird to photograph food around a new friend. Here’s the link to Huckleberry’s website in case anyone was wondering about it! Would definitely recommend! We walked around the area after lunch. It was vert needed after stuffing my face.

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Later in the day, Katya and I headed over to Griffith Observatory to catch the sunset. We did a mini hike up to the top, and I’m so glad we did. We got there just at golden hour. It was insanely beautiful. The sun was glowing, LA was shining, and it made me so happy

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We spent some time enjoying the views before hiking our way back to the car. And of course, we had to get In N Out after. In N Out was another West Coast delicacy that I haven’t had since moving from Palo Alto back to Boston. It was just so good.

Double double, animal style with fries and lemonade. Duh.



 

Day 2

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Day 2 started off with a trip to the farmers market and a mexican food stand! I tried a tamale for the first time. It was good. I would eat it again. Katya also made me try Elote. It’s Mexican street corn covered in mayonnaise, crema, and chili powder and cheese. Holy guacamole it was good.

After a small feast, we headed over to the Huntington Library. It’s a bit outside of LA, but definitely worth a visit. They have extravagant botanical gardens. My favorite was the Chinese Gardens or the Desert Gardens. I suppose I am partial to desert plants. And I am half Chinese, so it was only fitting that those were the two I enjoyed the most. The weather was beautiful, too, so we had a great time strolling around!

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We spent a lot of time in the sun, so by the end of the day, we were ready to sit for a while. We drove back towards Malibu and ended up going to Moonshadow, a restaurant on the water. We had some oysters and wine while enjoying the best sunset ever. It was really spectacular. You could see the waves coming in, the boats floating along the horizon, and seagulls scavenging along the shoreline. It would be a great date spot ;)

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Day 3

This was my last full day in LA. I technically was there for 4 days because of some flight cancellations, but no one wants to hear about that disaster. So, for your sake and mine, let’s call this my last day in LA. One of my good friends, Ashley, lives outside of LA can drove in to meet me. We ended up in Santa Monica again, but I didn’t mind. I love the ocean, so any chance to be close to the water is always welcomed. Ashley was running a bit late, so I had some time in the morning to myself. I took a Bird scooter down the beach and ended up a bit south of Venice Beach. I just spent a few hours people watching. I spent some time by the water too. I sat in the sand and watched the surfers. I could have spent all day right there.

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Ashley and I love Acai Bowls, so we walked over to Backyard Bowls. SO GOOD. Thanks to Jordan for the recommendation! After that we just did some shopping and wandering around before dinner. For dinner, Katya, Ashley, and I got tacos from Leo’s Taco Truck. Again, SO GOOD. God, the food in LA was amazing.

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And then it was time to leave. Yeah, my flight home was cancelled and then it was a STRUGGLE to get home, but I had such an amazing time in LA. Don’t worry, I’ll be back before long. Thanks to all my LA friends who made the trip that much more special! Xo, until next time.

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Top 10 Airplane Travel Tips

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Top 10 Airplane Travel Tips

I've been flying a LOT lately.  

Especially on longer flights, airplanes can be a bit of a pain.  Even if you are an experienced flyer, the hassel of flying never seems to lessen.  I've compiled a list of my most useful tips for flying.  Enjoy!

1.    You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.
Take it from someone who is always over-packed and under-prepared.  Those fancy heels that have lived in your closet for the past year do not need to come with you.  You will not wear them.  Trust me.

2.    Don’t get coffee on the airplane
Airplane coffee tastes like dirt, makes you dehydrated, and you will be sad.  Use those calories and get a ginger ale.  That way, at least your stomach will be happy.  And if you are lactose intolerant, the airline will not carry soy or almond milk.  Just a heads up.

3.    Download more than one genre of music
On long flights, you definitely don’t want to get caught with a limited music selection.  Sure, Kanye West may be the greatest artist of all time and his albums are groundbreaking, but 5 hours of straight Kanye is too much.  Maybe throw in some Chance the Rapper?  Venture out further and get that new generic pop album or chill indie music.  You’ll appreciate the options.

4.    Headphones and a sleeping mask will go a long way
Having a pair of comfortable headphones and a sleeping mask will save you.  The headphones will help block out the screams of crying children and a sleeping mask will come in handy if the person next to the window refuses to shut the blinds. 

5.    Be nice to the airport and airline employees
They deal with terrible people all day.  A please and thank you is the least you can do.

6.    Wear socks
Don’t show up to the airport in flip flops, or even flats.  You’ll have to take off your shoes during security, and who knows how clean the floor is.  When on the airplane, you can also take off your shoes.  You definitely should not walk around an aircraft with bare feet.

7.    Figure out how to get to your destination before you arrive
Yes, the people in the airport can be EXTREMELY helpful if you are not sure exactly how to get to your hotel.  But, you don’t want to miss anything or cause yourself any unnecessary stress if you don’t know where you are going.  Airport website will usually list the best modes of transportations.  When in doubt, there is always uber or taxis.

8.    Make sure all your electronic devices are fully charged before getting onto the plane
While most planes now boast about their personal seat power outlets, they will not all have them.  So, take it from someone who thought they could charge their phone while 39,000 feet in the air, charge ahead of time.  I am currently charging my phone though my laptop because silly me was overly confident in the marketing ploys of airlines.

9.    If you are new to flying, this is how not to piss people off:

  • At security, take your laptop out of your bag.  No other electronics need to be removed.  This includes your tablet or camera.  Also be sure to empty your pockets, remove your jacket/sweatshirt, and take your shoes and belt off.  There’s no need to take off jewelry or watches.
  •  Don’t be loud on the plane.  Chances are that people are trying to sleep.  Just be mindful of others.
  • When boarding begins, don’t rush up to the gate immediately.  It takes a long time to get everyone and all their things on the plane.  Just chill.  When they call your boarding number, proceed to the gate.  No need to fight people to get in line first.  
  • If you have a window seat, close the window shade during the majority of the flight.  Of course, watch take off and landing, but during the majority of the flight it’s just bright outside with nothing to see.  Shut the blind, let people sleep or watch a movie without glare.
  • If you are ever unsure about anything, just ask.  People are willing to help.

10.    Airplane food is sad, so bring your own onto the plane
This last time resonates most with me.  I’ve had some pretty terrible airplane food.  Unless your comfortably lounging in first class, chances are that you will be hungry and disappointed after your meal.  If I know that I will be in the air during a meal, I will purchase something in the terminal and bring it onto the aircraft.  Just be mindful that its not something too smelly (ex: a burger).  I tend to get a wee bit motion sick on planes and having a full stomach definitely helps. So, if that means shelling out $15 on some food so I’m not hungry or nauseous, I will gladly do so.  This is also important for people with dietary restrictions.  Airplanes try to cater to food needs as best as they can, but it’s not always the best.

Thanks for reading and have safe travels!

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Top 10 Money Saving Travel Tips!

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Top 10 Money Saving Travel Tips!

I'm a student.  I'm a broke college student.  But, I also love traveling and going on adventures.  I've learned a thing or two about traveling as cheaply as you can, while still enjoying yourself.  It may not be the glitz and glam of staying at 5 star resorts, flying first class, and taking private yacht cruises, but it's still good fun.

The thing about traveling is not the size of your budget, it's about the adventure and the company you're with.  As long as you approach traveling with a positive perspective and appreciate the journey, you will have a good time.  

With that being said, here are my tips to saving money while traveling (especially if you are a college student like me):

1.  Use Google Flights and Skyscanner when searching for flights
These are the two best resources for searching for the most affordable flights.  I definitely prefer Google Flights over Skyscanner, and I'll tell you why it's the BEST:

  • if you have flexible travel dates, you can use the graph or the chart to find the best days to fly out and return.
  • If you are not picky on a destination, you can use the map to browse the cheapest place to visit.  This is great when you don't have an exact set location, but want to visit and area or region.
  • Google Flights typically has better rates than Skyscanner.  But not always! Be sure to check both before committing.

2. Check Budget Airlines Websites for Deals
Often times, budget airlines will not show their rates on travel comparison sites, such as Google Flights or Skyscanner.  Google budget airlines in the area you live and see if any of them offer good rates on flights to your destination.  It might be a pain to check out their website individually, but you could potentially be saving hundreds of dollars.

3. Check to see if there are buses or trains that run between cities
If you want to check out multiple cities in a country, or if there are major cities not too far from each other, chances are that there are buses or trains that you can use.  Buses are usually, the cheapest way to get from place to place.  Sometimes they are not the most fun form of transportation, but they work just fine.

4.  Airbnb or Hostels make for great cheap accommodation
Hostels are the budget traveler's dream.  They are dorm-style rooms that 4+ people share.  Hostel prices can range from $8-100 depending on what country you are staying in and which hostel you select. CHECK THE REVIEWS BEFORE YOU BOOK A HOSTEL.  Go on Hostelworld, and read through the reviews and comments.  Some hostels can be dirty, and you don't want to stay anywhere unsafe.  Do the research.  Another alternative is an Airbnb.  People rent out homes or rooms for travelers.  They can be a great way to get a homey-feel in a foreign place.  Again, check the reviews to make sure you are not getting scammed in any way.  All my experiences with Airbnb have been absolutely wonderful, and cheaper than staying in a hotel.

5.  Minimize Food Costs
Food costs can add up no matter where you are.  Minimize food costs by eating local food, or buying food from a grocery store.  Local cuisine tends to be cheaper, so try to eat at places the locals do.  Be careful about cleanliness though! Sometimes our bodies are not used to the local food or water, and you can get sick.  Another money-saving option is to buy food from a grocery store.  You can buy ingredients to make a sandwich, or salad, far cheaper at the store than you could at a restaurant.

6.  Maximize Luggage Space
Here's the thing: most airlines will not weigh your carry on luggage.  I've been on over 12 flights in the past 4 months, and only once did they weigh my carry on.  And, I think they only did that because my backpack was suspiciously full.  That being said, when flying, put all your heavy items in your carry on luggage.  When packing your check-in luggage, there are ways to maximize space (and here's a helpful graphic):

  • Roll your clothes
  • Use pants to line the bottom of your suitcase
  • Stuff socks and underwear in shoes and other nooks and crannies
  • Lie bulky items on top
  • Packing cubes can be a great option as well

7.  Make sure your web browser is in private browsing mode when buying tickets
This is also known as incognito mode on the Chrome browser.  Websites track your cookies (messages from the website to your computer) and may raise the price if they see that you have been searching for flights or tickets.  By being in private browsing mode, websites cannot see what you've been searching for, usually resulting in better prices.  The price difference could be a few dollars to a few hundred dollars!

8.  Prioritize your activities
Write down all the must-do things on your trip.  If you want to see this ancient temple, eat at a famous restaurant, go on a tour, etc., prioritize those activities.  See how much they will cost, and from there, budget the rest of your trip.  You can save money on other areas that aren't as important to you.  If you know you wanna go on an awesome jungle tour, try saving money on drinks or shopping.  It's all about finding a balance.

9.  Travel in 4s
This may be a weird one, I know.  Bear with me.  Everything is made for either pairs or for 4s.  Odd numbers just don't work as well. If you are booking a hotel room, it's cheaper to book a room with 4 people than it is for 2 people since you need two beds anyway.  Taxis typically can hold 4 passengers.  Hostels often offer 4 bed dorm rooms, and by traveling with 4 people, you can have a private room!  I've traveled with 3 people, I've traveled with 6 people, I've traveled with 2 people.  Trust me, 4 people is the ideal number.

10.  Travel During Off-peak Season
During the less popular times of the year, you'll be more likely to get deals on transportation and accommodation.  Look up the peak travel season at the location you plan to visit, and see if it is possible to visit at a less popular time.  If you're going to Southeast Asia, beware of monsoons.  While it is cheaper to travel during the monsoon season, the rain could interfere with your plans

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Niagara Falls Recap

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Niagara Falls Recap

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Niagara Falls - the popular tourist destination. Half American, Half Canadian. It's this giant waterfall. Like, really giant. And, it's really incredible. My family and I took a trip to the Falls in your classic American road trip style. First leg of the journey was Niagara Falls, and the second leg was Toronto. That'll be in the next blog, but until then, here's a recap of Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls is located right near Buffalo, on the border of the New York and Canada. There are viewing locations from both the United States side and the Canadian side. As everyone always says, the Canadian side is better. While I completely agree that the falls is nicer in Canada, it's worth stopping on both sides.

We stopped at the American Side first. The park is clearly in development, and soon it'll be stunning. But even though it may not be as beautiful as the Canadian side, it's still enjoyable. 

We took a ride on the Maid of the Mist, the boat tour on the falls. They give you ponchos to keep you dry, but the falls is so great that you'll get a bit damp. You get pretty close to the actually falls and it's amazing to see all the water rushing down.

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After the boat ride, you can walk along the observation deck. The deck has the best view of the entire falls as well as Rainbow Bridge. It's great for photo ops.

Next was the Canadian side. Canada not only has the best views of the falls, but they have a beautiful park that runs along the length of the falls, a fun carnival-like entertainment street, and lots of chain restaurants. This side is definitely the best for photos.

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At night, there are fireworks over the falls. Unfortunately, there were strong winds while we were there so the fireworks were canceled. However, we did enjoy a fantastic concert performance by Michelle Treacy. She was great - check her out!

Niagara Falls is truly a feat of nature. The sheer amount of water the passes through The Falls is unimaginable. It's no wonder that people from all over the world come to see it. I'd 100% recommend.

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Some quick tips for anyone who wants to visit Niagara Falls

  • If you can only visit one side, go to the Canadian side
  • There are limited dining options on the American side
  • Both the American Side and the Canadian side have boats rides on the falls.
  • If you decide to take the boat from the American side, buying tickets online is the same price as in person. There is no advantage.
  • There are lots of hotels on the Canadian side if you want to stay for more than one day
  • You really only need one day at Niagara Falls. But, if you decide to stay for more than one night, the Canadian side has lots of hotels.
  • Bring a gopro if you have one! It's useful for the boat ride!
  • Wear something nice - you'll have lots of amazing photo opportunities.
  • The Fireworks start at 10 pm during the tourism season.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow my blog (if you don't already). Or, you can follow me on social to stay up to date on my travels and adventures!

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