Since my trip to Europe is quickly approaching, I thought I would share some of my travel tips.
(1) Before traveling, I call my bank and credit card companies to let them know that I'll be using my cards abroad. The worst exchange rate is always at the airport currency exchange stands. Wells Fargo has great exchange rates for when you use an ATM abroad. I'll use my credit card whenever it's accepted so it's easier to keep track of expenses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is great since it has no foreign transaction fees.
(2) For international flights, fly direct whenever possible. Layovers are so tiring and extend your travel time. Also, reserve your seats in advance so you can sit together. There's nothing worse than sitting in a middle seat for a long flight. We also have Global Entry so we can get through security faster and through immigration quickly.
(3) Pack light and try to avoid checking in luggage. I'm a pro at packing light and I managed to put everything for our 11 day honeymoon into one carry on. The tough part was getting everything back into the suitcase!
Here are some of my must bring items:
- power bank - to charge my electronics while I'm on the go
- daily disposable contacts
- travel size toiletries - I'll collect these throughout the year and just toss when they're empty
- items that are difficult to find - if you go somewhere tropical, bring aloe. I once paid $17 for a tiny bottle of aloe that didn't even work!
- bug spray
- slippers for dirty hotel floors
- extra plastic bags for laundry, wet clothes, etc
I hate packing shoes and jewelry so I avoid bringing them whenever possible. I also hate carrying my laptop or a tablet around with me, so I always leave those at home. Unless I'm traveling for work... then I guess I'm out of luck.
(4) Download travel apps in advance. There are plenty of great apps where you can download the city guide or a translation guide and use it offline. No need to rack up international data roaming fees. I also print out some travel guides or buy guide books. My favorites are Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness, and Frommers.
(5) Make restaurant reservations. If there's a famous restaurant that you are dying to go to, call or email them way in advance to guarantee yourself a spot. I just found out that Yelp is in Austria and Germany, so I started bookmarking restaurants that I want to visit.
On my first long weekend of the year, the husband and I went to Los Angeles to visit friends. I went to college at UCLA so it was like going back to old stomping grounds.
(1) Went shopping at The Grove. I love outdoor malls (or maybe all malls in general), and The Grove is no exception. We also had lunch at the Farmer's Market next to the Grove.
(2) Ate Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ in LA is so, so good. Nothing in the Bay Area can even come close. I like how they do most of the cooking for you. The husband said that it was the best he's ever had, even better than the places we went to in Seoul. I used to eat Korean BBQ a few times a month when I was in college, now I remember why!
(3) Went bar hopping in downtown. We went to The Black Sheep, Association, and then ended up at The Varnish. I don't remember going out in downtown very often when I lived in LA (we usually stuck around Hollywood), maybe times have changed!
(4) Watched magic shows at The Magic Castle. This was an interesting experience. The food was pretty terrible but the drinks were super strong. I saw some tricks over and over and I still have no idea how they're done. I was hoping to see Neil Patrick Harris there, but apparently he lives in NYC now?
(5) Ate cake at Lady M. I've been in love with their mille crepe cake every since I had it in NYC. Why isn't there a Lady M closer to us?
(6) Had brunch in Venice. We went to Sunny Spot, a new brunch place by Roy Choi, founder of the Kogi taco truck. The food there was okay, but the music was so loud that it was like dining inside a club. No wonder why their bottomless drinks were so popular! We also walked around Abbot Kinney afterwards, and had coffee at Intelligentsia.
It was quite a relaxing weekend and we were able to sleep in both mornings. I had forgotten how much better the food is in LA compared to the Bay Area, and cheaper too! Makes me so jealous.