Top tips for road trips, including 10 “must-have” items to get you on your way

Top tips for road trips, including 10 “must-have” items to get you on your way

Without a doubt, the road trip has become one of the most celebrated means of discovery for the alternative traveler. Old, young, solo or surrounded by a handful of your closest friends, nothing beats taking to the open road, the wind in your hair and home at your back, en route to your next greatest adventure.

Road trips aren’t just tons of fun; they’re a cheap and convenient way to get around. Not sure how to pack? Don’t worry, we’re got you covered.

Road trips are cheaper than flying

Caravan
image credit: kingsunderlavenderskies.tumblr.com

One of the greatest things about road trips is the money you save on travel expenses, especially in countries like Canada, where (thanks to a monopoly on air travel) flying can be outrageously expensive. For North Americans, taking to the roads is an affordable way to explore the vast wilderness that occupies their own backyard, while European road trips can lead to the exploration of multiple countries in only a few days. Forget booking airline tickets and train tickets that cost an arm and a leg, take to the road and travel far, for less.

Planning to embark on some long-term travel? Why not consider investing in a caravan, giving you a motorhome, instead of a mortgage! After all, there’s a reason that the iconic hippie love wagon – the original caravan – has become a symbol for freedom, escape and respite that represents the wonder and beauty of the open road. Whether you decide to buy or rent on-site, a caravan is an awesome way to enjoy a cheaper travel experience.

Travelers tip: Don’t forget, there is strength in numbers. Loading a car or sharing a caravan with four of your friends, and splitting expenses, can save you huge amounts of money on gas and other essential items like caravan insurance. Continue reading “Top tips for road trips, including 10 “must-have” items to get you on your way”

Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad

Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad

So, I just got back from a three week adventure to Sweden, Finland and Russia and after ripping apart my bank for leaving me high and dry overseas, I have to admit – I should have made the call. Here’s what happened.

Unlimited, free cash withdrawals overseas? Easy packing.

As I was emptied my purse in preparation for the trip, I stood contemplating which credit card to take with me overseas. You see, my husband and I are lucky enough to have a German account from which we can withdraw money from any bank machine around the world. So, the easiest way for me to pay for things while traveling – and avoid massive charges on my Canadian credit card – is to take out money and just pay cash. That being said, I always take my Canadian card with me in case I run out of moolah and need to use the plastic.

Making payments prior to take-off

Since I was heading to Russia, where I had no idea how easy it was to get things done on the ground, I decided I should plan a little further ahead than normal. My itinerary had me flying into Stockholm, traveling onward to Helsinki and Kuopio, and then onto St.Petersburg for four days of discovery before heading home.

First of all, since the Russian visa application for Canadians (and Europeans) demands an invitation letter from the hotel for every applicant, we had to make our reservations months in advance. We reserved four nights in a three star hotel called History Hotel on the English Embankment (review of what is possibly the worst hotel in St.Petersburg, to follow) through St.Petersburg.com (mixed feelings about this site, you’ll find out why later). I made two separate reservations, since 4 of us were staying for 3 days, and only 3 were staying for the 4th. To make sure that we had the best possible “Russian” experience, we also booked tickets to see Swan Lake at the Hermitage! Needless to say, costs were adding up, but given the fact that I had made the purchases on the Canadian side of the ocean, I was sure there would be no problem with the order. Continue reading “Credit card catastrophe: Why it’s important to inform the bank when you travel abroad”

Street Eats, Helsinki, Finland: Reindeer Meatballs or Lake Fish?

Street Eats, Helsinki, Finland: Reindeer Meatballs or Lake Fish?

Welcome back to Street Eats, our delicious (and sometimes disgusting) series where we discover street food from around the world! Today, we pay a visit to Helsinki, Finland, a Scandinavian city worth discovering, if only for an afternoon, or two. With quaint little cafes lining the Esplanadi, an assortment of great fashion boutiques including the nation’s most famous designer, Marimekko, a dashing white cathedral (Evangelical Lutheran), and a lovely waterfront, the city offers tourists the chance to kick back their heels and just breathe easy.

In terms of culinary delights, Helsinki isn’t world famous for it’s cuisine, but does boast a number of yummy restaurants including the Fazer Bakery (offering up an incredible breakfast for 11 Euros and tantalizing treats for those looking to fuel up in between attractions) and regional delicacies like karelian pies, a Finnish treat with a rye bread base, a gooey rice or potato middle and a buttery egg topping that I’ve made more than once at home. Le yum!

You had me at Vendace?

When it comes to street eats, market square (kauppatori) is where you’ll find the largest variety of samplers. Among the local faves are Vendace, a type of fish known as muikku in Finnish. Salty, crunchy, fried little fish, these guys are sold as street food and packaged like American french fries, ready to pop!

image credit: Sirkku
image credit: Sirkku

Not for the lighthearted, these little fish are served whole and are something fish lovers simply have to try. The rest of us will have to resort to what gets my vote as  the epitome of Finnish cuisine… Continue reading “Street Eats, Helsinki, Finland: Reindeer Meatballs or Lake Fish?”