Destinations. A quest.

9.15.2019


A couple weeks ago we briefly touched on choosing a destination.  As I was writing about it, I quickly realized that this topic deserves a post all to itself.  So, let’s jump into this!

There are so many things you can consider when trying to narrow down exactly where to go.  What part of the world do I want to see? Are long flights or multiple connections going to be a problem? Will I like the local cuisine? Should I visit more than one city? Do I have a weekend or one or two weeks that I can be away? How will the weather be during that time of year? Is this a good place to go solo? What’s going to be happening locally? Is it a national or religious holiday and how does that impact tourism? (I was in Iceland for Christmas a couple years ago and all the restaurants were closed for two days!) Are there any major festivals drawing international crowds? However, let’s start with why.

If you’re like me, you have a travel to-do list that includes everywhere you haven’t already been (and you prefer not to repeat destinations). While it sounds like that makes the “why” easy, in most cases you’re traveling due to a more immediate why. For example, a couple years ago I was completely burned out on work and decided that I needed an impromptu weekend beach vacation. That became my more immediate why.  I chose my destination based on the length of the flight (the shorter, the better), the price of the flight (last-minute flights can be pricey) and the price ranges of nice hotels for that time of year.  And I ended up at a relaxing beach resort in the Dominican Republic, even though I’d previously been several years before.

Starting with why you’re planning to travel can help to narrow down the seemingly endless list of destination options. However, if you’re in the fortunate position where you’re planning your vacation well in advance and you’re open to almost anywhere in the world.  Start with what you want to do and what kind of experience you want to have.  When I want to be out in nature, capture great photos of plant and animals in the wild and get a little (or a lot) dirty on hiking trails, I tend to choose Central or South America and I start researching the different adventures in each country (like volcano boarding in Nicaragua).  If I want to shop, eat, sight-see and otherwise stay relatively clean and comfortable, I choose Europe and research popular museums and cultural events (like Christmas markets in Austria).  Once I have it narrowed down to a few options, I start looking at flight prices and hotel rates for where I would stay in the destinations I’m considering.   

My final decision is usually based on how much I actually want to spend for this experience and that’s usually dictated by my vacation savings account balance.  Flights to Africa are more expensive than the Caribbean, but if my savings are in order, there’s no reason for me not to book the flight to Morocco so that I can go glamping in the Sahara Desert!  (And yes, we’ll talk more about saving for vacation later.)

Ultimately, you’re choosing an experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime; make sure it’s one you’ll enjoy. 

Check back next week to learn more about choosing activities! This can make or break your adventure.

To see more of what I do real-time, follow me on Instagram @tamara_wanders and@ws.travelclub

 

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Group travel. A movement.

9.8.2019


Let’s talk about seven great benefits of group travel. After all there’s a reason it’s been rising in popularity over the last few years.  I briefly mentioned the first three benefits in the last post (it’s linked below), but let’s revisit them…

 

  1. Group travel means less worry for you.  Someone else is tasked with all of the planning and researching all the trips details.  Even while on the trip, any concerns that pop up are theirs to sort out.  The only decision you’ll have to make is whether or not you want to participate that day.  Most days you’ll have the option to insert an impromptu free-day and make your own plans.  Although, I do highly recommend that you participate in as much as possible.  After all, you’re there for the new experiences and you wouldn’t want to miss them.
  2. Not everyone likes to travel truly solo. Group travel gives you built-in “friends” if you’re interested.  You’ll meet other like-minded travelers and there’s always someone around to take that great photo… knowing you’ll likely return the favor later in the trip. However, if you’re like me and the thought new friends is not a perk, there are other benefits to consider…
  3. Groups have influence! By this I mean, you’ll have a greater opportunity to gain access to places and experiences that might not have otherwise been available to you traveling solo or trying to plan your own trip.  This could be due to the costs of the activity (now shared across the group) or because it’s something not widely offered to the public. It could even be because your group leader just has connections locally.
  4. Occasionally, you’ll get an experience you couldn’t have thought of.  This past summer I went volcano boarding.  No one in my circle of friends, associates or colleagues had ever even heard of it.  Now everyone wants to try it!  While you may not get an experience like that on every group trip, when it does happen it will make your trip all the more worth it.
  5. Cost savings! When you consider just how much you actually spend by the end of a vacation on your own versus a group trip, that alone could enough to convince you of the group benefits. Last minute and unexpected expenses, transportation expenses, meals and libations, tourist rates to get into local attractions, etc.  You get the picture.
  6. Travel with your comfort-zone and still have support to push beyond your usual limits.  If you’re thinking of navigating public transportation, renting a car and reading foreign street signs, or trying to communicate with a local driver, don’t bother.  Your group has you covered!  If you’re not sure can finish the hike or skeptical about trying the local fare, here come your fellow group travelers to help you through it.  And just think of the stories you’ll leave with!
  7. While I whole-heartedly it is generally safe to travel anywhere in the world, I can’t discount the old adage of “safety in numbers.” When you travel in groups, you’re less susceptible to scam artists and thieves that prey on tourist and help is always close by if you get hurt or fall ill.  As unlikely as they are to happen, these examples are pretty good advertisements for group travel.

That’s it!  Feel free to check out our other posts and check back next week when we’ll dig a little deeper into the art of choosing a destination!

To see more of what I do real-time, follow me on Instagram @tamara_wanders and @ws.travelclub

 

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Pro travel tips. Part 2.

9.2.2019


Welcome back! In case you missed Part 1, last week I gave you some of my favorite tips for packing and getting through the airport easier.  This week we’ll cover booking your travel plans and some of the benefits of group travel.  And you’ll understand why it works to discuss these two together shortly.

Ready to book?! Let’s do it!

Destinations… When you have the whole wide world to choose from, choosing a destination could be a daunting first step. I like to start with looking at the map for countries I haven’t been to yet; then I look at flight prices and search for any interesting festival or events going on during the time I’d like to travel. (Other considerations include your flying tolerance, food preferences, length of vacation, etc.) This definitely deserves its own post; look for it in the coming weeks!

Flights and hotels… Now that we know where we’re going, it’s time to make travel arrangements.  I like to look at both flight and hotel at the same time to ensure both are actually available.  (You may be able to book a flight to Rio a month before Carnival, but finding somewhere to stay may be nearly impossible!) 

  • As I mentioned last week, choose a couple of primary airlines and join their membership programs so you’re eligible for all the perks and deals they may offer.  When you’re ready to book, do so directly with them via their website (most cost efficient) and select flights based on price and what best suits your schedule.
  • When selecting a hotel, you’ll have a wide variety of options from very budget-friendly to “money is no object” offered by a variety of booking sites.  Here I recommend you choose the site with the best rate for where you want to stay.  Choose the hotel based on where you think you’ll be comfortable for the duration of the trip.  If you’ll be spending a fair amount of time at the hotel, you’ll probably want something a little nicer.  And always remember to read the hotel reviews!  The pictures are made to sell you on the hotel; the reviews give a better idea of what to expect.

Adventurous activities… Now that the essentials are booked, it’s time to figure out how much fun we’re going to have.  And you could spend A LOT of time on this last step.  Internet searches and various travel communities provide access to an endless number of ideas and suggestions for just about any destination.  How long you choose to spend researching is totally up to you.  That said, there are a few of approaches I use for planning activities that I might actually do…

  • One way is to make a list of all the interesting things that I found during my research and narrow that down to things that are a reasonable distance from my hotel.  Once I’m there, each night I pick one or two things from the list that I want to do the next day, in no particular order. 
  • Another way is to create an itinerary for the trip and include advance reservations to some of the more popular attractions.  This is especially useful for activities that may be hard to access otherwise.  For example, access to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland books weeks in advance, I had to scramble to find an alternative.
  • The last way I’ll mention requires no research.  If you’re staying a hotel that has a concierge, they can suggest places nearby and even help you join a group for a day trip to activities further away.  (It’s like a mini group vacation.)  I found this method very useful on a long weekend trip to Costa Rica a few years ago.

I know what you’re thinking… If booking a trip is that easy, why travel with a group?!  Because that is what the Travel Club is all about…  In short…

  1. Someone else does all the work of planning and researching all the trips details for you!  
  2. The most obvious answer is that not everyone likes to travel truly solo. 
  3. Also access to places and experiences is one thing you might want consider. 

Wanna know more?  Check back next week for more details on the benefits of group travel!

To see more of what I do real-time, follow me on Instagram @tamara_wanders and @ws.travelclub

 

 

Pro travel tips. Part 1.

8.25.2019 


Two words… Pack. Light.

Everything starts with how you pack! Packing light frees you up to be flexible and mobile. Personally, I prefer to stick to carry-ons whenever possible. (For longer trips, I use space-saver bags that you can roll the air out of to reduce wasted space.) With less luggage, it’s a lot easier to change flights when needed and you don’t have to worry about lost bags.

(Side note: I once went on a 15-day cruise around South America and checked my carry-on – my only luggage – at the gate. It was lost for 11 days of the cruise. I had to go shopping at every port. Lesson learned.)

On to what you came for… Travel tips:

  1. Make sure you have a current luggage tag… just in case… and luggage should be easily identifiable (custom case/cover anyone?)
  2. Checking in online could be very useful for domestic travel if you want to skip check-in at the airport counter; international travel typically still requires in-person verification by the airline at some point prior to boarding the plane
  3. Only bring empty water bottles through security; there are usually plenty of places to fill up on the other side
  4. Pack liquids (100 ml or less) and electronic devices on top; in case extra screening is triggered
  5. Dress for travel; try layers, planes can get pretty chilly as they reach cruising altitude
  6. Limit metal items as part of your clothing and in your pockets to breeze through security
  7. Make sure all your devices are fully charged and keep your chargers easily accessible; most planes now have usb and/or regular outlets
  8. Traveling with power splitters are great in route, as well as when you reach your final destination
  9. Bring a book or magazine, or have some way to survive long periods with limited (or no) connectivity
  10. Don’t forget your noise-cancelling headphones! Useful in the terminal as well as on the plane

Pro tips!

  • Yes, you can bring alcohol through security! Even double-shots are less than 100ml. #sipresponsibly
  • Relax! Don’t overwhelm gate agents or flight attendants with demands or complaints. #benice
  • Choose one or two airlines as your primary carriers. Attaining and maintaining status with them will give you priority status and access over travelers… Lounges, upgrades, etc. #openbar
  • If you travel often, get TSA Precheck and/or Global Entry #thankmelater

Check back next week for Part 2 covering booking your travel plans and some of the benefits of group travel!

To see more of what I do real-time, follow me on Instagram @tamara_wanders and @ws.travelclub

11 days later, my luggage awaits…

 

 

40 Countries. And Counting.

8.18.2019


So you want to know more about me…

Well, while the travel club may be new, I’m not.  Traveling has always been my jam! So far, I’ve been to 40 countries, all over the world, and have no intention of stopping.  I was born for this. Traveling is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I’m damn good at it! 

Why Wander South? Central and South America top my list of favorite places to travel… Conveniently located (no 15-hour flights, ridiculous connections, or extreme time-zone changes), affordable and given my Cali roots, the latin food has my heart.

In short, the travel club is my invitation for you to join me in continuing this epic adventure! (Love my life!) Let’s live our best lives out loud.

Countries (and regions) I’ve been to… Argentina, Aruba, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, BVI, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republican, Frans, Greece, Haiti, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Mexia, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, Qatar, St. Martin, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, UK, Uruguay, Vatican City and more to come.

Aside from traveling, I love my home city of Atlanta! (ATL shawty!) And not just because of the amazing airport (non-stop to sooo many places around the world – what’s not to love). You’re only bored in Atlanta if you want to be.  I typically spend my time at volunteering as a skilled supervisor with Habitat for Humanity or the Atlanta Community Food Bank (among others – volunteerism is life), networking events, festivals at different parks around the city, sporting events, concerts, Broadway shows at the fabulous Fox, live music happy hours (or any happy hours), and of course boozy brunches!

To see more of what I do real-time, follow me on Instagram @tamara_wanders