After Years Of Coming Close, Granada, Spain, Finally Wins The Best City To Visit Tournament

best city 2017 final

The Best City to Visit Travel Tournament is often unpredictable in predictable ways. A Romanian city advancing deep into the tournament is certainly no anomaly (they’ve been in the Championship for the past 5 consecutive years) but like in 2016, the Iberian Peninsula has stopped them one shy of the win. Granada, Spain, which has been to the Final Four in 2013 and 2015, finally got the momentum it needed from your votes to win The 2017 Best City To Visit Travel Tournament.


For the first time in 8 years when I began the best city contest, a city I’ve been to previously has won the tournament. I’m looking forward to returning to one of my favorite cities in the world, seeing how both it and I have changed since the last time. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my plans for visiting Granada this year, as well as catch you up on the non-profit efforts in Lisbon, Portugal, the 2016 Best City.

Congratulations also to Tianna, a newsletter subscriber of mine who nominated Granada and wins a $600 gift card to one of several online stores. Damian, who nominated Campina, has $50 coming his way, and everyone who made it to the Final Four, $25 toward your next travel gear. (You’ll be receiving emails before the end of today and need to respond by April 25th to claim your prizes.)

Thank you everyone who participated in this year’s tournament, either by nominating a city or voting. I’m going extend those thanks by expanding the prizes quite a bit for the 2018 tournament. For those of you unhappy with the selection of cities this year (there are always some haters) follow foXnoMad on Facebook so you don’t miss picking your favorite city for the 2018 tournament beginning next February.

How To Protect The Data On Your Laptop When Crossing International Borders

mbp incase

The number of digital devices being searched at international borders, like airports, has jumped in many countries. Recently, I wrote how you can protect your phone when traveling across international borders, but laptops are fair game as well. Since laptop operating systems are generally much more flexible than a given phone OS, they’re both easier to secure – and crack – at the same time.

These are some steps you can take to protect your laptop and privacy while traveling from unwarranted searches.

Know Your Rights – Hardly Any

The world is, of course, a big place so laws and rules vary widely depending on where you’re traveling. For the most part, you and all of the items you’re bringing in to a country, including electronics, can be searched by border control. You may be legally obligated to hand over passwords but even if you aren’t, resisting at an airport is going to cause you hassle, potential denial of entry, plus a lot of anxiety.

montevideo airport

Rather, your best bet is to digitally secure and obfuscate the personal information on your laptop so it doesn’t end up in random hands.

Encrypt In Layers

Even if you’re not traveling or particularly worried about border searches, completely encrypting your storage drive is a good precaution in case your machine is ever lost or stolen. Both Windows (using BitLocker) and macOS (using FileVault) support full disk encryption natively. Basically this means when your laptop is powered off, the data from the hard or solid-state drive can’t be read. Full disk encryption doesn’t protect your device when it’s powered up and you’re logged on to it, which might be the case during an airport search, so the next step is to encrypt using hidden folders.

  • Hidden Volumes – Although my once recommended option TrueCrypt is no longer supported, the (also open-source) VeraCrypt has semi-officially taken its place. VeraCrypt has many encryption features but of particular note is ‘hidden volumes‘ which encrypts a folder in two ways. Essentially, entering one password decrypts a given folder to reveal certain files while another password unlocks other files. So, in this sense you could give over a password that only decrypts or makes visible the files and folders most sensitive to you.

Use Multiple User Accounts

Creating multiple user accounts on your laptop is also another way to feel more confident against a routine physical search. Using innocuous names (e.g. family, general, etc.) it’s safer to hand over a machine logged in as a user with reduced (non-admin) privileges, giving you some piece of mind. Changing folder names might also be prudent; from things like “Important Company Documents” to “self-sealing stem bolts” potentially making them less appealing.

Leave It At Home

Obviously, what you don’t bring with you isn’t searchable but for many business and other travelers, not having a laptop with you isn’t feasible. You could bring a blank machine, or simply load the data you want to keep secure on an encrypted USB (or portable charger like this) drive. (VeraCrypt can be used to encrypt and created hidden volumes on removable drives as well.) Alternatively, you could upload important files to CrashPlan, delete them off your laptop, and reload everything once you’ve arrived at your destination.

All of the above obviously comes with varying degrees of hassle but depending on where you’re going, your company’s policies, or other privacy concerns, might be worth exploring.

The Best City To Visit 2017 Championship: Vote For Granada Or Campina

best city 2017 championship

Beginning more than a month ago, the initial 64 cities nominated by you for The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2017, are down to two countries who are no strangers to the contest. Although the Romanian streak was stopped last year by Lisbon, Portugal, they’ve been in the Championship an impressive 5 tournaments in a row. Granada has also done well in past tournaments, making the Final Four in 2015, and handily defeated Vancouver last week. All this week though it’s Campina vs. Granada and your votes will determine which is named The Best City To Visit in 2017.

Click your favorite cities before this Sunday, April 9th, 5pm US EST. You will need to enter your email address, then click to verify your vote from an email that comes from Poll Daddy. Your email address is not used for anything other than verifying your vote. Emails aren’t used in any other way. Your privacy and personal information are important to me, always. Votes may not be visible until after the polls close. Good luck to all the remaining cities!


I’ll be posting the winner next week, Tuesday, April 11th as well as notify all of you who have won prizes in the tournament. Plus, some travel news on the winning city as well as updates on charity efforts for the 2016 and 2017 winning cities.

How Travel Changes From Your Twenties To Your Thirties

This is a guest post by Stephanie Yoder, a girl who can’t sit still! She writes about everything related to Millennial travel at Why Wait to See the World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). 

stephanie yoder

I started traveling prolifically in my early twenties. A semester studying abroad in London gave me a taste of the freedom, and discovery, that comes with international travel. And I was hooked. I spent the next ten years working, living and traveling abroad as much as I could.

Along the way I met a similarly travel-loving guy, married him, got an apartment and a dog in Seattle and (like everyone eventually does) I turned 30. A couple years later I had a baby. While my wanderlust never changed, my life did. As a result, the way I travel has changed significantly too. Many things have stayed the same: I still love to walk until my feet hurt, stuff my face with local food and explore off the beaten path. At the same time, I thought I’d list what’s different now, and why.

Now I’ll give you a caveat that your results may vary. There are plenty of free-wheeling, young at heart thirty and forty-somethings, just as there are 23 year-olds with serious responsibility.

Changing Priorities

In my twenties, I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities beyond keeping myself alive and not going any deeper into debt than necessary. Otherwise, my major goal was simply to travel as much as humanly possible. All of my spare time and most of my money went towards planning my next escape.

why wait to see the world

Now I have a million things to think about besides stamps in my passport, starting with, but not limited to,: my career, my family, can I afford rent this month and who is going to watch my dog? That doesn’t mean travel isn’t on my radar, it just makes it harder to take off on a whim, consequences be damned.

More Selective

As a result of the above, it’s not so easy to just take off for any old reason. With limited time and money, I need to be selective about the trips I take.

In my twenties I would grab any available opportunity: girl’s trip to Puerto Rico? Last minute cheap fair to Europe? Impromptu road trip? I was always game. I racked up stamps in my passport and saw a good chunk of the world this way.

why wait to see the world yoder

Now, I plan my travels ahead of time, and I pick what I want to do more carefully. I’m not going to waste precious money and vacation days to go somewhere I’ve already been or don’t really care about. I would much rather save up my resources for a trip I’m really excited about, like our three week babymoon to Japan last year.

Less Late Nights, More Early Mornings

You never realize how much energy you have until it’s gone. When I was a young twenty-something backpacker, drinking late into the night with locals or other backpackers was the norm. I’d compensate by sleeping in (well, as much as you can sleep in in a hostel dorm room). I saw the sights, but this was usually secondary to socializing.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I appreciate the merits of a good night’s sleep, and staying up until the early morning drinking is much less appealing. Hangovers last longer when you’re older, and it takes less to get there. Now I’m all about one or two craft cocktails or local beers, a hearty meal, and an early bedtime. I’d rather save my energy for  getting up early to explore my surroundings.

A Higher Standard of Living

One of the bonuses to traveling in my thirties? My budget is bigger. Because my trips are usually shorter and because I have a job supporting me, I have more money to spend on each trip.

travel in twenties thirties

I’m nowhere near a luxury traveler, but having some extra funds enhances my travels in a multitude of ways. Instead of cramped hostel dorm rooms, I’m staying in a comfy apartment rental. Instead of cooking spaghetti in a group kitchen, I can afford to go out for a nice local meal. I have more money to spend on special excursions and tours, and I can pick up a nice souvenir to take home.

I also have the means to make my travels more inclusive. I used to travel alone (and sometimes I still do), but over the years my travel style has expanded to include my husband, my daughter, and even my dog. In 2014 I took my Mom on an Alaskan Cruise, and it was amazing to spend that time bonding with her.

More Confidence

Perhaps the best part of traveling in my thirties is that after over a decade of travel, I really know myself really, really, well. I know the sort of things I enjoy (beautiful cities, rich cultures, good food), and the stuff I really don’t (party islands, loud hostels and skiing). I know that I get sick at high altitudes, and that I vastly prefer warm weather destinations to chilly ones. I know what I like, and I’m willing to go the extra mile to find it.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try new things. It’s just that when you clear out what you’re not interested in, all sorts of new possibilities emerge. In the past few years, I’ve taken trips that never would have occurred to me in my twenties. I went to Vancouver to watch the Women’s World Cup, I saw wild elephants grazing in Sri Lanka, and I ate sushi (at 5 months pregnant) in Tokyo. When I first visited Japan at 26 I wouldn’t even touch raw fish.

Are things better or worse now? I think they are just different. Sometimes I miss the freewheeling, spontaneous fun of my twenties, but I also really appreciate my current, more thoughtful and experienced travel style – and the family I now have to share it with. In the end I don’t think it matters so much what age you choose to see the world, just that you are getting out there at all.

Thank you very much Stephanie for this guest post decades in the making. Stephanie is right, no matter how young or old you are, traveling can open you up to many new insights and experiences. Stephanie writes about this very topic on her website, Why Wait To See The World. You can also follow Why Wait To See The World on Facebook, Twitter @whywaitworld, and Instagram.

Four Cities Across Three Continents, Vote For Your Favorite Two In Best City 2017

best city 2017 final four

One of the most diverse groups of 64 for The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is down to a wide-reaching Final Four. Australia, Europe, and North America face off in polls that have tightened with each round. Your votes determine which cities will advance to one step away from being named your Best City to Visit of 2017.

Click your favorite cities before this Saturday, April 1st, 5pm US EST. You will need to enter your email address, then click to verify your vote from an email that comes from Poll Daddy. Your email address is not used for anything other than verifying your vote. Emails aren’t used in any other way. Your privacy and personal information are important to me, always. Votes may not be visible until after the polls close. Good luck to all the remaining cities!



Remember, the Championship begins next Tuesday, April 4th, 2017.

A Review Of HotelsCombined: A Hotel Search Engine For Hotel Booking Sites

hotelscombined review

Hotel booking sites are generally a cluster of links, rates, and options that are often more overwhelming than useful. Eventually you stumble on to a hotel with a decent rating and low rate, simply to end the laborious search process. Although sites like Airbnb have really optimized the user search experience, there are many trips where renting an apartment or getting a hostel dorm over a hotel doesn’t make sense.

HotelsCombined recently partnered with me to get my thoughts on using their site and what benefits it might have for travelers.

What Is It?

HotelsCombined is a hotel booking site. Basically, as you’re probably familiar with already, they comb other hotel booking sites to offer you a wide variety of deals. Something of a hotel search engine of search engines, with the goal being to provide you with the lowest hotel rates by casting the net wider than its competitors.

hotelscombined search results

Clearly they’ve focused on finding you the best variety of rates over having the best user interface – but as painful as it can be to search for hotels online, HotelsCombined does a good job of reducing the amount of time you need to find a good place to stay at a low rate.

Strong Search

I spent a few hours going through comparisons with HotelsCombined and other major booking sites, many of which are part of HotelsCombined search results. (HotelsCombined also doesn’t have any annoying popups so common with similar aggregators.) In nearly all cases, they had comparable rates. So, for example, the same hotel room for the same dates turned up practically the same price on Booking.com as it did on HotelsCombined’s Booking.com search result.

The benefit to HotelsCombined is it’s able to save you time in finding the lowest rate for a particular room by looking at hundreds of providers, including these 20 popular sites. Ideally, HotelsCombined wants to be the only place you need to go to find the right hotel room for your next trip. Throughout the time I was using HotelsCombined, I couldn’t find a good reason why it shouldn’t be.

Features For The Frugal

HotelsCombined also offers a “Price Alert” feature where you’ll be sent an email notification when the price of a specific hotel booking you’re interested in falls below 10%. You need to register for the feature; probably something travelers who plan more in advance will want to consider. On the other hand, if you’re like me and a little more last minute, downloading their free app might be an even bigger time saver.

A smoother interface with a more simple design (dare I say less options) that just shows your the lowest price, amenities, and ratings, would be my personal preference but until that’s the norm, HotelsCombined at least reduces the amount of time you need to spend searching for the right hotel room for your personal needs and budget.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Recent Articles

Is It Still Possible To Visit Socotra Island?

Is This The Most Boring Place In The World?

My Camera Was Stolen In Argentina 7 Years Ago, Now I Finally Have The Pictures

Get my latest posts in your inbox: