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How To Use Travel Blogs To Plan A Trip

travel blog pizza

There are a lot of travel blogs on the Internet but as websites keep procreating, many independent sites get lost under search garbage. Travel blogs used to be a primary source of vacation planning until everyone and their weird relatives hopped on Facebook to scream at each other. Still, there are many independent creators focused on writing specific and personalized information about the places you want to go.

Here’s how to find and use travel blogs to plan a better trip than a bland web search can get you.

The Benefit Of Blogs

As clearly biased as this is going to sound, blogs are probably the most free places online. Generally independent from the pressures of algorithms (like YouTube), few worries of shadow banning, and not being like based, many blogs are run by people who inherently enjoy sharing information. Blogs typically live and die by Google search results and since competing with larger sites on common searches has become more difficult, crafty bloggers tend to get specific. Really specific, like the “the best way to get a taxi in Istanbul.”

best taxi istanbul

Blogs are often updated more frequently than tent pole pages in mainstream media because there are a lot of travel bloggers, blogging about somewhere you want to go, at any given time.

Finding Good Travel Blogs

Sifting through abandoned blogs and sites made purely for search engine optimization (SEO) to find quality travel blogs isn’t too difficult. To find a site first, enter in the search term you’re looking for (e.g. “best places to eat in Moldova“) followed by “travel blog.” This sounds silly I know, but entering in “best places to eat in Moldova travel blog” will get you past Google’s generic recommendations and a bunch of bland TripAdvisor recommendations.

Ratings from those sites, short reviews written by anonymous people, and everything being 4.7 stars doesn’t actually give you useful travel advice. But by searching through travel blogs you get detailed articles such as solo female travel in Bangladesh by locals, expats like Turkey’s For Life, and travelers who’ve extensively explored a destination (how about Alaska).

tokyo japan

It’s a good idea to look at the dates of posts to see how recent they are and check the latest posts to see how fresh a given blog is. A lot of blogs don’t add dates to posts because of a misguided understanding of SEO (please, stop doing that) so seeing how active a given blogger is on social media can help with your site freshness check.

How To Use Travel Blogs

Many travel blogs have information categorized by destination or country, mode of travel, or even cuisine. Depending on the site design, I recommend going to the “blog” or “about” pages. The blog page will usually show you recent topics and the about page will give you an idea about the person writing everything. Does the blogger travel like you, have the same interests when visiting a city… there’s a lot you can learn.

Some travel bloggers also run diverse tours and can be contacted with feedback – a lot of us are happy to help. Your question might even turn into an entire blog post about how to use travel blogs to plan your next trip.

Although they’re not as easy to find through a Google search (try DuckDuckGo anyone?), the blogosphere is thriving, independent, and full of useful advice and thoughtful creators. Once you find a blog or blogger that vibes with you and is especially helpful, make sure to sign up for their newsletter, YouTube, or other social channels to keep up in between trips and have a handy resource before the next one.

Is The iPhone 12 Camera Worth Upgrading To Over The iPhone 11?

The iPhone 12 has an impressive 7-element lens with 1.6 aperture and slightly wider prime lens than the iPhone 11. But with the iPhone 11 still on sale new from Apple – at $200 less than the 12 – is there enough difference in the picture quality to justify an upgrade or trade in?

Find out for yourself in the video above which tests your ability to see the differences between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 12. For those of you coming from older cameras (iPhone X and before) both the 11 and 12 will be a significant jump but for everyone else, the improvements are much more subtle depending on what you’re shooting.

Bookaway Is A Travel Search Engine For Ground Transportation

bookaway search engine

Purchasing a flight between two countries on opposite sides of the world is often easier than booking ground transportation between two local cities. Bookaway is a travel search engine that tries to help travelers fill in the gaps on the ground but has a few of its own blind spots to work out along the way.

Clarifying Ground Transportation

In short, Bookaway wants to be your search engine for bus, ferry, train, or car travel. Where it works, Bookaway is straightforward. For example, searching for transportation between Split and Hvar, Croatia, yields a number of high speed ferry options. Prices on Bookaway are competitive when compared with independent or using alternative services. Some routes offer a few option filters (e.g. air conditioning) you probably tend to ignore on most flight search engines.

Bookaway though tends to work best in certain regions, most notably southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and Adriatic coasts. The gaps outside of these areas make finding a booking hit or miss, though one hopes Bookaway adds more destinations as the service expands.

Piecing It Together

The search function on Bookaway is also a little bit wonky – tending to guide you to where it wants, rather than accepting each letter of the search term. What I noticed though is using the suggestions that pop up can save you time since it’s really showing you what’s not available along with the destinations it serves.

bookaway

A map or listing function would work great here, to help you visualize the routes possible. When you’re not too creative plus keep your route fairly local (for example Bangkok to Koh Samui, Thailand) you’re presented with a variety of ways to get to where you want to go. When gaps are present, a bit of guiding by Bookaway would go a long way to improving the user experience.

For Travelers With Cars In Tow

Despite its shortcomings, where Bookaway excels is car transportation. Specifically, if you’re traveling with a rented or your own car, the ferry options Bookaway returns notes boats and trains with car compartments. It’s a niche offering but a large one, particularly for road trips in southern Europe or southeast Asia.

Bookaway isn’t going to be your one stop search engine for all things not in the sky but if you’ve got 4 wheels with you, it can help bridge the gap between destinations. It’s a time-saver in these cases, since for now, a lot of the information blending ferry, train, and car bookings require precise, multiple online searches. Bookaway takes care of that for you while staying up-to-date. Provided Bookaway can fill in its own gaps, it might help you do just that for your particular itinerary as well.

How To Travel With Exotic Pets Like Snakes And Tarantulas

This is a guest post by Richard Adams, a reptile keeper with over 25 years of experience who writes about caring for all sorts of creatures on his website Keeping Exotic Pets.

ball python travel

At the beginning of the year I made just one New Year’s Resolution: to take the summer off and explore France from my home in Sussex, England. The only problem in this otherwise life-changing plan were my four beautiful pet snakes and an assortment of random tarantulas. Sure, I could leave them at home for a few weeks: but what about the four months I was planning?

I could pay a pet sitter but they’re expensive or I could convince a friend. (Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t very successful with the latter.) This just left one good option: take the “zoo” with me – which is exactly what I did. These are my own tips garnered from traveling with three ball pythons measuring up to four and a half feet long, a milk snake called Kermit, and ten different tarantulas.

Check Company Rules And Legal Regulations

As a Brit, there are three main options for getting to France: by air, Channel Tunnel, or ferry using Bookaway. With the snakes and spiders, ferry was the most practical and cost-effective solution. Based in Sussex, this meant a drive of just over an hour to Portsmouth Harbour in order to catch the ferry. I packed up all the animals in my car, drove them onto the ferry, and straight off again at the other end. I chose an overnight crossing, departing around 11pm and arriving into Caen, in northern France, early the next morning. Booking early enough, comfy cabins were available for catching some sleep.

When transporting “exotic pets” there are two kinds of rules that you’ll need to abide by. The first of these are the rules set by each ferry company. Pay close attention to these, as the last thing you want is to be turned back at port. Personally, I traveled with Brittany Ferries. The process was quite simple, and just involved booking online, then contacting their customer service team with my booking reference to let them know what I would be carrying.

Richard Adams reptile keeper

As long as the animals remain safely locked in your car during the journey then there should be no issues. I also made to sure to place my pets in my trunk, to avoid startling any other passengers who may not share my enthusiasm for scaly animals!

The second set of regulations to be aware of are import and export rules. Fortunately, traveling within the EU is reasonably simple. Even though some of the species I was transporting are protected – registered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – my experience is that registration should prevent any problems as long as you’re not planning to sell your pets.

Of course, if you are traveling outside the EU, the rules are far more stringent. In those cases you will need to make sure you have the necessary certifications to prove their captive-bred status. I recommend double-checking with the authorities to ensure that you have written confirmation that your pets may leave and enter. This needn’t be too problematic; in the UK, for example, a quick email to Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) should suffice.

traveling with snakes

I gathered all of these emails into a document wallet, ready for inspection if necessary. As it turned out, the process at both ends went very smoothly and no proof was necessary. Still, it’s better to be over-prepared, especially since port authorities only deal with exotic pets rarely. If a query arises, you want to have the answer ready and waiting for them.

Accommodating Exotic Pets

The good news about holiday properties in Europe is that many are pet friendly. I opted to rent a villa just outside Cognac, checking with the landlady in advance that she was fine about the reptiles. While understandably a little hesitant, I have always found it handy to remind property owners that reptiles are kept shut away pretty much the whole time, and therefore don’t produce the smell, hair and mess that dog owners often leave behind. Snakes also aren’t known for chewing the furniture!

For more difficult properties, consider offering an additional deposit. If you’re keeping your reptiles well, there shouldn’t be a real risk of losing your money.

Remember, the earlier you start planning, the more properties will be available. You may have to try a number of landlords before you find someone willing to accept exotic pets, so be prepared to hunt around. Personally, I started looking at options in late February for a May arrival; even then many were already booked out. Leaving things to the last minute might leave you with only properties that won’t take reptiles.

Preparing Exotic Animals For Travel

Just as with other pets, you’ll want to make the journey as comfortable as possible for your animals. Unlike people traveling with dogs, however, getting your pet out of their cage en route is likely to lead to some odd looks at best, and at worst shrieks of fear. Planning ahead for the journey is therefore critical.

traveling with tarantula

While many people transport snakes in fabric bags, I opted to use plastic containers in two sizes. Large ones that the snakes would live in while at the villa and smaller ones for the tarantulas. To save space in the car and prevent damage to the snakes during transportation, each snake was placed into one of the smaller tarantula tubs for travel. The tarantulas were placed into small plastic pots, and the large snake tubs were then used to pack our belongings.

  • Feed After Not Before – Snakes in particular can be quite sensitive after eating, so it is recommended that you hold off feeding your pets for a few days before travel.
  • Stay Cool – During transit, try to ensure that your pets remain at a suitable temperature. This means avoiding parking in direct sunlight, keeping them safely shaded at all times, and using your air conditioning if necessary.

The most critical time in the transportation of exotics is arrival at your destination. Your pets must be the primary concern at this point, and getting them suitably housed should be your first action. For this reason, I made sure to have all my pet supplies ready for action the moment we arrived. In this way, within an hour of arriving at our villa every animal had been health checked and successfully rehoused into an appropriate cage.

Finding Supplies, Pet Food, And Equipment

Possibly the most complicated thing about transporting reptiles is finding suitable supplies when you reach your destination. For example, will you be able to buy frozen rodents for your python, or crickets for your tarantula?

Clearly, there are two options here. The first of these is that you can take as much equipment with you as possible. There are, of course, limitations here on how much you can fit in your car. In my case I decided to take with me just the basics, such as a big bag of snake bedding and water bowls for all the animals. This allowed me to set them all up properly on arrival, rather than having to go shopping first. The other solution is to buy reptile supplies in the country you are visiting, but in my experience finding reptile shops abroad can be challenging. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to order reptile supplies online; even in a foreign country.

Personally, I spent some time researching French e-commerce sites before leaving home. Use Google Chrome as your browser and you’ll find that foreign-language websites are quickly translated into your native language, allowing you to order online in a new country. If you have a Paypal account you’ll find it easy to make payment. I was also surprised to find that your native Amazon company (in my case Amazon.co.uk) will also ship overseas if you’re willing to pay the shipping fees. This dealt with the longer term supplies.

traveling with large spiders

As a tip, I used a company called Zanimo Exotic to provide my reptile food; delivery is quite slow (order by Friday for dispatch the following Wednesday) and couriers in France are expensive, but the quality and reliability was good. My suggestion would be to order in bulk to save money on shipping fees.

Exotic Pets Don’t Mean You Can’t Travel

Next week, I head back to the UK after a four month stay in France. It’s an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life; the weather, the food, the people, the wildlife. More importantly however, my reptiles are as fit and healthy as ever – indeed I would say the warm weather we’ve enjoyed here has been a benefit for them.

There are two important take-home points from my own experiences this summer. Firstly, don’t let pet ownership affect your travel plans. There are many ways to combine pet ownership and travel, so you don’t necessarily have to compromise. Secondly, don’t assume that if your pet is a little “alternative” you can’t take them abroad. As my experience has shown, it is definitely possible to take a menagerie of animals abroad with a little research and forward planning. In most cases you will be able to handle the process yourself; worst case scenario don’t forget that there are numerous pet travel companies now who will help you complete all the necessary paperwork and guide you through the transportation process.

So, next time you’re on vacation and pull up next to a car with a foreign registration plate, spare a thought for us reptile keepers. You might just be standing closer than you realized to a beautiful python or a tarantula the size of a dinner plate. Bon voyage!

Thank you Richard for sharing your expertise on exotic pets with us! Richard writes much more about the wonderful world of exotic pets, including his particular passion for tarantulas, on his blog Keeping Exotic Pets.

The Best All-Around Headphones For Travelers: A Review Of The Bose QuietComfort 20

bose quietcomfort 20

Headphones are a lot like mobile phones – a lot of size variation and features but at the core performing the same basic function. What you really want from a good pair of headphones when traveling is excellent sound quality, particularly in noisy environments like airplane cabins. Lightweight reliability in a discreet package are all also assets the Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise-Cancelling combines elegantly.

What There Is To Love (Hint: A Lot)

Although I’ve been using the QuietComfort 20 headphones as my primary pair for the past few years, before I first put them on I was skeptical. Mostly because these aren’t cheap headphones coupled with the fact that I thought all headphones are pretty much the same. They are not.

First let’s start with the earbuds themselves; Bose has shaped the QuietComfort silicone ear tips in an unorthodox design to maximize comfort. These replaceable ear tips (the QuietComfort come with two pair) make the headphones themselves barely perceptible after a few minutes while at the same time doing an excellent job of cutting out ambient noise. (Not to be mistaken with the actual active noise-cancelling feature. More on that in a bit.)

bose quietcomfort 20i

Another small feature I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t put my own QuietComfort pair through traveler hell, is the small metal band around where the headphone cable meets the earbud. Those of you who’ve ever had this happen to a Macbook charger probably know that a lot of gadgets die because of cable fray. You end up spending a lot of money to replace something that an extra millimeter or two of rubber could have prevented if the manufacturer had bothered to design something you’re actually going to use. Bose has made the QuietComfort 20 to last, here, take a look at mine after more than 45,000 miles of flights:

bose quietcomfort 20 review

On the other end of the cable though is the most enticing feature of the QuietComfort 20: electronic noise cancellation.

Once You Experience Noise-Cancelling You Won’t Fly Without It

The small little rectangular block at the base of the QuietComfort 20 headphone jack is actually a rechargeable battery pack, powering the noise-cancelling feature. Basically, noise cancellation reads the sound waves around you and eliminates them by producing inverse waves. Understanding how it works isn’t really important to know that once activated, the music coming through your headphones now sounds like you’re listening in a quiet room, even if you’re in a jumbo jet at cruising altitude.

Noise cancellation isn’t perfect, there is a slight buzz and perceivable pressure, plus really high pitch noises seem not to get blocked as easily. The low hum of train wheels on tracks however, perfect.

The lithium ion battery lasts 16 hours when charged full, a process that takes about 2 hours. Unfortunately the battery isn’t replaceable but Bose says you can get 3 years of continuous use before you’ll notice a decrease in battery life. Of course, you don’t need noise cancelling to use these headphones but after getting use to it, you’ll find flying without it on nearly unbearable.

A Price For The Peace

Though the QuietComfort 20 aren’t waterproof or specially designed for use during sports, I’ve found them to be decent jogging headphones. Additionally, Bose has done a good job of adding practical functions to the QuietComfort. For instance it’s got a high quality microphone, embedded volume control, plus a little button for a fast way to temporarily stop noise cancelling (like when you need to hear a boarding call). Voted the 2015 Traveler’s Choice by Tripadvisor, these Bose headphones can also eliminate ambient noise when nothing is playing; they don’t even need to be plugged in. You can get better naps on bus journeys, concentrate on work, a good book, or pensively zone out as you watch the sunset on a train ride across England.

bose quietcomfort review

Yes, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are expensive at $299, but for a product this well built that will get – and can handle – heavy use, it’s worth spending more for the QuietComfort than 3 other pair of cheaper earbuds over the same time. Simply put, the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling are the best headphones a traveler can buy today.

This Botley Sunset Is How All Towns Should Welcome Train Travelers

botley train station england

When I landed in London’s Gatwick Airport the immigration official routinely asked me where I was going. When I told him Botley, I was surprised to hear his reply of a question, “where is that”? I explained to him that from what I could recall it was about a two hour drive southwest of London. He said, “I know.”

“So why did you ask me,” the conversation went. “I wanted to see if you knew.”

I can see that security at the England‘s borders are really on their top game. Several hours later when the train rolled into the quiet Botley station I walked across the pedestrian bridge over the rails, ran back, and waited to snap this photo. A cheeky welcome to London but a warm one from Botley.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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