Tips for Saving Money on Food While on Vacation

You know my feelings about saving money for travel whenever you can, however you can and as much as you can! My brain is always thinking about another destination, another experience, another plane ride. Saving for a trip is “easy” if it is a priority. I do not mean that it is literally easy, I know most people work hard to pay bills each month and save for retirement; saving for a vacation can almost seem frivolous. I mean saving for a trip is “easy” if it is a priority in that making sacrifices to save is almost fun because you know a vacation will come to fruition if you save long enough.

Saving Money on food and drink while on Vacation

OK, a little tangent already. My bad! The focus on this post is not about saving money before and after a trip. The purpose of this post is helping you save money while you travel, specifically on food and beverages.

You bought the flights and booked the hotel rooms. You’ve (efficiently) packed your suitcase(s)! You are ready to have fun and unwind. A word of caution: Do not go crazy with vacation spending! So many splurge on first class flights or an upgraded hotel room. That is so awesome! If you can do it, you should! But, if you are looking to reign in your spending – but still have fun – here are my tips for saving money on food and drink while on vacation.

Packing a cooler saves money and time on road trips and driving vacations. Pack up any food you might have left over in your fridge before heading out of town. Use up that loaf of bread for sandwiches. Do not throw those peaches away. Take them with you! Plus, you can eat and drive (safely!) and get to your destination faster.

Buy a Steripen if you do not like to waste money on bottled water. I’ve written about the Steripen before, but it is worth mentioning again. A Steripen sterlizes tap water so that it is safe to drink anywhere in the world. Use it for drinking and brushing your teeth and your international water bill will drastically decrease! Saving money on water while on vacation will add up quickly.

Sterpien Handheld

BYOB works for vacation too! We save money on drinks while on vacation by bringing (or buying) our own. Going out for a bottle of wine and you are looking at $50+ bucks plus a tip. That same bottle while sitting on the balcony or with your toes in the sand at the beach is half the price if bought a liquor store or grocery store. It is easy to save money on food and drink while on vacation, just think outside of the box.

Speaking of grocery stores, use them more often while of vacation! We buy food for picnics all the time. We buy protein bars for breakfast replacements and fruit for healthy, cheap snacks while on vacation. Utilize the local markets and stores; you do not always have to eat out.

If you do go out, look at the restaurant’s portion sizes and consider splitting an entree. We do this often and we do not leave with too full bellies or too empty wallets.

Rye Bread baked using geothermal heat

And if you reeaally want to tick your server off, order water! Just remember to tip well because he or she is still doing the same amount of work for one entree and water.

Most restaurants also run Happy Hour specials that will save you money while traveling. Two for Ones and percentages off food and drinks is always a great way to save some serious cash.

Traveling does not have to break the bank. It is very easy to become absorbed in the “I’m on vacation” mentality. It happens to us to often too! But, if you consider budgeting your money wisely for food and beverages while on vacation you might be able stretch your overall budget and take that paddle boarding excursion or snorkeling trip. Happy Saving!

Chamonix: The Best Resort For Insane Ski Weekend Adventures

Are you looking for the best places where breathtaking scenery meet exciting winter sports? Whether you are looking for views that make your heart skip a beat, festivals, and events in the middle of nature or simply enjoying sports, Chamonix is the best place to do all that.

Photo: pexels.com

Chamonix is located in the Haute-Savoie region, in France and is one of the places with the highest reputation in the world. Its famous landmark is Mont Blanc itself (it’s pretty hard to beat that, right?)

Chamonix is such a favorite skiing destination that not only millions of tourists visit every year, but even instructors come here to provide their worth. The reason everybody loves this French Alps destination so much is the extensive system of adrenaline-pumping ski runs.

Don’t worry, though. You can still pick Chamonix for a ski getaway even if you are a beginner. It will be something you’ll count as an achievement for the rest of your life.

With that said, book your ticket, choose the right clothes, pack your bags, and let’s get ready for a wild weekend adventure.

What Makes Skiing in Chamonix an Insane Adventure?

Chamonix Valley has eight ski areas and resorts which vary in difficulty. However, regardless of whether you choose the most challenging slopes of the least complicated ones, you can expect the same level of quality on each one. That’s one of the reasons Chamonix is such a beloved destination for both pros and amateur skiers.

One of the top ski runs is Les Grands Montets. Keep in mind that this slope is only for the experienced skiers – the angle makes the route extremely tough, even though the snow is exceptional. It’s also one of the most crowded ones, for obvious reasons. Its altitude is around 3300m, and the 2000m vertical drop to Argentière can be any pro skiers’ ambition.

Le Domaine de Balme is another great option. This ski run is best suited for those who want to sweep through different levels. It’s a great place to practice your newly or older acquired skiing skills.

Les Houches is another excellent option, mainly known for the fact that the Kandahar World Cup is held here. So, if you’re looking for some motivation from some of the best skiers in the world, then maybe you should attend the cup when you’re not enjoying yourself on the slopes.

If You Want a Great Ski Getaway, Plan in Advance

The great thing about Chamonix is that there is something here to please any need and preference – from providing the necessary fun to offering life-changing challenges to those who are bold and experienced enough to accept them. Moreover, due to its great location, you can easily explore other areas in the French Alps, as well as crossing the border to Italy or Switzerland.

In case you get tired after all this skiing, you can always recharge your batteries by visiting around or just relaxing with a cup of hot tea in a nearby place. You’ll find everything you need in the blink of an eye.

My recommendation would be to hire a mountain guide if you feel like the options are too abundant and you don’t know what to choose. It’s easy to think that you’ve got everything under control when you’re planning your trip. But, once you get there, it can be pretty hard to decide where to start and what to do.

Another excellent idea would be to plan your trip with the help of an active holiday specialist, such as AlpineElements to ensure that you’ll have the best ski holiday of your life.

Photo Credit : pexel.com

Endless Fun on and Off the Pistes

Going on the most challenging routes, in a place well known for the quality of the snow and the challenges you might face is what makes any ski trip in Chamonix one of the craziest adventures you could ever take. If you’re up for it, you can always start planning right now.

However, if you are one of those people who are not very interested in skiing, you have to know that skiing is not the only thing you can do in Chamonix. This French Alps resort has a reputation for being as a massive playground for those who are looking for relaxation, fun and good memories, and for a good reason.

So, what can you do in a place that is best known as the epicenter of skiing in Europe (if not the world)?

Well, while skiing is, without a doubt, a top activity, there are plenty of other options for those who aren’t into this sport or just don’t know how to enjoy their apres-ski time.

Here are just a few ways you can turn your Chamonix holiday into a fun adventure.

  • Parapenting

You probably fell in love with the sight of Mont Blanc and snow covered mountains. How about a change of perspective?

With some courage, you could end up taking a leap from the top of the mountains and jump right into the dense clouds on top of Chamonix. Nothing can compare to the thrills of enjoying this gorgeous view from above.

  • Rock Climbing

Maybe you’re more interested in knowing the mountains up close. If rock climbing is what you prefer, then Chamonix is the best destination for exploring your passion. Keep in mind that the slopes are very abrupt, so it is as hard to climb them as it is to ski on them.

  • Rafting

River Arve has a strong current that will pull you through the tunnels of Mont Blanc. It will be full of thrill, excitement and a lot of water getting splashed around. If you’re more into water sports than winter sports, you are lucky – you can enjoy this throughout the year. Moreover, it’s not at all as crowded as the ski slopes.

  • Via Ferrata

If you want something that’s similar to rock climbing only less complicated, then via Ferrata should be your pick. Don’t let the idea of “protected route climbing” fool you. Not only that this activity is challenging and provides a healthy dose of an adrenaline rush, but the beauty of the scenery can leave you speechless.

Being on the side of the mountain at such an altitude can make you feel overwhelmed, so make sure you’re ready for it before you jump in.

  • Treetop Adventure

If you’re taking your family with you and you’re looking for a way to have fun, but without the extra dangers, this one is a safe option. Not only will you enjoy climbing around, but the whole network of ropes, nets, swings and bridges will make this a constant path of surprises and new challenges.

No matter if you’re a winter sports lover or you’re simply looking for a way to make your weekend memorable, you should visit Chamonix.

It’s going to make you look at skiing with different eyes and not only – you might have a hard time deciding which activity you like best.

A Note from Diane : Tim Baker is a freelance writer and author of this guest post. If you are interested in contacting Tim to learn more about his awesome travel adventures or writing, please email him at tim_bakers@hotmail.com.

Beaches in Kauai, Hawaii

Going to the beach is an obvious activity in Hawaii. But, all beaches have ups and downs – and not just the waves and tides. Here are our favorites of Kauai and why (or why not).

Polihale Beach – I’ll start with this beach because it was my absolute favorite on the island. It is secluded and picturesque and the perfect venue to watch the sun sink into the water. It is secluded and a local favorite because you MUST have 4 wheel drive to access this beach. The roads leading into the beach and state park are sugar sand, or very deep sand, that a car with front wheel drive only just cannot make it through. Michael and I even helped a car who took the risk (and failed). We helped the couple to push their car out of sand. Meanwhile, the locals drove past and shook their heads. You can’t blame them though; there are signs posted in multiple locations along the road; so proceed at your own risk. Not to mention that they’ve likely helped their fair share of clueless tourists. So, the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle is both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it for this beach. A pitfall of Polihale Beach are that the waters are very rough. Polihale Beach is not a swimming beach, but the fact that it is not busy and so scenic made it our favorite.

Brennecke’s Beach – Brennecke’s Beach is the opposite of Polihale in that it is very busy and easy to get to from a busy road in Poipu. But, on the flip side, you can easily swim. Another plus is that you have the chance to see turtles nesting. This is a common occurrence on other beaches on the island, but this is the only place we saw a turtle on the beach while on Kauai. You also have the option of sipping a cocktail at Brennecke’s Beach Bar while watching the waves if you want. This kind of option is always good when you’re fed up with other tourists stepping over you and screaming children. Sorry! (Not really!)

Shipwreck’s Beach – Like Polihale, Shipwreck’s Beach is not good for swimming, but it is great for watching surfers and boggy boarders. The waves crash violently at the shore, making for dramatic wipe outs and impressive rides. Parking is also very close. The beach is next to a large resort, so you will not have the place to yourself, but it was not as busy as Brennecke’s when we were there around sunset.

Tunnels Beach– Tunnels beach is a long, curved shoreline, offering beach goers space to spread out and feel like you have a place to relax without hearing other’s conversations or music. It is also great for snorkeling, a long stroll on the beach and shell/rock hunting. The large black lava rocks against the bright turquoise water make for a beautiful view when on land too. We also saw a monk seal bathing on the beach, the only sighting during our week on the island.

Ke’e Beach – Ke’e Beach is known for its snorkeling, calm waters and sunset views. We experienced all 3 and agree with its reputation. The biggest downfall of this beach is the parking problem, and it is a problem. The beach is also at the trail head for the Hanakapi’ai Trail; the most popular trail on the island. Arrive early, or wait until just before sunset and hope you find a spot. Expect to walk at least a half a mile once parked. It’s a hike; before the hike.

Hanakapi’ai Beach – Speaking of hiking, Hanakapi’ai Beach is only accessible by boat or a couple of hours of hiking. But, oh man! It is so worth it! Pack plenty of water, hiking boots and snacks and enjoy a pristine beach while eating, re-hydrating and cooling off in the water. But, again, parking is an issue as you park in the same area for this hike and beach as you do for Ke’e Beach. So, again, get there early, really early.

All beaches are not created equally, but Kauai’s beaches are known around the world for a reason. Kauai is the perfect destination for beach lovers and for outdoor lovers in general. 

Top Tips for Avoiding Scams on Holiday

Holidays should be fun. You’re supposed to de-stress by taking some time out of your normal routine. The last thing you want is to be scammed abroad – but it happens. When people are on holiday, they tend to forget how easily they can become targets for fraudsters looking for tourists who don’t know the area well. To make sure it doesn’t happen to you, check out our five top tips for avoiding scams on holiday:

Ditch the obvious signs you’re a tourist – Don’t make it easy for con artists to pick you out. They’ll know what to look for, and target people who they think are tourists off their guard. To help you blend in a bit better, listen to this advice:

  • Ditch the travel wallet
  • Don’t stare at a map for ages
  • Try and master a few key phrases in the local language

Source: The Secret Traveller

Know where you’re going – As briefly mentioned, nothing marks you out like a clueless tourist more than staring at a map. Instead, plan where you’d like to go or use a smart phone subtly. It’s also beneficial to research the dodgy areas of where you’re going – every place has them. Don’t just wander around and end up in the bad parts of town. Find out where you want to go.

(image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tabsinthe/)

Avoid getting too drunk – You are on holiday – by all means, have a few drinks and relax. But if you’re planning on being out and about after dark, make sure you can still handle yourself. It would be a terrible hangover ifyou woke up to realise you’d been tricked into handing over your valuables.

Find out what the local scams are – The old broken meter in a cab happens in numerous countries worldwide, but some places are known for specific scams. Throwing a baby at you is a classic Roman scam, for example. Whilst you try and save what you think is a real child, someone will come along and take all your belongings.

It’s worth researching your destination to see if there’s anything you need to watch out for. Check out this infographic for more scams.

(image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/arvindgrover/)

Don’t carry around excessive valuables – In the comments on Travel Blogs, one contributor makes the perfect point – if you can’t afford to lose something or don’t have the right insurance, you should really leave it at home, or locked securely at the hotel. This rule goes for any cash or valuables, such as jewellery, you might have.

How do you avoid petty crime abroad? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

A Note from Diane : Jessica Kelly is a freelance writer and author of this guest post. If you are interested in contacting Jessica to learn more about her awesome travel adventures or writing, please email her at Kelly Media, kellymediaconsultancy@zoho.com

Waimea Canyon – Kauai, HI

We spent a day at the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon during a whirlwind road trip from San Diego to Las Vegas. It was an out of the way “pit stop” and made us realize canyons are dramatic, colorful and beautiful land forms to explore and adore. We treated Waimea Canyon in Kauai with more “respect” and admired her from more than one angle!

waimea-canyon-kauai

Waimea Canyon is located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is an easy day trip from Lihue or Poipu and lives up to its name “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is not quite as big as The Grand Canyon, but seeing the canyon from as many different angles as you can is bound to satisfy your thirst for nature and beauty, adventure and exploration.

We drove the rim and flew over; both were a great way to experience a canyon. We also hiked, some, but saved our energy for hiking the Napali Coastline Trail a few days later.

Our first day on the island started with a helicopter ride around the island, focusing on the canyon. What an incredible way to start our trip. We flew with Mauna Loa and splurged for the private “doors off” tour.

doors-off-mauna-loa-kauai

One might balk at the price ($287 USD per person). However, after reading reviews that mentioned middle seats and horrible views on the larger helicopter, we agreed the money was well worth it. We were so right! Mike and I had unobstructed views the entire time. The wind hitting your skin and the sound of the routers and propeller, coupled with the views, was an incredible visceral experience.

mauna-loa-helicopter-tour-kauai helicopter-flight-over-waimea-canyon

Two days later we found ourselves back at Waimea Canyon, but this time we were on solid ground. The place is just as beautiful though!

driving-waimea-canyon-kauai jeep-wrangler-rental-kauai

waimea-canyon-small-waterfall-uluru

We drove, stopped for photo ops and even hiked at Kalalau Lookout. Although there wasn’t much of a view as the peak was heavily shrouded in a dense cloud. It was an eerie feeling to not be able to see more than about a hundred meters ahead, even though you should have been able to see for miles!

kalalau-lookout-cloud kalalau-lookout-standing-in-a-cloud wettest-place-on-earth-kauai hiking-near-kalalau-lokout-kauai

From up above or ground level, either way you look at it (pun intended), Waimea Canyon is impressive. Thousands of years of wind and water have carved pathways through rock. Our world is an amazing place. I’m so happy I was able to explore this little corner of it.


How to Choose the Clothing for a Short Break in La Plagne, France

I have always liked the mountains better than the sea. The air is fresher, and the view is more inspiring. But, there is one problem: finding the right clothes to wear can be a challenge. It seems easier to do that when the weather is really hot. After all, you just need a dress and a pair of comfy sandals.

But what happens when it’s freezing outside and you want to go skiing?

Photo Credit : pexel.com

Say you have planned a short ski break in La Plagne, a resort with over 50 years of fame. You bought the tickets, you know where you’re staying, but do you know what to wear? If you don’t, do not worry, you are about to find out soon.

Picking your equipment is essential if you want to enjoy skiing rather than struggle with it. And to make the most of it, what you should remember is this: keep warm and stay dry.

It is what you should keep in mind, whatever piece of clothing you plan to wear while skiing.

But let’s focus on the main things you should wear:

  • First and foremost, you need a base layer. It is extremely un-absorbent and actively transfers water away from your skin, experts say;
  • You should also buy a comfortable jacket that lets you breathe and move properly. But, before buying one, pay attention to the details: the added features of the jacket can make a world of difference.
  • Of course, don’t forget about the trousers. They should also be breathable and waterproof, as well as the jacket. So, avoid wearing jeans, for instance. They get wet and are inflexible, especially when it’s really cold outside.
  • Socks are as important as all of the above. Trust me; you don’t want your feet to freeze. From my experience, it hurts so bad that you can’t focus on anything else, except the fact that you want to feel warm again. So, while skiing, you should wear socks made of wool or silk, for example. These are materials known for their heat retention;
  • Remember the gloves! It’s the same thing as with the socks. Both hands and feet are extremities, and it’s important to keep them warm because if they are, your whole body is. On the contrary, if your hands and feet are freezing, it doesn’t matter what else you’re wearing, because it seems like your whole body is freezing;
  • And last, but not least, you need a hat and a helmet: the first one will keep your head warm, while the other will protect you from getting injured;

Photo Credit: RomGuig at English Wikipedia

Ok, enough about the main clothing. What about other accessories?

  • Goggles may prove to be useful, especially if it’s a really snowy or sunny one. You need to see where you’re going if you want to stay safe and enjoy the view. So, make sure you pick a pair that fits you properly and doesn’t fog up;
  • Sun cream may also be a good idea. I know, it might sound surprising, but the sun may hurt not only your eyes but also your face, even if you might think it cannot be as intense as if you were laying on the beach, in high season;
  • You will also need a backpack, in case you want to spend all day skiing. You need something to carry supplies, such as water or food. As I’ve said before, make sure that the backpack is not too heavy.

All in all, make sure you organize well, before leaving on your ski break. That is if you want a stress-free vacation on the slopes in La Plagne. Otherwise, it would be such a shame, don’t you think?

A Note from Diane : Tim Baker is a freelance writer and author of this guest post. If you are interested in contacting Tim to learn more about his awesome travel adventures or writing, please email him at tim_bakers@hotmail.com.

Travel Lessons: Just Keep Paddling

Michael and I have kayaks that we use almost monthly. We load up the boats on the top of our car, pack a cooler, get Finley’s life jacket and head out to the water. It is a favorite pasttime of ours.

Exuma Kayaking

Without fail, I always look to book a kayaking excursion when we travel. We’ve paddled cold dark waters in New Zealand and warm, crystal clear water in the Bahamas. We kayaked with a group, with a guide and by ourselves. We love to be out on the water. We do not have to have an agenda, just sunshine and a paddle. But, no matter the conditions, Mike and I have one rule – just keep paddling. I always smile when I think about Mike encouraging me from behind. “Don’t stop Diane!” “Just keep paddling Diane?” Water currents, waves and the wind all force you in their directions. Paddling your kayak keeps you on course for your destination. Sometimes these forces work in your favor, but other times they don’t. Just keep paddling!

I thought our kayak in Exuma would be easy, but as lucky would have it, it wasn’t’! We had to cross a busy channel. Of course, Mother Nature was against us and we fought an outgoing tide, wake from passing boats and a decent head wind. Mike handled it well. I, on the other hand, struggled to keep up. Half way through the channel I felt a pop in my rib cage and knew something was wrong. After a few not-so-lady-like words, I started to feel my muscles cramp. The, my hands lost grip. I wanted to stop and catch my breath so badly, but, I couldn’t. If I stopped paddling, even for a few seconds, I’d loose “ground” and just have to work that much harder and longer. I just had to keep paddling.

I ended up with a strained intercostal muscle from that experience. Breathing hurt. Laying down hurt. Laughing hurt. It was not a fun recovery, nor a short one. But, I can say with certainty, it was one of the most exciting paddles we have ever done.

Cathedral Cove Kayak New Zealand

Travel Lesson: When kayaking or canoeing, just keep paddling.
Life Lesson: Do not give up; life is about the ups and downs.

Doesn’t life seem like this every once in while? You take 3 steps forward, relax for a moment to enjoy successes, maybe even try to set your life on cruise control and then bam! Life smacks you down – a big project at work, family arguments, financial hardships. Life can come at you in full force sometimes. But if you stop trying, caring or hoping that negative momentum just carries you deeper in.

I think we forget that sometimes that struggles are life; not a time out of life, but actually a purposeful, meaningful, needed part of life. I wouldn’t like kayaking if I just sat in the boat and floated along – that is called a lazy river. Yes, I like moments of calm, but paddling is kayaking. Going through tough times is life. It is not a punishment, it is just life.

So don’t stop paddling; keep going. Sometimes the rough rides are what makes life different, unpredictable, fruitful and worthwhile.

Travel Interview: Call of Travel

Jure Snoj is the creator and editor at Call of Travel, a blog aimed at introducing readers to spectacular landscapes, cuisines from around the world and socioeconomic concern and aspects of places around the globe.

If not traveling, what is your 9-5 life like?
I’m currently enjoying an indefinite break from a 9-5 life :). My wife and I have just recently relocated to India, having worked and lived in Qatar for the past four and a half years. In Qatar, we worked for a business magazine, she as the editor in chief and me as the online editor & digital lead. We are currently figuring out what our next stage in life will be, so given the free time I (and I’m trying to drag my wife into this blogging thing as well) am focusing on my travel blog – Call of Travel. Our next travels will definitely be around India, as although I’ve been here eight times before, there are just so much places still to be discovered. The blog will therefore see quite a lot more material about the country popping up.

call-of-travel-interview

Who, or what, inspired you to travel the first time?
Honestly I can’t remember any particular enlightening moment that made me travel for the first time. What keeps inspiring me is the need to break away from the routine and go into the unknown. Also for me it’s the unexpected that makes travel special.

How have you changed your life to travel more?
Travel is always a priority for me, I’m addicted to it and just like any self-respecting junkie, I will do anything to make sure I get my fix :). I’ve gone through different stages in my life when it comes to finances. I’ve done extreme budget travel as a student – think 10 days of Costa Rica for 250 Euros, 14 days of Corse, France for 200 Euros, 7 days of Croatia for 70 Euros. Those are some of the best travel memories I have! Then I became a bit better off and my style of travel changed somewhat. Here I need to highlight that I come from Slovenia, so while it’s not a poor country, we don’t exactly enjoy Western standards of income. I could afford to travel somewhere far away once a year. I suck at saving money, so I usually took a loan and then gradually paid it back. It was still budget, just not to the extreme that I described above. Later on I moved to Qatar and salaries are quite high there, which afforded me with more flexibility and I started taking my sister and mother along. Currently I’m living off my savings, so naturally I’m again more careful with regards to how I travel.

How has travel changed your life?
It’s been an evolving thing, not a crazy revelation or radical change from one particular trip I’ve been on. Every time I go travel somewhere new, I understand more about various societies and places around the world and that changes me, to an extent, every single time. If I were to pinpoint a big change in my life connected to travel, it was moving from Slovenia to Qatar to live and work there. A higher income afforded me with pretty much unrestricted travel (apart from time constraints) and most importantly of it all, I met my wife Priya there. I wouldn’t be here typing these words if it wasn’t for me accepting a job offer, moving to Qatar and then eventually to Mangalore, India.

What is your main purpose/goal of your travel blog?
I’m still kind of finding my way with the blog, so you’ll find the articles can be categorized into inspirational, practical and informative categories. I’m mostly interested in spectacular landscapes, cuisines and socioeconomic aspects and issues of the places I visit. So sometimes you’ll find me straying into topics that might not be seen on your typical travel blog. One of those will definitely be the upcoming series about Qatar. Now that we have moved out of the country, a lot of things can be told without being worried about getting into the clutches of the authorities there.

unexpectedly-getting-to-carry-a-bride-in-a-traditional-budhist-wedding-in-mokpo-south-korea-1

This or That:
Backpack or rolling suitcase? Backpack
Cities or Open Spaces? Open spaces
Salty or sweet? Salty
Sandals or Snow Boots? Sandals
Comedy or Drama? Drama

You can contact Jure via social media or his blog.
Website: http://calloftravel.com/
Email: jure@calloftravel.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallofTravel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CallofTravel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/calloftravel/

Alternatives to Riding Elephants in Thailand

I grew up loving and riding horses. I cleaned stalls, bathed horses and swept barns at 12 years old in exchange for riding lessons. I loved being around the animals and others who loved the clip-clop of hooves and smell of hay.

During my many hours in the barn I watched young horses become accustomed to having humans touch them, place saddles on their backs and eventually, have those humans climb into the saddle. Most resisted at first, but all horses came to trust the humans. Trainers gained the horse’s trust through positive reinforcement – treats, head scratches and kind words. There is a stark contrast between this process and the process used on elephants.

Alternatives to Riding Elephants in Thailand

We spent 7 days in Thailand. Elephants were on my “to-do” list while in the country. Initially, I assumed I would ride one; it sounds amazing actually. I loved riding horses, why wouldn’t I love riding an elephant and feeling close to it. Just one hour of research while planning the trip changed my mind, immediately.

Some elephants work in forests, helping to drag trees for lumber production while others live their lives with tourists climbing onto their backs. Neither of these “jobs” are particularly horrible at first glance; but there is more than meets the eye.

There are host of reasons not to ride an elephant in Thailand, or elsewhere. Here are my reasons:

  1. Harsh and cruel methods are used in order to “break” an elephant so they can be “saddled” and ridden. “The crush” is the method used on baby elephants. The calves are taken too soon from their mothers, kept in a solitary place too small for them to move and then, they’re beaten by humans. The process is called “the crush” because the purpose is to crush, or break, their spirit. The goal is to force them into submission through starvation, seclusion, physical punishment and fear.
  2. The mistreatment does not end after the elephant is “broken in.” Bull hooks are still used to control the animals as they age.
  3. Asian elephants are endangered species. Some experts believe there are only 2000 wild elephants left. Illegal capturing and trade for tourism purposes happens far too often to meet the demand of tourists and therefore further diminishes these numbers.
  4. Spine injuries are common among elephants that are ridden.

Thankfully, tourists have alternatives to riding elephants.

An Alternative to Riding Elephants in ThailandThese alternatives can lead to much more positive interactions between humans and elephants and honestly, a much more “close up” encounter with the beauties. These alternatives are healthy and sustainable options for the elephants, mahoots (elephants handlers) and tourists.

These alternatives come in the form of rehabilitation or retirement centers. These centers offer visitors close up and personal experiences with the animals. There are safety parameters, but visitors are allowed to feed, wash and in some instances, touch the animals. Positive reinforcement (food) is used by the mahoots, and the animals are free to roam large areas of land. There are not any cages or bull horns in sight. Luckily, no matter where you are traveling in Thailand, you are likely near one of these great facilities and have an alternative to riding and elephant.

Notable centers in Thailand include:

  1. Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai
  2. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – Sukhothai
  3. Elephant’s World – Kanchanaburi
  4. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand – Petchaburi

Elephant Rescue Centers in Thailand

Elephants are working animals in Thailand, and other countries in the region. I see nothing wrong with an animal working; I do think it is one of the reasons animals exist. That being said, humane treatment of animals is paramount. Can humans ride elephants in Thailand? Yes. Should they? I think the answer is no based on the methods of “breaking” the animals and the health risks associated with riding elephants. Humans should never wield their power without regard to the animals’ physical and emotional well-being. Sadly, this is the case for many elephants in Thailand. Choose an alternative to riding elephants when in Thailand; there are plenty to choose from!

48 hours in San Francisco

Michael and I have popped in and out of San Francisco 4 times now. I say “popped in” because the longest we have stayed in the city is 48 consecutive hours. We seem to fly in, spend a little time exploring and then head out of town for a road trip; there are so many places to explore in and around of San Francisco. Nonetheless, despite our quick trips here, it is my favorite American city.

48 hours in San Francisco

Click the photo for a live Google Map

I am not a city dweller. I am typically overwhelmed by the traffic, one way streets, smells and litter; San Francisco is different. Don’t get me wrong, the city has all of traffic, litter and odors one can tolerate, and then some, but I am inexplicably drawn to the city.

One thing that I have learned from our brief trips to San Francisco is that you can pack a lot into your time there, even if it is only 48 hours. The perfect quick trip, layover or weekend in the city by the Bay would go like this!

Day 1
8:00 am – Workout at Arena Ready Crossfit. Duh! You guys know we love to drop in to other CrossFit gyms while on the road.

9:30 am – Since you’ve worked out, do not feel guilty, at all, for enjoying sunshine, coffee and breakfast at Martha and Bros Coffee Company in Noe Valley. Their lattes and breakfast burritos are amazeballs!

Martha and Bros Coffee Comany Noe Valley San Francisco

10:30 am – Alamo Square Park and The Painted Ladies. Take in the view, snap pics and sing the theme song from Full House.

11:30 am – Catch the Trolley at California and Van Ness. Ride (one way) over Nob Hill, through Chinatown and end in the Financial Building. This line in less “touristy” and drops you a few blocks from the Ferry Building!

San Fran Trolley Ride California and Van Ness Line

12:30 pm – Stroll around the Ferry Building and find lunch looking at the water, boats and hustle and bustle. There is so much to see in the city, but this a must while in town for 48 hours.

2:00 pm – Coit Tower is a mile walk or ride away. Visit this tower for bird’s eye views of the city and bay.

3:00 pm – Pier 33 is a few blocks away and where you will depart for your Alcatraz Tour. Book these tickets ahead of time and enjoy!

6:00 pm – Head down the pier to Pier 39 to wander shops and take pictures of seals.

6:30 pm – Leave the mayhem of the pier behind for the Marina District, via Lombard Street (aka the curviest street in the US). Wander the Palace of Fine Arts Gardens and day dream about living in one of the multi-million dollar mansions near by.

Palace of Fine Arts 48 Hours in San Fran

8:00 pm – Sushi during your short trip to San Fran is a must! Saru Sushi Bar is a favorite of ours, and critics!

9:30 pm – It is time to go back in time and enjoy Bourbon and Branch. Do not forget the house rules. Don’t worry, we will believe you go, even if there is not a picture on social media to prove it! (*Note: Contact Bourbon and Branch prior to arriving in the city to set up your experience.)

Day 2 –
8:30 am – You are only half way through your weekend in San Francisco. Start your day right with a little caffeine and yumminess. A breakfast pastry and coffee will fuel your morning. Stop at Henry’s Coffee House on Noriega between 25th and 24th Ave to fuel up

9:00  – Get your coffee in a to-go cup and climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs to Grand View Park.

10:00 am – Rent Bikes to explore the relatively flat park paths of Golden Gate Park at your leisure. Strawberry Hill, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Bison Paddock and the Conservatory of Flowers are a few favorite spots in the huge park.

11:30 pm – Admire the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Fields. You can walk, fly kites, picnic, open a bottle of wine or just snap photos.

12:30 pm – Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands. Roll the windows down and enjoy the ride over the GGB; it is amazing. Exit the highway quickly for the best lookout points in Marin Headlands.

1:00 pm – Continue to Sausalito for lunch at Bar Bocce for lunch. Their outdoor space and menu are both top notch.

3:00 pm – Cross the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco. Head west to Baker’s Beach for a walk in the sand, maybe a swim in the water and a great view of the GGB.

Baker's Beach Golden Gate Bridge

4:00 pm – Keep driving along the coast to Land’s End. You can walk trails in this park, check out the Labyrinth and yes, take more picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. The views of the bridge are all beautiful! Do not miss the Holocaust Memorial or the Legion of Honor either!

6:00 – Are you tired yet?! Good, you should be! You only have 48 hours in this great city! But, take a moment and relax with a drink and delicious dinner at the Cliff House. Your view will be worth a million bucks. Depending on the time of year, you might even get a sunset over dinner. If you don’t, you can always walk the beach before of after dinner to watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. (*This restaurant is semi-fancy pants, so you might consider having a change of clothes in the car with you, or freshening up at your hotel if it is convenient.)

8:00 – If you still have a little gas in your tank and are up for one more little adventure, check out Smuggler’s Cove for a craft cocktail. It is well known, so it might be busy, but the menu is funky and the drinks are delish!

There is no time for sitting around when you only have 48 hours in San Francisco. I hope this post gives you an idea of how to manage your time and where to spend it. I love this city. I cannot wait for another 48 hours (or more out there)!