Category Archives: Travel Tips

Long-haul Survival Kit

A few years back I went on the longest flight of my life – a 24 hour journey from Washington, D.C. to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The first leg of the flight was over 13 hours, something I was dreading. While it has taken me almost 4 years to be willing to even entertain the idea of another long-haul, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had originally imagined.

This January a very good friend and his husband went on a crazy long honeymoon, with a flight from San Francisco to Bangkok via Turkey. I put together a small long-haul survival kit for them with all things that have helped me in the past.

Wet Ones Wipes: Sanitize you body and seat area, especially tray tables (one of the germiest spots on the plane)
Emergen-C: Help your immune system fight off everyone else’s germs
Melatonin: Help your body rest and adapt to different time zones, take one tablet 15-20 minutes prior to sleep. Take it a few days at your destination an hour before bedtime.
Nuun Electrolyte Tablets: Your body also loses electrolytes in the air, replenish by popping one of these in a glass of water. (Also great when traveling a super hot locale like Thailand)
Benadryl: My go-to to help bring on some zzzzz.
Evian Facial Spray: Give your face some TLC.
Hand Lotion: More needed moisture
Lip Balm: Don’t forget your lips!
Colgate Wisp Toothbrushes: No toothpaste needed. Very handy for airplane bathrooms.
Shout Wipe & Go: In case of spills
Pen: Because you can never find one when you need it.

Pick up a big bottle of water once you’ve gone through security (hydration is key to help with jetlag) and don’t forget to pack some entertainment, an e-book reader, tablet, books, or maybe some cards to play with your traveling companion.

‘Experts’ say to change your watch to your destination’s time when boarding the plane and immediately adapt to that schedule. It’s good advice, but in reality, it doesn’t work for me. Maybe you’ll have better luck.



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Favorite Travel Apps

A smart phone is a valuable tool for traveling around the world. There are a multitude of apps to help in all areas of travel; here are some of my favorites. All are available for free unless noted.


Tripit Logo

Tripit – this is a must to keep your travel plans organized, and they can’t make it any simpler to use. I’m a pretty organized person to begin with and find this invaluable. Simply email your reservation emails from airline tickets, car rentals or hotel bookings and they will almost instantly appear in your travel plans. You can manually add and edit plans and share your trip with friends, colleagues and family. Works offline. The base version is free. There is a Pro version for $49 a year that monitors your flights, send real-time alerts, keeps track of rewards miles and more. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 devices.


XE logo

XE Currency App – How much is 6,700 icelandic krona’s in US dollars? What is that €5 glass of wine in Italy really costing you? With the euro close to the dollar in value these days, it may be easy to do in your head, but if you’re in Vietnam and something is priced at 22,750 dong, it’s especially useful. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and Firefox OS devices.


Google Map icon

Google Maps – I’m a bit old school and still utilize paper maps, but wouldn’t leave home without Google Maps on my iphone. It is loaded with features. I personally love the transportation options letting you see how long it will take from getting from point A to B with different mode of travel. One lesser-known feature is the ability to download areas to use offline and save your data. What’s cool is since GPS still works, you can still see your location. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android devices.


Citymapper Icon

Citymapper – Another great transportation app. I prefer this over Google Maps when navigating public transportation options – it will combine options – for instance, when I was recently in San Francisco and needed to go to Oakland, options included combined Uber and BART. With Google Maps these aren’t combined. Other great features is sharing your trip with friends, sending a link allowing them to see your trip in real-time, a nice safety feature. It has a limited number of cities worldwide. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android devices.


Splittr– This has to be one of the best apps to have when traveling with friends and splitting expenses. Simply put in expenses as you go along, indicating who paid and who took part in the activity and at the end of the trip it creates a report telling who owes what to whom. It is the best $1.99 I’ve spent, hands down.


Google Translate icon

Google Translate – Another great app from the folks at Google. Text translation available for over 103 languages, with 52 languages available for offline use. You can use your camera to translate text in images in 30 language. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android devices.












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Iceland Travel Trips

1. Lodging fills up fast in the summer:

  • Book early for the summer months. I was researching in November for a June trip and 57% of lodgings offered on were already booked. I’m sure you could find something last minute, but your choice may be a $400 a night hotel, or a $50 hostel stay with 7 new friends in a dorm with a shared bathroom.
  • Consider alternate lodgings (good tip for any destination) – or We rented a lovely 2 bedroom apartment smack in the middle of Reykjavik for $195 a night. In Vik, we stayed in a cabin on a farm. Since these have kitchens, you can save money by eating meals in, even if it’s just breakfast, you’ll save a few extra bucks, and can have a more relaxing morning (and better coffee).
Mið-Hvoll Cottages

Mið-Hvoll Cottages near Vik.
Cozy cabin that sleeps 5, complete with a bbq grill.

2. Money

  • Credit cards are accepted everywhere. Grab a few Krona at the airport for small purchases.
  • Tipping is not the norm in Iceland. You may see a tip jar by the register.
  • Things are expensive. NYC expensive. A cup of really crappy machine coffee can run over $3.
  • Non Chip and PIN credit cards work fine, except in unmanned gas stations, you can buy a prepaid card for those.


3. Eating & Drinking

Lobster soup at the Sægreifinn (Sea Baron) restaurant in Reykjavik.

Lobster soup at the Sægreifinn (Sea Baron) restaurant in Reykjavik.

  • Fish and lamb are on every menu, and it is fresh, incredibly fresh.
  • Icelanders also eat puffin, whale, reindeer, horse and fermented shark (not for the faint of heart). Check out The Public House Gastropub for small plates of some of the local food.
  • You pay at the cash register at many of the restaurants. Your waiter may or may not bring you the check, but mostly we went up to the register to pay. Splitting the check is a breeze, and they often asked if we wanted it split.
  • Water is self-serve at many restaurants, look for glasses and a pitcher by the bar. I love this.
  • Icelanders love licorice, and licorice and chocolate. Give it a try. Opal candy (and the liquor of the same name, see below) is not for the faint of heart. If you wish you could have a snack of cough syrup, this is for you.
  • Brennivin is an Icelandic liquor, traditionally drunk after eating fermented shark. It’s nick-named “Black Death”, tastes a bit like drinking rye bread
  • Opal is another liquor you’ll find, licorice and menthol. Reminiscent of Robitussin. Some people love it, it’s a love or hate taste for sure.


4. Driving

  • Driving is relatively easy in Iceland, not a lot of traffic, and people are generally courteous drivers (I found Icelanders to be generally courteous in all things). If you are only staying in the Reykjavik you won’t need one, it’s an extremely walkable city.
  • Be careful of livestock – mainly sheep – on the roads.
  • Some gas stations are unmanned and accept only Chip and Pin Credit cards, these are different than the Chip and Signature cards most banks are giving out in the U.S., the cash advance PIN will not work. You can buy prepaid gas cards. Gas stations that are manned are no problem, but you can’t pay at the pump, go inside, tell the cashier your pump #, how much you want and they will turn the pump on for you — like back in the old days.
Ring Road

Shoulders are rare, but beautiful vistas are not.

5. Other Tidbits

  • Things are fairly expensive, New York City expensive.  (Did I say that already?) We paid an average of $20-$30 per meal at a mid-range restaurant.
  • Buy liquor at the duty-free store at the airport, it’s on the first floor of the airport on your way to the baggage area.
  • The weather does change very quickly, be prepare, especially if out hiking.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to stop and see things, be flexible.
  • Pack layers, especially rain gear! My waterproof, rainproof shell was a wise purchase.
  • Take an unlocked cell phone and purchase a SIM card at the duty-free shop at the airport. A Vodafone SIM with 300 mb of data lasted us for 4 days and cost just a little over $10. It was invaluable as a GPS. You can rent a GPS from the rental car company, but they charge too much in my opinion – $10 a day, and that won’t help you if you are exploring the city on foot.
  • Take the Reykjavik City Walk Tour. Tip-based 2-hour tour of the city lead by one of two history majors. Fun, informative, and, as an added bonus, both very easy on the eyes.
  • Try the chocolate with licorice, it’s surprisingly good.

6. There’s an app for that

  • 112 Iceland App – Hit the Emergency button and a text message gets sent to the 112 call center. (112 is Iceland’s 911). You can also send them your location during your travels, so if emergency strikes, they can locate you quicker. Good app for backpackers and winter travelers.
  • Reykjavík Appy Hour – Drink prices are high, but Happy Hours can save you a few krona. Many run from 4-8 p.m. This app shows you prices, locations and a brief description of the bar.
Get out and explore!

Get out and explore!

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Filed under Iceland, Travel Tips