TIP - Flying with Powerbanks

Copyright Global Citizen Journeys

It was announced this week that the US has banned any electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from carry-on baggage from some Middle Eastern gateways. The same holds true internationally with regards to power banks. Sometimes power banks can only be in checked luggage, sometimes it's only permitted in carry-on, so make sure you ask before checking your bags. I've been escorted to my bag to take a power bank out or have had it taken away at security. Apparently it depends on the wattage of the power bank, so have it ready with you when you check-in and ask the gate agent so you don't end up having it taken. There's also inconsistency on whether it needs to be removed in security, so make sure you read the signs. My favorite one is this one

GEM - QT Gold Coast, Australia

Lemonade - I arrived late at night and before I even walked in, my immediate thought was "Is this a modeling agency as well?" Every person on the staff was beyond attractive, but what was different is that they were all genuinely nice. While I waited a short moment to check-in, I was asked if I wanted to enjoy their candy bar. Obviously the answer was 'Yes' and after a quick check-in I was escorted to my room noticing a funky design throughout. Moments later there was a knock on the door with a model, I mean, concierge, offering to make a fresh lemonade cocktail for me. I explored the room to find a subtle touches of quirkiness mixed with class. Instead of slippers, there were bags with flip-flops. A unique parrot lit up the room and I was anxious to see what the view would be like in the morning. With no surprise, I awoke to watch the sunrise above the ocean with my balcony doors open and the smell of a new day in the air. I headed downstairs to the buffet breakfast (something that doesn't usually entice me) and was met with overwhelming joy. This was not like any breakfast I had encountered with various stations like meat carving, an amazing fruit bar that even had my favorite fruit, cumquats and more milk options than I even knew possible. As I checked-out I took a quick glance at the pool and knew in a few hours time, it was going to be a happenin' place and promised myself I would return soon. The QT brand has a few properties throughout Australia (and now one in New Zealand) and I've now seen 3 of their properties which have the coolest vibe, making it my all-time favorite brand of properties globally.

TIP - Bose Noise-cancelling headphones

Life-changing! A friend let me try these while we were waiting to board a 16 hour flight and I immediately bought these so they'd be waiting when I returned. I've never been one to invest in the newest technology and I gawked at my friend when she said they were almost $300. But they are worth every penny! The difference between headphones and these is like comparing the sounds of a lawnmower and sitting in a spa in Bali. I've had numerous flights with these and now get so much more rest and sleep while using the Bose noise-cancelling headphones. It's the highest-price travel item I've probably ever purchased, but I cannot imagine traveling without these now.

GEM - Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan

Unique - I learned of this property and fell in love with the concept, so with much anticipation I went there with a friend during an off-season time, June, which in Jordan is during a pretty hot time. I was informed that as an eco-lodge there was no electricity, which means no air-conditioning, but was excited nonetheless. Our driver/guide took us to the meeting point about 1 miles away from the lodge where we changed to an off-road vehicle and began the somewhat bumpy, but experiential ride to the property. Passing villages and local houses, we descended into the mountains of the Dana Biosphere Reserve in the Wadi Rum Desert. We checked in and were told there were fans in the rooms, but only the main lobby had outlets to charge devices. There were only a few staff, but all very personable, so we checked into our room and then elected for the sunset hike with the other guests; another couple and a solo female traveler, accompanied by our guide, Suleiman, a local who worked at the property with his brother. We began the easy hike up with Suleiman showing where his family lives and even where he was born. About half-way up, we stopped so Suleiman could begin to prepare a fire for some tea and biscuits, while the rest of us continued on. When we reached the top of the hill, I looked around to see 360 degree views which such variation of light as the sun began to set. I climbed onto a rock formation and stared out onto the rolling hills becoming mesmerized at the light, shadows and possibilities. It was truly one of my favorite moments of being in such a special place; so unique with only a few people in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, but everywhere.  After enjoying some tea, we walked back, but heard the 'call-to-prayer' so Suleiman left to go pray, while we walked back to the property. It was getting dark, but as we entered the property, all of the pathways inside where lined with candles, creating such a comforting welcome.  We changed for dinner and came back to the patio to join our fellow guests to enjoy a vegetarian dinner (with little refrigeration on property, meat is not served). The one couple had brought a bottle of wine, which they shared.  NOTE: the property does not have alcohol, so it's advised to bring your own. After dinner, we went to the courtyard for a presentation about the area and then went to the rooftop for some star-gazing in the telescope. With little light pollution and clear skies, it was a magnificent sight including seeing the crevasses on the moon. We finally retired to our rooms, however I wanted to enjoy this property for all it had to offer, so I grabbed my pillow and blanket and went back up to the roof to make a bed on the over-sized cushions. I fell asleep in pure bliss, had an amazing sleep and awoke to the sun shining down on me. (Little did I know my friend came up and snapped a picture of me sleeping that morning.) We had a lovely breakfast on the patio with a local goat farmer traversing the property which made for some fun conversations. We had to depart for the north, but had we been able to stay another night, I would have loved to spend more time in the villages, talking with the families and learning about local life. I'm excited to visit this unique property again very soon!

Copyright Global Citizen Journeys

GEM - Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, France

Neighborhood - As I approached the hotel, I wasn't sure if I was actually in the right area, as it seemed to be quite residential. As we traveled down the one-way cobble-stoned side street, I saw the bellhop standing outside, my only indication I was at the right place. I entered quickly while my friend unloaded the bags and asked to use the washroom and immediately escorted without question. I was impressed as there was no question as to whether I was staying there or just walking by, yet treated with great respect. The hotel is filled with black and white photos, modern artwork and a touch of quirkiness like the luggage storage room that is a large suitcase. After settling into the spacious room which has a sitting area and even a 'juliet' balcony, with some rooms having iconic views of the Eiffel Tower, I went for a walk around the hotel. Even though it's located very close to the famous Louvre, it did not feel touristic at all, with small cafes, eateries and local shops. It was quaint, exciting and very Parisian. When I returned, both the bellhop and front desk welcomed me back by name, which only added to the feeling of being at home. There is a courtyard just behind the hotel which was being renovated to allow for an outdoor seating area for the hotel, making it the quintessential experience. That evening after enjoying a cocktail at the bar and sharing stories with the bartender. The next morning, we enjoyed a delightful breakfast with the most beautiful spread of pastries and departed with much regret of leaving a new family. 

TIP - Ful Bag

I randomly bought a Ful bag 10 years ago at Costco, but still use it today with it working perfectly. I love the 21-in hybrid duffel as it fits perfectly in most over-head compartments. I've actually had flight attendants tell me that it won't fit and then I show them. What's great is the bottom is hard, but the top is very durable duffel, so the ends can fold, plus it has wheels. I usually evaluate an item based on cost versus how long I can use it and have to say, this may be my best travel investment. It is beyond durable and large enough that I've used it for trips upwards of 10 days. It has all of the compartments I need and is very cost-efficient.

GEM - Aureum Palace Bagan, Myanmar

Pagodas - Upon arriving into Bagan, I knew it was going to be something special as I looked out the window of the plane. Across the plains of this newly opened destination, thousands of pagodas decorated my view in varying sizes and shapes. We drove a few minutes to New Bagan and checked into the Aureum Palace Hotel. As I settled in, I decided to take the afternoon to relax at the pool. As I waded toward the edge, I discovered a lily pond just in front with some groundsmen in a canoe. Just beyond that was the magnificent view of the same plain of hundreds of pagodas. Later in the day it was surreal to step inside some of these pagodas (tip: even socks are restricted on feet inside, so best to visit in the mornings or evenings) and spend time in the Old Bagan markets. That evening I hiked to the top of a pagoda to watch the sunset and witnessed a lightning storm far off in the distance with bolts shooting down on the plain amongst the temples and pagodas, a truly magical experience. Later, I enjoyed a special dinner puppet show with a feast for a meal. The following morning at sunset, I visited the tower on the property that provided 360 degree views of one of my favorite places on earth.

Copyright Global Citizen Journeys - Bagan

GEM - Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile

Star-gazing - As we drove through the flat plains with panoramic views of Patagonia, I questioned if we were actually heading to the hotel or if the driver was lost. We turned down a road and saw the local wildlife grazing on dinner and all of a sudden I saw the top of what appeared to be a building. Camouflaged in the horizon sat Tierra Patagonia directly in front of a lake and mountain range of Torres del Paine. As we settled into what seemed like an adult summer camp with its striking wood features, we had a welcome cocktail watching the sunset with the richest of colors and natural cotton-candy skies. After heading to my room with a full-picture window of the view that made my jaw drop, I slipped on the house wool slippers made by locals and headed to an amazing dinner. We chose our activities for the next day and everyone headed to bed, however I took this opportunity to step outside. While it was a bit windy, the lights of the hotel had dimmed to nearly non-existent and I laid down to absolute awe. As my eyes adjusted to the night sky, more and more stars began to appear. Within minutes I was acclimated and began to tear up as I had never seen such a clear crisp night. With no light pollution for thousands of miles and not a cloud in the sky, I finally began to understand not only how vast our world is, but also how small it is within our universe. 

Copyright Global Citizen Journeys - Tierra

TIP - Betternet App

I recently learned of this trick while traveling in some restricted countries such as China and UAE.  By using this app and turning on the VPN, your phone will now appear to be in another country allowing you to access sites such as Facebook in China.  The free version works great and serves its purpose, while the paid version allows you to choose the country in which you'd like to network through. 

GEM - Four Seasons Serengeti, Tanzania

Watering hole - The moment I arrived (and coming from a tented camp) I felt like I had reached an oasis in the middle of the desert. Sitting on the beautiful leather chairs while enjoying a cold beverage, I went through the check-in process.  I was escorted to my room with unsurpassed views of the Serengeti Plains on my balcony, feeling as though I was the only on there.  I returned to the main lodge and explored the amazing artwork including a wall of handmade baskets and then settled into the library with it's dark wood, pool table and chess, all with a colonial feel. I then ventured out to the pool, had a local beer and gazed onto the plain noticing a herd of elephants coming to the watering hole just in front of the pool. My jaw dropped as I enjoyed my beverage while watching these magnificent creatures. I also shared an incredible moment as it was my birthday and was surprised at dinner with a Masai tribe serenading me with a song ending with their version of happy birthday. As I was presented with a cake, I fought back tears and finally understood the phrase 'You first head to Africa because of the animals, but you return because of the people'. 

TIP - Medicine Containers

Medicine container.JPG

These medicine containers are great as they're small enough to fit enough for a trip.  I use these for general medicines such as constipation, anti-diarrhea, congestion, anti-acid, etc.  I'll just keep them full in my medicine cabinet and write what they are and dosage information right on each container. Just throw them in and you'll always be prepared, taking exactly what you think you might need as they easily attach to one another.

GEM - Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia

Paradise - From the moment you step on the private speedboat, you're treated to ultimate luxury.  Some fresh fruit and a cold beverage accompany the 45-minute boat ride to paradise.  You're greeted by the staff waving from this paradise located in the Gulf of Thailand, with shoes optional as soon as you set foot on this private island.  The activity list is plentiful and our suggestion is to opt for the all-inclusive option.  Twenty-four hour food and beverage menus will delight your palate with items such as the duck breast pizza and freshly-made seaweed salad. The rooms are spacious with 3 different views: jungle, beach front, and over-water (which has a glass-bottom floor in the living room). The bathrooms have an over-sized bathtub, indoor shower and outdoor shower (a third shower is near the private plunge infinity pool). Take a kayaking trip to the nearby island with a small Cambodia village, snorkel through the coral reef surrounding the island or relax by the pool in the over-sized bean bag chairs. Then dine under the stars on the beach followed by a movie-night with popcorn.  Anything you can imagine can happen here in paradise!