Archives for category: Travel Tips
Ligaya Malones floating in pool at The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, California
Staycation vibes in Palm Springs, California (photo: Alina Mendoza)

When it comes to vacation planning, there is nothing like the attractive power of a best places to visit list. You know the ones: lists like New York Times’ annual 52 Places to Go, Travel+Leisure’s 50 Best Places to Travel, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel List and the like. For readers, these lists offers a curated snapshot into the trendiest destinations and a learning opportunity to discover the towns, cities and countries worth traveling for. They can be valuable travel planning tools, even for a travel writer like me, who finds herself in a new destination virtually every month (see: Nashville in January, the Central Coast in April, North Carolina in May.) I enjoy skimming through best-of travel lists; I’ve always gleaned several new-to-me destinations every year one of these lists publishes.

How Does a Destination Make a Best of Travel List?

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A classic car in Havana, Cuba

Update: June 5, 2019—Yesterday, the Administration reversed a number of exceptions that have encouraged increased travel to Cuba by Americans in recent years. NPR reports that cruise ships and other recreational vessels will not be granted travel licenses, as are most people traveling under the “people to people exchange” allowance. However, those traveling for educational purposes are exempt. Since the news is still fresh, most reports quote sources who say that they will continue to monitor the ruling to better understand how these tighter travel restrictions will play out. Currently, national media outlets like Time are reporting that travel under the “support for the Cuban people” visa category is possible, provided your itinerary includes “meetings with the local Cubans, attending cultural events and staying at a Cuban family’s home, a “casa particular,” instead of a hotel.”

Cuba is a complicated country. Before traveling to Havana in 2018, I consumed anything that would provide even a fraction of context to help me understand a place worlds and decades away from my life in southern California. Inspired by the format of a recent travel guide I wrote for New York magazine, and the steady stream of questions from friends, family and acquaintances about my experience to the communist island nation, I’ve compiled a list of articles, a Netflix documentary and a podcast episode worth listening to as a (mostly food-focused) primer to Cuba.

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Waiheke Island, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Waiheke Island, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Weekend Reads is a weekly-ish series of new and old articles I’ve enjoyed reading around the web about travel, food, and wellness. For more brain snacks, read past Weekend Reads posts.

Raise your hand if you’ve recently traveled to Iceland, Lisbon, or Barcelona. What did you think? If you thought you could use a little more elbow room, you are… definitely not alone. According to travel experts, travel today is more affordable, more accessible. So much so that the travel industry coined a new term: Overtourism. And that’s been on my mind since I’ve dropped in on some of the coolest cities in the world over the years.

Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand

I grew up in Kauai, Hawaii––it’s gorgeous, of course. It’s also a place that relies almost exclusively on tourism. In 2017, a local tourism official told The Garden Island, “With the demise of the sugar industry many years ago, tourism has grown into the top economic driver for the island of Kauai.” I don’t live in Kauai anymore, but anecdotally, friends and family members who still live in the Aloha State tell me traffic, trails, and beaches gets worse every year. Part of that is due to a year over year increase in visitors to Hawaii, according to a report released in January.

That said, as I reflect on the impact I’ve knowingly and unknowingly had during my travels, I am increasingly interested in how destinations will manage the influx of visitors so that, ideally, tourists (like me, and you) have the opportunity to enjoy all of the reasons that motivate us to experience something new and different––without burdening the local way of life.

For example, this Conde Nast Traveler article rounds up the top 15 destinations grappling with overtourism (including Amsterdam and Boracay, in the Philippines.) It also offers suggestions for being a more mindful traveler, like visiting during shoulder season. Similarly, one writer for New Zealand-based newspaper Stuff highlights a handful of under-the-radar spots to consider, including Indonesian islands that aren’t Bali.

For example, this Conde Nast Traveler article rounds up the top 15 destinations grappling with overtourism (including Amsterdam and Boracay, in the Philippines.) It also offers suggestions for being a more mindful traveler, like visiting during shoulder season. Similarly, one writer for New Zealand-based newspaper Stuff highlights a handful of under-the-radar spots to consider, including Indonesian islands that aren’t Bali.

Photogenic destinations like Bali are all over Instagram, and it’s this kind of social media attention that’s been drawing visitors, and catching these places off-guard. Instagram is a powerful marketing tool, though for some, it’s worked too well. Take this National Geographic article about how social media is changing travel. “People engage with Instagram 10 times more than with Facebook, which is why an estimated 48.8 percent of brands in the United States are on Instagram,” the article reports.

In response, Bali and other heavily trafficked cities like Barcelona are experimenting with tourist taxes to manage overtourism’s effects, and according to a Quartzy article, slow the role of certain––meaning lower spending––visitors. For example, Quartzy explains, “Bali—which has seen a huge uptick in visitors since it starred in Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 travel memoir Eat Pray Love—is one of the destinations mulling a tax. The roughly $10 fee will be used to preserve the environment and Balinese culture, which has been overrun with yoga retreats and acai bowl cafes.”

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