I used to be the world’s worst packer, basically trying to fit my whole life into my suitcase for a one week trip. Oh how the times have changed. I have learned to simplify to the max and now ONLY travel with a carry-on, even on 1-2 month trips. It’s not easy (and it’s not for everyone, I get it), but I seem to have worked out a method using some key travel gear to help me to travel light.
The last thing I want to do is struggle with huge bags dragging over cobblestone streets in Europe or dirt roads in Africa. Oh, and those hefty checked bag fees for budget airlines? #Fuggedaboutit #aintnobodygottimeforthat
Below are the only bags I take with me on my travels: a small backpack and a spinner carry-on. (Oh, and my pillow). That’s it! There’s a lot of shit in there, trust me…♥
Light Packer Essential Travel Gear
(P.S. Click on the product photos for more info)
Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!
Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. It basically takes a panoramic photo. I use this lens more than the original factory lens and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special outdoor nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.
Both shot with my wide-angle lens. Look how much of the landscape fits in the frame!
E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.
Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes: These are my new editions to my packing gear and I’m obsessed. Once you pack them full, you can zip then down further to compress the cubes. You have no idea how much stuff you can fit in these cubes, it’s amazing!
Skyroam Mobile Hotspot Device: How did I travel without this before? This mini hotspot is portable and gives you access to wifi wherever you are, and works in 100+ countries. Skyroam saved my life during my recent road trip through New Zealand, allowing me access to my Google maps for navigation. The way it works: you can either rent or buy the hotspot device, and then you buy 24 hour day passes. This gives you unlimited wifi for 24 hours, no need to worry about using all your data! This is going to revolutionize travel, just wait and see! ♥
♥Oh, and until April 7, you can get 15% OFF by using the code: CONNECTED15♥
The many times my Skyroam came in handy in New Zealand!
DJI Mavic Pro Drone: I mean, who doesn’t want a drone? It’s the hottest new tech gadget for 2017! It’s not cheap, but it’s totally worth it. If you’re going to get a drone, this one is the best for transporting as its SUPER compact (the size of a water bottle basically) and pretty light. This fits in my backpack which I have outline below, along with ALL my other gadgets including the drone remote, camera, extra lenses, GoPro’s, tripod, and more!
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LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!
GoPro Hero 4 Session: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! (I have recently upgrade to the 5, but this is the one I used in all my travel photos from 2016). It’s super small, compact, and easy to travel with. Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂
These were both shot with my GoPro Hero 4 Session. Notice how GoPro’s signature fish-eye lens gets everything in?
GoPro Hero 5 Session: My newest addition and I’m already obsessed. The quality of pictures is noticeably better and it’s voice controlled activated! How cool is that?
The first shot is a completely unedited underwater shot I took recently in the Galapagos. Look how clear it is!
Joby GorillaPod Tripod: This little bendable tripod is awesome. You can bend and mold it to fit around small things/objects wherever you may be. I mostly use it with my GoPro to wrap around the branch of a tree or a railing (as I did in the pic below). This allows me to go hands-free and get photos of myself when I’m traveling alone. It’s super lightweight and small so it easily fits in my little travel backpack with all my other gear.
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Laptop/Accessory Backpack: This is the best travel backpack ever! I literally fit ALL my tech & camera gear in here, including my MacBook Air, camera, extra wide angle lens, GoPro, all GoPro accessories, selfie stick, travel tripod, all my cords, chargers, converters, extra SD cards, and even my new Mavic Pro drone with remote and charger! Not only does it fit all my cool gadgets, it’s super thin and when it’s on my back, even budget airlines skip weighing it because it looks so small. Little do they know that it weighs more than my actual suitcase. Oh, and the best part? It has a pouch on the back that slides onto your suitcase handle so you don’t even have to carry it. #score
External Hard Drive (My Passport): This super lightweight external hard drive is perfect for backing up all my thousands of photos I take each trip. I’ve had mine for almost 3 years now and it’s nowhere near full. The 2TB of memory will last you quite a long time!
Hanging Toiletry Bag (small): I can’t tell you how helpful this little toiletry bag is, especially when staying at an Airbnb and I have to share a bathroom. I throw all my face creams, face wash, soap, etc in here and hang it up on a hook and have everything easily accessible.
Moldable silicon earplugs: I am the world’s lightest sleeper so ear plugs are a MUST, especially with those thin walls in Europe and Africa. These are the best ones I’ve found and they block out a lot of noise. The key is to only use them for 2-3 days and then get some fresh ones so they suction to your ears.
GoToob Non-leak Silicone 3oz. Travel Tubes: these are by far the BEST travel size bottles out there, period. I’ve tried so many, believe me. I used to buy the 3-pack of travel size tubes at Target on every trip, but they would leak every damn time. Not to mention the bottles would warp and I would have to buy a new set for each trip. I’ve had these GoToob bottles for 3 years and they have never once leaked or broken. They are SO worth it!
X-Shot Selfie Stick (I use w/ my GoPro): I’ve used this selfie stick for the past 2 years and I love it! It’s not bulky like most other selfie sticks and it’s super lightweight and folds up small. And it’s NOT flimsy. I use it daily on my travels.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂
Chefchaouen (“shef-sha-wen”) is one of the most photographic cities you will ever come across. Period. Located between the Rif mountains, it affords the perfect secluded environment to get away from the madness of fast-paced cities like Morocco and Fez.
There is not so much to “do” in the Blue City,yet it’s more of a place to sit back and observe your surroundings and relax. There is something about the different shades of blue that is so calming.
Why are the Walls Painted Blue?
I’m glad you ask, and there are a few theories. The first being that the color blue deters mosquitos and keeps the city cooler during the hot summer months. Another theory is that the Jewish refugees painted it blue as a symbol of the sky and they saw this as a way to be closer to God. Which one is true? Who knows. The city is freshly repainted about once a year, making the bright blues really pop with color.
What to Do in Chefchaouen
Go to the Spanish mosque perched upon the mountain for the best sunset view
Eat at the cozy Molin Arte near the waterfalls
Get completely lost in the blue maze streets (literally and figuratively)
Photograph the copious amounts of kitties
Speak Spanish with the locals (ya, that surprised me also)
Admire the #DoorPorn
Indulge in the Hashish culture (if you’re into that stuff…it’s everywhere, you just gotta ask)
Disconnect from the world♥
How to Get to Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is a little out of the way from other popular Moroccan destinations, but it’s worth the trip 110%. It was my favourite city in Morocco by far!
CTM bus: Take a 5-hour by bus from Fez on CTM. It eaves at 7:30am or 8 from 2 different points in the city. It is also accessible via Tangier (and a bit closer).
Once you arrive, take a taxi from the bus station to the medina. You can’t walk, trust me. It’s up a steep hill. The taxi should cost 10-20 dirham max! It cost me 10 dirham for a shared cab and only took 5 minutes.
Growing up on the East Coast, I had been to New York City many times. However, I had never traveled there solo. The main reason? It’s ridiculously expensive to stay in a hotel by yourself in Manhattan!
And now that Airbnb has officially been banned in the city (boo), an affordable place is almost impossible to find. Let me rephrase that: an affordable place in a SAFE neighborhood is almost impossible to find.
I’m happy to say I found a cute little place to stay in a great neighborhood called Washington Jefferson Hotel. This hotel specifically caters to solo travellers and offers single rooms that are actually affordable. I wouldn’t say cheap, because that seems to be an oxymoron when it comes to Manhattan. But I think you can catch my drift, ay?
The Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen
The hotel is right in the middle of all the action in New York City, yet it is located down a quiet side street. Washington Jefferson Hotel is located in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City.
Out of the 8-10 times I have been to NYC, I can say that this was one of my favorite areas to stay. Why you may ask? It is the most central area I could ask for when exploring NYC. Almost all the major attractions are walkable from Washington Jefferson Hotel. It is located in Midtown after all.
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To give you an idea, here are the walking distances I experienced while staying at WJH:
Times Square-6-7 minute walk
Central Park (south entrance>): 10 minute walk
Theatre District: 1-5 minute walk
Rockefeller Center: 7-8 minute walk
Strolling through Central Park on a bike in January? Why not? 🙂
Where to Eat
Bibble and Sip for morning coffee and pastries. If you exit the hotel and take a right, this cute little cafe will be about a 20 second walk on the left side.
Head to Aria for good Italian food and wine in a romantic setting. It was a little strange going here solo, but the ambiance was great as well as the food! It’s literally 10 seconds from the hotel.
There were SO many food options in the Hell’s Kitchen area, and at a fraction of the cost than what you would expect to pay in NYC. This area is also known for the variety of ethnic foods on offer, including some of my favorites Thai, Indian, and Italian.
Basically, if you exit the hotel and take a left, you will have a plethora of affordable food options, including a market and a few $1 pizza slice places.
Note: the hotel is attached to a Japanese restaurant called Shimizu; however, I did not have time to try this place out unfortunately. I got sidetracked by all the other awesome choices right outside my doorstep!
Petite Room Catered to The Solo Traveller
The Petite room is a small room with everything you could need: comfy bed, goose down comforters, desk, WIFI, flatscreen HDTV, HBO, radio with iPod docking station, your own private bathroom, and more. Basic yet efficient! For a full list of amenities, check out the hotel’s page highlighting the Petite Room here.
A Few Other Perks of Washington Jefferson Hotel
Concierge service-if you’re staying at a hotel that offers concierge service, by all means utilize it! I must say I’m guilty of taking this service for granted. However, when I needed to copy stuff late night, the staff called several copy stores for me while I was resting from my day in my room. They gave me a ring with all the information and options and it was super helpful! I was literally so exhausted I could barely function so this was a lifesaver!
Free Walking Tours of NYC-every Thursday at 9:30am there is a free walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen area. You also have access to all other free walking tours from other Triumph Hotels (NOT to be confused with Trump hotels…God no) in the city. Pretty cool!
Airline ticket printer booth-located in the lobby for all guests to print their airline tickets beforehand. I had never seen this before in any hotel and thought it was great….and necessary!
A small fitness center-call me crazy, but I always work out when I travel. Having a fitness center inside a hotel is key!
Although rates vary based on season, I saw rates as low as $95, an awesome price for a quality/centrally located hotel in NYC!
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Washington Jefferson Hotel and would recommend it for solo travellers. I initially thought it was strange that they didn’t have a restaurant or offer breakfast. However, after I saw how many cute cafes were within a minute walk I didn’t even care!
This hotel may not have been as visually stunning/colorful as most the boutique hotels I usually stay in, but for the price, location, awesome service, and safe neighborhood, it’s definitely a great choice if you’re visiting the city alone. It had everything I needed and I was quite comfortable, what more can you ask for?
Hover over image to PIN for later! ♥
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Washington Jefferson Hotel. However, my opinions remain my own and I’m in no way obligated to write a positive review. I enjoyed my stay and would recommend this hotel to solo travellers.♥
Cape Town is one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Bold statement, but absolutely true. I have never met someone who didn’t like it and the hype it gets it truly deserves.
My expectations were high, and surprisingly I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cape Town blew me out of the water and the bar has been set very high. My only disappointment was that we only stayed there 5 days. I could have stayed for weeks!
Cape Town has everything your imagined ideal city would have: natural beauty of the mountains and beaches, vibrant city life, some of the best wines in the world, reasonable prices, and endless high quality food.
Cape Town quickly became one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, along with Rome and Istanbul.
So what to do in Cape Town? I could write a book about it, but here are my top pics:
What to do in Cape Town
1. Take a Hike
Cape Town is for fitness and nature lovers. Hike both Table Mountain or Lion’s Head in a matter of hours with a spectacular view along every step of the way
We hiked Lion’s Head during golden hour and it was spectacular. You could see the entire city, Table Mountain, and Camp’s Bay in the distance.
View of Table Mountain on the hike up to Lion’s Head
We didn’t have time to do the Table Mountain hike unfortunately, so we took the cable car instead. The panoramic views over the coastline and city are spectacular.
2. Grab a Bite to Eat
Hold crap! I wasn’t expecting Cape Town to have such great food! I can honestly say in terms of quality, Cape Town had the most consistently good food out of any country I had ever been!
There are 2 open air markets that you can’t miss on your trip to Cape Town: Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill.
The Hout Bay Market (officially called Bay Harbor Market) runs Friday through Sunday and is the place to be on the weekends for good food and live music. Food and specialty shops line the cozy inside market and one could spend hours there. Make sure to go on an empty stomach because there is so much to try!! (There were also many gluten free options for those with allergies like me).
Tip: try the Springbok meat, it’s just like beef but a little sweeter. The springbok is the national bird of South Africa so a nice way to taste the local flavors.
Another favorite is the Old Biscuit Mill that’s only on Saturday mornings. This is another open air market with endless vendors offering a variety of foods. This was probably my favorite food experience in Cape Town, most likely because I found a number of gluten free tables offering delicate treats to satiate my cravings. It’s also another cool hangout spot!
Gluten free pastry..aka heaven in my mouth 🙂
Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco chili steak (signature dish that’s not on the menu). This was seriously one of the best meals of my life, if not the best. It sounds like a weird combo, but the flavors perfectly complemented the melt-in-your-mouth juicy steak. It was the most tender steak I’d ever tasted and I could have died a happy girl after my last bite. It’s that good. The restaurant also had a great ambiance and intimate setting.
Tip: you must make a reservation in advance as it’s a very popular place!
Bacini’s for pizza-right across from Bombay bicycle is Bacini’s. It’s nothing fancy inside, this is more of a local spot. The pizza was outstanding and they even had gluten free crusts! Avocado on pizza is a thing in Cape Town and it was friggin’ amazing! I’m hooked and now I’m always going to expect avo on my pizza wherever I go.
→An added bonus: we ran into Davos from Game of Thrones here! For extreme fanatics of the show, this made our whole trip!
Tiger’s Milk-another great restaurant downtown with that had the best gluten free leg of lamb pizza with a dallop of hummus and feta. Omg was it good.
V&A Market on the Wharf –this was the 3rd market we went to in Cape Town and it didn’t disappoint! It wasgreat for fruit juices, shakes, pastries, and also lactose free froyo!
3. Take a Road Trip Down the Coast
The plunging coastlines around Cape Town are nothing short of spectacular. You can’t leave without getting to explore the area on a road trip! Drive down the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Penguin Beach. If you have time, stop in MuizenbergBeach to photograph the row of colorful beach shacks.
Penguin heaven 😉
If you have even more time, make sure to head down to Hermanus, a quint little seaside town a 2-hr drive from Cape Town, known for whale watching and shark tank diving in its neighbor city Gansbaii.
How pretty is Hermanus??
On the way back to Cape Town, drive along False bay, which I thought was prettier than the actual Cape Peninsula honestly.
Tip: on your drive back from Hermanus, stop at Betty’s Bay, the less-touristy version of Penguin Beach. There was hardly anyone there when we went and we got up close and personal with the little guys! The cost is 10 rand for a parking permit but no one was there to enforce it.
4. View Cape Town from Above
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is get an epic aerial view. No view can get more epic than from a helicopter! We had 360 degrees of unobstructed views of the beautiful city, coast lines, beaches, peaks, and mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Unedited GoPro pic from the helicoptor
We decided to go with NAC Helicopters for our flight over Cape Town, mainly due their almost perfect reviews as well as their impeccable safety record (100% accident-fee). The perfect safety record alone is a deciding factor when it comes to putting my life into someone else’s hands in the air.
NAC Helicopters also offers tailored destination flights, so if you really want to ball out and show up somewhere in style, this would be a fun thing to splurge on!
The staff was super professional and kind, and I felt safe from the minute I walked into the door greeted by their warm smiles.
Tip: make sure to schedule the helicopter tour early in the trip in case of cancellations due to weather. We actually had our first flight cancelled so ended up re-scheduling it on our last day luckily.
5. Hop On Hop off Bus (seriously)
I never in a million years thought I would recommend a “touristy” Hop on Hop off Bus, but this is definitely an exception! The public transportation in Cape Town and vicinity is not that great so this is actually a great way to see all that Cape Town has to offer! You can buy a one-day pass for around $12 and a 2-day pass for around $20.
Spellbound in the enchanted forest inside Kirstenbosch gardens
The Hop on Hop Off bus has 3 different color-coded routes and I recommend all 3 if you have time! It’s no surprise my favorite was the purple route since this was the wine route!
Camp’s Bay-what I called the Malibu of Cape Town
If you’re short on time like we were, we only had a day to do the bus tour. Our favorite can’t miss stops included:
Purple wine route (the entire thing)
6. Drink World Class Wine
South Africa is known for its Pinotage red blend, distinctive to this area of the globe. Make sure you try a glass (or 5) of this delicious red wine, as this blend is not grown anywhere else in the world!
There are SO many vineyards within an hour or so drive from Cape Town and I recommend spending an entire day in Stellenbosch, and if you have time Franchoek as well.
The wine tasting crew! Carebear Abroad and I, along with our friend Nick, who lives in Cape Town. We met Nick on our 12-day Turkey trip 2 years before. #travelfriends
Our favorite winery was Vergelegen Estate. The property grounds were impeccably gorgeous and the staff was extremely interactive and fun. Oh, and apparently you can have a picnic in the camphor forest, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was closed when we went, but if you end up going, please let me know how it is!
If you’re planning what to do in Cape Town, hopefully these 6 recommendations are at the top of your list! There is so much more to discover in this unique city and we only just cracked the tip of the iceberg.
I cannot wait to get back to Cape Town and stay longer next time to enjoy more of the local life. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming about it. ♥
PIN for later 🙂
Disclaimer: I was a guest of NAC Helicopters. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to leave positive feedback. I thought the helicopter tour was awesome and the best way to see the city!
Have you Been To Cape Town? What were Your Highlights? Did I miss Anything? Do tell! ♥