Last year I flew to Iceland in the frigid January weather just to see the northern lights. In 3 days there, I didn’t have any luck. On top of that, my tripod blew over and I cracked my brand new camera. #EpicFail
Why I Chose Tromsø, Norway to Chase the Northern Lights
This time, I flew all the way to the north of Norway to a town called Tromsø. Tromsø is rated one of the top 10 places to see the northern lights in the entire world. Although you’re never guaranteed to see them, I thought I had a pretty good chance. Little did I know…
Welp, I guess I’m going back to Norway! Not a bad place to return to I must say.
I thought I had my mind set on a specific company to see the northern lights. Until a few weeks before my trip, I found Tromsø Friluftsenter, a smaller family owned company who have been operating since 2004. I’m a sucker for smaller family owned tours/companies because I love supporting smaller business, because I absolutely loathe being herded around like cattle on a huge tour bus, and because a smaller company usually means more personalized attention.
So I pulled a little switcheroo and decided to go with Tromsø Friluftsenter. Best. Decision. Ever.
The First Sighting
I knew it was going to be a great night when 10 minutes into our drive, we saw a glimpse of the northern lights zig-zagging across the sky. What was to come that night was extremely unexpected.
We arrived to their base camp about 45 minutes outside the city. As soon as we pulled up, we were greeted by a dashing display of the Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky in shades of neon green, purple, and pink (which turned out to be the strongest we saw them the entire night). Stepping out of the van and looking up to see this natural phenomenon that you’ve heard about since you were little bombarding the sky above was even better than I have ever dreamed about.
It left me speechless and teary-eyed, something that has happened only a few times in my travels.
Ok, back to the base camp. The base camp consisted of a few traditional Sami tents, with the mountains and the ocean nearby. It was a gorgeous snowy setting and provided many different foreground options to photograph the northern lights. Actually, this was one big factor that helped me with my decision to choose this company (as well as the near perfect TripAdvisor reviews). I really wanted to have a nice setting with cute houses or something else to frame the shot. I didn’t just want a million pics of the sky (although the sky was phenomenal on its own I realized after I arrived).
Traditional sami tent(with a badass fire burning inside to keep you warm)
Our Sami tent had a bonfire burning and wooden seats made from tree trunks and topped with reindeer fur Surrounding the fire pit in a circle. It was so cozy and cute and I couldn’t have asked for a more arctic setting! It also meant we had somewhere to run to and warm up in between shooting the northern lights, something that all the other companies didn’t have! It was freezing and I couldn’t imagine standing outside for 4-5 hours straight so this was a huge plus!
We were served coffee or tea and cake, and later roasted marshmallows over the fire. It was absolutely perfect and reminded me of the fun times I had camping when I was young. It also provided time to get to know the others on tour. We had a blast listening to all Knut’s (the owner) reindeer stories as we warmed up our fingers and toes.
Don’t Stress About Shooting the Northern Lights
On the drive over, our awesome guide Pierre gave us some quick and easy photography tips for shooting the northern lights (which can also be applied to all night photography). This was also a big plus since I have never shot night photography before so I really needed help!
Pierre also helped us with the setting or any other questions we had while we were out shooting. He wanted to make sure we all got good shots of the lights, even if everyone didn’t have a fancy DSLR camera.
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Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips
Put camera in Manual Mode (M)
Check sensitivity of sensor (aka ISO). Recommend ISO 1200-1600. More ISO means more noise (grainy)
Shutter Speed: at least 10 seconds. 15 seconds is recommended as a starting point.
Aperture (F number). The lower the aperture the better for night shots.
Put on Manual Focus (MF)-to prevent blur. Activate screen of camera and zoom in to set it.
You MUST use a tripod (night shots require the shutter to be open for longer periods of time and complete stillness is needed)
*Most of my shots were taken at 1600 ISO, F4 aperture, at 15-20 seconds. However, I was so excited when I went outside and saw the lights that I forgot to put my camera on manual focus so they aren’t as clear as they could have been. Rookie mistake!
Camera Gear for Shooting the Northern Lights
The right camera gear is KEY to shooting the northern lights. However, you don’t have to be a professional and you don’t need to spend thousands. But you’re going to need more than a camera phone or GoPro. Below is all the camera gear I used and all can be found on Amazon (my obsession).
Wide Angle Lens: a wide angle lens is a must as it allows more light in (due to a wider aperture), which is essential for night photography. I bought mine pre-used. It cost more than my camera base but it’s SO worth it as I use it to shoot ALL my landscape shots! My lens is the Sony SEL1018 10-18mm Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
iPhone 6: Sorry, but you can’t get good shots of the northern lights on an iPhone. I used this ONLY for a remote through the Play Memories Mobile App. This allowed me hands-free shooting without the risk of movement from manually pushing the shutter button. My trusted iPhone: Apple iPhone 6 64GB Space Gray – (Verizon Wireless)
Disclaimer: the above links are affiliate links with Amazon. Meaning, if you make a purchase with these links I may receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you. It’s what helps me keep this site up and running, so a special thanks!♥
All of the Lights
We didn’t just see the northern lights, we got hammered with them the entire night! They danced, they pranced, they moved, they boogied! Incredible is an understatement. I waited so long to see them, and boy did I get a show! The lights were active the entire night, and at some points they would really blew up in the sky.
Pierre would constantly check outside and come get us when they were exploding! We immediately grabbed our tripods and dashed outside. Pierre loved shooting at the nearby beach and would hurdle over there quickly in the snow. We couldn’t keep up at times he was so enthusiastic about it! It was funny to watch and it kept our energy high, especially when it was getting late.
The best part is that Pierre took several hundred photos of us and the lights, and we were given access to them via Flickr. So even if you don’t have a camera with you. You will get some awesome shots of the lights so your memories will last forever!
We were also given a tripod and a warm jumpsuit to wear if needed. They only had size large and X-large so I was tripping on mine at some points, but hey, it kept me pretty warm!
Overall, this might have been my favorite tour I have ever taken! The crew was awesome, the base camp was unique and fun, the setting was just perfect and had a lot around to use as props for our pictures, and the light show was just out of this world!
We got lucky as Pierre said this was the strongest show he had seen all year. You’re never guaranteed to see them, but boy did we get smacked in the face with a spectacular show from Mother Nature.
I would 110% recommend you to check out this company if you come to Tromsø. I had a special night with them I will never forget. They also do whale watching tours which I would have loved to do, however, that season ended in January unfortunately.
Note: I read on their site that visiting the base camp isn’t always guaranteed. On nights when the activity is low, you will drive around to different spots and “chase” the lights. But as the activity is pretty solid in this area, I would assume you have a good chance of visiting the base camp.
Disclaimer: I was a guest ofTromsø Friluftsenter; however, my opinions are my own and as you can tell, I freakin’ loved them! I would confidently recommend them to my family, friends, and anyone else visiting Tromsø. Hell, I would take this tour again if I ever return to Tromsø!
If you’ve never heard of the Skyroam portable hotspot device before, you’re about to hear everything there is to know about this powerful little device. After one use, I questioned how I ever travelled before without it. I love mine and am absolutely obsessed with it, it never leaves my side! So for me, it is 110% worth it. But is it worth it for YOU? That’s the question. I’ll get to that later after I tell you all about this incredibly handy little device!
Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device
In a Nutshell
The Skyroam is a portable hotspot device that allows you to stay connected to wifi all around the world.
It works in 100+ countries (and counting) and gives you unlimited and secure wifi for 24-hour periods.
What Countries Does the Skyroam Work in? I’m Glad You Asked!
Argentina, Aruba,Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saipan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Island, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
Australia, Christmas Island, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand
Egypt, Kenya, South Africa
Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan,Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
Israel, Qatar, Turkey
So How the Heck Does the Skyroam Work?
Does it really matter, it’s awesome. Just kidding, I’ll explain. The Skyroam connects to the best local wifi signal. It basically allows you to access local date, internationally!
Exploring the Bay of Islands in New Zealand with my Skyroam. I was able to provide live updates to Snapchat while on the go!
It’s SO simple. All you do is turn on the device and hit “start” and BAM, wifi works. Plus, it’s so compact and light you can just slip it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go.
The bottom line: the Skyroam portable hotspot device is the most convenient way to access wifi when abroad. Period. There is no monthly contract. You pay for what you use, whenever you want to use it.
Some Other Awesome Features of the Skyroam:
Your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked to use it! For all those AT&T iPhone users, this is a Godsend.
You will no longer have to deal with SIM cards, contracts, or roaming/overage charges.
You can connect up to 5 devices: yep, you heard that right! You can hook up 5 devices to the Skyroam and enjoy unlimited international wifi. However, it’s important to note that once you hit the 1GB mark, the service slows down a little. So I wouldn’t connect more than 2-3 devices unless you want super slow service.
Use your Skyroam on road trips to access Google Maps! You have no idea how convenient it was to use this device during my New Zealand road trip. It was a life saver!
Always use a secure network! Skyroam uses an encrypted connection to keep your data safe and secure while using wifi. (In case you didn’t ever think about it…when you use local wifi in cafes, hotels, restaurants, these networks are not secure and you may be exposed to hackers).
The Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device is especially useful and cost effective when traveling through many different countries in a short amount of time.When you cross borders, the pass does NOT reset and once it connects to the local service it’s good to go!
Using Google Maps through my Skyroam service saved my life during my New Zealand road trip!
I tested this traveling through the Baltics by bus. I thought maybe the day pass would reset and I would have to use another one once I crossed the border, but this was not the case at all! There was a short transition period of less than 20 minutes and then it picked up the local service of the new country after crossing the border. So easy!
Rent vs buy
Rent: you can rent the hotspot and pay $9.99 per day for shorter trips (or if you do not travel often).
Buy: you could buy the hotspot for $99 and then pay $8 for each day pass (which I highly recommend). On the days you don’t use it, you don’t pay!
Oh, and recently they have introduced Skyroam vending machines in San Francisco airport! How cool. You can also purchase the Skyroam in various airports throughout. Two popular airport stores selling the Skyroam include InMotion and Brookstone. To search for a resale stores near you, you can click here.
Daily passes: you pay for a daily pass and this gets you unlimited global data for a 24-hr period. So simple!
If you travel even occasionally I would highly recommend buying the device and taking it with you on all trips in case of emergencies. It will come in handy sooner or later and you will be happy to have a backup when necessary (more on that below).
Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device worth it?
Ok, so let’s get down to it. Let me provide a few different scenarios, which will help you decide if it’s worth it for YOU.
Scenario 1: you’re going to Europe for one week and hitting up 3 different countries.
Is the Skyroam worth it? Hell yes.
Here’s why: getting a local SIM card for 3 different countries will not be very cost effective. It will also be a pain in the a** to waste time in each county finding a reliable SIM.
Example: I was just traveling through the Baltics and spend 2 days in 3 countries. I used the Skyroam with ease and even as I was crossing over the borders(as I just mentioned above).
Scenario 2-You’re going to Portugal for a month.
Is the Skyroam worth it? No
Here’s why: it would definitely be more cost effective to pick up a local SIM and use that for the duration of your trip. Unless your phone is not unlocked (see below).
Scenario 3: you’re going to Colombia for 5 days and your phone is NOT unlocked.
Is the Skyroam worth it? Yep
Here’s why: most carriers charge a sh*t ton for international data. Since you will only be there 5 days, use your Skyroam!
Scenario 4: You are traveling to Europe for one month, hitting up 4 different countries, and decide you will purchase a SIM card in each country.
Ok, that still sounds more cost efficient, so you don’t need a Skyroam, right?
Yes and no. My advice is to bring your Skyroam anyway, for emergencies.
Let me explain: let’s say for instance you land in a small airport in Croatia in the evening, all the kiosks are closed (or there is no place at the airport that sells SIM cards), there is no airport wifi, and you need to make it to your Airbnb. The easiest solution? Activate a day pass on your Skyroam to help navigate your way. Then the next day, go ahead and purchase that SIM. This scenario happened to me in New Zealand recently and it was a life saver to be able to cut on my Skyroam and use it to order an Uber. (The airport wifi wasn’t working..something that happens from time to time even if they have wifi!)
Scenario 5: you and a friend are traveling to Iceland for 4 days.
Is the Skyroam worth it? Yuppp.
Here’s why: remember that part above where you can connect up to 5 devices?Yep. So you and a friend could split the costs and both use the Skyroam! But, I honestly would not connect more than 2-3 devices on this because it tends to slow it down a lot. But using 2 phones is perfectly okay and would make it super convenient for your trip!
→A quick note on Battery life: I read somewhere that the battery on the Skyroam lasts up to 9 hours, but it lasts me about 6 hours. I guess it depends on how much you use it (I use mine a lot). I always carry my awesome dual power bank by Jackery so it’s not a problem. I recharge several devices on this each day while travelling, and the power never runs out.
Crazy Travelista’s Overall Impressions:
I have personally used it on 4 continents and 13 countries so far including: Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Italy, Colombia, USA, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.
How did I live without you before?
I have been extremely impressed with the quality of service, speed, and convenience of always having the option to have wifi wherever I go. I have no idea how on earth I ever traveled without it before. It’s light, compact, reliable and the most convenient way to access wifi abroad!
So is it worth it? In some instances it is not, as I highlighted above. But overall, the Skyroam is definitely worth it and something every traveler should own! I have a feeling this is going to revolutionize the way we travel and always being able to share our travels is really awesome. Kudos, Skyroam. Kudos.
To rent/buy, you can check out the Skyroam websitehere.
*FOR 10% OFF YOUR PURCHASE, YOU CAN USE THE CODE “CRAZYTRAVELISTA” AT CHECKOUT! ♥
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 am a brand ambassador for Skyroam and absolutely love it! I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t truly love!
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 🙂
When it comes to travel, I’m always looking for convenient accessories/gear to make my life easier. I also travel on mostly budget airlines so I need to make sure everything is small and compact.
For all you ladies out there, packing a little bit of makeup is key and most of you wouldn’t leave home without it. I remember the one time my dad saw me without makeup and told me I looked “sick”. Yaaaaa, like I said, I would never leave home without it! Thanks a lot dad! Anywayz…
As a travel blogger, we are often offered free travel gear/accessories. However, I’m extremely picky and tell the company I can try it out and IF I love it I would be happy to provide a review. If you notice, I don’t have any reviews of travel gear on my blog as of yet. Not one. Like I said, I’m extremely picky and I would only promote something I realllllly love.
Well, I found something I am completely obsessed with: the Kusshi Makeup bags. Here are 4 reasons why (trust me, they are all you need).
1. They’re Washable. I repeat, they’re WASHABLE!
Where have you been all my life? Seriously. I am always spilling makeup inside my bag and it becomes super messy. When I’ve had enough, I eventually throw it away and start with a new one. Repeating that cycle is getting old.
The makeup bag folds down if its not full so you can pack it down into a tiny carry-on suitcase!
With the Kusshi bags, you just toss them in your washer on low heat and voila! You have a shiny new makeup bag! No need to scrub yourself and no need to buy a new one! It also retains its shape after the wash (I’ve already washed mine and it held up perfectly). Just make sure you line dry and DO NOT use the dryer.
2. Zips Down on Both Sides So You Can See All Your Sh*t!
With zips on both side, you can zip them down and it basically flattens down and opens up so you can EASILY see and access all your makeup. It’s so nice to not have to stick your hand in a tiny makeup bag and have to shuffle around trying to find everything. I might love this feature even more than the fact that it’s washable!
3. Separate Brush Holder Case
It’s really nice to have the brushes separate from all your other makeup to keep them clean and also to protect the bristles. There is also a little pouch where you can keep your jewelry.
4. A Bonus Cute Little Clutch!
The brush holder also double as a stylish little clutch for that random night out on the town. Not having to pack another purse into a tiny suitcase will save some stress for sure.
The really cool part is that you can “unsnap” your brush pouch and place it into the little clutch or snap it into your makeup bag if you want everything all in the same place. I love having options!
A Few More Details..
You can get this in leather or fabric in a few different colors. I chose to go with the fabrics on both since I knew they would compress down better and weight a few ounces less! The crazy light packer in me haha. 🙂
I’ve had these bags for a few months and have taken them all over the world with me. I can honestly say I absolutely love them! When I received the makeup bag, I was initially a little worried because it was bigger than my regular travel makeup bag. But then I noticed you can fold it down if it’s not full and fit it into little spaces in your suitcase, which worked out perfectly.
I would highly recommend these bags for travel and also for every day use! Anything that makes your life easier is a winner in my book!
Where to get the Kusshi Makeup bags:
You can purchase these bags directly on their website. Make sure to choose the colour and fabric of each bag!
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you purchase this product through this link, at no extra cost to you. This small commission helps keep this website up and running. Many thanks for that 🙂