Great Tools, Apps and Gadgets for Planning a Holiday

Planning a holiday used to mean a trip to the travel agent to see what package holiday deals they had on this season. Nowadays we have the Internet, which has literally opened, up the world to us. There are an infinite number of places to visit, so here are some things I have used to help me plan trips.

Best Website: Trip Advisor
This website has revolutionized the way we book and plan our holidays. The most important feature is the accommodation reviews, which are pretty unbiased, unlike certain websites which sell rooms where there seem to be less negative reviews. You need to keep an eye out for fake reviews still, which can be done by watching for similar writing styles and lots of reviews from users with just one post.

Trip Advisor also shows you Things To Do In “Location”. This lists and reviews all the sights and activities, which really helps you decide how long to visit a particular spot. If you are a big Facebook user, you can also connect it to your account and it will show you if a friend or friend of a friend has reviewed a hotel or place you are looking at. From Trip Advisor you can also see hotel prices and then click through to book online.

Best App: Evernote
I use Evernote for so many things and travel planning is just one. I was able to plan an upcoming trip for 4 people across 3 countries in a very quick and organized manner thanks to Evernote. I used it to plan the itinerary, list important phrases from emails in the traveling party, to save e-tickets for flights in one place, and save helpful webpages and videos.

When we get there I shall be loading some of these pages onto the app Pocket that saves webpages offline, very handy for saving sites like Wiki Travel. Both these apps are free to use and they sync on all operating systems and devices. This means I can be out somewhere and take a photo, then save it to Evernote for later, or save a webpage for later. Then get home and it is on my computer to send to others in the traveling party. There are so many uses for it besides this too such as having something to read about your upcoming holiday whilst offline.

Best for Backpackers: Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a Shoestring
I have used this book on and off for the past 17 years. It features all of the nice cheap backpacker countries like Thailand and Laos. I used to use it to find accommodation, as did most backpackers before sites like Trip Advisor came along. The prices were always out of date and they still are. I suspect that once a hotel gets listed, they get instant success and this probably leads to them upping their rates.

Nowadays I use it more for planning where to go or things like finding a hospital, post office or an extra activity. Reference books are not easy to use on tablets and Kindles, so this is the one book I keep with me in South East Asia. They have guides for most countries in the world. It is also always something I have in my hand when taking off and landing on flights when electronics are prohibited.

garden screesaver

Best for Future Memories: Sony RX100
When you travel to amazing places that you have taken time to plan, you will want more than just memories. So buying the best camera for your trip is essential. Phones are getting good at taking photos, but they are all terrible at taking photos at night and they don’t have zoom. So you want a small camera, which you can keep with you all the time. They don’t come any smaller than the RX100 if you want all the professional controls and a good size sensor.

For the past year or so I have been using the RX100 mark 2. It is superb because it fits in many pockets, but also produces photos and videos on a par with basic DSLR cameras (with kit lenses). The photo above was taken in Thailand at the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens with my RX100. I turned it into a screensaver and video, so that it can be enjoyed forever. The best value one right now is the first version that was reduced in price when the 3rd version was released a few months ago.

Best for Skiers: the Sweetspot
Not everyone skies but for people like me who only manage to go on a skiing holiday once every 2 years or so, the Sweetspot by SkiA Designs is a godsend. It straps to the bottom of your boots and acts as a low priced ski simulator.

It is quite hard to describe with words, so if you are a skier just take a look at the video on YouTube below; basically it helps you balance as if you are really skiing. This saves you from needing a refresher course if you have not skied for a long time.

 

Chiang Mai the Perfect Place for a Long Holiday

Chiang Mai is the northern capital of Thailand. It is nowhere near the beaches that the country is famous for in the southern islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phang Nang. It is nowhere near the seedy nightlife found in cities such as Bangkok and Pattaya.

It is quite literally nowhere near these places not just by distance but also in many other ways. Some of these things are what makes Chiang Mai the perfect place for a long holiday.

Doi Suthep: Making Chiang Mai feel like a Mountainside Town
Doi Suthep isn’t the most spectacular mountain, or the highest. But it is right next to Chiang Mai. The city is so small that it has a kind of small town feeling. This combined with a mountain backdrop on one side makes it feel like a lovely mountainside town. On the other hand you also get the benefits of a city such as modern malls, three opened within the past couple of years.

At the top of the mountain is a wonderful temple with stunning views over the city. If you can find a place to stay with a view of the mountain, you will really appreciate it. We changed rooms 4 times to earn the best view in our building. Now that we have the view we want, we will keep the apartment even when traveling elsewhere. Which brings me nicely onto accommodation…

Value Accommodation
At any time other than December and mid April, you will easily find excellent value long-term accommodation in Chiang Mai. When I say excellent value I really mean it. We pay $150 a month for a spacious, clean, modern studio apartment. It has a balcony with great views of the mountain, which we enjoy most at sunset.

You can even pay less than this. The high student population means that there are more modest lodgings to be found, even at half the price if you are willing to forego a few luxuries such as air conditioning. Realistically most westerners will want a place starting at around the rate we pay. If you can afford to go higher than double the price we pay, you can get your own house. Contracts are easy, you pay a deposit and then it is monthly. There is no need to commit to long-term contracts unless you are renting a house.

My parents recently visited and we found them a beautiful hotel with Thai carvings and a lovely garden for literally a third of the price they usually pay back in the UK for holiday cottages. I think it was a four star hotel and they were amazed at the value in comparison to the cottages they usually rent back home. Some of the hotels offer very reasonable monthly rates, or you can just cycle around looking at apartments.

Temples, Temples and even more Temples
Chiang Mai is probably most famous for the hundreds of Buddhist temples, which you can find all over the city. These bring short-term tourists, but there are so many that even long term holidaymakers like myself come across new ones all the time. There are many monks wearing the orange robe, which adds to the beauty.

Every hotel and guesthouse has free maps showing the popular temples and when you want to get around it is usually best to say the name of a temple instead of a road name. I even went to a hospital the other day, which was called something complicated, so it was known as Suan Dok Hospital as that was the nearest temple, a very good one I might add.

A great day out is north for two hours to the small city of Chiang Rai. The reason for the trip is to see the most beautiful white temple you can imagine. I promise that if you Google it, you will add visiting this building to your travel bucket list.

History and Culture
The north of Thailand was once The Kingdom of Lanna. The heart of which was a 2 KM square moat around fort walls. This is now known as the Old City in Chiang Mai. This is where many hotels and guesthouses are situated. There are many temples to see and an enormous night market every Sunday.

The Lanna culture has been brought back and celebrated over the past 30 years. It’s influences can be seen in restored buildings and many local arts and crafts people make beautiful pieces as a homage to their heritage. This culture gives Chiang Mai a unique feel. Many restaurants and shops have decorations like woodcarvings that make you feel like you are in a unique place.

Waterfall Video Download

Waterfalls & Rice fields Make Great Days Out
You can hire a private car with driver, a hire car, a motorbike or a Tuk Tuk to take you to nearby sights. The journey is often through lush countryside that looks beautiful in the rainy season from May to October. The rice paddies and farmers working in them make great photos.

Even better photo opportunities can be found at the many waterfalls near Chiang Mai. The one pictured above is my favorite, Mae Ya waterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park. I even bought the video which you can get if you click the image. It is worth staying at Doi Inthanon overnight, as the mountain is the highest in Thailand, but lies 2 hours south of Chiang Mai. It has around 5 more waterfalls to visit as well as other scenic spots like rice terraces.

North of Chiang Mai there are plenty more waterfalls to be found such as the unique “sticky falls” at Bua Tong and the 10 stage waterfall at Mae Sa. Plus there are two waterfalls on Doi Suthep worth visiting including this HD Waterfall just after the zoo. The zoo has a great aquarium and some good animal enclosures, go early though to avoid the heat.

Coffee Culture
Chiang Mai is first and foremost a university city. This, combined with ever growing tourism, has led to an astonishing number of coffee shops popping up everywhere. The quality of the beans is awesome, from the finest international roasts to locally grown coffee in nearby hills.

With so many coffee shops to choose from, the competition is intense. This means we get to choose from an awesome array of different places to relax with a delicious cappuccino or a cooling Thai iced tea with milk. Prices are fair at around $1.50 and this sometimes includes artistry on the top of the coffee by the expert baristas.

The coffee shops offer air conditioning breaks which is very welcome when you have been out in the sun for a while. Two of the best coffee shops are Catmosphere and Maeworth. These are filled with cats. Long time travelers often miss our pets so this is a great idea. Go early to the cat coffee shops or you may need to queue up to get in.

Besides the above the city is filled with cheap local eats and every international cuisine you can think of, the most recent addition being an Iraqi restaurant in the ultra chic Maya mall. Getting around is easy and cheap with local red pick up trucks. many people hire motorbikes or buy bicycles.

It is easy to stay a long time by visiting the way most people do, on a visa exemption. This gives you 30 days, however a new rules has been introduced in August which now allows you to extend for a further 30 days. If you would like to stay longer you must apply for a tourist visa. Ideally a double entry which can give you up to 6 months if you extend twice and hop out of the country once.

5 New York City Highlights

New York is one of the greatest cities on the planet – here’s what to do on a trip to this fantastic place.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of planning a trip to New York. The hardest part is knowing exactly how big a bite you will be able to take out of the Big Apple due to not only it’s size but the amount of attractions it boasts. It can be daunting to try and narrow down what to see and what not to, and trying to fit too much in will just leave you exhausted and not enough time to enjoy what you are seeing.

Before you go to the USA you will need to prepare – here’s a quick guide how:

  • Book flights with a competitive quality travel provider like Travel Pirates
  • Organize your visa with a provider like estaonline.org.uk to ensure no issues with entry
  • Make a List and Pack
  • Call a Taxi with plenty of time to spare to ensure you get to the airport
  • Be ready for the taxi and if it’s an early flight set two alarms

With the short term visitor in mind we have compiled this list of 5 must see things in New York that combines attractions with getting the essence of this incredible metropolis.

1. Empire State Building

You can’t go to New York and not visit the Empire State Building, simple as that. Whether you have seen King Kong swatting toy airplanes or grab the tissues every time you see Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan having their famous meeting this is a must see in every sense of the word. Taking a trip to the observation deck on the 102 floor of this 103-story skyscraper is something you will never forget. Now, sadly, once again the tallest structure in New York the Empire State Building should be on everyone’s itinerary.

2. Chinatown, Manhattan

Home to the biggest enclave of Chinese outside of Asia, Chinatown is a cacophony of sounds, sights and smells that is like no other. There are actually at least 9 separate town scattered across New York but this one in Manhattan is the oldest, the biggest and by far the most famous. Easily located and bordering Little Italy, another area worth a visit, and time your visit to include one of their amazing parades is well worth it.

3. Statue of Liberty

Perhaps the most iconic representation of New York and recognized the world over, a boat trip to experience this very special lady close up is awe inspiring. Alternatively you can catch the ferry to Liberty Island where the statue is located but you do get the best view from a distance rather than standing at the bottom looking up at it.

Ellis Island of course is also home to the immigration offices that met the millions that came to this great nation from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

4. Times Square

Lights, music, action and much much more awaits you when you take time out to experience the assault on the senses that is Times Square. This major commercial intersection is found in Midtown Manhattan and is the junction between Broadway and Seventh Action. You will have seen this so many times in films but, once again, nothing beats being there to appreciate it in all its glory.

5. Central Park

New York City

New York City’s Central Park

843 acres of lush greenery smack bang in the middle of the city, there isn’t another park in the world like this one. You have to actually be there to appreciate not only its size but its diversity. The best way to appreciate the beauty of Central Park is on a bike. These are really cheap to hire and thanks to the excellent sign post system you can take in the model sail boats on Conservatory Water, Belvedere Castle on top of Vista Rock, the sculpture of Alice in Wonderland, and one of the parks most photographed features the Bow Bridge. Built in 1862, this cast iron arched bridge stretches for 60 miles over a lake and connects Cherry Hill to the Ramble.

New York is a fantastic place to go and one of the most exciting cities on earth, so get planning and you’re sure to have a great time.

4 Best Cities in the World for Skateboarders

Some action sports enthusiast, spend a lot of their lives on skateboards. The Heroic Adventures team has collectively skated all over the world; it’s been a privilege to experience exotic urban landscapes while skating on multiple continents.

What we’ve learned is this — not all places are created equal, especially when you are traveling as a skateboarder.

The peaceful small city of Varna, Bulgaria? Scenic, indeed, but its cobblestone roads are not going to be very friendly to urethane wheels.

With some of these past experiences in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 best cities in the world to ride a skateboard.

1. Los Angeles, California

OK, so this is an obvious one, but there was no way we could overlook it for this article.

After all, LA really does have everything, and it is especially perfect for those into board sports — surfing, skating, and even snowboarding (within a few hours). Its legendary Venice Beach, it’s skate park featured in the photo at the top of this article, was the birthplace of the Z-boys, and it has been at the center of the skate industry for years.

Currently, mainstream events such as the X-Games, Street League, and Dew Tour all make regular stops through LA, and it is home to some of the world’s most famous street spots and skate parks.

An additional factor that makes LA such a great place for action sports lovers is that it has perfect weather year round, with an average temperature of 70 degrees.

Los Angeles Skateboard

Downtown LA, skating on some of Frank Gehry’s iconic architecture — the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

2. Barcelona, Spain

In the early 2000s, Barcelona became a sort of mythical skate mecca for skateboarders. Tired of contending with skatestoppers and overzealous security guards in California and other parts of the US, pros and amateurs alike began skipping across the pond to session the amazing and virtually untapped terrain of Barcelona.

With nary a skatestopper in sight and a populace that hadn’t yet learned to dislike skateboarding and the property damage it unfortunately causes, it became a veritable skate playground until the latter half of the 2000s.

These days, Barcelona isn’t quite the skate mecca that it once was, but it still offers a bunch of amazing and still somewhat untapped terrain for the intrepid traveler.

3. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen, China might just be the best place in the world to skate that you have never heard of.

With amazing marble terrain and lax security, Shenzhen emerged in the late 2000s as a place where you could fly to at the 11th hour to film a video part and walk away with several minutes of gold footage.

While Shenzhen is firmly located in communist China, the reality is that the police there have bigger problems to contend with than skateboarding, and most of them have never even seen a skateboard in the first place. Also, it’s easy to get to: it’s just an hour away from downtown Hong Kong.

This, combined with an abundance of marble ledges and unconventional architecture, contributes to make Shenzhen one of the best cities in the world to skate in.

4. Shanghai, China

What?!

Another Chinese city on the list?

Absolutely.

The reality is that China is “the place to be” for a wide swath of industries in 2014, and skateboarding is no exception.

Like Shenzhen, Shanghai is full of perfect marble ledges that require no wax at all to slide. However, it makes our list not because of its marble-y perfection, but because of the uniqueness of some of its skatespots.

You see, while many skatespots in Shanghai are perfect, not all of them are, and skating here is a bit like being dropped in the middle of a Static vide. If you are comfortable adapting to new, quirky terrain and like the harsh east coast vibe (and east coast winter) that Shanghai is known for, this is your city.

It also earns bonus points for the lifestyle. While Shenzhen and Guangzhou might have the highest percentage of perfect skate spots in China (and probably the world), Shanghai has the highest percentage of bottle shops serving imported brews.

And after a long heroic session, nothing is better than an ice, cold beer. Mmm, beer.

Best Place to Skateboard in the World

Whether you want to grind some curbs, or just roll around, skateboards are easy to pack and fun transport to expand your adventures when traveling.

No Need for the Amazon: Ayahuasca Ceremonies in the USA

There are physical adventures, there are mental adventures, and then there is ayahuasca: a relentless spiritual-physical-mental adventure that may be one of the most intense ordeals your soul can choose to experience in this life.

If an ayahuasca ceremony is on your bucket list, you no longer have to go all the way to South America’s Amazon to reach your goal.

Thanks to religious freedoms in the USA, you can finally check-off this list item, the ayahuasca ceremony, without leaving the USA. There are a handful of legal ceremonies popping up in urban areas and far-out locations in scattered pockets across the United States of America.

According to a page on the ayahuasca retreat section of AyahuascaRecipe.org, a UDV member who goes by the title Chief Minister Hupp is offering ayahuasca in the United States for people interested in the UDV religion and it’s full-on spiritual practice of ayahuasca tea imbibing.

“The tea, known as Ayahuasca or Hoasca, is revered as sacred by UDV members. It is a sacrament serving to heighten spiritual understanding and perception, and brings the practitioners closer to God and the Divine.” — Chief Minister Steve Hupp

It seems that the religious protections invoked by the UDV, a Brazilian religion, have made it possible — for people acting on the church’s behalf — to recruit new members to the church’s spiritual practices, where, as a potential member, you can partake in the ritual drinking of ayahuasca.

It’s typical for UDV ayahuasca sessions to include dancing all night, wearing pure white clothes, and singing Christian songs.

That’s right, the UDV is Christian. During a ceremony you’ll be immersed in an alternative Christian world that — to outsiders, the uninitiated, fundamentalist, or bible pounding puritans — may seem like sacrilege.

This is the most unusual US ayahuasca experience to come across Heroic Adventures’ radar, and it happens to be located in the same state as one of North America’s most famous horse races, the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, you read that correctly, Kentucky.

Save the South American journey. Instead, buy your plane ticket to Kentucky.

In all fairness, probably not everyone is as excited about an ayahuasca adventure in Kentucky as they would be taking the sacred medicine, say, with a Shipibo medicine man in South America — but, the novelty of the offer can’t be disputed.

Imagine it, you can fly from New York City down to Kentucky in a weekend. After drinking ayahuasca and having a lifetime’s worth of spiritual bombardment entering your consciousness, you’ll be a new person when you go back to the office in New York on Monday.

It’s time to take a Heroic Adventure not to the Amazon but to Kentucky.


Compare the first photo from the Amazon, below, to the second photo of Kentucky, below, it would appear there is a spiritual connection between the two… Well, at least, they both have a lot of nice green plants.

USA Ayahuasca Retreats

The Amazon isn’t the only place to legally ingest ayahuasca. Ceremonies are now emerging commercially in the United States of America.

Kentucky, USA

Looking a bit like the Amazon without the river, in Kentucky you can now legally drink ayahuasca with a Minister from the UDV.

Motorhome Holiday Essentials: What to Pack

Jumping into a motorhome and experiencing the freedom of the road, either home or away, is the perfect holiday for many.

Sales of motorhomes are booming, and it is little wonder when you consider what you can gain from a holiday of this kind as opposed to one just spent sitting by a pool all day.

Whether you are an experienced motorhome holiday maker or planning your first trip, here are 7 essential items that will make your motorhome holiday go a lot more smoothly.

Motorhome Holiday Essentials Continue Reading →

7 Best Secret Islands to Relax in Privacy

Islands have become one of the most celebrated places in the whole world. They are a favorite by people who find pleasure in having a cool place to spend their holidays. They have also proved to be the perfect destinations for enjoying a romantic holiday. However, not all Islands are capable of offering pleasure in the same measure. While seeking a place to enjoy your holiday, there are 7 best secret Islands you should know about. Below is a list and description of these destinations and what you will like about them. Continue Reading →

Top Summertime Destinations You Can’t Miss

The United States has a lot of beautiful places to visit when the weather is warm. Summer always brings out the best in cities around the country. In this article you will learn about the best places to travel during summer. It’s a good thing to know where to travel during certain seasons.

Miami Beach in Florida has some of the best weather during summer. Walk through the sand, shop at the nearby shopping centers, and enjoy fine dining all within walking distance from your hotel. Miami Beach has a lot of fun night activities such as drinking and dancing. Young couples that want to take their first trip together can make this trip a memorable experience. Families can also have loads of fun by visiting the local attractions, spending a full day at the beach, and eating great food all over the city. Continue Reading →

The Most Important Travel Tips – Health, Lodging and Money

Traveling can be fun and even more exciting with proper preparation for your social or official trip. There are therefore some very important tips you must keep in mind to manage and realize a comfortable trip. These tips are so important that some can never be overlooked in the preparation of any form of travel.

Health

Your health is the utmost important factor to consider whenever you are traveling away from your home or place of work. You need to inform your doctor and insurance provider of your planned trip in order to receive necessary vaccinations and renew prescriptions as you find out if your insurance policy applies in your destination’s hospitals in case of emergencies. Continue Reading →

6 Essential Elements to Consider When Planning To Travel For Vacation

Proper planning for your vacation is very important because it ensures that your expedition is stress-free and memorable. It is therefore, vital that before you set-off your journey to your preferred holiday destination ensure that you incorporate all the essential elements in your travel checklist to help you avert any cases of inconvenience that would compromise your voyage in one way or the other.

Here are some of the ideal elements that you should never overlook as you plan your vacation to make it possible for your journey to be efficient. Continue Reading →