Whether you dream of a posh suite overlooking the ocean, a boutique hotel in the heart of a city, a full-service resort, or a serene campsite under the stars, California has the perfect place to spend the night. Book a stay at a major chain almost anywhere in the state, or consider accommodations as distinctive as California itself—handsome stone-and-timber mountain lodges, restored Gold Rush hotels, snug inns, and ultra-exclusive retreats in one-of-a-kind settings. There are also millions of acres of unforgettable parkland where all you need is a tent, a sleeping bag, marshmallows, and a few good campfire stories. (And, maybe, a reservation.)
It may seem touchy-feely, and I've often been guilty of forgetting this admonition, but generally kindness is repaid with kindness, whether it's helping a fellow traveler, or giving a smile and kind word to one of the many travel industry employees you'll come across. It's just as easy to become angry and rude, but you just might get slightly better service and also keep yourself less stressed with a little kindness.
The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range, defining California’s eastern border, are known as the Gold Country, named after the rich Mother Lode discovered here in the mid-1850s. While gold is still found in the region, new riches include top museums and art in Sacramento, the state capital, plus whitewater rafting, tucked-away towns, farm-fresh dining, and award-winning wines.
This is one of our favorite ways to cut down on travel product overload: Stock up on tiny product samples. The best sample-sized products are the ones that come in flat little packets; you can easily fit legions of these into a quart-sized zip-top bag. How do you score them? A number of beauty and skin-care companies sweeten their sales with freebies: Sephora, Aveda, and Smashbox, for example, throw in tiny travel-sized products with orders. Or you can sign up for a beauty-product sampling service, such as Birchbox or Glossybox, which ships packs of sample-sized products to members who pay a subscription fee.
"Unless you're traveling super long haul, you don't need a $50 neck pillow or $300 noise canceling headphones. Bring some foam earplugs if you want to sleep on the plane, and roll up your jacket for a pillow. Same comfort for a lot less money," says Hester, a writer at Our Next Life early retirement blog, and veteran of "100+ flights a year and 80+ hotel nights."
If you know that there is a good chance you will be traveling, especially if you will be traveling during a peak season or holiday, start looking into your travel arrangements. Many times, it’s best to book your flight, hotel and car together as you will get a better deal. If you have to travel last minute, there is always the Skiplagged option, but make sure you are fully aware of the stipulations associated with booking travel through such a site. If you find you are booking travel for more than one employee often, it’s best to use a travel management site like American Express Global Travel. I know it doesn’t seem like a cost-effective option for all small businesses, but it is something to consider as they have saved my clients and me the expense of having to change last-minute travel plans.
We’ve all experienced hotel letdown. You arrive at what you thought would be a majestic place to stay, only to be assigned a corner room on the first floor, with a view of the parking lot and the faint scent of cigarettes in the air. Pro tip: This is why you should pretty much ALWAYS ask to switch hotel rooms after seeing the first one you’re offered. Oftentimes, the second room you’re assigned (or third, or fourth if you’re the daring sort) is much, much better than the first. All it takes is a gentle inquiry to land something spectacular, even when it’s not what the front desk initially prescribed.
Start with your sports jacket or the longest, most wrinkle-prone item you have. With the collar or waistband flat, place it against the bottom edge of the bag and drape the rest of the garment over the opposite side of the bag. Take another garment and place it in the opposite direction, flattening and smoothing out both garments in the bag and draping the remainder over the side. If you have trousers or other narrow items, do the same with them in the narrow direction of the bag. Keep alternating your items, ending up with the most wrinkle-resistant clothes you have.
This advice is twofold: Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jetset through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening. According to the TSA, "Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.)" so that the security agent screening your bag can get a clear picture of what's inside. The faster the TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you'll get through the security line.
Even if you're not sitting next to someone who is obviously ill, there's still a good chance that germs from passengers past are lurking in the cabin. Bathroom door handles, arm rests, tray tables, seat-back pockets, and seat-back screen controllers are among the surfaces that get dirty fastest and might not be properly disinfected between flights. Shared airplane blankets and pillows, especially those not sealed in plastic when you board, also tend to be germ factories.
You must be age 18 or older to purchase tobacco products in the state. Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings (including restaurants, bars, and casinos) and enclosed spaces throughout California. It is illegal to smoke within 20 feet of doorways or windows of government buildings. Most large hotels have designated smoking rooms; if you smoke, request one—most hotels will fine guests who smoke inside a nonsmoking room. Many cities in California have passed ordinances prohibiting smoking in public areas, and smoking is prohibited in some national and state park buildings and areas.
I make the most of my out-of-touch time on the plane, in transit, or in a hotel. Instead of being a slave to email, I prepare a list of phone calls I need to make and download PDFs of documents I need to read to my iPad, so that I can work easily in the airport and on the flight. I make sure to email myself source documents and open/save them before I get on the plane, so that I can edit or write in-flight.
Many of our favorite places are best traversed on foot. Skip the expensive sightseeing trolley and instead sign up for a group walking tour in your destination. If you're wary of being led around a tourist trap by someone in cheesy colonial garb, don't worry: Many destinations offer innumerable walking tours for every type of traveler, from the art buff to the culinary enthusiast. (Plus, a brisk walk between neighborhood nibbles almost outweighs the calories—we hope.)
One of the first lessons I learned on the road was that your plans will nearly always change. You’ll arrive in a place and hate it and want to leave immediately, or you’ll fall in love with a destination and want to spend longer there. You’ll make friends with a group of awesome people and want to change your plans so you can travel with them for longer, or you’ll find out about an amazing town that’s nearby and want to head there instead.
Great advice! I’m a BIG fan of packing cubes… I can’t believe I had never heard of them until a few years ago. Never have tried the tissue paper method. Will definitely have to, especially on business trips. I also recommend shoe bags as a way to keep organized and clean. Plastic bags are a great alternative but they often leak or get dirty too quickly. Hope you don’t mind but I linked your blog on my own about essential travel items. Thanks again!
Studies show that frequent business travelers, who travel on average more than two weeks per month, are at a higher risk for a number of health concerns, including weakened immune systems, obesity, or mental health problems. Being prepared and smart throughout the booking, traveling, and working away process can influence some major attitude adjustments when it comes to business travel. Limiting stress on the mind and body can make more of a difference than you could ever imagine, so why not try out a few, and turn the worst part of your job to something truly enjoyable?
How about both! Bleisure is a growing trend among business travellers. Not sure what it is? It’s when a business traveller tacks on a vacation day or two at the end or beginning of their business trip. Another popular form of bleisure travel is bringing your partner or children on the trip with you. This bleisure boom has been a growing success since many have found it reduces stress and increases productivity.
It's happened to everyone: Your suitcase zips just fine when you leave, but upon packing for your return trip, it fails to close. Rather than replace your luggage, consider these quick zipper hacks. If the zipper appears to be stuck, rub Vaseline, lip balm, or bar soap on the teeth to get it moving. Zipper teeth no longer staying closed? Usually a single tooth is bent out of shape. Feel along the length of the zipper until you find the one that sticks out, and then a quick adjustment with pliers will do the trick.
9. Develop a routine for sleep and eating. Eat before you get on the plane to maximize the amount of time you can sleep, particularly for red-eye flights. Transcontinental and transatlantic flights are often too short for a full night’s sleep. So maximize your Z’s by “preparing for bed”–brushing your teeth and getting into comfortable clothes–before the flight. Go to sleep as soon as you hit the seat. Scoring a window seat avoids being disturbed by fellow passengers during the flight.
"The more you pack, the easier it gets (or at least, the easier it should get) — so make being ready to travel part of your everyday life. Collect travel-sized toiletries when you have the chance: Get an extra toothpaste when you go to the dentist, ask your hair stylist for shampoo and conditioner samples, and keep all of them organized in a ready-to-grab toiletry bag. Learn which items of clothing work best for travel: They shouldn't wrinkle easily, they should work for day or evening, and they shouldn't take up a lot of space in your bag. And always pack less: What didn't you use on your last trip? Don't bring it." — Jessica Plautz, Deputy Digital Editor
Excellent advice about talking to locals. When you get to know the people who live there, it really makes for a wonderful experience. And you are so right, they have the best insider tips! We’re guilty of focusing only on photos at one point as well. When we started blogging as a career, we nearly lost ourselves in the work. We now always have to remind ourselves to have balance. It’s amazing to be able to capture a moment at our fingertips, but we feel it’s just as important to stop and take it all in. It’s easy to miss the moment when you’re looking through the lens. Thanks for sharing!
This sunny region along the state’s southern coast is California’s most populated region, best known as the capital of the entertainment industry. Here, movie stars really do work in Hollywood, play in the surf at Malibu, and shop in Beverly Hills. Looping freeways make the car king, but the region also has a surprisingly good network of buses and light rail—a hassle-free way to explore.
It’s good to have a budget to stick to, but most people tend to go over. Start saving as soon as possible (like, now) and aim to bring more money than you think you’ll need. The more money you have, the more you’ll be able to treat yourself to nicer accommodation, splurge on fun tours, and not spend your entire trip worrying that you’ll run out of cash.
Get ready to roll. With its mild climate, outstanding highway system, and nonstop-gorgeous scenery, California stands out as the perfect place for a road trip. And renting a car is about as easy as it gets. Whether your trip itinerary is a statewide tour of California’s greatest hits, a all-in-the-family visit to iconic theme parks, or an off-the-beaten-track adventure, there’s a vehicle to match your mood and style—snazzy convertibles, family-friendly vans, rugged models that can handle all types of conditions (even snow), even campers and Rvs, all in excellent shape and with good road assistance and optional insurance policies.
No-where did we find this more frustrating than in Cambodia. Like a lot of countries, Cambodia is quite cheap to travel when compared to Western countries, but are they still largely dependent on using the US Dollar, with the Riel only used for very small transactions. However, all the ATMs seem to be loaded with $100 bills, and don’t charge a % fee, they charge by transaction! This means it makes sense to get larger sums out, to avoid being charged multiple transaction fees.
As a productivity trainer, I travel quite frequently. Sometimes, there can be quite a bit of downtime. It could be long delays between flights, or canceled flights requiring you to rebook on a later flight. This often causes travelers a great deal of stress. But don’t fear downtime. If your flight gets delayed, you might default to checking your email or doing other work. But it may actually be more productive to use this unexpected time to meditate or just let your mind wander. This kind of mental break really boosts your productivity and creativity.
Tissue Paper: For delicate items, one of our favorite packing tips is to use tissue paper. Lay the item face down and place tissue paper on top. Fold it up with the tissue paper inside. Use additional layers of paper as you fold the garment so it is completely wrapped in and around paper. This is easy enough the first time you pack, but becomes a pain if you have to keep repacking. We only use this approach for evening clothes that we don’t want to crush.
Speaking of your body, this is the phase of travel where your body really starts to hate you, so come equipped to pamper it as best you can. Germaphobes, bring hand sanitizer and your own travel pillow. Prone to tight muscles or leg cramps? Bring a tennis ball to roll out what aches, or place it under a leg to release pressure in a knot. Frequent travelers might consider investing a pair of compression socks to increase blood flow during such long periods of immobility.
One thing I thnk you’d love which you may not yet know about is PortaPocket. Lets you safely, hands-free carry small essentials ON your body. Much more than any neck safe, money belt or leg wallet. It’s a patented, wearable system that’s modular, so it’s really ALL of those in one, and works almost ANYwhere on your body (& either under/over your outfit). Super confy, detachable/interchangeable, easy to use. Go from a workout to a night out without skipping a beat. I won’t leeave home without ’em, and haven’t relied on a purse to carry my valuables in over 10 years. Freedom = GOOD!!
Furthermore, if you're in a higher-risk situation—if, say, your medical insurance doesn't cover you abroad or you're heading to the Caribbean during hurricane season—travel insurance might be a smart purchase. Otherwise, maybe you're better off pocketing the extra hundred dollars or so and taking your chances on the road. To learn more, read Travel Insurance 101: What to Know Before You Buy.
One other scenario: you have plenty of time, but know that your flight is nearly full, and the line is long. Every minute you spend in line is another minute that the window and aisle seats are given away. If you check in with the skycap, then sprint to the gate for your seat assignment, you’ll often find that the line at the gate is much shorter than at check-in, and you’ll actually get your seat assignment more quickly.
“For summer travel, choose clothing and fabrics that dry quickly, and if possible, are not too heavy even when wet. Whether from hiking hard or getting caught in a rain storm, wet clothes can add considerable weight to your pack. For colder weather, choose one great outer-layer that will keep everything dry underneath. Also, a trash bag or rain-cover for your entire pack can be essential.”
It's great to have a guidebook, something to point you in the right direction and give you background information on the places you're visiting. The mistake first-time travellers make, however, is only doing things listed in the guidebook – only visiting the restaurants, staying in the hostels and visiting the attractions that get the guidebook's stamp of approval. There's more to the world than the bits listed in those pages.
5. Get a good meal. Yelp isn’t as sexy as some of the newer apps, but I use it on every single trip I take. There’s nothing more depressing than coming into a new city, being ravenously hungry and not having a clue where to eat (except for the decrepit hotel lounge). Use Yelp’s advanced search functionality to determine what’s “open now,” and within either a quick walk or a short drive. You can sort by type of cuisine and also by ratings, so you can ensure you’re looking at the best. This has led me to fantastic spots I never would have found, from a Thai/Vietnamese place in Akron to small gems on the side streets of Paris. (Note that Yelp is particularly strong in the U.S.; TripAdvisor may be worth consulting as an alternative if you’re traveling abroad and don’t see a lot of Yelp listings for the region you’re in.)
Figuring out the airlines' tricky and befuddling baggage-fee policies is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights. Spirit Airlines—that notoriously customer-unfriendly discounter—even charges as much as $100 for carry-on bags.
"As my collection of skin-care products continues to expand (I’m not 20 anymore), so has the time required to sort through it all — at the last minute, with my Uber to JFK honking downstairs. I recently started keeping a separate Dopp kit stocked with travel-size duplicates of all my essentials. This means I can just grab my toiletries and go, with no risk of forgetting some crucial cream or spray — plus it gives me an excuse to go nuts on all those cute mini items in line at Sephora." — CB Owens, Copy & Research Editor
I liked reading #15. In 2009 my wife and I taught English for 3 weeks in a tiny town in Central Vietnam that is still suffering from the effects of the Vietnam War. We will never be able to replicate those 3 incredible weeks of warmth, openness and sheer happiness from our students and the local community. It’s incredible to think that many of our student when on and have since graduated university.
For an easy and often fun way to get around California’s larger cities and communities, do what an increasing number of locals do and hitch a ride on a bus, subway, ferry, or light rail system. Using public transportation can be an efficient, affordable, safe, and eco-friendly option, particularly in areas where roads, parking, and urban traffic can be confusing and frustrating. Some transit systems let you buy multi-day passes; check ticket options online before you arrive to get the best deals. Two companies, Citypass and Go, also offer deals on local transportation options in San Francisco and Southern California.
Wearing a money belt or neck wallet lets you keep your valuables close to your body and away from prying hands. Review all the different styles here to choose what works best for you and the type of travel you’ll be doing. You may also want to choose an option with RFID protection. RFID protection keeps all passports with an RFID chip (issued after 2006) and credit cards/debit cards safe while travelling. How? It’s simple. Identity theft can occur when someone is able to “read” through your purse or pocket via the microchip, which has personal information stored on it. By using an RFID blocking technology, your personal information is protected. You can learn more about RFID safety from Scott Shelter, freelance journalist and frequent traveler.