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AIRLINE TRAVEL HACKS - TIPS FROM AN AIRLINE REPRESENTATIVE

AIRPLANE TRAVEL HACKS.png

 

Earlier this week I got on the phone with an airline to fix a little hiccup. I had ordered a ticket for my friend and typed in her married last name, not realizing her passport still had her maiden name. If we had showed up to the airport with the wrong ticket name, DESPITE having her state IDs, blood samples, family tree, mother's word, video of birth and her passports showing that she was the same person, she would have still been in a pickle. The name on the ticket MUST match the passport or else you're not getting on that flight. 

If this happened at the airport, getting through to the airline reservationist may have taken too long on the phone and we might have missed our flight from being on HOLD for so long. The reservationist can fix it on the phone, but time is always an issue at the airport. So, always make sure that your name matches the ticket. 

While I was chatting with my reservationist, I asked her for some tips flyers should know. Here is what she had to say.

 

TAMMY'S CARDINAL RULES

 

1. ALWAYS BE ON TIME. 

AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE AN INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT

Going through customs and baggage check is unpredictable. I'm sure there are plenty of times you've made it through the gates, but it is not the airline's fault if you showed up too late and you miss your flight. Get to the airport AT LEAST 2 hours beforehand and save yourself the stress.

2. BE NICE TO EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER.

IT'S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO, ITS HOW YOU DO

When speaking to the representative on the phone, they have the power to help you. Be respectful. Be kind. If something has gone wrong, yelling at them won't change anything. Remember they are trying to fix something for YOU. Yelling just impedes the process. Also, depending on availability, they can waive fees and bump you up or simply put you on a seat next to your friend on a crowded flight. Thanks Tammy:)

When talking to gate agents, wait till the end to board the flight. 

"I will wait until everyone boards.  At the very end, when they're giving a seat assignment. I say to the agent, How are you doing today? You need a drink? Coffee? I' m gonna need a better seat. Can you help me out?" 

Sometimes you have to beg to get what you want. 

3. NEVER WEAR HEELS TO THE AIRPORT

  

YOU ARE GOING TO FALL

It sounds like a herd of cows coming through the terminal. It is horrible.  If you have to run, YOU'RE GONNA FALL. 

 

Do you guys have any other tips for the airport? Comment below! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REFLECTIONS: ONE YEAR LATER

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

 

A year ago today, I was hopping on an airplane about to embark on the biggest trip of my life. My plane was headed to Cartagena, Colombia and I was about to travel mostly alone across 10 countries from South America to Europe. It would be one of the biggest trips I had ever done in my life.

The trip took my life for a turn that I had never envisioned. It led me to a love for travel, a thirst for adventure and a passion that I had formerly never known for anything. I learned that I love to write. First, about my silly adventures.... Waking up to a stranger massaging my feet on the beach in Colombia. Almost getting robbed alone in Peru. Exchanging money illegally in a back alley in Argentina. Then as time progressed, about ordinary people on extraordinary journeys... Modern Day Explorer. The whole time, I never knew where this little website would take me. 

Today, one year later, I'm super excited to be teaming up with Covry Sunwear, a sunglass line started up by two lovely female entrepreneurs - Florence Shin and Athina Wang. I have loved these sunglasses since I first wrote about them in my beginner writing days. I love when people chase their dreams and find success. Florence and Athina did just that! They had an idea 2 years ago for sunglasses that actually FIT and launched a killer Kickstarter campaign. They've been featured on Fast Company, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and today are selling these bad boys left and right. To get your own pair visit www.covrysunwear.com. I'm rocking the Castor Matte Blue in the photo above. 

Be sure to follow me on social media! I'll be showcasing some great photos with#mycovry sunglasses chasing frozen waterfalls in upstate NY! 

 

This is a sponsored post, but clearly I'm obsessed with them (i.e. the post I wrote about them in my beginner writing days) so everything is my opinion:)





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MODERN DAY EXPLORER: A BRAND NEW SERIES

I'm incredibly excited to share a new series that I have been working on for the past few months called MODERN DAY EXPLORER. Each piece will feature an ordinary person on an extraordinary journey. I started the series because I disagree with most of the world of travel writing nowadays. It seems like traveling has become a fad. People don't travel to discover anymore, they do it to get a dozen likes on Instagram. When reading about countries, they shouldn't be condensed to a Top 10 list, sanitized and dumbed down for consumption. I want to share stories of the people who travel because for them, traveling is about discovery, for adventure, for becoming better people, for understanding the world a little better. I want to be inspired by the very people that walk these roads. 

The first of the series, is the incredible Alexis Stember Coulter, an advertising producer who has always kept her two passions of photography and travel in the forefront of her life. She is an amazing storyteller, and the type of person who makes you feel as if you can take over the world after you chat with her. I hope that you find Alexis story as inspiring and compelling as I do. Click on the image above to start reading.

Do you know of anyone with an incredible travel story? Please SUBMIT using the contact page for a chance to be featured in an upcoming piece.

 

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TRAVEL HACKS: HOW TO SKIP THE LINE AT THE LOUVRE (IN UNDER 5 MINUTES)

Paris, France

MY MOM always tells me I'm special, but by no means does this mean that I can skip 2,000 sweating tourists without having some sort of backlash or revolt. (Hold down the serfs) So, as you've probably heard - getting into the Louvre is a big ordeal. It's a whole day thing. The line to get tickets is super long and takes somewhere between 2-3 hours and is a shit show. BUT what most people don't know is that there is actually an alternate place to buy tickets that never has a line..

As you are walking towards the Louvre, there are two large statues. They flank the walkway on both the left and right sides. Behind them, you will find two staircases. These staircases lead you to the downstairs "shopping area" of the Louvre. There's McDonald's, some random stores, a macaroon stand (highly recommend these by the way, much shorter line than the one at Champs D'ylesse) and the Museum Gift Store. It is located on the second floor next to the Hertz car rental store. (If you can't find it, just ask for Hertz). There is a sign that says- "Louvre Tickets". When I went, there was one other guy on line. I bought our tickets (12 Euros/ SAME PRICE) and we got "Priority Access". This means that not only do we get to skip the entire line outside to buy tickets, but we also get to skip the shorter "pickup line" outside of the pyramid. We literally walked by EVERYONE. It took less than 5 minutes. I assume this is how Beyonce feels like every time she wakes up in the morning.

So there you have it. 5 minutes to get in. But beware - it's  CROWDED. 

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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT


As we look back on the end of a year, how would you describe your 2015? The Mayans would keep records of history in stone describing commemorative occasions i.e., the building of a new church, the beginning of a new dynasty, the start of a new painting. Today, thousands of years later, we continue to read these Stelae to see what the Mayans were doing.

What would yours say if you had one?

Would your mile markers be exciting? The birth of a new niece. The blossoming of a new relationship. The beginning of a new journey?

Or would they be pretty much stagnant? Happy Hours on Thursdays. Saturday night hookups from Tinder. Talking about that "thing" you've always wanted to do, but never took up.

If for some reason, you find yourself struggling to name something that you really care about and makes you happy, then I recommend you start your search next year by traveling. The first step? GET A PASSPORT.

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT

As of January 1, 2016 - passports will cost $110USD for a 28 OR 52 page passport. Get the 52 page passport. 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (with some variety):

A filled and printed DS-11 form, an actual Birth certificate, Driver's license, Photocopies of both IDs (back and forth) on the same side of the page, $110USD US post office money order, $25USD US post office money order for expedition fee, Passport photo

STEP 1: Submit an application for a US passport. You can fill out the DS-11 form online here.  You can renew, replace, update and apply for a US passport using the same link.

STEP 2: Print out the completed form and visit any post office or passport agency to hand it in. 

STEP 3: Prove that you are a US citizen. You can't just recite the Pledge of Allegiance (don't worry I tried), instead you'll need to show either: A. Previous valid passport if renewing B. Your ACTUAL Birth Certificate (photocopies NOT ACCEPTED) C. Naturalization Certificate D. Certificate of Citizenship E. Consular Report of Birth Abroad

STEP 4: Show your primary ID. A Drivers license , military or government ID, certificate of citizenship or a valid passport will do here.

STEP 5: Make photocopies of both back and front of the IDs on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. NO COPIES ON THE BACK. I know we love trees but the government doesn't! 

STEP 6: Submit a 2x2in color photo of your head in front of a plain white background. NO SMILING and with BOTH eyes open. You can get these photos at any CVS or Walgreens, but hit up your local photo shop to give the little guy a chance, yea? More details here.

STEP 7: Pay the man!  Continue reading below for more details regarding payment. 

Passport Agency:$110USD by credit/debit card, exact cash, US bank personal check or US post office money order that was paid for by a debit card or in cash. An additional $25USD execution fee for in person fee must be paid SEPARATELY in any of the above formats. 

Authorized Passport Application Acceptance Facility aka Post office or some public libraries: $110USD by US bank personal check, cashier's check or US post office money order made out to "US Dept of State". Cash at SOME locations. The additional $25USD execution fee MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY by US post office money order or US cashier's check. Personal checks and credit cards at SOME locations. 


PAYMENT CAN BE A LITTLE TRICKY:

Here are some things you MUST remember. 


Money Orders MUST be purchased from the US POST OFFICE. I bought one from Western Union and was turned away. These must also be purchased with cash OR a debit card. 

Personal Checks MUST be from US bank institutions. Don't try to pay with a bank based in Canada..

An Execution Fee of $25USD will be charged if you are applying IN PERSON at any passport agency or post office. This MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY from the $110USD application fee. If you renew your passport by mail, you don't have to pay this fee.

CREDIT CARD AND DEBIT CARDS will NOT BE ACCEPTED at ANY authorized passport application acceptance facility. This means post offices and some public libraries will ONLY take US post office money orders, personal checks from US bank institutions and cold, hard, exact cash. 

Need a passport ASAP? An expedited fee of $60USD on top of the passport fee can get you passport within 8 business days from submission at a passport agency, or 3 weeks door to door if by mail. 

You can renew passports by mail here

Got that? I know, it's a lot of hoops to jump through. DON'T WORRY, it's worth it. 

FINALLY:

Once this is completed, you should get your passport in the mail within 4-6 weeks. More time if you apply during the summer time. You can check the status online after 5-7 days HERE. 


For Frequent Travelers

 

The option to add the additional 24 pages to passports will expire on the 31st of this year. Frequent travelers who would like to add these pages will have to pay $82USD by the 31st. If you're about to travel in the next two weeks or are getting a visa and are out of pages, you can book an appointment with the passport agency for an extra $60USD expedition fee on top of the $82USD fee within 5 days. For more details, read here.


Have any questions? Feel free to comment below! Getting a passport is the difference between exploring a new country with a friend and sitting at home looking at someone else explore. At the end of the day, two hours and $135USD is worth 10 years of adventuring around the world.

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CHEAP FLIGHT RECAP: THE BEST FLIGHT DEALS FOR BLACK FRIDAY AND CYBER MONDAY

Brace yourself for some of the best flight and travel deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I've been doing some intense snooping and found a handful, but follow me on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates! 

SALES GOING ON NOW!!! 

Avianca Airlines  Flight Deals to Central and South America starting at $469USD. 

Cathay Pacific  Deals up until Dec 4th for travel between Feb 9th and April 30th.  Flights as low as $664USD R/T. Plus get an additional 1,000 Asia Miles for every Black Friday Purchase. 

Emirates Select two for one flight deals for $1,099USD to Milan, Dubai, Bangkok etc..

Expedia.com - With the app receive up to $75USD off your first hotel purchase by Nov 30th. Also deals up to 90% off select hotels on Cyber Monday and 50% off tickets for activities like museums, theme parks and tours! 

Frontier Airlines One Way Domestic Flights as low as $15USD. For travel between 12/7 - 2/10/16.

Hawaiian Airlines - Flights from NY- Oahu for $796 R/T

Interjet Airlines - Round Trip flights from NYC - Mexico City for as low as $204USD. The site is in Spanish, so open it up in Google Chrome. Prices are in Mexican Pesos, so don't be discouraged from the prices!  

Lan Airlines  and Tam Airlines  - Roundtrip flight deals from US to Brazil for as low as $549USD!!!! Sale from Nov 27th - 30th. 

Norwegian Air  - 30% off flights to Europe today! Promo code: BLACKFRIDAY Deals end 11:59pm EST tonight. 

Ryanair Airlines Cheap flights in Europe starting for as low as 2€ or $2.12USD! I found a ridiculously cheap flight from Dublin to Oslo for 40.99 approx. $42USD. Throw in a checked bag each way and it's only 30 more. You've got a flight for 70 or $74USD. 

STARWOOD HOTELS AND RESORTS WORLDWIDE will be throwing their largest sale ever starting today till December 6th with discounts up to 25% off in over 1000 hotels and resorts around the world! 

Tourradar - 60% off group tours today! Sale ends Monday! 

Virgin America  - Domestic flights as low as $39USD one way. 

 

CYBER MONDAY

Alaska Airlines  stand by

While not all airlines have made previous announcements, be sure to follow their Twitter accounts or websites for updates, or you can just follow me @ciaochaumui and I'll do all the hard work for you. 

 

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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VISAS, RECIPROCITY FEES AND TOURIST CARDS

VISAS VS RECIPROCITY FEES VS TOURIST CARDS

Here's a quick guideline and summary for you to understand the difference between visas, reciprocity fees and tourist cards before you book your travels. You don't want to be in a position where your bags are all packed, only to find out that you can't fly at the airport because need a VISA. Or that your budget is suddenly through the roof because you have to pay $160USD in visa fees. To find out if the country you are visiting needs a visa, tourist card or fee click HERE on my Countries page. You can click on each country to see more information. 

VISA (some countries, not all require a visa)-

A visa is a document that states a noncitizen's entry has been approved for a certain amount of time and/or visits. Visitors can NOT enter said country prior to entry date on the visa. Each country has different restrictions, so not all will require one and fees will differ depending on what country you are a citizen of. Generally, you'll have to visit the embassy to fulfill paperwork before your trip and show proof of your flight, address of where you are staying, income and include a passport picture and money order to pay for the fee. Sometimes you have to make appointments weeks in advance, and the visa will be sent to you in the weeks afterwards. Brazilian visas are notoriously hard to get and you will need to leave your passport with the embassy for a few days. 

**For the sake of this article, I am talking about tourist visas for American citizens. There are also student, business and other sorts of visas that you could apply for. Cuba, for example does not accept tourist visas from US citizens, but you could always apply to for a journalist visa to get in.

RECIPROCITY FEE -

 (Bear with me this can get a bit heady here) A fee charged by a country to visitors that is in direct response to the charges that the passport holder's country charges the other country's citizens to enter. Argentina's $160USD reciprocity fee for US citizens is equal to the USA charging Argentineans a $160USD visa fee to enter the US. The difference between the visa and the reciprocity fee is that you can pay for the fee online or at the airport upon arrival instead of having to visit the embassy. 

TOURIST CARD -

Simply a small tax fee that you have to pay upon arrival. There is no need to go to the embassy, one can purchase these online, at the border at the airport or it may come included. Mexico charges American tourists $20USD for a tourist card that is generally included in your flight cost or can be paid at the border crossing. 

DEPARTURE TAX -

A small fee the country will charge you that is usually included in your flight ticket or paid at the airport. 

*Generally, if you are on a layover and staying in the airport, you will NOT need to get a visa or pay any of the fees as mentioned above. 

Questions? Comment below! If it all makes sense to  you then in the words of my third grade teacher, Mr. Morano..."Got it, Get it? Goooooooooood."

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DESTINATION 1 OF MY FREE FLIGHTS: FLORIDA ROUND UP

In the first destination of my $0 flight round up - read my guide on Florida as I hit up Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. As I've mentioned plenty of times - Florida is super cheap to visit right now before the winter crowds come. Click on the picture above to read more about my adventures, and cool things you can do should you make a visit. What do you think of Florida? Comment below! 

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HOLD YOUR HORSES...WHY YOU SHOULDN'T JUMP ON A FLASH DEAL

apogeephoto.com

Southwest is having a 72 HOUR flash sale for domestic flights that ends at 11:59pm tomorrow October 15th. Personally, I try not to jump on flash sales because that's exactly what they are...a flash in the pan meant to rouse people into spontaneously booking a trip. A quick look through the prices for Southwest and I found a $79USD ONE WAY ticket from NY to Chicago. I just found deals for $86USD ROUND TRIP from NY to Chicago on Spirit Airlines for the same time frame last night. That's half the price of Southwest!  

I ignited my inner 5th grade nerd and created an experiment. What if I were to delve in one step deeper and compare prices for the exact same dates?  I'd use a search engine to compare.

I started with Southwest and checked the dates of November 4 -10th. With their cheapest options, I found tickets for $145USD round trip. Not bad, but I think we can find cheaper. 

 

I then went on to look through Orbitz, my go to search engine for it's 24 hour free cancellation policy. They didn't have the same times, but dates remained the same. I found flights for $102.18 USD with Spirit.

 

Now, I already know that Spirit's flights should be cheaper due to my research from last night and I've mentioned in my PLAN section that sometimes search engines will garner additional costs. Let's see what happens when I cut out the middle man and go directly to the source. 

LO AND BEHOLD. Spirit is $68.20USD ROUND TRIP for the exact same dates. You'll have to sacrifice some sleep for your return trip, but hey- that's what you get when you're spending less than a steak dinner for your airplane ticket.

CONCLUSION:

Do some research before jumping on a flash deal. They do offer great deals, but you may be able to find a better one with a little research. Also, keep an eye on airports, Spirit and Southwest fly to two different airports and in this case are only 45 minutes away from each other.  Depending on where you are staying the difference in cost might add up to the cost of a taxi cab anyway. 

 

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CHEAP FLIGHT DEALS FOR OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER

The months of October and November are perfect for traveling - school's back in session, summer's over and everyone's back in the office. If you've got a few vacation days laying around, and some gloating you've been wanting to do around the office - then plan for some of the cheapest travel of the year in good ol' US of A. 

Below are deals I found between now and early November, they're just a jumping off board to start from so get to planning! The longer you wait, the higher the price drops. I've had flights increase over $60USD overnight, so be sure to buy tickets quickly. (You can usually return flights within 24 hours without a fee - just be sure to check with your airline or purchase site)

This month I'll be taking advantage of some of these cheap deals and do some exploring of my own - so keep posted by following me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook! 

After reviewing prices on Hopper, be sure to visit the actual airline, Google flights and other travel search engines to scout for the lowest priced tickets. *Chase Sapphire Preferred Customers should review the Chase travel booking site to receive 3 pts per $1 for travel purchases made before Dec 31, 2015. 


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why travel?

I know that people think of traveling as a kind of frivolous and somewhat irresponsible route to take. Isn't it usually the mark of a teenager transforming into an adult, to prepare oneself for the "real world"? Shouldn't an adult have their shit together by this point, and be pounding the pavement everyday, working on their careers and getting a mortgage for their house?  I think my friend Chris said it best when it comes to why people should travel.

When traveling, you get to be exactly the person you want to be.

For me, something happens to my mind when I travel, as if the whole process of adventure sharpens my mind like a knife on a block. Any previous fears or insecurities about myself grow obsolete and I immediately feel stronger. I begin to crave knowledge and the only way to slake it's thirst is by delving in completely until my curiosity is piqued. (That is before the next question arises.)  Situations that would have broken me before are now merely obstacles. The word, "Afraid" becomes less and less used in my vocabulary and slowly I feel as if I am waking up from a haze and my vision is getting clearer.

I'm not exactly sure of the person I want to be. I'm not sure if anyone really does, but I feel like traveling puts me on the right path. For now, I will make do with what little resources I've got and make the most of it to grow my mind, body and soul. I've got the rest of my life to sit in a glass cage and look out.

 

 

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THREE WAYS TO BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS FOR LESS THAN $1

The only thing worse than losing your phone is losing your phone AND your pictures. The ultimate question is then, what are the best ways to backup your pictures?

Here are the best (and cheapest) ways to get storage for your phone and laptop.

1. The GOOD NEWS is that Amazon Prime has just unleashed the newest feature to their customers. Amazon Prime is now offering UNLIMITED PHOTO STORAGE to customers who pay the annual $99 fee. This includes an app that you can download to your phone that will AUTOMATICALLY BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS when connected to WIFI. This is direct competition to Apple's iCloud feature. You can also upload pictures via the website with a pretty cool looking UI. (That means user interface - I learned it from reddit)

Amazon Prime Interface - Pics from my recent trip to Puerto Rico

Amazon Prime Interface - Pics from my recent trip to Puerto Rico

This is wild because DROPBOX only offers 2GB for free. An upgrade will cost you $9.99 per month for 1TB of space.

 2. Apple iCloud has just come up with an upgrade to curtail this - and have increased their monthly 99cent plan from 20GB to 50GB. If you'd like more space, you'll have to hawk up $2.99 per month for 200GB and $9.99 per month for 1TB. 

iCLOUD saved my pictures after I lost my phone in Paris earlier this year

Either way, the world of photo storage is changing. If you don't have access to AmazonPrime, then MOOCH off your friend or family. Members are able to add one adult to their account FOR FREE and have access to all the amazon video, 2 day shipping and the UNLIMITED PHOTO STORAGE.

Don't have an iPhone OR AmazonPrime?

3. GOOGLE also unveiled UNLIMITED PHOTO STORAGE system earlier this year called GOOGLE PHOTOS. It's basically the same option as Amazon Prime except that high resolution photos (over 16mp) will be capped at 15GB. Compressed pictures can be unlimited. If you're already signed into your gmail account - then it will automatically link to your account. 

Clean, basic Google interface

All three options include apps and options that can automatically upload your photos to the CLOUD when connected to wifi so you can....

SET IT AND FORGET IT! 

Personally, I use iCLOUD's 50GB storage and Amazon Prime's unlimited storage to clear up some space on my phone and laptop. So far, so good. ICLOUD saved all my photos from my travels when I lost my phone earlier this year - so I DO recommend getting some back up. 

So there, three ways to keep all your photos from your trips safe, and all for less than the price of a McDonald's Cheeseburger. 

 

 

 

 

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FINALLY UNPLUGGED IN PARQUE TAYRONA, COLOMBIA

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FINALLY UNPLUGGED IN PARQUE TAYRONA, COLOMBIA

PARQUE TAYRONA, COLOMBIA

There's so much exploring to see and do in Colombia, but for when you're in need of the all essential, unplugged, wi-fi free, beach chilling and living like a dream, take a visit to Parque Tayrona. 

THE WATER IS FUCKING COLD! 

THE WATER IS FUCKING COLD! 

 

PARQUE TAYRONA is a national park that is about 2 hours from the beach side town of Santa Marta. Here you will find a little piece of heaven that will not only challenge your physical abilities but bring you some well needed relaxation from all the little made up problems in your head.

GETTING THERE involves a heavy amount of pushing -- Here's a little rundown of how you can get there.

CARTAGENA - SANTA MARTA - PARQUE TAYRONA 

It's a bit of a trip but there are two options of getting there.  

You can easily find cheap ways of getting to these beaches through your hostel or hotel. You'll most likely be grouped with other travelers and be sardine packed in little vans shafting people left and right. While you won't see much of the culture with the exception of through the glass windows- you'll find this the most easy and efficient way of getting around. Much like listening to FOX NEWS and letting them decided your vote. Or having your mom pick out your outfit for you. (Also good for solo travelers)

OR if you are with a group of people and would like a sense of adventure / can speak some spanish and are not afraid to haggle! The bus is a much more cushy, VIP style bus with leather recliner seats and is cheaper BUT keep in mind that you will have to pick it up on the outskirts of the wall in Cartagena, so the cab ride that it will cost you go get back into Cartagena might actually equal the cost of simply getting your ride from your hostel. 

AM- WAKE UP EARLY. 

Visit your local supermarket or walk the towns for breakfast. You'll find lovely snacks like PAN DE YUCA and LECHE from the local panaderias. Try them all, they're delicious and super cheap. Make sure you get tons of fresh fruit for the way there and little snacks - we were big fans of GRANADILLAS. Seriously - get them, and if you go, bring me back some. I had 6 in one day. 

TIPS: Get to know your spanish and your numbers well. Dos Mil is 2000, but cinco ciento is 500. People come on the vans and sell things at various points throughout. 

4 HOUR BUS TO SANTA MARTA

Santa Marta is a shit show. They'll drop you off on a corner and you'll have to find a place to see and eat in. It is hectic to say the least and you'll soon find that you stick out like a SORE THUMB. There's plenty of hostels to stay at, and everyone will tell you LA BRISA LOCA is the PARTY HOSTEL. I wouldn't recommend staying there as it gets loud and stays loud. You can easily, easily stay at MASAYA or EMERALD HOSTEL next door and walk on over when your done. 

There's also a fantastic street market at nighttime. Really, a hub for the locals + tourists alike. Hygiene might be questionable, but the food is totally worth it and amazing. Just ask your reception where the street market is. Check out...SALCHIPAPAS, JUGOS NATURALES, HAMBURGUESAS, EMPANADAS + AREPAS

OVERNIGHT STAY AT  PARQUE TAYRONA 

The next day you wake up at daylight and hop on a public bus to the parque. Make sure you bring a passport or a copy of your passport and make sure you leave early.

UPON ARRIVAL:

-You'll arrive at the entrance of the national park where you'll have to pay for entry to the park. From there -  you'll have to watch a video in spanish where you are taught about the wildlife of the park. From there you can either hike on a path to the entryway which is an additional 2 1/2 hour hike. I recommend going on the mini bus that takes you past the tarmac hike and brings you to the regular hike. 

-Finally after the 2 1/2 hour hike - super easy. It's mainly level and by beaches etc..., you will reach the entryway of Parque Tayrona - where they will take down your passport information and give you a hammock rental.

There's a specific amounts of hammocks that you can rent out and they can sell out. The earlier you can get there, the better your choice is. There are higher hammocks with a view overlooking the ocean, and then there are ones beach level. Be warned - it gets cold at night. Freezing cold. Seaside, your nipples will be so sharp - they'll cut through your shirt like a fat kid cuts HS gym class. 

No service. No rooms. Just a beach and hammocks. There is nothing for you to do but enjoy. And at nighttime, there's only the restaurant with electricity, (ish) it tends to go off so make sure you have a flashlight. And bring a pack of cards, some alcohol and mingle with everyone from table to table. We became friends with the guys from the shop where you can buy alcohol + various snacks + drinks. There are free lockers but you must bring a lock. 

Also - there's really only ONE restaurant in Parque Tayrona in the area we stayed at, and it opens at 7pm. You'll have to wait on line and order from the lady at the desk and pay, then they'll deliver the food to each table. Make sure you get to the stands early and order. Friendly cats + dogs chill around the area too, so you can pet them.

THINGS TO DO:

Hike to Tres Pueblos - SUCH a fun hike. Hopping and jumping from boulder to boulder, climbing under rocks. MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GOOD HIKING SHOES + water. We woke up to catch the sunrise then do the hike. 

Horseback riding - On the way back you'll be lazy to do the hike again, so I recommend going horseback riding!! For only about 30/40 Pesos or $12 USD, you can have a horse take you approx halfway back to the entryway. The horses look cared for and well rested, there's a huge amount of horses so they circulate. The view is absolutely gorgeous and you can pretend you're an explorer making their way through the wilderness. Also, if you have never ridden a horse, no worries! They will give you an older, slower horse (or maybe donkey) and walk with you. 

Beach, Duhh - While not as calm and beautiful as Playa Blanca - the beach here is still stunningly gorgeous. There's a lot of driftwood though I should mention , but the sand is soft and the sun is warm. Enjoy it here! 

THINGS YOU MUST BRING

-Passport or copy of it 

-WARM CLOTHES - seriously. Hoodie, sweat pants + clothes. You will definitely feel it at night, especially if you are sleeping at the top - then make sure you bring a sleeping bag. 

-ALCOHOL - Hide this well in your bag. They check your bag upon arrival. 

-Flashlight 

-Lock for the free lockers that are at your disposal. 

 

 

 

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