Two Valentine’s Day gift ideas for travel lovers

Happily Ever After sign, with ocean in the background

So, February 14th is almost here and you haven’t even begun to wrap your head around what you’d like to do for the special someone in your life. All you know is that your bae likes to travel, and you want to do something around that for maximum impact. Feeling anxious? Don’t. Should you start panicking? No.

Here are two great Valentine’s Day gift ideas for travel lovers.

Book a day of luxury

Thanks to apps like ResortPass, Daycation, DayAxe and DayPass, you can now book luxury hotel experiences for the two of you, for a fraction of the cost of an overnight stay. These services grant you discounted access to high-end amenities like swanky infinity pools and the private cabana life at 5-star resorts. They also unlock entries to happening beach clubs, therapeutic spa treatments, and dining experiences you typically only dream about or see on tv.

Give the gift of a one-of-a-kind experience

Today, gifting traditions are changing, because people value quality experiences so much more than physical stuff. For example, travel experience website Tinggly has a Be My Valentine experience gift collection that helps you show how much you care in a bunch of meaningful and exciting ways. All you have to do is pay for a gift box and your partner gets to choose the experience they’d like to share with you.  It could be anything from a surf lesson in Hawaii to a Little Italy foodie tour or a sunset sail in Maine, and so much more. The gift can be delivered  instantly via email or be shipped in a beautiful box within 2-5 business days

5 last-minute holiday gift ideas under $60. No shipping required.

YIKES! Christmas is almost here and you still haven’t finished purchasing gifts for all the people on your shopping list. So you desperately need last-minute holiday gift ideas with no shipping required, right?

But wait, there’s more!

You have officially run out of great gift ideas. Your stress level is rising. And your wallet is close to being tapped out. In fact, right this very minute you’re racking your brain trying to figure out how to avoid that awkward moment when you realize you’ve got a nice present from [insert name of Mom, Dad, significant other, family member, co-worker, or friend] and you gave them zilch…nada.  Well technically, you’re on the brink of giving them nothing more than an embarrassed, but authentic, thank you in return.

Oh, dear. It sounds like you need a quick solution! It’s time to embrace the convenience of very budget-friendly digital services and products my friends! Just because these items aren’t lying on retail shelves somewhere doesn’t mean their creators didn’t pour just as much hard work, quality information, and love into them as your favorite hard copy bestselling author did.  Plus, with digital products there is no need to worry about shipping and handling. Or wayward Gringe-like bandits stealing your Christmas Amazon, UPS or USPS delivery from your doorstep.

So, if that’s why you’re here, I GOT U. Below are five of my top suggestions for last-minute holiday gift ideas – all under $60 – with no shipping required.  And they are all available for delivery anytime on or before December 25th…and beyond.

Basic Ass Vegan: Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners

This recently released e-book is packed full of basic, simple, and tasty meals created by home cook Ashley Renee. She’s targeting newbies to the world of plant-based eating and persons who want quick and healthy meal ideas where no fancy chef skills are required. It’ll be great for people wanting to lose weight after the holidays as well.

There are 56 yummy recipes categorized by meal type, like breakfast (think banana pancakes), lunch (Sunflower chic peas sandwiches), dinner (“lobster” rolls using Hearts of Palm as the key ingredient), soups and bowls, smoothies and snacks, and so much more! Ashley also includes information on nutrition basics and pantry essentials for every aspiring vegan household. She even started a Facebook group for lazy vegans & individuals transitioning to the no meat lifestyle.

Cost: $25

Go Remote Guide to 2021

We all know persons who have been adversely affected this year by personal tragedy or financial upheaval. If someone in your circle of influence has talked about looking for a remote position that will allow them to hit the reset button in 2021 by moving overseas, you’ll want to gift them the Remote Work Guide e-book that Gabby Beckford has created.  She did a ton of research on countries with “remote work visa” or “digital nomad visa” programs and came up with a list of 15 with great potential. The list includes, among others, places Dubai, the Republic of Georgia, Mexico, Barbados and Spain.  In addition to the visa requirements, Gabby went ahead and added things like average rent information, WiFi quality and remote job ideas if you have no clue where to start.

Cost: $20

Crush Global Road Trip Itineraries

Okay, so the first two vaccines are now available, but with ‘Rona numbers still spiking chances are many winter and spring vacations are still likely to be road trip based. That’s where Kristin Braswell of Crush Global comes in. Her ready-to-use road trip itineraries include driving routes, immersive activity options tried and tested food spot suggestions, and valuable information Black travelers can use along the way.

Crush Global’s guides have been featured in many national publications like Forbes, Afar and Travel Weekly, so they’re legit. Whether your friends or family members are wine-lovers, food buffs, nature aficionados or history addicts there’ll be something there for them to enjoy.   The road trip guides take you through cities like Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, St Ynez, Paso Robles, New Orleans, Memphis/Nashville, Atlanta and Savannah.

Cost: $29.99 – $59.99

Jurneazee Travel-Themed Activity Pack

Of course, I couldn’t curate a list like this without including Jurneazee, my printable activity pack for persons aged 5 to 65+ that was mentioned in a recent article on NationalGeographic.com about ways families can make the most of their vacation this year.

It’s a boredom-buster combination of coloring pages, crossword puzzles, word-finds, scrambled words and bingo cards that will take solo travelers, couples, multigenerational families, and groups of friends on a virtual trip around the world – keeping everyone engaged and entertained. The best part is, it can be used on a long road trip and just as easily during quiet or boisterous nights at home.

Cost: $16 (Introductory price)

30 Days & 30 Ways To Be a Better Ally

I don’t think anyone can round out this year without acknowledging the onslaught of tragic incidents in the US (and around the world) that brought the matter of deep-rooted systemic racism to the fore. The issues gripped the attention of the nation and rattled previously hardened hearts.  We can only hope that 2021 ushers in a year of greater kindness towards each other, and decisions rooted in love, versus fear or hate. That leads me to my final last-minute holiday gift idea suggestion for you.

Enter Gloria Atanmo, a multihyphenate creator who designed an 85-page digital resource guide to help persons interested in starting a 30-day journey to becoming a more enlightened ally. It is filled with personal stories, conversation starters for the dinner table, eye-opening videos, journal prompts and other resources to help persons understand things from a Black perspective. Gloria is quick to tell you she speaks with Black people, not for all of us, so please include that message caveat in your gift card or note. We are not a monolithic group.

It’s perfect for that office friend, family member, or service provider who has shown a genuine interest in playing their part in the much needed movement towards positive change.

Cost: $17 on sale now (Regular price: $27)

In case, you’re wondering where you can you find these easy-to-access, last-minute holiday gift ideas, just click on the links in each caption!

Happy Holidays, my luvs.

33 Great trip activities you can do with your family and friends

raid trip activity packet for the entire family

Psssst… guess what? I did a thing!

With the help and support of my loving exasperated at my many rounds of edits family, I hunkered down for a few months earlier this year and created JURNEAZEE [pronounced Jurn – easy], my first-ever digital product.

It’s a boredom-buster combination of 33 great trip activities you can do with your family and friends. The full activity pack includes coloring pages, crossword puzzles, word-finds, scrambled words and bingo cards to keep everyone engaged and entertained at home or on long trips.

Why now?

With more people than ever traveling by car and many others choosing to stay home due to safety concerns during a global pandemic, it’s timely.

What does it do?

Jurneazee makes journeys easy by taking the stress out of long trips and transporting users on a virtual expedition around the world.

How does it do that?

The trip activities highlight interesting tidbits about multiple destinations and point out special nuggets on signature events, cool places of interest, local lingo and food. Jurneazee not only relieves boredom – it appeals to the culturally curious traveler inspires wanderlust as well.

Where can you find it?

Right here on my brand new My Travel Stamps SHOP!

For only $16 (less than 50 cents per page), the Jurneazee Trip Activity Packet includes:
 – 5 coloring pages
 – 5 crossword puzzles
 – 5 bingo cards
 – 8 scrambled word puzzle sets (7 words in each category)
 – 10 word-finds
 – Answer sheets

Plus, persons have the option to buy the complete packet or individual sections.

When can you get it?

Now, just in time for the holidays.

Let’s talk post ‘Rona travel: What destinations are on your wish list?

Black woman on beach looking out to sea and dreaming

The effects of the pandemic have begun to recede in some countries and borders are slowly starting to open up again, so the thought of post COVID-19 travel is no longer as far removed as it was three or four months ago.

Regrettably, cases are still rising where I am, which means I don’t plan on getting on a plane today, next week, or even next month. But by no means has that daunting reality stopped me from dreaming about travel – like all the time.

So if you’re like me, maybe you’ve been paying close attention to how destinations are handling the crisis, and you’ve either been put off or impressed with their responses.

The responsible, measured and meaningful approach taken by these three destinations completely won me over, so they now sit atop my post COVID-19 travel wish list.

Visit Auckland

I’ve added Auckland to my bucket list because their in-crisis travel video gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it.

I mean… Every. Single. Time.

Narrated by an 11 year-old girl, it is a love letter to Mother Nature that reminds us how important it is to give the environment a break once in a while. Because, like us, nature needs time to heal.

The poignant visuals and moving voice over ends with…”Dream. Plan. And when the time is right, we’ll welcome you. But for now, listen. Papatūānuku (our earth mother) is breathing.”

Visit Portugal

Portugal’s advertising message was similar, but their campaign was built around the idea that It’s time to stop.

Using footage shot before the lockdown and audio recorded at home on a cell phone, the narrator tells us, “It’s time to stare humanity in the eyes. To take a break for the world. Time to make a pause, so we can play again.

“To reset. To re-center. Switch off, to move on.”

Now who can argue with that?

Visit Jamaica

Let me be honest. I didn’t really need to hear Jamaica’s promise that Brighter days will return to decide to visit the land of my birth as soon as I feel confident enough to travel again. But hey, the beautiful imagery and the soothing island lilt brought on an even greater sense of urgency to run home and submerge myself in a heavy dose of feel-good nostalgia. And I’m guessing it may have the same pull on you too.

I know I am biased, but how can anyone remain unmoved when they hear the narrator say, “Jamaica serves the world with one heart and as one people. Even though we are many beating hearts, in times like these our hearts beat as one.”

Certainly not me. LOL.

Well, that’s my list.

If you had all the money and time in the world to make your post COVID-19 travel wish list come true, where would YOU go?

10 Gift ideas under $10 for the traveler in your life

Finding the right gift at the right time and for the right price can often be a challenge. But what if I told you it IS possible to tick off all the names on your to-do list before Christmas and not break the bank at the same time? This week I walked into one of my favorite off-price department stores (Marshalls) and ran into a nicely arranged travel aisle filled with useful gadgets and products. Of course, I immediately stopped to look for goodies so I could share my finds with you.

Below are 10 gift ideas under $10 for that travel-obsessed person in your life. (Costs listed were seen in Marshalls as at December 16, 2019 and could expire at any time.) You can pair two products together, create a larger bundled package, or send one small gift every month for a year if you’re trying to score extra points with someone.

Oh, by the way. In case you’re wondering, this post is not sponsored. You’ll note there are no affiliate links and obviously no fancy product photo shoot. It is simply my spur-of-the-moment gift to you (insert heart emoji).

Pressure reducing ear plugs

Regardless of whether you’re flying first class or coach, experiencing an earache on flights can be extremely painful. So, chances are any frequent traveler in your life would appreciate owning a set of earplugs that reduces the pressure in their ears and helps them get comfortable during flights.

Cost for this Travelon Set of 2 Pressure Reducing Corded Earplugs, US$5.99

A travel blanket

This gift idea sounds simple, but you know that some airlines don’t clean or replace their blankets between every flight, right? In fact, you might be surprised to learn how infrequently airline blankets actually get washed. Why not save your friends or loved ones a possible germ invasion and buy them their own snuggle buddy instead?

Cost for this G Force Jersey Knit Travel Blanket, US$9.99

Packing cubes

All the travel experts say incorporating packing cubes into your luggage-filling technique is one of the best ways to maximize space. It also allows you to keep items organized. In some instances, it helps you learn to pack your life in a carryon and save on outrageous baggage fees, too. This colorful 3-pc set has double zippers for convenient access and cool phrases like “Away We Go” and “Adventure Awaits” for travel inspiration.

Cost for a Miamica Pack Well Packing Cubes Set, US$ 9.99

A folded backpack

Is there a legit souvenir shopper on this planet who wouldn’t appreciate having an extra bag that easily packs into its own front pouch for convenient and compact storage? Certainly not! It’s the perfect solution for unexpected shopping finds, and it is also super handy to have for full-day excursions and beach trips where you need to stash snacks, suntan lotions, shades and riveting reading material as well.

Cost for this Samsonite Folded Backpack, US$9.99

All-in-one pillow protection

The things I’ve read about the germs that lurk in hotel rooms would alarm even the bubbliest optimists among us. And when I see reports of undercover videos showing maids merely fluffing the pillows, and not replacing them, I cringe. Why not buy a pillow protector to guard against some of those questionable cleaning practices? It’s one of those gift ideas under $10 that could possibly save hundreds later in medical bills. Let’s equip friends and family to walk away from the dust mites, allergens, and bed bugs – plueaase!

Cost of this Pillow Saver All-in-one Pillow Protector, US$ 5.99

A waterproof pouch

 If you know persons who enjoy doing water-based activities while on vacation, a waterproof pouch that will protect their smart phone from accidental spills is always a good gift idea. Even though some of the latest handsets were designed to be water-resistant, not everyone can afford Samsung and Apple’s top-end prices, and nothing ruins a great kayaking trip or beach day faster than having to deal with the aftermath of a ruined smart phone.  A clear waterproof case may be just the good phone karma we all need to keep things safe and dry.

Cost of this Travelon phone case, US$5.99

Reusable laundry bags

Do you ever notice the tacky-looking plastic bags hanging in hotel closets? Well, it may be time to help reduce our collective carbon footprints while we sort our whites and bright colors on-the-go. Who knows?  A fashionable and expandable laundry bag that is reusable might be just what your favorite travelers are looking forward to in their life.

Cost of this Miamica Travel Laundry Bag, US$6.99

TSA Compliant Clear Security Case + Travel-Sized Bottles

Now that the Transpiration Security Administration (TSA) has placed restrictions on the amount of liquids allowed on flights, owning travel-sized containers that hold 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item is key. Why not gift your jetsetter with a set of those bottles in a clear case to store their gels, shampoo, lotion, body wash, and more? It’s a far more polished look than having to haphazardly pull out Ziploc bags at the check point counters.

Cost of this Security case + bottles, US$5.99

Pill Case and Organizer

It’s hard enough trying to follow a strict medication schedule at home, and for seniors or people with health conditions, it can be even more challenging when traveling. The good news is you can help reduce some of that stress away by gifting them with a pill case and organizer that will keep them coordinated. Of course, it will also make their lives so much easier.

Cost of colorful Miamica pillow cases, US$4.99

Easy to Spot Luggage Tags

When faced with rows of similar looking suitcases on an airport carousel, it’s always nice to have special identifiers on your luggage to make it easy to spot. One of the ways to do that is to buy eye-catching tags that use color and clever one-liners to create distinction and show a little personality. That way, the traveler in your life will have bags that stand out from the crowd. The sooner the luggage gets spotted and picked up, the faster the holiday experience begins. Believe me, they will love you for it.

Cost of this cute pair of G luggage tags, US$4.99

Go cop your deal now. These offers are for a limited time only!


Now it’s your turn to share. Can you think of any other gift ideas under $10 that I can add to this list?

Please don’t drive your cabin crew nuts this holiday season

American Airlines plane

Attention all overly needy travelers! Consider this the inflight guide you never knew you needed.

Do you remember the 2014 Korean Air ‘nut rage’ incident that caused international indignation and had us all shaking our heads? It involved over-the-top irrational behavior by the daughter of the airline’s CEO who threw a hissy fit because she was served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a porcelain bowl. Geez. Even now, all these years later, I still can’t believe something that minor really caused someone to unravel that badly.

But apparently, when people exist in an alternate universe that revolves around an orbit of entitlement, it can. Obnoxious travelers come in all shapes and sizes, and like Ebenezer Scrooge, they tend to show up and show out during the yuletide season.

So, I asked some former flight attendants how we can make the cabin crews’ lives a little easier, especially during the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  Because let’s be honest, these cringe-worthy meltdowns happen inflight far more frequently than we care to acknowledge.

This is their candid advice on how not to drive the cabin crew (or your fellow passengers) nuts this holiday season.

1. Check your bags, not your brains, at the counter.

Gently translated, that means read the signs and listen to instructions.  It’s not rocket science. They’re giving life-saving advice that might just come in handy. So they’re asking us to stop zoning out during their announcements; as in, texting or talking or going to sleep before take-off. Also, if a sign says, “no bags” here, heed it. It is there for good reason. Like leaving the area in front of the emergency exit clear, okay?

And hunnies, try not to squabble over the overhead bins. The seat number is put on the bin to make it easy for us to read and identify our seats quickly. It doesn’t give our bags an iron-clad reservation for that space. Promptly put your bag in any available compartment and for the love of everyone’s sanity, kindly keep things moving.

2. If the airline says one carry-on only, it means ONE carry-on. (Especially during peak travel season)

Crew members want us to remember that other passengers have luggage too, and all travelers want their bags to get to their destination. That’s why we need to quit acting like our packages, and our carry-on items, are the only ones that matter. Airplanes have a weight limit that makes it impractical for everyone to take everything onboard.  Can we just ask you to do us all a favor and send the oversize gifts via sled with Santa, or ship them through Amazon or UPS direct?

3. There’s a call button, and a light button. Figure out the difference…quickly.

It’s not like flight attendants don’t have enough to do on a flight. Believe me, they do. That is why they have asked me to remind you they don’t need to waste valuable time coming to your assistance if you really don’t need it.  Another passenger may have a legitimate request, so please don’t push the emergency call button when all you want is some company or the reading light. There are many other ways to overcome boredom on a flight. Thank you.

4. As much as it would be a great add-on, your ticket doesn’t come with daycare services included.

Note: Lovely, hands-on and attentive parents, this one isn’t directed at you.

.I am sure you will agree nothing is worse than sitting near to bored children whose parents appear oblivious to their fidgeting, or screaming, or seat-kicking antics.  Kids can’t help their short attention spans, so Moms and Dads please take toys, gadgets, snacks, magazines or books to keep your bundles of joy engaged during flights. When you ignore them acting out, other travelers look to the flight crew for solutions. But here’s the key thing we’re all missing: babysitting duties are not in their employment contracts. Yes, there’s not even a hint of it in the fine-print, too.

5. If you have a weak bladder, they understand and sympathize, but ask that you plan your bathroom breaks carefully.

How many times have you seen a passenger get up to go to the bathroom and end up in a mini standoff with a flight attendant pushing a trolley? If that person has been you, they recommend that you schedule a bathroom break before you board, another one before or after the in-flight service, and a final one 20 minutes before landing.

The latter goes for those of you with cute kiddos as well. Take them even if they say they don’t need to go, just to be sure. When the pilot turns on the Fasten Your Seatbelt sign he is not just doing that for his health. No movement means just that – no movement. It is a safety hazard. Failure to comply with the rules endangers you and others.

6. Get to the airport early and be prepared for delays. Like duh… it’s the holidays!

As frustrating as long lines and delays can be, that gives us no excuse to be rude to the crew. Poor weather conditions and/or mechanical faults are outside of their control. Being obnoxious about your discomfort or the inconvenience reflects poorly on you, not them.

Remember, we live in an era where there is zero tolerance for non-compliance with the cabin crew. Disruptive behavior on a flight can land you in jail. For our Monopoly lovin’ friends, that means straight to jail. You don’t get to Pass Go and Collect $200.

7. Give them a few minutes to themselves after they’ve completed the service.

Final words of wisdom. Going into the cramped galley area right after service is completed and the curtains are drawn, is a big no-no. That is the time when the flight attendants get to rest for a bit and consume their meagre crew meal. Don’t forget that their shifts are long and they have to eat too.

Besides, barging in at that time will interrupt a revered cabin crew tradition. In those precious moments of downtime they get to gripe about which passengers are being naughty or nice, and trade stories on hilarious incidents. Like one flight where, amidst all the drama, a 63-year-old woman had to be stripped down because she could not breathe properly. The reason? Her spanx was too tight.

Rant officially over.

Now exit through the front or back exit doors and go have a happy holiday.

Why this sand-free towel has me all shook up

Jumping for joy with Tesalate sand free towel

Two months ago, I’d never heard of sand-free towels, let alone know such a product did, in fact, exist. But after getting one and trying it out, I’m all shook up. (Read that in Elvis’ singing voice. Mm mm mm, mm, yay, yay, yay.)

Because, yeah. While I love frolicking with waves that hit my feet and using the sand for my seat, I don’t like leaving the beach covered with a million grainy particles clinging to my ‘eRRything‘.  Nor I am a fan of involuntarily carting sand into my car and apartment, which leaves a mess that’s a ton of work to clean up. After a fun beach day, who has time for that?


Exactly! That’s why I find the trendy, sand-free towels from Tesalate so disruptive and revolutionary. They’re made from a groundbreaking fabric called AbsorbLite™ that, unlike regular beach towels, doesn’t have looped microfibers that trap sand. After sitting on the towel or drying off with it, all it takes is a few good shakes to get it joyously grain free.  

But don’t go anywhere yet. I’m spilling all the tea. Here are some other reasons why I’m a goner for these crazy-sexy-cool, sand-free towels:

They’re not just functional, they’re pretty, too

If you’ve been scrolling through your Instagram feed lately (as most of us do), you’ll have noticed it’s been declared a hot girl summer. And as any hot girl knows (present company included or excluded…HA HA), a slaying combination of the right beach tote, cover up, hat, shades, swimsuit and towel can have you serving up some fierce LEWKS.

Beach scenes with MyTravelStamps

With close to forty bold, colorful prints to choose from, Tesalate has got you covered all day, any day – literally and figurately.

They are lightweight and compact

If space in your beach bag or suitcase is a premium, these towels are perfect because they’re thinner and lighter than conventional terry cloth towels.  Plus, they feel cooler on your skin in warm climates, and they fold down and fit into a neat, sleek-looking pouch that makes it easy to carry around.

They are super absorbent and dry quickly

Tesalate’s avant-garde textile technology also prevents its towels from collapsing into a wet, soggy mess at the end of your beach day because it absorbs water quickly. It can comfortably soak up to 33 ounces or 1 liter of good ole H20. So, splash around like crazy and then grab the towel and shoot your best shot.  You’ll find you can blot your body dry gently, instead of being forced to do a vigorous wipe down.

Another cool feature is the small loop I noticed sewn into the corner of my towel. It comes in handy if you ever want to hang it up on a tree or shrub to dry in the breeze.

They tend not to get the dreaded mildew smell

Maybe it’s due to the thinness of the fabric, but Tesalate towels don’t seem to get that musty, mildew smell as quickly as you would get with thicker brands.  If you’re on the road for a long period of time or can’t get to do laundry right away, that’s a highly valued thing.

They’re versatile

Finally, can I just tell you all that this towel (or snazzy cover up) goodness isn’t confined to the beach? You can use it for yoga, at the pool, to set the scene for a garden picnic, and even as a makeshift blanket on the plane or in your hotel room. The standard size is 60cm x 80cm / 63 x 31 inches, but they also have a larger Towel for Two option (160cm x 160cm / 63 x 63 inches) which makes it easy to get cozy.

Hello, what are you waiting on? Head on over to their site now and check those towels out, grab a drink from a cool beach bar, and then be sure to meet me at the shore.

Sand free beach towel review


Note: This post was written as part of a brand collaboration with Tesalate, but all views are my own.

How to use your vacation days wisely: The ultimate guide to traveling with limited time-off

When I relocated to the United States a few years ago and started my stress-inducing job search (another day, another story), one of my biggest culture shocks was finding out that most persons start new jobs with only 10 days paid time off (PTO).  Having just left a management position in the Caribbean where one of the benefits was five glorious weeks of down time, I had to figure out how to fix my new and alarming conundrum – quickly!

I’m an unapologetic travel addict with incurable wanderlust, so I’m not going to pretend coping with limited time off is easy. But I’ve found that while there is a will, you can find a way. It just takes healthy doses of strategy and ingenuity. With a little help, you can do it too! Below are all my tips on how to use your vacation days wisely.

Request days off around public holidays

At the beginning of each year, I check which days public holidays will fall on and try to plan my trips around the ones that will help me maximize my time most. The best possible scenario happens when a holiday falls next to a Friday or Monday and I can combine the weekend with the holiday, then add two, three or four days off. That way, two days stretch to five, three convert to six, and four days + the holiday+ two weekends magically becomes nine. 

However, be sure to note federal and regional holidays only, okay? As fun and indulgent days like National Bubble Bath Day (Jan 8) and National Chocolate Ice-cream Day (June 7) are, I suspect PTO requests for them are not going to cut it in your human resources department. [Oh, the shade! I can see the eye-rolls even now. lol]

Use time zone differences to your advantage

Source: Bing.com

If you’ve never heard of the International Date Line, look it up because it was designed to minimize time zone confusion for travelers. What it basically says is that when you travel west, you subtract one hour whenever you enter a new time zone. On the other hand, every time you go east and cross another time zone boundary, you add one hour. So, the key to maximizing your vacation days is figuring out the time difference between the city you’re in and the city you want to visit. In general terms, you gain more sightseeing time (on your day of arrival specifically) when you travel west of where you currently are.

For example, if you live in New Orleans and want to plan a quick four-day weekend away, you get more time on the ground if you fly out west to San Francisco as opposed to say Montreal or Washington D.C. that are both in the Eastern time zone.

Learn to love red-eye flights

If sleeping on planes is not a challenge for you, always try to reserve flights that depart late at night and arrive early in the morning. As inconvenient as they sometimes are, they definitely help you use your vacation days wisely! Not only do you save money on the ticket (which is usually cheaper as demand isn’t very high for that odd hour), but you also save on the accommodation cost for the night you spend in the air. Plus, you get to experience the destination from the moment the country or city starts coming to life in the morning.

Stay in a central location

If you’ve done your research and know exactly what you’d like to see and do on vacay, you’ll get the most mileage out of your vacation time by staying in a location that’s centrally located to your must-see attractions. Bus or car rides for day excursions, while exciting, can eat up several hours in a day, especially if you only have a short window of opportunity to sightsee. That’s why booking an Airbnb or hotel room in walkable cities and places with well-regulated and readily available public transportation networks is never a bad idea.

Book a short cruise

Even though I personally am not a fan of cruises, I must admit they’re a great way to travel with limited vacation time because you get to see more than one destination while away. With its bundled pricing, you avoid having to stress over sticking to a daily stipend as your room, meals, entertainment, and transportation from one port to another are all included. What’s more, you get to unpack only once and from that moment on, you can dress from a closet rather than a suitcase.

Piggyback off your business trip

Adding a few days before or after your business trip is another brilliant way to use your vacation days wisely. By extending your stay when you travel for work, you get the added benefit of a greatly reduced holiday since your flights and partial hotel stay are already covered. The tricks of the trade include scheduling your meetings for a Monday or Friday, asking your lodging and car rental firm to extend their company rate to you for the personal segment of your trip (while keeping the bills separate of course), and being efficient with your time.

Become very familiar with your company’s vacation policies

Even though vacation days are usually set, the more familiar you are with the policies, the easier it will be to find loopholes that can possibly gain you extra time here or there. For example, you can volunteer to work on weekends or late nights in exchange for comp time, use any job-based leave days you’re allotted first before you delve into personal PTO, or ask about the possibility of working remotely. Yes, it’s never too late to resuscitate your my dream of that 15-day trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam by negotiating for additional time instead of a pay raise if bonuses are non-existent or flat-lining. 

And those are my expert tips! Whichever methods you choose to employ, the bottom line is, don’t be a part of the statistic (a depressing one, in my mind) that says more than half of Americans leave their vacation days on the table.

How to use your vacation dats wiselt

How travel can change your life: everything you wanted to know and were afraid to ask

How travel changed me_ Travel transforms your life

(A version of this article was originally published in Island Origins Magazine)

If you’ve ever wondered about the impact travel can have on your life, well, you’re about to get some answers.

But first, are there any Fresh Prince fans up in herre? Bienvenido a mi page, fam!

Now, this is a story all about how
Travel flipped my life upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
So, just sit right there
While I tell you how I became the queen of booking Cheap Air...

{Insert multiple CRINGE EMOJIS while I recover from how cheesy my attempt at being the Will Smith level of cool was.

If you’re still here, thank you! Hey, enough shenanigans, right? Let me get on with the business of telling you my story.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time indoors. Unlike my sister who was an outgoing tomboy and my brother who was a natural at sports, I was reserved and accident prone, so I found my refuge in books.  Thanks to a childhood filled with fairy tales and literary classics, I minimized the usual skinned knees and bruises brought on by outdoor play, because I would curl up on my sofa and vicariously experience exciting escapades that were far way. 

However, that affinity for interior spaces began to dwindle after a trip to New York. Suddenly, as a wide-eyed six-year-old, I was catapulted from a plain-ink-on-parchment world to a vibrant, larger-than-life place.  The city’s sensory overload was palpable, so it whet my appetite for more.  

Even now, travel has a spellbinding effect on me that continues to grow. It has validated the power of dreaming and turned me into a go-getter.  It’s also helped me embrace differences by routinely exposing me to new languages, cultures and traditions. Plus, it’s been an unfailing guide to discovery and knowledge. 

If you’re wondering how travel can change your life, I encourage you to give it a try. Here’s why: 

Your dreams take flight

How travel changed me_Dreams take flight

Think about how much more we all could achieve if we freely granted ourselves the permission to dream. I’m not referring to fanciful desires like winning the lottery. I mean dreams that inspire. Aspirations that give your life purpose and help you set tangible goals. The soul-stirring type that kicks you deep in the gut, and propels you to get up and go.   

Decades ago, if anyone had told me a little ‘country girl’ from the tiny island of Jamaica would get to visit fascinating corners of the globe, I would have laughed and told them no. Now, I’ve gradually ticked off countries like Greece, Peru, Holland, Dubai, China, Egypt, South Africa, and several Caribbean islands from my bucket list because I took practical steps to do so.  

You learn the power of intentional action

American author John C. Maxwell once said, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” and it’s true. Visioning is great, but no matter how big or small the goal, none of us will get what we want in life without taking intentional action towards it. Planning for vacation is just one example of that.  All it involves is making travel a priority after life’s essentials. 

My three-step plan is: 1. Save consistently.  2. Live within (or below) your means. 3. Aim for little or no debt. It’s not about what you make, but about what you save. Always strive to be purposeful about making decisions that don’t tap out your monthly salary, so you can free up disposable income. Before every big-ticket purchase, ask yourself, “is this a need or a want?” It will work wonders for fiscal restraint. 

You unlock deeper insights about yourself from greater self-discovery  

How travel can change your life

Travel takes you out of your comfort zone, teaches you a lot about yourself, and opens your eyes to the broader human experience. No two trips are ever the same, which makes you learn to adapt to unfamiliar situations. Even if things aren’t going your way, past experiences assure you things will eventually work out. 

Being away from home also adds depth to character and widens perspectives. By regularly interacting with diverse groups of people, you observe new ways of doing things, realize all the little gems you take for granted, and discover that inconveniences you used to see as big problems are actually minor. 

Ultimately, I’ve found that regardless of geographic or cultural backgrounds, people just want to be acknowledged and loved.  When that happens, a light bulb goes off and you realize that the cost of what you spend on a trip is chump change to what you gain. In fact. the most valuable transactional currencies are warm and hospitable smiles, an open and non-judgmental mind during local interactions, and irreplaceable memories that last a lifetime. 

Now, it’s your turn to share. Has travel transformed your life in any way?

My absolute favorite travel gear

From time to time, people ask me what travel products I use on my trips, so for easy reference, I compiled a shortlist of my go-to items and decided to share them here.


I know there are fancier designs and much trendier luggage brands available, but I’ve had my Nautica Open Seas set for at least 8 years, and I love it because none of the 5 pieces has failed me yet! The carry-on, which gets the most use, is light and compact, and holds a ton of stuff (if you use good packing hacks). Another plus is the groovy navy & yellow color combo on the exterior that makes your bag super easy to spot if you ever have to wait at the carousel.

The duffle bag is also a cool bonus, because you can break it down and place it inside your carry-on to use as an extra piece for souvenirs on the return trip. At home, I’ve also used it as a gym bag on a few occasions.


If you follow me on Instagram, it’s pretty obvious I get more than a little snap happy on vacation. But since I’m just an eager amateur and not a professional, I’ve still got A LOT to learn about photo-taking techniques. Knowing when to switch aperture speeds, change lenses, adjust depth of field to sharpen focus or chase the right lighting to avoid overexposure sounds overwhelming to me. So, listen up. If you catch me in dem tourist streets, don’t expect to see me with a DSLR or mirrorless camera strapped over my shoulder – just yet.  

I guess I should be embarrassed to admit this out loud, but here it comes. I’m still using a compact point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SX530 HS to frame my shots and learn my best angles!  Yes, you can go ahead and GASP. My three-year-old baby has a 50x zoom lens that shoots images at a 16-megapixel resolution and video at 1080p. It also has integrated Wi-Fi with NFC (Near Field Communication), which allows me to transfer photos to my cell phone with an app.


I did a solo trip to Peru for my birthday in 2018, and after years of dreaming about walking through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, I didn’t want to take the chance of not capturing great shots to preserve the visual memories of my time there. So, what did your girl do? She went out and bought a Sunpak TravelLite Pro Reverse Folding 63′ Tripod (with red accents because she’s extra) and taught herself how to use it!

The irony of the situation though, is that tripods are not allowed at the site. I think they’re considered a possible hazard because of the uneven terrain and huge crowds. But it’s all about tenacity and creativity, right? I converted my tour guide into an able art director and wardrobe assistant for my personal Mapi photo shoot. That’s the name locals call their Wonder of the World.


Other than being extremely useful for communicating with folks back home, figuring out directions in unfamiliar territory, and having access to the internet at your finger tips, my smartphone is a must-have on my trips because it’s a handy camera too.

iPhone lovers, I’m an unapologetic Android devotee, and at the moment, a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is where it’s at in my book. First of all, the 128 GB in-built storage and up to 512 GB of expandable space through a MicroSD is just bananas. What’s more, the optical lens has a 2x zoom and it’s also well-documented that the pixel detail and low-light photography capabilities are far superior.

The signature S Pen isn’t shabby either! You can use it to control more than seven devices at one time within a 30-feet radius. Think YouTube, Snapchat, Spotify music and your camera app, among others. Check out this IG post to see what I mean.

Bonus item (a gimbal)

This Zhiyun Smooth-Q is brand new to me, and is going to be my new best friend on all my expeditions. It’s a hand-held stabilizer that allows you to use your phone to record non-shaky video. It comes with an inbuilt battery that runs for up to 12 hours and has a standard tripod mount at the bottom. Yaaass! I’m about to say a permanent BYE BYE to wobbly footage. Now, if you don’t have a gimbal already, maybe you can think about getting one, too!

In case you’re wondering, none of the items mentioned in this post is sponsored. I actually use these brands and have been doing so on my own dime for a while – years, in some cases. However, the Amazon product links are affiliated. That means if you click on the product, review it, and then decide to buy something, I have the potential to earn a small (as in tiny) commission from qualifying purchases.