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.

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.

Why you must experience these 5 foodie destinations at least once in your lifetime

Some people say the best way to know a city or country is to eat your way through it, because food has a way of bringing people together and is a compelling expression of culture. It’s no secret that spices, cooking methods and traditional dishes get passed down from one generation to the next and help carve out distinct or blended identities. So what people eat, how they purchase and prepare it, who they dine with, and their established customs around things like mealtimes and food etiquette combine to help tell unique stories.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”  – James A. Michener

While I don’t consider myself a true foodie, and I’m now grudgingly savvy enough to know vacation calories DO count, a girl’s still gotta eat for nourishment, right? Some of my most memorable trips would have been incomplete had I not consumed more than my fair share of gelato and pizza in Italy, oxtail and Malva pudding in South Africa, crawfish and gumbo in NOLA, pisco sour and ceviche in Peru, and chicharrón (fried pork belly) in Colombia. 

“Food makes travel so exceptional, because you get to taste what it is actually supposed to taste like. To eat the real Pad Thai or finally have a proper curry is pretty amazing.” – Meghan Markle.

Now savor that thought while I roundup my top 5 foodie destinations.

[Sidebar: If you want to read more about other things I did in any of these places, you can click on the name of the city or country.]

New Orleans


Oooh, chile. From beignets to pralines to jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, crispy fried chicken and everything in between, I can’t adequately describe the NASCAR type rush of serotonin that shoots through your brain after the first bite. I kid you not. The reaction time is like zero to 100 in two seconds flat. Serotonin unleashes naturally occurring chemicals that contribute to our general feelings of wellbeing and happiness, and there’s absolutely no denying the fact that the food in Nawlins makes you VERY happy! Be prepared to lean back and undo your belt, while you mentally buckle up to experience multiple firework-esque foodgasms. 



I’ll be the first to admit that my palate may have been partial to Cartagena’s fusion of Latin, Caribbean and African cuisines because I’m Jamaican. But even if it wasn’t, I’m still sure the food was amazing because everyone else I met there said so too.  You can opt for upscale dining if you want to, but I explored the street food scene, and even everyday dishes like arepas, empanadas, patacones (deep-fried green plantains), fresh fruits and chicharrón were divine.



There’s a reason Italians coined the phrase la dolce vita.  Having completely mastered the concepts of sweetness and the art of taking-your-time-over-food, I wouldn’t be surprised if they also invented the modern-day equivalent: livin’ your best life. If you value having your meals prepared with only the freshest ingredients, pretty much any region in Italy will be right for you. What about getting to enjoy a good glass of wine over dinner? You can put a big smiley face beside that criterion too. And if a mindset that fiercely protects the sanctity of family time, friendship and fellowship is important to you, Italy will serve up your triple pleasure.



If you don’t put much weight on anything else that I say in this post, trust me on this one. There’s a reason Peru was named Best Culinary Destination in the World for six years in a row (from 2012-2017) by the World Travel Awards. As one UK Telegraph writer puts it, “its cuisine is madly fashionable.” However, what is not as well-known is that “Peruvian food is not just about the Lima restaurant scene with its fabulous fusions and experiments, but also the richly varied traditions of the Pacific coastal strip, the Amazon jungle and the Andes.”

When I was there in 2018, one of my tour guides said they had such a large variety of cuisines and dishes you could go out to eat for three years straight without repeating the same meal.

Cape Town


As someone of African descent, I guess it goes without saying that I would appreciate being able to eat different varieties of the grains, yams, beans and slow-cooked stews typical of food I grew up on. But when I tried other combination dishes that the Dutch, British and other nationalities brought to the table over many years of interwoven histories, my taste buds almost ended up packing their own oversized suitcase to stuff it all in. In Cape Town, you can literally go on a global epicurean journey by moving from one dining establishment to the next.


What have been some of your favorite foreign food experiences? I hope you’ll share some of your stories with me below in the comment section

Bad travel habits we all need to break right now

I was scrolling through the feed of a Facebook group I’m a part of and the topic of bad travel habits came up. Other than being a hilarious insight into some of the shenanigans people get up to while traveling, the discussion thread was also an eye-opener because I realized that I, too, have been guilty of some of the faux pas mentioned.  We all know some of this oh-no-you-didn’t behavior isn’t optimal, so why do we insist on doing it?

Huh? What’s that? Do I hear some of you saying, “Because it feels so, so good?”

Riiiight. Tell you what, go through this list and then tell me in the comment section which ones ring true for you.

Ballin’ on a budget

Unless you’re making and/or banking six or seven figures a year (which many of us are not), you have no business throwing bills around like you do. I’m here to tell you from experience that the ‘you only live once (YOLO), so I’m going to treat myself like a king/queen’ mentality has limits. What’s more, all those over tip, over shop, and over indulge yourself tendencies? They add up. Plus, oooh chile, you better believe the credit card statements come back to haunt you when you get home!

Doing it for the ‘Gram

Okay, so I love Instagram just as much as the next person, but the excessive risk I see some people taking to get the perfect shot is plain nuts.  There’s no need to dangle off the edge of a cliff to get a good view. And no, climbing to the top of the restricted area of a skyscraper will not make you famous for the right reasons. Neither is it cool. Please be wise. People are literally falling off buildings, buffs, ledges of waterfalls and more with tragic consequences. So, before you let the daredevil inside you slip out, rein it in one more minute and ask yourself this: is my life worth one photo?


I’m pretty sure that at some point in time, we’ve all seen passengers bogged down by outrageously, super-sized luggage on group trips, or had to wait behind someone at the check-in counter who was forced to deftly negotiate the terms of his/her extra weight fee. If you are a chronic over packer reading this now, don’t despair. First, invest in a sturdy carry-on bag.  Then note the golden rule when packing is: when in doubt, leave it out.  Think about what you might want to do at your destination; make a checklist of what you think you’ll need, not just want; plan to mix and match pieces; and roll, not fold your clothes.

Binge eating (and drinking)

There’s no denying that trying new foods is one of the highlights of travel, but a healthy desire to indulge in the local culinary scene is no excuse for around-the-clock drinking or eating of everything and anything in sight. For example, the gelato in Italy is unlike any I’ve tasted anywhere else in the world. However, having a gelato a day for five or 10 days straight might not be the best idea. Neither is snacking non-stop on salty or sweet foods on a lengthy plane ride or road trip.

All-inclusive newbies, I’m talking to you too! If it’s your first time rocking the leave-your-wallet-at-home lifestyle, you’ve got to ease yourself into the all-you-can-eat buffet lines and skip the bar stool and free drinks before noon. Having a queasy stomach (or the runs) on vacation isn’t the most desirable thing in the world. Trying too many foods all at once, or subscribing to the raise your glass, it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world mantra is a sure way to send you rushing back to your room.

Remember, it’s not about eating just to eat. We should be eating to tantalize our taste buds, broaden our palate, and enjoy different cultural dining experiences.

Not staying hydrated

Every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies depends on water to function properly, so drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy – at home and abroad. While alcoholic beverages, beer, sodas and juices all have some water content, there is no substitute for plain H2O.  Err on the side of caution, and buy bottled water if the tap water is deemed unsafe. Or go one step further and take a reusable water bottle so you can fill up regularly from trusted sources and reduce plastic waste.

Throwing caution to the wind

If you’re pretty street savvy and cautious in your home community, it makes no sense to throw caution completely out the window when you go into vacation mode. Yes, living a life completely dictated by reserve can be boring, but it’s best to take calculated risks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers a childhood of grown folk saying, “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” over and over again. In fact, when being admonished back home in colorful expressions only a Jamaican would understand, it may have sounded more like, Fire deh a mus-mus tail him tink a cool breeze.”

But I digress. If you wouldn’t hitchhike on your own highway or main road, don’t do it when you’re away. And of course, if you don’t walk around with flashy jewelry or display expensive phones and/or camera equipment when alone in public, don’t even think about it on foreign soil.

Now, I’m going to be nice and not talk about the armrest hogs on airplanes, incessant talkers (who can’t get the earplugs or book in hand hint), or persons who pull out pungent foods at the start of a long-haul flight.

Heyyy! All I’m sayin’ is …No. Just, no.

That is all. What other bad travel habits would you add to this list?

6 Fabulous boutique hotels around the world

What’s your preferred accommodation style? Big-box brand hotels or lodgings with more uniqueness and personality? This is a non-judgment zone, of course, as there is no wrong or right answer. Personally, I’d rather stay at a small, personalized property with local flavor than at a high-rise, chain hotel that offers cookie-cutter amenities and experiences.

Apparently, I’m not alone. The Highland Group recently came out with a 2018 Boutique Hotel Report saying it was a $15 billion segment of the hotel industry in 2017, and it’s still growing.

If you’re a curious and courageous traveler who is always on the lookout for unexpected discoveries that are the antithesis of tried-and-true chain hotel experiences, this My Travel Stamps Approved List could be just right for you.

Cartagena, Colombia: Allure Chocolat by Karisma Hotels & Resorts

This is a 34-room city hotel conveniently located near all the action and within a 5-minute walk to the Walled City. The rooms are small, but contemporary and chic, and they feature either city or waterfront views. One particularly delightful part of your stay is that at check-in you get to select a fragrance from their Aromatherapy & Pillow Menu that will be used in your room. A nicely stocked mini-bar that includes Jose Cuervo rum and their onsite full-service restaurant, Red Knife, that’s run with a farm-fresh philosophy, are also cool factors.  

Lima, Peru: Hotel de Autor

This Miraflores area property has four bedrooms that, as one Travel + Leisure article put it, are “individually designed, mixing vintage artifacts with contemporary furnishings.” Its dining room is a converted garage, and it has a small rooftop garden area and terrace where you can relax after a busy day of sightseeing.  The absolute best things about this property are its claw-foot tubs, the short walking distance to many shops and restaurants (including those in the famous Larcomar Shopping Center), and the attentiveness of the staff. Miguel Payet was my point person and he was amazing.

Hoedspruit, South Africa: Waterbuck Game Lodge

Part of the Thornybush Collection, Waterbuck Game Lodge is a private, four-suite safari lodge nestled next to a watering hole on a reserve that is home to colorful birds, monkeys and diverse wildlife. Ideally suited for couples, families or small groups of up to eight people, guests can enjoy facilities that were designed to blend into the natural environment and provide maximum opportunities for rest and relaxation. Their rooms feature en-suite bathrooms AND outdoor showers, a cozy library with a fireplace, and a private patio for game viewing. What’s more, there’s a breakfast deck overlooking the estuary, and the bonfire style meal on your first night is not just delish, it’s dreamy!

Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Magic Blue Boutique Hotel

Literally only steps from the happening 5th Avenue, this tropical oasis somehow manages to sneak 44 elegant and minimalist rooms into the heart of a busy city without you realizing you’re that close to traffic and civilization. No, I’m not kidding. The ambiance is that serene! You get champagne as a welcome drink, and there’s a small spa on-site that offers daytime massages and treatments like shiatsu and reflexology. While not on the beach, a stylish pool and poolside bar provide the often sought-after water respite, and guests get access passes to trendy beach clubs only three blocks away.

Saint Kitts & Nevis: Paradise Beach Nevis


If this 5-star boutique villa resort is good enough for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, I figure it is good enough for us too, right? Built on one of the most unspoiled islands in the Caribbean, this property now offers five brand-new beach houses in addition to the seven exquisitely designed three- and four-bedroom villas it launched with in 2015. British designer Naomi Cleaver used wood grains, crisp white linens, and carefully selected accents to invoke a feeling of vintage glamour in the two-bedroom houses. And it’s a fitting complement to New York based designer Adam Tihany’s villa décor which was inspired by a sophisticated blend of Balinese and Caribbean culture. And that isn’t all. In addition to these idyllic surroundings, private chefs are available on request for preparing in-home meals and conducting cooking tutorials.

Irish Town, Jamaica: Strawberry Hill Resort

Perched 3,100 feet above sea level in the cool hills of Saint Andrew, this picturesque getaway is a nature lovers enclave of 13 Georgian-style cottages that have heated beds, plank floors, vaulted ceilings and French doors that lead to private balconies offering either jaw-dropping views of Kingston or surrounding mountains. Local meals can be enjoyed at the restaurant, which overlooks a scenic infinity pool. And the bar, where Red Stripe and Appleton flow freely, used to be frequented by global music icons like Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones for creative inspiration, revitalization and renewal. It was there that Bob found refuge in the 1976 when a failed attempt was made on his life. You can also visit Island Record’s (and hotel owner) Chris Blackwell’s legendary Gold Room that displays platinum and gold records of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ albums. Plaques of other musicians like U2 and Mellisa Etheridge who were once signed to Island, are also proudly exhibited on the walls. 

Have you ever stayed at a boutique hotel? If not, it’s time to try it. Believe me, they’re a whole mood!

Is it time to add new chapters to the Black History story? Yes, please!

Each February, the U.S. observes Black History Month to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans and the central role they played in shaping the country’s history.  But when I thought of planning a quick weekend trip and turned to Google to identify inspiring things to do and see during the period, I found myself stuck. 99% of the searches returned results based on visiting museums, historical sites, and memorials dedicated to either revisiting the horrors of slavery or documenting the painful struggle to end segregation.

Slavery happened. It is an important part of our collective history. And in no way, shape or form am I advocating for it to be sugar-coated. Nor do I want the selfless and tireless work of great civil rights leaders and activists like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Harriet Tubman to ever be downplayed or forgotten.

However, I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find more comprehensive listings of tours, sites, locations and experiences that paid homage to other aspects of the black experience and culture.  Of course, the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail are powerful entities that provide valuable context to the post 1960s socio-economic and political landscape. But when all is said and done, the African-American story isn’t one-dimensional.

Where is the curated list of museums showcasing the work of black inventors, researchers, educators, and scientists? There must have been prolific thinkers other than the late, great George Washington Carver.

Which galleries and libraries nationwide house the paintings, sculptures and books of our most talented creatives, and which urban or metropolitan cities boast epic street art sure to be a draw for photo enthusiasts?

Is there an app or guide travelers can use to pinpoint the performance venues, cocktail bars, and clubs that nurture black dancers, actors, musicians, and spoken word artistes? And where do epicureans looking to join a food tour or dine on soul-infused meals go to find culinary delights prepared by outstanding black chefs or skilled, home-taught cooks? Does a list of black-owned hotels, tour operators and attractions in America exist anywhere?

Even with multiple mouse clicks, I kept coming up with slim pickings.

Next year, I’d love to be able to share a good mix of itinerary suggestions that pay tribute to the full tapestry of textures that form the African-American narrative. Let’s work together to crowdsource that dream list, shall we?  And whatever the outcome, we’ll let the public know it’s available year-round.

Please share at least one relevant place, activity or experience below. Thank you!