Tag: planning tips and tricks

New to Airbnb? Top 10 Reasons to Give it a Try.

New to Airbnb? Top 10 Reasons to Give it a Try.

Are you new to Airbnb? Maybe wondering what all of the fuss is about? That was me about a year ago. I was as green as they get and had never tried any home rental service before. Oh boy, was I missing out. Airbnb was 

To cruise or not to cruise?

To cruise or not to cruise?

Cruise ship travel is not for everyone. So “to cruise or not to cruise?” is the question I will try to answer today. Cruise ship travel may be perfect for you. Or it may be the worst idea ever for your travel style. Or maybe, 

Tips for surviving those awful international flights

Tips for surviving those awful international flights

Back in February, B and I headed off to Hawaii so I could join her in the Fifty States Club.  (Meaning  we had visited all 50 states.) We caught a quick hop to Seattle and then flew to Kona on the Big Island. I knew this was going to be a long flight, but I made the (wrong) assumption that it would be like all the other international flights I’ve been on. Well, you know what they say about assumptions! We were solidly unprepared for the seven-hour, TV-less flight that took us to paradise. Below are some flight survival gear we neglected to bring that help make those tedious, over-ocean flights bearable, along with a few that we (thankfully) don’t ever leave home without. 

What are we talking about?

Here is a video we made about most of the items below.

Eva Airplane
Eva air took good care of us from Seattle to Taipei.

Flight Survival Gear


I used to just bring my basic Apple headphones that come with a new iPhone on flights because they are so small and easy to fit in a bag. These are not great at cutting out ambient noise though. So last year I broke down and decided to get some proper headphones. B uses Sony MDR-NC7 Noise Canceling Headphones that she has been very happy with for years. I opted for the Sony MDR-7506. While these are not noise canceling, they do fit over the ear and do a good job of drowning out crying babies. They were about $100 on Amazon and apparently this model has been a workhorse in the headphone field for about 30 years.  

Sony headphones

Sony headphones…for audiophiles everywhere


B and I have had our trusty Apple iPod Touches for many moons. (Or at least I did until I left mine in a rental car in Sacramento last weekend. Grrrr….) I know iPhones these days have plenty of memory and can fit lots of songs on there. But I’ll be honest, I still have no idea what the cloud is or how it works. I know I sometimes have music on my phone when I’m using data and random songs will get saved to my phone somehow that I can listen to without Wi-Fi.                                                                                                                                                                                                              But to make things simple, I like to have a device dedicated to all my tunes. Maybe if Alamo can’t locate my iPod, I’ll have to figure out how to save music to my phone. But the bottom line is, music and podcasts can help get you through your flights. When you can’t binge-watch any more in-flight movies, you need to be able to put on something chill, close your eyes and relax.

Water Bottle

The canned oxygen that is forced through the ventilation system sucks most of the humidity out of you on a plane ride. To combat this, you need to drink lots of fluids. This will also help with your jet lag. The flight attendants come by pretty frequently but it is a good idea to keep a bottle of water handy for the in between service times. As a bonus, you’ll have to use the restroom a lot which will recirculate some of the blood that is gathering in your ankles.


Some international flights offer little fleece blankets. But just in case they don’t, it is a good idea to bring a scarf that can double as a blanket. It isn’t so much that it can get cold, but that it tricks your mind into thinking it is bedtime when you are snuggled up.


Socks serve three purposes on a long flight. First, they keep your feet warm. Second, they help keep your cankles at bay. Third, they allow you to stay clean. Who knows when that carpet was last cleaned. I’m looking into getting some specialty compression socks for the long flights–stay tuned for a review in a future post.

Neck Pillow

B did a lot of homework and research to find the best neck pillow out there. She ended up with the Cabeau Evolution pillow. It is essentially a big hunk of memory foam shaped like a horseshoe. There is a plastic clip at the end that allows the end of the U to stay together, thus providing a nice support system for your head no matter which way it lolls.

How does it work?

The Cabeau takes up more space than an inflatable pillow, but you are able to roll it up tightly and put it in it’s carrying case that can be velcroed together (which makes it much smaller than you’d think possible). If any of you have ever bought a memory foam pad for your mattress, you’ll know how amazing it is that something so small can turn into something so big. This is along those same lines. Once B purchased her Cabeau and tested it out, I did what any sensible Jane would do: I bought one in a different color.

Cabeau memory foam neck pillow

The Cabeau memory foam neck pillow


No matter your media – electronic or paperback – you need a few good books with you on a long flight. I like to put a few on my iPad and then bring a real one too, leaving it on the road once I’ve finished it. Luckily for me, on the disastrous Hawaii flight I had a beach book in my purse.

Ear Plugs

Whichever direction you fly, time zones are going to mess with your circadian rhythm. It will help if you get at least a few hours of shut eye on the plane. Ear plugs will help you drown out the noises of the plane.

Nighty-night Medicine

I’m not one of those lucky people who fall asleep at the drop of the hat. If I am going to catch a few hours of sleep sitting up in an uncomfortable seat, it is going to take some assistance. Everyone is different with what works for their bodies. I will bring a Tylenol PM or Benadryl with me in the hopes that it will knock me out for part of the ride.

Well there you have it. Having the above items will help make your loooooong flights a little more manageable. That and the awesome netflix-like collection of shows airlines provide, combined with the excuse that you really don’t have anything better to do.


With a little preparation and a trusty flight survival gear kit, you can and will survive international flights. You will wake up to a whole new country and set of adventures. As a bonus, you will have had time to plow through the entire first season of The Originals guilt-free.

Choosing your next travel destination

Choosing your next travel destination

Having trouble choosing where to travel to next? Are you feeling overwhelmed and maybe a little paralyzed by all of the possibilities? If you are like me, then deciding where to travel to next is one of the hardest parts of travel planning. Because there 

Affordable ski trip to Whistler, Canada: see how much a weekend getaway costs

Affordable ski trip to Whistler, Canada: see how much a weekend getaway costs

Janes often get asked, “How can you afford to go on so many trips?” Well, the answer is simple: you don’t spend a boatload of money on every trip. If you can’t afford to go big every time (man, wouldn’t be great?), go little a 

Jane Sees…The Big Island

Jane Sees…The Big Island

Waipi’o Valley Lookout
Waipi’o Valley Lookout

Hawaii is easy. I mean that in the nicest way possible. If you are looking for a tropical destination with minimal worries, then Hawaii is a worthy place to consider. You can plan adventures and island hop to your heart’s content, or you can simply stay at a nice resort and sit on the beach. To each her own. We recently traveled to both the Big Island and Oahu for about ten days. We visited in February and although Hawaii is nice anytime of the year, it is especially nice when your home state is covered in white. Most of our time was spent on the Big Island and let me tell you, it was time well spent. Below are some reasons why you should consider visiting the Big Island.

Southern cliffs on the Big Island, Hawaii
There is so much to see on the Big Island.

Why you should go to the Big Island

  • It is a great place to relax and unwind. Life is busy and most of us are always on the go. Even if you plan a lot of activities, you cannot help but slow down while you are visiting the Big Island. Life just moves slower (as does the traffic). Bumper stickers with sayings like: “Slow down brah, this ain’t the mainland,” are fairly common and pretty darn accurate.
  • For most of us, it will feel a bit like a foreign country. But it’s not. The water is safe to drink and you do not have to worry about a passport (provided you are a U.S. citizen). The street signs may be difficult to pronounce, but the traffic laws will be familiar. There will be new things to try on the menu (loco moco, anyone?), but it will be in English. Like I said, easy.
Palm trees on the Big Island, Hawaii
Look up!
  • The Big Island has less tourists and more room to roam. It will necessitate renting a car. But if you make the effort to drive around and see a good chunk of the island, you will not be disappointed.

Side note: Even if you are traveling on a budget, it is nice to splurge once in a while. Maybe you order that decadent dessert at that fancy restaurant or purchase a necklace that caught your eye—the one you never would pay that much for at home. On the Big Island, we opted to splurge on our rental car and got a convertible. Yes, it was the “tourist” thing to do. But hey, we were tourists! And driving around with the top down was amazing (except for the crazy hair). I highly recommend it.

Ford Mustang car rental in Hawaii
Sally, our ride.
  • Whatever you might have in mind when you picture Hawaii (e.g. pristine beaches, calm blue waters, towering palm trees, etc.), let me assure you, the Big Island is so much more. It has so many different landscapes and it feels like every 20 minutes or so you are driving through a new one. In a very short amount of time you can see rolling green hills, lava flows, pine tree forests, lush jungle and more.
  • It is safe. Sure, you need to exercise a little common sense, but for the most part, you will be able to wander around without overly worrying about pickpockets. In fact, we felt comfortable enough leaving the doors of our house and rental car unlocked.
  • Men will not harass you and/or stare at you. If you have traveled to places like Mexico and Morocco, you will understand what a nice change of pace this is. Because there are beautiful/scantily-clad women everywhere, it takes quite a bit to stand out from the crowd. I very much enjoyed the chance to wander around relatively unnoticed.

Now for the downside: Hawaii is not cheap. You are not necessarily going to break the bank vacationing here (unless you want to), but if you are used to paying pennies for fresh pineapple somewhere in Central America like R is, then you need to know right now that that is not the case in Hawaii. So prepare yourself.

Private waterfall in Hawaii
Horseback rides to private waterfalls are not cheap, but they are worth it.

What you should see/do on the Big Island

This was my second time visiting Hawaii and R’s first so I am not even going to pretend to be an expert on visiting the islands. Besides, there is plenty of information available on the internet and you can research to your heart’s content. What I will do is tell you a little about what we experienced on the Big Island and give a couple of recommendations. Of course, you are always welcome to contact us if you have specific questions.

  • Go to Island Lava Java in Kona and try the Kalaunu Beef Burger with the roasted garlic aioli sauce. If you can, do it while sitting outside, watching the sun set and listening to live local music. But if you cannot, I am pretty sure the burger will stand on its own.
Burger and fries--Hawaii style
The Kalaunu Beef Burger at Island Lava Java in Kona.
  • Visit the Visitor Information Station (VIS) on Maunakea…even if it is raining. It was pouring in Hilo when we began our trip up the mountain and it rained on us most of the way. But by the time you get to the VIS, you are above the cloud line and out of the rain. We did have a little fog at first, but that cleared out eventually. We did not do a summit tour so I cannot speak for that. But the set up at the VIS is very cool. I grew up in a place where the stars at night are pretty incredible and I still found this experience to be impressive as well as informative. I can only imagine how awesome this place would be if you lived in a big city and were not used to seeing the stars. Note: I recommend dressing warm. The elevation is high (9,200 feet above sea level) and once the sun goes down, you will feel it.
The Visitor Information Station (VIS) welcome sign on Maunakea.
The Visitor Information Station (VIS) on Maunakea.
  • Try the shaved iced with ice cream in the middle. It is weird and wonderful. We had some at Scandinavian Shaved Ice in Kona, but there are plenty of places all over the island where you can enjoy this treat. And trust me, it is a treat.
  • Go snorkeling—you are in Hawaii after all. I decided to bring my mask and snorkel from home but R was able to pick some up easily enough. We ended up snorkeling twice: once on the Kona side and once on the Hilo side. On the Kona side, we hiked down to the Captain Cook Monument (about two miles). A friend had highly recommended the snorkeling there and she was spot on with the recommendation. However, although the snorkeling was great, the hike back up was hot. Make sure you have enough water and sunblock. You could also opt to book with a charter boat or kayak company.
Captain Cook Monument, Hawaii
Snorkeling at the Captain Cook Monument.
Tropical Fish and Corral Reef
Looking for Nemo

On the Hilo side, we snorkeled at the Kapoho Tide Pools (officially named the Wai’opae Tidepools Marine Life Conservation District). The tide pools are easy enough to find. But then it was a little difficult to figure out just where to go in the tide pools—especially if you do not want to swim right beside someone else. We finally just decided to drop down into one of the pools (careful so as not to hurt any of the coral) and found ourselves immersed in an amazing underwater world. The snorkeling was equally good at both locations, but the tide pools are much easier to get to.

Kapoho Tide Pools
Snorkeling the Kapoho Tide Pools is a unique and fun experience.
  • Visit Volcanoes National Park. This one is kind of a no-brainer. If you are headed to the Big Island, make some time for the park. You’ll have to deal with a lot more tourists than you have anywhere else on the island, but it is worth it. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the glow from the volcano at night. We accidentally stumbled upon this little phenomenon one night while driving around. I also believe you can visit the park after dark to see it up close and personal.
  • Have breakfast at Ken’s Pancake House in Hilo. I was told Ken’s is a local institution and its busyness can attest to that. The omelet I ordered was massive! But the real winner was the passion-fruit syrup. Remember the word ‘lilikoi,’ It means passion fruit and should be ordered anytime it shows up on the menu.
Picture of Ken's menu, Hilo, Hawaii
An institution on the Big Island.

We did plenty of other stuff during our time on the Big Island (including a little horseback riding—if you dig this sort of thing, then I highly recommend you give it a try), but the list above highlights some of our favorite activities. There really is no end to the number of activities available to you. Or once again, you can choose to do nothing. That is the beauty of Hawaii.


Hawaii is an easy place to vacation. It may not be the cheapest destination, but you’ll get tropical without a lot of effort or stress. Just don’t forget your sunblock. Very few things ruin a trip faster than a nasty sunburn.