6 Ways to Help Your Family Adjust to Your New Home Abroad

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Living abroad alone can be challenging, but living abroad with children can be enough to test even the strongest of families.

Depending on the ages of your children and their affinity to their home country, their feelings can vary from extreme excitement to dread and opposition over having to leave their home and friendship circles behind. Preparing your children for a move overseas can help make the transition as positive as possible.

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6 ways to make traveling with kids easier

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Planning travel with children can seem like an overwhelming task, even for the experienced traveler. The uncertainty of toddler tantrums or pre-teen mood swings can make a family vacation seem as fun as a root canal. Whether they’re yours or someone else’s, factoring a child’s needs into your travel plans is more than just downloading apps on the tablet or packing enough snacks for a road trip.

In my son’s short 10 years on this planet, we have been to 14 countries, 23 international cities, and on countless planes, trains, and busses together. We have discovered some amazing parts of this world together, both domestically and internationally. However, all of our travel moments weren’t Instagram worthy.

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Raising Vagabonds and changing the game in family travel.

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We’ve all seen this meme. Finding its way through Facebook groups and Tumblr pages. Perpetuating the myth and misconception that you if you have children you can’t possibly be like “what country am I going to next?”

We also know those people who circulate this madness. That single friend who thinks it’s funny to continue to highlight her choice to not procreate by demeaning those who do. Or that veteran parent who has reached the age of parental freedom and is celebrating by traipsing the globe, but forgetting those years of weekend soccer games and bake sales. Attempting to taunt and tease those of us who have school-aged children and assume we actually care.

But despite their ill-conceived assumptions, there is a population of us who have children and *gasp* travel the world. With and without them. Despite the world’s thoughts on if or how we can do it, we are doing it. We are the wandering moms and dads, exploring the world with our junior nomads. We are out here, literally nurturing the next generation of global citizens.

I’ve been on a few trips with travel groups and most often found myself thinking that my son would love this experience just as much as I was. So I set off to travel more with him, but often wanted to travel in a group setting. We both enjoy meeting new people and doing more group activities (hence our love/hate relationship with tours), but in my research I failed to find companies that cater to parents and their children.

So when a friend launched a program to travel and work remotely for a year, it inspired me to create something more short-term. Something to cater to those of us who want to take trips with our kids and expose them to the world. So I did.

This week, I’m working hard to launch my website, Raising Vagabonds, and I’m excited to help moms and dads just like myself to lose themselves in countries foreign to us and finding ourselves in each meal and every experience.

Why am I starting Raising Vagabonds?

Well. I’ve been traveling with my son since he was two weeks old. Seriously.



This was us on the plane to visit family the day after our 2 week appointment with the doctor. We were traveling from Philadelphia to Arkansas to visit family and show him off. Wasn’t he tiny?!?

Since then we’ve been on countless planes, trains, and busses to travel to 20 US states, 17 international cities in 12 different countries together. Some pretty dope adventures have happened in his short 9 years on this planet. He’s zip-lined across the Zambezi River, witnessed several wonders of the world, and learned how to say key phrases in over 5 languages.

In our travels together, I’ve learned how to navigate the most insane situations, cope with a picky eater on a 16 hour flight, and fine-tuned some amazing travel hacks. I can say that I’m an accomplished traveler and I want to share my knowledge and experiences with families like us.

In this blog, I share a raw and unedited account of my travels and offer transparency and advice on how others can too. With Raising Vagabonds, I offer the same. In real-time, Skype of FaceTime conversations or messages. We offer support in helping you travel or move abroad with your child, help you plan the ultimate family vacation, or bring you along on one of our adventures.

I ultimately started Raising Vagabonds because I knew that there were more families like ours. We’ve met them on our travels, we’ve seen them in their own adventures through their Facebook profiles. But I also knew there were those who were once like me. Those who dreamed of a life of travel. Those who didn’t know where to start and longed for the day that they could figure out their finances to be able to take their family on a vacation. I know there are families out there who think they can’t do it and I want to show them that they can.

That it all starts with a decision. The rest is logistics. And I want to be the one to guide them through the latter.

I invite you to join us on this next phase of our journey to make every country a kid-friendly country.

Need some inspiration? Watch this!

Want to learn more about Raising Vagabonds?

Visit our website, our Facebook, or Instagram page! We also have a Twitter account (although I’m still learning how to use this one) We’d love to hear what you think!

How to: Milan and Rome in under a week

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If you read my previous post on how we went to Italy for under $2000, you would know that I promised you a real breakdown of the trip and how we enjoyed it. If you didn’t read it, go read it now so you can completely understand how much we packed into a week for really really really cheap. (Considering it was two of us and I travel with a human garbage disposal)

For the trip, I had to create an itinerary for us. When I travel alone I usually wing it, but with the boy, I have to plan and plan again because we will end up staying in the room and not seeing anything. I try to be flexible with everything and most often we don’t end up doing everything I plan for the day, or we get lost and lose time and end up seeing something completely different, but we’re really adaptable to whatever the Universe brings us so we usually just roll with it.

Here’s how our trip went:

Day 1:

We land in MXP and we catch a shuttle to central Milan. It’s important to know that the airport is far, far away from the city, so expect to ride for a good hour.

After arriving, we head to the train station and find out train in the nick of time. Well…it would have been if our train hadn’t been delayed. In addition to getting there right when Brexit hit, there was also a strike with the local train union. So trains were not running as scheduled and there were tons of people hot, sweaty, and bored sitting outside waiting for the train to finally show. We adapted, found food, and waited.

What I didn’t anticipate (and what TripAdvisor doesn’t tell you) is that when we needed to go to the restroom, we needed to pay 1 euro to do so. Each. I told the boy he better make sure he empties all four corners of his bladder because I was not paying for toilet use again.


Seriously some bullshit.

The train eventually came and we high-tailed it to Rome. (Seriously, it was a bullet train and we got there in a little over 2 hours. Not bad) Our seats were those that have the table and you sit across from someone. I had seats where the boy and I were sitting across from one another, but for some reason, the people who were sitting near us wanted to switch seats. Whatevs. But what happened is that we ended up sitting the whole trip sitting across from them, not really talking (because the language barrier was real) and fighting for foot space. It was definitely an experience, but we were a little over it. Plus the wi-fi didn’t work, so there was that.

Once we arrived in Rome, we took a taxi to the Airbnb and played the rest of the day by ear.  Which basically meant we found the wi-fi, turned on the AC and were sleep by 6pm.

Side note: The Airbnb was amazing. It was at this lady’s apartment, top floor and we were in the elephant room. It had a curio cabinet full of elephant knickknacks and photos. I was in heaven. But we were tired so we didn’t spend much time taking photos and gawking over the ambiance.


End of day 1. Sponsored by jet lag™.

Day 2:

Buongiorno, Roma!

We woke up early and ate breakfast at our Airbnb. We walked to the Colosseum, which was about 20 minutes away, and arrived just in time. They opened at 10 and we got there a little before 9:30. It was perfect. We were able to clown around before it got too hot and see most of the Colosseum before the huge crowd (and the sun) hit.

We were able to walk around and take photos (or try to) without too many people being there. This was our attempt at using the self-timer. We got such a kick out of the people walking through the photos.


After about an hour or so, we felt a bit claustrophobic and decided to leave and catch one of the big tour busses.

After grabbing a sightseeing bus, we first breezed past the many sights and took photos from above. We planned out our strategy and then got off the bus when we reached the Trevi Fountains. We took awkward photos throwing coins over our shoulder and got hustled to pay €10 for a Polaroid of us doing so. But it was cool.

Well…it was hot. We were so hot that we ended up disliking one another at this point. But it was a fun day. We packed a lot into this day. We saw the Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. We saw the many fountains that are all over Rome.

We even wandered into a restaurant filled with locals and ate the most amazing carbonara and lasagna and I even drank half a bottle of wine. The boy was excited because he got a bird that was trying to eat the bread from our table to finally fly into his hand.

Afterward, we (meaning I) tipsily wandered around the rest of the city until nightfall. In the evening, we found a gelato place that was packed and amazing to people watch. Too full from lunch, we ate our gelato and headed back to our room to take it down for the night.

Day 3:

No, we didn’t see the Pope. 

On this day, we were told that the Vatican was free on Sundays so we woke up early and made it there around 7:30. The line was already to the corner of the block. But it was fun standing there with all the tourists and getting into conversations about where we were from and the places we had traveled.

I’m kidding. I didn’t get into any conversations at all. I was tired and hot and played a game on my phone with the boy.

We got into the Vatican and it was amazing. We walked the gardens and toured the statues in the museum. We eventually made our way to the Sistine Chapel and I nervously snuck a photo of the famous ceiling.


Why was I nervous, you ask? Because people were overtly taking photos and getting swiftly carried out. Security was even catching people sneaking photos and asking people to leave. One dude refused to leave and it almost got physical. I was sweating bullets. But I got my shot tho!

Afterward, we left and walked around Vatican City and saw St. Peter’s Basilica. It was really too hot at that point to stand in line to get inside so we just took photos outside of it and decided to wander. This is where the fun began.

We got lost trying to take the metro for a sense of adventure. We ended up in some random part of town and had to walk to find a taxi to take us back. The busses weren’t going back to the city and everyone knew it but us. Annoyed, hot, and irritable, but it wasn’t a complete loss of an afternoon.

After we got back to the room, the boy passed out and I washed and twisted my hair watching Sponge Bob in Italian. Walking around the city all day was exhausting.

I don’t remember eating a proper dinner that night. I just grabbed a snack from the shop downstairs and the boy slept until 5am. Jetlag is a beast.

Day 4:

We got up super duper early and walked to find the Piazza di Spagna. We had a ball taking detours and looking at the several fountains and castles along the way. When we got there we were kinda let down a bit. It had a gate around it and it was closed for renovations or something. Womp womp.


I had this idea in my head that we would sit at the top and watch the sun rise and have this bonding moment between mother and son. That didn’t happen. It was still nice, we walked to a cafe afterward and ate pastries and drank coffee and hot chocolate. We still had our bonding moment, it just looked a bit different than we’d hoped.

We went back to the Airbnb and packed to make the 9am train. We learned from our previous experience and picked seats that didn’t have a table, to get more leg room and not have to stare at people for 2 hours. I took a nap, the boy did whatever he does when I nap.

Hello Milan. 

We take a taxi to our hotel, the DaVinci Hotel, and on the ride we realize that it is a bit far outside of the city. No wonder it was so cheap 🙂 The taxi wasn’t too bad, but more than I budgeted for that day, and ended up being 16 euro. Made it to the hotel around 1 and checked in. The hotel is amazing and full of all this art and amazing colors. It was really fun walking around playing with everything and taking photos. Our room was really nice as well. Really swanky.


The restaurant closed at 2. As did most of the restaurants in the area until about 7. So our only option for lunch was Mickey D’s. Which was about a 2k walk from where the hotel was located. Like, walking through an apartment complex, walk down the side of the freeway, past bushes and shit. It was crazy. And BLAZING! But, you could get beer with your filet-o-fish, so all was forgiven.

We chilled in the room and explored the grounds and then got dinner at the restaurant that evening after a nap. It wasn’t too bad, just really vague and not worth the 15 euro. But there was wine, so all was forgiven.

(Can you tell I’m easy to forgive when liquor is involved? Judge me not)

Day 5:

The chickens.

Roosters, actually. I was awaken at 3am by confused roosters. Wondering where they were and where they came from, and more importantly, WHY THE HELL WHERE THEY CROWING AT 3 F%#&$^@ING AM!?! I felt like I was in an episode of Sex and the City.


Two roosters and a pigeon.

Seriously. I was cranky as hell the next day and talked to the front desk people like “so…what’s up with the roosters?” and they looked at me like “what roosters?” I just walked away.

We had breakfast in the hotel and caught the train to Milan Central to get tickets to the sightseeing bus. Or we already had them. I can’t remember. But we decided to do the tour because it would get us around the city to the main sights without wasting time doing things we don’t want to. We were able to see quite a bit.

The tour we went on passed through all the must-see spots, but then also took you to the fashion district and more historical areas of Milan. We like these also because you get to learn the history and sometimes entertaining facts about the city and take awesome photos without actually having to walk around all day in the sweltering heat. As a bonus, most busses were offering free wi-fi while onboard.

The boy was really excited to learn about DaVinci and his inventions so one of the first stops we went to was the Leonardo3 Museum. We got to look at some of his creations, build our own, and see how his famous painting, The Last Supper, as been restored over the years. Afterward, we went to get gelato and splurged on lunch. We had some extra money from previous days, so we decided to go all out.

Was it worth it? Eh. It’s whatever. The gelato was bomb tho!

The rest of the day was a blur. We were all over the place and eventually got bored on the bus and wandered a bit until we found ourselves back at the train depot. We walked around a bit more around that neighbourhood and I got more gelato and I got my nails done. This was before 7, so we were very limited when we got hungry.

We were able to walk around some more and see the mean streets of Milan before heading back to the hotel for the evening.

Day 6:

Our flight was at 10am, so we were up and ready to eat breakfast when they opened at 6am. We scarfed down all we could and rushed out to meet the taxi. I even burned my tongue trying to gulp down coffee in a hurry. Bad idea. Ran back to Milan Centrale and caught our bus to the airport just in time. I was nervous because we needed to be there around 8am at the latest to avoid any issues with Etihad (they be trippin sometimes, you know). All was well. We had a great flight home and made it back just in time for our jet lag to be in reverse.

Impressions, reflections, and observations

The trip was good, overall. Love, love, LOVED the food in Rome. The history and just the overall feel of Rome was one of our favorites. The pasta, the wine, the gelato…ummm.


Rome is dirty as shit. I mean, Philly is grimy and disgusting at times, but Rome was just gross. Not at all what we were expecting. Milan was okay and a little better with the filth, but still gross. And everybody smoked. EVERY-WHERE. So that’s another thing we had to get used to as well.

Graffiti. Didn’t expect that much of it either. And not in that eclectic, street art, kinda way, either. It was straight up Beat Street, Ramon looking for the white train, 80s style graffiti. It was cool. It was just EVERYWHERE.

We did have a good time, but I’m not too sure we will be back. If we do return to Italy again, we may explore Florence or maybe go back to Rome for spaghetti carbonara.

Seriously. The food was THAT good.

I should note that while we were there, I felt like we had some encounters with racism and discrimination. Once when we went to get gelato, we were waiting our turn to order and once my number came up, I approached the counter to order. The guy saw me and hesitated. So I waited and watched him look at another guy to see if he would finish up so he can help me instead of him. He didn’t so the guy walked over to take my order. He was rather impatient and was a jerk when I mispronounced the flavors in Italian and refused to speak English.

This was a bit shocking because while I was waiting, I observed him playing and joking with other foreigners when they made mistakes and even smiled at a few of them. But me, not so much. In talking about this with someone else about the issues, they cited the “immigration issues”, saying that might be the cause of the turmoil. Nah, son. Italy has a long history of that foolishness and even still doesn’t make it right.

Even our hotel staff were a bit…not-as-courteous as they were with guests that were a little less melanin blessed. It’s whatever. And crazy because in all my travels this was my first time really have any encounters like this. Eh well.

Anyway, if you go, I would say pay that extra bit to stay closer to the city. The taxi ride was not necessarily worth the difference. Depending on how long you say (we only stayed 2 nights) you might want to see if the 20 euro difference can be met at another hotel. Plus it affords you more options in that food drought that happens between lunch and dinner. We were not near any restaurants or grocery stores, so we were kinda assed out when we were starving around 3pm.

I would do more research before I go again, as well. This trip was really last-minute and I didn’t do a lot. Which is really crazy how I lucked out on not spending so much. But we learned a lot of tricks by talking with out Airbnb host. As much as I don’t like interacting with people I don’t know, she was really helpful with telling us where to do, what to see, and how much you should spend when you get there.

Also, I know I paid more for my train tickets than I should have. Because I booked them really close to my departure date, I know I could have gotten them for cheaper than $156 each way. (Calm down, this was for both of us). Regardless, my entire weeks trip still came up to less than $2000.

Don’t believe me? Check the receipts.

Have you gone to Italy before? How did you like it? What tips would you give me if we decide to go next time?

Our week in Italy and how we did it for under $2000!

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As you know, I’m constantly trying to save money when I travel. From flight glitches to Groupon, I’m always in search of a way to make my money stretch. I’m constantly telling people that traveling with kids is not expensive and doesn’t have to be limited to the continental United States when you’re on a budget. That’s why I HAVE to share how we went on a family vacation to Rome and Milan for $1950.69.

You heard me. Less than $2000 for two people. Flights, food, EVERYTHING!

Here’s how I did it:


One day I was minding my own business and I get an email from secret flying.com telling me that there was a flight deal from Tokyo to Milan for $309 roundtrip. 309 US Dollars to get there and back!

Say whaaaaaa?

I played around with the dates and realized that I could make something happen. The only thing was, it was on Momondo.com’s Italian site. I tried to change the language, but that changed the pricing. So what did I do? I opened that bad boy on Google Chrome and let the website translate it for me and booked that flight deal quick, fast, and in a hurry!

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I don’t know what any of this says, but it translate to me as FLIGHT DEAL!!!

I was so hype. I had never been to Italy and the boy had never been to Europe. It was a win-win for the both of us. What was even better was that it came with a 24 hour layover in Abu Dhabi!! Another place neither of us have been. The boy was so excited and I was hype to visit another UAE city.

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The thing was, I only had a few weeks to prepare for the trip. The deal was for the end of June and I had to work out the details and what to do in a few weeks AND finish up with work. But I’m a superhero, so it was no big deal.

Because I’m a geographic opportunist, there was no way that we would come all the way to Italy and NOT see the Colosseum. It’s one of the Great Wonders of the World and the boy and I are on a mission to see all of them at some point in our lifetime. So, I looked up train tickets from Milan to Rome and worked out the itinerary. The train tickets ended up being 312 euro for both of us, round trip. I could have possibly found these cheaper, but I waited until the last-minute to buy them, I didn’t purchase them as a roundtrip ticket, and purchased the tickets the day or two before. Rookie mistake, I know. I’ll learn one day.

Total costs: $983.90 


I found an awesome Airbnb in Rome that was walking distance from the Colosseum, near transit, and close to restaurants and parks. I was sold! It was only $307 for the three nights. It came with free wi-fi, they had stuff in the kitchen for us to make breakfast and coffee each morning, and the hosts were amazing and informative. They gave us maps to find our way around the city, asked us about our plans and offered suggestions. They even told us that the Vatican is free on Sundays to save us money!

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The hotel I booked in Milan ended up being a bust in a lot of ways. It was cute and eclectic, but had some issues. After arriving we found out that it is really far from the city and even farther from restaurants, so we were stuck with eating at the hotel (which wasn’t really that good) or walking to McDonald’s (which we ended up doing). But, for $76 for two nights, we couldn’t really complain. I found this deal on Hotels.com and had a credit from my hotel stays in Thailand that gave me a $56.86 credit. With taxes and everything, it came up to $86.16 with the fee they charged at the hotel once we got there. (they only charged us 10 euro instead of the 20 for some reason)

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Total costs: $393.16

Budget for activities, food, and incidentals

Before I left, I set a budget of ¥10,000 a day (we live in Japan…) and I would only exchange that amount in cash when I got there. It’s also important to note that when we arrived in Milan, Brexit just happened, so the exchange places were not allowing any exchange of Euro or British Pounds until they figured out what was going to happen. I was able to use an ATM when we first arrived and then found a bank that would allow me to do so later when we got to Rome.

Because of my budget, I kept an intense account of what I spent, where, and how much I had left at the end of each day. Most often I had money left over for the next day that helped us splurge on a fancy lunch in Milan.

What I ended up spending for that entire time was $573.63 (according to the current exchange rate). For all of that, we took taxis and rode the metro, we ate huge lunches but small dinners and breakfasts, we saw the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill all included in one fee, and the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum for free. We also rode the big bus tour to see more of the city and get off at the stops that interested us. We even capitalized on student discounts by using my good old ID from grad school (it also helps that my melanin keeps me looking young).


I’ll detail the itinerary in another post, but here is generally what we did each day so you can get an idea of how much we did and saw during our time in Rome and Milan. We definitely packed a lot into the schedule, but because of jet lag we didn’t see and do as much as we had hoped. It was still a pretty awesome time.

Day 1:

  • Landed in Milan, took a shuttle bus to the city center
  • Bullet train to Rome
  • No sightseeing this day, completely exhausted from travel

Day 2:

  • The Colosseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Sightseeing bus tour to optimize our time and sights for the day
  • Amazing lunch of carbonara, lasagna, and wine
  • Refreshing gelato in the evening

Day 3:

  • Breakfast at a local cafe
  • Vatican City
  • Vatican Gardens and Museum
  • Sistine Chapel
  • St. Peter’s Basilica & Square
  • Metro adventure where we got lost (more on that later)

Day 4:

  • Breakfast at a local cafe
  • Piazza di Spagna
  • Train to Milan
  • Lunch at McDonald’s (more on why that was later)

Day 5:

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Metro to center city Milan
  • Sightseeing bus to optimize sights
  • Castello
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie
  • Milan Cathedral
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  • DaVinci Museum
  • (probably more, but that day was a blur)

Day 6:

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Metro to center city Milan
  • Bus to airport
  • Flight back to Tokyo


Budget Breakdown

Transportation: $983.90

Lodging: $393.16

Food, Activities, Souvenirs, Miscellaneous: $573.63

We ended up spending less than our anticipated ¥10,000 per day budget (roughly $95). It was sometimes challenging to stick with the budget, but I did it. I am really proud of myself to sticking to the budget and we had an amazing time.

I hope this gives you an idea of how I travel on a budget with the boy and still manage to have an amazing time. I’m not loaded with cash or have a sugar daddy financing these trips. With a little planning, budgeting, and preparation, you can travel like this too.

What are some tips you have for saving money while traveling? Let me know in the comments!

5 things you need to know before traveling to Tokyo.

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I’ve been living in Tokyo for a year now and it’s a beautiful and exciting place to visit. I’m often asked a lot of questions from people interested in visiting and I thought I’d put together a few things that I think are important to know before coming to visit.

Here they are…

There are no public trash cans. Or very few, rather. There are bins that collect bottles and cans near vending machines and sometimes outside of conbinis (convenience stores). But don’t bank on these being everywhere. It’s not uncommon to have bags of trash in your book bag because there is nowhere to put it. Sometimes it’s left for days because I forget it’s in there.

Remember: Suica or Pasmo. Tokyo hosts one of the most efficient and reliable mass transit systems in the world. And with 13 million residents, traffic can be insane and frustrating. Therefore it’s best to buy a Suica or Pasmo when you get here. Not only can you use it on the 158 number of trains and regional lines and 41 bus routes, you can also use it at convenience stores to buy food and beer and at some vending machines. You can even use them when you miss the last train and have to take a taxi home. (But I wouldn’t recommend this) It’s a convenient way to reach all corners of the city and cuts down on the hassle of buying tickets and guessing the fare.

Also to note: The trains trains will be crowded. People will squeeze in as much as possible. No way around it during certain times of day. It’s all part of the experience.

Do not take a taxi if you can avoid it. Simply put: Taxis in Tokyo are expensive. The flag rate is 730 yen for the first two kilometers and rapidly increases from there. It’s also important to note that rates increase between 11pm and 5am. This is important to remember if you happen to miss the last train home.

Trains and busses usually stop from midnight to 5am, so if you end up at a random bar in Rippongi and your hotel is in Omotesando, you might end up paying close to 100 bucks to get back to your hotel. Just avoid it if you can. Pay attention to the last train information or plan to make it an all-nighter. It’s Tokyo, so it’s pretty easy to do if you’re a rockstar.

Never leave tips. I know in a lot of parts of the world, tips are considered customary. However here in Japan, they can be interpreted as an insult. Something about pride and whatnot. Just remember, most of the things you pay for not only include the service charge, but also the taxes. Expect to get your change back when paying at a bar or restaurant and remember to take it with you. You will get chased down and they will insist you take it back. And speaking of restaurants…

No, the service is not bad. With restaurants in Japan, you have to flag them down to order. Someone will seat you, bring you water, and even might ask for your drink order. But when it’s time to order, you will need to flag them down with a polite sumimasen and someone will rush over to take your order.

It’s also important to know that they may not come back to check on you unless your plate is empty. Unlike in the States, where they come back every 5-10 minutes to see if everything is okay. I think it might be that they just want you to enjoy your meal without constant pestering and they figure if you wanted them, you will let them know. It took some time for me to get used to this as well. No worries.

Best time to go. For the most part, you can visit Tokyo any time of the year. My recommendation is to come during Sakura season (mid-late March through early April). This is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, participate in a hanami party, and eat all the wonderful food and drinks that are sakura themed and flavored. It’s my favorite time of year here and the weather is really amazing. The summers are horrid and humid and frankly, unbearable. The winters are mild, but makes for really bad sight-seeing if you’re looking for outdoor activities. I would absolutely avoid Tokyo during typhoon season, which is end of August until early October. If it gets really bad, everything closes to avoid damage and injury. Don’t let a typhoon, or even really bad humidity, ruin your vacation. Come during the spring or fall for the best weather.

Plan ahead and do you research. I would never suggest someone coming here and winging it. I can’t even really do weekend activities without some kind of plan. Between navigating the transportation to beating the crowds, you really need to know what you’re doing and where. And also search where things are. Tokyo has a lot of nooks and crannies to discover and although it’s fun getting lost in a new city, getting lost here is a whole nother beast. I would say, make room for impulsivity. You can definitely end up in a random bar in Shibuya and find yourself in a middle of a karaoke battle with locals or smack dab in the middle of a Brazilian festival in Asakusa. It happens. Embrace it, but do plan ahead just in case. You can lose a couple of days if you get lost in Shinjuku station. Seriously.

Tokyo is a vast land of tradition, fashion, food, and entertainment. You can find almost anything under the sun to do and experience while you are here, but it’s not one of those places you can just stumble through. Because of its deep roots in traditions, there are things you should know before coming, to avoid being a stereotypical gaijin or foreigner.

Respect the customs, enjoy the history, and interact with the people. Tokyo is an amazing place and I hope you enjoy your experience if you ever find yourself here.

(and yes, I know those were more than 5 things. I’m a rebel and I do what I want)


A layover in Paris: An opportunists guide to the city of lights.

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So once upon a time, I was a crazy traveling woman. In a 30 day span, I traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Haiti. Not all at once, but it was a fun summer. Right before I was to move abroad, I scored a deal on a flight to Kenya through Delta Airlines. The ticket was $400 and I used that flight to travel to Tanzania and Ethiopia as well.

On the way home, my layover was 10 hours, so naturally I left the airport and looked around the city for awhile.

Charles de Gaulle Airport is not close to the city, so you will need to take the train into the city. I stored my baggage in the airport and purchased a train ticket into the city. This is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get into the city. For about 9€, you can purchase a ticket for the RER Blue train and find yourself in the city in less than an hour. Make sure you take the train headed in the direction of Robinson, Antony or St-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and the train will stop in central Paris stations such as Gare du Nord.

While you can make your way around Paris not knowing French, it was kind of challenging for me. At least the people I ran into did not speak English and I was looking like a crazy person. I got off at a stop and was turned around trying to look for the Eiffel Tower and tried to ask for directions. No bueno. But a kind stranger did point me in the right direction for the REC train where I got off at Champ de Mars station and found myself smack in the middle of everything and right near the Eiffel Tower.


I saw the tower and walked around to Trocadero where I sat at a cafe and chilled for a bit. After I wandered around the Eiffel Tower, I found my way down an avenue with shops and a McDonalds where I ordered myself a “Royale with Cheese” just so I can send a photo to a friend. (We both love Pulp Fiction)

Not realizing it, I walked right past the Arc de Triomphe. It was a great sight to see. I also ended up seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral while trying to grab a croissant first thing in the morning. Because I was running low on time, I took a taxi after I passed the Arc de Triomphe to grab a quick view of the Lourve and other sights.


I’ve since done some research and if I had to do a quick tour of Paris all over again, here is how I would do it (and how I suggest you do as well)

Free walking tours

There are a few options for free walking tours of Paris. The New Paris Free Tour will get you to all the Instagram worthy sights in under 4 hours. It works off of tips and doesn’t include any museum admissions, but you’ll be able to see the main sights that will give you a feel for Paris and having a guide will give you a bit of history and background to each place you see.


Ulmon is an app that gives you a city map that works offline, but it also gives you suggestions based on your interests. This is perfect because you can tell the app the highlights you want to see ahead of time and see reviews from other travelers and details about the place before you arrive.

Citymapper is another app that can help you plan your route via public transportation or a detailed bike route. You can chart out the sights you want to see and the app will take care of the best way to get there, helping you make the most of the time you have. If you’re not able to get a SIM compatible with Paris, you’ll have to plan your route ahead of time and take screenshots to be referred to later, as the app does not work offline.

The Paris Guide Monument Tracker is the best app I’ve discovered that offers descriptions to the monument and it’s history, and even has a quiz to test your knowledge later on and a treasure hunt that offers a fun way to get to know the city on your brief journey.

City Sightseeing Tours

In every city I visit, I often take a sightseeing tour bus. Especially when I don’t have a lot of time to explore or wander about. City Sightseeing Tour busses area. great way to see the city, explore the major sights by bus, and get some detailed and fun facts about the different historical sights and monuments. Most bus lines run in about 1.5 to 2 hours to competition, so you have time to hop off, explore, and catch the bus before heading back to your start point and dash back to the airport.

However long of a layover you have in Paris, I would suggest leaving the airport only if you have longer than 8 hours. It takes an hour to get to and from the airport by train – longer if you decide to take a taxi back. I would give yourself plenty of time to get lost, explore, and eat some good food.