Tag Archives: strategies

Paris is one of the world's most expensive cities this summer, but there are easy ways to make your dollar go farther.

Smart Travel Strategies for Summer

As TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, I’ve been sharing a lot of summer travel advice over on the TripAdvisor blog. In case you’ve missed my posts, here are links to the tips I think you’ll find most useful:

* Traveling Overseas? Make Your Dollar Go Farther.  Here’s a list of the world’s most expensive cities this summer (including Paris)—and six actions to take that will not only save you money but also reward you with more local color.

* How to Plan a Family Beach Vacation That Won’t Break the Bank.  Are you finding that every four- or five-star beach resort you’ve contacted has hiked its rates sky-high this summer?  Here are the tricks I’ve used for my own family’s summer getaways.

* Easy Ways to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees.  Of all the fees airlines hit us with, the one that most travelers find most annoying is the fee for checking luggage. For those of you who don’t have elite status with an airline, here are three ways to avoid getting stung.

Improve Your Trip With an Overnight Layover (No Kidding!)  Do you dread overnight layovers?  It’s time to change your attitude and use them to give your trip a fun kick-off or a grand finale.

* When to Save Money with a Vacation Rental.  You get more space and privacy than in a hotel, and you get to live like a local, but renting a home without staff or hotel infrastructure can mean spending your vacation doing household chores. If you’re looking for that perfect villa in Tuscany or farmhouse in Provence where it’s an easy walk into town for dinner and you needn’t worry about wrestling with unfamiliar appliances or taking out the garbage, feel free to shoot me an email (click on “Contact,” above) and I can connect you with the right trusted villa expert for your destination.

Happy summer travels, everyone!

Luxembourg Gardens boat pond, Paris

One of many inexpensive activities in Paris is to sail boats in the Luxembourg Gardens, as my younger son is doing here.

Alone in Petra at sunrise

My Favorite Spot in the World for Sunrise

A lot of travelers aim to be in a particular spot for the sunset. If you ask me, sunrise is better. You get equally great photographs (thanks to that “Golden Hour” lighting that occurs twice daily—shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset) but your pictures aren’t spoiled by hordes of tourists.

Petra caves

Locals live in the caves inside Petra

Sunrise is also the best time to watch the locals doing their thing—waking up in the rickshaws they slept in; heeding the mosque’s morning call to prayer; practicing their tai chi on the waterfront; setting up their stalls at the fish market; dropping their children off at school. At sunrise I’ve managed to be alone with the fishermen and feluccas on the banks of the Nile, as well as with saffron-robed monks amid the ruins of Angkor Wat.

Petra, Jordan

This is typically Petra’s most crowded spot

My favorite sunrise ever, though, was in Jordan, at the ancient rock-hewn city of Petra, one of the new seven wonders of the world. The site officially opens at 6:00 a.m., but Tim and I found the gate wide open at 5:30 a.m. and walked right in. For one priceless hour—till the first tourists caught up with us—we were the only people there and felt like archaeologists who had discovered a lost world. The light at sunrise so intensified the colors in the sandstone that it quickly became clear how Petra got its nickname “The Rose City.”

By 11 a.m. the site was swarming with day trippers from cruise ships. But I’ll always have the memory—and photos—of my own private Petra.

Petra Jordan

Sunrise brings out the colors in the sandstone

As it turns out, I’m not the only person who thinks Petra is home to one of the world’s best sunrises. I’d love to know: Where in the world is your favorite? And, so you can savor a sunrise on your next trip, here’s a handy-dandy tool for sussing out the exact time of sunrise wherever you are in the world.

St. Catherine's Monastery Mount Sinai

My Best Travel Mistake: Climbing Mount Sinai for the Sunset

We’ve all been through travel nightmares that over time have turned into fond memories. Maybe you were lost for hours in a maze of back alleys in some gritty Beijing hutong where nobody spoke English but you eventually found your way back to your hotel. Maybe a flight cancellation stranded you on a remote Pacific island for three days but you ended up making great friends and learning how to boil kava.


My biggest travel mistake happened in Egypt. Tim and I had driven across the Sinai Desert to see St. Catherine’s Monastery—the sixth century cloister at the foot of Mount Sinai—and had decided to climb to the top of the mountain for the sunset. The path was rocky and precarious, but after about two and a half hours we had made it up the 7,500 feet. We were virtually the only people at the summit at sunset. It was one of those perfect travel moments.

Until the sun disappeared behind the mountain and we realized there was no light anywhere in the desert. We somehow had to get all the way back down that mountain in the pitch dark. The descent was treacherous, and the only reason I’m alive today to tell the tale is that I was wearing sturdy shoes and Tim happened to have a Mini Maglite flashlight in his pocket.


A friendly Bedouin

A friendly Bedouin

What turned this ordeal into a cherished memory was what greeted us when we finally reached the bottom. It was like we had landed in Lawrence of Arabia. A blanket of stars had come out, and beside the ancient cloister, crouched around a flickering campfire, was a group of friendly Bedouin and their camels, making dinner and telling stories in an incomprehensible but mesmerizing tongue. We were, again, the only travelers around. That movie-set finish to our day is seared in my memory, and somehow over time that harrowing Mount Sinai descent has turned into one of the highlights of my travel history.

Mount Sinai after sunsert

Mount Sinai after sunsert

Three lessons learned:

1. The next time I climb to the top of a mountain, it will be for the sunrise.

2. No matter what time of day, I’ll be carrying a Mini Maglite.

3. Don’t let State Department travel alerts cause you to misperceive the real risks. As is often the case, the risk of death by violent human attack or explosive device is far less than the risk of death from simply wearing the wrong shoes.

St. Catherine's Monastery

St. Catherine’s Monastery

The Sinai Desert

The Sinai Desert

What was your worst travel mistake that turned into an amazing memory? I just might collect the best stories and share them with everyone.