Once a year, hundreds of wine producers gather under one roof for VinItaly, an Italian wine lovers paradise. During my last visit I was lucky enough to attend a seminar and wine tasting involving a grape called Chiavennasca, which is grown in an area called Valtellina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Lombardy region in northern Italy.
You don’t really hear much about wines from that area, so I was intrigued and excited to learn about this grape unknown to me and sample the wines. And it’s downright fun to say Chiavennasca. Though it’s a lot harder after several glasses of wine. Trust me.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Nebbiolo, which is the main red wine grape grown in Piedmont. Well, Chiavennasca is the local name for the same grape, which is actually thought to be older than its Piedmontese counterpart, dating back to the Etruscan times.
The sub-alpine climate and more northerly location produce a very different wine than your Borolos and Barbarescos. Nebbiolo will always be a star in Piedmont – but in Lombardy, its Chiavennasca.
Valtellina is located in the Adda Valley, which is about 40km wide, runs east to west near the Adda River and is bordered by Switzerland. All of the vineyards in the area are grown on extremely steep terraces cut into rocky mountain slopes, which is a marvel to look at, but also presents challenges for caring for and harvesting the grapes.
The vines, which are anywhere from one to one-hundred years old are cultivated by hand, and have been for over ten centuries, which is reflected in both the price and the limited quantities of wine produced.
Two of the main varietals have earned DOCG distinction – Valtellina Superiore and Sfursat. Today I am going to talk about Sfursat.
This wine is the most typical and oldest of Valtellina wines. It’s made with 100% Chiavennasca using the same process as Amarone, (another favorite Italian wine) known as appassimento.
Basically, small clusters of sun-exposed grapes are kept on the vines as long as possible to ripen. In late September, highly skilled workers harvest the grapes by hand and place them in wooden crates – in a single layer. No bruising these delicate juicy orbs! Next, they’re taken back to fruit sheds (by helicopter!) to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area for 100 days.
During that time, the grapes shrivel and loose 30-40% of their water and you’re left with intensely concentrated juice in fruit resembling raisins. It takes about one kilo of grapes just to make one bottle of Sfursat.
After spending about two years fermenting in barrel and bottle, the result is an intense, rich, even elegant garnet red wine, with a high alcohol content, with flavors that can include ripe red fruit, prune, coffee, chocolate, tobacco and spices like vanilla and cinnamon, depending on the vintage.
Bottom line : If you love Amarone, you’ll love Sfursat.
One of the oldest and most esteemed wine producers in Valtellina is Nino Negri, who has been a symbol in the valley since 1897. The winery is located in Chiuro, in an old 15th century castle known as Castello Quadro.
Negri has been making their Sfursat “5 Stelle” since 1983. Their 2001 Sfursat was awarded ‘Best Italian Red Wine’ by Gambero Rosso, which is no small feat. And their winemaker, Casimiro Maule, who’s been at the helm since 1971, was crowned winemaker of the year in 2007. So you know you’re getting quality wines made by very talented and passionate people.
Since only the best grapes are chosen to make this style of wine, they don’t produce Sfursat every year. And when they do, only a select 25% of grapes make the cut. Their Sfursat is aged for 18 months in new French oak barrique, bottled and held for another six months before release.
Since Negri was the featured producer at VinItaly, I participated in a vertical tasting (which means tasting several different vintages of the same exact wine) of their Sfursat. We sampled Sfursat 5 Stelle Vallentina DOCG vintages 1997, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2009.
They were all very good, but my personal fave was 2001, which had a cherry aroma and flavor, as well as a mineral quality and a long finish. I also liked the 2009, which is the most current vintage. But if you have the opportunity to try any of them, I wouldn’t hesitate one bit!
And if you happen to be staying in southern Switzerland, or in the Italian Lakes Region, a visit to the area would make an unforgettable day trip, provided you have a car. I can all but guarantee you’d have a fabulous experience touring, tasting and learning more about the elegant wines, surrounded by terraced vineyards and picturesque landscapes.
Photos © Fredrick Wildman
Are you a food and wine lover heading to Italy? Find out how I can create a custom foodie adventure.
When I speak with potential clients, one of the biggest concerns that comes up has to do with budget. Many people dream of traveling to Italy or swoon over the thought of spending time in France, but think they can’t afford it. Sure, vacations can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. There are lots of ways to stretch that almighty dollar, and still have an awesome time.
Start by Traveling off-season, which will ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Then follow it up with these surefire tips and you’ll be saying HELL YES to that dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take, but keep putting off because you can’t afford it.
And in case I have to remind you – you work hard and you deserve a nice vacation, don’t you? Yeah, you do.
Limit your destinations
Think twice about an itinerary that includes a world-wind tour of the entire country in ten days. It’s not only unpleasant (think packing and unpacking at each hotel) and not a good use of your time (imagine how many bottles of wine you can drink instead of the aforementioned packing and unpacking), but a good chunk of change will be spent getting from location to location.
Whether you’re buying train or airline tickets, car rental (think gas, insurance, tolls) or hiring a private driver, your budget will get eaten up faster than you can say “just throw it on the credit card!”
Instead, stay in one spot. If you’re afraid you’ll be bored – take a day trip in between to split up the time and purchase a last-minute ticket on a local train. Or just rent a car for a day.
As a bonus, you’ll get to immerse yourself in one destination and learn more of the culture, meet more of the locals, even become a regular at your neighborhood café. Double bonus – you’ll have more negotiating power when it comes to asking for a discount for a longer stay at the hotel.
Experiment with Airports
One of the largest trip expenses will be airfare, so it makes sense to save as much as you can. I’ve already shared tips for scoring deals on airfare, but you should also play with airports as well. Sometimes the difference of flying into one airport vs. another can be a few hundred dollars cheaper. One example is Rome and Milan. Both are large airports in big Italian cities. And though Rome is a great central base, flying into Milan is consistently less expensive than Rome. And though I don’t really recommend spending all of your time in Milan, you could easily get to the Italian lakes region or even Piedmont.
And though direct flights are the most convenient – you should also consider booking a connecting flight instead. Do your homework, research your options. It might just make sense to take advantage of flying into a particular airport and then decide where you’ll actually spend your vacay.
Photo Credit : Gigi62 on Flickr
Pick a different (less popular) location
Some of the most popular and heavily-touristed destinations command the highest prices. You can still have a great experience in other lesser-known destinations. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t visit the areas that I list here – almost every spot deserves a visit. But if you’re talking saving money – here are some suggestions :
You get the idea. Right?
Fill up on Free
The fact that you’re reading this means you’re not going on an overpriced luxury bus tour and you’re traveling independently. So consider yourself lucky because you’ll already be saving a
busload boatload of cash. And since your days are your own to do what you wish, just know that you don’t need to spend a ton of money filling up an itinerary, especially in Italy or France.
You could fill an entire vacation with free activities. Or things that only cost a few bucks. Obviously, you’re going to have to allow yourself a budget for activities, food and incidentals, but you can keep costs to a minimum by working these suggestions into your plans
You may also want to check out my tips for eating on the cheap while you’re on vacation.
And speaking of free – I’ve got some more fab ideas for things to do for free or cheap in these cities:
Now over to you. What surefire tips do you have for saving money on your vacations?
Want more tips like these? You may want to join my newsletter for a dose of Italy, France, food, wine and travel related tidbits!
Milan is an often overlooked city on many Italy travelers’ itineraries. But once you compare airfare to Milan and realize it makes an excellent spot to fly into when touring northern Italy, you’ll definitely want to spend some time in the city center. If you find yourself with a day on either end of your trip, here are some things to do in Milan that will give you the best of what the city has to offer.
The best place to begin any visit to Milan is at the Duomo. This iconic church has a piazza outside which is perfect for a sit down to get your bearings for a few minutes and adjust to Milanese life. After a few minutes watching the world go by, you can enter the church for free (you know I love free). While the interior is well worth taking some time to soak up, it is the Duomo’s roof which is its major attraction.
You can actually walk on the roof of the Duomo, which offers some reasonable views across the city in good weather. Wandering through the church’s spires is an interesting way to spend an hour or two and you should be rewarded for your efforts with a closer view of the city’s symbol, the Golden Madonna, which is set atop one of the spires.
If architecture is your thing, then a visit to Sforza Castle may be in order. With its original foundations dating back to 1358, the castle is steeped in Milan’s history. However, it wasn’t until 1450 that Francesco Sforza, a military power figure during the renaissance period, decided to turn it into his permanent residence and began the long process of construction that would culminate in the castle we see today.
The construction period extended beyond his lifetime and, most notably, Francesco’s fourth son, Ludovico Sforza, drafted in the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and other renaissance artists to decorate the castle. Coincidentally, Ludovico is also the man who commissioned ‘The Last Supper’.
Speaking of Da Vinci, his great work, ‘The Last Supper’ is also housed in Milan. The Santa Maria delle Grazie church limits the amount of time which visitors can stay in the same room as the work by selling tickets. And since tickets are often sold out weeks and even months in advance, if you want to include this highlight of the city in your day in Milan, make sure you plan ahead.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest shopping mall in Italy and has an unusual local tradition associated with it which makes it even more worth checking out. In the middle of the mall are four tiled areas representing four northern Italian cities. Turin is represented by a bull. His, ahem, manly bits, have been worn down over the years because people believe that spinning on that particular spot brings good luck. So, spin away.
La Scala is Milan’s famous opera house and while you may not have time to see a show, it’s well worth making some time to visit the museum, which means you also get a chance to see inside the theatre itself, if only briefly. It’s still less expensive and time-consuming than going to see an actual show. And you won’t have to pack a ball gown.
As the day draws to an end, you’ll want to get yourself to a good spot like Radesky Café, Corso Como 10 or Obikà for aperitivo: the cities almost beatified period between six and eight in the evening, when the bars throw open their doors for pre-dinner drinks, served with a host of complimentary food. Not something to miss out on!
Milan has a lot to see beyond this, but these suggestions will give you a taste of northern Italy’s business metropolis if you only have a day to spare.
Want to make the most of your time in Milan by hiring a guide, or arranging a private visit to the last supper, get in touch – I’d love to help!
Photo Credits Flickr : Taboada Testa, Maesk, Keith Havercroft, From the North
No doubt about it, Tuscan wine is delicious. And even though it’s tasty at your own dinner table, there’s no better way to sample it then by touring the vineyards and wineries in Tuscany. Otherwise known as “the source”. You can’t get views of green rolling hills and cyprus trees from your dinner table.
But before you say, yeeeehah! let’s hop in the car and drive through the Tuscan countryside and we’ll stop at some wineries, it may not be that simple. Instead, slow your roll and follow this practical advice for a the most fruitful (yep, I had too) and enjoyable Tuscany wine tasting experience.
It’s bigger than it looks
Tuscany is a pretty big region. Everything looks right around the corner as the crow flies, but you can’t be fooled by that. You know all of those jaw-dropping photos you see of the green hills, terracotta rooftops and rows of grape vines, with the occasional windy dirt road? Well, those are the roads you’ll be driving to get from vineyard to vineyard, at 10 miles per hour, switchback after switchback, kicking up dust. This means it will take a really long time to get from place to place. So consider that when planning your visits. Google maps can be a pretty good tool in gauging times and distances.
With hundreds of wineries in Tuscany, you may feel the need to visit as many as humanly possible. For the reasons listed above, that isn’t practical. Instead of a wine tasting marathon, think of it more like a wine crawl. Don’t cram ten spots in one day, aim for three. Two would be ideal. Everything in Italy is done slower, so your visits will be more leisurely. You won’t have time to really experience and savor your wine if you rush through tours and tastings and drive all over the place. Spend more time at each winery and less time in the car.
Bring maps. Lots of them. And GPS.
It’s inevitable. You’re going to get lost at some point. So, I encourage you to bring along a GPS – whether it’s one you get with your rental car, or from your smartphone. I also highly advise you to bring a current, good ol’ fashioned road map of Tuscany. A very reliable one is the Regional Map of Toscana from Touring Club Italiano. Use them in tandem. It also might be a good idea to have a list of phone numbers for the wineries you plan to visit handy. You might just need them.
For more specific info and maps with vineyards and wineries visit the following Tourist Offices:
Know where to base yourself
I like to split the Tuscan wine region into two main areas, Chianti Classico to the north, and Val d’Orcia (think Brunello and Vino Nobile) and Maremma to the south. There are about 30 other varietals, but these are the most popular.
In order to find the best place to situate yourself, you need to consider several factors including, how many days you’ll be in Tuscany, how much of your trip you’ll devote to wine touring, what type of wines you like to drink and wish to learn more about, the type of wine-drinker you are (fun vs. serious), and what other towns you’re planning to visit during your time in Tuscany. Each situation is different, and sometimes a consultation can be helpful.
As a general rule, the area between Florence and Siena is a good place to base yourself for touring the Chianti Classico area, and Siena is a nice base for exploring and tasting Brunello, Vino Nobile and Rosso di Montalcino. If you only have a day or half-day, pick the style of wine you’re most interested in and focus on that area. Avoid basing yourself in Florence if your goal is to explore the Val d’Orcia and sample Brunellos. That’s just not the best use of precious tasting time. Or gas money.
Apparently, some Tuscan vineyards are a secret
Don’t expect vineyards and wineries to have large commercial signs, loaded with flashing lights and arrows announcing their location. You can bet there won’t be a cute Italian dude dressed like the fruit-of-the-loom grape cluster flagging you down in front of the entrance. Trying to find some lesser-known properties gives new meaning to the term Hidden Gem.
In some cases, you won’t even find the slightest hint that behind those iron gates or up that small dirt path, sits a highly-respected winery on a gorgeous estate. For whatever reason, some are well-kept secrets. I’ve had this experience before. Driven past the entrance, entered through a side gate and drove down a tractor path through the vines. Don’t ask me to explain or understand it. Just thank me for warning you and consider the wine your sweet reward for being persistant. Go you!
Make an appointment. And keep it.
Visiting vineyards and wine tasting in Italy isn’t the same as it is in the U.S. There aren’t always set tasting times and hours. Some larger producers, like Banfi or Ricasoli operate within normal business hours, and have staff, so you may be able to show up unannounced. But the majority of your visits will be to smaller vineyards and for that reason you should make an appointment.
And after making that appointment, it’s important to keep it and be on time. I know it’s common sense, but smaller producers are mostly family run and don’t have a staff waiting around, staring at the door in hopes that you will walk through. This is especially important in the fall, during Vendemmia (harvest time) when all hands are on deck. They are being kind enough to take time out of their busy lives to welcome you for a visit and show you around. Please, please be mindful of this, and respect it. Otherwise, it’s just plain rude. And it makes the rest of us look bad.
Mix it up
I like a nice combination of tours and tastings at larger operations as well as smaller mom and pop producers. You’ll have very different experiences at each place, learn different techniques, meet different people, sample different wines. Some will be structured, others more casual. Some might serve food, or have olive oil to sample, others offer a meal or a walk through the vines or tour of the cellar. Maybe throw in an organic winery. So mix it up for a diverse well-rounded experience. Drink. Experiment. Compare notes. Drink. Ask questions. Eat. Take photos. Drink. Take a walk. Have fun!
Take a guided wine tour
The best way to avoid having to worry about anything I’ve mentioned above, is to arrange an escorted wine tour. This also benefits the one unlucky soul who may miss out on tasting the juice after being volunteered (possibly by force, or being on the losing end of a cruel version of ”Rock, Paper, Scissors – Tuscan Wine Edition”) to be the designated driver. A tour with a local, who has relationships with the wineries, can give you a more relaxed, insiders look . You’ll get to stare out the window at those gorgeous views, rather than having a meltdown in a poppy field in the middle of Tuscany, because your GPS has led you astray. It’s a no brainer, right?
If you’re heading to Tuscany and would like me to arrange a guided wine tasting experience, get in touch, I’d love to help!
Traveling by train is one of my favorite ways to get around in Europe. So I’m very excited to announce that April 2nd, France launched a new budget high-speed train service, which will be run by the national rail company, SNCF. It’s called Ouigo.
Get it – ‘we go’. Pretty clever, huh?
Since Ouigo is aimed at budget travelers, services are considered bare bones, with no bar cart, no food available on board and a one-bag restriction. In similar fashion to the budget airlines, you can bring an additional bag if booked in advance for €5, or if you wait until boarding time, that fee becomes €40. Additional fees apply for things like booking by phone, ticket changes and getting a seat near an outlet.
But one good thing – speed won’t be sacrificed. Ouigo trains will offer the same travel times as the traditional TGV high-speed trains.
This may not be the most convenient option for those heading to Paris, as the Ouigo station is located in the suburbs, near Disneyland Paris. However, for those on a budget, a trip from Paris to the Mediterranean coast can cost at little at €10, which is worth be the slight inconvenience of getting to Paris’s city center via another RER train.
Traveling to cities like Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier should be a bit easier as those stations are a bit more central, but still located on the outskirts, which keeps costs down. Other stations include Nimes, Valance, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence – making it a great way to access many great locations in the South of France to explore both the Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon regions.
You can book tickets by visiting the Ouigo website here (in French). At least one reservation page seems to be in English, so perhaps an English version is in the works. They certainly aren’t winning any awards here for user-friendly website design, but what do we expect for such bargain prices?
So what do you think? Will you Ouigo?
For some, it’s a rare, delicious treat to have homemade pasta. It’s not that hard to make, in fact I’ve shown you how to make homemade pasta before. I’ve even had the pleasure of watching Pugliese women crank out orecchiette on the streets of Bari by what seemed like a thousand ears a minute.
But if you don’t have the time or desire to make your own, I’ve got the perfect alternative if you live in (or are traveling to) New York City. It’s about as close to homemade as you can get.
Raffetto’s has been a Greenwich Village staple for over 100 years. In 1906, Marcello Raffetto set up his pasta shop on West Houston and four generations later, the business is still going strong.
I can’t even begin to describe everything on offer. All pasta is made in-house and is often still cut on their original guillotine machine, which is by now an antique.
Fresh pasta is cut-to-order by noodle-thickness from angel hair to pappardelle and everything in between. Even lasagna and manicotti. About twenty pasta flavors from the most basic egg and whole wheat share the board with more creative squid ink, chestnut and chocolate selections.
And ravioli? Yeah, they got em. Filled with everything from cheese, spinach, pumpkin to truffles or walnut gorgonzola, a personal favorite.
Need sauces too? They’ve got you covered with traditional tomato basil, pesto, Alfredo or Bolognese. Like it hot and spicy – try the arrabbiata.
They even have vintage wooden apothecary-style drawers behind the counter, full of every type of dried pasta imaginable.
And if that isn’t enough, add gnocchi, cavatelli, Italian cheeses, deli meats, a prepared food section and pantry staples like olive oil, anchovies, and spices to the mix. A virtual treasure trove of Italian food goodness.
Be forewarned – they only take cash – so bring plenty of it. And it’s not a restaurant, so don’t expect anyone waiting tables or serving food, everything is sold to take away.
So, if you find yourself short on time and craving an authentic Italian pasta dish for yourself or guests, pop on by and pick up all the fixings. Mix and match shapes, flavors and sauces to create the ultimate in pasta perfection. And if you want to pass it off as your own, pretending to have slaved all day over a hot stove, then who am I to judge? It’ll be our little secret.
144 West Houston Street
New York, NY 10012
Tues-Fri 9am-6:30pm ; Sat 9am-6pm
Almost every traveler wants to visit the iconic Eiffel Tower as part of their Paris travel plans. So it stands to reason that you’ll be fighting the crowds with the millions of other visitors who have come to enjoy it too.
No one wants to be herded like cattle or waste the better part of a day standing in line, no matter how awesome the view. Your vacation time is precious isn’t it?
But for those who must travel during peak season, here are a few simple Eiffel Tower tips which might get back half your day by avoiding waiting in line for hours.
Time your visit just right
The best time of day to visit is either very early morning or very late at night. It really depends on the view you want. So either get up early and get in line or wait until just before closing. Opening and closing times vary by season, so make sure you check before you go and then plan accordingly.
Take to the stairs
After waiting in line for tickets, if going up by elevator, you’ll wait in another line. There are four elevators – Nord, Sud, Ouest, Est, but there will only be one or two running at a given time – and it’s random. But did you know you can actually walk up as far as the second level?
It’s about 670 steps, but it can be done and the line for the stairs is much shorter. You can take your time climbing, stop to admire the views and snap photos others wouldn’t have access to. And let’s face it – it’s a great way to walk off all that delicious, rich French food you’ll be devouring. Go ahead and have that extra pain au raisin, you’ve earned it!
Maybe you don’t want to stop at just the second level and you really want to go to the top. Well, you can still walk up to the second level and then buy a ticket for the elevator to the top level. You’ll still skip the longer ground level elevator line, and be able to make it all the way up.
Dine in style
Another way to avoid the long lines of the tower is to reserve lunch or dinner at Le Jules Verne . They have their own dedicated lift, which of course would have practically no line. Just queue up for your reservation time and voila, you’ll be wisked up to the second floor. If you didn’t get enough of the lovely views during your one-of-a-kind dining experience, you can still get to the top by purchasing a ticket without having to go back to ground level and start over.
Prebook your tickets
The Eiffel Tower now allows you to buy tickets online. You select an assigned date and time, print your tickets and head right for the dedicated prebooked ticket line, thereby bypassing all other lines. Tickets are limited (and occassionally non-existent for certain days/times), so make sure you buy well in advance. The only downside to this is once you buy, you’re committed to the date and time, even if the weather isn’t optimal.
For opening and closing times, online tickets and more info visit the Official Eiffel Tower website.
Need help with your Paris vacation plans? Perhaps a travel consult would be a perfect fit.
Thousands of champagne corks will be popped this year as lovers the world over celebrate Valentine’s Day. But there’s another, more affordable, category of bubbly libations prefect for special occasions called sparkling wine. Throw in a kiss of pink or even ruby-red and you’ll have an even more festive option.
Since many of the best hail from France and Italy, I thought it would be fun to play wine cupid and recommend a few along with ideas for pairing. So grab your sweetie and a bottle, or three, of these effervescent sparkling wines, all under $20, and toast romance in style.
It’s no secret that eating my way through Italy is one of my favorite pastimes. And so far, the food in Rome hasn’t disappointed. Typically, I’m busy checking out wine bars, sampling authentic Roman pasta dishes like Cacio e Pepe or Pasta Carbonara or chowing down on Rome’s version of pizza to go, pizza al taglio.
But life can’t be all about pasta, pizza and wine can it? Who am I kidding, of course it can. But every now and then a girl gets a craving for sweet treats. I know exactly where to get coffee-infused refreshment on a hot day and now thankfully I have a pasticceria in Rome, where I can find wonderful Italian pastries.
Strolling through the Monti neighborhood , I came across a pastry shop called Ciuri Cuiri. I will readily admit, I’m a sucker for melodic names and cute logos. And much like an attractive wine label is often enough to lure me into sampling a new wine, what I saw on the facade had me skipping through the door.
I walked in and found a treasure trove of all things sweet and Italian. Cases overflowing with meticulously prepared mini Italian pastries, cakes, cookies, cannoli and other assorted tasty treats of the Sicilian kind, which makes sense because Cirui Ciuri translates to flower, flower in Sicilian dialect.
After drooling for what felt like hours, I finally decided to sample several bite-sized treats.
A mini cannolo, a ricotta-filled pastry, a pistachio truffle and a chocolate concoction also topped with pistachios.
Oh and how could I forget – they also have gelato, which of course I couldn’t resist.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – that’s an awful lot of sugar and calories for one person. Keep in mind, I did have help gobbling it down and I did so much walking in Rome, that I’m sure it didn’t even register on the hips.
Next time you’ve had your fill of typical Roman fare, don’t forget to give into your Italian sweet tooth and stop by for a few delectable Sicilian treats.
via Leonina 18-20, Rome
With other locations in both Rome and Milan.
Are you a food lover heading to Rome? Perhaps you’d be interested in your own custom designed foodie adventure. Click here to find out more.
The key to packing light is to be able to think outside the box and find ways to lighten your load before you travel. Thanks to smartphone technology and trillions of available apps it’s easier than ever to replace some of the bulky or heavy gadgets you’re used to packing in your suitcase, with something that only takes up room on your device.
I’m not suggesting becoming a slave to technology on vacation, but there’s no denying that smartphones can definitely come in handy when trying to free up some precious space in your luggage. Whether you’re trying to pack everything in a carry-on bag, or you just want to save a few pennies on overweight bag fees, these packing tips will show you what items to ditch in favor of your smartphone.
photo by vernieman
1. Camera/Video Camera Everyone wants great vacation photos and special moments captured on video. But unless you’re a professional travel photographer, you don’t really need the big bulky camera with multiple lenses and full-size tripod do you? Smartphone cameras have come a long way and they actually take awesome photos – some even do panoramic shots. Take your photos with your smartphone, download apps like Camera+ or Vignette which have filters or attach an Olloclip (only for iPhone) to kick pics up a notch. And since many smartphones have video capability, you can leave the camcorder home too.
2. Flashlight. Many adventure travelers and especially single ladies traveling solo carry a flashlight. It just makes good sense, for safety. Rather than packing an actual flashlight – download a flashlight app on your phone.
3. Guidebooks. No denying those travel tomes are chock full of helpful information. And some even have pretty pictures. But they come at a price. Most reputable guidebook publishers now have downloadable versions that only take up space on your phone, not in your luggage. And that also makes them easier to cart around on a daily basis.
4. Translation Dictionary. Traveling to a foreign destination where you don’t speak the language? A translation dictionary is a must. Rather than packing one in book form, use the Google translation app. It even speaks the language, which no book can do and it translates 50 languages.
5. GPS. Sure you can rent a GPS when you rent a car, but I know many people who pull the one they own from their car at home, load it with maps and take it along on their vacation. Rather than doing that, just use Google Maps on your smartphone. Though maps and navigation aren’t available for every country, the list of countries covered is impressive.
6. Alarm Clock. Believe it or not, not all hotels will provide an alarm clock and many prefer to travel with their own travel version. Downloading one on your phone is a good alternative.
7. Journal. Who doesn’t enjoy taking notes and recording special moments in a travelogue to refer back to year after year? Rather than pack an actual journal, apps like Evernote or TripJournal allow you to take notes with the added bonus of attaching photos and integrating with other apps and social media.
8. Travel documents. Though they really aren’t heavy or take up too much space in luggage, it’s still a good idea to organize travel documents in one easy spot as opposed to having a bunch of paperwork flying about. Apps like Dropbox and TripIt are perfect for saving important itinerary docs and even copies of your passport or credit cards if you should need access in a pinch.
So what did I miss? How do you use your smartphone to help you with packing light?
Ready to take packing light to the next level? Click here to see how I can help you become a carry-on traveler!