Travel, Travel Bloggers

Travel Blogger Series: Suzanne from PhilaTravelGirl

May 9, 2016

Today’s featured blog guest is Suzanne from PhilaTravelGirl. Suzanne’s blog is a great resource for budgeting for your trip. We’re attempting to fly back to the US on rewards points only, so Suzanne’s blog has been a helpful to learn new tricks and tips.

Suzanne is also a Virtuoso affliliate travel advisor so now you can read about her travels and reviews, Being an affiliate, Suzanne can help book similar travels for you. The new site is Arden Road Travel www.ardenroadtravel.com.

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Fiat 500 Florence Tour - Copy

Suzanne with the Fiat500 tour in Florence

How do you stay healthy when you travel?

I try to walk as much as I can, sign up for bike tours and use the stairs whenever it makes sense (definitely on cruise ships but not always on the London Underground). Having a good workout routine at home, Lithe Method, allows me to take a workout break to indulge on the road without much guilt – there are too many great wines and desserts to sample around the world! I divorce my food journal, count zero calories and really enjoy my travels

Any tips to learning more about a culture and meeting locals when you don’t speak the language?

Antipasti at La Rosa Sorrento

Antipasti on a private tour of Sorrento in Italy

I’ve hired many private guides to show me the popular and hidden spots in their hometowns. Learning about the food gives you a peek into the culture – In Sorrento, I had a fabulous tasting lunch at a local restaurant, in Split and Lisbon, we stopped roadside to order local sandwiches from the food window. In Lima, I attended a cooking class and made local Peruvian foods (those chefs are miracle workers as my food was actually edible!). Bike Tours, Walking Tours and Behind the Scenes tours are also great options to learn more about a destination.

What’s your favorite thing about traveling?

The ability to escape my bubble at home and reset my mind, body and spirit while exploring the world and learning more about people, culture and myself along the way. I love to meet new people around the world, share stories and return a changed person. Nothing is more relaxing and exciting than a window seat looking out at the clouds, the sunrise or the sunset knowing that my journey is just beginning.

What’s your travel pet peeve?

  • Solo (Single) Supplements – I hate them as they prevent many people from traveling.
  • Gate lice (the hoards of people in the US at the gate trying to get ahead of others to get their bag in the overhead bin)
  • Travelers in Business Class walking in and out of the bathroom with bare feet and then putting their feet on their seat (yuck!)
  • Hotel Check In Times – I hate to wait to get into my room, we need more hotels on a rolling 24/7 check-in/out schedule
  • The $30+ Hotel Breakfast

What’s the most surreal place you’ve ever visited?

Okavango Delta Botswana

Okavango Delta in Botswana

In 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to redeem for award travel to Easter Island in Spring and Africa for a month in Fall. It was a crazy year of surreal experiences. One highlight (of many) was the Okavango Delta in Botswana is where I sat in my mokoro boat guided on the water watching the African sunset and realizing how blessed I was to have the desire to learn more about the world. We had just finished our walking safari tracking animals and I was gliding back through the channels of reeds blowing in the warm wind content that I had found a part of the world unspoiled and still off the grid. They say Africa changes you and for me it definitely did as I started writing about my travels, found a community of travelers around the world I now call friends and gave me the opportunity to start my own business, Arden Road Travel, planning travel for others interested in exploring the world with a side of luxury.

What are some of your “must pack” items? Why?

  • My Nordstrom Tissue Cashmere Scarf – it’s lightweight yet warm and functions as a scarf, blanket or head covering
  • Fleece Pullover – I get cold everywhere including the plane so this is always in my carryon
  • My Snack Bag of Chocolate, Cashews & Cookies – I’ve made many new friends and bribed a few others with chocolate and/or cookies. It’s hard for people to be grumpy when eating chocolate or cookies. The cashews are great snacks but not great bribes.
  • Bags, Bags and More Bags – I generally have a collapsible duffel in my suitcase in case I need to make check in weight on an overseas flight or ship my clothes from one city to another. I have a reusable bag for market treks and my LuLuLemon bag for snacks. These three plus lots of ziploc bags (great for takeaway food, icepacks and jewelry) make me a bit of a bag lady ready for a plethora of situations.
  • Magazines and Books – I prefer to disconnect and catch up on the pile of magazines in the house and read a hardcover/paper book. I can then share them once done with other passengers (it drives me crazy when folks fly with nothing to do but stare ahead for hours), flight crew and others along the way.

What do you use for luggage? Are you team backpack or suitcase?

I’m team “kneel on the suitcase to expel all possible air out to make the checked luggage weight”
Depends on the trip, but usually I have backpack as carryon with the important things (camera, laptop, contact solution/glasses and 1-5 above) and a suitcase as checked luggage.

Any tips for jet lag?

Know your body and what works for you. For travel to Europe on the overnight flights, I will often pay extra for the hotel room the night before to guarantee an early arrival (say 7 a.m.) so I can go to sleep and reset my body. I’m not a fan of sleeping in the lobby waiting for check in time. For Australia, I recently went via Asia and stayed overnight to get sorted on the time zone. It was the first time, I wasn’t down for days due to jet lag. It’s all about a routine – I bring my cookies and snacks (powerbars, cashews, etc.) to keep my stomach on food it knows.

What are your favorite travel apps?

  • WhatsApp
    XE Currency
    TripLingo (language app)
    WordLens (translate menus and other foreign words on screen)
    Your Rights (EU transit rights)

If I visit your country, what’s one meal I can’t miss?

The U.S. has amazing foods by region and cities so there are a plethora of can’t miss meals depending on where you are. For Philadelphia, I enjoy taking visitors to the Reading Terminal Market where they can sample a Cheesesteak, Roasted Pork Sandwich, see the Amish and taste their popular doughnuts made fresh in front of you (the lines are worth it). With vendor stalls throughout the market you can also enjoy Italian cannoli, freshly made chocolate, PA General Store locally made foods and the Sour Cherry Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie from Metropolitan Bakery.

Can you share your favorite hidden treasure (place, food, event) that you found while traveling? I understand if you can’t!

Azure Window Gozo

Gozo in Malta (Azure Window)

  • Paul A Young Chocolates in London – I’m addicted to the Popcorn Pave of Sea Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Popcorn in thin squares
  • The Underground Tour of Street Art in Paris
  • Garry of Longhorn YOUnique Tours in Melbourne – the Great Ocean Road was made even more fabulous with Garry and his homemade treats on a small private tour
  • Malta and the Island of Gozo
  • The Okavango Delta of Botswana

What’s your favorite thing about travel blogging?

I don’t have a ton of readers but it only takes one to say “thank you for writing about x, we went there and loved it” – that’s just such a great feeling to know I helped someone travel. I’ve also connected with travel bloggers around the world who are now friends and great resources.

If you can answer, favorite place to visit?

London, Paris, Sydney, Seattle are on my repeat list

Where is the next place you’re traveling to?

I’m planning on going back to the Toronto International Film Festival in September as I love the movies from around the world. It’s a great showcase to show no matter where we live, what our backgrounds might be, we all strive for the same things – to be happy in our work, to provide for our families and to be loved. No language translation apps needed – the emotional stories are on the screen.

I’m also planning on hopefully taking my mom on her dream trip to Ireland.

Let's stay in touch!

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