Are Hop On and Off Buses Worth It?

Elizabeth Tower Big Ben

So many options for transportation in a new city. Train, bus, taxi, Uber, Segway, horse and carriage, bike, hop on and off bus, group tour bus, and my most favorite, travel by walking! In this article, I am going to share what I think about hop on and off buses vs. trains and walking.

You saved your money, chose the city you have always wanted to visit, googled and searched on travel blogs to learn all there is about your destination, and you are ready to make this trip happen!

You finally make it to your destination. Arriving at your hotel, you drop off your bags and set off on foot to discover your surroundings. Tourists will often observe at the hotel, displays of brochures with suggestions on where to go for fun. I’ll be one to admit, that picking out brochures covered with great marketing images was my habit. In recent years I’ve been making an effort to stay away from needlessly taking them. Why? So I can do my small part in being an eco-friendly traveler. Why take a brochure, when you are going to trash it. Instead, why not just take a picture of the information on your phone or note down in your phone the need to know and continue off to enjoy your day. With the aid of technology, the modern traveler can accomplish almost every task without leaving a paper trail. I’ll cover the topic of being a more eco-friendly traveler in a future blog post.

For now, let’s get back to the all enticing and not always so affordable hop on and off bus. Once arriving in a new city for the first time, It’s often one of the fastest and easiest ways to get an audio guided tour on wheels. It’s a great way to get to know a large city fairly quickly on your terms. Hop on, and off buses (aka HOHO Buses) take you to all the major sites on its itinerary throughout the city. Major cities will often have multiple companies to choose from. You can check out which ones appeal to you the most, including cost, distance covered, along with any reviews you read about them online. Whichever company you end up choosing, make sure to first search for promotion codes or even the option to buy the ticket in a package deal. City cards that cover museum entries will often also include HOHO bus tickets or at least a discount.

If you are only able to stay in a city for a day or two and can’t stay long, I suggest considering the hop on and off bus, because it gives a historical reference tour speedily!

However, there are always other options that are more affordable and adventurous. Taking the local train system can bring you closer to the locals. Grab a city transportation card that covers both trains and buses and utilize it to your advantage. Trust me; you’ll see things that you would never have seen with a HOHO bus. Figuring out a maze of train tracks and which way to go is the stuff that real travel is made of. Asking strangers for help at a train station full of commuters in a hurry to get to work in the morning, may not be the best time. Make an effort and approach a friendly train attendant for assistance you may require.

With train travel, I’ve always been a little more cautious. Taking care to observe my surroundings and having a good grasp of my possessions in sight is always a priority. Also, always be cautious to make sure you don’t accidentally take a train to the wrong side of town. Unless you have mapped out a specific site you wanted to visit, don’t assume every train stop is in a safe place. Alone or not, being safe and using common sense should always be a priority.

With trains, you will have opportunities to see a more raw side of local living, versus only taking transportation that is suited only for tourists. I’ve enjoyed some interesting conversations with strangers on a local train.

Now, let’s get to my most favorite way of transportation in a new city or even a city I have visited before. For as long as I can remember, walking has been my most favorite way of discovering a city. Not only has it given me the chance to see things I would never have seen in any other way, but it has also kept me from gaining weight while enjoying the delicious local food.

Man wandering alone on a cobblestone street

Take your time to observe and soak in your surroundings while walking in a new city. The more you walk in a new city and learn about where you are, the more you appreciate the past of what has taken place in that city, history of places that used to be filled with turmoil and struggle. For some places you may visit, that struggle is still very much real. Buildings renewed again after bombings of civil or world wars, communities of people rising from the ashes to begin anew. How neighborhoods earned their names and why we should care about them, is a question I ask myself every time.

Stories of past learned are the exact reason why humans enjoy travel. Yes, we often have forgotten to give credit where its due. How a famous landmark came to be and why thousands would give anything to protect its meaning to the world. Whenever I pick a new city to visit, I search to see if a free local guided tour is available. During these local tours, you get a first-hand account of how a local person views their hometown and how their history has affected them and their family. Hearing these stories gives you an insiders secret guide to a city you will be spending some time in. I will share more about my thoughts on free local tours in a future blog post.

So before you set off on your next trip. Ask yourself, why you are going there? What you hope to get out of visiting? Which type of transportation will best fit the time you will be there? Most importantly don’t forget to have lots of fun and learn about your surroundings as much as you can ๐Ÿ™‚

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How Long Should Your Vacation Really Be?

Ahh Paris, you can see all that’s interesting to see in 3 days, and that includes the Mona Lisa. Rome next? 4 days is honestly enough, no need to stay longer. What about London? 2 days on a hop and off bus will get you everywhere you need to see, including Buckingham Palace.

Now, I want you to forget about everything you just read and hear me out. There are countless travel book writers and bloggers that share their thoughts on how long you should stay in any given place. They will share their thoughts on what you should see, where you should venture out to, and what you shouldn’t waste your time with. Everyone has an opinion.

In some ways you could say I have an opinion on this subject too. However, what differs in mine, is that I want to help guide you to think for yourself and to decide for yourself how long you should stay in any new place. Advice from seasoned travelers or first time newbies can always serve as a great guide, but in the end, it will always be about you and learning what works best for you. You can choose to hurry through every place you visit or you can choose a different way…

The process of finding yourself while traveling always starts with the gift of time you give yourself in a new place. Taking your time to not only discover your surroundings and so much more!

I want to share a secret that you may already know about. One day, two days, three days or four will never be enough time to discover a new city. In the past 25 years I have visited many countries. Many of those visits were sadly only 3 days. Why 3 days only? Because I would always take the suggestion of travel writers and even friends. Even though I always had a mind of my own, I equally took the advice of others who I always assumed knew better. After all, they were the ones with the experience right? But I forgot to remind myself that they weren’t me and I wasn’t them.

With that being said, some years ago I decided to make a change in how I traveled. How I took my vacation time was about to change. Everything from where I would travel to, what I would see, how I would see it, and how long I would choose to stay at my destination. This change, began to affect me as a person in so many aspects that I can’t begin to describe in this post. I knew I was on to something.

Often times its easy to get caught up in what everyone else thinks you should see and do. The hard part is learning to only care about what you want to do and enjoy. Well…not completely. We should always be mindful of others who we choose to go on travel with. Finding the balance between what your travel companion wants to see and what you want to see is sometimes the hard part.

Learning to find a balance in how you spend your time is crucial for the outcome you want to have from the trip. After all, you don’t want to return from a trip and have regrets on why you didn’t take the initiative to go see something you really wanted to see.

Learning to have alone time in a new city, even if its only for a day, can expose your mind to new emotions and experiences that you would never otherwise have while in the company of a companion. Trust me, this is true even if you and your companion share the same interests while traveling.

This brings me back to the minimum length of time I think every traveler should take in any new city they are traveling to. 5 nights. That is the minimum time it takes to soak in your new environment. To soak in its beautiful culture, taste the flavors of the cuisine and meet the locals. Everything that makes a city special is often missed when a traveler is hurrying through and overlooking the details. Details of the buildings, the shops, the museums, the statues, the smells, the air, and most importantly the uniqueness of the people. Why do people live in this city? How did this city come about hundreds if not thousands of years ago? What makes this city so special, where thousands, if not millions decent upon it day after day?

Be a tourist because something called out to you and demanded your time away in order to visit a new place.

It’s not your goal to learn everything or see everything in a new city, because that is not the point. However, the time you took away from your daily life in order to visit this foreign city means something or else why go? Why spend the resources to even go? Most importantly, giving enough time to a new city is the gift you can give yourself. I can’t tell you how often I see travelers rush through. Rushing through museums, parks, streets, markets, stores and more! Rush no more! Stop rushing. When you have 5 nights in a new city, the amount of knowledge you soak in is indefinite.

Even when you find a city boring on your first day and decide its only worth a 3 day visit, you may be mistaken. It is true when they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I find beautiful in a city, may not be what you find beautiful. But I guarantee you, if you are a true explorer, you’ll know what I am referring to. Find the time to give it a chance. Give yourself the gift of time. Try it out and let me know what you think?. I’d love to know.

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Finding Yourself and Peace When Returning Home From Travel

Is travel on your to-do list, now or in the future? Travel can mean so many different things to many different people. Whenever you do an online search for reasons why people travel, a very long list displays. In the end, that list will not always match your particular reasons for travel. Whether you travel for business or pleasure, traveling will always end up having a personal meaning for you. Some of the most popular reasons why people travel…

1. Self-discovery

2. Explore culture

3. Research for writing

4. Studying abroad

5. Family vacation

6. Girls trip

7. Rejuvenation retreat

8. Business

9. Pure pleasure

10. So on and so on…

Any of them sound familiar? Maybe more than one or maybe none at all. Is your dream to travel? It’s also possible that travel is nowhere near your agenda. After all, what would be the use in spending resources and time away from home, if for no real reason at all? Perhaps traveling without an agenda can also have its own rewards!


So where does your dream ticket take you? When you imagine yourself in a happy place, where does it take you? No matter where you travel to or what you do while there, a kind of reset happens once you return. Your senses are sharper and your environment speaks to you in a slightly different tone than when you were there last and not long ago. Your views on life, in general, might even change while you are away. Your views on your OWN life might change, as it does in my case. I often find myself having returned with a new thought process on how I should be living my life. In broad and narrow terms. I then find myself questioning my happiness level and what, if anything I need, to change, to make my dreams real.

In the end, don’t forget to ask yourself if you are happy? Was the trip you came from satisfying? Did it feed you the knowledge you didn’t have before? Did it make you realize a new feeling that you had not felt before? Did it give you the slightest of benefit or merely just a renewal? A fresh start. New beginning. Back to daily life and the endless tasks that go along with it. Did it change who you are for the better or worse? This is what travels gives me. A sense of getting closer to answering my own questions. Why I am here on earth and how I should make sense of the world within mine. Waking up from the daily grind and seeing my life with a clearer perspective is what travel brings for me. The exposure we receive in faraway lands is priceless. Realize this and bring those experiences back with you and see how much your life will change for the better.

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Why Are You NOT On Vacation?

According to Project: Time Off there are more than 705 million unused vacation days annually, of which 212 million ended up being forfeited and lost forever! This makes for more than 50% of Americans who intentionally or un-intentionally chose not to use their vacation time. Which brings me to the question of why are you NOT on vacation?

For singles, couples or families, vacation time could be a staycation, going to a favorite beach or camping spot. It does not have to be an all out high stress, go into debt Disney, Hawaii or Europe trip. It can be the simple act of stepping away and out of your current schedule. Simple, if you want it to be. All you have to do, is want it bad enough. So do you? or not really…

There can be an endless list of reasons for not going on vacation. Not just here in the United States but also worldwide. A working professional with a brand spanking new career, that they have been dreaming of since childhood, will not be in a hurry to take that vacation time. This was me years ago. Work always came before my personal life. What was I going to do with that extra time off anyway? I was already taking last minute weekend trips. It satisfied my hunger to get away just long enough, so I could run back to work before missing anything new. After all, I didn’t want to miss those coveted opportunities for promotions or bonuses.

Ah, the fear of missing out something new at work. I so don’t miss those moments any more. It can really, without a doubt, throw you off course from what you are truly meant to be doing. Which is workcationing towards your personal goals or just taking time off to reset your brain back to zero.

Without needing to quote scientific studies, let me share with you, why I think taking a vacation is very important. From childhood, we have been trained to go to school and listen to our elders, because they have always known whats best for us. But what if we know the right answer too? What if we stepped back from the daily grind and stopped listening to the bosses, media, and generations past? What if we chose to listen to our own intuition when it comes to our life matters. What if you stopped all the distractions that surround you and just listened to your inner voice until the answer appeared? What if your vacation or staycation could change your life and you didn’t even know it?

It’s not so easy, I get it. But imagine, what your life could be like if you stopped for a moment from all the craziness of daily life. Take stock of your time off and actually do the act of taking the time off. Taking time off properly, meaning creating the space you need to be your best. Imagine, where it can lead, discoveries about yourself that you didn’t even know.

I believe in two kinds of vacation. One is to have time off with no work to do. Meaning you purposefully do not go near electronics to check work email or even make an attempt to get on that scheduled conference call.

Second is workcationing. Working while on vacation. Traveling to your favorite place and putting in some time with work. However, for me this definition is not what you may think it is.

Please let me explain.

When I refer to workcation, I am referring to the act of contributing to your personal dreams and NOT continuing to check work emails with your current employer. For those who are always dreaming of starting their own business or always wanted to start that blog, workcationing can be the answer they have always been looking for.

Think about it. Using your time away not only to relax and rest, but to also use your time wisely by working on your dreams! Taking that valuable free time and multi-tasking it. Like you do at work ๐Ÿ˜‰ Except now, doing it for you and only you. Making some calls, learning something new, getting some creative writing in, etc.. It can all be done while you are away, whether you are at home or the beach at Punta Cana. No distractions, just you and yourself.

Using your time wisely while you have it, can have major payoffs in the future. Incremental baby steps all the way! So the next time you are planning your vacation time, consider using it to not only relax, but to also take the opportunity to work on YOUR DREAMS and not just that of your employers.

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