La Jolla Mom | Tips and Reviews on Places to Travel with Kids
La Jolla Mom is your guide for things to do in San Diego and La Jolla, from fun events and luxury hotels to the best beaches and kid friendly restaurants. It is a Travel blog with tips on flights, hotels, and family trips. Explore with kids around the world in luxury and comfort.
When I saw the opportunity to redeem systemwide upgrades from business class to American Airlines 777-300 first class from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, I lept at the chance. We usually fly Cathay Pacific on this route (we used to live in Hong Kong and return often), but airfare on AA was so much lower that I decided to give our primary domestic airline a shot.
I wanted to love it. It was certainly lovely, but if you have flown Cathay Pacific first class on the same route, you will notice differences which are essential given that first class on both airlines can retail for nearly the same cash price.
Cathay Pacific First Class Lounges at Hong Kong International Airport
Oneworld Alliance (of which American Airlines is a member) Emerald members and first class passengers on Oneworld Alliance airlines can use the glorious Cathay Pacific first class lounges at HKG. These are some of the best airport lounges in the world.
While I prefer the Champagne bar and view at The Wing, First lounge near customs, our flight left right next to The Pier, First lounge at gate 63 and we didn’t have time to enjoy both (which I have done in the past).
Arrive hungry because the food is good. Our go-to Cathay Pacific lounge order (going on seventeen years now) is dan dan noodles. They are just so dang good especially when paired with a glass of Perrier Jouet.
Dishes in the sit-down restaurant arrive at the tables shortly after ordering to accommodate tight flight schedules. A grab-and-go buffet area with desserts, sandwiches, charcuterie, cheese, drinks, and snacks is located near the bar area.
The mini spa in this lounge is a highlight for sure, but I’ve never been lucky enough to score an appointment. They book up quickly.
First class may board before other classes but not through a designated aircraft door. Our entire plane boarded through the same door, which was inconvenient given that we soaked up a little bit too much time in the lounge. We found ourselves waiting in line on the jetway with everyone else.
After we arrived at our seats, the flight attendant came around with newspapers, pajamas, Bose headsets, and Champagne, juice, or water.
I declined the pajamas on our outbound American Airlines business class flight but should not have. I took them in first class (where I’m told they are the same) and they are nice. I appreciate their shorter, cuffed leg style (no one wants to drag PJ pants on an airplane bathroom floor, even in first class) and pockets on the front of the shirt. I admit to wearing them at home though wish the cotton was ever so slightly softer.
I took the Champagne, obviously.
American Airlines 777-300ER First Class Seats
These are regarded as the best seats in the entire American Airlines fleet, and I would have to agree. I was comfortable throughout the whole flight.
A digital remote control operates the seats. Mine proved a little fussy to use. Turn on the massage feature if you like. Swivel the chair to use the side area like a desk. This might come in handy should you need to work with the person seated next to you in a middle seat.
Speaking of middle seats, I wrongly assumed that the middle seats would be permanently divided, based on prior experience in first class on other airlines. Had I known, I would have placed my daughter right next to me in the middle seats instead of across the aisle. You can manually raise a small divider between the middle first class seats if necessary.
First class seats offer more space than in business class on the same plane, but it didn’t feel like a massive difference. Carry-ons go into the overhead compartment versus a cabinet on the ground. Every seat receives a comfortable bedding kit with pillow, duvet and a mattress pad if you’d like the flight attendant to help you place it on the seat.
First class on this plane is in a 1-2-1 configuration for eight seats in total. Cathay Pacific first class is a 1-1-1 configuration for six seats in total which means that you have a wider seat, but they are also longer, which makes me suspect that the first class cabin is a bit bigger.
First Class Dining on AA 182 from HKG-LAX
(Apologies in advance for my unusually poor food photos which looked GREAT on the screen of my new iPhone X at the time. I’m horrified by their actual quality so I will use a regular camera next time. While the food onboard was just okay compared to other airlines in first class, my photos aren’t doing the dishes the justice they deserve.)
As our flight left Hong Kong in the evening, the main meal served was a 7-course dinner (or so it should have been). It started with dried veggie straws and olives which are not pictured or mentioned on the menu.
This menu is offered on both the Hong Kong to Dallas and LAX flights.
The flight attendant took our orders but suggested that we withhold our small plate selection until later she said it would be too much food for us. My red flag should have gone up, but it didn’t. My daughter was sitting across the aisle from me, so I didn’t hear her order. Plus, she’s 12. She’s a shy 12 and not one to question an adult telling her that she shouldn’t have the small plate.
American Airlines typically offers an excellent wine list designed to suit palates at 35,000 feet, and this one didn’t disappoint.
We should have been given the option of dining together in the same seat as the flight attendant knew we were traveling together. I assumed this wasn’t an option because the seats are smaller than on Cathay Pacific, where we usually do eat together in first class with one person sitting on the footrest and a table extension applied. It’s a lovely way to chat and pass the time. Later in the flight, I spotted a seat belt on the footrest so I realized it would have been possible. My daughter mentioned after we landed that she saw other people dining together behind me.
The Osietra caviar with savory egg white tartlet starter was a bit misleading as it sounded like you’d enjoy a helping of caviar accompanied by an egg tart. In reality, it was an egg white tart sprinkled lightly with a little bit of mushy Osietra caviar.
The combination masked the flavor of the caviar, which made me think that it probably was added to print “caviar” on the menu. The chilled kale, apple, and celeriac tasted outstanding, and I (unusually) preferred it to the caviar tart by miles.
I did quite enjoy the lobster saffron bisque course and the real lumps of crab meat in it.
Next, the flight attendant served my grilled beef fillet. She skipped my salad course, and I only noticed later after I looked around and saw others eating salad. I checked my menu, which confirmed this course was skipped. She was not the type of person to trouble if you didn’t have to, so I let it go.
The beef dish was flavorful but well-done and tough. Yes, it’s airplane food, but I’ve eaten glorious medium-rare steaks on planes departing from Hong Kong, which means that others who might take this flight probably will have, too.
I adore the made-to-order ice cream sundaes that American Airlines serves in first class on longer domestic routes and international premium classes. So, that’s what I ordered.
We did not take advantage of the snacks and drinks in the galley. My daughter was served the small plate order of beef sliders (she said they were good) that were withheld from her at dinner. I wasn’t offered the meze plate set aside for me despite being awake for most of the flight but wasn’t hungry for it.
I suspect that part of the reason why the small plates were held back is this flight unusually did not offer any made-to-order midflight snacks like other airlines we fly to Asia do.
Flight attendants served breakfast at passengers’ leisure a few hours before landing. Starving by this point, we both chose the Western breakfast, which proved to be a lot of food.
Apologies again for the terrible photo but I want you to see that it’s quite a bit of food.
After indicating that I’d like breakfast, I was handed the tray above and never offered the yogurt starter. I didn’t realize this until I looked at the menu after the fact. I’m not really in the habit of checking the menu during an inflight meal.
The flight attendant either forgot to serve some of my courses, couldn’t be bothered to offer all courses, or didn’t think I’d notice if she skipped courses. Not one of these scenarios is typical (or acceptable) for this route and class of service.
I think that American Airlines offers a robust selection of movies and television shows, but when you fly a lot in a month, choices become repetitive as they do on any airline. Like most AA flights, the Bose headsets were collected about 45 minutes before landing, so it still pays to bring good headphones. The little loaner earbuds you receive in their place are not great. Do ask for a splitter so that you can hear the earbuds in both ears (they exist on flights in limited quantities).
Love the Amenity Kit
I genuinely adore the new This Is Ground amenity kits in business and first class. They’re both made of beautiful leather. The business class kit is smaller and secures with a snap. The first class kit, zips completely around Allies of Skin moisturizer, lip balm and hand cream in addition to a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, socks, eye mask, ear plugs, tissues, and some Barclay’s Aviator card (which I have and believe is a less valuable member of my wallet since stripping the EQD benefit) promotional material. However, mine also had a 20% discount code for This Is Ground products which you may want to take advantage of.
I love bringing these kits to the airplane bathroom because they repel water, unlike cloth kits.
Los Angeles to Hong Kong is a route our family has regularly been flying for over 15 years. As loyal oneworld Alliance members, we usually fly Cathay Pacific. However, American Airlines introduced its own LAX-HKG route recently on a Boeing 777-300ER. With the fares in our favor, my daughter and I gave it a go on our most recent trip.
We flew business class from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and I was able to use my Executive Platinum systemwide upgrades to fly first class from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, which I’ll cover separately.
We’ve flown American Airlines business class to Shanghai, Beijing, and Seoul multiple times on a 787 but the flight to Hong Kong offers a few more amenities that these long haul flights do not.
I’ll start by saying that it was a good flight. But, if you’re used to flying Cathay Pacific like we are, you might find it a little disappointing.
Admirals Club/Flagship Lounge at LAX
This flight takes off from Terminal 4 at LAX, which means that you’ll use the Admirals Club or Flagship Lounge there. Both were renovated in 2017.
We use the Flagship Lounge due to my Executive Platinum status. The Flagship Lounge offers a decent buffet featuring cheese, charcuterie, desserts and random main courses from around the world (the latter are sometimes fantastic and sometimes just okay). I particularly like the self-serve wine and champagne area, though spirits and plenty of nonalcoholic drinks are available, too.
Even as Executive Platinum, to use the Flagship Lounge’s private dining area you must be flying in first class. Business class, even on a plane with no first class like many of the 787s that fly to Seoul and China, doesn’t count. I find this disappointing but given how busy the lounge is, I understand. This small posh dining area would be full to the brim otherwise.
The flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong departs at 12:55 a.m., which is late. However, it does arrive later in the morning (7:20 a.m. HKT) than other overnight Hong Kong flights. This gives you less of a gap between arrival and when Hong Kong attractions and shops might open. The goal with a flight like this is to do what it takes to stay awake all day and as late as possible into the evening to avoid jet lag.
Our gate was heaving with people clustered around the boarding area. As we tend to arrive right as boarding is announced, I had trouble getting to the front to board with our group. It seems that many American Airlines travelers still don’t understand that the airline boards by group number, which is printed on your actual ticket.
We arrived at our middle seats (it’s a 1-2-1 business class configuration). I avoided middle seats when my daughter was younger to avoid having to walk all the way around and through the galley to help her with things. Parents with younger children may want to consider a window and an aisle seat for more comfortable back and forth access.
Predeparture drinks were handed out (champagne, orange juice, and water in plastic glasses). However, I was skipped because I was putting my luggage in the overhead bin when the tray was being passed. I figured someone would return to offer a drink again, but no one did. I normally would have asked for one, but it was late, and I’d had a few in the lounge. No big deal, but still an oversight.
Newspapers and pajamas were passed out next. I didn’t take the pajamas on this leg, but I should have. They’re thin but pretty nice as they comfortably cuff at the ankle to prevent drag on airplane bathroom floors. I actually wear them at home. Pajamas are not passed out in business class on Cathay Pacific (only in first class) so this is one place where American Airlines stands out.
Behind first class is a small business class section of two rows that feel like they’re in a small enclave. I chose the rear of these two rows, seats 4D and 4G, thinking that the extra privacy might be helpful.
I will never choose these seats again. The galley is right behind them and very noisy, mostly with conversation. Even with earplugs in, it was a struggle to sleep. The one thing I did like was being able to look up at any time to see the small television above our aisle that displayed exactly where we were and time to landing. Sure, it’s possible to dial this information up on your tv but why bother if you don’t have to.
Nice Lie-Flat Seats
A mattress pad would also be placed on this seat from LAX-HKG. Photo courtesy of American Airlines.
The seats are comfortable. In addition to a pillow and comforter, a small mattress pad which does make a difference can be added on by the flight attendants when you need it. For most, this is after the first meal service.
Amenity kits were waiting in our seats. They’re a new collaboration with This is Ground, a leather accessory company. The quality of the pouch is the first thing I noticed.
The leather is super soft and, truthfully, it’s nice not to put a cloth kit on a wet bathroom counter accidentally. Amenities inside feature products by Allies of Skin, Zenology, and Baxter of California and include an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. Colors and shape vary by class and route.
Shortly after takeoff, the pilot gave his flight announcement and vowed not to speak again until landing so that people could get some sleep. That’s precisely what happened. The seat belt sign was turned on and off multiple times throughout the almost 16-hour flight, as one would expect, but with no announcement.
When you’re excited to head to a destination, it’s nice to be able to have a little local fare to eat, even on the plane. This usually is the case. I had excellent bibimbap on American Airlines to Seoul recently, for example.
The only Cantonese or even Chinese option on the menu was Hong Kong style milk tea.
All courses are served at once during the first meal except for the standard American Airlines warm nuts that accompany the first drink service. This is probably because it’s a late night flight.
Dinner at 2 a.m.
My daughter opted for the Thai green curry and said it was good. My steak was just okay and a bit too well done. We were both too full and tired for dessert but could have chosen a cheese plate or typical American Airlines sundae (always a hit).
However, on Cathay Pacific, the first meal on overnight flights is still served in several courses albeit rapid ones. I prefer this as it feels a bit more upscale (especially given the price of these tickets). We also often fly Japan Airlines to Hong Kong via Tokyo and their meals, too, are served in courses.
Later in the flight, my daughter opted for the sliders (very good, she said) and I ordered the antipasto plate. I wasn’t in the mood for sliders or this, but it was good. Two options for midflight snacks is a bit slim.
I don’t have photos, but the galley did offer better options if you weren’t in the mood for sliders or antipasto. Little dishes with cutup fruit salad, various small sandwiches, and the other snacks covered with cellophane there was more my speed. A nice variety of gourmet chips, chocolate, and other individually packaged snacks awaited in the galley as well.
Flight attendants served breakfast a few hours before landing. I’m used to eating dim sum for breakfast before landing in Hong Kong, but the traditional American breakfast was fine. I wish that there was another bakery option other than croissants (we could choose from plain or chocolate croissants). The skinless mango bowl was a nice, delicious touch. A smoothie was served before breakfast, too. It’s a lot of food which is perfect as we were starving.
Onboard entertainment in American Airlines premium class cabins is excellent. It’s impossible to run out of movies, documentaries, concerts and television shows to watch.
Bose noise canceling headsets are provided in every business and first class seat, but like other American Airlines flights (I’m told this done for customs inventory), flight attendants collect them well before the flight lands, somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour.
You’ll be given some earbuds with such poor quality that it’s hard to hear the sound. Make sure they give you an adapter so that the headphones send audio to both ears. Otherwise you’ll only hear with only one (miserable). I still carry Bose QuietComfort earbuds with an adapter for this very reason. If you don’t have an adapter for your earbuds, ask for one quickly as I think they are in limited supply on the plane.
The Bottom Line
The flight took off as scheduled and landed a little bit early.
Flight attendants were pleasant. It’s an American style of service, which makes sense. I woke up several times when flight attendants serviced other passengers. It’s not a negative, but I mention this because if you are used to flying to Hong Kong on Japan Airlines (via Tokyo) or Cathay Pacific, where staff-passenger interactions tend to be quieter, you will notice a difference in the service.
It’s a good flight with lie-flat seats if you can catch it at a price that suits you. Cathay Pacific overall is a nicer experience (so is Japan Airlines), but American Airlines AAdvantage members usually earn more..
The Mexico City airport lounge is on the small side but we found ourselves inside once again as both Priority Pass lounges, which were closer to our gate, were full and had waiting lists. (We put ourselves on both waiting lists and were never called to enter.)
Not much has changed over the years but it’s a fine place to regroup before a flight home.
Finding the right vacation hashtags to add to your travel posts on Instagram can help boost your views, get more people commenting on your photos and help people see why you’re totally worth following.
But more than that, travel hashtags can help you find a community of inspiring Instagrammers who love travel as much as you do. Whether you’re one of the #SoloTravelers, your journeys are #FamilyTravels or you’re working to fulfill your #TravelCoupleGoals, finding your tribe is much easier thanks to hashtags.
You may not be a travel influencer (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the same hashtag strategies the pros use to grow your own following and get your photos noticed. Here’s what you need to do:
Use Unique Travel Hashtags
#Travel and #traveling seem like the obvious hashtags to use, but they’re really not. By the time you’ve finished editing your next photo, your most recent #travel-tagged post will be buried by new snapshots shared by your fellow travelers.
The key to standing out from the ever-growing crowd of globetrotting Instagrammers is using travel hashtags that are variations on the theme. Here are some ideas that are highly searched but not overused:
One strategy you should also try is choosing your travel hashtags and vacation hashtags based on who you are and how you travel. It’s a great way to connect with other traveling Instagrammers who share your passions.
Hashtag Your Destination
Your followers definitely want to know where you are, so let your hashtags do the talking.
I used #kauai during a recent trip and found I received likes from both people who lived on the island and people who were traveling there. Start with the obvious hashtags related to your destination, like:
Then drill down even further. First, you can break it down by region. If you happen to be in Hong Kong, you could use #china and then #hongkong.
You can also think about what sets your destination apart, like #colorado, #denver, #rockymountains and #coloradolife. Just don’t forget to include those top-level destination-specific travel hashtags before experimenting with variations like #nycstyle, #instaparis, #traveleurope, or #lajollavibes.
Not sure how to hashtag your destination? Just pop the name of the city you’re visiting into Instagram’s search box. You’ll get loads of results showing the popular hashtags other people in the city are using.
Use Branded Travel Hashtags
Find out which travel hashtags are used by tourism boards, airlines, and attractions in the destination you’re posting about. Travel magazines and media also have their own branded hashtags that you may want to consider using.
The upshot to using branded hashtags is not only are you getting more targeted eyeballs on your photos, but they may be less active than hashtags used worldwide. This means that more people are likely to see your photos as they’ll stay near the top of the hashtag feed for a longer period of time.
And, if you’re trying to get the attention of a particular brand, this is one way to do it. Just make sure the photo you’re posting is relevant to that brand.
Some examples include:
#VisitSD (San Diego Tourism Authority)
#VisitCalifornia (Visit California)
#DiscoverHongKong (Hong Kong Tourism Board)
#flyLAX (Los Angeles International Airport)
#lifewelltravelled and #mychinaexperience (Cathay Pacific Airways)
#iflyAlaska (Alaska Airlines)
#IamATraveler (CN Traveler)
#IamAFan, #MOSpa, #MOFoodie, #MODetails (Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group)
#FourSeasons (Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)
Hashtag What’s Around You
What are you capturing? A sunny day on the hiking trail? A sunset over the ocean? Hashtag what features prominently in your photos. Maybe you should include beach hashtags or mountain hashtags.
Start with top-level hashtags that describe exactly what you’re looking at, like:
But don’t stop there. Next, add some hashtags that give your post flavor, like:
Are you lounging on the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen? Think about how many beach hashtags you can come up with, and then do a search to see if people are using them. It really is that simple.
And, finally, why not add a few photography hashtags that tell people how you take your photos? For example:
Describe the Moment
Was the food you ate delicious? Is the lei you just received in Hawaii super pretty? People want to experience what you’re experiencing.
That’s why these top-level hashtags are so popular:
Next, describe the vibe with hashtags like:
Again, choosing travel hashtags should be first and foremost about creativity. How can you tap into a community of travelers who love exploring the world as much as you do without getting lost in the constant flood of travel photos?
Look at the hashtags popular travel Instagrammers are using and follow their lead.
Hashtag What You’re Doing
Were you running on the beach or hiking in a national park when you took that photo (or your bestie snapped that gorgeous photo of you)?
Describing what you were doing is an easy way for people — aka potential followers — who share your interests to find you.
Get Creative with Your Travel Hashtags
Travel hashtags are getting more and more descriptive and fun as time passes. Like:
These hashtags are all about the vibe and how travel makes you feel. They may not have the numbers that #sunset has, but you can bet that the people browsing niche travel hashtags are the kinds of passionate people who make the best followers.
Aviation Travel Hashtags
Obviously, the photos you post with this hashtag must have something to do with aviation, but that should be easy considering how much of travel involves boarding a plane.
You can also hashtag the airline, make and model of your plane (e.g., #deltaairlines #boeing737 #737) or even your airplane food.
Because I have a thing for airplanes and love to Instagram airplane food, I’ve recently been using the hashtag #avgeek, which stands for aviation geek, and I’m getting a lot of engagement from Instagrammers outside of my usual network as a result.
How Many Instagram Hashtags Should I Use?
The quick answer is however many you are comfortable with.
I’ve seen popular Instagrammers use as many as the full 30 allowed by the platform, though some research suggests that 11 is the perfect number for attracting new followers.
Remember, you can always add more hashtags in the comment section if you remember one later or don’t want to clog up your caption with too many hashtags.
How Do I Remember Which Instagram Hashtags to Use?
There are a few apps out there that will automatically identify hashtags to use in certain categories like food, plants, travel and more. I quite like Tailwind for scheduling Instagram posts and hashtag research (I also use it for Pinterest).
Load the app, copy the hashtags, open Instagram and paste the hashtags into your photo. But personally, I find these apps are too limiting and that I often delete suggested hashtags because they aren’t relevant.
You may also copy hashtags you like into the notes section of your phone and refer to it as you’re posting. I know people who have hashtags listed by category in notes that they cut and paste into Instagram as necessary.
Or you could just wing it — which I actually do fairly frequently.
The Best Travel Hashtag Rule of Thumb
Here’s what I do. I do a little bit of research as to what tourism boards and major brands in the destination use for hashtags. I also often hashtag my location, a word to describe the moment, when I took the photo and what I was doing.
Next, I’ll add in a few general Instagram hashtags or travel-themed hashtags. Of course, it all depends on the photo, so I am always be flexible.
Remember that you’ll spend more time at the top of the results when you choose travel and vacation hashtags that are popular, but not so popular that new posts are buried in a matter of seconds.
Do you find yourself using the same travel hashtags over and over again? Instagram hasn’t ever confirmed that it penalizes posts based on repeated use of the same hashtags, but some users have reported less engagement when they keep repeating hashtags.
You can always experiment to see whether you see increases or decreases in engagement based on the hashtags you use, the number of hashtags and whether you put them in the caption or the comments of your post.
Which Instagram travel hashtags have you’ve experienced success with? How many hashtags do you use? If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Instagram below.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals you might want to hear about. There are some that I know about but I can’t put them in print just yet.
San Diego Zoo (Exclusive LOW Price for La Jolla Mom Readers)
$10 off of Adult Tickets to the San Diego Zoo
Go Straight to the Gate!
This is the deal that I’m particularly excited about! You have until Monday, November 26 to grab this exclusive discount for La Jolla Mom readers. It’s the lowest price on the internet thanks to site partner aRes Travel, an authorized San Diego Zoo ticket seller.
Children’s tickets are also discounted! All tickets are good for a year after purchase. What are you waiting for? Get the Exclusive Deal
SeaWorld San Diego (Buy One Get One)
Check out SeaWorld San Diego’s Buy One, Get One offers on Tickets, Passes, Experiences, and even Camps! These savings are only for a limited time so act quickly.
Disneyland discount ticket promotions started today and usually last as long as supplies do. These are the lowest prices of the season on tickets that are 3 days and longer in length. Savings are up to $98 per ticket and adults pay kids prices! Save on Disneyland Tickets
LEGOLAND + SEALIFE® Hopper + 2nd Day Free (Save up to $31)
Save by visiting LEGOLAND California before the end of 2018. Use this ticket by 12/31/18 and save up to $31.
InterContinental Hotels Group (InterContinental, Kimpton, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza and more) is hosting a Cyber Sale! Save at least 25% from 11/22 until 11/30 when you book with IHG at participating hotels! Terms apply.
Uniworld River Cruises
Have you thought of river cruising? Uniworld (my favorite line) is having a 30% off sale on select voyages to Asia, Egypt, Europe, India, or Russia now through December 31.
Over time, I’ve culled my carry-on packing list down to the bare minimum, including only things that add comfort and convenience.
The items mentioned below work so well that I never unpack my mini Dopp kit I keep within arm’s reach on the plane or in the car.
And it takes only minutes for me to pack a carry-on because I’m in the habit of packing the same travel accessories trip after trip.
(Destination-appropriate clothing isn’t mentioned on the list as we assume you have it all under control.)
I’ve used a myriad of portable chargers to keep my iPhone and headphones powered. The Anker PowerCore1000 is a current favorite for its reliability and lightweight size. I also chose the red color to make it easier to find in my purse.
However, your ability to charge is also only as good as your phone cord. After years of testing many generics, I recommend using the cord that’s meant to be paired with your phone to avoid connection issues while on the road. Have an iPhone? Use an authentic Apple Lightning cord connection issues while on the road. Or, carry two generic cables in the event one can’t properly connect.
Tip: ALWAYS pack keep external batteries and all batteries in your carry-on as they are not permitted in checked luggage. I had an older external battery thrown in the garbage by security at the Shanghai Pudong airport because the brand label had worn off. So, perhaps also make sure that the external battery you’re packing is clearly and external battery.
Surge Protector with USB and Extra Plugs
Even some luxury hotels lack sufficient plugs in convenient places. They’re also scarce in many airport lounges. I often also have camera batteries and my daughter’s electronics to charge, too.
Even in the age of Air Pods (Apple’s beloved cordless earbuds – which I love), these are still necessary because the sound quality is better and they will plug into most airplane entertainment systems, something that Air Pods can’t do.
I do also travel with Air Pods now as a more convenient way to listen to music or take phone calls.
Roll-Up Reusable Bags
Envirosax bags easily roll up into about the size of my fist. I toss one or two in my purse when traveling to avoid plastic bags or to carry the unexpected. They’ve come in handy more times than I can count. Buy them in a variety of prints and colors.
Or choose sold color Flip and Tumble reusable bags. The stretch bag folds up into a ball in a matter of seconds.
Small Cosmetic Pouch Full of These Items
I carry a small, easy to clean travel pouch in my purse and keep it accessible in the car or on the plane. I never unpack it because these aids always come in handy:
Sure, a designer travel pouch would be incredible, but mine gets wedged between airplane seats, in small crevices, sits on airplane bathroom counters… you need to be able to clean it. Lululemon, Herschel, Tumi and other brands make perfect pouches for this purpose.
Two items in this bag deserve special mention because I find that people don’t think of them.
No water, rinsing or toothpaste is required to use a Colgate Wisp toothbrush. Sure, they give out toothbrushes in business and first class on the airplane, but I still carry these because you can very easily brush at your seat.
These are more effective than chewing gum because it brushes gunk off of your teeth. And, what if the seatbelt sign is on or the bathroom is busy, and you can’t get in there to use a toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s not a replacement for proper brushing but indeed comes in handy during travel.
The most used items in my mini first aid travel kit are blister bandages. They come in handy in all sorts of situations that involve heavy walking. Maybe that new pair of shoes you thought were comfortable suddenly weren’t, or a child’s foot grew a half-size, but there’s nothing you can do about it in the middle of Disneyland (been there). Band-Aid makes blister heels.
Oil Blotting Sheets
These small, eco-friendly blotting papers absorb excess oil on your face throughout the day, and I find them particularly handy while traveling.
My regular wallet fits airplane tickets and up to two passports. I did that on purpose as my husband’s passport became unusable after being flung in a bag. A travel wallet also helps keep currency organized.
Many, like the YALUXE travel wallet above these days have the RFID blocking technology and a strap. The strap allows you to use it as a clutch.
Tip: Perhaps being your regular credit cards and ID to your destination but don’t carry them all around with you while there in case of loss or theft. I learned this the hard way after being pickpocketed in Venice.
It’s much cheaper to spend less than $15 for a luggage scale than to pay an overweight bag fee. Weigh your bag with this highly-rated gem and the nightmare of shuffling clothes around various suitcases at the check-in desk will never occur.
An extra gallon-sized Ziploc Bag or two, especially when traveling with kids, can do everything from compress extra clothing (after the air has been forced out) to double as a disposable trash bag. Avoid the bags with the slider as a zipper as these can leak.
If you’re sensitive to light, an eye mask is a must. Not being able to see flecks of light around black-out shades helps mitigate jet lag. Or heaving forbid, your hotel completely lack black-out shades altogether.
I’ve learned that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all eye mask solution for everyone. Silk masks are a travel cult favorite for being soft and also helping to prevent wrinkles. Some people like the contoured sleep masks that don’t crush eyelashes should you blink while wearing the masks. Others prefer scented masks. Amazon made a list of best sleep masks to browse.
The rest of my must-have carry-on essentials include sunglasses, of course, and good lipstick. What do you pack?
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nature Made. All opinions are 100% mine.
Eating well on vacation can take on a myriad of meanings. To me, it’s experiencing a destination through food while feeling good enough to tackle planned sightseeing itineraries and not feel any guilt about diving into a spicy laksa or chili crab.
I’m typing this from Singapore, having just passed through Hong Kong (pictured above) and its glorious dim sum, where they say eating is the national sport. Its history as a port city with a large immigrant population dating back to the 1800s means that in one small city-state that takes 45-minutes (without traffic) to drive through, there are Chinese, Malaysian, Peranakan, Indonesian, Western, and other communities that are united by one common thread: food. And, it’s spectacular.
Figuring out how to strike a balance in destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore and others worldwide takes some forward thinking that you will not regret.
I can’t emphasize how beneficial Digestive Probiotics are to travelers. A healthy gut is more likely to be able to handle eating outside of a regular routine and new-to-you foods. You absolutely must take them regularly for at least two weeks prior to traveling.
Nature Made® has probiotics in capsule form but the fact that they can also be taken as delicious gummies means that there is absolutely no excuse not to take them.
Advanced Dual Action Probiotics deliver the “good” bacteria your body needs in
IS-2 naturally help support digestive health, and 1000 mcg of vitamin B 12 to support
cellular energy production.†
It’s easy to travel with either of the above probiotics because they do not require refrigeration. I toss them in my carry-on and leave them visible on a counter in our room so that I don’t forget to take them.
Eating breakfast daily while traveling helps fuel your body for the rest of the day. It’s usually easier to make this a healthy meal, too.
Fill a plate with protein and dial down or eliminate the sugary baked goods. I like to take a moment, perhaps while signing the bill, to check in with myself. I can usually tell if I’m going to be hungry shortly after in which case I’ll grab something else from the buffet or make sure to pack healthy snacks to carry me through to lunchtime.
Empty the Mini Bar
Did you know that most hotels with a mini bar will empty it by request? Not only might this prevent you from tapping into it, but it makes room for leftovers and healthy perishables of your choosing in the mini fridge.
Let’s say you need immediate indigestion relief from dinner at a famous greasy spoon or street stall. An antacid, which fortunately most hotel gift shops carry for this common occurrence, might right the ship quickly.
Watch the Time
Avoiding late dinners in places like Spain are nearly impossible, but keep in mind that it’s not easy for the body to digest a meal while you’re sleeping. Try to stick to early dinners or make lunch the big meal of the day so that you can walk it off afterward.
Drink Lots of Water
Water is your friend, just like it is at home. Even overseas, you might need to ask for a glass of water in a restaurant as it may not automatically be given to you. Drink a glass before eating to help fill your stomach. Carry a water bottle while touring to stay hydrated. I’ve noticed more water refill stations in airports, hotels and other tourist spots worldwide.
Skip the Airport Burger
When it comes time to board the plane, eat lightly. This is (fortunately or unfortunately) becoming more and more challenging as airport dining options radically improve. Staying sedentary in any cabin on the plane is challenging for digestion. Did you know that as air cabin pressure drops, gas in intestines expands which can make you feel bloated than you normally would on land? This is another good reason to skip soda and gassy foods, too.
Choose the Lightest Inflight Meal
If you do need to eat on the plane, choose the meal that’s likely to be the easiest for you to digest. In my case on the way to Singapore, that happened to be Hainanese chicken rice (coincidentally Singapore’s national dish). Skip options with heavy sauces and lots of fat.
Listen to Your Body
Try not to eat if you’re not hungry. If you have to be at a meal, enjoy a few bites and leave it at that.
Join in on Awesome Giveaways
You will so want to follow the #HealthyTogether hashtag on Facebook and Instagram where Nature Made is giving away awesome prize packages curated by influencers like me.
My prize includes put together some of my favorite things to help you achieve all the above so that your next vacation is the best one ever. The giveaway includes:
Flying in a Singapore Airlines first class suite has long been a travel bucket list item for me. I used my daughter’s interest in a return to the Lion City (Singapore with kids is fantastic) to finally book it from Hong Kong to Singapore.
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge at Hong Kong Airport
Having come from Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, I skipped the more elaborate check-in desk at Hong Kong International Airport and checked-in at Hong Kong Station. It’s easier to board the Airport Express train without bags, though there isn’t a priority line for premium classes here.
Singapore Airlines offers multiple flights per day through Hong Kong International Airport. First class and first class suite guests use the first class area of the lounge, which is behind a set of discreet automatic doors inside the SilverKris Lounge.
It is small and not fancy, relative to the Cathay Pacific lounges, which are some of the best in the world (which makes sense as they are a Hong Kong airline).
A buffet features hot and cold items including dim sum, Western and Singaporean cuisine. A made-to-order menu of hot dishes is also offered to guests at their seats. My daughter chose wonton noodle soup and couldn’t have been happier.
Across the way is a self-serve drink station with Veuve Clicquot, some decent wine, spirits and snacks, nothing too over-the-top.
Small seating areas further down include tables for eating and a television. The lounge was pretty full and quiet so rather than snap away with my iPhone; I decided to leave everyone in peace. It shares a small bathroom with the main lounge which was indeed very busy.
Suite Class Boarding
Suite class is located on the bottom deck toward the nose of the A380. We boarded through separate airplane doors from even first and business class. Flight attendants warmly greeted us and promptly proceeded to get us situated in our lovely first class suite.
Complimentary WiFi worked flawlessly, but I opted to enjoy the ride rather than work.
As if these seats aren’t mindblowing enough, Singapore Airlines’ new A380 planes have an updated first class suite with a separate bed and chair, like a hotel room in the sky. I can’t even imagine how awesome they are.
A flight attendant slipped a handbag cover over my Louis Vuitton Neverfull which was a first for me on a plane. I laughed at how it fit perfectly, almost as if it was made specially for this popular handbag (maybe it was).
The selection of wines and champagnes, also poured as a pre-departure drink, could not have been more fantastic. Krug or Dom Perignon or both?
I chose Krug.
First Class Suite Seat
The seat itself is made of leather, rare on an airplane, though quite comfortable and spacious with lots of space to put things. Bose headphones are provided for watching the 23″ television screen and its multiple channels.
Our flight was so short that they did not prepare the bed, which was understandable though somewhat disappointing. Our seats together would have made a double bed. How cool is that?
Singapore Airlines First Class Suite Dining
This fine dining in the sky is so elegantly executed, you’ll forget that you’re on a plane.
Book the Cook service allows travelers to order the main course in advance, otherwise enjoy selecting from the several menu options on the day of travel.
Determined to eat as much Hainanese chicken rice as possible on this trip, that’s what I chose via Book the Cook while my daughter opted for salmon.
We started with the most delicious lobster medallion.
Wedgewood designed the china specifically for Singapore Airlines.
Next came Double Boiled Chicken and Nai Bai Vegetable Soup which my daughter inhaled. It looks simple but was bursting with flavor.
Even this simple salad, a delicious palate cleanser before the main course, tasted superb with a roasted tomato and kalamata olives.
And, then, the national dish of Singapore arrived: Hainanese chicken rice (or just chicken rice). It is absolutely delicious with its condiments and Krug pairing (okay so maybe there’s a white burgundy there, too). You can tell the difference between well-prepared chicken rice and an ersatz one (I’ve eaten plenty of both).
I did not at all have room for dessert but took it for the team so that you all could see it. I may or may not have polished the entire mousse and passionfruit sorbet.
It’s hard to find complaints when it comes to an experience like this, clearly a gold standard for airlines. I can’t tell you how sad we both were to land, even though Singapore is one of our favorite cities.
Its retail value between Hong Kong and Singapore is about USD $3500 though it can run as high as USD $20,000 on long-haul routes. I recently say SFO-SIN at about USD $14,000 round-trip in first class suites.
Mileage availability on Singapore Airlines via their KrisFlyer frequent flier program was easy to search and book. If only our domestic airlines would follow suit. I spied availability on our preferred dates, transferred Chase points to KrisFlyer (and agonized during that 24-hour transfer time about availability disappearing) and secured the tickets online with zero hassle. I even had to change the date via a phone call to the U.S. number which also was a piece of cake.
You can also request discounted rates (that earn miles) for Singapore Airlines business class, first class, and first class suites through Regal Wings.
Have you flown Singapore Airlines first class suites?
Based on the volume of email that I’m receiving, I can tell that you all are starting to think about spring and summer vacations. But what if you could actually win one?
I’ve partnered with some of the best brands in the travel and lifestyle space to offer this fantastic travel giveaway. What I love so much about it is that not only are you receiving trip planning services and a Dollar Flight Club membership, but you’ll receive $1500 to put toward a vacation of your choosing!
The Travel Bucket List Giveaway
Enter to win:
Curated trip-planning services by GlobalNomad for up to a 10-night vacation (valued $200)
$300 gift card to GlobalNomad’s online trip planning store for future travel
1 Year of Dollar Flight Club membership (valued $60)
$1500 travel voucher for flights, accommodations, and other trip-related expenses