Category Archives for "Transportation"

How to buy a great, fast charging universal USB car charger

How To Buy A Fast Charging Universal USB Car Charger

How to buy a great, fast charging universal USB car charger

Between your iPhone, your Smartphones, the kids tablets and any other of your devices that need ON-THE-GO charging, a universal USB car charger is a must have. Especially for people like us who rely heavily on the battery draining GPS function of phones and tablets to help them navigate..

Over the last 4 years, I have gone through several car chargers and for the most part they were pretty much all the same. They did the job but they were nothing really special; they either broke apart at the plastic seams, they just stop charging all together for unknown reasons, took forever to charge a device or couldn’t keep our demanding devices charged faster than it was consuming battery life.

Broken car charger- a common problem

Then I came across the ZUS smart car charger which put an end to all of my charging on-the-go woes.  Plus it does something no other car charger can do. It has a special feature which allows it to double as a car finder. More on that in a bit.

Here is a list of everything I love about the ZUS car charger. Even if you don’t buy the ZUS car charger, use this list as a guide for everything you should look for in a great USB car charger and why.

1- Buy a car charger that can charge multiple devices at once

Why fight over who can charge their device in the car?  That little cigarette lighter in your car is more than capable of providing enough juice to charge multiple devices.  The Zus USB car charger comes with 2 ports so you can charge 2 devices at the same time. You could go for a charger with 4 ports but I think that 2 is perfect. Four port car chargers tend to be TOO big and seem to break more easily.

Even if you only have one device, you never know when you’ll need a second port for a friend sitting shotgun with 5 percent battery or your kids tablet that you forgot to charge the night before your long road trip.

2-Buy a charger with (slightly) illuminated  USB ports

buy a car charger with illuminated usb ports

I really like car chargers with ever so slightly illuminated USB ports. Not so much that the light from the car charger is obnoxious or distracting during night driving.

This might seem like a petty thing, but it’s really convenient to be able to find the USB port in the dark without having to turn on the lights in the car which can be disruptive to the driver or to other people who might be sleeping in the car.

The ZUS lights are great because they actually have the perfect amount of illumination. Not too much and not too little.

3-Buy a charger that can charge your devices fast(er)

Buy a car charger with atleast 2 amps of power PER USB port Never buy a car charger that outputs a measly 1 amp of power per port. 1 Amp might have cut it a few years ago but today, that weak output will barely keep your phone charged especially if your running GPS or music apps like Spotify.

Your cars cigarette lighter can put out about 10 amps of juice so take advantage of it’s full capability. (Amps are the current that’s supplied to your device. If Amps were a river, then amps would be how fast that river flows.)
Look for a charger that advertises at least 2 amps per port. To figure out the amps per port of any car charger is simple enough. Just take the total advertised amps and divide it by the number of ports. For example, the ZUS car charger has 4.8 amps output which means it puts out 2.4 amps per each of it’s two USB port.

How fast can ZUS’s 2.4 amps per port charge? 2.4 amps of power can charge two iPhones in about 2 hours vs.. 3 to 4 hours of a lower amp charger. This can mean life or death for your devices.

4- Get a USB car charger built to last

Buy a solid well built USB car charger that won't break unexpectantly

ZUS is the only car charger that meets US Military Standard. It’s all metal, titanium coated and can survive temperatures as high as 100ºC.  There is nothing worse than being in the car with dying devices and suddenly your car charger decides to just die too. Every single one of my car chargers have started to break after several months of use with no warning whatsoever, which I can only assume is because of their poor build quality.

The ZUS charger feels solid in the hands and was built to last. (I tried to pull it apart just to see if it would break and it didn’t).

5- Never lose or forget where you parked your car

Buy a car charger that helps you find your lost car

I live in an area where we don’t have dedicated parking. So everyday, we have to park the car in a new location which can be confusing day after day. I can’t tell you how many times we parked our car and walked away, totally forgetting where we left the car.

The ZUS USB car charger can actually help you find your car.

Whenever you park your car, ZUS will save your car’s location automatically. To find your car, just open the ZUS app (which you can download here)and be guided back to your car like magic.  No need to pin your location on a map before getting out of your car. The ZUS App automatically does it all for you.

It was really easy to pair with my phone. When I first got the ZUS car charger, I just plugged it into  my car cigarette lighter, installed and opened the ZUS App while in my car and it connected everything automatically.

I don’t know of any other USB car charger that has this functionality but it is really nice to have.

Go get one

Now that you know a thing or two about why one charger is better than another, you can shop with confidence.  Or pick up your very own ZUS car charger that doubles as an automatic car locator.

5 Must have Road trip beauty products

5 Must Have Road Trip Beauty Products You Didn't Know You Needed

5 Must have Road trip beauty products

Here are 5 beauty products every woman, mother, sister, girlfriend or conscientious guy should consider packing on a road-trip. Because nobody wants to feel or look like crap.

Staying fresh and looking good on a long road trip can get a little tricky since you can’t bring all your beauty products with you and usually don’t have access to running water. The result is you often end up feeling and looking like crap before you even arrive at your final destination. Used together or individually, these 5 products are your saving grace- guaranteed to help you feel fresher and look less haggard from start to finish.

1- Wet wipes: For on-the-go cleaning and instant de-stinkification

Everyone get’s a little funky smelling on a road trip. Unfortunately showers and running water are not always readily available which is why you should ALWAYS pack wet wipes in your bag.

wet wipes just for dudesI’m not talking about regular old baby wipes. They were engineered for babies, make you smell like babies, and usually leave a weird residue on your skin (no thanks).

Instead, pack different types of wipes for different situations. (Yes there is a difference  not only in texture, but smell, strength, ingredients, and packaging.)

I recommend multi-purpose, flushable wet wipes for those general cleanups, face towelettes to clean your makeup and don’t forget to bring some individually wrapped shower wipes for on the go showering which can be a life saver for your private parts.

Multi-purpose wet wipes

Multi-purpose, flushable wet wipes are perfect for anyone travelling in a group or with kids because they can do double duty as toilet paper and a face cleaner to freshening up your pits and private parts. Try Cottonelle flushable travel wipes .

Face wipes

For you ladies who like take care of their face but can’t go through your entire facial routine during your travels, Neutrogena makeup remover cleansing towelettes are the answer to your prayers. Sometimes called facial wipes, makeup wipes or cleansing towelettes, they usually contain special ingredients that clean, remove makeup, moisturize and in some cases can even lightly exfoliate like Olay regenerist-micro exfoliating wet cleansing cloths. For more sensitive skin, try Burts bees facial cleansing towelette which comes in different scents like grapefruit and white tea to name a few.

Individually packaged Shower Wipes

girl-wipes

When you pack shower wipes, you never have to go without a shower and never have to put up with a car full of stinky people again. Shower wipes are slightly larger, stronger, and usually come individually wrapped like condom packages so they never dry out. Just throw one package in your purse, pocket or in everyone’s bag and voila, no more car full of stinky people. Check out Good wipes and Dude wipes.

2- Three facial sprays to hydrate your face on-the-go

evian-sprayYou don’t have to endure that icky, dehydrated, less than fresh face feeling when travelling if you carry a facial spray with you. Simply spray your favourite face spray and apply your favourite face cream on your damp face to lock in moisture. Then spray intermittently throughout the day when you need a boost.  It gives you a dewy fresh face look and feel.  Depending on your needs, you can find different face sprays with different ingredients which have different effects. Here are three of my favourite face sprays from cheapest to most expensive.

evian-facial-spray

Old school face spray

The most basic face spray is Evian mineral spray water which is PH balanced to match your skins PH levels. “Skin with a balanced pH appears healthier, looks plumper, has a healthy glow, and slows signs of aging”.  It comes in an aerosol spray can similar to hairspray but the mist is super fine. You just cannot get that same effect by a DIY spray bottle. I tried. For convenience, pick up two travel sized TSA-approved 1.7 ounce bottle of Evian from Sephora or buy six 1.7 ounce bottles of Evian facial spray for about $37.00 on Amazon.

Multi tasking facial spray with benefits

mario-rose-water

Although I do love my Evian mineral facial spray for certain situations, it’s kind of old school and generic compared to some of the newer multi-tasking facial sprays like Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe Herbs And Rosewater which is infused with rosewater, aloe and different herbs. Carrying this around eliminates the need to carrying multiple products. You can even use it in your hair when it’s feeling dry and frizzy. Plus It’s gentle, non-irritating  for all skin types.

Here are 10 benefits and uses of rosewater

  1. Rosewater helps to maintain your skin’s pH balance. (this is important)
  2. It helps fight acne, dermatitis, eczema.
  3. Use rose-water to soften dry skin.
  4. Use rose-water to prevent or reduce eye puffiness.
  5. It also helps to heal scars, cuts and wounds.
  6. Rose water cools the skin.
  7. It helps to tone the skin. It also has anti-bacterial properties.
  8. Rose water can also work as a natural makeup remover
  9. The nourishing and moisturizing properties of rose-water enhance the quality of hair.
  10. Set your makeup. Just spray sparingly over your makeup to set your makeup and give yourself that dewy finish.

High end facial spray Caudalie Beauty Elixer

For all you ladies who like higher end things, the French brand Caudalié has a facial spray called “Eau de Beauté” here in France. In English speaking countries, it’s called “Beauty elixer”. Supposedly inspired by the elixir of youth used by Queen Isabelle of Hungary, this beauty elixer smoothes your features, tightens pores and gives your complexion a burst of radiance. Use this not only for your road-trips but in your daily routine under and over make up to moisturize then set your makeup. Men can even use it as an aftershave. It contains essential grape oils, mint and rosemary oils and more. Plus this smells amazing and leaves your feeling amazing. Pick some up at Sephora and get FREE 2-Day Shipping on All Your Orders! Or put some in your Amazon shopping basket.

3- No more greasy travel hair: Dry Shampoo

dry shampoo to keep you hair fresh on road trips

Dry shampoo is the perfect tool to help combat greasy, flat hair syndrome while travelling. If you are not familiar with dry shampoo let me explain. A dry shampoo, cleans, freshens and get’s rid of that greasy unwashed hair look without the need for water. Once you spray this magic stuff on your hair and scalp, just rub and let the magic begin. Excess oil is absorbed restoring your hair back to that soft light hair feeling you get when you wash your hair. If you like the Sephora brand, then try  Sephora Express dry shampoo ($9). Want to find an inexpensive drugstore brand than try Got2b Rockin’ It Encore Fresh Dry Shampoo ($9) or Dove Dry Shampoo, Invigorating ($5). The only issue is these bottles are not TSA approved and explode so if you want something to take on a plane then try Got2b Powder’ful Volumizing Styling Powder($9). It’s not a spray.

4- Eliminate that foul, sticky breath on-the-go

breath strips - a road trip essentialYou could eat a mint or chew some gum to try and get rid of the inevitable foul sticky breath syndrome that almost always occurs during road-trips but for those who want to take it to the next level or don’t like chewing gum (like me), try Mint strips. These things are potent. No chewing, no sucking on mints involved. You simply pull a strip out from it’s box and place it on your tongue and let it melt and do it’s magic. Probably similar to how you would take acid? You can literally feel all the bacteria melting away.

5- Multi-purpose makeup

Multi tasking makeup
A multi-purpose makeup product for your eyes, lips and cheeks is a travelling girls best friend. Sometimes I just use lipstick for both my cheeks and lips but find it can be greasy so now I use RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek,  It’s versatile, easy to apply an blends beautifully. Plus, it takes up practically no space in your bag.  A sigle pigment, dabbed on various parts of your face works wonders and adds back that radiant glow that you lose while travelling.

So there you have it, five things every woman should pack on her next road trip. But don’t limit this list of luscious lady products to just road trips. Take them on all your adventures by plane or train and incorporate them into your daily life for those days when your on the go around town.

Road Trip Car Sharing

Speaking of road trip, If you’re interested in saving some money, I just discovered a great site called Turo.com. Turo is a peer to peer car sharing site which allows private car-owners to rent out their vehicles via an online interface. I have not tried it yet but it looks promissing.

10 Reasons We Choose To Travel Europe By Train, Not By Plane!

10 reaons whe chose to travel across Europe by train and not by plane

If you’re considering a visit to Europe and you’re unsure or on the fence about whether you should travel Europe by train or not then you should read this article where I share 10 of the top reasons we chose train travel over the usual plane travel. This article is just one part of a multi-part mini series on the entire process we went through.

10 reasons why travelling across Europe by train is a must at least once in your life.

Sure there are faster, maybe even cheaper or less chaotic ways to travel across Europe, especially as a family of five but lets face it…there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about train travel.

Putting aside my totally romantic ideas and subjective point of view that train travel is  magical, there were and are other more practical reasons why we chose to spend our 3 week family summer vacation gallivanting across Europe by train v.s. by plane or by car for that matter.

We weighed all the pros and cons, we took into consideration not only what my husband and I wanted to get out of this trip but also the varied tastes and interests of our 3 children who ranged in age from 8 all the way to 19. We also had a budget to contend with.

In the end, we somehow figured it all out. Here are the 10 things that were important enough for us.

1- NO REGRETS: I didn’t want to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity to slow travel across Europe as a family

Train travel: Don't miss an opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime

Given the fact that train travel was something I always wanted to do and the fact that everyone in the family, including our 8 year daughter and our moody 19 year old son were all keen on the idea of train travel,  I knew we had to seize this opportunity. It is after all a rare occasion when the stars and the moon align and all five members of our family agree on an activity to do together.

But it wasn’t just the fact that we all wanted to do a vacation across Europe by train, it was the thought of one day leaving France having never slow travelled across Europe. Why would this leave me full of regret? Well, once we go back to North America, it becomes much more difficult and expensive to fly to Europe and coordinate a family vacation with work and school schedules. I felt, no- I knew if I let this opportunity slip by, there might not be another one like it for a very long time or maybe not ever again.

Lastly, given how easy it is to travel from country to country and city to city by train in Europe, how could I not take advantage of train travel which brings me to the second reason we chose train travel.

2 LOW HANGING FRUIT: It’s easy to visit multiple countries in a single day by train in Europe

europe is relatively small compared to the US. It can fit 2,5 times in side of the USA. Which means travelling across Europe is relatively easy

The proximity of neighbouring countries, the relatively small size of Europe and the fact that trains across Europe are all inter-connected means travelling from country to country is not only easy but also relatively fast.

To give you some perspective,  France is about the same size as Texas and all of Europe can fit into the US about 2,5 times. So travelling from country to country is a bit like travelling from one state to the next state only easier because the trains take you anywhere and everywhere worth while in Europe.

If Cannes in the South of France (which is 1 hour from our residence  ) is your starting point, here are some sample itineraries you could take.

  • Cannes to Zürich Switzerland roughly 800km ( 497 miles) and 10 hours by train.
  • Cannes to Milan, Italy is about 5 hours from our house.
  • Cannes to Barcelona Spain is about 6 hours,
  • And Cannes to Berlin Germany is about 15 hours.

Why wouldn’t you take a multi-city trip via Rail Europe ?

3- Train travel means you get to skip the hellish airport routine

No annoying security checks, no checking bags, no arriving 3 hours early. Just pay for your ticket and go

Think about the process you have to go through when you travel by airplane. Do you look forward to it?  Do you love it?

You not only have to drive to the airport which is most likely an hour or more, you have to also wait in multiple lines, go through customs and check your bags . Not to mention the fact that you normally have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight departs.

Train travel eliminates a lot of this wasted time. You can even arrive to the train station minutes before the train is about to pull away from the station.

With train travel, you don’t have to worry about bringing water or liquids on the train. Hell, if you wanted to bring a Swiss army knife on the train, that’s ok too. (Blake my husband likes to travel with his).

4- Trains stop where all the action is and not some far away airport

train stations always put you in the middle of all the action so you can hit the grond running. Pictures is the Amsterdam central station and a passing tram

There is nothing worse than booking your cheap(ish) or maybe expensive airfare online, only to discover once you arrive at your vacation destination that you have an hour’s taxi ride to get into the city. Not only does this put a dent in your holiday funds but it’s a huge time suck.

Which brings me to another things I love about train travel- most train stations in Europe are located smack dab in the middle of a city or town, not 67 miles away like the Munich Airport or 68 miles from Barcelona like Girona airport.

This proximity makes it much easier to hit the ground running once you arrive at your holiday destination.

  • When we arrived at the Central station in Amsterdam, we were on a tram 5 minutes later heading towards our first destination.
  • Same deal in Prague, we arrived at the main train station and jumped on the tram and were at our flat that we rented from (((Airbnb))). 
  • In Bremen Germany, we got off the train and found restaurants to eat at within minutes then jumped on a tram directly to the flat we rented, again from Airbnb

If we really wanted, we could have stopped in a city like Amsterdam to have lunch then catch a train to Antwerp Belgium and arrive before dinner time. We thought about but decided against it because everyone loved Amsterdam.

This stuff just isn’t possible with travel by Air.

5- More bang for your buck

Train travel can give you more bang for your buck

Thanks to the internet and the growing number of companies that are willing to hire remote workers, virtual assistants and freelancers, my husband and I have been able to cobble together a modest living which allows us to work from home. The advantage is more time to work on personal endeavours and to be home for the kids but the downside is less money which is why I like to… no I have to make sure we get the most bang for our buck when we travel.

Our Euro rail pass let us get on and off trains all throughout Europe for a fixed price during a fixed period of time much like a monthly bus pass. This meant that we could visit multiple cities starting in the South of France all the way up north to Holland and beyond if we wanted.

Some of the countries we visited on our train pass were Austria, Germany, Holland, The Czech Republic and a quick Jaunt back over the border of Germany into France to visit Strasburg. All within a 3 week period. The same multi trip itinerary by plane would have cost us a lot more and probably would have taken us much longer if you count all the time needed to get back and forth to the airports.

I like to think we got our money’s worth.

6- Train travel is unique and becomes part of the enjoyment of your trip

Train travel can be unique and maybe even the chance of a lifetime for many people

If you’re like us, the bulk of your travel has most likely been by plane (or by car), so taking another vacation by plane is really nothing new. In fact, after a few trips, the whole process of boarding the plane, finding your seat, checking your bags and waiting in the security line can get rather irritating and uneventful.

With train travel, the journey and what you do on the train is actually what sets train travel apart and makes the voyage so special.

You’re not just sitting in your seat there crammed in your seat with your tray table up waiting to get to your destination. It’s hard to explain but to me it almost felt as if I was sitting in my living room relaxing and socializing only the living room was moving really fast and in a few hours I could leave and be in a new country surrounded by people speaking a different language.

But there’s more to it than that, i’m just not able to put it into words. Perhaps it’s just the idea of train travel but being able to move about the train, look out the window and see the world go by makes all the difference in the world and separates train travel from airplane travel.

To be honest, there really was no one thing that made the experience so enjoyable, it’s the experience as a whole.

7- Train travel (with a Euro Rail pass) gives you more flexibility to make and change plans on the fly

freedom to jump on and off trains with a euro rail pass or interail pass

When we set out to travel across Europe by train, we knew we wanted to visit certain cities like Prague and Amsterdam but we also knew we might like to stop in unexpected cities if we had the choice. luckily there is a train pass which lets you do this and you can buy it from the Euro Rail site.  This pass let us jump on and off trains. (I’ll write about it in another post soon).

In short, thanks to our Interail family pass for EU citizens and non EU citizens who are legal residents like us, we were able to travel by the seat of our pants, take unexpected detours to other cities along the way, extend our stay in certain cities and cut other cities short.  For non Eu Residents, you need to get the Eurail pass. There is no official family pass however if you travel together as a group or a family, each adult and youth get 15% off the ticket price and children up to 11 travel for free.

8- The view on trains is way better than on planes

If we wanted, we could get up and enjoy the views from the big windows, walk around and even get a bite to eat on the food wagon

Travelling by train brings new meaning to the saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. When your flying 10,000 feet in the air, you get an amazing aerial view of the clouds going by but when you’re travelling by train you see the world, people and how they live go by.

We saw the countryside of Amsterdam, we saw into people’s backyards in Italy and we saw families jumping in a lake in Germany as we crossed over a bridge. You just can’t see any of that on a plane and it really made the trip amazing.

Pictured above, Blake and I are in the food cart staring out the window as we pass somewhere through Germany.

9- No one cares if your seat is back or tray table is up on a train

Trains were sometimes not full so we could sleep anywhere. We also did not have to worry about putting up our trays or our relinced seats like on a plane

One of the things I really hate about car and plane travel is that you’re pretty much restricted to your seat. On a plane you have to put your seat upright for take off and landing. You have to put your tray table up and turn off your electronics too.

On a train, you don’t have to do any of this and you can actually get up and walk around or hang out in the area that connect two train cars together.

The seat configuration on trains are more varied and comfortable. There are seat arrangements that allow you to face each other and others where you share a small cabin. There usually is a dining car where you can grab a bite to eat and drink which is actually really nice.

10- You get to bond as a couple and as a family

We travelled with just back packs which made it easy to just change plans on the fly. No checked bags, no airport security.

Like most people,  I wanted our family to take a vacation together to bond and to getaway from the stresses and rituals of daily routine and to see one another in a different light. One where I’m not stressing out over homework, dishes and life in general. One where the kids didn’t have us parents nagging them to clean their rooms and take care of chores. One where my husband Blake and I could just be ourselves and enjoy each others company and talk about frivolous things like books and life.

According to a survey conducted by Kelton Global, which asked 1,000 parents with kids age 5-17, 97 percent of parents say that their children have gotten to know new things about them while taking family trips. Families tend to be more excited, silly and affectionate while on vacation.

Train compartment on one of the many trains we rode across Europe. You can close the door for complete privacy.

Unlike plane travel,  travelling by train is almost made for bonding in my opinion.

On a train, you are not bound or crammed in your seat like a sardine for hours. You can actually move around if you like. Seating is usually pretty comfortable and roomy or configured in such a way that makes socializing and chatting easy.

Thanks to the seating configuration on trains, we  were able to find some semblance of privacy on most of the trains we travelled on.

On several trains we found cars with empty seats. On other trains we found 4 seats that faced each other and still other trains we had small cabins big enough for 6 people with a door that closed like the photo pictured above.

Knowing we had nothing but time and being more comfortable made the voyage rather relaxing which as it turns out is extremely conducive to bonding. It was the push we needed because if given a choice, many of us are just so busy with our daily lives that we never take the time to bond and be present for those closest to us.

We read, talked, argues, played games, slept, got on each others nerves and just worried about the minutia of boarding our next train and what to see next. I can’t tell you how nice it was to just get away from our everyday life and have those moments on the train.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that spending 3 weeks travelling together in close quarters was a dream full of rainbows and unicorns because it wasn’t. There were still times where we got on each others nerves, or the kids annoyed us or vice versa. But I knew- just as women are able to endure a painful child-birth and go on to remember childbirth as an endearing memory- I knew our train travel would leave us with meaningful, beautiful and unforgettable memories spent together across Europe.

And I was right.

Do I recommend train travel and would I do it again?

Milan train station. One of the many beautiful train stations conveniently located smack dab in the middle of all the action

Now that I’ve actually travelled on a train across Europe for three weeks with 3 kids and a husband, I can honestly say “yes I recommend train travel and I would definitely do it again”.  But…and you knew there was a but, not all aspects of train travel were pleasant and I definitely would have done some things differently had I known about certain things.

But that’s why I’m writing this for you. So you can get some insight and advice, know what to expect and make up your own mind about whether to travel by train, plane or automobile.

Interested in buying a rail pass and travelling Europe by train like we did?  Click here for Rail Europe !

A beginners guide TO train trave

Train Travel In Europe: Beginners Guide, Advice And Opinion

beginners-guide-train-trave

If gallivanting across Europe by train and visiting multiple-European cities toots your horn and you want to learn from someone who’s actually done it then you should read this multi-part mini series about our almost 3 and 1/2 week family Rail trip across Europe using an Interrail pass which anyone who resides in Europe can buy. If you live outside of the EU than you need to purchase the Eurail Global Pass.

I’ll share my thoughts, break out the cost and spill the beans on the good, bad and the ugly side of train travel. Plus, I’ll share helpful tips I wish I had known before we embarked on our 3 week train travel that would have made our lives and our trip a whole lot smoother.

INTRODUCTION

Part 1- 10 Reasons We Choose To Travel Europe By Train, Not By Plane!

Travel across europe with the train pass called the Eurail Global Pass

driving in France

Experience A One A Kind Road Trip In France With A Rental Car

A while back I wrote about some things I have learned about driving and taking road trips in France. Road trips made possible by the fact that we actually own a car in France. Great but what if you don’t own a car and what if you have no idea where to go? Here is a quick and dirty primer on what you need to know. Perfect for those of you thinking of taking a quick one of a kind road trip in France by way of rental car. 

driving in France

Motoring holidays to France are a great choice if you like travelling independently. Cross the English Channel from various ferry ports ranging from Dover to Plymouth and you are then free to drive your chosen route. Here, we look at driving in France and the advantages of using a rental car to explore our nearest mainland European neighbour – near, yet completely different.
 
Great deals
 
Vehicle rental includes insurance and a modern car, sometimes quite new and offering comfort, reliability and fuel economy. Last minute car rental deals are perfect for travellers who are looking to get their money’s worth because of all inclusive offers such as free GPS, unlimited mileage, roadside assistance and so much more! Choose from a wide selection of vehicle types and models; select the ideal car to meet your needs, preferences and budget.
 
North to south – all the information you need
 
There is a lot of information online about tips and pointers that you can refer to when driving in France. You might like to consider Brittany in the northwest if you like the seaside, or the Vendee on the Atlantic coast with its pine forests and sandy beaches – and as many sunshine hours as the south of France. The interior offers beautiful scenery too.
 
Advice on the road
 
Remember that speed limit signs are in kilometres per hour and not miles per hour! 130 km/h is about 80 m.p.h. To avoid fines, remember French law requires motorists to have a breathalyser in the car. A warning triangle to use in the event of breakdown and a reflective vest to wear are also required, otherwise you risk being fined.
 
There are three types of main road in France: autoroutes (prefixed ‘A’) which are the equivalent of motorways. They have tolls (sometimes expensive) but also have regular service stops with toilets and picnic benches to take a break. Some serve food and have garages. National roads are prefixed N and department roads are prefixed ‘D’. The latter are more scenic but with fewer lanes and a lower speed limit.
 
Summing up 
 
With all the reliability of a quality car hired from a reputable company, you can enjoy a one-of-a-kind driving holiday. Choose a professional service and easy, hassle-free car rental – so you can concentrate on planning your time off and relax.

——— Picture from: B. Monginoux /Landscape-Photo.net (cc by-nc-nd) 

France Road Trip

11 Things You Need To Know Before You Take A Road Trip In France

France Road Trip

From what to expect at French highway tollbooths to how to find rest stops and toilets along the route, here are 11 essential things I wish I knew about when we first started taking road trips in France.

Driving in France might seem straight forward but I promise, it can be confusing especially if you are from North America. Fear not, if you are considering taking a trip to France and also want to do some road trips, you just need to know a few basic things to start.

11 Basic But Essential Things You Need To Know: France Road Trips

1. You Can Drive 130 MPH on French Highways? Know The Speed Limit

France Road Trip: what is the speed limit

France is on the metric system so if you see a sign that says 130 like the one above, it means 130 Kilometres per hour and not 130 Miles per hour. (130 KPH is roughly 80 MPH).

2. You Must Have A Breathalyzer In Your Car To Drive In France?France Road Trip: 3 things you must have in your car

Yes it is true. French law says you MUST MUST MUST carry 3 essential things in your car and a breathalyzer is one of them. Otherwise you run the risk of receiving a fine of up to 750 euros if you are stopped by a police officer according to the French service website.  OUCH!

  • 1 Breathalyzer ( Law in effect Since 2012. The tolerated blood alcohol level in France is 0.5 mg. per ml)
  • 2 A Warning Triangle ( Law in effect since 2008. You must place this 30 meters behind your car if you have to stop on a public road due to car troubles.)
  • 3 A Refelctive Security Vest. ( Law in effect since 2008. You must wear this if you are stranded on the side of the road)

3. Where The Heck Is The Highway?

France Road Trip: How to get on a French highway/ motorwayay

TIPS: AutoRoute= French word for Highway  / Motorway

If you want to get around quickly in France, the highway is the the way to go but If you have never driven in Europe than you may end up getting confused like we first did because there is no signage that says “Enter here for highway”.

Instead they have symbols and a clever lettering system that helps you recognize the various road systems in France.

There are three types of major roads across France. Autoroutes, National Roads and Department Roads.

    • 1- Highways or Motorways are called Autoroutes in France and they begin with an A followed by numbers. For example A29 as pictured above.
    • 2-Deparment roads are run by each department in france. They usually have fewer lanes, a slower speed limit and can be more scenic. They start with a D followed by a number. For example D34
    • 3-National roads are very similar to department roads. These are marked with an N followed by a number. N33

4. It Can Cost You Over 100 Euros In Toll Booth Fees

France Road Trip: Toll booths are expensive. How to avoid them

As I mentioned above, If you want to get around fast in France, take the autoroutes but be prepared to pay the piper in toll booth fees.

Almost all highways (autoroutes which start with the letter A) have toll booths along the way. We drove from the south of France to Paris on one of our road trips. (Just over a 10 hour drive) and it cost us about 100 Euros in Tolls EACH WAY.

TIP: Péage= French word for toll booth. Bring 2 credit cards just in case you run out of cash for toll booths.

5. How To Calculate Or Avoid Toll Fees During Your French Road Trip

France Road Trip: Toll booths are expensive. How to avoid them

If you want to avoid or minimize tolls on your French toad trip, just use the D and N roads (Deparment and National Roads).  But which ones do you use?

Luckily there is an autoroutes site which allows anyone to plan out their route based on their criteria and destination.

  • Calculate total trip time based on route
  • Plan the cheapest route
  • Plan the most scenic route
  • Plan the shortest route and more……..

6. How To Find A Restroom And Food Along The Way.

France Road Trip: How to find a restroom and food and rest stops

One of the benefits of taking the tolled autoroutes rather then the slower non tolled D roads (departmental roads) on your France Road Trip is REST STOPS at regular intervals along the way.

On average there is one rest stop very 15 km.  You will always, always find clean restrooms, usually with picnic benches and food at these areas.  Sometimes you find gas too.

Tip: Aire De (some name) = French word for Rest Stop. Look for signs like the one above that say Aire De…… In the photo above there is a rest stop called Peypin in 300 meters.  It looks to be handicap accessible by the little wheelchair sign above it.

7. Forget about 4 way Stops: Learn How to Maneuver a roundabout / traffic circle

France Road Trip: how to maneuver in a roundabout / traffic circle

A lot of Americains complain about traffic circles (I think) because they don’t know how to properly use them when in reality they are quite simple. You just need to know 3 basic rules.

  1. YIELD: Yield to traffic already in the circle. If you time it correctly, you don’t need to ever stop at a four way intersection. Just slow down to yield then enter and exit.
  2. EXITING: When exiting a roundabout, put on your blinker to signal so that cars trying to enter the round about know you are exiting and can enter safely rather than waiting to see if you exit or stay in the round-about.
  3. MISSED YOUR EXIT: In a four way stop if you make a wrong turn, you have to do a series of turns around the block to get back but with a round about if you miss your exit, you just stay in the round-about and come around again to the correct exit.

Tips: If you want to learn more, here is a site that has more detailed explanations about roundabouts.

8. Where to stock up on Road Trip (picnique) Food in France

If you want to stock up on some food to eat while on your road trip than make a trip to one of the many supermarkets in France. Stop at a supermarket beforehand; Intermarché * Carrefour *Mono Prix *LIDL. (here is a more complete list of supermarkets in France )

TIP: Super markets are called marché or supermarché in French. Dramamine and aspirine are not sold at supermarkets or gas stations. You will need to stop at a pharmacie.

9. Bring GPS device

France Road Trip:bring a GPS device with you

This is more of a recommendation rather than a requirement but I highly recommend getting a GPS device of some sort for your France roadtrip for the following reasons. (We rarely use a physical map anymore).

  1. Gives you the fleibility to go to new places and stops wthout the fear of getting lost.
  2. Know where you are instantly.
  3. Take detours or get lost and the GPS auto corrects your route to your destination on the fly.
  4. Calculates your total drive time for you almost to the minute.
  5. Has voice navigation that tells you of upcoming turns, exits, stops etc. Handy if travelling alone or want to avoid constantly looking at a map. Or your co-pilot gets car sick and passes out like I usually do and become utterly useless in helping navigate.

Tip: Get a GPS device that does not require data connection or wifi.  I use a Samsung galaxy tablet and downloaded an app that gave me maps that I could use off line.

10. Can You Drive A Stick Shift / Manual Transmission?France Road Trip:most cars are stick shifts /manual transmission

Most cars in France are Stick Shift. You will be hard pressed to find an automatic car in France. I am not saying it’s impossible just rare so don’t limit your choices in cars just because you don’t know how to drive a stick shift.

11. Do You Have The Right Drivers Permit To Drive In France?

France Road Trip:what kind of drivers permit do you need? .

According to the official website of France, if you  have an EU drivers license or drivers permit from another country you are allowed to drive in France as long as the following conditions are met.

  • Drivers permit mus be valid.
  • Drivers permit must have been issued by the country in which you normally resided before moving to France.
  • Drivers permit must be written in French or be accompanied by an official translation. ( we have managed so far without an official transcript, knock on wood).

TIP: Although not required, it is highly recommended that you get an international drivers license which can help to expedite encounters with authorities in the event of an accident or traffic infraction. If you plan on staying in France for over a year, you are supposed to apply for a French drivers permit. 

Conclusion

It probably goes without saying that there are so many more things you need to know when taking a road trip in France but these 11 are a good start.

Do your own research and try not to speed on the roads.  We once got a ticket in the mail. Unbeknownst to us, you can get clocked by a radar gun after which a ticket is mailed to you a couple of weeks later.

What do you think?  Have extra question? Leave your comments below!

 

 

10 reasons you should use a travel agent

10 Situations Where You Should Use A Travel Agent Or Consultant To Book Your Trip.

In this day and age it’s pretty simple to find good travel deals and book your entire travel adventure yourself right? After all, all you need is a computer, the internet, some time and your credit card to start the research process and BAM you are on your way to travel bliss.

Wrong!

10 reasons you SHOUD use a travel agent???? If you thought travel agents were dead, think again. Sure you could do it all yourself but do you really want to and is it really better than doing it all yourself?

A travel agent is someone who sells or arranges trips or tours for customers based on your special needs, budget and time constraints.

Here are 10 reasons why you might want to use a travel agent.

  1. A travel agent can help you stitch together a complicated itinerary

    • If you want to book a trip that involves multiple stops in multiple countries, multiple guided tours, hotels, cars, trains or whatever else you can think of than an experienced travel agent can help you stitch it all together more easily and faster than you could ever do on your own.
  2. A travel agent can save you money including on fees

    • -I used to think that travel agents were more expensive than looking up flight deals on my own but that is just not always the case anymore.For one, a travel agent/consultant is privy to certain deals that are not available to the public.Two, they can suggest travel dates and times that you did not know about that can save you money. For instance maybe flying to Hawaii on a certain airline is cheaper on Monday rather than Thursday by almost 500 dollars. (This really happened to someone I know).The frugal traveler did a series of tests to find the best flights online and compared that to what a travel agent could do. RESULTS: In most cases the travel agent was cheaper—fees included.Furthermore, travel agents can help you avoid hidden charges extra costs that will siphon the money out of your wallets. In a blog post by airport parking service Parking4less, some airline companies do not declare other charges until you pay them—only to sucker punch you with surcharges and other fees that will increase your overall payments. “Be careful to factor in the extra cost of transport to and from airports further afield from tourist destinations. For instance a flight to Venice with Ryanair takes you into Venice Treviso airport about 20 miles further away from Venice than Venice Marco Polo airport,” Parking4Less warned.
  3. Travel agents can save you time.

    • – Finding a good travel deal on the Internet can be very time consuming even for a simple trip. A travel agent can do the heavy lifting for you quickly and efficiently leaving you time to live your life, take care of your family or do whatever it is that you need to do.
  4. Travel agents can help you avoid information overload and analysis paralysis

    • The internet is an amazing research tool. However it does have its downsides such as TOO MUCH INFORMATION. If you are like me; you start your travel research with the best intentions but then after a few nights of researching hotels, airline deals, mixing and matching dates, suddenly all that wonderful information turns into one big harry ball of confusion. That is when you can go into analysis paralysis.A travel agent can help you cut to the chase so you don’t have to deal with all that. They are the professional after all.

      Analysis paralysis is a condition in which a person becomes so caught up in planning that he or she can’t actually take action…*( a condition in which a person becomes so caught up in planning that he or she can’t actually take action.

  5. A travel agent can share exclusive perks and give you access to VIP status

    • Travel agents are better connected and have special relationships with the travel industry that mere mortals like us don’t have access to. Things like free room upgrades, private guided tours, line cutting and cheaper premium airfares.
  6. A Travel agent will work hard to give you excellent customer service

    • A travel agent will usually work hard to find you the best deals and upgrades to make sure you keep coming back to them. If you are frequent traveler this can be invaluable because once you have established a relationship and trust you can keep going to that person over and over again.
  7. Agents can help solve problems.

    • If your flight is cancelled, you’re stuck someplace or face some other unforeseen problem, a travel agent can help you find a better solution probably more quickly than you could on your own. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call them.
  8. Are You A Busy Business Traveller?

    • If you are a road warrior or travel for business, a travel agent can help you find the best way to manage your travel activities; from finding hotels that have meeting rooms to booking tours so you can play golf with clients.
  9. A travel consultant can help clear up confusing fees and restrictions.

    • Many of the restrictions and fees imposed by airlines, hotels or car rental companies are just not that obvious to the casual buyer. A travel agent can help you understand them all so that you can make more informed choices.
  10. Avoid frustration when planning a complicated travel itinerary.

    • Obviously sifting through all the information can be very frustrating so it goes without saying that you will avoid a whole lot of frustration by letting someone else do most of the heavy lifting in planning your itinerary.

Lastly, not all travel agents / consultants are created equal so if you are considering hiring one, here are a few questions you should ask them.

  • What are the fees? This will help you determine if it will be worth the investment to work with them vs. the time to do it yourself.
  • What is their refund and cancellation policy?
  • If need be, can the agent work entirely by e-mail? If one of the reasons you want to work with a travel agent is because of a lack of time than you don’t want to be stuck on a phone for hours while they research your itinerary for you. You should also expect them to respond within minutes or hours by email and not days.
  • Are they certified and by whom?  Depending on which country the travel agent is based they will have different certifications. In the US a travel agent is usually be ASTA certified (American Society of Travel Agents) but in the UK it is ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents).
How to sleep in an airport comfortably and safely

Long Layover? How To Sleep At An Airport Like A Pro

How to sleep in an airport comfortably and safely

Whether you find yourself sleeping in an airport by choice or by some unfortunate stroke of bad luck, it is possible to sleep in an airport relatively comfortably and safely. Here are a few tips to help you make your overnight stay in an airport less stressful and almost fun.

6 Must Know Tips On How To Sleep In An Airport Like A Pro

If you’ve ever travelled by plane, you know sooner or later you’ll be caught in a layover between flights. No biggie if your layover is short-just read a book or grab a bite to eat and wait it out. If however your layover leaves you stranded in an airport overnight, that’s a different story. Here are some things you can do to make sure you sleep better, stay comfortable and safe. You’ll be glad you know this information.

1- Check in advance to see if you are allowed to sleep at an airport

Is it open? You won’t be able to sleep in an airport if it is not open 24 hours. Some places frown upon sleeping in airports like in Japan. If you know in advance you’ll have a long layover, research whether you can or can’t sleep in the airport overnight. If you can’t, try to make arrangements for somewhere to sleep or at least research it.

Is it disgusting? Not all airport sleeping areas are created the same and even though sleeping in the airport is possible, you may not actually want to. According to news.com.au, London Heathrow airport is considered by many travellers to be one of the worst airports to sleep in overnight.

Heathrow has been labelled as too cold with very little comfortable seating to sleep on. Some travellers even complained that the carpets were dirty and flea infested. Others claimed they couldn’t sleep because it was too noisy or that the cleaning crew came around and asked them to move so they could clean.

Know before you go by using sites like http://www.sleepinginairports.net/ which provides user-generated reviews about almost every airport you can think of. You’ll find all the information you need about a particular airport such as whether or not there is free wi-fi, or if an airport is clean, allows sleeping and so much more.

2-Pack A Survival Kit In Your Carry-On Luggage

airport-survival-kit

In addition to wearing or packing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, you should consider packing a survival kit that will get you through a night or two in the airport. At minimum you should pack the following items plus anything else you think you might need.

  • Pack a change of clothing: My husband and I were stuck in an airport in Colorado when the airport was snowed in. Having a change of clothes was the pick-me-up we needed to feel a littler fresher. When my daughter spilled hot chocolate all over her dress in Switzerland, I broke out her spare clothes. Mommy to the rescue!
  • Pack a toiletry bag full of basic toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, contact solution, sanitary products, lotion, 3 oz./100ml bottle of shampoo or soap, deodorant, gel, hair brush, hair scrunchy. I sometimes pack vaseline because it’s so useful.
  • A subset of makeup: Use a clear see through makeup bag and put just the basics. A little BB cream, mascara, lip colour and face powder. The clear makeup bag makes it easy to see what you’ve got at a glance. You can pull it out easily and take it to the restroom rather than rooting around the bottom of your bag to find that lip gloss.
  • Something to cover your eyes: Bring an eye mask or simply lay a shirt on your head to block out the airport lights. I’ve seen some people wear a beenie pulled down over their eyes.
  • Earplugs: You’ll be glad you have some earplugs even if the airport is not super loud. Blocking out the sound really does help you sleep. Try the earplugs with strings attached. You’ll never lose them if they fall out.
  • A small travel pillow or roll up a sweatshirt for you head. Seen some people actually bring their bed pillows from home. I like to pack compact micro-beed filled pillow because it stuffs easily in my bag and when you lay on it, it forms perfectly around my head.
  • A small travel blanket,  sweatshirt, or a fashionable oversized scarf like a pashmina to cover yourself: It gets cold in airports. Oversized scarves look great too.
  • Wet wipes and or tissue paper: Wet wipes or travel wipes really come in handy for quick washing’s in the airport sink. I like to bring wet wipes which have moisturizer in it already just for my face.
  • Snacks: Bring something that won’t get crushed and can curb your hunger. Nuts, chocolate, granola bars? Snacks are expensive in the airport.
  • Entertainment: A book, iPhone for music, Kindle eReader
  • Spare battery for your electronics: If you can’t get a spot by a wall plug, having an external battery on hand to keep you electronics charged is a life saver. Make sure you choose an external batter pack that has enough juice to keep your phone or tablet charged up to 24 hours. The one I use is rated 10,400 mAH. The standard input voltage of smart devices is 5 volts so don’t buy an external battery that is less than this. I highly recommend the Ravpower external battery which I use almost everyday even when I am not travelling. It can charge 2 devices at the same time which means you won’t be fighting over who gets to charge their electronics.
  • Pack the kids stuff: If travelling with kids, pack their essentials too including clothes to sleep in, toys and some form of entertainment like crayons or books.

3- How to find the best spot to sleep at the airport

airport-sleep-overnight

Sleeping in an airport is a bit of a science and not all airports are created equal when it comes to sleeping in them.  Some airports have sleeping facilities, lounges and even rooms where travellers can sleep. You should ask someone at the airport if this exists. If not, you will need to find the best spot to sleep in.

Take a walk around the airport and look for a good place to sleep. Here are some things you should consider when choosing a spot to sleep.

  • Safety: If possible try to sleep where other people are sleeping. Safety in numbers
  • Stay away from high traffic areas: Toilets, check in desks, next to stores or food vendors are all high traffic and noisy areas to sleep in which could make it difficult to sleep. However if you pack some earplugs and eye mask this might be less of an issue.
  • Look for a set of chairs with no arm rests: It will be easier to stretch out on and more comfortable and cleaner than the floor.
  • Look for clean carpeted areas: If there are no chairs, consider sleeping on the floor. I like to sleep close to a wall or window on one side of me with my luggage between me and the wall.
  • Look for outlets: If you have to charge your phone or laptop, you may want to stay near an outlet.

4-Protect your passport, purse, property and luggage

airport-sleep-lock-luggage

Here are a few tips to keep your luggage or valuables from being stolen while you sleep

  • Keep you passports, credit cards and cash near you or on you. Otherwise put your valuables in an INSIDE pocket of your bag NOT the outside pocket where it can easily be snatched.
  • Put larger expensive things like cameras, laptops and purses inside your luggage with a carry-on luggage lock.
  • Try to put your luggage between you and a wall like a sandwich.
  • Lay your head on your bag or take a strap and anchor your luggage to a chair near you or to you which will make it impossible for anyone to run off with your luggage. You can use locks especially made for this which are light or bring a bicycle lock with you.

5- Don’t miss your connecting flight

sleep-in-airport-alarm-cloc

Confirm your flight details so you know when you need to wake up to catch your connecting flight and which gate you need to go to.

Take precautions so you wake up on time by any means necessary. I have seen people put stick-it notes on their head that say “wake me up at 8:30 in the morning so I don’t miss my flight”. You could just bring a travel clock or set the alarm on your phone too.

6- Prepare for bed

Just like you would at home, it helps to clean up before bed even if it is on some yucky airport floor. Change into something comfortable if you have to. Brush your teeth, wash your face and take off your shoes. I like to have a pair of socks on hand or small slippers. Then set your alarm, listen to some music or read a book if you have to, then try to relax and get some sleep.

Conclusion

Sleeping in airports can be fun or it can be total hell. My kids love sleeping in airports but it’s a different story the next morning when I try to wake them up after a night of sleepless excitement.

Use your best judgment on deciding whether or not to sleep in an airport for long layovers and be sure to check out www.sleepinginairports.net.

Bon Voyage

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