Sep 24

Hotel Wifi Test

USBI recently heard about a new website and service called where you can check the wifi speeds of potential hotels. If you’re like me and like your wifi, then you’ll love this site.

The site shows hotels by location and reports expected speed, confidence in that speed and if the wifi is free or a paid service.

Aside from the ability to know better hotels to say at and what to expect from their wifi, I think this service offers even more. I think it will force hotels to up their game to keep guests coming.  Yes, there are some people who are frequent travelers who only stay in certain chains. But, many of us have choice and if we need or want wifi, this is important.

Hotel Wifi test has launched a browser extension to help display their data via popular booking sites like, Expedia, and Tripadvisor – I think this will only make it a more powerful service with greater influence.

Oh, and don’t forget to test your wifi connection when in a hotel to help create better reporting!

Sep 17

Darling Harbor

I’ve watched two seasons of the Real World, New Orleans and Australia. I watched Australia because their project was related to Contiki.  But that season of the Real World opened my eyes to the beauty of Australia.  The apartment they were staying in was in Darling Harbor and it may have skewed my view of Darling Harbor as the hot spot in Sydney.  Darling Harbor is a hot spot, but not quite what I was imagining before I finally got to see it.

Darling Harbor seems to be primarily a touristy spot, I haven’t become so jaded in my travel that I dismiss “tourist spots,”  but I also know that they are very hit or miss.  Darling Harbor is both hit and miss, depending on what you are looking for.  It has a mall with shops you can find in many parts of the world, restaurants – many of which are chains you can find around the world, and some museums.  So yes, many very typical touristy places.

However, it’s also a pretty location with a lot of activities.  On Saturday night’s they have fireworks (which I did get to see).  The fireworks weren’t the best I’ve seen, but then my standards are the Macy’s 4thof July fireworks in NYC.  But they were excellent for a local event.  I did get a chance to see Gravity at the largest IMAX in the world. I highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets for films. It was raining all day and I didn’t want to spend my night in the hostel, so that was a nice inside evening activity.

The area is full of activities for every age group. For a first time visitor Darling Harbor is a nice spot to visit, although it can be touristy it does have a lot to offer.  However, unless you’re planning a lot of activities in the area, I wouldn’t choose Darling Harbor as a main base.  I prefer The Rocks or Downtown Sydney near Circular Quay.

Sep 10

Single Solo Travel

I recently read an article from about 6 Tips for single vacationers and since that’s often me, I thought I would share a bit about it.

1. The Beach isn’t always best – the claim is that you won’t meet people if your head is buried in a book. You should instead take a vacation where you’re doing activities.  I would agree with this. I think this is why I don’t meet people on planes, my head is buried in my book. But I do get out and do things once I’m in my destination.

2. Try a singles package – I haven’t done this, but I have always taken tours where you can book as a single and I do find there aren’t as many couples on these trips.

3. Reserve a room in a smaller hotel. I do find that big chain hotels are not terribly social, except for maybe the hotel bar. Pick a hostel or a smaller B&B style of hotel.

4. don’t plan your whole vacation in advance – Ok, I do this all the time. Hey, some things need to be planned in advance if you want to do them. But, I do think it’s good to have some flexibility so you can go off and do something different with new friends you meet.

5. Find other tourists to talk to – locals aren’t going to drop things to spend time with you. But tourists, they’ll do that, they have no problem altering plans to spend time with other travelers. Especially if they read #4

6. Try these easy ice-breakers – travelers have easy excuses to strike up conversations with others – whether asking direction or for travel advice. This is one thing I’ve always enjoyed about traveling by myself, I’m forced to do this and I often meet people as a result. Even if you’re not getting a date or a travel buddy, it’s a good way to break the monotony of being alone.

Do you have any tips for solo single travelers?

Sep 03

Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens

Everywhere I go people talk about these “Botanical Gardens.” I’ve never visited one since I usually don’t have a ton of time in a city and frankly, I suffer from a bit of PTSD after a tour in Hawaii with a guide who was an amateur botanist.  But I had some time on a beautiful morning in Sydney and heard it was nice there.

The view from Government House

I was there for the opening of the day and had some trouble finding it. How the heck would I know that it’s really just like a park.  I was looking for flowers!  Actually, I didn’t have that much trouble finding it, I had trouble realizing that I was in it.

Government House

But once I realized I was there, it was quite lovely and serene.  No, there weren’t that many flowers, and it was essentially a park, it had a nice setting.  It’s situated along the water in Sydney with great views of the Downtown Seattle, the Opera House, and Harbor Bridge.

View of Harbor Bridge and the Opera House

Within the grounds there is Government House, which was closed during my visit, but did offer a great garden area.  If you’re not much of a walker, there is a tour you can take from the entrance near Sydney Opera House that was just a few dollars and will tell you some of the history of the gardens

If someone wants to run or walk while on vacation, or just have a relaxing day in a nice setting with a great  view, the Sydney Botanical Gardens would be a great stop in Sydney.

Aug 27

Carry On Luggage Weight

Have you ever been asked to weight your carry on when you were checking in or checking luggage for a flight?  I’ve had it happen to me twice.

I get nervous when this happens because I’m usually traveling with a laptop and camera, both of which make your carry on heavy quickly.  Most people don’t realize that airlines have a weight limit for your carry on.  Limits range from 13 to 22 pounds, not a lot of weight if you carry things like a laptop and camera equipment.

The first time my carry on was weighted (I can’t remember which, but it was a European Airline) the weight was close enough that they didn’t bother me.  The second time was on Kalula Air in South Africa. I was asked if I had a laptop and when I said yes, they said it was ok and let me go.  I do know a couple people who also had their carry on randomly weighed and just took the camera out, put it around their neck and were fine. With loose rules like this, it makes you wonder why they bother having these rules.  Though, I’m sure they don’t want to be responsible for a lot of electronic (cameras and laptops) equipment that is checked either.

Have you ever had your carry on weighed and was it a problem?