Best Tips to Beat Jet Lag

Best Tips to Beat Jet Lag

For when you first arrive to your destination AND when you return home from a trip

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Jet-lag can be a serious challenge, even for avid travellers. To my fellow Californians who to fly to Europe – west to east – we know that flying is much more difficult going east than it is west. This is because flying east shortens the day (or you lose time, depending on how you look at it). I’ve personally done this type of west coast to Europe flight a handful of times and have felt, first hand, the effects of jet lag (even after I denied it to be a real problem for years).

Your body wants to eat when you tell it to sleep, and it wants to sleep when you tell it to walk around the city for 10 miles. Your time is precious when you’re traveling as you most likely have a limited number of days at your destination and are using well-deserved vacation days. So, there is no time to be wasted on coddling your jet lag. Keep reading to learn what jet lag is and why we get it, hilarious stories of others trying to power through jet lag and my best tips for how to beat jet lag.

What is Jetlag & why do we ‘get’ jet lag

        Understanding what jet lag is can help us better deal with the problem. As airplanes are a fairly recent modern form of transportation, so is jet lag a newer modern term in our vocabulary. Our bodies are built on a 24 hour time clock and when we throw that off, our bodies are trying to re-correct an error in their natural clock. This is the basic explanation for jet lag.

        Jet lag is considered to be a chronobiological problem. Chronobiology examines the cyclic phenomena in living beings and their ability to adapt to solar and lunar rhythms. And medically, jet lag is called Desynchronosis, which means that your circadian rhythm, or body clock is out of sync. We get jet lag because your body thinks, and therefore feels it’s in one time zone, but it’s physically somewhere else. For example, in May 2019 my body felt like it should be asleep while I was walking around Budapest, Hungary at 11:00am, because it was 2:00am where I’m from, in San Diego.

        Your body needs to adjust from the time zone it was in, and catch up to the time zone you’ve traveled to. It’s important to ensure your body has a smooth adjustment and transition from any jet lag symptoms as our bodies and brains use their natural body clock to communicate to ourselves how the organs should act/react and is based on light exposure.

        How long does it take to recover from jet lag? There is no one answer unfortunately. So, it’s best to have as many tools in your tool belt to help combat it. Keep in mind, our bodies tend to have an easier time adjusting when we fly west, versus when we fly east. Because we can adjust to longer days (flying west), as opposed to shorter days (flying east). Here’s an example: when flying from San Diego to Philadelphia, a 6 hour flight – your flight departs San Diego at 7am, and your land in Philadelphia at 4pm, so a 6 hour flight, now feels like a 9 hour day. Whereas when flying from Philadelphia at 7am to San Diego you would land at 10am.

        People often ask how long does it take to get over jet lag, and it depends entirely on how far you travel and the times of your travel. You can use this program to help you understand the length of time it will take to adjust to a new time zone based on your personal trip details.

Symptoms & Effects of Jet Lag

  • Groggy
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Weight gain
  • Change in body temperature
  • Hormone regulation issues
  • Increase in blood pressure (as can flying in general)
  • Change in appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Lack of concentration and
  • Impaired decision making skills

Everyone is affected by jet lag differently. Any number of the symptoms and effects listed above can cause health issues and none of which I personally enjoy dealing with while traveling as it takes quite a bit of time away from enjoying my trip. In fact, here are a few ways that other travelers have made some (pretty funny) mistakes and mishaps while experiencing jet lag!

    The things people have done while feeling jetlagged

    The stupid, the funny and the embarrasing

    “After traveling for over 20 hours, I wanted to wash my hair. Instead I poured my shampoo from the bottle over the drain, only to be confused why it wasn’t in my hair”

    -Laura (me!), Blue Eyed Compass

    “When I flew back from China last October I was so jetlagged that I went all the way into work only to find that the office was closed…it was Sunday. I thought the commute was kind of quiet!”

    -Hamish, My Travel Fix

    “On the balcony of my hotel I proceeded to take a single drag of my cigarette and drop it inside my coffee.. I stared aghast at my still-hot cigaccino for a full minute before calling it quits and going to bed.”

    -Bradley, Winged Writer

    “The most expensive goof I’ve made whilst jet lagged is forgetting to check out of a hotel in Bali. I was so foggy headed I was convinced we had an extra day so returning from exploring and finding our room key didn’t work I was forced to have a pretty embarrassing conversation with hotel staff and pay top rates for our extra night!”

    -Karen, Are We There Yet Kids

    “After I landed in China, I woke up a half an hour before I had to leave for a tour, and thought I was awake. The next thing I knew, the tour was calling my room to see where I was. I guess I just collapsed back asleep.”

    -Kimberly, Panali Travels

    “The night before a cruise we left our passports with hotel reception in Venice Italy.  We only realized we didn’t have them at the cruise terminal, coughed up all of our euros for a water taxi to the hotel and then ran through the city back to board the ship just in time!”

    -Gwen, A Broad Reach Travel

    “After 24 hours of travel, I went outside in below freezing weather with just a t-shirt, to the shock of the locals, and claimed I was plenty warm…that didn’t last long.”

    -Chelsey, The Ninja Gypsy

    “After a restless night in the Paraguay airport, I agreed to go to a Radiohead concert in Lima. With barely two hours of sleep I made it to the concert. I fell asleep about 10 minutes into the concert and was woken up when it was time to leave. I’ve still only ever heard Radiohead’s song Creep.”

    -Katie, Just Chasing Sunsets

    “We spent 3 weeks in an RV in California, filling it with petrol every three days. On returning to the UK &  work the next day, I filled my beautiful new BMW with $100 of petrol… except, the car was diesel!  Four hours later, orange cones around my car & totally humiliated, I was towed away to be drained and re-filled, which cost another $200….pretty expensive jet lag!”

    -Izzy, The Gap Decaders

    The Best Tips to beat jet lag

    These are my personal best tips for how to combat jet lag. It is NOT a list of doctor recommended remedies. What works for me may not work for you, but I’m sure a handful of these just might do the trick for you.

    • The best way to beat jet lag is to quickly and effectively provide your body and mind the information it needs to know about its new time zone by providing proper sunlight, sleep and nutrition at the right time/s. Keep reading for how to do this:

    Before your flight:

    • Strategize your flights

    Choose your flights so that you arrive in the early evening. That way you don’t have to force yourself to stay awake all day. Of course this is dependent on where you are to and form.

    • Be organized and calm

    Feeling stressed prior to your trip will leave you with poor sleep before you take off, so your starting point for a trip will immediately be poorly off center. Aim to prepare for your trip a few days before your take off, so that your last 48 hours at home or at your destination are enjoyable and stress free.

    I’ll often start bringing out my travel items and outfit ideas a week before I depart, so that I know in advance if I need to purchase something and/or do laundry and not needing to do so the day of my departure.

    • Get a great night’s sleep the night before you fly. Even if your flight is an overnight trip

    If someone suggested you stay up or sleep less before you take a red eye is providing poor advice. It is physically impossible for your body and mind to sleep as well when you are flying, so boarding a plane already sleep deprived will not help you sleep better when you take off. EVEN if you can sleep easily on a plane. Your brain will not turn off completely and your organs react differently at 35,000 feet.

    Unless you’re flying business class with lay-flat seats, don’t start your trip feeling sleep deprived. Stick to your regular nighttime routine, or better yet, head to bed even earlier the night before a flight and gift your body an extra hour of rest.

    During your flight:

    • Acclimate to your landing time zone as soon as you board the plane

    Meaning, if you’re flying from New York to Poland, when you sit down in your seat tell yourself it is Poland time and act accordingly. Another example is from a personal flight – I was flying from San Diego to Paris. We departed San Diego airport around 7:00pm, and were slated to arrive in Paris around 2:00pm. So, I needed to tell myself that it was bedtime and rest/sleep as much as possible, and then wake up and do something active an hour before landing to pretend I had my morning routine.

    Do NOT state your previous time zone to yourself or anyone else around you. Keep your mind focused on the time zone you are aiming for.

    Drinks lots of water and avoid booze & caffeine. Both are stimulants and prevent proper sleep

    If you’re trying to sleep on the planebring items that will help you do so and stick to your nighttime routine. In fact, pack supplies so that you can mimic your evening routine in the plane bathroom. I typically pack the following with me and do my routine in the bathroom, including changing into pajamas

    • Pajamas & fresh undies (don’t judge, no one should be wearing the same skivvies for long haul travel haha)
    • Tooth brush & toothpaste
    • Face wipes or wash
    • Nighttime serum
    • Moisturizer & face spray
    • Jade roller

    I’ll also pack…

    • An eye mask
    • Ear plugs
    • Travel pillow
    • Thick scarf or sweater
    • Fuzzy socks
    • A strapable foot rest

    If you’re trying to stay awake on the plane :

    • Stand up and stretch every two hours. Walk to the bathroom area (where there is more room) and stretch out your body from top to bottom.
    • Drinks lots of water and avoid booze & caffeine. Both are stimulants and prevent proper sleep
    • Bring something to do besides watching movies – I almost always pack a small book, sudoku puzzles and a bit of work with me that excites me (like editing photos or watching educational courses)
    • *Note- in order to easily stand up every two hours aim to book your seat in an aisle seat. If that’s not possible, I will politely notify my seat mates that I have to stand up every few hours (I have prior injuries where I do physically need to do this). Gentle courtesy to your seat mates can go a long way.
    • Pack your own meal/s and snacks. Doing so will help you avoid the time settings the airline sets for the meals and maintain your own personal timeline depending on the time zone you are acclimating to. You’ll also avoid highly salted and processed foods, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    (Personally, I get a high from packing stellar food and snacks for my flights, especially because it gives me something to look forward to.)

    Your first day back home (or at your destination)

    • Workout!

    Your body may demand sleep, but stay strong and follow through the time zone with some sort of physical activity. Even if it’s just a simple brisk walk followed with some yoga stretches. This will help tire your mind and body for a better nights sleep, and provide endorphins to help heal your body from traveling

      • NO Naps

      I know crazy, because naps are amazing. But avoid them at all costs.

        • Sleep

          How counterintuitive of me to list these next to each other, but it really depends on when you land and how sleep deprived you may be. Make sure you time your first nights sleep accordingly. For example, I flew/traveled for 33 hours and landed in San Diego at 2:00pm in the afternoon after two weeks of feeling sleep deprived. So, I scheduled my bedtime for 7:30pm (I’m typically in bed around 9pm, with lights out by 9:45/10pm, so 7:30pm isn’t that much earlier)

          *If you think you’ll have trouble falling asleep you can always try a light dose of Melatonin – a natural hormone that tells your body when it’s time to sleep. Personally, I’m not a big fan of melatonin (it has led me to have very vivid dreams that I can’t wake up from), but it’s much more natural than a Tylenol PM and I know others who swear by it. PLEASE check the MG dosage as many over-the-counter melatonin pills have a much higher dosage per pill than is necessary. We only need 0.5mg per dose, many bottles boast a 5-15mg dose.

          • Prepare your bedroom

            Tying into how to have a great night’s sleep when jet lagged, you want to make your room isas dark as possible – close any blinds, face screens away from you and turn your thermostat down. You can also try this- take a warm/hot shower and step out into a cool room.

            Adjusting light and temperature will help manipulate your body’s natural sleep clock

            • Avoid blue light

              Adjust your phone to night shift mode (apple) or use the twilight app (android), or purchase blue light blocking glasses

              • Unpack right away

                Get your routine back into action and avoid any lingering to-do items by unpacking as soon as you get home

                • Soak up some sun

                  As I mentioned under the sleeping tips, light and temperature will affect your mind’s capability to rest. So, if you need to stay awake, be sure to take a walk outside. And of course, put on healthy sunscreen too

                  • Stretch

                    Stretching will alleviate those post-flight aches & pains from sitting upright for so long

                    • Shower & Pamper yourself

                      As a female, I find that if I shave my legs, do a nice face and eye mask (maybe even treat myself to a massage) I feel uber refreshed and recharged for the next day. It’s like hitting a reset button!

                      • Avoid heavy meals

                        • Don’t Succumb

                          Don’t succumb to the fact that you’re going to be jet lagged regardless of what you do. Your mind is a very powerful thing, and negative talk will absolutely reflect how your body reacts. If you put your mindset towards feeling jet lagged it was naturally occur. If you land in the morning and immediately take a nap, then your body’s clock will be off for far longer than you’ll want it to be, and you’ll have difficulty getting back on track.

                          Instead, create an easy to follow plan and tell yourself how great you’ll feel when you follow through!

                          How are you feeling?

                          Jet lag isn’t permanent, but it can make you feel like time is moving in slow motion, and can really damper your epic travel adventures. Being prepared! By utilizing the jet lag tips above you should be able to help prevent your jet lag from feeling worse or hopefully prevent it all together!

                          Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                          Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                          Guide to Visiting Tokyo for the First Time

                          Guide to Visiting Tokyo for the First Time

                          An easy to use guide for first time visitors to Tokyo, Japan

                          Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves on Amazon. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

                          Visiting Tokyo for the first time left me feeling lavish, while practical, and humbled, while also confused. Tokyo is a beautiful blend of high tech and tradition, and if you’ve never been to Asia before this massive city can feel overwhelming. There is a lot going on in Tokyo.  And that is definitely an understatement. Regardless, this city is incredibly beautiful, inspiring and kind, as well as a destination that everyone should experience at least once.

                          This Tokyo Guide for first time visitors will present the basics that you need to know for planning your trip and provide some guidance for what to expect. Continue reading to find out how to get to Tokyo, where to stay in the city, what to pack, the best things to do on your first trip to Tokyo, and more!

                          General Information about Tokyo, Japan

                          (for travelers & tourists)

                          • Tokyo can be quite expensive, especially the lodgings, so budget accordingly. We found that decent hotels were in the $300-$400 price range. There are over 30 million people living in Tokyo, which means real estate is sparse, and in order to fit everyone the rooms need to be small in order to have enough places for everyone.
                          • Budget for Tokyo by visiting free attractions and eating one of your daily meals from one of Tokyo’s awesome 7/11’s. They have plenty of food options for cheap prices (however, not many for vegetarians, at least that I could decipher)
                          • Utilize 7/11’s atms. Who would have thought that 7/11 would be the saving grace for tourists in Tokyo? Many atms in the city do not accept international credit cards, but the 7/11s do!
                          • Tokyo is very safe for travelers.  In fact, crime rates are crazy low. I never felt uncomfortable (except in Golden Gai, but not to a point of fear, just a general awkwardness as an outsider.  Read more about that here)
                          • Water in Tokyo is safe to drink
                          • Japanese currency is the Yen.  Once you arrive, I would suggest taking out money as some places will only accept cash
                          • The Japanese language can be confusing for tourists. Here are a few basic phrases that we used:
                          • Tokyo bathrooms are pretty fun. Weird to announce to the internet, but seriously their public restrooms felt nicer than some hotels restrooms I’ve been to in the states. Some play music in your stall, and I’m now convinced that toilet seat warmers should be required in all bathrooms.
                          • Write down your lodging address in Japanese (you can ask the staff at your hotel), this way if you need to show it to a taxi driver or are asking for directions, it will make translating much easier.

                          How long do you need to visit Tokyo?

                                  You could spend months in Tokyo and still find unique and fun things to do, but if you’re traveling to Tokyo for the first time with a limited number of vacation days, I would suggest three to five full days in the city. It will give you a great taste for the culture. Check out my itinerary that has details for each day.

                            When is the best time of year to visit Tokyo?

                                    It seems that anytime of year is good to visit Tokyo. Many visitors flock to Tokyo for the annual spring cherry blossom bloom (which makes finding affordable lodging difficult). We visited Tokyo in November and were in awe of the fall foliage. Summers may be hot, but not unbearably so, just as their winters don’t become too cold. I suppose what is too hot/cold will depend on you, a simple Google weather search will show you what you need to know.

                              Getting to Tokyo:

                              There are two main airports that fly in and out of Tokyo:

                              1. Haneda, which is the closest and larger airport
                              2. Narita, which is much further away (up to two hours driving time).

                              *I would suggest researching how to get to your hotel from BOTH of these airports. Our flight was redirected to land in Narita, so our transportation plans from Haneda had to change. From Narita you can take the Narita Express into Tokyo.

                              • Currently, no visa is required for US citizen tourists staying less than 90 days, but you must have an onward ticket booked out of Japan in order to be admitted into the country.  Your passport must have at least one free page, and be valid for your entire stay. *If you are not from the US, please check your country’s entry requirements for Japan
                              • Effective January 2019 visitors to Japan are required to pay a 1000 yen tourist tax. This will be built into your airfare, and was put into place to help support their infrastructure for the 2020 Olympics.

                                How to get around Tokyo:

                                With a massive city like Tokyo, comes an equally intricate public transportation system. I’ve put together a blog post detailing how to use Tokyo’s public transportation system here.

                                  Where should a first time tourist to Tokyo stay in the city?

                                          Choosing the best location to stay while visiting Tokyo for the first time is key to having an enjoyable experience. It’s best to stay in a major area of the city such as Shinjuku, Shibuya or Ginza.  Many recommend Ropongi as well (I did not visit this area of the city, so I cannot speak from personal opinion).

                                          When booking your lodging I would suggest a hotel or a capsule hotel. While I typically recommend booking an Airbnb, there are new measures being put into place post-2020 Olympics that will limit the number of Airbnbs. So, you might as well try to earn a few hotel member points during your stay. Here is where we stayed and loved its location being close to Shinjuku.

                                    Foods to try in Tokyo:

                                    While there are so many delicious options for japanese food, here are the items I looked forward to most & enjoyed as a vegetarian:

                                    • Green tea: green tea is served at basically every restaurant, instead of a glass of water.
                                    • Mochi: a sweet rice paste that’s gooey, sweet & flavored
                                    • Taikyaki: a japanese fish-shaped pastry, usually filled with red bean paste. Typically served warm & so yummy!
                                    • Sushi: I typically stay away from seafood, but felt that I couldn’t visit Japan and not try a piece of sushi (especially since those who I was traveling with wanted it for every meal haha)
                                    [the plethora of places selling sushi had me thinking about fish consumption in Japan.  After researching, I wrote a post about the information I found. Check it out here]
                                    • Vending Machines: the plethora of vending machines in Tokyo is comparable to the number of people living in the city. At least once, order something from a vending machine. However, keep in mind how much plastic that runs through those machines, please don’t overdo it.

                                    *Fun fact- Tokyo has the most Michelin star restaurants of any city in the world!

                                      What to pack for a trip to Tokyo:

                                      • Comfortable shoes to walk around in: You will be doing a lot of walking in Tokyo, so comfortable shoes you can wear all day should be the first thing you pack
                                      • A small lined bag for inside of your purse or backpack: Tokyo is extremely clean, yet there aren’t many public trash cans, so you will need to hold onto your garbage waste when you’re walking around the city. Having a lined bag with you will help make it easier to do so.
                                      • Reusable water bottle: You can find & purchase reusable water bottles anywhere, and since the water is safe to drink you won’t need a fancy one. Having a reusable water bottle with you will prevent you from paying for drinks all day, and help avoid how much plastic you waste.
                                        • Travel Credit Card: Our Visa was accepted everywhere we wanted to use it, but I’ve heard that American Express may not work too great in Japan. We LOVE our Chase Sapphire Preferred card, especially because using it allows us to earn points that we redeem for free travel. Considering signing up for this stellar travel rewards credit card?  Please do so here. If you sign up for this Chase credit card you can now earn 60,000 bonus points (used to be 50,000 bonus points.
                                        • Layers: Tokyo’s weather can be fairly mild, but I would suggest dressing in layers so that you can spend all day out without having to waste time going back to your hotel for a jacket
                                        • Universal Adapter: the outlets in Japan are similar to US standard, but are two pronged, so if you have a three pronged plug, you’ll need an adapter.

                                        What to see & do on your first trip to Tokyo:

                                        This is only a short list of the things you should see and do on your first trip to Tokyo.  There is much more detail provided in this post.

                                        • Visit Teamlab Borderless
                                        • Explore the Asakusa area & the Sensoji Temple
                                        • Walk around the Tsukiji Fish Market
                                        • Go to the top of the Government building
                                        • Drive like a Mario Kart player
                                        • Explore Ginza
                                        • Walk around Harajuku
                                        • Enjoy a night out in Shinjuku
                                          Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                          Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

                                          Follow Along!

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                                          How to Use Tokyo’s Public Transportation

                                          How to Use Tokyo’s Public Transportation

                                          An easy to understand, outlined guide on how to use Tokyo’s public transportation.

                                          Currently, Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, so taking public transportation in Tokyo, Japan is the best way to get around the city.  However, being that it is such a large city, Tokyo’s public transportation system can be very confusing and overwhelming to many. I’ve put together an easy to follow, and detailed guide on how to get around Tokyo, and the best way to do so.  And when I say detailed, I mean I’ve compiled all of my research into a succinct bullet point outline so that you can easily understand everything and get the most juice out of the lemon (is that a real phrase, or did I just make it up?)

                                          Trust me when I suggest that you read through this slowly.  Jot down your own notes & reference multiple maps while reading, so that you can feel comfortable with getting around when you arrive in Tokyo.  Taking public transportation is much cheaper than paying for an uber or taxi, since the city is so large, and it gives you an excellent opportunity to truly experience Japan’s unique culture.

                                          *PLEASE note that bus transportation is not included in this guide.  We found prices to be similar from bus to train to subway, and felt that train and subway lines are more reliable and time efficient.

                                          Things to Know about Tokyo, Japan’s Public Transportation System:

                                          • Tokyo’s size requires anyone to utilize their very efficient public transportation
                                          • They are ALWAYS on time
                                          • Everything is clean. From the actual train cars to the walkways, to the restrooms.  In fact, the public restrooms at the stations were comparable to nice hotel restrooms.  As with most of Tokyo, there are few trash cans available.
                                          • Efficiency is the focus.  With more than 30 million people in one city, efficiency is necessary for Tokyo’s public transportation.  There are arrows showing which side of walkways to walk on and where to line up for each car. What would be chaotic elsewhere is robotic here.
                                          • Very safe.  The etiquette on Tokyo’s public transportation is to not give direct eye contact and to keep to yourself.  Not once did I ever slightly feel uncomfortable or that there were pickpockets. *however, still always protect your belongings
                                          • Easy to use, but can be quite confusing to a visitor.
                                          • Vending machines are in every station.  They have a plethora of unique drinks you can get.  *Keep in mind the amount of plastic that comes from these machines, if you want to try something be selective to limit your plastic purchases please.
                                          • There are two types of Tokyo public transportation cards you can purchase. The Suica & the Pasmo, more details on these below
                                          • If lost, someone may come up to help you and you can always ask an official inside.  We found that the Japanese were very kind and helpful when we seemed lost and confused.
                                          • The JR East & subway lines are the most convenient (see below)

                                           

                                            Trains in Tokyo

                                            You can use a Travel card (Suica or Pasmo) or a JR rail pass on Tokyo’s trains.  These allow commuters to hop on/off buses and navigate stations relatively stress free.  I would recommend using one of these cards throughout your stay as it will eliminate the need to purchase a ticket for each ride.  Whichever you choose, know that Tokyo’s trains are very economical & convenient for travelers

                                            Here are details on the train types available in Tokyo:

                                            • JR = Japan Rail, this rail system covers the entire country of Japan (this JR term will be referred to a lot in this post)
                                              • JR East is a group of lines.  It includes Tokyo so will be seen most often in the city
                                                • JR Yamanote Line- one of the JR East lines, this train service does a circular loop of all of Tokyo’s main spots & runs until 1:20am
                                                  • Six major stations on this line:

                                              Tokyo

                                              Ueno

                                              Ikebukuro

                                              Shinjuku

                                              Shibuya

                                              Shinagawa

                                              Other JR Lines that you might use frequently in Tokyo are:

                                              Keihin-Tohoku Line: runs parallel to the Yamanote Line’s eastern half

                                              (blue)

                                              Saikyo Line: runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the western half

                                              (dark green, light blue)

                                              Chuo/Sobu Line (local): runs across the Yamanote circle, this is a local, slow service

                                              (Yellow, slow local)

                                              Chuo Line (rapid): runs across the Yamanote circle, a rapid service.  Connects the Tokyo Station with Shinjuku Stations

                                              (Orange, rapid)

                                              Shinkansen: Tokaido Shinknason trains stop at Tokyo & Shinagawa, and bullet trains north stop at Tokyo & Ueno

                                              Shinkansen, or high speed bullet train, tickets can be purchased from the JR stations

                                              Maps of the Shinknason trains cover the entirety of Japan, so to avoid confusion none are included in here.  If you are interested in the bullet trains, check out this guide here

                                                • The Narita Express is a JR East train line
                                                  • Narita Express is the train line that takes you from the Narita Airport into Tokyo’s city center
                                              • There are private railway companies
                                                • They connect Tokyo’s center with outer regions & surrounding prefectures
                                                • The private railways typically start at a JR Yamanote Line
                                                • Here are some of the private railway companies
                                                  • Keio
                                                  • Odakyu
                                                  • Seibu
                                                  • Tokyu
                                                  • Keikyu
                                                  • Keisei
                                                  • Tobu

                                                Now that we’ve covered above ground trains, let’s move onto

                                                Tokyo’s SUBWAYS

                                                • There are 13 subway lines
                                                  • Operated by two companies
                                                    • Toei (4 lines) & Tokyo Metro (9 lines)
                                                  • They run mostly inside of the JR Yamanote Line (remember the JR Yamanote Line is the circular/loop line that stops at many major Tokyo stops)

                                                Tickets & Passes for Tokyo’s Subways and Trains

                                                Travel cards

                                                  • Travel cards give you unlimited access to any subway or train line
                                                  • They don’t discount the cost per ride, but save you a lot of time from having to buy a ticket each time you want to go somewhere; i.e. you’d have to find the ticket booth, stand in line, etc (each station is different so finding the ticket area would take you time)
                                                  • Each area of Japan has their own travel card.  The most used and acceptable in Tokyo are the Suica and Pasmo cards. What is the difference between a Suica and a Pasmo card?  See below!

                                                Suica: purchased at JR lines

                                                  • Travelers can purchase Suica cards from any JR station ticket machine or convenience stores
                                                  • It is a prepaid fare card
                                                  • A 500 yen deposit is required, and can be refunded when the card is returned
                                                  • Suica cards are accepted all over Japan- almost all buses, trains, convenience stores, vending machines
                                                  • Once charged up with money the Suica card can be used immediately

                                                Pasmo: purchased at non-JR lines/local lines (subway & bus lines)

                                                  • Pasmo cards are used the same way as Suica cards, they are just provided by a different company
                                                  • Pasmo cards are only accepted within Tokyo
                                                  • Pasmo cards can be purchased from either airport, rail & subway stations
                                                  • A 500 yen deposit is also required, and can be refunded when the card is returned.
                                                    • Keep in mind, that the Pasmo card is only available to be used within Tokyo, so be sure to return the card for your deposit inside of Tokyo

                                                Should you choose a Suica or Pasmo card?  

                                                This seems to be a matter of preference to each person & where they will be traveling within the country

                                                How to use your travel cards:

                                                  • Simply touch your travel card over the entrance scanner to the station
                                                  • The scanners will beep if you do not have enough money charged onto the card, so each station has kiosks where you can purchase and re-charge your cards
                                                • Day passes are available but not very convenient
                                                  • They don’t cover all of the different lines & all seem to be overpriced
                                                  • And if you’re exploring over a few days you’ll end up taking different lines of transportation around, so its more economical to purchase a travel card
                                                • Japan Rail Pass
                                                  • This is useful if you are exploring large parts of Japan, outside of Tokyo
                                                  • If traveling outside of Tokyo, I would suggest purchasing the Japan Rail Pass only for the days that you are not in Tokyo, and using the travel cards, which are cheaper, for when you are in Tokyo
                                                • Regional Passes
                                                  • JR Tokyo Wide Pass: good for getting to Tokyo Disneyland and Mt. Fuji
                                                    • You can only purchase a regional pass in person at either of Tokyo’s airports or the main train stations
                                                  • Know that each region of Japan has its own travel pass, or IC card (Tokyo’s are Suica & Pasmo)

                                                  Tips for using Tokyo’s Public Transportation:

                                                  • The faster, bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen, require separate tickets. Meaning you cannot use your Travel (Suica or Pasmo) cards for the bullet trains
                                                  • Return your travel card at the end of your visit at any station relevant to your card
                                                    • Suica: JR lines
                                                    • Pasmo: non-JR lines
                                                  • With 30 million people in one city, rush hour will be packed; if possible, avoid traveling from 7:30-9am
                                                  • Many lines run from 5am-1am
                                                  • There are women only cars during rush hours (children 6th grade & younger are allowed), typically towards the front of the train
                                                  • Use your mobile device to help you navigate.  Google Maps was on point with their directions using Tokyo’s trains and subways.  The app will show you the number of stops, which exit of the station to take & the direction to walk towards
                                                  Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                  Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                                                  Planning a trip to Tokyo?  Read these posts to help you plan & feel prepared for your trip!

                                                  Weekend Itinerary for Tokyo, Japan

                                                  Basics of Japanese Culture

                                                  First Time Visitors Guide to Tokyo, Japan

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                                                  How to use the CBX Bridge

                                                  How to use the CBX Bridge

                                                  From San Diego to Tijuana and back again!

                                                  Did you know that American based travelers can fly to Mexico for cheap?  By using the CBX Bridge in San Diego, California passengers can book a flight to Mexico with a Mexican airline for nearly half the cost (if not less) than it would cost to fly out of San Diego or Los Angeles directly.  However, there is a lot of confusion on what this bridge actually is, where to go to cross it and if it is safe for travelers. Read below for my experience and all of the information that you will need to use the CBX bridge at the Tijuana Airport.

                                                  Related: Nine Reasons to Visit Mexico ]

                                                  What is CBX?

                                                          CBX stands for Cross Border Xpress.  It is a pedestrian facility located on the San Diego/Tijuana border that allows people to walk straight into the Tijuana airport from the United States.  People call it the CBX bridge, as it it technically a covered, indoors, pedestrian walkway.

                                                  Where is CBX & How to get there from the United States?

                                                          Surprisingly, the CBX bridge facility is not the same border that you drive across when trying to get to Baja California.  It is located in San Diego, but it is approximately 15 minutes drive from the border patrol into Tijuana.  From central San Diego (Mission Valley/USD area) it will take approximately 20 minutes to drive to the Cross Border Xpress.  It is very easy to park or drop off as it has a clearly marked entrance and roadway to the front doors.

                                                  Preparing to use the CBX bridge & the costs of crossing

                                                  • Make sure you have a boarding pass available; this proves that you have a reason to be crossing into the airport
                                                  • Purchase a ticket to cross in advance; this can save you time by not having to purchase in person at a kiosk (really it’s not that much time saved, but more convenient for ease of access)
                                                  • Tickets are $30 for a round trip crossing, $16 for one way, or $105 RT/$55 one way for families (four to six people)
                                                  • Just like any other trip to the airport, prepare how you will get there.  Whether that is having a friend drop you off, parking your car (see detailed information below) or a ride share service.
                                                  • Parking is $17/day, and you pay when you return.  It’s cheaper to order a Lyft or Uber

                                                  [New to ride sharing?  It is one of the most convenient ways to get around if don’t want to or cannot drive.  Use these links to receive discounts on your first ride with them! Lyft // Uber ]

                                                  How to Cross the Cross Border Xpress

                                                          Walk inside the set of doors that are closest to the drop off area (if you drive past the cross walk speed bump you’ve gone past the correct doors).  With your boarding pass and CBX ticket in hand, walk to the tables inside to complete immigration forms. At the inside entrance, an agent will scan your CBX ticket, ask if you have your passport and boarding pass then will allow you to walk across the pedestrian sky bridge.

                                                          The bridge itself is modern and covered, and there is an official line marking where you actually cross from the United States into Mexico!  At the end of the bridge you enter directly into the Tijuana airport terminal. Find your airlines ticket counter if you need to check any bags.  If not, head to security as you normally would at any other airport. Except this time you’ll be walking over with a smile of satisfaction that you not only very easily crossed into another country, but that you most likely saved yourself a lot of money flying out of Tijuana to your destination!

                                                  Flying into the Tijuana Airport, to cross back into the United States

                                                          Almost identical to how you can cross from the United States into the Tijuana airport through CBX bridge facility, you cross back.  After the baggage claim area, there is a clearly marked area for the CBX bridge. Show your CBX ticket to an agent and then cross back over the pedestrian bridge.

                                                  *Do NOT exit the airport into Tijuana– the agent will guide you, but be present and aware regardless.

                                                          Customs at the CBX bridge facility has little to almost no lines to wait in.  They scan your luggage, but you don’t have to take anything out.  Declare anything you bring back with you, and then walk across the bridge and outside to your ride back home.

                                                  Utilizing the Cross Border Xpress in San Diego is a wonderful way to travel for cheap to and from Mexico.  It is set up to be convenient and easy for travelers, and as someone who has used it, i can attest to its convenience and ease of use.  Have any questions — feel free to leave them in the comments below!

                                                  Happy travels!

                                                  [ Related: Interested in planning a trip to a Mexican destination?  Check out my travel guides for Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende to gather some inspiration! ]

                                                  TIPS for Using the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) in San Diego, California

                                                  • Flying out of Tijuana airport is cheaper than another US based airport if you are flying to a location in Mexico or Central America.  This isn’t always 100% true, but 90% of the time you will find a much better deal
                                                  • People often say to leave time for traffic, however I drove down to the CBX facility a couple of times (different days of the week and different times of the day) and never had a traffic issue.  It is almost in the middle of nowhere so is not a traffic heavy area. And with there not being much to do in the airport I wouldn’t suggest showing up very early as you’ll arrive and go through the facility quickly and then be bored at your gate.
                                                  • The security lines are much shorter here, so no need to stress the time spent waiting to go through
                                                  • Currently there are not many food options in the airport (this also depends on where your gate is/which airline you are flying), however we saw signs stating that new eateries are being added in 2019.
                                                  If you’re curious about the CBX bridge being at the Tijuana border crossing, I captured screenshots of the distance between the two.  It’s about a 15 minute drive between the two.

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                                                  Things to know before traveling to Belize

                                                  Things to know before traveling to Belize

                                                  Belize felt like an ‘off the beaten path’ place, where we could truly escape the hustle of our lives and embrace the pleasantly slow lifestyle of the Caribbean.  The country has a unique blend of crystal clear waters, top snorkel and scuba locations, Mayan ruins, tropical jungles and incredible wildlife. If you’re considering a visit to Belize, here is a list of 12 facts and tips you should know before you go.  

                                                  [already in the planning stages of your trip?  Feel free to jump to Top things to do in San Pedro”]

                                                  With so much to explore, here are 

                                                  Twelve things you need to know before traveling to Belize

                                                  1. English is the main language spoken.  Many people in Belize are tri-lingual, also speaking Spanish & Creole.  Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America.

                                                  2. Belize used to be known as the British Honduras.  They only gained their independence in 1981.

                                                  3. You can use US Dollars almost anywhere.  However, your change may be a mix of Belizean and US dollars.

                                                  4. For a small country (only 70 miles across), it’s incredibly diverse.  We were told by locals that there are at least four different cultures within the country: Creole, Mestizos, Mayan & Garifuna.

                                                  5. Regardless of background, Belizeans are known for their welcoming smiles.

                                                  6. The Belizean government has done an outstanding job preserving its natural habitat.  From marine preserves to animal welfare, this country truly cares about its long term impact on the environment.

                                                  7. Rice and beans simmered in coconut milk are a staple item, so vegetarians can be happy visitors here.

                                                  8. Most areas are safe for visitors, and getting around is fairly easy as their highways are all well-paved.

                                                  9. Coffee and chocolate in Belize are immaculate.  Be sure to buy lots of both to bring home with you.

                                                  10. Or better yet, move down to Belize as an expat.  There are plenty of tax breaks (so I’m told) and happy expats currently down there.

                                                  11. Belize is home to many rare animal species; tapirs, jaguars, manatees and hundreds of unique birds.

                                                  12. Archaeologists discover new findings every year of Mayan sites!

                                                  Belize is quickly becoming a top central american destination for tourists, and with a multitude of activities and sights to explore it’s easy to understand why.  If you have any questions about planning your trip to Belize comment below and I’d be happy to help!

                                                  If you’re planning a trip to Belize, check out my other blog posts on the most beautiful places to visit & the best things to do in Belize

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                                                  Mexico City Travel Advice

                                                  Mexico City Travel Advice

                                                  Tips to help you feel prepared for your trip to Mexico City

                                                  The most populous city in North America is a staggering characterization to anticipate for a non-Spanish speaking traveler.  However tourism is booming here. Each year millions come to explore Mexico City’s many museums, gardens, and clubs, and it’s begun to be spoken about in the same sentences as with London, Paris, etc.  Many have a misconception that the city is rife with crime, overpopulation and pollution. To the contrary, Mexico City is a beautiful and colorful destination waiting for you to explore its deep rooted history, culture, and possibly most important, food!  After traveling here, I’ve put together my most useful Mexico City travel advice.

                                                  20 Pieces of Travel Advice for Mexico City

                                                  1.  There are (essentially) no rules of the road.  People will drive in all directions and nudge their cars through where they want.  And adjust your ears for the car horns, as they are extensions of a Mexico City drivers arm.

                                                  2.  Public Transportation should be avoided if you are not a local.  Pick pocketing happens to many tourists, so use Uber instead

                                                  [New to Uber?  Use this link to earn your first ride for free on me!]

                                                  3.  Avoid the taxis too (they are pink & white).  This may be a preference on the traveler, but I’ve read plenty of stories of Mexico City taxi drivers who skim your credit card information and overcharge non-Spanish speakers.  If you insist on taxis, NEVER hail one from a tourist attraction. Go to the stations that have taxis parked, or one that your hotel can call for you.

                                                  4.  In fact, the ratio of drivers to people living in the city is fairly low, which makes its people more sustainable than most other cities.

                                                  5.  Overall, Mexico city is very safe for tourists!  In fact tourism is booming here; with over 12 million plus visitors coming each year.

                                                  6. The city is very vegetarian and vegan friendly!

                                                  Related: Here is a vegan food tour we did ourselves in Mexico City! ]

                                                  7. Mexicans are not fans of sarcasm and can take things very personally. So use caution if your go to humor is sarcastic. (*we were advised of this by a few different Mexico City locals, however I never experienced it firsthand)

                                                  8. Cinnamon is a popularly used spice.  Embrace it or go home.

                                                  9. Mexico City is not for morning people (or so I’m told).  They enjoy late nights out, and who couldn’t blame them with their exciting club scene.  Lucky for travelers, that just means it is easier to take morning photos since there will be less people out.

                                                  10. The city is massive.  While on a map it may not look like it will take you long to get there, in real time it will.  So, incorporate travel time and traffic if riding in a car.

                                                  Related: Mexico City Travel Guide ]

                                                  11. There are 16 districts in Mexico City, also known as colonias.  Each has its own personality, and vibe. Polanco, for example, is one of the wealthiest residential areas with expensive designer boutiques, upscale restaurants, and swanky clubs and hotels.  While Condesa and Roma are home to hip cafes and bars, quirky shops, and cool art galleries.

                                                  Related: Wondering where to stay in Mexico City?  Here’s why you should stay in Roma or La Condesa ]

                                                  12. The city was built on a high altitude lake bed- and it continues to sink… (could this be north america’s version of Venice?)  When people speak about pollution in the city this is because the air takes awhile to migrate away from this valley.

                                                  13. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so should not be missed.  The gastro scene in Mexico City is booming. You can find a delicious meal on any spectrum of price you’re willing to pay.  Dinner typically starts around 9pm.

                                                  14. Carry loose change to tip at restaurants.  10% is customary, and it can be left on your table when you depart.

                                                  15. Speaking of cash, it’s best to carry small denominations of pesos with you.  Use your credit cards for larger purchases.

                                                  16. Pack to dress in layers- the weather can be sunny all morning with showers in the afternoon.

                                                  17. You cannot and should not drink the tap water.  My advice would be to purchase a large jug of water at a local convenience store and refill your own water bottle throughout your trip.

                                                  18. Leave your valuables at home.  There is no need to flash off your expensive jewelry or handbags.  As a visitor, you can easily be targeted. We were even told that many locals won’t wear their nice jewelry out in certain areas of the city.

                                                  19. Dress smart.  While many may not wear expensive jewelry, as a whole, the people of Mexico City dress professionally.  

                                                  20. Set aside at least three FULL days in Mexico City.  While you could spend weeks here to see it all, the major sites can be done in a weekend.  Plus that’s three lunches and three dinners where you can eat your way to happiness here.

                                                  If you’re questioning whether you should go to Mexico City or not, the answer is YES, go!  The city is very affordable and safe for tourists. Have more questions? Check out my other posts about traveling in Mexico.  You can also leave a question in the comments below and I’ll be sure to respond and help you plan your trip!

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