The Perfect Way to Reduce Your Stress: Engaging Your Senses Through Travel

The Perfect Way to Reduce Your Stress: Engaging Your Senses Through Travel

Living through uncertain times has left many of us with higher stress and anxiety levels compared to before. Stress has become an ever-present, inescapable part of our lives that more often, we end up living with it. We all know that stress is counterproductive, so what can we do about it?

A good start is understanding that you can manage your stress. Be aware of your stressors and make stress management an indispensable part of your lifestyle. Take note of proven stress-reducing techniques.  Applying these to your lifestyle indicates that you are taking the steps towards wellness.

There are several evidence-based techniques to help improve your well-being. But often, they all boil down to these two principles: 

  1. investing more in experiences instead of material things; and 
  2. savoring these experiences and moments.

How and why do these techniques work? These reduce stress because they help the mind stay focused on positivity. By default, your mind wanders aimlessly, and a wandering mind typically goes off to dark places. This leads to you feeling anxious and stressed. Paying more attention to wellness and positivity, and investing in experiences, lets your mind become more engaged and activated to welcome and appreciate new things. The satisfaction you feel from your positive experiences also has a lasting, more enduring effect, compared to spending on material things.

So what better way to cope with stress? Vacation. Travel. Getaway.

Incorporating vacations into your lifestyle is a great way to combine these two stress-reducing principles. During travel, you can further cultivate a stress-free mind and body by harnessing the power of your senses. You need to savor each moment of your travel by mindfully recognizing its multi-sensory facets.

Here’s why travel is so good for reducing your stress and improving your well-being:

Travel is Conducive to Savoring (yes, literally!)

How can you not forget the mouthwatering meals you have on vacation? A ripe and juicy watermelon, the mix of a sweet and tangy dressing on a garden salad, the fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs, the crunch of delicious deep-fried chicken sambal, the array of seafood cooked in butter and herbs, capping off a meal with the perfect chocolate truffle. When you travel, you are likely to be fully in the moment, allowing yourself to enjoy and appreciate your meals more.

Going on vacation is the perfect way to indulge in food without any guilt. The food you eat not only nourishes your body but also lets you deepen your knowledge and appreciation of the place. The experience of trying unique flavors leaves a mark in your memory and provides you with comforting thoughts long after the vacation. Another stress-reducing benefit of food is how it brings people together. Sharing meals is the perfect way to bond with the people you are with.

Take Travel as an Auditory Adventure

By being mindful and intentional about what you absorb through listening, you can initiate a mood, cultivate learning, and build connections. The best part is that your auditory adventures like listening to music, talking to people, or delighting in nature’s raw symphonies are often inexpensive and accessible. 

Before your travel, create a dedicated playlist for your vacation to get you in the right mood. You can go from full-on upbeat tunes for active adventures or a more laidback selection perfect for a relaxing getaway. Sometimes it only takes a good playlist to turn idle waiting time into a window for relaxation. There are also meditation apps that you can check out for your travel. 

Being exposed to your travel destination’s local language makes way for great learning too! Even if the language in your travel destination is the same one you speak, being observant of a fresh vocabulary can take your mind off stressful thoughts. Another sensory delight is experiencing the local music scene. Enjoy a night of jamming by the beach. Dine-in restaurants that showcase local bands. Check for cultural performances that feature musical presentations.

Why are conversations during vacation time more memorable and impactful? Because we build better connections through active listening. Perhaps because you are far from your usual distractions, or the environment is more relaxed, being on vacation has a way of naturally allowing you to listen in more closely to the people you are with. Whether with locals or with your travel companions, being present through listening is a key element in creating meaningful conversations. When you are intentional about being your best self through listening, you learn more, and you are also able to give more.

Travel Activates the Soothing Aspects of Touch

Savoring tactile sensations is a great way to melt off stressful thoughts. On vacation, there are tons of ways to get the soothing benefits of touch. Hydrotherapy or immersing in water has inherent stress-relief properties. Taking a dip in a pool, soaking in a tub, or basking in ocean water are reliable ways to help you let go of stressful thoughts. You can also nurture positive feelings by going for a sunbathing session, feeling the sand or grass between your toes, getting a massage, or wearing comfortable clothes.

Travel Refreshes and Soothes us Through the Power of Smell

The popularity of aromatherapy and essential oils is a testament to the power of scents to help you de-stress. Remember how the comforting scent of a freshly cleaned hotel room gets your mood up, excited for all the good things that you will experience in the coming days? Once you go outside, you will be delighted by all sorts of scents that will invigorate your spirit.  When having a vacation in a place surrounded by nature, stress relief through olfactory sensations becomes accessible. The smell of seawater, fresh air, fragrant flowers, and fresh fruits. Savoring these pleasant smells allow you to inhale positivity and exhale toxicity.

Travel Opens your Eyes to a Visual Spectacle

Traveling opens your eyes to new sights, and your mind is nurtured through the sights you see.

Nature-filled vacation spots often lend a relaxing feeling.  Allow yourself to melt into the moment by resting your eyes on the horizon, seeing the vast stretch of the ocean touch the sky. After you enjoy the milieu, take time to feast on the smaller individual details that are unique in your surroundings. Flowers and fruits that are abundant in the place, animals that are endemic to that area. Unplug from your screens and enjoy a day of appreciating the captivating images that are unique to your travel destination.

Travel destinations with historical landmarks and cultural sites are also a great way to nurture the mind through imagery. Set time for a museum tour, visit an art gallery or take a stroll around town.  Creativity sparks from the new shapes, colors, and patterns that you see.  You can intensify your learning by asking locals or tour guides or reading up on more information about the meaning of the unique images you have observed in the vacation spot.

Investing in experiences is not only beneficial during the actual event. It gives you a positive boost while planning and anticipating the event. It also provides you with an array of happy memories that you can always go back to. The thought of travel and positive experiences will boost your mood, lessen your mind wandering, and increase gratitude.

So the next time you feel that you are drowning with stress, go plan that next trip. Welcome, all the awesome things you want to do. And when you’re finally on your getaway, savor those experiences to the fullest.

5 Great Ways Vacations Enrich the Whole Family’s Well-being

5 Great Ways Vacations Enrich the Whole Family’s Well-being

We all want the best for our family. We try our best to make smart choices that lead to the entire family’s everyday health and happiness. But what exactly does the good life mean? And how can we work our way towards better well-being? These are timeless questions pondered by every human being. There are many popular sayings, philosophies, and classic adages that shed light on pursuing happiness and well-being. Let’s take a look at what science has to say.

One of the most popular, science-driven perspectives on what adds up to a good life comes from positive psychology. Scientists who have studied successful and flourishing individuals highlighted 5 key elements to their happiness and health. Those who are familiar with Dr. Martin Seligman’s work know this as the PERMA theory of well-being. PERMA stands for: 

(1) Positive emotions

(2) Engagement (or having enjoyable activities), 

(3) Relationships

(4) Meaning, and 

(5) Accomplishments

Using these 5 elements as a guide can help us make smart choices for our family’s well-being and health. At the heart of these principles is the idea of investing more in experiences rather than material things to achieve true happiness. There are hundreds of ways to practice and apply these wellness principles to everyday life. That said, there are go-to activities that the family can do to promote positivity and wellness. Among them are having bonding activities like sports, spending time in nature, and going on family vacations.

We are all looking forward to the day when we can pack our bags and have that long overdue family trip to experience nature and the outdoors. Going on family vacations especially in nature-inspired places is a great way to uplift the entire family’s well-being. Studies show that the positive impact of travel and vacation on wellness begins way before the trip happens (even during the exciting moments of preparations) and extends long after the family has returned from their trip. Leaning into what positive psychology has to say, here are 5 ways on how traveling can enrich the well-being of the family, from kids to adults:

Positive emotions: for exciting adventures and moments of serenity

There’s so much more to positive emotions than feeling happy. A whole spectrum of emotions exists, from awe to zeal, and everything in-between. Experiencing more of these positive emotions contributes to helping us become healthier individuals. Positive emotions can be a lot more subtle than negative ones. The good news is that we can choose to focus on and be more intentional with these positivities. We can look at the past with gratitude, savor moments, and cultivate optimism for the future to name a few.

Organizing a vacation is a great way to be intentional about boosting the whole family’s positive emotion bank. Family holidays are a great way to load up on:

  • Enthusiasm and excitement. Planning your travel and looking forward to the next new and amazing activities often makes one feel more enthusiastic and excited. Including the whole family in the plan creates a shared anticipation and joy even weeks or months before the vacation.
  • Curiosity, interest, and a sense of wonder. Exploring the outdoors through activities like snorkeling, island hopping, and kayaking. 
  • Love and Kkindness. More opportunities open up to extend love and care to the family, to acquaintances, and even to strangers.
  • Peace and serenity. Unwinding after a day of exploring can give a feeling of serenity and gladness.
  • Gratitude and love. For starters, having the family safe, healthy, happy and experience a vacation together inspires gratitude. Apart from this, there are possibly a gazillion other unique reasons that may fill your gratitude list as you see your family spending time together in a picturesque place.

Engagement: enjoyable activities for everyone

Time flies when you’re having fun! Experiences that captivate your attention and simultaneously allow you to practice what you’re good at produce flow or that gratifying feeling wherein the activity is its own reward.

Saying yes to wanderlust can help bring outflow. The heart of travel is often trying out new things and enjoying them together. Going on island hopping tours, sightseeing around town, or even just enjoying laidback quality conversations during mealtimes are venues for engagement. 

Relationships: relish your time with the family

The quality of our social relationships contributes to the climate of our overall well-being. Warm, meaningful, and intimate relationships nurture us. Even those fleeting but amiable social connections we have with the boatman and local fish vendor can add up to boosting our overall health. 

Remember those fond memories of your loved ones as they enjoy building sandcastles and riding the waves? Going on a family vacation allows you to create memorable experiences with the people you love. A heartwarming quote by Leigh Hunt spells it out, “traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.” Kids will remember and cherish the time you spend with them much more than the material purchases you will give them. 

A few more reasons why taking the plunge and booking that tour is a great way to strengthen your family’s relationship:

  • Break the monotony! Experience new and old things together. A cup of coffee with someone you love has a different charm when you  have the ocean for a backdrop.
  • Greet each day with new discoveries et to know your family more. Does your child prefer land, air, or water travel? What new item on the menu did your partner enjoy most? With a stretch of uninterrupted time and in a fresh, new setting, you’ll get to deepen your bond and get to appreciatesee your family in a new light.
  • Experience new adventures through your children’s eyes. Having kids in tow allows you to take a slower pace, enjoying the scenes more, and seeing the adventures through fresh eyes.

Meaning: discovering and remembering what matters

Leading a purposeful life contributes to one’s well-being too. This comes from believing in a cause greater than yourself, committing to a life mission, or finding something that inspires you to keep ongoing. Yes, some life lessons we learn best outside the confines of a classroom.

Embarking on that nature-inspired vacation with your family allows you to take a step back from your usual routine to see things from a different perspective. Can’t see the forest for the trees, as the adage goes. Almost always, being transported to a different place surprises us with new and amazing things – from a hidden, picturesque scene at the end of a trek, to a relaxing dip at a newly found culture hub. The best of things unfold when we are with our family. The beauty of travelling with people you love can help you discover and rediscover what matters to you. Inspiring causes may resonate with you when you hop on that plane (or speed boat) with your family. 

Some meaningful statements that may resonate with you during a family vacation might include:

  • Quality family time matters.
  • The days are long but the years are short. Children grow up fast. It’s important to create meaningful experiences with them.
  • Travel is education beyond the confines of a classroom!
  • Diversity is beautiful. There’s a whole different way of life from what we are used to.
  • Nature is captivating –and we have a role to play in conserving its wonders.

When you come back home from your getaway, you know that you are enriched by the experiences. Long after the trip is over, even the mundane and ordinary moments you had during the vacation will warm your heart.

Accomplishment: check off some items on your bucket list

Feeling accomplished is borne out of working towards goals you set for yourself – learning a new skill, gaining mastery in a domain you are passionate about, and even simply sticking to a schedule you set such as working out three times a week. These accomplishments, big and small, allow you to look at your life with a sense of pride and contribute to your well-being.

Going on vacation with the family opens the door to a great sense of satisfaction. From organizing the getaway to experiencing new and exciting activities, to documenting the trip – beginning and capping off a vacation is truly rewarding.  Here are some vacation moments that add up to feeling accomplished:

  • Touchdown! That moment when you finally land in a place you’ve always wanted to visit.
  • Try things you have never done before. Yes, from scuba diving to building sandcastles.
  • Mesmerizing sights. Captivating mountain ranges, pristine waters, colorful corals.
  • Souvenir of your family photograph in a famous landmark. That includes the wacky takes!

For some, simply having everyone pooled together outside of everyone’s busy daily lives can be a sense of accomplishment. Ultimately, leading a happy and healthy family life is one of the biggest achievements one can gain and continue to strive for. 

Now that you know the five elements that help build well-being, it’s time to book that trip and make that vacation happen.

Understanding COVID-19 Testing

In navigating the new normal, chances are, you or your loved ones have been, or will be required to take a COVID-19 test.

The reasons will vary.  It could be for travel, to be allowed to work, or simply to find out if one is currently contagious or has been infected in the past.

As of this writing, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 1.4 million people around the world.

There are currently three types of tests you might be hearing that are related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19.

Here’s a brief description of each:

RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase PCR) test

The COVID-19 RT-PCR test is currently considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.  It detects the virus’ genetic material. Most, if not all countries, base their official number of cases on those done via PCR tests, not by any other method.

This is also the test required by most authorities in allowing inbound travelers. 

Usually, testing is done through a nose and throat swab test.  A six-inch stick (like a long cotton bud), is inserted in each nostril, and some include the throat, to get secretion samples.

This sample is processed in a laboratory to detect the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  A positive result means the virus’ RNA is present in the patient.  It could mean he is currently infected or was previously infected.  Remember the virus’ RNA can stay in a patient even if he is no longer infectious.

A negative result is generally considered a safety pass, although no testing is 100% accurate.  

The margin of error on an RT PCR test can be due to handling of samples, and delay in processing. Samples need to be kept in temperatures of -8 to -20 degrees celsius, and the ideal time for samples to be processed is not later than 72 hours after collection. 

In the Philippines, tests usually come out in 24 to 72 hours or longer, depending on the load of the laboratory. 

Antigen test

The COVID-19 Antigen test detects certain proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  This means if the proteins are present, then so is the virus.

The method of testing is also through a nose and/or throat swab, similar to RT-PCR.

The antigen test is particularly useful if a person is currently infected or at the height of infection.  That’s because antigens would be at their peak, and have more chances of being detected.

Unfortunately, it is not very accurate at the first few days of exposure.  This is because it usually takes a few days before the antigens are detected in one’s system.  So one could be exposed at an early stage — and might already be infectious — and get a negative result.

Despite chances of false negative results, an antigen test could still be useful, because of its lower cost and fast result.  Antigen test results can come out as quickly as 15 minutes after the swab. 

If one suspects possible exposure, an antigen test could be taken a few days after the suspected exposure (best to stay isolated in the interim).  If it yields positive, there’s almost a sure infection.  A confirmatory RT-PCR can follow or medical treatment as advised by a professional.

Antibody test

According to the Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 antibody testing, also known as serology testing, is a blood test that’s done to find out if you’ve had a past infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). An antibody test can’t determine whether you’re currently infected with the COVID-19 virus.”

“Antibody testing for COVID-19 may be done if:

  • You had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past but weren’t tested
  • You’re about to have a medical procedure done in a hospital or clinic, especially if you’ve had a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test in the past
  • You’ve had a COVID-19 infection in the past and want to donate plasma, a part of your blood that contains antibodies that can help treat others who have severe cases of COVID-19”

Webmd further says, “The antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system — your body’s defense against illness — has responded to the infection.”

A Filipino doctor and testing expert, Dr. Mike Vergara however says there are antibody test kits that could determine current infection.  “Some antibody kits detect IgM and not just IgG”.  IgM and IgG are types of immunoglobulins that attack viruses such as SARS-CoV2.  IgM is the first set of immunoglobulins produced by the body to determine if a perceived intruder is foreign or not.  If it is identified as foreign and threatening, the IgM calls for “backup” and the IgG takes over.  The IgG is also the one giving the body immunity.  

So a positive IgM (present in some antibody kits) means current infection, and a negative IgM, but positive IgG means past infection.

Purpose and Timing of tests

All three types of tests — PCR, ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY have their place in COVID-19 detection and prevention of spread:   

  • Before one becomes infectious – RT PCR can detect
  • Currently Infectious – RT PCR, ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY (with IgM measure) can detect.  Although ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY may miss the early parts of exposure 
  • Past Infection – RT PCR will still be positive, ANTIGEN will yield negative, ANTIBODY IgG will detect past infection and current immunity.

Reliability of tests

The reliability, efficacy and sensitivity of the type of tests depend on the institutions conducting it and the brands being used.  Always go for reliable and reputable agencies and products.

Developing Technology 

New tests and procedures on determining SARS CoV2 infections are continuously being developed, and so are vaccines.  As of this writing, at least three firms have reached final stages of vaccines testing. 

A detection method using just saliva is also underway. 

The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19

The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19 is still to go on a 14-day quarantine before travel or engagement.  If no symptoms come out, it is highly likely that one is negative from the virus, even without testing.  It is the best practice to employ before seeing loved ones. And of course the frequent washing of hands and wearing of face masks.

Definition of Terms

COVID-19 – The name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and is short for “Coronavirus Disease 2019.” (Source: WHO)

SARS-CoV-2 – The name of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. (Source: WHO)

Coronavirus – A family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus recently discovered has been named SARS-CoV-2 and it causes COVID-19. (Source: WHO)

Coronavirus – A family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus recently discovered has been named SARS-CoV-2 and it causes COVID-19. (Source: WHO)

*This article, though thoroughly researched, is not a substitute for a medical consultation. It is still best to speak with a medical expert on testing questions.

6 Things to Know About Travel Bubbles

What is a travel bubble?

“Travel bubble” is a new term coined during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as a solution to revive the economy and keep the tourism sector afloat. 

Also called a travel corridor, corona corridor, or travel bridge, and is considered the new normal in tourism.  

It refers to 2 countries opening their borders to each other. But its definition broadens, as more places try to reopen.  Now, travel bubbles can also refer to a few places within the same country opening its borders to a limited population so long as certain conditions are met.

While it doesn’t guarantee safety, it limits the risk for travelers and locals by setting certain standards set by both destinations. 

What do governments consider when forging travel bubble agreements with each other?

Countries near each other are more inclined to forge travel bubble agreements due to proximity.  Having similar strategies in dealing with the virus can also be a factor.  Another consideration is the number of coronavirus cases.  Places with a low number of covid-19 cases will open only to a partner with few or no cases.   Having direct flights is also a consideration.

What places have travel bubble agreements?

Travel bubble agreements between countries have been implemented and suspended and some are in the middle of negotiations. Some countries that have, or are negotiating travel bubble agreements with each other are New Zealand and Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore and Japan and South Korea. India and the Philippines are also looking to forge agreements with a few countries. And some countries in Europe have tried and suspended it due to rising cases.

Are there places in the Philippines that are open to travel bubbles?

In the Philippines, the Tourism department studied opening a few tourist destinations by the last quarter of 2020.  Some of these are Boracay, Bohol, Manila, Baguio and Palawan.  

How can one be part of a travel bubble?

Requirements differ from place to place but general guidelines include:

  • A negative RT-PCR test 72 hours before travel
  • Absence of co-morbidities or health risks such as diabetes, hypertension, heart or lung conditions 
  • Filling up of health declaration form
  • Filling up a contact tracing form or downloading a contact tracing app.  

For establishments such as resorts and hotels, they need to:

  • Secure certificates to operate from appropriate government agencies.  Here in the Philippines,  the Department of Tourism (DOT) issues Certificate of Authority To Operate (CATO) and some Local Government Units (LGUs) issue separate permits.  
  • Apply reduced capacity, usually 50% or if more, schedule activities and implement crowd control.
  • Limit dine-in crowd to 50% capacity or as determined by authorities.  Some only allow take-outs or room service.
  • Review the use of swimming pools.  Depending on the setup, some might deem it best closed or for booking per party.

What can travelers expect?

  • Temperature checks as one enters any establishment from the airport to the hotel.
  • Covid-19 health check forms to be filled out 
  • Use of technology for:
    • Contact tracing 
    • Generating QR codes for several uses such as 
      • Forms generation
      • Restaurant menus
    • Online payment
  • Not all tourist sites are open.  For those that are, there might be a limit to the number of people allowed.
  • Face masks and face shields might be required 
  • Social distancing of two meters or two arms’ length should be maintained
  • Reduced staff in business establishments including restaurants, banks, etc.
  • Some restaurants might need advanced bookings to control the crowd
  • Some travel bubbles initiated by hotels or resorts form a “bubble” group that travels together If you’re part of a group

Sites of El Nido

BIG AND SMALL LAGOONS

The lagoons in El Nido are said to be caves millions of years ago. Their roofs collapsed, leaving majestic limestone walls. In the case of the small lagoon, the rugged cliffs created a magical sanctuary with supremely calm and clear turquoise water.

HIDDEN BEACH

El Nido’s Hidden beach is one of the “30 Best Beaches in the World” according to Conde Nast Traveler’s June 2020 list? In 2018, it was voted the most beautiful beach in Asia and 3rd in the world by Canada’s biggest flight agency, Flight Network.  “The wild, vegetation-covered rock formations and crystal-clear waters of Hidden Beach will make you feel as if you’ve been dropped into a movie” – Sachin Aggarwal, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

On the sandbar at Snake Island

SNAKE ISLAND

Also known to locals as Vigan Island, Snake Island was coined due to the winding shape of the unique sandbar that connects the island to the mainland. Appearing daily at low tide, it’s an amazing experience to stroll along the sandbar and feeling like you’re in a deserted paradise. On both sides of the white sand strip are shallow swimming areas. “The water in this area is nothing short of spectacular. Crystal clear and stunningly turquoise – it’s pretty easy to see why this place is considered by many Filipinos to be paradise.”- Elle Burne, travel blogger

DULI BEACH

November to March is surf season in El Nido. A consistent swell in Duli beach makes it an ideal surfing spot

HELICOPTER ISLAND / DILUMACAD ISLAND

One of the 45 islands in Bacuit bay in El Nido, one is shaped like a chopper, hence its nickname, Helicopter island. Originally named Dilumacad island is like many others in the area with its long, white sandy beaches. It a good spot for experienced divers. Not advisable for children due to sudden drop in sea floor. There’s an underwater cave on the northern end.

CUDUGNON CAVE

A stunning display of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, the Cudugnon Cave is an archeological site where bones and artifacts were discovered.  It’s a must-see site that takes you back into ancient times when majestic rock formations, elevated cavernous ceilings and limestone cliffs dominated the landscape.

TARAW CLIFF

A hike to this highest peak in El Nido will reward you with a breathtaking panoramic view of Bacuit bay. The climb to Taraw cliff might be challenging due to the sharp rocks and tricky footing, but with an experienced guide and some caution, one should definitely consider scaling it. The incredible view makes it well worth it!

CATHEDRAL CAVE

Cathedral cave is on Pinasil Island, and is one of the many natural wonders of Bacuit bay.

There is an open chamber at the center of the Island where you can see that it has a shape of a cathedral surrounded by high rocky cliffs.

MATINLOC SHRINE

An alternative to Taraw cliff, Matinloc shrine also offers an amazing view of Bacuit bay, with its share of rock formations and scenic view, but with an easier hike. It’s an abandoned shrine with a port and a small gorgeous beach. 

Entrance fee is P100.

SEVEN COMMANDOS BEACH

A popular beach in El Nido, it has almost everything El Nido is famous for.  Situated under limestone cliffs, coconut trees line the stretch of the white sand beach where one can snorkel and swim

What is your favorite site in El Nido?

*This list is being continuously updated.

Tips for Traveling in Groups

Filipinos like to travel in groups.  Whether with family, or a group of friends, we love to share special moments and discover new things with our tribe. 

When we look through our travel photos, we don’t remember the planning that went into it.  But every wonderful travel moment was born out of good planning.

Here are a few tips to make your travel planning smarter:

DO:

Assign person/s in charge

Having a point person on areas of your trip ensures that you’ve got that aspect covered. Agree to have that person know details that matter: dates, times, requirements, documents, options, etc. Someone could be in charge of accommodations and another for transportation.  Don’t forget to have someone research activities in the area.  It might be best to do advanced booking.

Create a chat group

It may be moot to mention this nowadays but here goes. Use apps like Viber, Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger to post updates or poll for decisions. Make a new chat specifically for the trip. That way, it’ll easier to find things you talked about!

Agree on a budget

Have a budget agreed on early, to avoid surprises during the trip. The last thing you want is not to have money to buy that must-have souvenir or to pay fare for that last leg home. Some might be willing to spend on things that others are not.  You might want to divide things equally or per family or per item (eg food will be shouldered by one, the other will answer for activities etc). It is best to have this figured out before the actual trip.

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

Book early

Popular places run out of space fast during peak season.  If you’re a big group needing a sizable space, it would be good to lock it in early.  Always check for group rates. 

Use the perks of big group travel

Consider houses, apartments or villas instead of hotel rooms when choosing accommodations.  Some of the most stunning accommodations like castles or heritage houses are cost effective for a group.

Same goes for transportation.  A taxi might be too expensive if you’re alone or just for two travelers.  But for four, it might come out cheaper than a train or bus ride.  Consider also renting a van or coaster for bigger groups. 

DON’T

Don’t hesitate to ask

If the things you want are not mentioned explicitly in the website of the provider, drop them an email. You’ll be surprised at the possibilities when you ask.  Among them: room or vehicle upgrades, free extra beds, discounts, children’s rates, early or late check in.  Some establishments may be experiencing a slump or have extra inventory, or may have woken up extra generous! You never know what they can throw in a package.  Specially for big groups

Don’t over-schedule  

Plan the days as loosely as possible. Also put in free time to roam around. Best discoveries often happen this way.

Don’t feel bad about splitting up 

No one wants to be forced to do things while on vacation. You don’t have to be together all the time. It’s enough to come together for at least one meal a day.

Do you have any tips you can share?