Experience Cagayan – Places to Go and Things to Do

Next to Batanes, Cagayan is practically the northernmost province of the Philippines. Most people, even Filipinos, know little about this province except that it is part of the tobacco-producing region. In fact, Cagayan has been shortchanged in terms of recognition as a tourist spot, until it played host to the 27th and 28th seasons of the popular reality show Survivor.

Cagayan province is tourism quality, given that it has an extensive coastline from the Sierra Madre mountain range down to a central valley which forms the lower basin of Cagayan River, the longest river in the Philippines. The river and coastline, and islands that sprawl alongside the province are great venues for tourism. Fuga Island is being developed and is increasingly well-known as a key point of interest.

You can get to Cagayan by taking a flight to Tuguegarao Airport.  Alternatively, if you don’t mind driving, it would take 14-15 hours from Manila to reach Tuguegarao, Cagayan’s capital.  Another way, if you prefer a combination of driving and flying, is to take a flight to Laoag Airport and then drive from there to Tuguegarao, cutting across the scenic and zigzaggy highway which also brings you to the scenic coastline of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Visiting Cagayan province alone is already quite a rich experience in itself.  There are just so many varied places to see, things to do, and food to try if this is your first time in Cagayan.

Visit Palaui Island and Go Island Hopping

This island is home to a pristine beach, uninhabited islands, and awesome scenery.  In fact, this northern gem of an island has gained attention for its tourism potential.  The breakthrough that put this island on the map is that it was chosen as a venue for the Survivor reality show, and not just one but two seasons.

It may take a very determined tourist to brave the long drive to the province and the rough waters just to get to the place, but all the effort is rewarding when you discover Palaui’s unadulterated raw natural beauty.  While there, do drop by the historic Faro de Cabo Engano (Cape Engano), a 19th-century lighthouse already dubbed as a National Cultural Treasure for its key role in guiding vessels that pass through the Babuyan Channel.  The lighthouse has since been abandoned but still provides an idyllic and nostalgic ambiance of centuries past.  Palaui Island has earned a spot in CNN World’s 100 Best Beaches of the world.  Go for a day tour or spend an overnight and camp under the stars just like a Survivor contestant!

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Experience Cagayan - Places to Go and Things to Do 23

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You’ll be glad to know that there are other points of interest nearby.  For instance, you can go glamping in Anguib Beach Club if you prefer a more luxurious accommodation than just roughing it at Palaui. You can enjoy a sumptuous of seafood and local fare at Jerolynda’s White Beach Resort and Restaurant in Mapurao, a short boat ride from Palaui.  Or take a boat ride through a mangrove forest. Other key points are Siwangag Cove, Punta Verde, Crocodile Island, and Pugo Moro.  You can enjoy scuba diving, fishing, boating, and snorkeling around these areas.

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Visit Local Historical Churches

As with many Philippine provinces, Cagayan is not short of old, historical churches, each one with its own unique features and own stories to tell.

The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat

The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat, about 41 kilometers from Tuguegarao, is a major pilgrimage site of the valley.  Take some time to see the church’s patroness Our Lady of the Visitation.

You can coincide your visit to the church with the Sambali Festival that features a war dance of tribes who were converted to Christianity.  The festivities are held from June 23 to July 2.

Outside the church, there’s a flea market where you can find food and souvenirs, particularly of the patroness and other religious articles, and even tobacco in raw form.  Also sample the local delicacies, especially the pawa made of sticky rice with ground peanut filling.

Iguig Church
Iguig Church

If you plan to visit Cagayan sometime during the Lenten Season, make the San Antonio de Galicia Church part of your itinerary.  Also known as Iguig Church, it is quite notable because of the flying buttresses supporting its sides, typical of Gothic architecture.  The church is also built on top of Calvary Hill, which features life-sized Biblical characters depicting scenes of Christ’s death journey to Calvary, known as the Stations of the Cross.   Try this as a new and unique Lenten experience!

Calvary Hills
Calvary Hills

And while you’re already in Iguig, don’t miss Barangay Atulu, a village populated by indigenous Itawis.  Iguig is known as the Pottery Center of Cagayan.  This is where you can witness pottery and brick making by local artisans at its best. You can also purchase terra-cotta products like palayok (cooking pot) and kalan (stove).

Experience Cagayan - Places to Go and Things to Do 5 Experience Cagayan - Places to Go and Things to Do 6  Experience Cagayan - Places to Go and Things to Do 4Experience Cagayan - Places to Go and Things to Do 7

Try your Hand in Farming Activities at the Cagayan State University Piat Campus

CSU is aimed at transforming lives by providing the best agricultural education as well as boosting the Cagayan area as a tourist attraction.  The Piat campus serves as the center for agricultural courses and houses laboratories and other training facilities related to farming and agriculture.  It is an entire site where visitors can truly experience real farming, including cow milking, planting, harvesting produce, and fishing.

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View the Magapit Suspension Bridge

Cagayan has its own local suspension bridge also known as the Golden Gate of Cagayan.  This is one of two suspension bridges that cross the great Cagayan River. Unknown to many, it is actually the first hanging bridge in Asia.  The bridge is .76 kilometers long and links the first and second districts of the province towards the Ilocos region. You can get a good view of this bridge as you travel towards Aparri along the scenic Patapat Road. You need to travel by car to go on the bridge, and this provides you a breathtaking view of the river.  The bridge is also near other key places in Cagayan like Palaui Island and Castle in the Sky.

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Try the Local Cagayan Fare

No trip to any tourist spot is complete without trying the local cuisine.  Cagayan abounds in farm products like milk, eggs, poultry and beef.  These are put to good use by local food establishments.

Tuguegarao longanisa, also known as Ybanag longanisa, is especially tasty and tangy, as it’s made from ground pork mixed with salt and garlic, and cooked in its own fat.  One bite of this luscious longanisa will send its juices and flavor bursting right into your mouth and tickle your palate.

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Pawa is steamed bun made from malagkit or glutinous rice, and filled with ground sticky peanuts so it tastes like kakanin with peanut butter. This can be purchased at local vendors usually near churches and public markets.

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Cagayan also has its own version of noodles called Pancit Batil Patong.  The dish uses handmade noodles doused with a sauce, and is topped with meat, fried egg, and spices.

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A post shared by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

 

*Photos by Martin San Diego courtesy of North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB)

**Thank you very much North Philippines Visitors Bureau for sponsoring this trip and touring us around Cagayan during the Lakbay Norte 6.

Time to Explore Nueva Ecija this Summer!

When it comes to Philippine tourist spots, the first places that come to most people’s minds are Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, and Baguio.  But this does not mean that other provinces don’t have their own share of fantastic tourist spots which appeal to both foreign and local visitors. Actually, most Philippine provinces and towns have their own offerings and it’s just a matter of promoting them properly.

Nueva Ecija is one such place known to most Filipinos as a province that belongs to the Rice Granary of Central Luzon and a pass-through to reach famous spots like Sagada in Mountain Province and Baler in Aurora. But Nueva Ecija has its own hidden treasures to boast of, and you should make time to check them out this summer.  (Special thanks to the North Philippines Visitors Bureau for touring us around Nueva Ecija.)

The Minalungao National Park

This park houses the Penaranda River in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.  The river itself is a venue for many fun activities, like rafting, swimming, and cliff diving.  You will encounter interesting rock formations along the banks and spectacular scenery as you go rafting downriver. And for more thrills, try ziplining if you’re not acrophobic and feel yourself flying over the breathtaking horizon.

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm

Another great key spot in General Tinio is the PMP Paradise Farm which allows you to have close encounters with various familiar and not-so-familiar farm animals, such as sheep, carabaos, horses, and ostriches.  You can feed the animals, harvest fruits and vegetables, ride on a carabao-drawn cart, or go on horseback.  If you are the domestic type, you can engage in catching and cooking your own fish, and have a picnic outdoors. The farm people will even teach you how to make kakanin (rice pastry) like nilupak and palitaw.  And the farm is a perfect spot for a nice long stroll and picture-taking among grazing sheep or carabaos.

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant

Ice cream is a must-have this summer, and is everyone’s guilty pleasure.  If you are an ice cream aficionado, you should not fail to drop by this ice cream plant whose ice cream products have become iconic in the province for over six decades now. Aside from the main branch along Maharlika Highway, there are several other Puno’s Ice Cream branches within the city and other parts of the province.

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant Nueva Eciija

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant Nueva Eciija

People who have tried this ice cream claim that it’s even better than some leading brands in the country.  Puno’s Ice Cream has many diverse flavors like buko sherbet with lychees, ube cheese, langka, corn queso, and their bestseller, cheese cashew macapuno. And the delightful part is that a cup costs only Php13. What a steal!

NFA Grains Industry Museum

Also, located along the Maharlika Highway is another landmark – an agricultural museum.  This place highlights the evolution of this important agricultural product through various displays of artifacts about the whole process of producing, harvesting, milling, storage, and distribution of rice. Truly an educational experience!

NFA Grains Industry Museum

NFA Grains Industry Museum

PhilRice

Here’s another key spot in Nueva Ecija that puts focus on the province and the Central Luzon region’s main lifeblood – rice production. The place features experimental fields which apply new techniques in producing rice varieties. There are guided tours for visitors around the fields which showcases the center’s gene bank, plant breeding labs, and greenhouses. Be sure to check out the Future Rice Farm to see the various new technologies available for our farmers. A trip to PhilRice will make you appreciate more the hard work of our scientists and farmers to bring food to our table of the Filipinos.

PhilRice

PhilRice Nueva Ecija

PhilRice Nueva Ecija

Chanos Chanos

Drop by Chanos Chanos from some delicious baked bangus. It’s perfectly made and an ideal baon as you explore Nueva Ecija. Also, their rice tea and ube juice are a must-try!

Chanos Chanos Explore Nueva Ecija

Chanos Chanos Explore Nueva Ecija

CSLU Campus

CLSU stands for Central Luzon State University. It was set up as the government’s agricultural school and tourists are welcome to visit the 658 hectare campus.  CSLU houses several museums, each  with particular focus on one main industry in the region.

There’s a museum which features implements for rice and vegetable planting, hunting and fishing implements, and indigenous household tools. These displays are meant to enhance awareness and appreciation of the Filipino cultural heritage, with special focus on agriculture as the region’s primary industry.

Explore Nueva Ecija CLSU

Explore Nueva Ecija CLSU

The Biodiversity Museum features replicas of different types of ecosystems – terrestrial, forest, and freshwater.  There are exhibits of insect, macrofungi, invertebrate, and other bioresources. This place will truly spark interest in ecology.

The Living Fish Museum has collections of indigenous and tropical flora and fauna native to some provinces in Luzon, and will surely entertain as well as instruct visitors of all ages.

Other CLSU areas of interest are the mushroom and hydroponics centers which feature revolutionary gardening methods such as soil-less culture.

Milka Krem Carabao's Milk
Have you tried Carabao Milk? You can buy it in the Milka Krem factory in CLSU.

Milka Krem Carabao's Milk

Caffe La Tea

And while you’re in this neck of the woods, take a light meal or snack at the Caffe La Tea in Cabanatuan City. This fast-growing and increasingly popular diner’s haven has been expanding into other regions including Metro Manila.  Try their signature milk teas, smoothies, and coffees. Pair these off with their luscious cheesecakes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes.  For a fuller meal, try their various rice, pasta, and sandwich entrees. They even serve shabu-shabu. Check their menu here. So much variety to suit all tastes!

Caffe La Tea Cabanatuan

Caffe La Tea Cabanatuan

Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort

Want to have all the exciting activities in just one place? Try the attractions at the Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort.  You can swim at the huge Olympic-sized pool in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, swoosh down the five-storey slide into the pool, splash and sway at the wave pool, or slide through the air with a zipline.  There are just so many fun things to do at Crystal Wave.  The good news is that you can book a hotel room and dine at the restaurant here in case your fun activities run overtime.  Better yet, book in advance and make this resort your primary accommodation as you enjoy the other attractions that Nueva Ecija has to offer.

Crsytal Waves Resort and Hotel

Crsytal Waves Resort and Hotel

 

Places to Stay

Aside from the Crystal Wave Resort, there are other comfortable and luxurious hotels to stay while visiting Nueva Ecija.  There are budget hotels like Microtel, Hotel Consuelo, and Top Star which offer Internet access, flat-screen TVs, and luxurious bath toiletries at reasonable prices. For more fastidious travelers, there’s the Harvest Hotel with ultimately luxurious facilities.  Your choices are not limited to these. You can look up other accommodations at hotel booking sites like Agoda.com and Airbnb.com.

So, make Nueva Ecija your next summer destination!

*Photos by Martin San Diego courtesy of North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB)

Top 10 Things to Consider When Booking a Hotel in the Philippines

Despite some economic and political instabilities, the Philippine tourism industry continues to grow.  Each year, more and more new hotels or resorts are built in different locations in the country, even the remotest ones.

Whether you’re a foreign visitor or a staycationer, you will no doubt be faced with the common dilemma of where to stay in particular spots in the Philippines.  But there’s no need to worry because there are top-ranking accommodations throughout most of the destinations in the country. Traveloka.com is one booking site where you can check out rooms, prices, and reviews. You might even get the chance to avail of discounts through their promos.

Hotel ratings may be important as a basis of choice, but here are 10 other major considerations before you finally book that accommodation.

  1. Price / Cost of Accommodation

Yes, a 5-star hotel may be everyone’s dream accommodation, with all its luxurious facilities and posh ambience.  But to a family who merely want a comfortable and secure place to stay as they have a grand tour of the country, a 3-star accommodation will do, especially if it’s an overnight stay.

You should confirm the room rate even before booking.  Booking sites show you the exact prices as of specific dates.  Apart from the room rate, also find out if the hotel has any seasonal promotion which will in turn save you big bucks.

  1. Location, Location, Location

Like a residence, a hotel should be conveniently located.  For example, if you are visiting a beach area, the hotel you stay in should be within walking distance of it, unless you’re willing to pay for a taxi or go on a long trek.  And for metropolitan areas, make sure that it’s strategically located beside shopping and dining areas, and of course, key landmarks.

  1. Facilities

You’re on vacation so you should stay at a place with decent facilities, like restaurants and functioning bathrooms. If you have an active lifestyle, you would want a place with a pool, a gym, or even a jogging path.  And if you’re traveling with your children, you may want to book at a place that has a children’s play area and pool.

  1. WIFI and Other Amenities

WiFi connection is quite a major consideration of most travelers and staycationers.  You would like to stay connected to friends and family or be on top of your company’s matters even while away.

For some people, especially women, even having a hair dryer and bathtub would be a big factor in their choice of hotel.  And it’s always great to have cable TV to relax after a long day.  And of course, it’s reassuring to have an in-room safe to keep valuables, and a mini-bar to brew your morning coffee if you’re still waiting for your roommate to get dressed.

  1. Transportation

As with location, the availability of transport facilities is a priority, especially if you don’t have your own vehicle.  Consider where you can find taxis, buses, or trains to take in order to get around.  Some hotels even provide shuttle service for going to the mall.  And most importantly, can your hotel arrange for you to be picked up from or dropped off at the airport?

  1. Complimentary Breakfast and other Freebies

It is not surprising that many hotel guests would rather have their first meal of the day right at their hotels before setting out.  So it would really be a great convenience if their accommodation includes complimentary breakfast meals.  And if you’re a fitness aficionado, you will really appreciate free use of the pool and gym.  These freebies can translate into huge savings which you can use for shopping and other travel expenses.

  1. Room Type

If you’re alone, it is not a big problem to book a single room with one bed.  But with your family or friends, you will want to get doubles, adjoining rooms, or even suites to minimize costs. Want to cook your own meals? Then consider getting an apartelle type complete with kitchen appliances.

  1. Room Size

It may not be a big deal if you’re alone. But this would matter if you are sharing the room with others, and if you are staying more than one night.  Your room should have enough space to place your baggage and carry-ons, and yet provide enough space for you to move around the room and not stumble over them.  Consider too that you need to provide extra space for your purchases.

  1. Hotel Policies  

Most important among hotel policies are the check-in and check-out times.  These schedules will also determine what time you need to arrive or depart from the hotel.  And in case the hotel has a strict after-lunch only check-in time, ask the hotel staff if they can store your baggage somewhere safe.  Same thing goes for check-outs, especially if you still have a good number of hours left between check-out time and your flight. If you’re lucky, there are hotels which allow for very early or even anytime check-ins.

Also remember to ask the hotel about policies for extra beds, nannies, pets, and any other special needs.

  1. Reviews

Finally, it’s always good to do some research on what former guests have said about the place. You don’t always have to take their word for it, but get a balanced set of both positive and negative reviews. Consider though that people have their personal reasons for their reviews.  And reviews can give you an idea of what to expect.  Also look up listings of top hotels in the area, through booking sites like TripAdvisor or Agoda.

5 Things to Do in the Philippines Over Christmas

When we conjure up images of Christmas it is usually snow and log fires. For those looking to celebrate the season without fishing out their winter clothes, the Philippines is an ideal place to visit. In this post we look at 5 things to do during the Christmas season in the Philippines. (When I say season, Christmas here is from September until January)

1. Visit a Beach

The most attractive thing to do over Christmas in the Philippines is to travel to one of the country’s beautiful beaches. While traveling anytime of the year is special, moving around the Philippines over the Christmas period is even more unique as instead of throwing snowballs you will be lying in the sand. There are many great beaches to choose from across the country. Wander Wisdom made a list of the top 10 beaches in the Philippines depending on whether you want somewhere tranquil or livelier like Boracay, which is the party island of the country.

2. Go to Church

The Philippines has a strong Catholic heritage and during Christmas there are many celebrations. Two Monkeys Travel Group state that one of the oldest Christmas traditions in the Philippines is Simbang Gabi, which takes place during the buildup to Christmas. This mass usually begins at 4 am and Filipinos come to the church to worship and help fulfill someone’s wish to come true. For visitors, this is a chance to see the spiritual side of the Christmas season in the Philippines.

3. Shopping

With Christmas comes shopping and with shopping comes the Christmas sales. The popularity of shopping at Christmas is so big in the Philippines that When in Manila devised a list of 7 shopping tips. On the list they recommend either going very early or late to the malls to avoid queues and to take your time shopping, as there will be many deals you won’t want to miss out on.

4. Watch Sport

Manila is a great city to spend Christmas in. For sports fans that might be worried that they are missing out on their favorite games, Manila has several sports bars to see the action. Skinny Mike’s in Taguig (The Fort) is catered more towards the American sport scene and regularly shows the NFL, NHL, and MLB. For soccer fans wanting to get their Premiership fix the Belle & Dragon in Makati is the place to be. Soccer is seeing a surge in popularity in the Philippines and the Premier League is very popular among locals. One aspect of this rise in interest is that the two most famous managers in the world, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, manage rival teams in Manchester, according to Premier League analysis site Betfair. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find either Skinny Mike’s or the Belle & Dragon full with fans wearing sports jerseys from both City and United.

5. Eat

Christmas is always a time to indulge and nowhere is this truer than in the Philippines. The Kitchn states that Christmas in the Philippines is always a feast with Christmas ham and lechon (a whole roasted pig) usually at the center of the table. One interesting fact from the Kitchn is that Filipinos like their food on the sweeter side and that the hams are usually encrusted in either brown sugar or a syrup glaze, so be prepared for some sugary goodness on Christmas Day.

How to Get Internet Access for your Phone while Visiting the Philippines

The Internet has become an indispensable part of anyone’s lifestyle anywhere in the world.  As a traveler, you are most concerned about being able to use your mobile phone to access the Internet to check your email, use your favorite mobile messenger app, research travel destinations, access Google Maps or just about any purpose.

First of all, I would like to mention that internet access in the Philippines pretty much sucks so don’t expect too much. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue.

Prepaid SIM

The most common thing to do is to purchase a prepaid SIM card from the airport arrival area or any local store that sells mobile cards. There are two mobile companies servicing the Philippines: Smart and Globe. In my experience, Smart has better coverage in rural areas, especially in the islands.

globe-traveler-sim
Free Globe Traveler SIM // Image from globe.com.ph
Smart Prepaid SIM
Smart Prepaid SIM // Image from smart.com.ph

 

You also need to purchase cellphone loads which come in different denominations ranging from PhP1 to PhP1000.  This will enable you to make calls, send text messages, and access the Internet using mobile data, all at local rates. Once you use up the load amount, you can replenish it with another card or buy a load from a “sari-sari store” (neighborhood convenience store) near you.

But while this is a good way to stay connected while traveling, the SIM card is not without its disadvantages. Its efficiency will also depend on the area’s connectivity.  There are areas with little or no Internet signal available.  Some areas have stronger signals only on selective basis depending on the service provider.  Each cellphone load, depending on the amount, has limited data and you have to consume it within a certain time period, like within three to thirty days. If you’re a typical heavy Internet user or caller, you could deplete your phone’s load in no time. And most of all, it will cost you a lot to use your local SIM to call overseas from the Philippines.

Pocket Wifi Rental

Another way is to rent a Pocket Wifi from the airport. This pocket Wifi allows you to access the Internet anywhere. However, making any local calls will cost you as much as overseas calls, unless you use FaceTime or Viber.  And rental rates are expensive at about $7 to $15 per day. And you have a big responsibility of returning the pocket Wifi in good condition. The one I know who offers this service in the country is myPAL Roam of Philippine Airlines.

My PAL Roam
Launching of My PAL Roam

Flexiroam X

Now, there’s a better and cheaper alternative for travelers — the Flexiroam X.  This is a thin microchip which is attached to the top of your own existing SIM card and enables roaming services for overseas travelers in over 200 countries.  The microchip connects to local networks during your stay in the Philippines, or any other country that Flexiroam serves.

Flexiroam X
Flexiroam X // image from flexiroamx.com

For a small 1 year membership fee of $9, you’ll get a starter pack which contains the microchip can enjoy up to 100 MB of voice and data roaming service for one year. You can also purchase additional 1GB data pack $29.99.for And in case you want to renew after one year, your unused data can be carried over to the following year.  You need not worry about when you might use up the data, as you have a full year of access.

Subscribe to Flexiroam X Membership
Subscribe to Flexiroam X

The best thing is you can earn FREE DATA of up to 100GB by referring your friends or by interacting with the app.

Register Now! Just Follow the Instruction below. Don’t forget to use my referral code MARKCONRAD.

You can install the microchip even before leaving your home country, so you don’t have to waste time buying a SIM  or getting a pocket Wifi rental when you reach the Philippines.

The Flexiroam X starter kit will be sent to you by mail within a few days, and you can immediately install the microchip by sticking the small microchip onto your existing SIM card.  Next, you configure APN and activate data roaming. Then start enjoying roaming services anywhere for only a fraction of the price!

Top 9 Survival Tips for Holiday Travel

Whether you are travelling during Christmas holidays or going to spend an entire week of Thanksgiving with your grandmother, travelling during holidays is much more difficult than other working days. The difficulty arises because many people all around the world travel simultaneously. In these cases passengers find themselves caught up in many situations from ticket reservation to the security of their luggage. Traveling during holidays can also be stressful and costly making you panic in many situations and the overall situation all the worse. For these cases, here is a list of ten important survival tips which can save you from expected troubles:

Luggage at Airports

  1. Avoiding Peak Travel Days

Even if you are traveling for a particular occasion – Christmas or Thanksgiving – the choice of the day in which you depart is crucial. If you are traveling for Thanksgiving on Wednesday – a day before Thanksgiving – you are more likely to get a lot of trouble. On the other hand, if you travel exactly on the Thanksgiving Day you will not only get discounts but you will experience a relatively comfortable journey. In the same way, holidays during Christmas and New Year fall differently each year; all you have to do is keep in mind two things – pick up those days for travelling which will not minimize your vacation, on the other hand, consider prices of tickets which may vary with the choice of days.

  1. Buying Travel Insurances

Particularly during winter days there is the probability that from 5 to 10 % flights will get cancelled because of weather conditions. In these cases, the main problem is not the cancellation of flights but the difficulty of booking tickets in the subsequent flights and the anxiety and stress caused by so much wait. There is this solution which does not only secure you from worrying about reservations but also saves you from lots of anxiety because you feel certain, and that is travel insurance. Travel insurance provides you with maximum benefits like cancellation coverage and good trip delay. Many companies provide variety of travel options and discounts; you can explore all this on Groupon.

  1. Knowing the Airports

Knowing the airports of your destination is always advised but during holidays you should also know alternate airports where the flight can possibly land. These gambits will prove themselves lot more helpful than you initially think. It so happens most of the time that due to overcrowding and weather conditions most flights take alternate lands and the stay can be as long as three days depending on the situation. In this case, if you don’t know the alternate airport and its vicinity – that is to say, where can you find moderate accommodation and car rental and whether there are any traffic problems – you are likely to pay much more in these situations.

  1. Maintain Connections

For security and other reasons, you should always maintain connections either with your friends or your family members, anything can happen at any time. For instance, if you lose your credit card and you don’t have any money either then the best option is to contact any of your friends or family members for assistance. If nobody is aware of your trip and everybody is busy in his activities then you aren’t going to get a response from any of those and it will cause you a lot of trouble.

  1. Pack Wisely

Packing wisely can also save you from a lot of trouble. If you have multiple bags and everything is packed in those bags – especially liquids like gel, and the security check procedure of these liquids is changed nowadays according to TSA rules – you will regret it. At many airports, you are allowed to purchase liquids like a bottle of water or coffee after your luggage is checked and when you have underwent security examination. It also depends on the quantity of the liquid materials; if it is less than 3.4 ounce you should pack it in a different bag – with top zip made of plastic. If the quantity is more than 3.4 ounce it should be packed with the checked luggage. There are also different domestic travel companies which charge you for checking your luggage; in these situations more the luggage, the more you will be charged. Therefore, keeping in mind all these things it is advised to pack your things wisely.

  1. Leaving Early

Since we are considering holidays it is worth mentioning that everyone remains in a hurry during holidays whether going on a domestic land drive or going to an airport on a cab. In these cases, you can get stuck up in a traffic jam and still traffic jam is the least of your worries because in holidays you need to consider other things like long lines at the airport, long security check-ups, and the crowd. In these situations, if you wish to reach the airport early, you should leave for the airport early. Anticipating all the above-mentioned problems leaving early means leaving an hour or two early rather than fifteen or twenty minutes.

  1. Traveling Early or Late in the Day

If you want to save yourself from all the crowds and long lines, travel at times in which most people are sleeping or are least likely to travel – very early in the morning or late in the day. Most of the flights are least congested during these times, and one other benefit is that these flights are never delayed except in rear cases. If you have selected to travel at these times do not misunderstand that you don’t need to head up early because there will be no crowd. Although most flights, at these times, remain ready to leave on time, it still takes some time to check-in and all the same – whether day, night or afternoon – leaving home early is the best option.

  1. Being Calm and Relaxed

It happens with many persons that they feel panicked or uncomfortable during check-ins at airports and the attitude of flight attendants makes the conditions worse. First of all, if you are prepared well – that is to say, if you have packed selectively and wisely and you have in your mind all the plan of your journey and you are prepared for something unusual – then there is no need to worry and feel frustrated or anxious.

  1. Getting a Better Seat

Everything else done – packing and planning etc. – if you want to enjoy the journey, get a better seat in the airplane. If you are stuck up in the middle rows and everyone you find beside you is chattering then your journey towards your desired place is going to be a journey towards hell. This situation will make you tired of the journey and once you will land you wouldn’t feel as happier as if you were comfortable on the plane. The key to getting a better seat is booking early and exploring different travel companies online.

Other Tips

  1. Make sure your vehicle is gassed up the night before travel because leaving for the airport and buying gas on the way is going to cost a lot of time.
  2. Make sure that you have phone numbers for everything – hotel, car rental agency and the friends you are visiting.
  3. Try your best to choose those flights which are non-stop.

 

Packing Tips: How To Pack The Right Way

With the advancement of technology and with the development of different companies traveling is not an arduous task anymore. You just have to pick your luggage to go to different corners of the world and it’s only a matter of hours – not months anymore. But the journey is made all the more beautiful by different tips like using travel system for organization and choosing the right travel products for the organization.

There are many discounts available on Groupon for travel products. The former includes the use of the right bag, packing aids, and right accessories. While the latter involves the careful selection of which bag should be used, how things should be packed with fewer wrinkles and which necessary accessories should be packed etc. But before you do any of these things you need to make a complete checklist of most necessary things and then categorize them which things belong in which bag either in the luggage bag or day bag. By following these techniques you will not only feel comfortable during your journey but it will also make you more confident. There are other expert packing tips like the organization of luggage within bags, removal of electronic gadgets from those bags which will undergo security examination and use of extra packable duffel for unexpected treasure are things worth remembering and practicing in your travels.

Check out this cool infographics for more packing tips and tricks

Packing Tips: How To Pack The Right Way

Co-produced by :Rebateszone & Plan Your Trip Now

Z Hostel – A Backpacker’s Luxury Hostel Right in the City

A hostel is the usual accommodation of choice for backpackers or people who travel light and on a very inflexible budget.  The word “hostel” brings to mind a small to average sized type of accommodation for backpackers, usually students and others on a budget. Hence, you expect to find a dormitory type building with cramped rooms shared with several other guests. Usually, a hostel room contains simple furniture and minimal or absent decors, no television or microwave, and only a common external bathroom shared by all rooms on one floor.  Staying in a budget hostel means doing away with comforts like air conditioning, hot water, Internet access, and in-room bars.

Then, here comes Z…

Just arrived at Z @zhostel Watch out for more pics later #hostel #hostellife #hostelworld #hostels

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

This ingenious little backpacker hostel in Makati is conveniently situated right in the middle of a hip and progressive community called Barangay Poblacion teeming with multicultural but affordable dining establishments, a night market, bars and street food outlets, and two shopping malls just a stone’s throw away. There are even more exciting developments in the near future so watch out!

In fact, Z Hostel is the first and biggest luxury hostel to be opened in the country as a response to a new trend of travel accommodations which combine comfort and high standard with the social-oriented concept of shared rooms.

This unique Makati hostel has 128 beds, a cafe and a roof deck bar.  There are three types of rooms to choose from — private room, female dorm room, and mixed dorm room.  Private rooms cost about $52 and accommodate up to two people, while dorm rooms are only $17-$21 and can house anywhere from 4 to 8 people.  All rooms have free wifi access and dorm rooms have individual lockers to secure your luggage and valuables, especially if you choose to share a room with complete strangers. There is even a socket right inside your locker so that you can leave your gadget locked securely while charging it.  Hostel guests also get free breakfast.

And unlike other hostels where you have to go out of your room and even fall in line just to take a shower, the 4 pax Z Hostel dorm room has its own bathroom, shared only by the occupants of the room.  Lockers in dorm rooms are also bigger than average, so you have enough space for all your valuables. Each bunk bed in dorm rooms has its own lamp and socket for your convenience, as well as a towel rack to hang your towel. All rooms have no television, but this is for the main purpose of allowing guests to interact with each other. If you really need to watch TV, there’s one in the café.

power outlet
very useful power outlet on bed side

You can lounge around in the lobby which has a book exchange area and comfortable couches. You can use the desktop computer to either plan your next itinerary, confirm your flight, or check your email.

The Z Hostel Cafe serves authentic Filipino cuisine (must try: Adobo flakes).  Food is delish! Not to be missed is the Z Roofdeck Bar which provides you a spectacular view of the Makati skyline, as well as keep you entertained with exciting nightly performances from local artists and DJs.

For more variety, you can also walk to nearby dining and shopping establishments, or take a jeep ride to the Makati Central Business District for other fun activities.

Not just for Backpackers

Although Z Hostel is popular with backpackers or flashpackers, they also cater to corporate clients. The hostel can accommodate employees who are on a business trip in Makati – attending conference or meetings. Since it is in the Makati business district, it is very accessible to different conference venues and recreational places. You can do all your work during the day and still have time to hangout at night.

You can also book the dorm rooms with your team mates and have your team building activity at Z hostel. You can use their game room for movie marathon, games, talent show or whatever you want. Just coordinate with the Z hostel staff. I’m sure they’ll be happy to assist you.

Z Street

As I mentioned earlier, Z is brewing something special. I’ve spoken to one of the owners to find out what it is. He shared to me their plans to transform the community into something like Khao San Road in Bangkok. They’ll be curating restaurants, bars, art galleries, and other specialty shops in the area around Z. I really can’t disclose much about it but I’ll just show these pics as teasers.

This building is the initial part of the plan. It houses 4 restaurants and bars serving coffee, craft beers, wines, and rice meals.

Z hostel developments

Another property under development is this one. The property has a certain rustic charm. Looks perfect to do a photoshoot, right?

The great thing about this is they’re re-purposing the current structures and not tearing them down. Metro Manila badly need these kind of developments that makes an effort to preserve the old houses along with the story and vibe of the area. Expect to see these new hang out places on the later part of 2016.

So whether you’re a lone backpacker from abroad, a local attending a conference or a staycationer who wants to spend a weekend sleepover with friends, Z Hostel is absolutely perfect for your needs. Who needs a 5-star hotel?

75 Years of Philippine Airlines in a Coffee Table Book

Being Asia’s first airline, Philippine Airlines’ history is filled with a lot of ‘first’ in the airline industry and how it’s linked to our country’s history. The story of PAL is the story of the Filipino people’s desire to travel and explore our country and the rest of the world.

My 1st PAL Experience

As a young boy, I was fascinated with airplanes and airports. As with any other Filipino family, it’s always a special time when we pick-up relatives arriving from the airports. It was more special for me as this means I would get a chance to see these huge airplanes and hear the sound of their engines roaring down the runway while I’m dreaming of riding it one day.

The opportunity came when our family planned to visit my mother’s province – Samar. I was about 11 years old when I first rode an airplane. It was our parents treat for us so we could experience riding a plane. Of course, we flew with PAL which was the only domestic airline at that time.

Philippine Airlines 1994
In keeping with the theme of the coffee table book, I’m posting this throwback pic of my first time to ride an airplane

I can still remember how excited I was to see this big Airbus plane in the old Manila Domestic Airport waiting for us to come aboard. I also remember the excellent service provided to us by the flight stewardess, especially when they gave us candies when our ears started to hurt because of the air pressure.

No matter how many times I ride an airplane, I still feel the same excitement every time I fly with PAL (whether here or abroad) because I know I would experience the same hospitality that I remembered from my childhood.

Book Launch

When I was invited to attend the Philippine Airlines coffee table book launch, I just have to say yes. This is one of the brands I grew up with and inspired me to travel. It is an honor to be part of this significant event.

This coffee table book is just one part of the many celebrations lined by PAL for their Diamond Anniversary. The event was held on July 1, 2016 at the Century Park Hotel. It was attended by top executives of the Philippine Airlines and other key players in the aviation industry.

PAL Chairman/CEO Dr. Lucio Tan and PAL President/COO Jaime Bautista. Background: Flight Attendants wearing the different uniforms through the years.
PAL Chairman/CEO Dr. Lucio Tan and PAL President/COO Jaime Bautista. Background: Flight Attendants wearing the different uniforms through the years.
Philippine Airlines Employees
Philippine Airlines Employees
with the Philippine Airlines' Flight Attendants
with the Philippine Airlines’ Flight Attendants
Mr. Jonathan P. Gesmundo, Editor in Chief of PAL's coffee table book
Mr. Jonathan P. Gesmundo, Editor in Chief of PAL’s coffee table book

Part of the event is a gallery showcasing the milestones that the airline has achieved over the decades.

Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 3 Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 2 Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 4 Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 5 Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 7 Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book 6

Here are some of the interesting facts I learned:

 

Philippine Airlines’ 1st ticket (ticket number 1). The first revenue flight is from Manila to Baguio

Philippine Airlines Coffee Table Book Trivia

Before, the flight time across the Pacific is 41 hours!

Philippine Airlines first female pilot

The Philippines’ 1st female pilot is also Asia’s first female pilot

All of these interesting facts are also in the coffee table book which I was able to get a copy signed by the PAL President himself.

PAL President signing my copy of PAL's coffee table book
PAL President signing my copy of PAL’s coffee table book

This experience has made me even more excited to fly with Philippine Airlines in the future. Meeting the people behind this great brand, made me appreciate the company even more. In fact, I have already booked a flight with them for Boracay in New Year’s Eve .

Cheers for more exciting years ahead for Philippine Airlines!

***You can buy the coffee table book from PAL Boutique. Follow them on your favorite social media accounts:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineAirlinesBoutique
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/palboutique/

Manila Pub Crawl is Back!

The First and Biggest Pub Crawl in the Philippines is back in Manila!

Manila Pub Crawl

More than two years ago, I’ve got the chance to join this group in some of their crawls. Back then, they were known for their “Party Jeepneys” roaming around the streets of Makati, The Fort, and Quezon City. It was kind of sad when they stopped their crawls as many of my friends and acquaintances were looking for the fun they started.

Before the start of 2016, one plane ticket posted in their Facebook Page changed everything. Without any particular details, aside from they will go to Makati, in less than fifteen days, their launch date was booked out! Talk about fans who missed the fun!

It feels weird to leave the island and go back to the city. But it's already 2016, a new beginning. Are you ready to…

Posted by Manila Pub Crawl on Friday, January 1, 2016

This Saturday, they will have their Valentine Crawl Special “to celebrate the love and friendships we have” based on their page. I’ve got the chance to talk to my dear friend, the former Chief Operations Officer of Boracay PubCrawl and now the head of their Manila Branch Redd Panes.

What’s Manila PubCrawl?

RP: In other words, we are a bar-hopping activity. But we are more than just a party. Yes, we go to bars and clubs, and we drink shots. But as our slogan says “Turn Strangers into Friends,” that’s our focus. We make sure that you’ll make new friends at the end of the night. This is the safest place to hang out in a night and to meet interesting people from all over the world. We play games, we have crazy rules, we’re just having pure fun! And our staff are dedicated to ensure that you are having your #bestnightever.

Manila Pub Crawl Best Night Ever

What’s the difference of the New Manila Pub Crawl?

RP: We have three years of research and actual practice in Boracay PubCrawl! We are bringing the elements that made Boracay PubCrawl successful. Here in Manila, it is quite a challenge because the environment and mindset is different but that’s the best part! The unique thing about the Manila PubCrawl is this is a place to really find new friends that you can hang out with or do activities with in the future.

Manila PubCrawl beer pong

How does it work now? Do you still use the Party Jeepney?

RP: For most of our crawls now, we are doing it Boracay style—walking! Plus, the traffic is horrible. 🙁 So we go to five different places in a night where you get a free shooter in each bar and exclusive drink specials. We still wear the iconic yellow shirt that you can also use in Boracay to get discounted rate in their PubCrawl. But watch out for the return of the Jeepneys in some of our events.

Manila Pub Crawl jeepney

How much is it and what does it cover?

RP: The regular cost is 990 but we have a promo for the launch, which is 50% off or 495, for the first 40 tickets. It covers your shirt, party kits, five free shooters and free entrance in the clubs we will go to. You also get drink specials in every bar.

Pub Crawlers

Why do we have to join PubCrawl?

RP: Because you want to have fun! This is not just for Party People. I was never the party kid before but look at me now! (And you too!) Join PubCrawl to have a safe place to make new friends, to talk to people, to feel that it’s not that hard to talk to strangers. And we have extra perky staff to be your instant wingboy/girl. We even have non-drinkers before but they had fun!

manila pubcrawl turning strangers into friends

Can you describe the group?

RP: It varies but most of the time, we have 70% locals, 30% foreigners. We try to keep it as diverse as possible. Age wise, from early twenties, sometimes we even have early forties to early fifties joining us. As we say, friendship knows no age, no gender, and no nationality. But for the past that we’ve been doing this, one thing is for sure. They’re all fun.

Manila Pub Crawl Makati

So this Valentine, what’s special?

RP: Well, we want to make a play on the Valentine. While this is mostly for couples, and some singles take this as an opportunity mope and unleash their collections of hugot, we want to celebrate all the love and friendships we have. Have a group date and enjoy the night as we welcome the celebration. We will have tons of surprises for everyone.
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There you go! So if you want to join me this Saturday in their special crawl, or in any of their other crawls (they have one every Saturday, and 4x a week in Boracay), just contact Redd at 0917 795 4799 (Globe) 0908 444 9426 (Smart) or email him at manila@pubcrawl.ph

Regular Price is 990, but 50% off to the first 40 tickets.

Don’t forget to use their COUPONCODE: ILOVEMANILAPUBCRAWL
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