Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton near Naval Air Station Patuxent River

This is my second stay at a Home2 Suites, an eco friendly property by Hilton and instead of writing a traditional review, I decided to delve into my first vlog! I apologize for the not so great quality. I’m using my iPhone 5S to videotape and iMovie (for the first time) to edit. I hope to do more of these and as I get more video blogging savvy, I will invest in a better video taping tool than the iPhone.  Continue reading


Beijing Downtown Backpackers Accommodation, A Review

Front of hostel

Front of hostel

My first attempt to visit Beijing was a miss. In 2012, I went to Wuhan, China to drop off my brother to his then med school. During that trip, I had booked a stay at Beijing Downtown Backpackers Accommodation (renamed Beijing Downtown Backpacker Hostel on Trip Advisor) in Beijing. Unfortunately, a string of unforeseen events occurred, which led to my brother moving to Kunming, China instead and subsequently the cancellation of our Beijing adventures. However, we got a second chance the winter of 2014, to celebrate our birthdays together.  Continue reading


Ask Saadia Features: Winter Road Trip Ideas from New Jersey

This week’s featured question from the ASK SAADIA column:

I have a free night with Hilton and some points to use too. Do you have any recommendations of where to go? Somewhere I don’t have to fly to, within a maximum of 7 hours drive from Northern NJ. Also, if you have any suggestion on where to go dog sledding.

Thanks!

– Tom, NJ Continue reading


A Year Ago This Week: Great Wall of China

Week 4: January 20 2014.

A year ago this week, my brother and I celebrated our 32nd and 22nd birthdays together by hiking the Great Wall of China. Visiting the Great Wall was always on the list of things to see and do but there was never a concrete plan on when and how. So being there was absolutely surreal. Neither pictures I’ve seen of the Great Wall nor my imagination ever conjured up visuals that would be comparable to seeing its raw beauty in person.

Although we had consciously decided not to visit the Badaling part of the wall (most photographed and visited), we weren’t sure what to expect of the site we were headed towards. We wondered if we would feel like we had missed out by not going to the most visited portion. I assure you, we had not. We didn’t miss being surrounded by hundreds of tourists trying to take a picture without getting someone else in it. No, we were secluded. The Great Wall of China, at least for the purpose of this day, was going to be our own. 

The seclusion of the Great Wall perfectly captured

The seclusion of the Great Wall perfectly captured

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A Year Ago This Week: Puerto Rico

Week 1: January 2-6 2014.

A year ago this week, I took off on a stormy winter night to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend my friend’s (also college roommate) wedding. Due to the severe snow storm we were facing, United was offering free flight changes and at the last minute, I was able to get on a flight a day earlier than originally scheduled. I had just landed from Amsterdam less than 24 hours prior, hadn’t unpacked, let alone repack and to top it all off, had to go into work all day. When I finally headed for the airport, all public transportation were either delayed or getting canceled right in front of my eyes. Standing out on the station platform in the piercing cold wind, I looked up at the sky to see the big fluffy snow flakes fall softly but swiftly onto my face. But from the corner of my eyes, I nervously kept my sight on the announcement board. Train numbers were transitioning from their usual green font to red font followed by the word, “CANCELLED” in bold capital letters. If the currently marked “DELAYED” train gets canceled, that is the end of my trip, I thought to myself. I would miss the flight. But luck was on my side tonight. The train finally came and the only consistent factor from that moment forward was my running through the airport with my carry-on. The word, uncomfortable, would not begin to describe that experience. I finally made it to the gate, and became one of my biggest travel pet peeves, the last passenger on-board. No big deal because I was going to make it to the wedding!!  Luck was on my side twice that night. Turned out that the flight I was on was the last flight to take off from Newark before all flights thereafter were cancelled indefinitely. Phew!  Continue reading


9 Countries, 32 Cities, 21K Sums Up My Travels of 2014

Each January, I look back on my travels of the previous year and calculate three things: number of countries visited, number of cities visited and how much money spent. I am super meticulous about keeping track of every single expense on a trip, so my calculations are pretty spot on. This year has been the most expensive, thus far, predominately because of the shift in my travel style. I’ve gone from budget traveler to budget meets luxury traveler. I suppose getting older has something to do with it. But that reflection is best left for another blog post. So, without further ado, here’s a look at where I went this year and what $21,322 allowed me to see. Please note that while a few trips were work related, therefore, all expenses paid, I either extended the trip and/or did sightseeings which contributed to the 21K.  Continue reading


National Aquarium is a MUST See

I’ve never been into aquariums, which is weird since I’m absolutely fascinated with the ocean world. So much so that I’ve finally been convinced to get my scuba diving license (requires a post of its own). And yet, the notion of sea life in a “confined” space just doesn’t fascinate me. But, since I was sent to Aberdeen for work and the closest thing to anything civilized to do around here lies in Baltimore, I decided to check out the National Aquarium. So glad that I did! It is awe-inspiringly beautiful. I only wish my iPhone battery did not die 20 minutes into the visit; alas, I must rely on my memory of the beautiful marine life I saw to write this post. Continue reading


My FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Dream Came Crashing Down

It was 2009 when I was all geared up to go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup games in South Africa. I even bought tickets to a match (turned out I had purchased tickets for the Confederates game accidentally…don’t ask). But as 2010 progressed and finances shaped up, it became quickly evident that I couldn’t afford to take the trip down south. But I wasn’t too sad, because I had planned for it kind of last minute (a year out used to be last minute in my book). I found satisfaction in knowing that I would DEFINITELY make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil! With 4 years of planning, there’s no way I couldn’t make it happen. A shred of doubt did not exist. I announced it to anyone and everyone I knew. I blocked out my vacation dates as soon as the general schedule was announced. For Christmas last year, my secret Santa at work even bought me a  Lonely Planet guidebook to Brazil, which I was very grateful for! And when phase 1 of the ticket sales began, I was logged on at minute 1 ready to bid.

Lonely Planet's Brazil

Lonely Planet’s Brazil

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Suddenly Terrified of Flying?!

I was about 2 years old when I started staring up at the sky at airplanes and assuming my dad was on it, coming to visit me. I’ve been fascinated with airplanes before I could fully understand what fascination meant. As a result, I’ve always LOVED flying. So much so that I would rather sit on a 45 minute flight to a destination, deal with all the airport hassles than drive the 3-4 hours. Yes, to many it sounds absurd, but that’s how much I love flying.

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Ask Saadia Features: Pay using Credit Card or Bank Transfer?

This week’s featured question from the ASK SAADIA column:

I have a question for you: when booking a tour in a foreign country and they ask you to either pay by bank transfer (bank charges a fee) or credit card but you must pay an extra 3%, which is safer? My credit card doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee at least. The bank fee and 3% fee is about the same.

– Eileen, PA

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