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HOW TO TRAVEL SMART AND IN STYLE
The idea of ticking off bucket list destinations is a dream goal for most people, especially at this digital age where travel options are a lot more democratic and seem bottomless. Former magazine editor-turned-content creator Ana Kalaw has been to several continents before even turning forty; she travelled a lot for work as an editor for The Philippine Star and lived abroad for a number of years before settling back in Manila. Nowadays, she maintains her nomadic lifestyle, jetting off to exotic destinations with her equally well-travelled better half. We thought she’d be the perfect resource person to give the lowdown on travel tips, avoiding tourist traps and embracing mishaps, which oftentimes make the trip even more unforgettable. Doesn’t hurt that her personal style is always on point as evidenced by these looks built around the versatile Sac Seau, which incidentally, makes for a practical yet stylish travel buddy, too!
Top three travel tips you’ve learned in all your years of globetrotting?
Wear comfortable shoes. Always check the weather in your destination when you pack. When looking for a good place to eat, it’s usually the locals, and not TripAdvisor, that know best.
How and where to get good deals?
I check Skyscanner for flight fares, Agoda for hotels, Luxury Escapes or Mr & Mrs Smith for great packages at gorgeous hotels.
How soon before your trip should you buy a plane ticket, get a visa, book hotel?
I usually book when there’s an airline promo. If not, I book my hotels and flights about two months ahead, more if my travel plans are pretty much set in stone so I can get cheaper rates. Regarding the visa, it depends on where I’m going, but I usually give the visa requirements at least two months before my date of departure.
To check in bags or hand carry all the way?
If I’m flying in for a weekend and not planning to shop, then I stick to hand-carried, but always pack a foldable bag—because you never know what goodies the local market may have.
Most reliable airline?
I’m a fan of different airlines for different reasons, some of them a bit trivial. I like Singapore Airlines, which I’ve flown to Europe and, sometimes, when I visit my sister who lives in Singapore. The staff is courteous and the vegetarian meal is better than most (I always try to get the Vegetarian Hindu meal). ANA is great too; I’ve flown it a few times to Tokyo—their new planes are so clean and spacious, and their new inflight video is hilarious. I like Swiss Air too, which I flew from Amsterdam to Geneva, mainly because they give away these really good chocolates.
How do you pick the places you go to?
I’m in a long-distance relationship so most of the time I travel to see my boyfriend, who’s always traveling, too.
Sri Lanka and Georgia. They’re both stunning in their own ways: Sri Lanka’s idyllic, gold-toned beaches; Georgia’s medieval hilltop towns.
What are the qualities you look for in a travel bag?
Four wheels and durability. Designer labels not necessary. I realized long ago that, with the way airport personnel handle (or mishandle) luggage, it’s just a waste to have expensive check-in bags. I’ve been using my trusty Samsonite four-wheeler for the last nine years. While it’s still intact and can still be repaired, I’ll keep on using it.
AirBNB or hotel?
I’ve never stayed in Airbnb accommodations, to be honest… I did stay in this place in Paris which I booked through an apartment booking site (this was pre-Airbnb). I had to wait for hours for the owner to give me the key. I think I’ve been traumatized since and now prefer to stay in a place with check-in personnel.
Top five advice for a smooth holiday if there's even such a thing.
I’ve had trips that were smooth-sailing all the way, although my most memorable holidays were those punctuated by the unexpected (e.g, driving down an endless stretch of desert road in the UAE only to realize we were on the wrong stretch of endless desert road, getting duped into buying fake pashmina in Jaipur and having to drag the merchant to the police station, having to hitchhike in Gyeongju in South Korea because we missed the last bus from this hilltop attraction back to the city, wandering through dodgy streets in Rio de Janiero trying to find our hotel, riding behind a colicky baby on an eight-hour bus ride in Morocco, having my trainers completely break apart while trekking in New Zealand, etc.) Looking back, I realize how these “rough patches” greatly enriched my trips, even if they were really stressful at the time. Things rarely work out the way you planned on trips, so I’ve learned to:
1. Try not to overthink my itinerary each time I travel. I make sure to book my accommodations and transportation, and make restaurant reservations in popular restaurants. These things aside, I land in a city not really knowing what I’ll be doing from day to day.
2. Although I do read up on at least the basics, such as the weather, the general vibe, places to avoid, and if anywhere in the city serves really good falafels.
3. Always buy a local sim card and make sure it’s packed with data so I can download maps, get words translated or figure out where to eat the best vegetarian in town.
4. Leave an hour or two early especially if I’m driving to an unfamiliar destination.
5. Slap on enough sunscreen, put on a hat and brace myself for a long day of walking (I always achieve 10,000 steps when I’m traveling).
Your favorite form of transport once you get to your destination.
Bikes, especially in Europe where they have actual sidewalks for cyclists.
Train travel in Japan is such a pleasure—the trains are always on time and the toilets never smell of dried piss.
I lived in Bangkok for six years and learned to ride the motosai or motorbike taxi. It’s a fast and convenient way to traverse the city. I avoid riding tuk tuks as much as possible—they’re scams disguised as funky conveyances.
Footwear of choice that doesn’t sacrifice fashion.
Black sneakers with funky socks.
Fill in the blank. My favorite place to travel is __ because…
Wherever I am at the moment is my favorite place to travel.
Always in my carry on…
My laptop. I work remotely so it’s really my lifeline.
Any rituals or superstitions with travel?
I wear clean underwear as much as possible…hehe. None, really.
Window or aisle seat?
Aisle. I don’t like stepping over people to get to the toilet.
The best way to pass time while up in the air is…
Going through all the new movie releases on the entertainment system. If one movie becomes boring, I just switch to the next one.
Ultimate favorite place to travel regardless of season.
Palawan. It’s beautiful whether the sun’s out or it’s stormy outside.
When in Bangkok, make sure not to miss…
1. Getting a massage/treatment and soaking in the onsen at Panpuri Wellness in Gaysorn. The place is beautiful, the therapists are experts, and the city views from the onsen are pretty cool.
2. A massage at Wat Pho if you want something more authentic and less fancy.
3. A meal at Gaa. It’s one of the best restaurants in the city.
4. Sunday gay nights at Maggie Choo’s.
5. Shopping for pasalubong at the Big C supermarket on Rajadamri Road.
Don’t leave Tokyo without doing these 3 things…
1. Walking around the Daikanyama neighborhood at night.
2. Trying the pizza at PST. There’s one in Roponggi, another in Azabu Juban. (Tokyo has loads of great pizza places but this is one of the best!)
3. Spending time with miniature pigs at the Mipig Cafe in Meguro.
The key to great personal style when travelling is…
A gigantic suitcase to hold all your OOTDs? Just stick to your personal style. Don't try too hard.
Three tips for keeping chic while travelling:
1. Always wear bright-colored lipstick.
2. Take antihistamines to prevent puffy eyes and a runny nose during pollen season or during winter (puffy eyes and a leaking nose are not photogenic).
3. Have a key outerwear piece to anchor every outfit, be it a tailored coat during winter, a funky bomber for fall, a lightweight blazer in spring or a drapey cover-up for summer.
This holiday I’m travelling to…
Slovenia for Christmas; Trieste, Italy for New Year; and Venice, Italy in between.
For me, Christmas starts when…
the traffic lights at BGC start showing red stars and green Christmas trees.
And it smells like...
burnt banana leaves and melted butter from the bibingka and puto bumbong stalls!
ANA'S PHOTOS Anne Bella Arguelles
DESTINATION PHOTOS telegraph.co.uk
Get Ana's Sac Seau bucket bag here.