Adventure Travel Cities Outdoors

The 7 Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Need a little inspiration for your next vacation, either real or imagined? SmarterTravel’s editors have crisscrossed the planet, visiting dozens of countries on every continent—and these are the spots they’ve declared the most beautiful places in the world.

The Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

The Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

“Antarctica feels otherworldly. It’s devoid of human life, with an almost eerie emptiness in places—no manmade buildings, no power lines, no planes flying overhead, and no lights. Simultaneously, it teems with natural life, from penguins calling for their mates in a cacophony of sounds to fur seals lurking below the surface waiting to pounce on their next meal. All that against a backdrop of towering mountains, brilliantly blue glaciers, and an unpolluted sky—I’ve yet to find anywhere else on earth that can compare.” — Caroline Morse Teel, Principal Editor

Granada, Spain

sunset over the alhambra in Granada, SPain

“Like all the towns in Andalucia, Granada is something special. The architecture, the food, and the people all make for a memorable trip. But the real gem in Granada is the Alhambra. Climb up the steep, skinny streets of the Albayzin neighborhood to the Mirador de San Nicolás and watch the sun set over the Alhambra. It’s been (accurately) called ‘the most beautiful sunset in the world’ and is one of those magical experiences that will stay with you forever.” — Noemi de la Torre, Senior Photo Editor

South Island, New Zealand

landscape south island new zealand.

“My then-partner (now husband) and I were reduced almost to speechlessness during a road trip around New Zealand’s spectacular South Island. ‘Wow,’ I said as we rounded a curve and a crystalline lake spread out before us. ‘Wow,’ he echoed a few minutes later as the late-day sun cast a rosy glow across hulking mountains capped with snow. Glaciers, fjords, beaches—the South Island has it all, and it’s all stunning.” — Sarah Schlichter, Deputy Executive Editor

Krka National Park, Croatia

Krka National Park was supposed to be a small pit stop on my guided trip to Split, but it ended up being the highlight of the week. Rivers and streams crisscross the ground beneath you as you navigate the forest on elevated wooden pathways. The entire journey has a deep stillness to it, with only your own footsteps and the sounds of water and bird calls to interrupt. Finally, at the end of the walk, you’re greeted by a picnic ground surrounded by tiers of beautiful waterfalls. The views were stunning and, on the way out, I got to visit a family of wild kittens—so it was probably the best day ever.”  — Carol McPherson, Video Editor/Creator

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

great bear rainforest section

“The Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia haunts my dreams in the best possible way. I only spent two days there, but even that short amount of time earns it a spot at the top of my list. This picture was taken after a short flight from Vancouver Island to the tiny wilderness lodge of Nimmo Bay. It was an intoxicating blur of dense temperate rainforest hikes, paddling bays so still that my kayak seemed to skim above the clouds, and rushing waterfalls that exhaled the rainforest into the sea.” — Christine Sarkis, Executive Editor

Haputale Tea Country, Sri Lanka

Haputale tea country Sri Lanka.

“The most beautiful places are always the ones that photos inevitably can’t do justice. And for me, that paradox always brings to mind Sri Lankan tea country. I took a rickety train ride to Haputale in monsoon-season rains, snaking through verdant slopes and misty gorges made even more dream-like by the drizzle. As if the postcard-esque viaducts and Nine Arch Bridge along the way weren’t enough, meeting Haputale’s local tea pickers in a cloud forest precariously perched at 7,000 feet above sea level certainly was. From the foothills of Agarapatana Plantation I was gobsmacked by the views, which only grew more dream-like as we ascended to the peak to enjoy many fresh cups of tea, served with roti and sweets, overlooking the cloud cover that would occasionally break to reveal miles of rolling greenery below. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to walking into the pages of a Dr. Seuss book and staying a while.” — Shannon McMahon, Editor of News and Features

Tayrona National Park, Colombia 

tayrona national park.

“Many of the world’s most beautiful places come with crowds of tourists and lines that you have to wait in; it’s rare to find that true sense of unspoiled beauty. And when you do, it’s often far, far away from the beaten path. But you’ll usually find that it’s the search that makes the final destination worth it, and that’s exactly the case with Tayrona National Park in Colombia. A trip here makes you feel like you’re on your own journey of youthful exploration in Lord of the Flies. Hours from the vibrant city of Cartagena sit miles and miles of coastline where the Sierra Nevada foothills kiss the Caribbean coast. Find relaxation in the secluded coves and lagoons, or trek in the rainforest to ancient Taryonan ruins. To get here, find the beach city of Santa Marta and then make your way via bus to the forest. There are plenty of hidden retreats and treehouses to stay at, where inviting hammocks swing in the wind waiting for you. There’s nothing quite like following a winding path in the rainforest that suddenly ends with golden sand and open ocean.” —Ashley Rossi, Senior Editor

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Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness

5 Shoes That Are Good for Your Feet, According to Doctors

We asked experts—the spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) as well as the team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet—about shoes that are good for your feet. Here’s what shoes they recommend you pack on your next walking-intensive trip.

“Healthy travel shoes should have arch support, a thicker sole, and shock absorption. A breathable fabric is a bonus. Sneakers should be your go-to when traveling. A casual sneaker should do the trick without weighing down your bags,” says APMA Podiatrist and spokesperson Dr. Priya Parthasarathy.

“If you have to do open-toed, avoid flip-flops and do a more supportive sandal. Something thicker, with arch support and a depression in the heel. My favorite sandals for travel are Birkenstocks.”

[st_related]We Wore These Shoes for 100 Miles to Find the Best Ones[/st_related]

Dr. Priya Parthasarathy tells travelers to look for the following when shoe shopping:

  • The shoe should not be able to fold completely in half.
  • You should have some flexibility in the toes but you should not be able to have the front of the shoe touch the back of the shoe.
  • It should also have a firm heel cup and should not collapse when you squeeze it.
  • A bonus is a removable arch support which will allow you to slide your orthotics or additional arch support in if needed.

[st_related]The Most Comfortable Travel Shoes[/st_related]

Dr. Kamran S. Hamid, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon for Midwest Orthopedics at Rush and team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet also weighed in.

“In general, the best shoes for traveling are those that have adequate support and are comfortable. Hoka shoes are a newer brand that are tremendously light while still providing great support and cushioning. Additionally, they have a slight curvature in the front and back of the shoe which takes some stress off of the middle of the foot for long periods of walking. These are great shoes for long-distance runners that we have repurposed for patients with foot/ankle arthritis or pain.”

If you’re looking for a podiatrist-approved shoe, Dr. Parthasarathy recommends the following:

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel tries to wear shoes that are good for her feet. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos from around the world. 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Adventure Travel Health & Wellness

Be Safe and Prepared Anywhere: VSSL First Aid Kit Review

The VSSL First Aid Kit contains everything you might need in an emergency, and it’s small and lightweight enough that you can always have it on you.

VSSL First Aid Kit Review

Price and Where to Buy: At the time of writing, the VSSL First Aid Kit was on sale for $94 on VSSL’s website.

How the VSSL First Aid Kit Rates

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The VSSL First Aid Kit is thoughtfully stocked with everything you might need in an emergency, including an LED flashlight, a compass, bandages, a whistle, a thermometer, and more.
  • Durability: 10/10. The VSSL is made out of military-grade aluminum, so it’s tough and waterproof. It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty.
  • Portability: 10/10. The emergency supplies are packed inside the flashlight, and the whole kit weighs less than a pound. It’s less than 2 inches in diameter and is easy to keep in your glove box or backpack.
  • Style: 10/10. The unique VSSL design is perfect. It’s shaped like a flashlight, with the flashlight at the top, the compass on the bottom, and all the supplies inside. The bright red color makes it easy to spot when you need it.

Final Verdict: Hikers, travelers, and drivers should keep the VSSL First Aid kit nearby at all times.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Adventure Travel Beach Cities Outdoors

The Safest Places in Central America for Travelers

Editor’s note: This story was researched and written before the current COVID-19 pandemic. While we look forward to traveling again soon, we recognize that the most important thing we can all do right now is to stay home. For the most current information about COVID-19, check the CDC website.

With active volcanoes, Maya ruins, and extensive coastlines in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, Central America is an idyllic destination that is often overlooked by travelers. Given the region’s history of political instability, many foreigners are wary of visiting, wondering if Central America is safe, and end up missing out on the cultural, historical, and culinary richness of the seven countries that comprise it.

But while these fears are justified in some cases, you shouldn’t judge an entire region by its news cover. Not every country in the area is experiencing conflict, and while caution is always advised no matter where you travel, you certainly won’t be stepping into the war zone Central America is often made out to be.

To help you have an amazing—and safe— trip, we have compiled a list of the four safest countries to visit in Central America.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica wins over the heart of every visitor with its “Pura vida” philosophy. The entire nation exudes a relaxed vibe that calls you to breathe in and enjoy life—something that’s not too difficult to do here. During your time in this mesmerizing country, you can watch sea turtles hatch on quiet beaches, climb the Arenal Volcano, or see monkeys and jaguars at the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Often considered a pioneer of eco-tourism, Costa Rica takes great pride in its natural resources and its status as a megadiverse country. In fact, 98 percent of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources, and 26 percent of its territory is made up of protected natural lands. Because of this natural richness, the country attracts intrepid adventure travelers who come to surf tall waves, zipline through canopies, rappel down waterfalls, and white-water raft down swift rivers.

As for safety, foreigners usually don’t have much to worry about. The Global Peace Index ranks Costa Rica as the 33rd most peaceful country in the world. For comparison, the U.S. is ranked at 218. The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory gives it a level 1 warning, making it safer than Spain and Italy in the eyes of the U.S. Basically, you should exercise common sense precautions like avoiding dark streets at night and hiding your valuables.

Costa Rica takes such pride in its commitment to peace that it doesn’t even have an army. As if that weren’t enough, it is considered one of the best countries in Latin America for LGBTQIA travelers, given locals’ open-minded attitudes towards sexual diversity and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Ready to book your tickets yet?


panama city skyline at sunset panama.

If you judge Panama by its rankings on the Global Peace Index and the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory, you’ll soon be at ease. The former ranks Panama at 47th, and the latter suggests a level 1 advisory. Do keep in mind that certain areas should be avoided, including the Mosquito Coast, and the Darien region along the border with Colombia. Again, normal safety measures are recommended to avoid being pickpocketed or mugged, particularly in urban centers.

Now that you know Panama is much safer than most people believe, you should also know that it is much more interesting than most people imagine. In fact, many people simply know Panama for its famous canal, which continues to be a tourist attraction but which is not by any means the only thing the country has to offer.

Sure, take a scenic flight over the canal to see it for yourself, but also allow some space in your itinerary to swim with whale sharks in astonishing Bocas del Toro, or to soak up the metropolitan glitz of Panama City. Adventure travelers will also find plenty of thrilling activities, like hiking through cloud forests, watching the migration of humpback whales in the Pacific, and climbing the country’s highest point, Baru Volcano.

The best part about Panama? It seems like tourists have yet to wise up about it, so you can enjoy small village beaches and forest treks without hordes of Instagram-hungry tourists.


boat on great blue hole belize.

Yet another wonderful but often overlooked country in Central America, Belize is impressively diverse for its tiny size. The English-speaking country boasts jungles riddled with Mayan ruins, the second largest reefs in the world, and idyllic islands scattered along its coast.

Divers absolutely love Belize because of the diversity of its reef, but also because of its famous Great Blue Hole. This underground sinkhole is the largest of its kind, and is equally impressive from above and from underneath the water’s surface. In fact, the great conservationist, explorer, and diver Jacques Cousteau included the “hole” as one of his favorite diving spots on the planet.

Even if you’re not a big fan of diving in a dark, seemingly unending ocean abyss, the Belize coastline offers plenty of opportunities for swimming in warm waters, paddle boarding, and kayaking through mangroves. One of the best things to do is to simply lay in a hammock with a bottle of cool beer in your hand and enjoy the sun kissing your skin.

The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory gives Belize a level 2 warning, which is the same level as countries like France and the U.K. That said, increased precaution is recommended, since its proximity to Mexico inevitably makes it part of Central America’s drug route. The south—where many of the country’s Mayan ruins lay hidden by the jungle—is of particular concern, so we recommend researching before planning a trip, or going with a trusted tour company.

LGBTQIA travelers might want to rethink a trip to Belize, as locals tend to have a more conservative mentality and may even be hostile to non-heterosexual couples.


santa catalina arch in antigua guatemala

Like Belize, Guatemala has a level 2 warning from the Department of State. Certain areas present an increased level of risk, specifically the areas along the drug trade route. It is recommended that travelers do research before deciding their itineraries, particularly if they plan to go to remote regions that are not as frequented. Again, visitors looking to explore natural or rural areas might want to consider using a trusted tour company with local guides.

Once you have taken the necessary precautions, don’t even consider missing out on picturesque Antigua. The former capital of Guatemala, this well-preserved colonial town is one of the most beautiful towns in Latin America. Cobblestoned streets and colorful balconies are perfectly complemented by the volcanoes that surround the town, providing breathtaking views from almost any street.

Another must-see destination in Guatemala is Lake Atitlan, one of the most important in the region. If you want a simple thrill, you can hike around the lake and enjoy the invariably impressive views it provides. Those with a harder adrenaline addiction can opt for more extreme activities, like paragliding over or scuba diving.

No history or Indiana Jones lover can afford to skip out on the mighty Tikal National Park, the former capital of the Maya Empire. Surrounded by the jungle that once hid it, Tikal boasts the tallest existing pre-Columbian structure in the Americas, and is considered one of the most important archaeological treasures of the continent.

If this doesn’t seem like enough, you can also ride through the canyons of Rio Dulce, learn about Afro-Guatemalan culture at Livingston, explore the caves of Verpaces, and delight your taste buds with the country’s rich culinary tradition.

More from SmarterTravel:

10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone
The 13 Safest Places in Mexico for Travelers
The Best Caribbean Destinations for Gay and Lesbian Travelers

At Home Entertainment Health & Wellness Outdoors

Forest Bathing Audio Experience

Welcome to Virtual Vacations, our series of meditative audio travel tours of both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world.

Don’t have Spotify? Find Virtual Vacations on your preferred listening platform here.

Let’s head into nature for a guided virtual forest bathing experience. Traditional forest bathing strengthens your relationship to nature by connecting you via your five senses.

We’ve created these audio tours to transport you to inspiring destinations around the world, even when you can’t be there in person. So settle in and let’s imagine a peaceful walk through a beautiful forest. Along the way, we’ll practice some traditional forest-bathing techniques to help you relax and connect with the outdoors.

Note that each virtual vacation begins with a short breathing exercise to help you come into the moment and make the most of your virtual vacation.

Discover more Virtual Vacations.

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Adventure Travel

The 5 Best National Park Live Webcams We’re Watching

Missing the great outdoors? Us too. While we’re spending more time planning our next national park vacation than we are being outside, we’re making the most of quarantine with these live cams of national parks. 

Did we miss any that you’ve been watching? Share them with us on Facebook! 

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

Watch the upper part of Yosemite Falls in real-time with the park’s live stream of the 2,425-foot falls. Peak flow time is early summer, so lucky for us, the timing is perfect for optimal viewing. 

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Old faithful inn geyser

Want to watch Yellowstone’s famous geyser erupt? Check out this live stream from the park, which features (not always up-to-date) predictions about when it will next go off. 

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Click into Lake McDonald’s webcam for your daily moment of zen. Positioned at the foot of the lake, the camera shows off one of the most iconic views in Glacier.

The North Atlantic Coastline, Acadia National Park

Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park

Pretend like you’re on Maine’s rocky coastline with Acadia National Park’s webcam. This solar-powered camera is perched next to the ocean and offers beautiful views of the water, especially at sunrise. 

Sunrise and Sunset at Zion Canyon, Zion National Park

Follow Zion National Park on Facebook and Instagram to see when they’re live broadcasting the sunrise and sunset at the national park. The live cams are set up at the bottom of the canyon so the views of the canyon wall’s shadows are particularly rare and interesting. 

Listen to our audio tour through Zion National Park:

Don’t have Spotify? Find Virtual Vacations on your preferred listening platform here.

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Passenger Rights Travel Tips & Advice

Should I Cancel My June Trip? Take a Flight Credit?

Should I cancel my June trip? We answer this question and ones on Disneyland refunds, social distancing on flights, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column, Check Your Baggage.

Q. “Should I cancel my trip? It’s to Europe in late June.” – CS

A. I wish I had a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and I wish that this answer were a definitive “No, don’t cancel.” What we know about COVID-19 changes by the hour, and it’s impossible to predict what the travel situation will look like by the end of June.

The state you live in could affect your answer—some states may be allowing travel by the end of June while others could still have shelter-in-place orders or mandatory quarantines for travelers. Consider whether you would be able to completely quarantine yourself for two weeks upon return from your trip, if necessary.

The European country you’re traveling to would also change the answer. Italy, one of the hardest hit countries, seems highly unlikely to be ready for tourists in June, but a less-impacted country might be. Think about whether you would still want to take your trip if a country is technically open to travelers, but attractions and restaurants were still closed.

Before you make your decision, take a close look at the terms and conditions of your trip. If you’re able to get a refund on your tickets/accommodations right up until your departure date, than there’s certainly no harm in waiting until closer to June to reevaluate. However, some companies may require you to cancel your trip before a certain date in order to receive a refund or credit, in which case you shouldn’t wait if you’re having doubts.

Remember, the decision may wind up being out of your hands anyway if the airline cancels your flight or if borders are still closed by June. If you can’t stand spending the next few months stressing over the uncertainty of your trip, go ahead and postpone or cancel. 

If you can postpone rather than cancel, I urge you to do so. The travel industry desperately needs your help, and, for many hotels, having bookings postponed rather than canceled can mean the difference between reopening and shuttering for good.

[st_related]The Dos and Don’ts of Cancelling a
Trip Due to COVID-19

Q. “Should I fight with the airline for a refund on my canceled trip, or just take the flight credit?”– AR

A. If the airline canceled your flight, you are legally entitled to a cash refund rather than a credit. Having the cash in hand is always the better option, as you won’t be restricted to using the same airline if you rebook the trip, and you won’t have the time-crunch of an expiring credit.

However, hundreds of thousands of other flyers are fighting for refunds right now, and airline customer service teams are swamped. You’ll need to weigh whether you want to spend hours of your time waiting on hold/for a callback or repeatedly emailing the airline against the simplicity of accepting an automatic credit.

If you don’t need the money right now, and you’re certain you’ll use the flight credit before it expires, there’s certainly no harm in just taking the credit. If you do opt for the credit, set a reminder in your phone/on your calendar to use it before it expires.

[st_related]Travel in the Time of COVID-19—What
You Need to Know

Q. “If I need to fly in the near future, are airlines practicing appropriate social distancing on flights?” – ST

A. Most airlines are encouraging social distancing on flights by taking steps such as blocking off middle or aisle seats, reducing the number of passengers on flights, and changing the boarding process.

Delta, for example, is changing its boarding process to load passengers from the back to the front, thereby minimizing the risk of flyers having to walk in a narrow aisle past those who are already seated. Boarding will happen in groups of ten.

Almost all airlines are now allowing flyers to switch seats in order to create more distance between passengers, if there is space available.

However, note that even if middle seats are blocked off, in economy class, it’s unlikely that there would be six feet of space between yourself and the person ahead of or behind you (especially if the person in front of you reclines), unless entire rows are empty. But, with most flights operating at minimal capacity for now, there should be enough space to stretch out. Airlines like Alaska Airlines are allowing customers to rebook or cancel their flight if they feel they aren’t able to practice proper social distancing.

Q. “Some travelers (me among them) have travel vouchers from airlines that we’re unable to use due to travel restrictions. Are any airlines extending the expiration dates on these?” – MG

A. Some airlines are automatically extending voucher expiration dates, some will if only you ask, and others are evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis. The Points Guy has a comprehensive list of voucher extension policies here. When in doubt, reach out to your airline directly for an extension.

Q. “I wonder if you have any thoughts or knowledge on reimbursements from Disneyland. We bought tickets but the park will be closed on our travel dates. I was not able to find anything about refunds.” – AW

A. Unfortunately, the Mouse has no sympathy for you on this one, and Disneyland is not offering refunds on tickets. Single day and multi-day tickets will remain valid until the expiration date indicated on the ticket.

Annual passholders may choose to receive a partial refund on their tickets, or have their passport expiration date extended.

If you booked a vacation package directly through Disney, Disney is waiving any charges and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in for arrivals through June 30, 2020.

Click here to read Disneyland’s complete policy on the park closure.

Q. “Where’s the first place that you’re going to travel with the lockdown is lifted?” – KC

A. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about this question. When restrictions start to ease, I’m going to book an impromptu trip as soon as possible—something easy and within driving distance. I’m picturing: booking a quaint cabin rental in the mountains, hopping in the car with my road-trip playlist blasting, and heading north to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When I get there, I’m going to do a hike where I’ll see minimal people and spend the entire day outdoors, being active, and not looking at a single screen. In my dreams, the weather is a perfect 70 degrees, the sun is shining, and everyone is healthy.

Got a burning travel question you want to see answered in next month’s column? Do you vehemently disagree with my answers to this month’s questions? Comment below or send me an e-mail at with the subject line: Check Your Baggage.

Editor’s Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.

Stuck at home? Make it comfy with our top comfort picks:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

Active Travel At Home Cities Staycation

When You Can't Travel, Bike

Church or a fill-up? This Queens corner leaves it up to you.

Biking in New York City is a magnificent thing and a terrifying thing and a thrilling thing and an infuriating thing. I’ve had my bike for four years now, and almost immediately upon buying it my relationship to the city changed. Instead of moving here and there underground — enduring the overcrowding, the train delays, and the angst — I could now get around in the open air. Underground, you have no sense of the place in between the places you love. They are points of interest connected by nothing more than a color-coded line. And yet: Up there (or down below, depending on which line you’re riding), there is certainly life.

In Bushwick and Ridgewood, you can see where the subway goes.

At the beginning of the outbreak in NYC — when the cases were rising by the thousand every day, when the virus seemed to suddenly be everywhere — I dialed my outdoor activity down to zero. I stocked my cupboards with a 30-day supply of food in case I had to officially quarantine myself. I ordered indoor workout equipment. I began a seemingly endless routine of streaming TV shows in quick succession. I swore I would make progress through the backlog of books that I’d bought for now cancelled trips. I promised to do yoga. But none of those things really came to fruition. Instead, a deeply seeded inertia began moving from inside out — my small joys evaporated, my rituals went dark. What was happening was mourning, really — mourning the loss of motion that had supplanted my less-healthy coping mechanisms from so many years ago.

Old-school Italian cookies are a definite reason to go back to Glendale, Queens.

For those first few weeks, I was terrified to get on my bike. The paths along the waterfronts and over the bridges — the safest to use because they are generally guarded and separate from street traffic — were packed with like-minded people. Everyone needed a break from the tedium and claustrophobia of their tiny New York apartments. But in a city of 9 million, when everyone wants to go outside for just an hour or so a day, it’s impossible to safely stay away from anyone else. Those waterside bike paths fill with other bikers and joggers and pedestrian overflow from the sidewalks. You are only ever inhaling the exhalations of others. Who knows who has coughed just a few feet ahead of you? What pathogen is riding that breeze?

The crowds weren’t surprising — I had avoided those officially scenic bike routes before COVID for the same reason. I also knew that crowded streets were far less likely — even in good times — if I biked away from the river and deeper into the boroughs, which I’d done a few times over the years.

Classic New York commerce along Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood.

From my apartment, I went east, first across Bed-Stuy and then into Bushwick — that part I was certain about. After those neighborhoods, I knew was Queens, but I had no clear plan other than my sense of direction. Keeping track of my right turns and my left turns as necessary, I cut a crooked route that more or less became a long loop. I crossed streets I hadn’t heard of before — ones that bore the old names of the city. the Dutch ones like Onderdonk and Himrod. I passed small, beautiful parks with greens lined by cherry trees and magnolias. Panaderias with open doors revealing cases of pan dulce. Retail relics like the Liberty Department Store on Myrtle, its big red sign visible from blocks away. The scent of pastries coming from Grimaldi’s Bakery. In some places the huge old tenement buildings pressed almost right up to the street. In others, pretty brick row houses with bay windows sat back quietly from the road. Old Jewish synagogues. Massive churches. Pentecostal storefronts. Flower shops. Botánicas. VFWs.

Spots like this out in Ridgewood are quite literally gold.

When I got home I mapped my route to track the miles I’d logged. But really, I’ve always had a fascination with maps — drawing them and poring over road atlases as a kid, and staring at them for untold hours as an adult traveler in anticipation of a trip. From what I could tell, I’d cut across Bed-Stuy and Bushwick into Ridgewood. While I was familiar with certain parts of these neighborhoods — I live on the western border of Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant is in Bushwick, and I’d gone to queer parties at venues in Ridgewood — my experience of them had, of course, been segmented. New York, as it always does, rendered these places as little satellites connected by underground tunnels. Your own interests in the context of regular life determine your internal map of the city, and this map is, by nature, exclusionary. The thing travel has always stirred in me, it seems, is forcing an acknowledgement that the fabric of any place is a more wholistic thing.

Don’t believe this is New York City? It is. You just have to look to find it.

I expanded the map to see what was beyond Ridgewood. There was a belt of cemeteries to the southeast, with Highland Park and Cypress Hills beyond it. To the northeast, Glendale, Middle Village, and Forest Hills. Each afternoon or evening when I left my house on my bike, I went farther. I noted how the scenery changed. How the apartments shifted from massive apartment blocks in Bushwick and Ridgewood to single-story row-houses in Glendale to beautiful brick Tudor buildings in Forest Hills to the mansions of Highland Boulevard in Cypress Hills. You could see the character change in the businesses too: Italian bakeries and civic organizations along Myrtle Avenue in Glendale; Mexican speciality shops in Ridgewood; Dominican and Puerto Rican flags in Bushwick. The reggaeton, the trap, the bachata, the screeching wheels of the elevated trains, the nonstop sirens of our moment.You can see the neighborhoods that the city cares for and the ones it neglects — old-growth trees lining some streets and others without a shred of green.

Neighborhoods change from block to block when you ride without a destination in mind.

The pleasure in all of this is the sense of discovery, which, of course, isn’t discovery at all. It’s happening upon a place that has been there all along and which, now known to you, can bring something into your life. You find these places at street level, not online. You get the texture and the sound and the sight all at once, without filters — no mitigating reviews of those who’ve already been; no curation by what photographs nicely; no algorithms trying to feed you what the computers think you’ll enjoy most. Like when travel is at its most perfect, when the serendipity hits just right. You stumble upon a place or a person or a thing that you’ll come to love. You catch a vibe.

If I happen to be biking a street I’ve already seen, I’ll go faster. Once I’ve hit the unknown, I slow down. I make mental notes of the places I’ll come back to when they’re open again. When I feel I’ve gone far enough, I turn around and try to untangle the streets, making my way back home. In my body, I notice some of the same feelings I’ve had when aimlessly wandering cities on other continents: that little clench in the gut that’s thrilling, the moment when you aren’t exactly lost, but when you’ve come to understand that you’re surrounded by newness, or at least something that is new to you in the most foreign way. This is the feeling that took the place of all of my worst habits. I suppose it saved my life.

Getting lost in NYC means seeing way more than just red, white, and blue.

For the foreseeable future, none of us are going anywhere. And so, the light at the end of the tunnel is that maybe these small shops, these bakeries and restaurants and cafes, will be there on the other side of this. And that until I can fly away from New York City, I’ll make do on my bike and the thrills that are here that I’d never thought to find.

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At Home Fashion & Beauty

The Best Products for Stress-Free Nighttime and Morning Routines

There’s no better time than now to invest in your self-care routine. For the most part, each of these steps can easily be replicated while traveling, and most products are available in TSA-compliant sizes.

Products That’ll Improve Your Morning Routine

Start your day off on the right foot with a healthy meal and an energy boost. Here are some of my favorite breakfast products.

Next, rejuvenate your skin with these morning routine skincare essentials. All of the below are unisex bath, body, and face products like deodorants, facial cleansers, and deodorants.

Depending on your personal preference, your hair and beauty morning routine might be more refined, but I like to stick to these staples. Depending on how my hair decides to look, I’ll either calm it down with oil or spruce it up with dry shampoo.

Products That’ll Improve Your Nighttime Routine

Relax both your mind and body as you start to wind down your day. I like to have a cup of tea while reading or doing a few light yoga poses.

Your skin repairs itself while you sleep, so make sure you help nurture it with serums, masks, and moisturizers.

Personally, I think comfortable sleepwear is the ultimate sleep inducer. Here are my favorite PJs and what’s on my bed that makes it uber-comfy.

Last step? Some dreamy meditation music or an adult bedtime story. Thankfully, we just launched Virtual Vacations, a series of dreamy audio tours of some of our favorite destinations. Tune in and drift off …

Our favorite products to improve your morning and nightly routines:

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Want to share your thoughts on this article? Have other travel ideas you want the world to know? Join the conversation with us on our social channels: SmarterTravel on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@SmarterTravel).

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Working From Home? Make it Comfy

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Arts & Culture At Home Entertainment

8 Unexpected Travel Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen Yet

There are the classic travel movies you know about, and then there are the newer and lesser-known travel-centric films that inspire a surprising amount of wanderlust. If you’re stuck at home thinking you’ve seen all the travel movies worth watching and rewatching, think again—here are eight unexpected options, ranging from action-packed blockbusters to indie flicks.

Downhill (2020)

The king and queen of comedy have come together for a vacation movie we can all get behind. Downhill stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell on a fictional family trip to the Alps that goes awry and forces them to ask hard questions about their relationship, family, and overall life together.

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

No one asked for a Charlie’s Angels reboot, but the new female-directed action movie is a surprisingly perfect travel movie for its use of many dazzling city landmarks as famous backdrops to fight and chase scenes. The new round of Angels fight bad guys in Hamburg, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; and Chamonix, France. Anyone who’s seen Hamburg’s Philharmonic, Istanbul’s bazaars, and Chamonix’s apres ski charm will be floored.

Midsommar (2019)

Who says a horror film can’t be a travel movie? Midsommar made waves in 2019 for its haunting depiction of a fictional Swedish town that celebrates midsummer—a time when parts of the region see 24 hours of sunlight per day—with rituals carried out by a pagan cult. Keep in mind that it’s less sunny Swedish scenery and more gore and terror.

The Farewell (2019)

An independent film that racked up rave reviews and accolades in 2019, The Farewell follows a Chinese-American family overseas to visit their grandmother and stage a fake wedding when she’s (unknowingly) diagnosed with a terminal illness. A charming travel movie based on a surprisingly true story, it illustrates the divide—and some surprising similarities—between China and “the West.”

Little Women (2019)

A reboot that actually lives up to the literary classic, writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women takes viewers back in time to both colonial New England and Paris via filming locations travelers still visit today. Concord, Massachusetts—the area where the movie was filmed—is also home to the historic Louisa May Alcott House, where Alcott wrote and set her novel Little Women. But the movie goes beyond the gorgeous New England scenery to 19th-century Paris.

The Trip to Spain (2017)

In a lesser-known movie version of their TV show The Trip, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon set out on a culinary journey to Spain as fictional versions of their still-famous selves. The old friends’ witty banter (and many celebrity impressions) color their visits to iconic Spanish historic sites and many mouth-watering restaurants—follow along with your own tapas and wine at home for optimal viewing. (Bonus: A new movie from the duo called The Trip to Greece is due for release in 2020.)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Perhaps a more-expected movie than the others on this list: If you want to truly unwind with a hilarious and effervescent romantic comedy, there are few as over-the-top as Crazy Rich Asians, the 2018 blockbuster based on the novel trilogy by Kevin Kwan. Explore sparkling Singapore by way of a down-to-earth couple attending their first family wedding together, where old money and a new girlfriend clash in a surprisingly tender love story.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

If you liked Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited as a travel movie, you’ll love the director’s The Grand Budapest Hotel for its similarly whimsical framing of a far-off, complex place. The film follows hotel staff at a 1930s ski resort as they uncover a murder and a mysterious painting, which fill in the rich cultural history of Eastern Europe with plenty of dark humor.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Arts & Culture At Home

20 Binge-Worthy Shows on Popular Streaming Services

No more excuses for “having nothing to watch”. We’ve rounded up the most binge-worthy shows on popular streaming services to help keep you entertained while stuck at home.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Hulu

We love Hulu for its variety of shows, affordable pricing, and integration with cable networks: You can get a streaming bundle package with ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+ for under $15 per month. Right now, Hulu is offering a free 30-day trial.

Here are our picks for the best binge-worthy shows on Hulu:

Little Fires Everywhere

little fires everywhere tv show.

The new series adapted from the best-selling novel (of the same name) features two megastars—Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington— as the main characters. All it takes is one episode to get hooked. New episodes air every Wednesday. Tip: Read the e-book first if you’re really looking to kill some time.


shrill tv show.

You’ll quickly fall in love with this comedy starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant. There are two seasons available to binge, totaling 14 episodes.

Family-Friendly Pick: Steven Universe

steven universe tv show.

Kids and parents will love this animated coming-of-age story from Cartoon Network. All four season (126 episodes are available to stream).

Travel Pick: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

anthony bourdain no reservations tv show.

No binge-able TV show roundup from a travel website can omit an Anthony Bourdain show. Seasons seven and eight of fan-favorite No Reservations are available on Hulu.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s original content can’t be beat, and the streaming network gets bonus points for its incredible culinary content. Netflix is currently offering a free 30-day trial.

Here are our top binge-worthy shows on Netflix:


ozark tv show

Transport yourself to the mysterious and gloomy world that is the Lake of the Ozarks. Netflix just released the third season of this original drama, so you have 30 episodes to binge.

Schitt’s Creek

schitts creek tv show.

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up comedy during this time, Schitt’s Creek is the perfect fit. There are five seasons currently on Netflix, and the sixth is currently airing on Comedy Central and Pop networks.

Family-Friendly Pick: The Big Family Cooking Showdown

big family cooking showdown tv show.

This family-oriented cooking competition comes from the BBC. Binge two seasons of heated fun on Netflix.

Travel Pick: Ugly Delicious

ugly delicious tv show.

Binge this documentary series on Netflix with James Beard Award-winning host, David Chang. Each episode takes you on a culinary journey and explores how a well-known food dish is made around the world. There are two seasons available to binge.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Amazon Prime Video

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you have free and immediate access to original Amazon Prime Video content and you can link up other networks, like Showtime, Cinemax, HBO, and more to your account with Amazon Channels. You can also try Prime free for 30 days. 

Here are our favorite binge-able shows on Prime Video right now:

The Widow

the widow tv show.

Fans of Jack Ryan will love this thriller series with the lead character, Georgia, played by Kate Beckinsale. Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the show takes you on a series of twists and turns as Georgia searches for her presumed-dead husband.

Family-Friendly Pick: Just Add Magic

just add magic tv show.

Mystery follows when three friends discover a magical cookbook. Follow along for the three seasons, currently on Prime Video.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Disney+

If you’re a Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, or National Geographic fan, then this is the streaming service for you. With Disney+ you get access to full collections from each brand and franchise for your binging pleasure. Don’t forget, you can save on a bundle package that includes ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+ for under $15 per month.

Here are our favorite TV shows to binge on Disney+:

Travel Pick: Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

gordan ramsey uncharted tv show.

Explore the world with famed and outspoken chef Gordan Ramsay as he explores destinations like Peru, Alaska, New Zealand, and Hawaii through food in season one.

Travel Pick: Lost Cities with Albert Lin

lost cities with albert lin.

Channel your inner archeologist with this incredible docuseries, streaming on Disney+. Explore ancient ruins and landscapes with 3D-scanning and other hi-tech technologies and transport yourself to another world with a captivating National Geographic host.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on HBO Now

HBO perhaps created the concept of binging, bringing you classic series like Sex and the City and The Sopranos long before other networks. Check out old favorites and new series with HBO’s streaming service. Thankfully, HBO is streaming hundreds of episodes for free right now.

Our favorite shows to binge watch from HBO:

The Wire

the wire tv show.

For those that didn’t get a chance to watch this fascinating series air the first time around, you can binge all five seasons for free with HBO Now. Set in Baltimore, this crime drama was created by a former police reporter.


Currently in its third season, Westworld keeps you wanting more as it transports you to an alternate universe and an amusement park filled with robotic characters where you can live out your wildest dreams without consequence … or so it seems. The show is an adaptation of the 1973 movie, and features a recognizable and award-winning cast.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on CBS All Access

Watch live TV, stream thousands of network episodes, and gain access to original content with a CBS All Access pass. You can even try it free for 30 days right now.

The Good Fight

the good fight tv show.

This three-season series is the first original scripted show for CBS’s All Access streaming service. The legal drama is spin-off sequel to the hit TV-series, The Good Wife (so binge that first if you haven’t seen it already). Catch up now as season four is set to premiere soon.

Star Trek: Discovery

star trek discovery tv show.

Created specifically for this streaming service, Star Trek: Discovery is the first series in the franchise to air since 2005. Set about a decade before the original series, it’s a fun TV show to binge for both those new to the franchise and die-hard fans. There are currently two seasons available to binge with a third expected this year.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Apple TV+

If you’re loyal to your Apple TV, then you most likely have access to a free month of Apple’s streaming service. For non-Apple TV users you can easily access these original shows with the Apple TV app to stream on your devices, and try a free seven-day trial.

Here are binge-able TV shows on Apple TV+:

For All Mankind

for all mankind tv show.

If you’re a fan of history and outer space, then this original TV series is for you. The show takes place as if the great “space race” never ended. Currently, there’s one season available to binge.

Oprah’s Book Club

oprahs book club tv show.

Oprah’s binge-able TV show really will help time fly by. Read the book for each episode and then watch Oprah interview the author and facilitate conversations about each novel.

The Best Episodes to Binge Watch on Masterclass

Ever wanted to take guitar lessons from a rock star, a business course from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a cooking class from a Michelin-star chef? With a Masterclass membership you gain access to hundreds of courses taught by celebrities and professions ranging from Steph Curry to Natalie Portman.

Here are a few standout lessons on Masterclass to binge:

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

martin scorcese master class.

Get a personal look at Martin Scorsese’s inner mind with this series of 30 lessons (about 12 minutes each) that range in topics from working with actors to production design. You’ll also get a downloadable workbook after.

Steve Martin Teaches Comedy

steve martin master class.

Learn a new skill, like comedy, with this series of 12 lessons (at 12-minutes each) by Steve Martin. From tips and tricks on how to start your act to writing faux paus, the lessons themselves are pure comedy

How to Stream New Movies

Movie-buffs, we didn’t forget about you. While movie theatres might be closed, you can still watch new releases from the comfort of your couch.

Prime Video is offering members the ability to purchase “Early Access” movies that would normally be showing in theatres, starting at $20.

In addition to offering TV shows to rent or purchase, Fandango Now is releasing “Home Premieres” as well as a selection of movies that are direct from theatres.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Make your TV binge comfy:

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Outdoors Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

10 Best Workout Clothes and Tools for Travel and Home

Finding the motivation to work out while on vacation is no easy feat. I try and stick to my normal exercise routine as much as I can while I travel, and this list of the 10 best workout clothes and tools helps me stay in shape on the road—and at home between trips.

Vi Headphones and Fitness Tracker

Say goodbye to tangled headphones, wearing a Fitbit, and paying for expensive fitness-tracking apps—the Vi headphones and corresponding app are the ultimate travel workout companion. With a variety of earbud sizes and clips, these wireless headphones are comfortable and won’t fall out once you get the right size.

If you run outdoors at home and on the road, the Vi Fitness app is a great way to track your runs and mileage. Hikers and cyclers can also benefit from the activity tracker. Dubbed a “personal trainer,” the activity monitor tracks things like speed, heart rate, and distance. It also adapts to your fitness level and personalizes workouts. Plus, the app links to your favorite music streaming service.

Takeya Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle is an essential workout item for travelers, and I especially love Takeya’s insulated stainless water bottles. The handle is great for travel, since you can hook it onto the outside of any bag, and it’s easy to carry around the gym. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps water cold for hours, and the narrow mouth is great for grabbing a quick sip mid-workout.

Zella Live In High Waisted Leggings

Built from moisture-wicking fabric and fitted with a no-slip waistband, these stretchy, figure-sculpting leggings keep you cool as your workout warms up. They’re comfy enough to wear in other situations as well, including on the plane or while working from home.

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Wipes

Don’t forget one of the most important things to do after working out, even on vacation: taking care of your skin. I am obsessed with these facial cleansing wipes from Burt’s Bees for a post-workout refresh. Whether you don’t have time to hit the shower or you need some immediate rejuvenation, these wipes, made from white tea extract, cucumber, and aloe, are a must. I even use them over my whole body sometimes if I need to skip a shower.

Adidas by Stella McCartney Sports Bra

This mesh-backed sports bra is one of the best workout clothes you can travel with because it doubles as a bathing suit top. The full coverage bra is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, so it won’t stink or stay wet for long after sweating or swimming.


Nike Dri Fit Head Tie

Nike makes a great moisture-wicking headband that fits any head size. I typically find myself shifting any sort of headband during a workout because it sits too far forward or back—but you won’t have that problem with this one because it ties.

L.L.Bean Coolmax Nano Glide Multisport Socks

I swear by L.L.Bean socks (with styles for both men and women) for working out. The quick-drying, breathable fabric and thoughtful cushioning on these moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet cool and dry during any activity. These socks are also designed to reduce friction inside your shoe to prevent blisters.

Hoka Bondi 6 Running Shoes

I always travel with my Hoka Bondi 6’s, because I can wear them to the airport with a travel outfit or put them into my carry-on, where they don’t take up too much room. These shoes (available for men and women) are extremely flexible and comfortable for workouts and provide incredible sole support; that’s actually part of Hoka’s mission as a shoe company.

Salomon Agile 250 Running Belt Pack

I cannot say enough how much I love this running belt pack from Salomon. It miraculously fits a phone, keys, and some cash or cards. It doesn’t move while running, and I’ve worn it for stationary workouts as well to hold my phone. It takes up zero room in your suitcase and helps make your workouts annoying armband-free.

[st_related]25 Things to Make Working Out on Vacation More Fun[/st_related]

Lululemon Break a Trail Jacket

This Trail Jacket from Lululemon is an ideal choice for hikers and others who love to exercise outdoors. The fabric is both water-repellent and wind-resistant, so the jacket will hold up in any climate. The hood is designed not to bounce when you move, and there are vents in the fabric so you don’t overheat. There’s even a hidden pocket for your phone.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

At Home Health & Wellness

5 Great Resources for Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga During COVID-19

Whether you’re a regular meditator or considering it for the first time to deal with anxiety, isolation, or the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, these free resources can help you clear your mind, come into the present moment, and soothe your body with gentle yoga.

UC San Diego

This collaboration of The Center for Mindfulness, The Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, and the Compassion Institute offers both live daily streams and recordings of mindfulness and compassion-boosting meditation sessions. Scroll down to the schedule to see the line-up of upcoming sessions like Working with Strong Emotions, Caring for Your Body with Kind Attention, and Parenting with Compassion. Note that you’ll need Zoom to attend the sessions

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has a robust set of free resources in its Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus. There are articles on topics like how to be intentional about consuming coronavirus news, how to help teens shelter in place, and a round-up of acts of goodness amid the outbreak. There are also live and recorded meditations, sessions, and a three-times-weekly 50-minute Dose of Togetherness to help people feel connected in this time.

Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital

The Center for Mindfulness and Compassion is offering daily free community practices. More than 20 teachers are offering sessions in “mindful movement; bringing kindness to our stress, anxiety, grief and fear; supporting caregiving during this difficult time, and expressing appreciation and love for each other.” Its weekly schedule currently includes both general sessions on topics like mindfulness, compassion, and grounding (including some sessions in Spanish) and sessions targeted to groups like parents, healthcare providers, and caregivers.


Unfold Digital is offering free virtual yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 – 2:50 p.m. ET | 1:30 – 1:50 CT | 11:30 – 11:50 a.m. PT. This series is designed to support the wellness of office workers and can be done without needing to change into exercise clothes. It targets areas of discomfort including low back pain, neck and shoulder tightness, and wrist discomfort.

Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach Half-Day At-Home Mindfulness Retreat

If you’ve always meant to try a mindfulness retreat, this could be your chance. Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach have created this free home-based personal retreat that can help you unplug from the chaos for a few hours and find some grounded calm. It’s geared to all levels from beginners on; all you need is about three hours and some quiet space.

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At Home Fashion & Beauty Food & Drink

6 Things Our Editors Bought and Loved This Month

From the best moisturizing cream for over-washed hands to a wine box subscription to make staying at home more fun, these are the things our editors bought and loved last month. 

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

cerave moisturizing cream.

“My hands have been even drier than usual thanks to all this hand washing, so this month I stocked up on my favorite moisturizing cream from CeraVe. My dermatologist recommended it to me a few years back, and I haven’t used anything else since; thick and soothing, it has a pleasant but not-too-strong fragrance. It’s not just for hands—I use it pretty much everywhere, including my face.” —Sarah Schlichter, Deputy Executive Editor

 Winc Wine Box Subscription

young woman with wine on laptop at home.

“I’d like for my stuck-at-home wine drinking to be more of a hobby than a habit, so I took the plunge on a monthly wine box from Winc. The service quizzes new members on their palate and the varietals they prefer, and suggests wines you can choose from for your box monthly–I like that I can ultimately choose which bottles my money is going to. The result so far has been trying new wines from around the world (that I already know I’ll probably like) and doing my own tastings at home with the fun and knowledgeable tasting pamphlet Winc shares with the box.” —Shannon McMahon, Editor: News and Features

[st_related]The Best Grocery Delivery and Alcohol Delivery Services[/st_related]

Shutterfly Photo Prints

shutterfly puzzle

“I’m taking the extra time that I now have at home to reminisce through my vacation photos and create photo prints for my new apartment. Shutterfly is running some flash sales this month and you can take advantage of the brand’s at-home-entertainment ideas like building custom print puzzles and personalized kids’ storybooks. Other ideas include custom photo books to remember a favorite trip and personalized monthly planners to keep you organized during this crazy time.” —Ashley Rossi, Senior Editor 

Pettigrew Lift Top Desk

pettigrew lift top desk

I don’t miss my daily commute into the office, but I really miss my standing desk. Turns out sitting on a couch for eight or more hours a day isn’t ideal ergonomically. I found this genius (and cheap) Lift Top Desk on Wayfair–it looks like a normal desk, but the top easily pulls out to turn it into a standing desk as needed. Thankfully for my shoulders and neck, the desk shipped quickly (and for free), making it a worthwhile work-from-home investment. —Caroline Morse Teel, Principal Editor

How to Build Your Own Standing Desk[/st_related]

Heathyoga Eco Friendly Non Slip Yoga Mat

healthyoga eco friendly nonslip yoga mat.

We all need a little bit more zen in our lives these days. Since my yoga studio closed due to the pandemic, I’ve been trying to keep up with some sort of yoga routine at home. I bought this Heathyoga Non Slip Yoga Mat hoping that feeling more legit would motivate me to keep my practice up. The best part about this mat is that it has alignment lines so that you can make sure your pose is accurate and your body is correctly aligned. Also, it has a great grip for when your hands get sweaty and start to slip. —Noemi de la Torre, Senior Photo Editor

Prosource Fit Tri-Fold Folding Exercise Mat

prosource fit tri-fold exercise mat.

My excuse for not working out at home has always been that the floor is too hard. But the prospect of being trapped inside for a month or more with little opportunity for exercise spurred me to problem-solving. I found a super-padded but foldable Prosource Fit Tri-Fold Exercise Mat and now can do everything from crunches to leg lifts with comfort. And it’s nice to know that even when I can exercise at a studio again, I still have the option of working out at home (I’ve been making my way through free streaming workouts to figure out which to subscribe to). —Christine Sarkis, Executive Editor

More from SmarterTravel:


How to Make a Home Gym (No Matter How Little Space You Have)

Want to work out at home but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to build a home gym, no matter how much space and money (or how many downstairs neighbors) you have.

A Padded Workout Mat

A workout should hurt in a good way, not because you’re lying or kneeling on a hard floor at home. A good padded workout mat will protect both you and your floors, and provide some soundproofing if you’re doing any kind of jumps that your downstairs neighbors wouldn’t appreciate.

This non-slip yoga mat is decently padded and rolls up for easy carrying. For even more cushioning, this tri-folding mat is great for any kind of kneeling work or weightlifting.

TRX Suspension Training System

TRX Home2 System.

You can’t beat TRX Suspension Trainers for the highest impact in a small space—all you need is a door and enough floor space to do a lunge or plank. The TRX Suspension Trainer is a “home gym in a box” and includes a free subscription to the TRX app (which has guided TRX fitness classes, running workouts, and stretching guides), a door anchor, a suspension anchor, and all the TRX bands and straps that you need.

Water-Filled Kettlebell

Adjust this kettlebell to a weight of two to 45 pounds (depending on which size you choose) just by filling it up with water. It’s made from a durable material, so you don’t have to worry about leaks. Unlike a regular kettlebell, if you drop this on your floors at home, it won’t do damage or make a loud noise, plus you can drain it and fold it flat for storage—or for packing for a portable hotel room workout.

Resistance Bands

Letsfit Resistance Loop Bands.

There are endless exercises you can do with resistance bands. This pack from Letsfit comes in five different levels, offering resistance of five to 40 pounds—without bulky weights. A portable carry bag is included, so you can pack these easily, or just keep your home gym organized.

Flippy Lap Stand

Flippy Lap Stand.

There are so many great online streaming classes you can take at home—but it’s hard to keep good form and an eye on the instructor if your phone or tablet’s on the floor. The Flippy Lap Stand will hold up any size phone or tablet so you can take a class hands-free. Plus, when you’re done working out, you can use it to treat yourself to a Netflix show in bed or on the couch.

Portable Ballet Barre

portable ballet barre.

Addicted to online barre classes? This portable ballet barre turns your home into a studio. It’s lightweight and easy to assemble, so you can move it around your home as needed. Available in single bar, double bar, and different heights, you’ll find a barre that will work for you.

An Adjustable Dumbbell Set

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells.

You can have a full set of weights that rivals the gym, without needing space for a giant rack. Bowflex’s SelectTech 552 Dumbbells replace 15 sets of weights by combining them into an adjustable weight dumbbell. Simply twist the dumbbell’s dial and lift it out of the (included) holder to change the weight in 2.5-pound increments from five to 52.5 pounds per dumbbell.

Don’t need that much weight? For a cheaper alternative, check out the smaller hand weights available at Target.

Pilates Reformer

Pilates classes aren’t cheap, so this all-in-one pilates reformer (which comes with DVDs, online workouts and a pushup bar) will pay for itself after just a few uses. Best of all, it comes fully assembled, so you can take it out of the box and get straight to working out in your home gym. When you’re done, it folds down and can be stored under a bed or in a closet.


Mirror Fitness Device.

Want to build a home gym that doesn’t look like one? Keep your home looking like a home with Mirror, one of the coolest new fitness devices. When you’re not using it, it looks like a simple and elegant regular mirror. Turn it on and it becomes your portal to a fitness studio, with 70 plus new live classes streaming through the mirror each week—or thousands of on-demand classes you can take any time.

All different types of workouts are available through Mirror, like cardio, strength, yoga, and boxing. You can even sign up for personal training sessions, in which a trainer will be able to see you via a built-in camera (only activated during personal training) and critique your form or offer encouragement.

SereneLife Folding Compact Treadmill

A treadmill doesn’t have to become a clothes hanger in your bedroom when you’re not using it. This compact one from Sunny Health and Fitness folds up for easy storage when not in use. The treadmill has Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to link it to your workout apps or fitness monitors. It’s surprisingly inexpensive for a treadmill, and it’s available on Amazon Prime so you can get it quickly.

Lanos Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Rowing is one of the best low-impact, full-body workouts. Take your rowing indoors with the Circuit Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine, which has adjustable resistance, ergonomic design, and an easy-to-read monitor. This rowing machine folds up so it won’t take up much room when you’re not using it.  

Working out at home? Do it in style:

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor for SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for travel photos and advice.