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Cities Food & Drink

10 Buenos Aires Foods Every Traveler Should Try

Buenos Aires is the type of place where you can watch tango dancers twirl in the streets and the air smells like a permanent wood-fired grill. Here you can stroll down wide avenues with palm trees and then two blocks away find colorful winding streets covered in street art. While there’s plenty of history, art, and architecture to soak up in this breezy, tree-lined city, don’t leave without sampling these 10 essential types of Buenos Aires food along the way.

Medialunas at Salvaje Bakery

medialunas and mate.

Argentina’s answer to the croissant is the perfectly fluffy way to start your morning. Grab a few before sightseeing around Palermo, a hip neighborhood full of loud murals, lush gardens, and delicious food. Take some time to people watch at Salvaje Bakery—a favorite spot for porteños, the nickname for the citizens of Buenos Aires—before taking in all the sights.

Empanadas at La Cocina

empanadas in argentina.

Every country does empanadas a little differently, and Argentina is no exception. La Cocina is an institution in the Recoleta neighborhood only a few blocks away from its famous cemetery. You’ll have plenty of empanadas to choose from, mainly in the style of Northern Argentina, but you can’t go wrong with carne picante.

Wine at Palermo’s Wine Bars

wine at pain et vin in buenos aires.

Head to Palermo for a string of cozy wine bars that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris. Schedule yourself a tasting at Pain et Vin, known for simple and delicious sourdough, or take a tour of the extensive wine cellar at JA! Lo de Joaquin Alberdi. Both spots offer tours and tastings in English, allowing you to sample malbec from Mendoza, juicy pinot noirs from Patagonia, and many more of Argentina’s excellent wines.

Food and Drink at Recoleta’s Bares Notables

cafe tortoni buenos aires.

There are 72 bares notables, or historic bars and cafes, in Buenos Aires. You’ll find many of them in the well-heeled Recoleta neighborhood. Cafe Tortoni is the oldest and most famous. Stick around Cafe de los Angelitos for a tango show, order a house negroni at Los Galgos, and marvel at the detailed interior at El Federal.

Milanesa at Don Ignacio

milanesa at don ignacio buenos aires.

More than 60 percent of Argentines claim Italian ancestry, and that means one thing: delicious food. Start with milanesa, a decidedly South American take on the Italian milanese that comes across more like Austrian schnitzel (or really, really good chicken fingers) pounded, fried, and served with potatoes. You can find it at any cafe, but Don Ignacio knows best.

Argentine-Style Pizza at Guerrin

pizza at guerrin buenos aires.

Italian influence means you can always find a great slice of pizza, though a New York slice this is not. Argentine pizza has a slightly thicker crust and is covered with a solid layer of cheese, sometimes topped with caramelized onions, olives, or chorizo served at classic downtown spots like Guerrin. You can find traditional Neapolitan in Buenos Aires if you look—San Paolo Pizzeria is the best-known—but most porteños would tell you it’s not the “real” pizza they know and love.

Tasting Menus Across the City

dish at Aramburu Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires has one of the most exciting food scenes in fine dining today, and it’s also one of the most accessible. Whether you have a long, rambling lunch in the Instagram-chic Casa Cavia or nab a coveted reservation at Travelers’ Choice winners Aramburu or iLatina, you’re sure to discover innovative tasting menus with top-notch service in Buenos Aires restaurants for a fraction of what it would cost in Europe.

Steak at a Classic Parrilla

steak in buenos aires.

Whether you head to a local joint like Parrilla Peña or a fine dining powerhouse like Parrilla Don Julio, nothing is more synonymous with food in Argentina than steak. Most parrillas offer a menu of different cuts of beef (some even have handy diagrams), but you won’t go wrong with a simple ojo de bife (rib-eye) or bife de lomo (tenderloin). The best part? You’ll have the most tender, delicious steak you could possibly imagine for only about $20 USD.

Choripan at Mercado de San Telmo

woman holding choripan in buenos aires.

Choripan is a glorious not-quite hot dog, not-quite ciabatta sandwich of chorizo topped with a bright chimichurri. It’s a great way to fuel up while wandering through the extensive Feria de San Telmo every Sunday. Pop into the Mercado anytime for spreads of tapas-style Spanish food, wine tastings, gourmet coffee, and, of course, the choripan—or find your way through the white tents spilling across the neighborhood in search of street vendors selling grilled meats of all kinds.

Dulce de Leche for Dessert

alfajores argentina.

Make sure to leave room for dessert! You’ll find dulce de leche dripped onto pretty much anything after dinner in Buenos Aires. Try it wrapped in chocolate or with gelato at Rapa Nui or pick up one of the ubiquitous Havanna-brand alfajores, a shortbread cookie with a dulce de leche filling. You can find freshly made alfajores in bakeries all over the city—experiment with different kinds, like a Nutella/dulce de leche hybrid at the adorable La Panera Rosa, across the street from Recoleta Cemetery.

More from SmarterTravel:

Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

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Family Travel Packing

What to Pack for Disney World: 38 Essentials

When I walk down Main Street, USA in Magic Kingdom, I can’t help but smile. I’ve spent years growing up at Disney World, and that first glimpse of the castle after rope-drop never gets old. Whether this is your first trip or you’re a regular park hopper, here’s the essential Disney World packing list you need to make sure you have a magical time.

What to Pack for Disney World: Luggage

I always manage to throw in more souvenirs than I plan for when I go to Disney. Luckily I’ve outgrown stuffed animals and toys, but I always manage to find another mug I have to have, so I make sure to bring a larger suitcase than I normally would for a trip.

I’m obsessed with my Away Carry-On, which covers everything I need. But when I want to go bigger, I bring my trusty Samsonite Voltage DLX 29” Spinner.

What to Pack for Disney World: The Day Pack

I like to spend most of my days in the parks, and that means a day pack is essential. I got this monogrammed drawstring bag years ago, but when I need something bigger I grab my Mickey-themed Loungefly bag. As long as it fits snacks and a water bottle, I’m good to go.

If you’re towing kids or little ones, consider this diaper bag for heavy-duty travel.

What to Pack for Disney World: Park Essentials

  • Sunglasses: You’ll want to bring polarized shades that can handle the sunshine. I always pack my Ray-Ban Wayfarers when I travel since they go with everything, but if you want a little Disney flair, these are my favorites.
  • Hat: A baseball cap is a must in the parks. Don’t forget to take it off on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster—I’ve had to buy this embroidered cap twice.
  • Water bottle: The worst thing that can happen is getting overheated on a hot Florida day. You can fill up your reusable bottle at stations around the park or at any restaurant or counter service location.
  • Mini fan: For super hot days and long waits outside, I use this mini-fan to keep cool. I always get lots of envious looks from other people in line.
  • Snacks: Disney allows you to bring pretty much any food item except for alcohol into the parks. I hate getting hangry while waiting in line, so I always keep a few snacks on hand that hold up to the heat.
  • Extra napkins: Eating ice cream at 9:30 a.m. is one of my favorite parts of vacation, but it can get messy. I keep these in my purse just in case.
  • Reusable straws: Disney banned plastic straws a few years back, so if you’re a soda drinker, bring your own.
  • Autograph book: I love meeting characters, especially Winnie the Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace for lunch. An autograph book makes for a sweet souvenir—each character has a unique signature.
  • Stroller: If you have a little one, it’s up to you whether you want to rent a stroller or bring your own. If you do bring one, make sure it’s a compact option like the Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller and that you make it your own so it stands out—a lot of strollers look the same.

What to Pack for Disney World: Shoes

  • Sneakers: Somehow I always manage to walk at least 10 miles a day when I’m at Disney (usually from snack cart to snack cart, let’s be real), so good walking shoes are essential. I can walk all day in my Keds, and they’re cute enough to go with most of my park outfits.
  • Socks: I bring cushy options that can handle crisscrossing the parks.
  • Sandals: I go for walkability over fashion with my sandals, so I like this pair from Columbia (I use them as camp shoes when I hike). Here’s the same pair for men.
  • Dressy sandals: I throw in a pair of versatile wedges I can dress up or down, depending on my dinner reservations.

What to Pack for Disney World: Jackets

  • Lightweight sweatshirt: I usually bring a sweatshirt for watching the parades and fireworks shows in the evenings. (Here’s a similar one for men.)
  • Rain gear: You’ll likely get caught in a torrential downpour for at least a few minutes every day while you’re at the parks. It doesn’t last long, but I always bring a raincoat or poncho to stuff into my backpack.

What to Pack for Disney World: Clothing

If you’re staying on property, you’ll be able to do laundry with laundromats at every resort, through their valet service, or, if you’re staying at a Disney Vacation Club Villa, with a washer and dryer in your room. Just bring:

What to Pack for Disney World: Water Parks and Pool Days

When I get tired of roller coasters, I trade them for water parks. Blizzard Beach offers ski-themed thrills and Typhoon Lagoon feels like a tropical oasis. Of course, there’s always time for poolside lounging back at the resort, too. For water-based sports, you’ll need:

  • Swimsuit: Of course! Everyone has a different style, but I go for classic and preppy J. Crew suits. (Try these tropical board shorts for men, too.)
  • Rashguard: I have really sensitive skin, so I go for a rashguard if I’m slipping and sliding on rafts and in chutes. Plus, I don’t have to constantly slather on sunscreen.
  • Water shoes: I’m fairly uncoordinated, so water shoes are my friend at water parks. But I tend to just wear my Havaianas Slim flip-flops for around the pool.
  • Sun hat: I swap my baseball cap out for a floppy straw hat that gives me enough shade to read by the pool.

What to Pack for Disney World: Toiletries

  • Sunscreen: Because it’s sunny out there.
  • Bug spray: Disney does a great job of spraying in the parks, but Florida is a swamp, so it’s never a bad idea.
  • Blotting papers: When it gets hot and humid, I pack a few of these to use right before any character photos.
  • Frizz control: The humidity wreaks havoc on my hair, so I bring this spray for mornings and evenings.
  • Motion sickness medication: Nothing ruins a roller coaster like getting motion sick. If you struggle with it, there’s plenty to do in the parks besides the rides. But it’s always good to bring just in case.
  • Bandages for blisters: Those miles add up.

What to Pack for Disney World: Gadgets

  • MagicBand: Disney runs on MagicBands. You won’t need your credit card, room key, or Fastpasses anymore: It all works with a wave of your MagicBand. It’s best to order these ahead of your trip so you’re ready when you check in.
  • Camera: Capture the magic with a digital camera. If you’d rather stay in the moment, you can also have your photos taken throughout the park, synced through your MagicBand to order and print after your trip.

What to Pack for Disney World: Accessories

  • Crossbody bag: I like to go lighter for nighttime park visits, and this Madewell purse does the trick.
  • Mickey ears: I never leave home without my ears for Disney trips. I have a flowery pair I bought for the Flower & Garden Show at EPCOT a few years back, but you can pick any number of combinations.

What Not to Pack for Disney World

The only things you won’t need? High heels or any uncomfortable shoes—you’ll be walking a lot. Second, leave the umbrellas and selfie sticks at home. The parks get super crowded, and you’re just as likely to drop them or leave them behind while getting in or out of a ride.

Overall, when packing for Disney, don’t be afraid to get whimsical. You’ll rub elbows with tourists from around the world, so you’ll see all sorts of styles. If there’s anything to learn from Disney, it’s that you make your own magic.

More from SmarterTravel:

Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

Categories
Cities Food & Drink Trip Ideas

The 10 Best Food Cities in America

The United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world in climate, landscape, and cuisine. From sea to shining sea, there’s plenty of incredible food to eat—and not just burgers and fries, either. From innovative mom-and-pop shops to Michelin-starred cuisine, you’ll find it all. If you love to eat as much as you love to travel, these are the best food cities in the U.S. to visit.

New York, New York

new york city pizza chef.

They say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere, and that’s true of the restaurant scene more than anything else. New York City is one of the only places in the country where you can try literally every single type of cuisine in the world, from Nepalese momos to Venezuelan empanadas and everything in between. 

What to Eat in New York City

Bagels and Lox: Bagels are an essential part of breakfast in the Big Apple. Check out Ess-a-Bagel, Russ & Daughters, or H&H for a traditional (and well-known) version, or simply head around the corner from your hotel—great neighborhood bagel joints are everywhere.

Pizza: There’s a great debate in the United States about whether Chicago (see below) or New York has the best pizza. Here it comes by the slice and should be so thin you can fold it in half to eat it. Grab one at Joe’s on Carmine or wait in line at Roberta’s in Brooklyn.

Black and White Cookies – A New York specialty, these deliciously fluffy cookies are covered in black and white icing. Zabar’s offers the best-known version, but most NYC bakeries carry them.

Los Angeles, California

los angeles tacos.

Did someone say tacos? That’s just the start of L.A.’s incredible cuisine. L.A. and New York have a rivalry when it comes to food, and as in New York, you’ll find an interesting mix of cuisines from around the world in Los Angeles, with prevalent Mexican, Japanese, and Korean influences. You can go celebrity-spotting at ritzy bistros or grab a few late-night tacos to-go—in the City of Angels, anything goes.

What to Eat in Los Angeles

Tacos: Say yes to tacos! If you think you know a taco, think again. Taco trucks parked around the city allow you to try every different style imaginable: al pastor (Pablito’s Tacos), seafood (Mariscos Jalisco), veggie (Guerilla Tacos), carne asada (Sonoratown) … just go ahead and order one of everything. 

Smoothies: Celebrity culture means an obsession with healthy eating, dieting, and “wellness” foods. You’ll be able to find smoothie bowls, green juice, collagen, turmeric shots … whichever wellness trend of the day is en vogue, you’ll find it in Beverly Hills and beyond.

Burgers: California’s Route 66 started America’s fast food craze back in the 1950s, and Los Angeles offers some of the best. Try the cult-favorite chains of In-N-Out Burger or Tommy’s, or visit homegrown burger joints like Bill’s Hamburgers or Hawkins House of Burgers.

Chicago, Illinois

chicago style hot dog.

Sweet home Chicago. It’s a city known for one of the most comforting anti-winter dishes out there: the deep-dish pizza. But it’s also a city known for innovation and avant-garde art and architecture, so it’s no surprise it has some of the most interesting gastronomy the country has to offer.

What to Eat in Chicago

Pizza: There’s only one style of pizza in Chicago and that’s deep-dish. It’s basically a cross between a tomato pie and a lasagna, and that’s a really good thing. Bring your appetite to the famous Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s, or try the original Pizzeria Uno, now a national chain.

Hot Dogs: Chicagoans love to top their dogs with yellow mustard, relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, and white onions—but never ketchup! Grab bites at Portillo’s or Superdawg.

Avant-Garde: If you’re ready to splurge, Chicago offers top-tier cuisine. Try an edible sugar balloon at three-Michelin-star Alinea or dine at two-star Oriole in the West Loop.

San Francisco, California

san francisco bread bowl.

When you hear “California cuisine,” you’re thinking of lush farm-to-table spreads, vegetarianism, and homemade bread. That began in Berkeley with Alice Waters’ iconic restaurant Chez Panisse. You’ll find good eats all over San Francisco, but be warned—it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the country, so you’ll need to pay up.

What to Eat in San Francisco

Wine: You’re not far from some of America’s best wine production in Napa and Sonoma Valley. Drop by a tasting room on a day trip or hit one of the city’s excellent wine bars.

Sourdough: San Franciscans invented sourdough bread in the late 1800s, so we have them to thank for this deliciously fermented treat. Pop into Boudin at the Wharf—one of the very first sourdough bakeries in the country—or go straight to the bread mecca, Tartine

Burritos: Mission-style burritos claim a category all their own for Mexican-American food. They’re huge, to start. In the Mission District, check out Taqueria La Cumbre or El Faro, who both claim they invented this dish.

Miami, Florida

miami stone crab.

Miami makes the most of its sunshine, with a food scene dominated by Caribbean and Latin American influences. It’s the place to go if you love spicy seafood, miles of white sand beaches, and tons of live music. 

What to Eat in Miami

Cuban Sandwich: Slap together ham, cheese, roast pork, pickles, and a little bit of mustard on some crispy, baguette-like Cuban bread and you’ve made magic. Try one at the famous Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina in Little Havana.

Key Lime Pie: Florida is home to some of the country’s best citrus groves, and Key limes have an extra special punch. It’s the official pie of the state of Florida, and it’s worth having for dessert once or twice or 10 times. Try the homemade version at comfort food spot Blue Collar or stop in at the W South Beach after sunbathing.

Seafood: You’re right on the ocean, so it doesn’t get fresher than Miami’s seafood scene. Try ceviche, king crab, or classic fried fish sandwiches at waterfront places like Garcia’s Seafood Grill and Fish Market.

Portland, Oregon

voodoo donuts portland oregon.

Known for its global cuisine, Portland is one of the best food cities in America. Whether you’re looking for comforting Southern-style food or to experience a slice of Cote d’Ivoire, you’ll probably find it in Portland’s mix of sit-down restaurants, food carts, and farmers markets. Plus, it’s super vegetarian-friendly.

What to Eat in Portland, Oregon

Craft Beer: What makes Portland a must-visit destination is its craft beer scene. With 84 breweries in the greater Portland area, you have plenty to choose from. Beer lovers should visit Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Great Notion Brewing, and Gigantic Brewing, to start.

Donuts: Every city has its sweet tooth, and Portlanders love their brioche-style donuts topped with all manner of fanciful creations. Voodoo Doughnut started it all, but it’s also worth stopping at Blue Star Donuts and Coco.

Dungeness Crab: Try the best the Pacific Ocean has to offer in Portland. The city is best known for crab, but oysters, wild salmon, and rockfish are worth trying, too. Taste innovative stylings at splurge-worthy Castagna, or go for an at-home feel at scenic Salty’s on the Columbia River.

Las Vegas, Nevada

las vegas steak.

Somewhere in the mid-2000s, Vegas turned into a culinary destination. Every casino sports a celebrity-chef restaurant, you can sample the best restaurants from New York City, Paris, Tokyo, and more all in one place. Even if you don’t like to gamble, you’ll find plenty of entertainment and excitement for your taste buds in Sin City.

What to Eat in Las Vegas

All You Can Eat: Vegas is a city of excess, and food is no exception. There are few things more American than eating as much as you possibly can in one sitting, so bring your elastic waistband to the buffet at the Bellagio, the Wynn, or the Mirage.

Steak: Go high-end with Kobe beef, prime rib, and more. Steakhouses are all over the Strip, but you’ll find an old-school setting at Golden Steer or a global-inspired meal at Chef Jose Andres’ Bazaar Meat.

Brunch: Since time doesn’t exist in Vegas casinos, it’s always brunch time. Cure your hangover at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro or Yardbird at the Venetian.

Portland, Maine

maine lobster roll.

The East Coast Portland may be small—population 66,000—but its food scene is mighty. Here you’ll find some of the best New England fare at restaurants that could easily find a spot in trendy neighborhoods of New York City. Expect seafood, seafood, and more seafood.

What to Eat in Portland, Maine

Lobster Roll: New England’s most famous export is the lobster roll, a slab of delicious lobster meat held together by a little bit of mayonnaise on a toasted bun. Most seafood shacks worth their salt offer a fresh-caught version, but we love Eventide Oyster Co., Luke’s Lobster, and Bob’s Clam Hut.

Whoopie Pie: Pennsylvania and Maine argue about who invented this dessert, which involves two chocolate cakes held together with marshmallow frosting. Regardless of who created it in the first place, you’ll want to try one at Tandem Coffee and Bakery or Two Fat Cats.

Poutine: Maine takes a cue from Canada with poutine, which is basically loaded French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. Try some at Duckfat—it’s worth the wait.

New Orleans, Louisiana

new orleans gumbo.

It was the French who founded New Orleans in the 1700s, making it one of the oldest and most unique cities in the United States. You can still feel French influences everywhere, from Creole cooking to architecture. The cuisine brings together the best of sweet and savory with seafood-heavy stews and soups.

What to Eat in New Orleans

Po-boys: First invented in the 1920s, these “poor boy” sandwiches are loaded with fried fish, roast beef, and fixin’s on a loaf of French bread. Go to family-owned Radosta’s or cult-favorite Domilise’s for your fix.

Beignets: Pillowy, delicious confections covered in sugar and fried, beignets alone are worth the trip to the Big Easy. Cafe du Monde is the best-known spot, but you’ll find them all over the French Quarter.

Gumbo: A literal melting pot of cuisines, gumbo throws together the best of New Orleans’ history. Every gumbo is a little bit different, so try Gabrielle Restaurant’s upscale quail version or the award-winning Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop for a classic seafood-based stew.

Austin, Texas

austin barbecue meal.

Some of the most American food out there is barbecue, and Austin has some of the best of the best. Texas-style barbecue usually means beef brisket, smoked over a low, wood-fired heat for hours.

What to Eat in Austin

BBQ: You’ll need to wait in line, but it will be worth it at Franklin Barbecue, the king of kings when it comes to smoked meat. But you can find fantastic joints all over the city—and don’t forget your beans, slaw, and potato salad on the side.

Mexican Food: They call it Tex-Mex for a reason. It’s Austin’s version of comfort food, so you’ll find delicious versions of enchiladas, tamales, and burritos at places like Cielito Lindo, Joe’s Bakery, and historic Tamale House East.

Steak: Have we mentioned that Texans like their meat?

More from SmarterTravel:

Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

What to Pack for Patagonia: 36 Essentials


Soaring craggy peaks, jaw-dropping glaciers, and pristine forests await you in Patagonia. I spent two weeks trekking the classic “W” route in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy in El Chalten, Argentina, sleeping in tiny refugios and campsites along the way. Here’s what made it onto my Patagonia packing list … and what I wish did.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Backpack

I’m a chronic overpacker, so I forced myself to stick to the 50-liter limit of my trusty Osprey Aura AG backpack. The lightweight frame makes it easy to carry for hours, and plenty of pockets, zippers, and compartments keep me organized.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Day Pack

A day pack gives you flexibility in your itinerary. Drop your backpack at camp, make a quick switcheroo, and move on up to the summit for the day. This water-repellent backpack from Sea to Summit gets the job done.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Sleeping Bag

Refugios and campsites offer linens and sleeping bags at an additional cost, so you can probably get away with not bringing one. I’m a cold sleeper though, so I don’t regret bringing my lightweight sleeping bag, especially when temperatures dipped below 30 degrees one night at camp.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Flight and Bus Ride Essentials

  • Headphones: There’s not much space for traditional over-the-ear headphones, so I brought my tiny Bose SoundSport Wireless ones and an adapter for the charger.
  • Scarf: The Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf doubles as a blanket or a pillow in a pinch, which is why I never leave home without it.
  • Motion sickness medication: It takes more than 10 hours of travel to get from Torres del Paine to El Chalten on winding mountain roads, so you’ll want your motion sickness remedy of choice.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Shoes

  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes: Make sure you’ve broken them in before you leave. Even a small blister or slightly ill-fitting shoe can mean misery for multi-day hikes, no matter how beautiful the trails are.
  • Waterproof camp shoes: These can do double duty as shower shoes and for relaxing at night.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Jacket(s)

Since you can experience bright sunshine, torrential downpours, snowfall, and high winds all in the span of 15 minutes in Patagonia, layers are essential.

  • Insulated vest: The Patagonia Nano-Puff Vest is my go-to for any kind of hiking or running. It keeps me super warm but is so light I barely notice wearing it. (It’s also available for men.)
  • Mid-weight windbreaker: Layer the vest with a midweight windbreaker (like this one for women or this one for men) when you’re hiking or the sun is out.
  • Warm coat: Keep a really warm puffy coat close by for the summits, around camp, and when the weather turns particularly nasty. Bonus: My L.L.Bean one is packable. (See a similar option for men here.)

What to Pack for Patagonia: Rain Gear

It will rain for some or all of your trip, so be prepared. The trails are well maintained, and with the proper gear, you can still have a great day.

  • Raincoat: The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket fit perfectly over my puffy coat and kept me warm and dry. (Check out a similar option for men here.)
  • Backpack cover: If your pack doesn’t have one, you’ll want to make sure you bring a cover. It’s best to find one that fits perfectly so it stays secure in the wind and rain—this Osprey Ultralight Raincover matches mine.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Clothing

  • Convertible hiking pants: They may be nerdy, but they’re also necessary in a region with so many weather changes.
  • Long-sleeve shirts: You won’t need short-sleeve shirts unless you’re warm in 40-degree weather. Stick with technical long-sleeve shirts—I brought one base layer and two lighter hiking shirts.
  • Tights or leggings: I brought two pairs of tights since that’s what I prefer to hike in—one at mid-calf and one long pair.
  • Cozy lounge wear: I saved one pair of joggers and one fleece pullover for relaxing around camp.
  • Socks: Get yourself several pairs of wool socks for hiking, and at least one for relaxing.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Toiletries

  • Sunscreen: It’s a must since you can burn even when it’s cloudy.
  • Multi-purpose soap: One of the best perks of hiking the “W” is that you can shower at almost every campsite and refugio. I love Bronner’s since it’s multi-purpose—shampoo, body wash, and clothing wash all in one (plus, it’s environmentally friendly).
  • Face wipes: On days without showers, these will get the grime and dirt off your skin.
  • Moisturizer: With so much wind, don’t leave it behind.
  • Over-the-counter medications: No matter where you travel, always bring some over-the-counter medication with you, especially remedies for upset stomach and pain, as well as an antihistamine in case of an allergic reaction.
  • Bandages: Taking care of blisters can make a big difference in your comfort level when you’re walking in hiking boots all day.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Gadgets

  • Headlamp: These are handy to help you get around camp and the refugios once the electricity goes out at night.
  • High-quality camera: Photos won’t do Patagonia justice, but it’s worth a shot (pun intended).
  • Universal adapter: Chile and Argentina use different plug setups and voltages.
  • Portable phone charger: Because you won’t always have electricity.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Accessories

  • Hat: I mostly used my baseball cap, though mornings at camp definitely warranted a warm hat.
  • Multi-purpose buff: I love hiking with one of these because they’re suitable for just about every type of weather.
  • Micro-towel: I follow the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy philosophy and always travel with a towel.
  • Large water bottle: You can drink the water right out of the streams and rivers on the trails in Patagonia. Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Sunglasses: Glaciers throw off glare, so when the sun does come out, you’ll want some shades.

What to Pack for Patagonia (That I Didn’t)

  • Collapsible trekking poles: These would have been handy on some hikes. Note that airlines require you to bring them in a checked bag, or you can rent a pair in either Puerto Natales or El Chalten.
  • Rain pants, rain pants, rain pants: They will make your life less miserable than mine was, and significantly drier, too.
  • Poncho: I’m glad I stuffed an extra trash bag into my pack at the last minute, but next time I’d bring a poncho. Did I mention it rains a lot in Patagonia?

What Not to Pack for Patagonia

Unless you’re going off the beaten path, you won’t need traditional backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping pad, pots and pans, mess kit, or a stove on your Patagonia packing list. You can rent these items from almost any refugio or gear store in town if you feel like you need them once you’re there.

Chileans and Argentineans are very casual, so you won’t need anything dressy (even jeans) unless you’re planning on going to one of the major cities before the hiking portion of your trip. Otherwise, save that space for an extra layer or two.

Overall, when packing for Patagonia, keep in mind that less is more when you’re carrying everything on your back. While it may be tempting to bring lots of clothes or accessories, just remember that every ounce counts—and you wouldn’t want anything to distract you from the incredible scenery.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

Categories
Arts & Culture Beach Booking Strategy Cities Food & Drink Historical Travel

Portugal vs. Spain: Which Country Is Right for You?


While both Portugal and Spain occupy the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, you may be wondering: Which one should you visit? The best answer is both, of course, but which one to choose depends on what kind of vacation you want to have. Here’s the ultimate rundown on Portugal vs. Spain so you can make the best decision.

Portugal vs. Spain: Language

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. It’s fairly similar to Spanish, but a word that goes far is obrigado/a for “thank you” (not to be confused with the Spanish gracias).

Spain gets a bit more complicated. While the predominant language is Spanish, and you can hear and see that everywhere, Spain has several semi-autonomous regions that are proud of their heritage and language. I once hopped into a cab in Barcelona and received a grouchy “Catalan or English—no Spanish!” when I tried to give my address. Catalan is spoken widely in places like Barcelona and Valencia, but there’s also Galician in Galicia, and Basque in places like Bilbao.

The good news? English is also widely spoken in both countries, especially in the bigger cities.

Winner: If you speak Spanish, Spain is much easier to navigate. But for simplicity’s sake, Portugal wins this round.

Portugal vs. Spain: Food

pasteis de nata portugal.

Portugal offers some of the best seafood in the Mediterranean, with delicious cod, octopus, prawns, and sardines. It’s less known than other “fine dining” destinations like France, so as a result, incredible multi-course dinners are fairly affordable. This is changing quickly though, with Michelin awarding its first stars to Portuguese restaurants in 2019.

Most restaurants open late—if you can get in at 7:00 p.m., you’re likely in a tourist spot—with dinners stretching into the wee hours of the morning.

One famous dessert you can find in Lisbon is pasteis de nata, an egg custard tart sprinkled with the tiniest bit of powdered sugar. It’s heaven in a bite, and worth the long wait at Pastéis de Belem, around the corner from Jeronimos Monastery.

Spain is globally known for its delicious food, especially its avante-garde fine dining scene made famous by Ferran Adria. But Spanish food is equally delicious in its simplest form: cured meats, cheeses, and olives. You’ll find regional specialties from jamon iberico in Andalusia to paella in Valencia and sea urchin in Costa Brava.

Like Portugal, restaurants are open late. But Spain also enjoys a thriving tapas and pintxos scene—small plates at tiny standing-room-only bars—where you can start your dinner as early as 4:00 p.m.

Winner: This one is close—you won’t go wrong! Portugal is easier for vegetarians and pescetarians, but Spain continues to produce globally renowned restaurants and high-quality food across every region, making it the winner.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Wine

In Portugal, head north to Porto, the birthplace of port. You can take a river cruise through the Duoro Valley and sample not just tawny but also ruby, rose, and white port. While you’re there, try vinho verde or “green wine,” which is crisp, acidic, and perfect to pair with seafood, not unlike a sauvignon blanc. Or you can explore the island of Madeira for a wine you’d rather drink than cook with (trust me!).

Spain is known mostly for bold, fruity tempranillos from the Rioja region (similar to a pinot noir or a cabernet sauvignon, depending on how they’re aged), but you’ll also find sparkling cava in Penedes and bright sherries from Jerez. You’ll generally find delicious, surprising options anywhere in the country.

Winner: This one depends on your wine preferences! If you’re a red wine drinker, Spain. If you’re a white wine drinker or into fortified wines, it’s Portugal all the way.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Key Destinations

beach near lagos algarve portugal.

Start your Portugal trip in the capital city of Lisbon. Covered in tiles and palm trees, it doesn’t feel like the major metropolis it really is. Climb up to the historic Alfama neighborhood, listen to fado fading through the alleyways, ride an iconic yellow tram, or head to Belem to explore monasteries and palaces of old.

Portugal’s charm comes from its laid-back cafe culture. Nearby Sintra offers colorful castles and palaces that inspired Hans Christian Andersen. You’ll find delightful small towns across the country, especially Cascais, Sortelha, and Amarante. Explore medieval Obidos or the Roman ruins in Coimbra.

Portugal’s coastline boasts deep cliffs and gorgeous views. Whether you explore the caverns of Lagos, surf or sea kayak in Albufeira, or hop over to the Azores Islands, you’ll find less crowded beaches than elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

In Spain, you’ll have your pick of big cities between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid offers cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, world-class museums, and imperial palaces; Barcelona has funky Gaudi architecture, wide-open avenues, and plenty of delicious food.

Head south to Andalusia to slow down and experience Moorish architecture or Granada’s famous Alhambra. Another alternative: Head north to Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls or make the pilgrimage by foot on the Camino del Santiago to the Santiago de Compostela. Try your hand at world-class rock climbing in the Pyrenees, cheer for your favorite team at a soccer match in Barcelona, or watch flamenco dancers twirl and stomp in Seville.

Then, when you’re ready to relax, head to the beach: Spain has nearly 5,000 miles of coastline for you to choose from. Whether you want to hang out in the sleepy fishing town of Cadiz or island hop to nightlife centers like Ibiza or Mallorca, you’ll find perfect cliffside beaches across the country.

Unlike Portugal, Spain struggles with overtourism, which has made it more difficult to visit due to long lines and crowds from cruise ships dropping thousands of visitors overnight. All that really means is you’ll have to adjust your expectations, be willing to pay for a tour to skip the lines, or travel during the shoulder or off-season.

Winner: This one also depends on what you like. For big cities with medieval charm and pristine, relatively empty beaches, Portugal’s the winner. For outdoor enthusiasts and art and architecture lovers, Spain wins this round.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Cost of Travel

I’ll use two of the most popular destinations in both countries as a proxy for cost—it does vary between high season and low season, and depending on whether you’re in a more popular tourist area. Porto, Portugal, for example, is much cheaper than Lisbon; the little white village of Ronda in Spain is much cheaper than bustling Madrid.

Is Portugal cheaper than Spain? Overall, yes. In Lisbon, you can find a great hotel for around $100 a night depending on the neighborhood, averaging out around $175/night. The average hotel in Barcelona is closer to $200 or $250 depending on the neighborhood.

For restaurants, you’ll pay between 10 and 15 euros for a main course in Lisbon, while Barcelona tends to be between 20 and 30 euros, especially if you’re trying to bag bucket-list dining experiences like a table at Tickets.

Attractions in Portugal also tend to be cheaper—for example, a ticket for the Tile Museum in Lisbon costs 5 euros, while the Prado in Madrid costs 15.

Winner: If you’re on a budget, you won’t beat Portugal’s value. While Spain is definitely still on the cheaper side for most of Europe, Portugal’s the winner.

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The Bottom Line

mijas spain street with plants.

Both Portugal and Spain offer a wide variety of exciting attractions and delicious food.

Head to Portugal if you’re a seafood fanatic wary of crowds, or if you’re on a budget. Portugal is an up-and-coming destination that will surprise you.

If you’re really into fine dining, world-class museums, or rock climbing and hiking, Spain is a great choice. It’s the type of destination you can visit again and again and experience something new.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

Categories
Booking Strategy Family Travel Theme Park

Disney FastPass+: The Ultimate Guide


Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, spans nearly 40 square miles (about the size of San Francisco!) and there’s no shortage of thrills, spills, and chills you can experience. But with so many choices, it can be overwhelming to navigate reservations, rides, and character visits. That’s why Disney created FastPass, now called FastPass+.

Included in the price of your park ticket, FastPass+ was designed as a way for Disney World visitors to skip the lines one ride at a time. It’s moved from paper ticket kiosks outside each ride to a complex online system that I’m here to help you navigate.

How Disney FastPass+ Works

Once you purchase park tickets or an Annual Pass, you can grab your trip’s FastPasses up to 30 days in advance—or 60 days in advance if you’re staying on property at one of Disney’s 25 resorts. Once the window opens, you can select up to three rides per park per day online or through the My Disney Experience app. After that, you can get one additional FastPass at a time.

Otherwise, you’re stuck waiting. And like most things too good to be true, there’s a catch: Because Disney releases each FastPass in tiers for every park except for Magic Kingdom, you’re only able to book one “top-tier” attraction at a time—things like Avatar Flight of Passage or EPCOT’s Test Track.

You’ll have to pick and choose carefully by location, too, unless you want to be running headlong across the park to catch a FastPass. You can change your selections anytime, but it’s based on availability and competition is fierce.

If you wait until the day of, it’s likely you’re going to wait, but it’s not impossible to get a FastPass—there are kiosks throughout each park where you can switch your selections or make your first ones. You can also swap things out in the app. Rumor has it that Disney releases more FastPasses based on availability, so if you’re dying to get on a specific ride that has a long wait time, you can keep refreshing throughout the day to see what’s available.

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Which Disney World Rides Should You Choose for FastPass?

Since you’re only able to choose three at a time, make the most of it. Here are the top Walt Disney World rides you should definitely try to snag a FastPass for.

The Best Rides to FastPass at Magic Kingdom

If you’re picturing Disney World in your head right now, you’re probably visualizing Cinderella’s Castle from Magic Kingdom. It’s the original Disney theme park and the most family-friendly—even the “big” rides aren’t so scary.

Magic Kingdom doesn’t currently have “tier” options, but nearly all 25 FastPass rides are popular, so you still want to choose carefully based on what you’re interested in riding.

If you like…

  • Thrills: Ride Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Splash Mountain—these are arguably the best rides across Disney’s parks.
  • Fun: Try for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, or the Tomorrowland Speedway in Tomorrowland.
  • Beating lines: To avoid the longest lines, grab Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, or Splash Mountain, which consistently have wait times over 60 minutes.
  • Keeping little ones happy: Try for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
  • Meeting characters: Go for meeting Ariel, Rapunzel, Tiana, Mickey, Tinkerbell, or Cinderella, depending on who your kids’ favorites are.

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The Best Rides to FastPass at EPCOT

EPCOT, which stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” has two distinct parts: Future World and the World Showcase. Of all the parks, EPCOT will have the most construction in 2020, with tons of new rides opening in 2021, so FastPass options may be limited in the meantime.

EPCOT divides its rides into two tiers, so you’re only able to choose one “top-tier” ride at a time (Test Track, Soarin’, Frozen, and EPCOT Forever, the new fireworks show). The longest lines are definitely at Soarin’ or Frozen, so your FastPass will go much further depending on what you (or your Frozen-obsessed kiddos) are clamoring for.

After that, you can choose two of the Tier 2 rides. If you like…

  • The final frontier: Try Spaceship Earth and Mission:SPACE (my personal favorites).
  • Chilling out: Relax with Turtle Talk with Crush or Living with the Land.
  • Finding Nemo: Go to The Seas with Nemo and Friends or Turtle Talk with Crush.

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The Best Rides to FastPass at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom, divided by continent, brings the animals of the world to you. Whether you’re heading out on safari, riding river rapids, or climbing Everest, it’s full of adventure.

With the recent opening of Pandora, the mystical land from Avatar, FastPasses at Animal Kingdom are split into two tiers. The two rides in Pandora (Flight of Passage and The Na’vi River Journey) make up Tier 1. Flight of Passage is one of the best rides in any of the parks right now, so if you’re able to snag it, please do.

As for the Tier 2 options (i.e., all of the other rides), there are tons to choose from. If you like…

  • Thrills: Ride Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and DINOSAUR.
  • Sing-alongs: Get a seat at the Festival of the Lion King, Rivers of Light, and Finding Nemo – The Musical shows.
  • Animals: Go on safari with Kilimanjaro Safaris, UP! A Great Bird Adventure, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug.

My top picks? Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris, no question—though DINOSAUR is a close third.

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The Best Rides to FastPass at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is emerging from several years of heavy construction with the immersive Galaxy’s Edge, the new Star Wars area of the park. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is, of course, a must-do—and it’s a Tier 1 ride, along with Slinky Dog Dash.

But there are plenty of other epic new rides at Hollywood Studios to choose from, like Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Alien Swirling Saucers. You can’t go wrong with any of these, though Toy Story Mania has the longest lines of the bunch since it’s the newest.

The rest of the Tier 2 “rides” are mostly shows, and the FastPass allows you to sit up front. That’s where Hollywood Studios is at its strongest besides the rides, so there’s plenty to choose from and enjoy. If you like…

  • Princesses: Go for the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Beauty and the Beast, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
  • Action: Watch Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and ride Star Tours.
  • Classics: Watch Fantasmic! and Muppet*Vision 3D.
  • Entertainment for little ones: Head to Disney Junior Dance Party!

Of these, Star Tours is the most popular, and then you can choose the show that most interests you (we’re big fans of Frozen in our house) as a nice break from waiting in line at the other top-tier options.

Need to coordinate the rest of your trip? See Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Tips: Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Disney Vacation.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.