Vibram FiveFingers: Barefoot Travel Road Test

Vibram FiveFingers

Vibram FiveFingers - Barefoot travelling

The easiest way to increase your bag’s weight is to take extra pairs of shoes on your vacation, so you travel with the just the shoes on your feet. The problem is that no pair of shoes fits every occasion.

A good pair of leather walking shoes provide a comfortable home for your feet on long walking tours, and look good for dinner at a classy restaurant. They do less well as beach wear or to attempt more athletic activities like rock climbing or kayaking.

Enter the Vibram FiveFingers, a lightweight shoe that is perfect for the beach, water sports and wide range of physical activities. I bought a pair in Hawaii, and road tested them in a variety of situations there and in Italy.

Although they feel a little strange when you first pull them on, I barely noticed the Vibram FiveFingers once I started walking around Honolulu. They are truly like walking barefoot while protecting your feet from sharp rocks, thorns or the hot pavement. A major step up from the ubiquitous flip flops–a footwear I loathe–worn by most beach goers, the FiveFingers are as comfortable in the surf as they are crossing the hot sand to your towel.

At the local shopping centres, I did not feel out of place wearing the Vibram FiveFingers and felt more comfortable and better protected than wearing sandals. For a beach holiday, they could easily be your one pair of shoes unless your plans include fine dining or exclusive clubs (a friend wore his too many nightclubs in Honolulu without any problems).

In Italy, I wore the Vibram FiveFingers on long walking tours and I found the hard uneven footpaths took a toll on the soles of my feet after three hours. The Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek is a more rugged version with a thicker sole and I suspect my problem would be solved with a pair of them.

Overall the Vibram FiveFingers provide plenty of grip and give you a much better feeling of the surfaces under foot, and I would use them for rock climbing, beach combing or any outdoor activity in a natural environment. For a long day sightseeing in a major city, I would leave these at the hotel and use my leather walking shoes. Should you buy a pair and take a barefoot vacation?

Yes, most people will find them more useful than sandals or flip flops, and certainly more comfortable. For a beach or nature vacation, they may be the only shoes you need but for most travel they will compliment your sturdier footwear and add little to your baggage weight.


5 Tips for a Great Holiday Road Trip

Scenic stop between Vancouver BC and Seattle.

Stop and enjoy the view occasionally.

Next week many families will pack the car and take a long drive to visit relatives or their personal holiday retreat, and large number of those trips will become endurance trials with crying kids, and angry parents.

Do you want a peaceful road trip, arrive relaxed and ready for the holidays?

Well, here are my five tried and tested tips for a great holiday road trip:

  1. Pack tonight – Pack your bags and load the car the night before you leave to reduce the pre-departure stress.
  2. Early start – Leaving just before dawn you will avoid the early morning traffic, and your kids will probably go back to sleep for a few hours. That will make the trip shorter for them, and reduce the boredom.
  3. Bring entertainment – Audio books, travel games, music and videos will help keep bored young minds occupied and the grumbles to a minimum.
  4. Stop regularly – Every 2-3 hours pull over and take a break. Find a park or playground where the kids can run around for 10-20 minutes, we found this easier to do by packing a picnic rather than using roadside stops.
  5. Take a scenic detour – There is a lot of great places to see that our modern highways efficiently race us past to get us to other places quicker. Take the scenic route occasionally, and rediscover those places.

Remember your holiday started as you left the driveway, and no one wants a bad start to their vacation. Plan, take your time and enjoy the journey.


Friday Travel Photograph – Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

Tourist Boat on the Canal in Bruges, Belgium


Finding the Right Rewards Credit Card for You

Did you spend hours trying to understand all the rewards credit card options but cannot work out which is best for you?

Well, life just got a little easier to find the best deal by using Mozo‘s new Rewards Revealer. Who is Mozo?

MozoMozo wants to provide a free, fair and user-friendly marketplace with all the info you need to research, compare and apply for financial services.

Simply tell the Rewards Revealer your annual credit card spend, the types of rewards that interest you and answer a couple of simple questions to get a customised list of credit cards. It gives you all the details about fees and rewards including the rewards value minus fees.

The rewards value minus fees is an important statistic, that lets you decide if the higher fee is delivering you the best value. For example, for a person spending $20000 a year Mozo recommended the Emirates Citi Platinum Card and Qantas American Express Discovery Card as the two best rewards cards. The Emirates Citi card has an annual fee of $229 but provides great value if you fly Emirates regularly with a rewards minus fee value of $437. The Qantas AMEX card has no fees, a rewards minus fee value of $234 and is the best deal for Qantas frequent flyers. (Check Mozo for the latest results)

With all the information presented in a logical format, you can easily decide which card is right for you and Mozo also highlights the latest deals available. Give it try and tell us if you found it useful.


Buying a SIM card in Italy

Our first full day in Rome, and after some great sightseeing, food and a quick siesta after lunch we headed off to take care of our domestics. First stop the Internet cafe, I checked my email then while Colleen attended to her blog I headed up the street to find the cell phone retailer.

‘Buon giorno, parli inglese?’

‘Si, a little.’

I thought, ‘Great, I do not have to do the phrase book shuffle.’

‘I need a SIM card for my phone.’

‘I can sell you one, I need your phone and passport please.’

This is just too easy, she examined my old T-Mobile GSM cell phone that I unlocked when we left America and satisfied herself that the local SIM card worked with my phone. The SIM card cost €8 with €5 credit to get us started but I added another €25 to last us the month, more than we needed as it turned out.

With a copy of my passport filed to fulfil the local security requirements, I signed the paperwork–all in Italian so I could have been signing over my first-born child–and the seller activated the SIM. Simple, a quick check to make certain it worked and I was out the door with my new Italian cell phone number. The whole operation took less than 20 minutes, and is certainly a lot simpler than getting a SIM in Australia where my Government issued passport is insufficient evidence that I am in fact me.

We mostly used the phone to SMS the kids each day and receive their messages of love, good wishes and frustration when we appeared to have too much fun without them. For the record we had great fun and highly recommend teenage-angst free travel for everyone. It also came in handy to arrange meetings with our guides, make reservations or contact the hotel if delayed.

After a month in Italy, I checked the credit balance and we still had €25 (we did not phone many people but SMS’d daily) so we called the kids from the airport to use the remaining minutes.The overseas phone calls drained the credit pretty quickly but SMS proved very inexpensive.

A local phone number makes life much easier when you spend an extended period in one country but be sure you understand the call charges and roaming costs if you head into a neighbouring country (they can be substantial). The process in most European countries and the USA is similar to my Italian experience, so I recommend getting a local number when possible always compare the costs against your usual plan.