How to Pack For a Press Trip in The Caribbean

 

Since October 2017, I’ve gone on five separate press trips to the Caribbean (Mexico 3x, Jamaica and The Bahamas) and I’d like to think that I’ve got packing for tropical, work-related travel down to a fine science. Well, maybe not a science…but I have learned a few things along the way. Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about my recent travels. So, before I head out on another trip, I thought I’d share a few of my packing tips for press or FAM trips in the tropics.

[Note: at some point I’ll write a comprehensive post about the ins and outs of press trips, but for now, this is a post about packing and preparation]

Bring a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in your carry-on.

Depending on where you’re flying from (in my case the west coast), if you’re on a red eye flight that arrives in the morning, you’ll probably get to your hotel or resort well before check in time. This means you’ll have a few hours to kill before your room is ready. I usually eat (I’m always starving) and then head to the pool/beach, however sometimes you have to hit the ground running. Literally. On my last trip I arrived from the airport and immediately had to do a 2-hour long (OUTDOOR) site tour of the property after flying all night. To save the hassle of rummaging through your suitcase in the hotel lobby bathroom (which, I’ve also done) I’ve just started packing my a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in my carry-on, along with anything else that I need to freshen up (face wipes, moisturizer, deodorant etc).

Checked baggage versus carry-on.

This is totally personal and I may change my stance on this, but I’m one of the rare people who prefers to check their baggage — especially for slightly longer trips. I like being hands free in the airport, plus in my experience, you tend to accumulate a lot of swag & souvenirs on press trips that you may want to take home (i.e. bottles of champagne, full size sunscreens, toiletries etc). Once again, this is totally a personal choice.

It’s not a fashion show.

In my experience, most of the journalists you meet on these trips are from large urban hubs like NY, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Toronto etc. I was worried that coming from the west coast of Canada (where we’re on “island time“) I’d look and feel like a country bumpkin in comparison to my peers. Not the case at all. Unless you’re going on fashion themed trips (like the kind described in Cat Marnell’s book How to Murder Your Life), most of the people you meet are going to be other (often underpaid) lifestyle and travel journalists like yourself.

Pack stuff that you feel good in and don’t bring anything too precious, as drinks get spilled and well, shit happens. With the exception of an Alice + Olivia dress, most of my tropical clothes are from the clearance rack of H&M, Forever21 or one of my favorite designer consignment stores in Vancouver (an excellent option for finding unique pieces for a great price — especially off season).

Now onto packing…

1. Sundresses that can easily be dressed up or down.

The key here is versatility. You want to pack things that can be worn with flat sandals to lunch/breakfast but can also work at night with a pair of heels (if that’s your jam). On my trip to Mexico and the Bahamas this summer, I brought two leaf-print dresses similar to the one above and wore them constantly. Tip: if you can wash a dress in the sink & it dries easily — even better.

2. Lightweight LBD.

Every press event is different, but in my experience there’s usually one night that requires you to be a little bit more dressy. A simple black slip dress like the one above has been a wardrobe godsend. Breezy and comfortable, you’ll look polished without being overdressed for the tropics.

3. Nude heels.

When it comes to heels, I try to only pack one pair. Maybe two. A great pair of nude heels is an easy solution here, as they go with everything. I actually own the exact pair of Dolce Vita slides featured above and I love them. They’re comfy and go with almost anything. If you’re looking to buy shoes online you’ll just want to make sure they’re comfortable enough to withstand a lot of walking. Caribbean resorts are deceptively large and you’ll likely clock some serious distances just going back and forth from events to your room.

4. Metallic or neutral colored flat sandals that you can walk in.

It all comes down to versatility and comfort here. While you’re able to find a ton of
women’s shoes online, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes don’t chafe and/or give you blisters.

5. Large clutch.

If the resort you’re visiting is all inclusive you’re probably not going to need to carry around your wallet all day, everyday. Instead, I like to use a large envelope clutch to hold my room key, phone & sunscreen. You can toss it into a beach tote for the day and/or pull it out for evening activities.

6. Fun jewelry.

Just because you’re there for business doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your accessories. While I’m loyal to my go-to large gold hoops, I use trips to the Caribbean as an opportunity to experiment with bold & bright jewelry that I might not wear at home. Same goes for clothing!

7. Bikinis.

While I love a good one-piece, when you’re drinking a lot throughout the day — even if it’s just water — bikinis are just easier to get in and out of. Bring at least two so that you always have something to wear when the other one is drying.

8. A cover up that you’re not embarrassed to wear in public.

I didn’t realize this about resorts, but people wear coverups in public areas — not just by the pool or beach. While I generally don’t put much thought into what I wear to the pool when I’m at home, I’m glad I invested in one or two coverups that I can wear without feeling raggedy.

9. Good quality flip flops.

Instead of buying overpriced flip flops when you get there (that will probably need to be thrown out sooner, rather than later), minimize your waste by investing in a pair of decent quality flip flops. I’m partial to my Havaianas (that are now 10 years old!) because they seem close to indestructible.

10. Sunscreen.

Pack more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. I almost always run out and hotel gift shops love to charge extra for it.

11. All purpose tote.

I have a large Longchamp tote that I use as my travel bag but also does double duty as a beach tote that I can take on day trips.

Now onto the really fun stuff…

12. Earplugs and anything else you’ll need for a comfortable sleep.

You can never really predict how noisy a resort will be at night or where your room will be situated in relation to said noise. For example, I never would have guessed that at Temptation the party at the outdoor club rages until 3 or 4am, nor could I have anticipated how noisy the birds & bugs were in Jamaica. Moral of this story: ear plugs are your friend. I’ve also started using them for sleeping on planes.

13. All the hand sanitizer.

On my second press trip to Jamaica, I got strep throat. It was awful. This goes without saying, but use hand sanitizer always and liberally.

14. Bikini zone gel.

There’s nothing worse than being en route to your destination and realizing that the bikini wax you just got has turned into a hot mess of bumps and irritation. This cooling, healing gel has saved my life on numerous occasions.

15. Probiotics.

I have a sensitive digestive system, but I find taking probiotics everyday — especially when I’m traveling — really helps.

16. Diarrhea medicine.

As luck would have it, the one time I neglected to pack Immodium was the time I absolutely needed it (and was forced to spend $25 USD at the hotel gift shop to get some). Now I like to keep a package in my suitcase at all time.

17. Pepto Bismal.

Between tons of food and drink, and just being away from my usual food/environment, I’ve yet to go on a trip where I haven’t had to use something for my stomach at least once. To avoid the risk of spilling, I prefer to pack the chewable tablets.

18. Bug bite relief.

If you forget to pack bug spray (in my experience I’ve only needed it 50% of the time), it helps to have some topical bug bite relief and Benadryl on hand.

19. A hat that you’re not particularly attached to.

On recent trips, I’ve had sun hats fall in the pool, get rained on and even fly off a boat into the ocean. You’re going to need a hat, but maybe consider packing one that you’re not super attached to.

20. Lip balm with SPF.

Pack some so you don’t spend the entire trip complaining that your lips hurt real bad. 

To save time, I’ve taken items 13-21 (along with a bottle of bug spray) and put it in a zipper pouch, so I can just grab my “tropical survival kit” whenever I’m preparing for a trip.

What are some of your traveling essentials?

Quick Advice For Female Travelers In Their Twenties

 

This post is an Advertorial. Thanks for supporting the posts that support Skinny Dip!

I‘m here today to talk about one of my favorite topics: travel! One of my main goals when I graduated university at 24 was to travel as much as possible. The problem: I had a very restricted budget (I was broke AF) and was kind of nervous about traveling solo. So, while some of my friends backpacked through Morocco solo, I  got a job at a travel agency, traveled in very large groups and went on adventures with my then-partner. While I think traveling solo is definitely something everyone should experience at least once, it’s only since I’ve been in my 30’s that I’ve become more adventurous when it comes to striking out on my own.

With that said, female travelers in their twenties are becoming increasingly common. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here’s a few things that I learned while traveling in my 20’s (and also my 30’s!)

Do As Much Research As Possible Beforehand

While it can be tempting to book a trip with reckless abandon, do your research beforehand so you know what you’re getting yourself into (I’d prefer to stay in places that don’t have murdery vibes, but that’s just me). Just don’t go overboard. You don’t want to get analysis paralysis, but you do need to make sure you’re booking places that are safe, secure and come with positive reviews.

Be Mindful of Your Drinking

By the time I started traveling in my 20’s, I’d heard enough stories that started with “so, I woke up naked on a beach in Thailand after blacking out”, that I vowed never to drink while traveling, period. To be clear, drinking is fine, just make sure that you stay safe. You shouldn’t drink too much if you’re alone, or with people you barely know either. Don’t put your drink down, know your limits and use your common sense. (PS. If you’re going to drink absinthe, don’t do it in the shower.)

Stay Somewhere With Great Reviews

Look for places with great reviews so you know you’re staying somewhere trustworthy. I chose my recent hotel in Jamaica not because it was the fanciest place on the strip, but because it had consistently great reviews. A place like Fairfield Inn & Suites Mexico City Vallejo has features you should be looking for. You want to make sure that you’re going to be well looked after, wherever you’re traveling and whatever you’re planning on doing.

Pack Light

Nothing hammers home the importance of packing light like having to lug a heavy suitcase up the stairs of a five story Italian hotel with no elevator or air conditioning (#truestory). As a recovering over-packer, I always have to remind myself that I usually end up only needing 3/4 of what I put in my suitcase. Pack minimally, pick up anything you need/forget when you get there and leave room to bring home anything you might purchase.

Invest In A Portable Charger

I learned this hard way when I went to Disneyland for the first time as an adult and my phone ran out of power halfway through an epic photo-shoot with Joe the Intern. A portable charger will ensure you always have phone battery – not to just update Instagram, but to call a cab or LYFT if you need to.

Eat The Food And Don’t Sweat It

Although you may want to stay healthy on your travels, give yourself permission to let go a little bit. While I don’t regret eating my body weight in tacos last time I was in LA, I do regret that one time I went to Loteria Grill and ordered a salad when I was really craving a plate of juicy lamb Birria. Don’t be afraid to try the specialty dish, and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. It’s not going to kill you!

It’s Okay to Get A Bit Lost

If you get lost, don’t sweat it. You might find something amazing that you wouldn’t have found otherwise — like an amazing hole in the wall restaurant or a cool photo op. Allow yourself some freedom in your schedule to really explore and find new things. For everything else, there’s Google Maps.

Enjoy The Moment – Not Through A Screen

For the majority of my twenties, smart phones simply didn’t exist (shout out to my Nokia flip phone, RIP!) so this wasn’t an issue. Now I try to make a concerted effort to limit screen time as much as possible when I’m traveling. Make sure you’re properly enjoying the moment as you travel, and not just through a screen. Be mindful of what you’re seeing. By all means, snap some pictures, but make sure you actually take in the moment yourself.

A Quick Note On Safety

Don’t listen to anyone who says “it’s not safe for females to travel alone.” While there’s definitely some locations that are safer than others (and some that you probably want to avoid altogether), if you carefully plan where you’re going and take safety precautions, you should be fine. You can’t let fear of the unknown stop you from exploring!

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful.

Bon Voyage! xx

On Traveling, Toronto and Ghost Towns

 

If the city of Toronto and I had a relationship status it would be, “it’s complicated.”

November 11th, 2017 marked the 6th year anniversary of my move back to the west coast and yet, whenever I meet anyone new, one of the first things they always ask me is, “do you miss Toronto?”

After years of having to answer this question, I’ve perfected my answer.

I miss my friends. I miss eating at my favorite Nicaraguan restaurant. I miss the diversity and being able to get almost any kind of food, any time of day (like 24hr Jamaican takeout). I miss walking down Queen St West on a sunny day. Sometimes I miss the nightlife (although I doubt I could still keep up with my old party schedule). But do I actually miss living in the city? Not really.

When I moved to BC, I traded the excitement and conveniences of big city life for a more balanced lifestyle. Things are better for me here. I’m healthier, I’m less anxious and I’m generally happier.

I haven’t been to Toronto for a proper visit in 6 years and don’t really feel sad about it.

After years of going back and forth to see my family, I’d rather spend my money traveling to places that I haven’t been before. Besides, it’s cheaper for me to fly to LA than it is for me to go to Toronto — and you know how much me and Joe the Intern love The California.

(Besides, people should come visit me. We have the warmest weather in Canada. And beaches. And fresh sushi for days. I mean, it’s pretty fucking rad here.)

This is what I tell people, but the truth is more complicated.

Toronto gave me a lot of things. Wonderful friendships. Love. Awesome professional connections. Assertiveness, drive, ambition and the ability to hustle.

However, Toronto was also the site of a lot of soul crushing, worst-moments-of-my-life, heartbreak. My last two trips there were bitter sweet. I had a wonderful time catching up with friends, but it also felt like memories and reminders were around every corner.

Toronto isn’t the big, bad, concrete jungle that a lot of Canadians make it out to be. It’s a great city. Really. But going back there is emotionally complicated for me. I know I’ll eventually come visit Toronto, but for now I’d rather travel to places where I don’t have to deal with the same kinds of uncomfortable feelings.

I used to wonder if my aversion to Toronto was all in my head, until this past October when I missed my flight home from Cancun (police incident on the freeway) and found myself in T.O for an unexpected ten hour layover.

I thought of calling one of my close friends to stay with her, but she now lives in Newmarket and it wouldn’t be worth the long drive. Instead, I went to apply for a hotel voucher from the airline. Half an hour later, I was settled into a grim airport hotel where everything was a faded brown hue, including the stained carpet.

Maybe it was the jet lag or the shock of finding myself removed from the high-voltage colors of Mexico, but when I pulled back those beige filmy curtains and looked out the floor to ceiling windows of my hotel room, I was struck by something.

This is not my home anymore and I don’t want to be here.

The feeling was so intense that it contributed to my decision to decline a work opportunity that would bring me back to Toronto the following week. On the flight home the next day, I felt a huge sense of relief as soon as the Pacific Ocean came into sight.

This is all to say that it’s okay to know what feels like home and what doesn’t. It’s okay to protect your emotional well-being. Don’t feel guilty about any of it.

That isn’t to say that the city of Toronto and I aren’t on speaking terms.

Between four red-eye flights to the Caribbean over the past four months, Toronto and I have cobbled together a new relationship of sorts. It involves groggy 4am breakfast sandwiches at Tim Hortons, followed by a lengthy browse through the Jo Malone duty free shop (aka heaven) — a ritual I now look forward to every time I pass through YYZ.

There’s lots of friends to hug, babies to meet and new homes to celebrate, so I know I’ll eventually make it back to Toronto for a visit sometime in the near future, but for now “complicated” works for me.

20 Things You Should Know Before You Go to Temptation Cancun

The view at Temptation Cancun

Last month I spent five hilarity filled, sun-soaked days at Temptation Resort, Cancun – a topless optional, “playground for grownups.” The adult-themed resort recently underwent 11 months of extensive, multi-million dollar renovations and a complete rebuild, lead by world-renowned designer Karim Rashid (you may own his garbage can). The result is a luxurious, ultra-modern and playful candy coloured space that makes you feel like you’re temporarily living in a pack of Jolly Ranchers.

When I agreed to go on this trip, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a lot of questions, concerns, and just general curiosities. I recently wrote about my Temptation experience in the Toronto Sun. However, I thought it would be useful to put together a post that answers FAQs.

Going to Temptation for your first time? Here are a few things you should know:

1. Going topless is completely optional.

Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty shy about showing my body in public. I was concerned that I’d get to the resort and be the only person hanging out by the pool fully covered. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Going topless is completely optional. Some people are topless, others are not. Whatever your comfort level, no one judges you (I even rocked a one-piece while hanging out on the beach!)

2. You will see boobs. Lots of boobs.

It’s kind of inevitable. Within my first 20 minutes at Temptation, I looked across the pool and saw a woman vigorously applying sunscreen to her very ample breasts. These kinds of moments become so commonplace that they kind of stop registering after the first day or so. Also, good call re the sunscreen. Apparently burnt nipples are not much fun.

3. It’s not a Swingers resort.

Temptation is an “adult-centric, superior all-inclusive, topless-optional resort” designed to be a “playground for adults” aged 21+ who “love to party in a free-spirited atmosphere.” While Temptation is very clear that it’s not a Swingers resort, you will meet guests who consider themselves Swingers or Lifestyle (however, as one couple I spoke to told me with a wink, “we’re not swingers but some of the people we sleep with are“).

Everyone has their own reasons for coming to Temptation. Some folks just want to go topless and love the laid-back, friendly vibe. Other guests are there to spice up their relationship and/or test boundaries (even if they’re not actively trying to hook up with anyone, there’s the possibility that it may happen and sometimes that’s enough.) And of course, there are also people (like me) who just want to chill by the pool and eat as much guacamole as possible, with zero judgment. However you cut it, if you have a freak flag, this is the perfect place to fly it.

4. The crowd is older.

Although the resort is actively trying to bring in more millennial-aged guests, for the most part, the crowd is late their 20’s to early 30’s and up. The price point is a bit higher than a generic resort, so that tends to attract a more mature and established crowd. While I met a lot of people in their 30’s and early 40’s, there are also lots of guests in their 60’s and 70’s!

5. The vibe is very body positive.

Without really advertising it as such. You will see bodies of all different shapes, sizes, and ages in various stages of undress. There’s no judgment. There’s no shame. Everyone is just doing their thing. If you’re tired of worrying about what you look like in a bathing suit, this is the perfect place to go. By the end of my stay, I felt a renewed sense of acceptance and love towards my own bod.

6. The food is good.

I know it seems counter intuitive to come back from a sexy adult themed resort and want to talk about the food, but it was really quite excellent. With seven different specialized restaurants on the property, there’s a little bit of everything. My favorite restaurant overall was Sea Flirt. I loved their Mexican inspired breakfasts and modern seafood dinners. Dinner at Romanza (high-end Italian) was also excellent. Other favorites include the cheese empanadas and taco dorados at Rain (buffet), the guacamole & ceviche at Amores (Mexican/American) and basically all of the desserts. Also, bottomless fresh squeezed juices at breakfast!

7.  It’s all-inclusive, but bring money for tips.

Although it says all tips are included, the staff is really lovely and you’ll want to tip them. It’s just good form. I’d budget $20 USD/per day on tips.

8. You can easily plug in your phone and electronics in your room.

I thought I’d have to bring an adapter/travel plug set, but it turns out you don’t need one for Mexico. Inside the rooms at Temptation Cancun you’ll find these cute little nooks built into the wall on either side of the bed where you can easily plug in all your electronics. Also, no need to bring a straightening iron – there’s one in every bathroom. 

9. The gift shop sells Cialis and Viagra but may not carry items like gum and bobby pins.

I learned this the hard way (heh, pun not intended). Luckily there’s a drugstore directly across the street from the hotel where you can get all kinds of things — including deeply discounted over-the-counter skin products (Retin A, Kitocell) without a prescription. FYI, you cannot buy Xanax or Adderall without a prescription. I asked…for a friend.

10. Ordering room service off the TV is kind of amazing.

There’s a fancy, schmancy digital room service system that you can access through your TV. It’s 24-hours and all-inclusive. Perfect for those late night chips and guacamole cravings.

11. There are two pools, each with a distinctly different vibe.

The “sexy pool” is the party pool where things can get pretty wild, whereas the “quiet pool” is exactly what it sounds like: mellow and laid-back. I liked having a choice between the two.

12. There’s an unofficial message board where guests can connect.

Many guests come back every year or even multiple times a year, so it makes sense that they have their own message board. Cancun Care is a place where guests can connect, arrange meetups and talk about their experiences. It’s also where you can sign up for The Boob Cruise. Yes, that’s totally a thing and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

13. You will see and hear things that can’t be unseen/heard.

While on the way to our first dinner together, our group of journalists passed by a group of people partying completely nude on their balcony. While sexual activity is prohibited in public spaces, you will see things. Some of the things we witnessed: A very large man in a very tiny man-thong. The beginnings of what looked like a foursome popping off in the pool. An underwater blow-job/hand-job. More men in thongs. To quote my friend Laura, “my eyes will never be the same.”

14. If hooking up with a couple is on your sexual bucket list, this is a good place to turn that fantasy into a reality.

Not every couple at Temptation is there to hook up (see above), but if you’re looking for that kind of connection, this is a good place to meet other people who are open to it. Even if you’re not looking to “play,” you’ll probably get hit on — or at the very least checked out – by a couple. Everyone is really respectful though, so if you’re not into it, it’s totally OK to politely decline.

15. Temptation is an environment of consent and respect.

The hardest thing to get used to about Temptation is how decidedly UN-creepy it all is. There is a strict “no means no” policy that’s built into the Temptation Cancun resort guidelines that every guest has to sign off on upon check-in. People will ask you before they touch you — even if it’s just a hug.

16. If you’re a light sleeper and like to go to bed early, bring some earplugs.

The music from the outdoor nightclub Bash, usually winds down around 2 am. Depending on where your room is located, you might be able to hear it when you’re trying to sleep. If you’re a light sleeper (like I am) and tend to go to bed early, you might want to bring along a pair of earplugs.

17. You will make friends.

This trip was the first time since my #BiSC days where I went somewhere and felt like I met my people. I was lucky enough to go to Temptation with 8 other amazing, hilarious journalists. We started as strangers but ended the trip as friends. With that said, I feel like many of the returning guests would say the same thing about their Temptation experience. When asked what they love about Temptation, everyone says “the people.” Everyone is really friendly and open, so it’s incredibly easy to strike up conversations with strangers.

18. You will go topless.

On my last full day at the resort, I worked up the courage to go topless. It wasn’t a big deal and it felt kind of amazing.

19. By the end of your stay, you’ll find yourself with 5-8 new BFFs, carrying around your possessions  (which include an armload of discount over the counter acne medications) in a rain-soaked hat.

AND IT WILL BE THE BEST THING EVER. #NoRegrets

20. Temptation will win you over.

Maybe it was the amazing people I met, the daily breakfast enchiladas I consumed or the sheer ridiculousness of it all (where else can you find a poolside “orgasm faking contest” or dance half-naked to Billy Ocean’s Carribean Queen while enjoying the best the swim-up bar has to offer?) but in just a few short days, Temptation managed to turn me from a skeptic into a believer.

 

 

20 Things To Do on a Weekend Getaway to Vancouver

 

As someone who spent over a decade living in a major metropolis, people always ask me, “how do you survive living on the island?” First off, let’s get a few things straight: Victoria isn’t a big city but it’s not super small either. We’ve got bars. We’ve got coffee shops. We’ve got more marijuana dispensaries than is humanly necessary. While the shopping is somewhat limited, you can still mostly get what you need (unless what you need is a Zara store. I mean, come on Victoria). With that said, living on an island comes with limitations and the desire to “get off the island” can get strong. So, when that question comes up, I always answer: “regular trips to Vancouver!”

I’ve spent large chunks of time in Vancouver since I was child and like to think I have a decent handle on the city. After posting a bunch of photos from my recent trip two weeks ago, a friend commented, “I should get you to plan my next weekend in Vancouver! I never know what to do once I’m there.” So, I’ve decided to  do just that.

Here’s some of my favourite things to do and eat in Vancouver, as seen through the lens of someone who visits the city regularly.

1. Eat at Guu Izakaya.

“You want me to eat at a place called Guu?” is what most people ask. I always tell them, “yes, yes a thousand times yes!” If you haven’t experienced Izakaya (Japanese tapas) before, Guu should be your first stop. Luckily, there are a bunch of locations around the city, each with a slightly different menu. One thing I have to order at every one I visit is their Tuna Takaki. It’s simply the best I’ve ever had.

2. Shop at a Japanese dollar store.

If you’ve never experienced a Japanese dollar store, you’re in luck because Vancouver has quite a few! I’ve recently fallen in love with the newly opened Miniso chain, which is more upscale and a great source for cosmetics, housewares & sheet masks, but Yokoyaya (International Village) and Daiso (in Richmond) are also worth checking out.

3. Stay at the Burrard Hotel.

Described as “Melrose Place without the murder” The Burrard Hotel is my go-to for when I’m not staying at my sister’s place. The decor is delightfully retro and the palm tree filled courtyard makes you feel like you’re somewhere much further south. Joe the Intern likes their selection of art by Dina Goldstein that’s scattered throughout the hotel.

4. Look at pretty things at Nordstrom.

Nordstrom used to be a novelty reserved for trips to the States, but now there’s stores in Canada. The downtown Vancouver location is stunning and a great source of inspiration if you’re like me and you love looking at & touching pretty things. The selection is curated to suit an Asian market, which I find generally means more whimsical, adventurous pieces. There’s also a bar. Inside the store. You know, because.

5. Eat a Japadog.

If you’re in Vancouver and you’ve never experienced a Japanese style hotdog, you need to visit Japadog. They have carts throughout downtown as well as a storefront restaurant on Robson street. It’s a Vancouver institution and likely one of the best street meats you’ll ever consume. My favourite is the Kurobuta Terimayo. If I’m going to send my body into a gluten spiral, this is my first stop. (American friends: they now have two locations in LA!)

6. Go bro-watching at the Cactus Club.

I think it’s accurate to say that a lot of people here have a love/hate relationship with the Cactus Club. Going to one is a bit like hooking up with an ex that has a “meh” personality but is hot and surprisingly good in bed. The Cactus Club is a chain restaurant that always makes you feel a bit like you’re stepping into an Entourage episode, but you stay because they’re in all the best locations (like overlooking the water in Coal Harbor or English Bay) and the food is actually quite excellent.

“I got 99 problems, but this beach ain’t one” – English Bay Cactus Club Cafe #beach #vancouver #patio

A post shared by Cactus Club Cafe (@cactusclubcafe) on

7. Go on a Vancouver Foodie Tour.

Want to experience some of the best food Vancouver has to offer in one afternoon? I seriously recommend booking a Vancouver Foodie Tour. A few summers ago, The Secret Agent and I went on the Guilty Pleasures Gourmet tour and it was amazing. Not only are you going to eat some delicious things, you’ll also get a great overview of the city’s culture.

8. Go for drinks at Long Table Distillery or The Keefer Bar.

Head to the Long Table Distillery for a few drinks before you head out for the night. This small tucked away micro-distillery has a cool, industrial-style tasting room for handcrafted spirits and some of the best craft cocktails I’ve tasted. Craving more cocktails? Check out The Keefer Bar in Chinatown. I still haven’t been there yet, but reliable sources say it’s amazing.

9. Swim in the pools at Kitsilano or Second Beach.

Vancouver public pools > your public pools. Vancouver is home to several excellent public pools like Kitsilano (which is saltwater!) and Second Beach in Stanley Park. Both spots have scenic waterfront views that rival any hotel pool in the city.

10. Eat something deliciously greasy at Hons.

By now you’ve probably figured out that Vancouver is a hub for amazing Asian food. Is Hon’s the best Chinese food in the city? Probably not. But it’s kind of an institution and it serves damn tasty Cantonese comfort food. Think perfectly fried and just a little bit smoky rice noodles with beef, crispy fresh Gai-Lan with oyster sauce and plates of bbq pork all served by staff in matching T-shirts.

11. Have sushi at Shiro.

If you’re walking along a street in Vancouver and you don’t pass at least a handful of sushi restaurants before you reach your destination, be concerned. Very, very concerned. There’s just so. much. sushi. here. Shiro is my favourite in the city though.

12. Treat yourself to dinner at Wildebeest.

If you’re looking to go for a higher-end meal and like things meaty, hit up Wildebeest in Gastown. I can be a bit of a scene on the weekends, but I’ve had some of my favourite meals from the past five years at this restaurant. I also recommend Pidgin (Asian/French fusion) which is right around the corner.

Our Smoked Boar Belly is one of many #happyhour reasons to leave work early. 5-6pm every day! #treatyoself

A post shared by Wildebeest (@wildebeestyvr) on

13. Take the Skytrain to Aberdeen Centre.

If you’re in the mood to be transported somewhere totally different, take a quick skytrain ride to the Aberdeen Centre – a large Asian shopping mall just outside the city in Richmond. You’ll find stores like Hong Kong’s Giordano that aren’t available elsewhere in Canada. Hint: stop at the food court for lunch and/or some delicious Asian desserts.

14. Enjoy a decadent meal during Dine Out Vancouver.

If you’re like me and love fine dining and are also budget conscious, Dine Out – a yearly event where high-end restaurants offer prix-fixe menus at a reduced cost – is probably going to be your jam. This past winter, a friend and I took advantage & had a wonderful meal at Yew.

15. Shop at Front & Company on Main.

Located on a the hip Main St street, Front and Company features a mix of previously worn name brand & designer items and new pieces. It’s also where I go to sell items from my wardrobe  – and let’s face it – where I get a huge chunk of my clothes. Most of my profits usually end up going back into the store because I almost always find something gorgeous to buy every time I visit.

16. Eat some Pupusas on Commercial Drive.

Commercial Drive (“The Drive”) is probably the area of the city that most reminds me of Toronto – in the best way possible. Old school Italian businesses press up against hip bars, vintage shops and Indian take-out. While you’re there, make sure to try some pupusas (delicious El Salvadorean corn patties stuffed with melted cheese, beans & meats) at Rinconcito Salvadoreno.

17. Look for treasures at Community Thrift & Vintage in Gastown.

Cobblestone lined Gastown is now home to a lot of trendy bars, restaurants and shops, but tucked away amongst the hip high-end sneaker shops and furniture stores, you can still find a bargain at one of two Community Thrift & Vintage stores. Not only are the stores super cute and well curated, they’re part of a social enterprise initiative that provides supportive, employment opportunities to women living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

18. Grab a drink in the “Gayborhood” and wander around the West End & English Bay.

Davie Village (aka the “gaybourhood”) is a vibrant neighborhood located in the West End of downtown and is the heart of the city’s gay community. I love this area – especially in the the summer and around Pride weekend when the night life (and day life) spills out on to the street. Imbibe at one of the many eateries, bars or lounges and then head for a romantic stroll around English Bay (one of the best views in the city).

Hanging out in English Bay aka “fake California.”

A post shared by Simone Paget (@simone_paget) on

19. Discover discount designer duds at the consignment stores of South Granville.

Adjacent to some of Vancouver’s wealthiest neighbourhoods lies South Granville. This hood is home to stores like Anthropologie, James Perse, Max Mara and others. It’s also where the rich folks go to dump their wardrobes. My favourite place for scoring deals is Turnabout. Think lots of lightly used high-end to mid-range designer pieces for fair prices. Tip: if $30 Alice and Olivia dresses are your thing, head to the basement. That’s where you can find the clearance racks and deepest discounts.

20. Eat tacos at Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop.

These are the best tacos I’ve found outside of L.A. There’s now a location on the island so I don’t make a point of eating there when I’m Vancouver anymore, but it’s good. Oh so good. There’s a couple of locations around the city, the newest being in the financial district. Try the chicken tinga taco. It’s mouthwatering.

Vancouver friends, where are some of your favourite spots in the city?!

Latest pins

Follow on Pinterest