Extremely low: NYC to Kenya for only $350 round-trip

H/T The Flight Deal on this amazing deal.

Kenya Airways is offering a major sale to Nairobi for dates spanning throughout 2019. Find your dates through the ITA Matrix, and then book on Delta’s website. The folks at TFD kindly put together a link you can use to plug in your dates. You must follow the directions exactly in order to get the low fare.

No word on whether this is an error fare or just an extremely low sale, or whether Kenya/Delta will honor the flights but this is reminiscent of the Etihad Airways glitch fare sale to Abu Dhabi that sent hundreds of folks around the world in 2015.

As with all error fares, book now while you still have the opportunity to do so. These dirt cheap prices won’t last.

If you book — let me know!

Not a mistake: Flights from NYC to Europe for under $300

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Don’t wait on this deal — I’m seeing flights priced from NYC/EWR to destinations in Europe (Paris, Amsterdam, Rome) for around $300 with October - April availability. A stopover in London or Helsinki will cost you a bit more, around $330.

This deal, which the good folks at The Flight Deal say isn’t a mistake fare, is an American Airlines basic economy deal. With basic economy, you are limited to one personal item and one carry-on, ineligible for upgrades,

If you can deal with those restrictions, this is a pretty good deal as flights to Europe at this time of the year can often cost $800 or more. Play around with the dates below and see what you come up with. But don’t wait, this is unlikely to last long.

JFK - Paris, $276 round-trip (Nov. 11-17)

JFK - Rome, $337 round-trip (Dec. 1-8)

'Travel isn’t always pretty': Life lessons from Anthony Bourdain

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
— Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”

The travel community and the world at large lost an icon on Friday. Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN's "Parts Unknown," was found dead in his hotel room in France after an apparent suicide. 

During the weekend, people in the travel community reflected on Bourdain's legacy of not "Columbus-ing" other cultures and for always keeping it real. The former is essential -- Bourdain frequently chopped it up at the Waffle House and in kitchens in Hong Kong -- but the latter is what I want to talk about.

Bourdain said in "No Reservations" that traveling isn't always pretty. Curated Instagram posts and YouTube vlogs may make us feel otherwise, but Bourdain was correct. It isn't always pretty. In fact, at times it can be downright nasty.

I'm thinking back to a trip I took some time ago. I planned the trip almost a year in advance. I did my due diligence and made sure I registered with the State Department before leaving. I thought I was about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. But when I got on the ground, it all fell apart. And when I say fell apart, I mean that the entire trip blew up in my face. Without going too much into specifics, I'll say that the trip involved a lot of tears, broken glass, and the strange feeling that I was being watched. 

That's the ugly side of traveling. It's the side no one tells you about -- of ruined plans and feeling like your life could potentially be in danger. I'm guilty of romanticizing trips myself. I'm guilty of using a lot of Instagram filters and posting dozens of hashtags of me in front of tourists spots faking like I'm having a good time.

It's been some time since that trip, and I'm still affected by it. It made me look at people differently. I lost some friends but got closer to others. I lost a lot of money. I'll even say that trip changed the way I approach traveling. 

But one of the upsides to the trip was that I got to connect with the local culture and people more. That trip, filled with heartache as it was, took me out of my comfort zone more than anything. It also taught me a crucial life lesson that I don't have to make everything look pretty for other people's sake. 

Rest, Anthony. And thank you. 

Thank you!

Vikkie Ventures turns a year old today.

Since then, a lot of things have changed. Some good, some awful.A year ago, I had an idea for a blog that would offer cheap travel hacks, muse about life, and make travel feel accessible for people of color. I'd like to say that I accomplished much of that.

In the year since this blog launched, I've gotten so much great feedback from yall. What has been the most heartening to me has been the people who reached out to me for travel advice or to tell me that they were planning a trip because of my advice. The travel industry has missed a huge market by ignoring the experiences of people of color in general, and black people in particular. I hope this blog helps to fill that void.

This website was started with the mission to help you reach your travel goals, to take risks, and to see the world.

If this blog inspired you at all, I consider my work to be complete. But it doesn't stop here. Stay tuned for more.

Thank you,
Vikkie

13 hours in Brussels, as told by Instagram

 Brussels, Belgium

I'm back from my brief Europe trip. I ate well, drank well, and took great photos. More on that later.

When I booked my flight in early January, I added a free stopover to my itinerary for a quick day trip. I had the option of having a stopover in Geneva, Zurich, Munich, or Brussels. I figured I'd be bored in Geneva and Zurich, and I'd been to Germany before, so I decided on Brussels.

I got into Zaventem airport around 6:30 a.m., and after waiting in the passport control line, I was finally out of the airport.

I did the smart thing and checked my bag at JFK airport through to my final destination in Barcelona, so I didn't have to lug it around during the day.

After leaving the airport, I hopped in a cab to the city center, which is Grand Place. It was still pretty early and dark outside and few people were outside. There was a light drizzle and still quite cold, so I decided to get a cheap room at L'hôtel La Madeleine for a few hours to shower, nap, and kill some time before starting the day. I got up around 11:30 am feeling refreshed and ready to explore.

My French isn't great, but most people in the city spoke fluent English. Basic conversational words in French are always helpful, however, and people will appreciate you knowing a few simple words.

Here's how I spent the short trip.


 Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert


My first stop was at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. It's a cool indoor shopping market with a few chocolatiers, shopping, and other eateries.

It was still early, but couples and young families were making their way through the gallery in the leisurely way I soon found was commonplace throughout Europe.

It's a beautiful market. If you're an architecture geek like me, you'll appreciate how pretty it is. It's light-filled and makes for great photos. 


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The Royal Palace of Brussels


The Royal Palace!

I took a hop-on-hop-off bus to get here, which was a waste of time because I almost completely bypassed this place. It's across the street from a park and very, very pretty.
 

 

 

 

 


Grand Place


In the heart of Brussels, lies the central square of the city, Grand Places. Grand Place houses the Town Hall, and the King's House, a Hard Rock Cafe, and unsurprisingly, a beer museum. 

It's completely closed to traffic, so my Uber driver dropped me a few blocks away. There were tourists and locals milling about, taking photos and chasing after their children.

I was awestruck by how beautiful the buildings were. Again, I'm obsessed with nice architecture. According to UNESCO, many of the buildings date back to the 17th century. 

A group of Boy Scouts were running around in shorts even though it was chilly in the city. I grabbed a coffee and some chocolate and took a bunch of pictures. By this point it had started to drizzle again so I decided to find a place to buy a waffle.


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Ate a waffle


I stopped briefly at La Rose Blanche, a tavern-style restaurant. I wasn't particularly hungry, but I felt like I could leave Brussels without at least ordering a waffle.

The waffle was crispy and came drizzled with hot chocolate and ice cream, complete with a side of whipped cream. I was pretty satisfied. 


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Parc du Cinquantenaire


My last stop was at the Parc du Cinquantenaire. The Cinquantenaire was built at the request of King Leopold II, who wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence.

When I arrived, there was some kind of event for Volkswagen going on, as I saw all kind of cars, beetles, trucks, and vans parked beside the arch. 

Despite the cold weather, I was struck by how colorful and green the park was. The park is surrounded by a busy highway but it felt peaceful just strolling through the park and under the arch.


Back to the airport


13 hours in Brussels and over a day of traveling later, I headed back to Brussels Airport to catch my connecting flight to Barcelona. All in all, a good day and a great use of a stopover.

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The advice I'd give to a first-time international traveler is...

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So you've booked your first international trip. You've booked your round-trip flight. You've found hotel/Airbnb/hostel accommodations. You have your visa. Maybe you're going solo, or perhaps you're going in a group. Your friends in the group chat can't stop talking about the trip.

You're excited, but yet, you're also terrified. Maybe this is too much, too soon? Perhaps you aren't ready yet? I get it. I wish I could tell you that your first international trip will go entirely without a hitch, that you'll hit the ground running as soon as you land, and that you won't get food poisoning. I can't tell you that -- but I can tell you the experience will change your life. What you make of that experience is up to you. Here are three tips:

1. Being afraid is alright -- and normal
I can't tell you how terrified I was on my first flight out of the country. I worried about my health, whether I could acclimate to a new culture, the plane, not having cell service, being harassed, missing my family, and whether I would mesh well with the people on the trip. Some of these worries are uniquely "American," I can admit. Some are specific to traveling the world as a Black woman. But some were real worries. My advice is to embrace your emotions at all ends of the spectrum, but don't let them consume you or make you feel like you aren't brave enough. You are. 

I've always thought that travel was an exercise in vulnerability. On my trip to Haiti -- which was the second time I'd ever been out of the country, and the first time I flew on an airplane -- most of those fears disappeared. I loved the folks I traveled with. I found myself rarely checking my phone, and my health wasn't an issue. I'm not saying all of your fears go away once you land, but you may think less about them once you arrive. 

2. Flexibility is key/plan for anything
I can't stress this enough. As much as you want to avoid it, missed flights are possible. You may get to your destination and lose your cash. Or your AirBnB suddenly cancels. Or -- God forbid -- you get the dreaded food poisoning. It sucks, but it happens. I try to minimize risks as much as I can by staying prepared. If you're prone to sickness, I recommend keeping Cipro and ginger ale handy. Keep your doctor's phone number on speed dial if you have service. If you don't have service, buy or rent a cheap burner once you arrive.

To that point, I always recommend registering for the State Department's STEP program, so the U.S. government is aware you're in the country. Keep your credit cards on you, but always have local currency to catch a cab or pay a tip.

If time is an issue, I recommend signing up for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry to expedite getting in and out of the country. No lines are the best lines!

3. Try new food!
As Americans, we can sometimes be picky about our food. We go with what we know -- and I get it. But you aren't home, and it's alright to step away from what you know and try something you don't. You're in a new place -- don't go to iHop. Or, if you do, have dinner somewhere else.

I'm very guilty of this -- I won't tell ya'll the story of the time I flew nearly 30 hours to Malaysia and ate at Red Lobster. But the point of traveling is to get out of your comfort zone. Try something different! Ask the locals what they recommend -- folks are usually more than happy to tell you where and where not to grab a bite. People worldwide can bond over food. Ask the front desk/AirBnB host/hostel host what the best restaurants are in the area. I'm a huge bruncher, so in Cape Town, I made sure to hit a restaurant that had an authentic South African brunch. In Cuba, one of the first meals I had was at a hole-in-the-wall spot that served ropa vieja, and I immediately fell in love. You can eat American food in the States. Try something new!

Here's to a great trip!