Tips & Tricks

Tips & tricks for traveling, from choosing the right gear to the best ways to save money on vacations, and more.

Japan Cherry Blossom Forecast for 2024 & Kyoto Sakura Season Viewing Guide

This guide to sakura season in Japan and cherry blossom flowering forecast for 2024 covers our favorite spots, best temples & shrines in Kyoto, tips & tricks for avoiding crowds. We also take a deeper dive into the topic, highlighting hidden gems where you’ll find fewer people and no busloads of tour groups. (Updated March […]

Keyhole Arch ‘Light Show’ on Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach

A few weeks each winter, a natural phenomenon lines up sunset through Keyhole Arch on Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach. If you’re in Monterey, California in the winter, it’s a must-see. This post shares peak dates, photos, and tips for experiencing this ethereal “Light Show.” (Updated March 14, 2024.) The light comes through the Keyhole Arch […]

Guide to Christmas 2024 at Universal Studios Japan

“NO LIMIT! Christmas” is a holiday event at Universal Studios Japan from mid-November 2024 through early January 2025. The holiday festivities include a stage show, record-setting tree, decorations in Super Nintendo World, and more. This guide shares our tips for USJ’s winter entertainment, plus our experience and photos. (Updated March 11, 2024.) Dates have not […]

Is Japan Rail Pass Worth Buying? (2024 Prices & Review)

Wondering whether the Japan Rail Pass is worth the money? This buying guide covers where you can use the JR Pass, how much value you’ll get on a normal trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, and answers to frequently asked questions about the unlimited train ticket. It also covers our many experiences purchasing the JR Pass […]

2025 Yosemite Firefall Viewing Guide: Best Dates, Reservations Info & Tips

Yosemite National Park’s Firefall at Horsetail Fall is a natural phenomenon visible in winter. This viewing guide offers info & tips from my experiences, best dates & locations, reservation requirements, parking restrictions, California snowfall & more. First, you can read about my last photography attempt in Firefall Snowy Weekend Photo Report from my visit to Yosemite National […]

California Best Beaches: Laguna’s Victoria Beach

Victoria Beach is one of the best spots in Laguna Beach, California. Despite featuring one of the city’s most famous icons (a pirate tower!), this beach is also a hidden gem in terms of crowds. This post covers what you need to know about visiting, including practical tips for getting here and other points of […]

When to Visit Kyoto, Japan: Best & Worst Times (2024)

When to visit Kyoto to avoid crowds, experience seasonal beauty, and enjoy the top festivals is important for first-timers to Japan. There will be no single worst or best time–it depends on your priorities. (Updated January 3, 2024.) In this guide, we’ll narrow down your options to help you assess when is the best time […]

November 2024 in Kyoto, Japan: Special Events, Crowds & Weather

November 2024 is Kyoto’s peak fall color dates, great weather, special events & night illuminations, and festivals at temples & shrines. Despite heavy crowds, it’s an excellent month to visit Japan, and you’ll have too many choices for seasonal things to do during a November trip to Kyoto. Note that exact dates listed below are tentative and […]

October 2024 in Kyoto, Japan: Crowds, Weather & Events

October 2024 is the start of fall in Kyoto, Japan. Leaves begin to change color, weather improves, and big festivals celebrate the season. It’s a great month to visit to enjoy lower crowds, special events & night illuminations, with lots of things to do in the city, its temples & shrines. This guide to October […]

How Christmas in Japan is Celebrated: Unique Traditions & American Imports

There are two things you’ll see at Christmas in Japan that might make you do a double-take: Colonel Sanders as Santa and gorgeous cakes at convenience stores. This post discusses unique traditions started by KFC, 7-Eleven and Disney, and shares our experiences spending the holiday season in Kyoto and Tokyo. Let’s start with how Christmas […]