fuji x-a3 camera review

How To Capture More Than Images With The Fuji X-A3 Mirrorless Camera


Scroll down to the end of this post to enter the #Fuji4Families Giveaway For Your Chance To WIN A Fuji X-A3 Camera Kit!


We’ve travelled for several years now and are always documenting our experiences. Cameras have become the tools we use to capture moments and memories and photos are a portal to revisiting experiences and destinations explored. Because of our profession, our frequent travels and our love of photography, we are always carrying camera gear wherever we go but between the two of us, our arsenal of equipment has always had a void that needed filling.

So when we were given the chance to use and review the Fuji X-A3, we were incredibly surprised and excited to find it very nicely filled that gap.

fuji X-A3 review

What we especially like about the Fuji X-A3 is it is a compact, mirrorless camera that offers both automatic, point-and-shoot options for anyone as well as manual functions for those who are more knowledgeable or are looking to become more proficient with photography.

The camera has so many incredible features above and beyond the basics that we’d advise those who purchase the camera to make the effort to learn the features that are most relevant to them. It will bring a whole new level to your photography and will help with ease of use when you’re looking to capture those images in the moment.

Why We Love The Fuji X-A3

So what exactly does the X-A3 have that we were missing from our other gear? As a couple who travels together, carrying equipment for the both of us can get heavy and bulky so we’ve always tried to minimize what we bring. That’s left us with one DSLR for the photographer of the two of us and camera phones for the other. While camera phones will do the trick for quick captures and posts to social media, they really don’t have the versatility and professional features that our other camera does. With the Fuji X-A3, we’ve found an incredibly lightweight and compact camera with automatic functions for the lesser photographer of the two of us and the ability to improve on those skills while learning the manual functions available.

view in quebec city of chateau frontenac

The other missing piece that this camera fills is a huge one. For us, when we talk about travelling as a family, we generally are referring to the two of us as a unit and because of that, photos often become of the scenery or of one or the other, rather than the two of us together. We often miss opportunities to snap a photo of us together in amazing places because there is no one there to take the photo or the moment is lost when we do find someone. With the 180-degree tiltable LCD monitor, selfies are taken to the next level and we are able to take them, easily, wherever we are. We’re finally snapping photos of the two of us regularly and we love having quality photos of the two of us together.

Fuji X-A3 Review – Why We’ve Added It To Our Gear

Fuji X-A3 Camera review pin    Fuji X-A3 Giveaway pin

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over one of the images above & click “Pin it”! If on MOBILE, tap a photo below & click ‘Pin It’ when it appears!

But there is so much more to the camera that makes it a happy addition for our travels and our everyday life in general and we think these are the same reasons it would make a great addition for anyone of any skill level. Here’s a look at the Fuji X-A3 and some of its many features.

Taking Selfies To A New Level

This is perhaps one of the most unique features we’ve seen and has allowed us to capture moments together more easily and frequently.

The LCD screen can be flipped and tilted 180-degrees so you can see the complete screen, and what you are capturing, when taking a selfie. This is a huge help and even inspired us to take a selfie-tour of Quebec City when we travelled there with the camera.

one modern couple selfie quebec city

The camera also has some functions that make it even easier to take amazing selfies. Choosing Portrait Enhancer on the dial, the camera will make adjustments to enhance skin tones automatically. You can also use the touchscreen to choose the level (levels 1-3) of enhancement to decide how much of an adjustment the camera should make.

Though the camera is designed to have a comfortable and good grip while taking selfies, if you’d prefer not to have to press the shutter button, you can change to a Self Timer function which allows you to choose when the photo is taken – when it detects a smile, when two people move close together in the frame, or when a group of a certain number of people move into the frame.

These features assist in creating selfies that look more like portraits and quality photos than haphazardly taken shots.

Incredible Macro Photos

We love getting different perspectives on what we see and that sometimes means getting up close to the object we are photographing.

Though using manual mode means more experience and knowledge, the Fuji X-A3 also offers an Auto Macro function that will automatically switch the camera to macro and focus quickly on the subject up to 7cm away!

sushi macro fuji x-a3

Because focus is usually slower when getting up close and taking macro shots, having faster autofocus, like this camera does, helps for those close-up shots and we definitely notice the difference when we’re working on our food photography!

Point-And-Shoot Flexibility

As we had mentioned, this is a compact point-and-shoot camera that is packed with possibilities. If you’re looking to keep the settings on auto, you’ll find you’ve got a range of options to help you take photos in a variety of settings and situations without having to learn the intricacies of aperture and shutter speeds (though you can apply these in any of the manual modes as well!)

icicles quebec city

By simply turning the dial, you can choose between several modes that will automatically adjust the camera settings and enable you to take the best photo for what you are trying to capture. For example, there is portrait mode that will automatically enhance faces, landscape mode that will help take scenic shots clearly, sport mode which will help you snap shots of moving objects and night mode for low light settings.

quebec city terrasse view

Not sure what you should be using or what you may be shooting? The Advanced SR Auto function on the dial means that the camera will make the decision for you. The camera will recognize the scene type and select the appropriate camera settings for you. This means it will switch between scenes as you frame each new photo.

The intelligent flash will also help provide the correct amount of flash for the setting and subject and, should you decide to up your game, there is the ability to attach an external flash if desired.

Easy Touchscreen Options

While you can use the touchscreen to adjust features and even turn on a touch shoot or touch zoom, our favourite use of this screen is the touch autofocus.

fuji x-a3 review touchscreen

We love being able to look at the image we are trying to capture and to choose where we want to focus. It allows us to manipulate the depth of the photo, capture parts of the scene we may want to highlight and ensure that the scene is focused as we want it to be.

Ease Of Use – Even On Manual

We both love photography and for us, learning the manual features and using them to the best of our ability is something we enjoy. For the part of our duo that is less camera-savvy when it comes to adjusting those features, the X-A3 has become the ultimate learning tool.

petit champlain quebec city

It is incredibly easy to use, even on manual as the dials to adjust aperture, shutter speed and the button to adjust ISO are easy to access and easy to remember. There are few actions required to move to manual modes and make those adjustments and it makes the process of capturing photos (and learning how) that much more seamless and enjoyable.

For the half that already knows what they are doing, it’s been a great experience to work with the additional features and advanced functions that the camera offers.

Numerous Advanced Functions

The advanced functions are fantastic. It’s where we go to play and grow our artistic side when it comes to photography. There are a bunch of advanced filters you can use to create some different and fantastic photos like soft focus which reduces definition in the photo and creates a soft look in the image.

advanced features fuji x-A3

Our favourite is the partial colour filter. You can choose between red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple and the camera will pick up only that colour chosen, leaving the rest of the photo black and white. It creates a stunning image and really makes some creative shots.

Other filters include miniature – which blurs the top and bottom of a photo,  toy camera – which adds vignette, or shaded borders, to the photo to make it look as though it was taken by a toy camera, and pop colour – which makes the image high in contrast and saturation.

Fantastic Image Quality

No matter what function you use, whether you add filters or whether you’ve decided to use it on manual or automatic, the camera does one essential thing: It creates high quality images. The photos are crisp and clear and take vibrant, detailed images.

ice hotel

 

When we first played back our images on the LCD screen, it wasn’t completely obvious how great the image quality was but once we got those photos on our computer, we were impressed with the quality of the photos the camera had taken.

The photos are fantastic without any editing and we’ve been able to post straight to social media without any adjustments at all!

Immediate Access With Wifi

When we say we have been able to post straight to social media, we mean pretty much right away. With WiFi capability, the photos can be transferred to your phone or tablet on the spot. You can also transfer photos straight to your PC!

Most of the time we’re on the go and want to post our photos as we take them. So, we just open the FUJIFILM Camera Remote app, connect the camera to WiFi and then select the photos we wanted to send to our phone. We even connect our phone to geotag our photos when we want to remember an exact location that a photo was taken.

FUJIFILM REMOTE APP

The great thing about the app and the WiFi capabilities is when you want to get some more creative photos. Since you can also use the app to control the camera itself, you can use the camera hands free while set up on a tripod and take some amazing nighttime shots (you don’t want a shaky hand), some timelapses (to stay still as well), some long-exposure images that really pop and standout, or from far away should you want to take photos of animals.

The other thing we found handy was that we are able to directly connect our camera to our Instax SP-2 Printer. Taking a selfie and want to send it to social? Not a problem. Want to also print it out to keep or give to someone? That’s not a problem either!

A Permanent Fixture With Our Photo Gear

All these features, and more, have made the Fuji X-A3 a permanent addition to our photo gear. We’re able to do so much with such a compact camera and that’s only with the kit lense! We can only imagine how much more we’ll be able to do once we add some more lenses for it.

fuji x-a3 camera review

Though we always prefer shooting with a viewfinder, and this one does not have one, it really is a versatile camera for all experience levels and has been an incredible asset for taking photos together.  With all it’s features, it’s important to take some time to figure it all out because the options are almost endless for enhancing the photos you want to take.

WIN A Fuji X-A3 Camera!

fuji x-a3 giveaway

Enter below for your chance to win a Fuji X-A3 Camera Kit. Giveaway ends February 15th!

Open to Canadian residents, excluding Quebec – please see Terms & Conditions for more details!

 

Come Talk #Fuji4Families For Another Chance To Win!

Fuji X-A3 Twitter Party

Don’t forget to RSVP for the Fuji4Families Twitter Party on February 8th!

Hosted by: @FujiGuys 
Co-Host: @SJConsulting_CA

Prizing: Total Prize Value of $2400!

Grand Prize: X-A3 Camera/kit (valued at $750 CAD)
2nd Prize –X-A10 camera/kit (valued at $600 CAD)
2 Prize Winners of –2 SP-2 printers + film (valued at $250 CAD each)
5 Prize Winners of – mini 8 instax cameras + film (valued at $110 CAD each)

See the Official Twitter Party Rules & Regulations for more info!


Disclosure: I am participating in the FujiFilm campaign managed by SJ Consulting. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.

instax sp2 review and what photos mean today

Fuji Instax SP-2 & The Changing Meaning of Capturing Memories

We’ve both loved cameras and taking photos since we were young. Back then though, we took photos, had them developed and kept them because they meant something. They brought to life, in some tangible way, the memory of people, places and things we loved. We kept them and cherished them but they have become as much of a memory of the past as the images themselves.

Past Photos, Presently Forgotten

old black and white photos

The two of us have a different experience with photos and our families. On one side there is an overabundance of photo albums (seriously, it’s a bit ridiculous) and a desire to document, record and treasure the events and people in our lives. On the other there is a more moderate approach with important photos of loved ones decorating the walls and fewer albums at the ready. Both of us have found a strong link to our past through these photos and a disparate situation in the present when it comes to how we capture and preserve our memories and experiences.

Sure we’ve got a whole lot of photos… and we mean A LOT. We’ve got terabytes worth of photos stored actually. Digital storage – the photo albums of the modern world… except, it’s not really a photo album, is it?

We probably see a tiny fraction of these photos ever again and we’re almost desensitized to the feelings of nostalgia they create should we decide to flick through the endless quantities we’ve amassed.

And we know we’re not alone.

Log onto any social media platform, snoop through anyone’s phone or just ask how many people need to store their photos online with a third-party. Photos are plentiful in the digital universe.

All this accessible photography makes it seem as though the way we collect memories and photos today is emotionless and sterile and seemingly lacking a human component. We post on Instagram for likes, we share on Facebook with a simple ‘post and forget’ attitude. We experience the world behind a lens, behind a phone, behind a screen. Wherever you are in the world, whether at home or abroad, we often have experiences that are void of a true connection.

The goal is to snap a photo, but to what end?

Capturing More Than Pictures

Instax SP-2 Printing Time

That’s why when we heard about the Fuji Instax, and had the opportunity to try it out thanks to FujiFilm, we were absolutely ecstatic. After trying it out, and having a ton of fun while we did, we’re upset we didn’t get in on the action when Fuji released their first Instax printer.

Here, finally, is a way to preserve those memories and digital photos in a tangible and enjoyable way. A way to bring that enthusiasm and connection back to the moments in our lives we choose to document, capture and preserve. Here, is a way to bring back what a photo used to represent – a connection to the past, a cherishing of memories and a joy of all things photography.

We’ve already written our review of the Fuji Instax SP-2 Printer but what it comes down to for us is not just how easy the app is to use (and it’s pretty darn user friendly) or how quickly we can print a photo (10 seconds to be exact) but how the printer has given us back something we didn’t acknowledge we had lost – the ability to bring back meaning to the way we capture our memories and a way to keep them visible and tangible in our minds and hearts.

Disclosure: I am participating in the FujiFilm campaign managed by SJ Consulting. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the images below & click “Pin it”! If on MOBILE, tap the photo below & click ‘Pin It’ when it appears!

the-changing-meaning

Bringing Photos To Life With The Fujifilm Instax SP-2

Why The Fuji Instax SP-2 Has Topped Our Must-Have Gift List

It’s the holiday season and there isn’t a better time to think about creating, and capturing, wonderful memories. It’s what the season is all about. Add to that a strong gift-giving component and you’ll find the Instax SP-2 pretty much screams “the perfect gift” for this time of year. It’s with this printer that people can make tangible, those memories locked away on cameras, phones and memory cards and preserve them in a very real way.

It’s now become a piece of our travel story as well. We’ve created a collage with Instax photos of some of our favourite moments: dancing on the Swarovski stairs of a cruise ship in the Caribbean, meeting up with a friend in Germany after not seeing her for a year, making ‘snowballs’ of sand while on a beach in Thailand in the middle of December. All of these most likely to have lived out their lives on a timeline on social media channels and in a folder on the computer to be brought up when the memory struck or when we accidentally passed it by. Now, we’ve been able to take those important and happy memories, print the moment we’ve captured and be reminded of them often.

Instax SP-2 Printer REview

The printer also brings back something we seem to have lost somewhere amidst this whirlwind of technological advancement – the joy and wonder of photos. Sure a smile blooms on our faces when we sort through the photos on our phone to choose which one to print, it makes us happy to see those images, but when you click print and watch as the photo comes out of the printer and then get to stare in fascination as the picture materializes on the film before you, the level of excitement and joy is taken to new levels. This is what was meant to be experienced when George Eastman strove to make the camera accessible to the masses. It’s the exhilaration of taking an instance in your life that you feel is valuable and preserving it for all time that the Instax SP-2 offers and it’s that exhilaration that is ultimately the gift you are giving.

As George Eastman said:

“Photography is thus brought within reach of every human being who desires to preserve a record of what he sees and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”

Instax SHARE SP-2 Printer & Features

We are a bit obsessed with the Instax SHARE SP-2 and haven’t stopped printing photos since we got it, but not only does it bring us joy to use, it is also a pretty fantastic product on the whole.

Instax Share SP-2 Printer REview

The Printer

The printer itself is lightweight, sleek and compact. Not only is it easy to handle and can sit pretty much anywhere you want it to, it’s also extremely easy to pack up and travel with. Between the printer, the film and the charging cord, you’ll hardly be using up any space and it will allow you to print and share photos with whomever you meet, wherever you go.

reprint on INstax SP-2

The reprint button on the printer itself is also great for this, as you can print multiple copies of a photo to share with however many people you need without having to resend a photo to the printer. There’s also an easy to see power light and lights to notify you of battery levels. The style of the printer itself is classy and modern and with two different colours to choose from- gold or silver – you can coordinate with your decor, tech gear or anything you want!

Instax Power and battery lights

The printer uses WiFi connectivity to connect to your phone which is turned on at the same time the printer is. This provides a seamless and easy way to transfer the photos you want directly to the Instax Sp-2 where it will immediately be printed. Quick and easy.

The Film

Back in the day, a camera required you to shoot a whole roll of film. Taking this roll to be developed meant you’d pay for the whole gamut and hope for the best in terms of what you got and how good the shots were. Printing photos on your computer printer usually means full-size paper, glossy if you want a nice look, and a whole lot of ink that really doesn’t ever sit right no matter the paper used.

How to load film for Instax SP-2

With the Instax, you can choose what photo you’ve taken to develop and it prints on film – it’s a wonderful modern way to capture and share a photo, easily and attractively. All you have to do is press a button on the printer to open a door in the back, pop in the film (be careful to only open it for the loading as opening it with unused film still inside will expose them and render them useless) and you’re ready to print. One of our favourite parts of the whole process is choosing a photo, watching the film print and then waiting for the image to fully develop!

The film can also be purchased with a variety of different themes in addition to the familiar white border. For instance, since it’s the holiday season, we’ve got some holiday themed film that really makes our photos fun!

If you’re really up for some spontaneous photo taking, the Fuji Mini 8 will give you all the excitement of snapping and printing a photo in the moment and the surprise of seeing what results!

The App

We knew as soon as we downloaded the app that we would like using the printer – it was easy to download and easy to use which is something we value on any additional app we put on our phones.

The first thing we noticed was that there weren’t (and still haven’t been) any issues connecting the phone to the printer through WiFi. It’s a strong connection that hasn’t failed which is a huge positive for us as we’re used to signals dropping regularly from products and WiFi providers.

Instax Share App

The app is also easy to navigate and very user friendly. On the main screen, you’ll see very clearly all the options you have – select a photo from your gallery, take a new photo, edit settings, etc. It allows you to follow through the process naturally and we’ve yet to find any issues or have any confusion result due to the app.

The capabilities of the app are amazing which brings us to the photo editing possibilities of the SP-2,

Photo Editing Abilities

This is one thing we absolutely love about the printer and the app. Not only are you able to print out already edited photos, you can also do some editing and filtering straight from the app itself and get pretty creative with what you are printing.

The template options are great with different collage layouts to choose from that are easy to edit and select. There’s also some unique features like the Limited template which creates limited edition style prints with title, caption and the number designation (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc). If you’re looking to create something for a special occasion but don’t have corresponding film for it, you can select a seasonal design for various holidays and events and add a little extra to the photo! There’s one feature we’ve yet to use but are excited to do so – the split image option where you can take one image and create two halves – it looks really neat and there are so many landscape shots that would look fantastic in our collage as two parts!

 screenshot_2016-12-08-14-31-29screenshot_2016-12-08-14-53-24  screenshot_2016-12-08-14-52-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since much of our photo sharing occurs online on social media platforms, having the ability to pull photos directly from those channels would be fantastic… and it’s possible with the Instax SP-2. You can easily print Facebook or Instagram photos with a corresponding caption, date stamp and even likes! Although sometimes spontaneity and originality is desired and so a real time feature enables you to capture a photo through the app and print immediately with the date, location. weather and temperature details right on the photo – there’ll only ever be one like it and we are already thinking of how many cool destinations we can date stamp our visit with using this feature.

SNS Instax SHARE SP-2

If you’re looking to keep things as they are but would like to filter for colour, you also have the option of choosing between colour, black and white or sepia filters. We usually shoot and share colour photos but there’s something to be said for the emotion a good black and white photo can evoke.

filters on Instax SP-2

Though many people edit photos on their phone or computer and have them already fixed before they sstore it, the SHARE app allows you some editing capabilities whether it’s your first round or just a final tweak.  We found we could easily change brightness, contrast and saturation or just allow the app to do it for us with the Intelligence Filter.

screenshot_2016-12-08-14-51-30  screenshot_2016-12-08-14-51-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Quality

This is something that really surprised us. We remember back in the day when instant photos had a faded and duller appearance to them. Not the case with the Instax Sp-2. The photos are clear and crisp, the colours are bright and vibrant and with the editing on the app, nevermind on your own, the images are quite stellar.

Image quality of the Instax Sp-2

Within seconds the image can be seen on the film and it doesn’t take long for the full picture to be visible and, if in colour, bright. It’s fantastic quality and really impressive when compared to the images on your phone screen as the resolution of the photos is great.

Battery

The battery is not only rechargeable, it lasts a long time. We mean really long. We’ve printed out a ton of photos already and haven’t yet needed to recharge it.

Instax SP-2 Battery Charging

According to the product specs, we shouldn’t need to do so until we’ve printed roughly 100 photos! That’s quite a lot of power and with lights on the front display to indicate battery levels, it’s got everything you need to keep it primed and ready to print.

Printing & Developing Time

It is amazing how fast the printing takes. Roughly 10 seconds by our count. That’s 10 seconds from the time you send the photo to the printer to the time it finishes printing and it’s also 10 seconds you get to experience that exhilaration and joy we were mentioning before.

Instax SP-2 Printing Time

Once it’s printed you can almost immediately start to see the image developing on the film. It’s not much longer after this that a full image is displayed and within a minute or so, you’ll have a strongly developed, clear photo to save or share.

Travelling & Sharing With The Instax SP-2

Though we’ve been using the printer to bring back to life our old photos, we can definitely see ourselves travelling with it too. It may sound strange as we’re not ones to overpack, but even in our 13 months of straight travel we can think back on times we wish we had this printer with us. Friends we’ve met along the way would have been perfect recipients of these photos and it would have been a wonderful piece of ourselves and our time with them to leave behind. Then too, there are those random encounters and connections made that have not extended to a long-term friendship, like people we’ve met in more secluded areas of the world. Having something tangible to offer them in memory of that moment of friendship forged would have been lovely.

Though it may not be feasible to bring along with us for all trips, we’re certain this printer is going to be a huge part of how we save and share memories and moments at home and abroad. It’s compact, light and rechargeable and it’s an addition to our tech equipment and gear that connects us more deeply with the experiences we have and the memories we cherish.

instax sp-2 printer with photos

The Instax SP-2 is not only a fantastic gift idea for the holidays, it’s a great gift idea anytime of the year and is something we’d recommend as a purchase for anyone looking to do more with their photos than store them away to get “dusty” in whatever online storage they’ve purchased. It’s easy and fun, it’s personal and interactive and it’s a way to get creative with the moments you capture.

Fuji talks about creating “a photo renaissance that reintroduces the joy of photography in all aspects of peoples’ lives”, and with products like the Instax SP-2, we can see that it promises to be a modern movement – one that is part revival of the past and part original creations of the present – to increase the enjoyment of photography. One we’re only happy to be a part of!

Disclosure: I am participating in the FujiFilm campaign managed by SJ Consulting. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over one of the images below & click “Pin it”! If on MOBILE, tap a photo below & click ‘Pin It’ when it appears!

instax sp-2 printer review pin A perfect holiday gift idea pin

 

road trip travel hacks

Travel Hacks For Planning A Road Trip

Summertime is right at the doorstep – the time for cottages, camping and road trips. We love road trips, maybe more than the average couple. From sleeping in the car in Germany, or scooting from Chiang Mai to Pai in Thailand, no matter where we go we try to get a road trip or two in the itinerary… we’re almost always planning a road trip. We’ve been on so many it’s hard to keep track. There was our spontaneous road trip to New Brunswick for a long weekend and then there was the time we took our rental car from southern Spain to the northern city of Pamplona. With all this booting around in a car over the years, we’ve learned many road trip tips and want to share the knowledge we’ve gained. You can also head over to our tips for a long weekend road trip if you’re looking for some more tips for an even quicker trip!

11 Great Tips For Planning A Road Trip

car rental road trip in Germany

 

Here are some of our tips for things to bring as well as other travel hacks for planning a road trip to make it a cheaper, easier and less stressful trip!

1. Download Sit or Squat and Gas Buddy

These days it seems like hundreds of apps come out a day. We’ve found two that might be useful on the road trips you take this summer depending on where you’re travelling. If you’re the type of person who needs a clean washroom or else you won’t go, or at the very least just want to be prepared for what you’re getting yourself into, Sit or Squat is going to be your best friend. Sit or Squat allows users to add toilets anywhere and lets you know if you can “sit” (the washroom is clean) or “squat” (the washroom isn’t clean).

Gas Buddy is another useful app this time providing a list of the gas prices around you. By knowing your location, Gas Buddy is a key road trip travel hack that will save you money (even up to 20 cents per gallon) by showing the cheapest gas near you. Users can also collect points by submitting gas prices themselves.




2. Use a Car Charger Adapter That Will Even Charge Your Computer

BESTEK 200W Power Inverter 3 AC Outlets with 4.2A 4 USB Charging Ports

An inverter converts car battery power to household electricity so you can charge your electronics without a car charger. Bringing a power inverter is always a great idea and is probably the number one road trip hack that we follow, only because we bring our laptops with us everywhere we go. But it doesn’t stop at laptops, a travel power inverter can power almost anything, from camera batteries to powered coolers for your food and drink, there are a ton of useful items you can bring if you have something to power them up with.

No matter what inverter you decide to go with, make sure to choose the right voltage and wattage for your products. If you don’t pick the proper voltage for your electronics, you can cause big issues.

3. Portable Charger

Reeljuice 8000 mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank with 4ft. Built-in Cable

Yes, we just told you how important an inverter is to have in the car to charge your electronics, but what about those times you are away from the car exploring? Or when you don’t have the car running? Or the car battery has died? For this reason, we never travel without a portable charger, no matter where we go or what our mode of transportation is. GPS on your cell phone and the ability to make emergency calls or look up information while on the road can be essential. Gone are the days when road maps and pay phones were found at the side of the road or at rest stops. Now, having functional electronic gear can be the difference between being lost for hours in unsafe conditions and enjoying a stress-free trip on four wheels.

Our portable charger of preference is ReelJuice 5X Portable Power Bank by Lynktec. Sturdy and reliable, it can charge your device 5 times – that’s enough power to last you for 2 days of charging! We also have cords aplenty to tangle when we travel so the retractable cord on this power bank is something we have appreciated on the go.  The other thing we love about taking this with us, especially on a road trip, is the ability to charge both the power bank AND our cell phone at the same time with the pass-through charging option so we don’t have to worry about waiting for one item to charge before we can charge the next. This power bank combined with an inverter means we’re set for all our electronic needs on the road!

Grab your own ReelJuice Portable Power Bank from Amazon!

 

4. Use Google Maps Offline

We use Google Maps everywhere we go, no matter where we go and no matter how we travel. Google Maps works in almost any country and is usually accurate while working offline. This makes it an amazingly handy tool to have bring on a road trip as it is basically the new age of a paper road map. As long as you’ve got a charge, you can open the app and navigate to your destination. The icon identifying where you are can be used as a compass of sorts and will even move with you as you go.

The other great feature we use constantly is the starred location feature. When you do have data, like when you are planning a road trip route at home or have stopped somewhere with WiFi, you can find a location or point of interest on the map and star it. That way, when you are offline again or, as was our case once in Thailand, in the middle of nowhere and without a signal, you can still see the star on the map and find your way there.

5. Need A Mattress? Try An Inflatable Pool Raft 

Sometimes on long road trips we like to take turns driving while the other one sleeps. At home (in Toronto) we have an SUV and by laying the back seat down we have a so called bed, you can lay down some blankets so it doesn’t feel so hard, but we like to take a pool raft to lay down to make it a bit more comfortable. An air mattress would probably do the trick as well, but a pool raft is quickly blown up, deflates to a smaller size, and can be re-purposed as, wait for it, an actual raft if your destination involves water. This may sound like a strange road trip tip but it can make all the difference!

6. Grab an Adapter That Plays Through Your Radio.

iClever Wireless FM Transmitter Radio Adapter Car Kit with 3.5mm Audio Plug and USB Car Charger, Black

Nothing makes a road trip great than a great road trip soundtrack. Creating that soundtrack from the constantly fading in and fading out radio stations as you drive however, is not so great. Instead, getting an adapter allows you to just download songs on your phone (or stream if you have data and a good connection) then plug and play. Radio adaptors are a savior on road trips, the further you drive from cities, the more you’ll have to change those radio stations & avoid static.

We’ve mentioned having your own personal soundtrack as one of the reasons to take a road trip in Europe but having some great music in the car really does enhance the experience. Music is also a great provoker of memory and associating the songs to the memories you are making will create a lasting connection.

An adapter like iClever Wireless FM Transmitter, will not only play your music through your phone, it will also keep your phone charged so you’re not draining your battery in the process!

7. Already Paid For Parking? Sleep in the Parking Garage in the Car! 

In larger cities, you’ll often find underground parking or parking garages the norm. If you’ve already parked in one to explore the city, you’ve just given yourself an amazing accommodation opportunity –  Pull out that inflatable pool raft and enjoy the extra security of the parking garage and a night’s stay already paid for.

We ended up in Heidelberg at one point during our Germany road trip. We had detoured because we wanted to check out a castle in town but we had no plan on where to stay. We parked our car close to the castle and spent the day walking around the castle and town. We loved Heidelberg so much we ended up exploring a lot longer than we expected… until 10 pm. After searching for places to stay we realized that the available hotel rooms in the area were out of our budget, so we decided to stay in the car in the parking garage that night since we had already paid most of the 14 euros it would cost us for 24 hours. We put down the back seat (in the Volvo) and  used the trunk cover to block the remaining light from our eyes and had an amazing night’s sleep believe it or not!

We should note that since we were in Europe, we were not able to bring our trusty inflatable pool raft and STILL managed to get comfortable.

8. Avoid Conflict. Use Apps like Venmo to Split the Cost of Gas & Food.

Going on a road trip with others can cause some awkward moments when it comes time to gas up or pay for other expenses. There’s the “oh I’ve got this one” and the “I’ll grab the next one” then there’s the “well you paid for the last one and it was twice this bill… so I guess I’ll grab this and the next”. No one means to forget to pay someone back for covering a cost or end up paying a lesser share of the total cost, but it happens. No one in the car may mean to short the other but it’s not uncommon when trying to cover costs of travel between two or more people. It can leave everyone feeling a bit uncertain of their place on the financial side of the trip… but it doesn’t have to.

If you think you are able to keep an accurate tally of the costs, or all the receipts, you can simply designate one person to pay all the expenses, divide the final tally by the number of people on the trip and get a per-person amount to be paid back. If you’re looking for a bit less hassle, you may just want to download Venmo.

The app Venmo allows you to split costs with ease without having that awkward moment of asking for money. While there is still one person who foots the initial bill, gas, restaurant bills, and the like can be split and paid back on the spot through the app.

Note: The transfers are NOT instant so there will be a delay and you’ll want to make sure you’ve set up your account and all is functioning before you hit the road to avoid any problems.

9. USB Charger

Anker 40W 5-Port USB Car Charger with PowerIQ Technology for iPhone 6s 6 5; iPad Air 2, mini 3; Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge S5; Note 5 4 3; Nexus 6 9 and More (White)

If you haven’t noticed it yet, we’re all about power. When you’re on the go with electronics it is a must have. Nowadays very few people don’t carry at least a cell phone with them, and like we mentioned before, it can be very important to have functioning electronics on certain road trip routes. Added to that is the inability to use the apps we’ve mentioned, and have yet to discuss, should you run out of juice while on the road.

When you’re on a road trip with multiple people you might need multiple USB chargers so everyone can charge their phones and tablets, because let’s be honest, we may highlight the importance of having a device charged for safety reasons but most people don’t want to go without a working cell phone or tablet. Whether you go for a car inverter or not, having a USB charger that powers everyone’s electronics Anker 40W 5-Port USB Car Charger can be a great tool that keeps the peace in the vehicle and allows for a smoother ride.

10. Know The Rules of the Road.

This may sound unnecessary but we can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about tickets received or errors made while driving in a different province, state, or country. A huge part of planning a road trip should involve figuring out what you need to know if you’re driving in a new province, state or country. Whenever we rent a car in a foreign country, aside from searching for rules online, we now ask the car rental company if there are any rules that we should know about. They are a great resource for information as they will have heard the mistakes that other renters make on a regular basis.

You don’t want to come home and, a few weeks later, receive a large traffic violation in the mail. Trust us, it’s what happened to us in Germany. While coming off the autobahn we didn’t slow down enough and didn’t know that every off ramp has speed cameras. We might have known if we asked the car rental company about any tips to know or common mistakes made. When we rented in Spain, we asked about the rules and were given a lot of great information about traffic violations, typical mistakes and even information on highway names and numbers to avoid accidentally taking a toll route.

11. Look On Instagram (Follow us! @OneModernCouple)

Instagram is a fantastic way to find restaurants, attractions and accommodations in any place. Just punch in the hashtags for that specific city, town or country and watch the magic happen. Instagram is a great travel hack we use pretty much everywhere we go. We’ve even made many friends by finding fellow travellers in the area. We met another blogging couple in Taipei Taiwan and they took us on a hike to a place called Teapot Mountain, someplace we would have never known about it if we weren’t on Instagram.

Are you a foodie? We also have a food Instagram account – @OMCeats – come join us there too and find some great suggestions for where to eat!!

 

Keep this list for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below and click “Pin it”!

travel hacks for planning a road trip pin

one modern couple under construction

One Modern Couple Under Construction

Koh Phangan Thailand Best Western Phanganburi

Using What We Learned From The Tropical Writers’ Workshop

As we had mentioned before in our post about our recently published articles in Southeast Asia Backpacker magazine, and on our social media channels, we spent two weeks in November on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan at the Best Western Phanganburi Resort attending the Tropical Writer’s Workshop.  The workshop included intense classroom activity where we vastly improved our writing skills, delved into the world of travel writing and publication, advanced our social media management skills and, as applies now, learned a whole heck of a lot about web design.

Best Western Phanganburi

 

As it was off-season and the most recent full-moon party had just passed, the resort was quiet and peaceful. We woke up every morning and headed to the restaurant where we were greeted by friendly restaurant staff (especially Romell whose smile was contagious) and ate breakfast overlooking the pool and the beach. We would then head to one of the boardrooms and brush-up on our writing skills. Every morning we learned skills which were relevant to the afternoon’s workshop – be it travel writing, web design or social media. The afternoon segments were each only 3 days but they were packed with invaluable information and guidance from 4 instructors who were passionate about their topics and each had a wealth of knowledge to pass along.

Best Western Phanganburi

After the first day, as we returned to our room, we both agreed that even just that one day of information was worth it – the cost, the change in our plans to accommodate the two weeks and the time we knew we would have to dedicate to the workshop itself. The entire two weeks? However clichéd, it was priceless. We gained an immense amount of knowledge and confidence and made some truly incredible friends with whom we still keep in touch. Each of us are invested in each others’ success.

Tropical Writers' Workshop

And that brings us to the present and the changes (obvious if you are a returning visitor) being made to the site.

We are starting to implement the things we learned about web design from our teacher – the ever-engaging, tremendously knowledgeable and incredibly funny Carl (hope you like that description Carl!) of Web Courses Bangkok – and slowly, we are redesigning and renovating OneModernCouple.com.

It took us some time as we seemed to run into one roadblock after another: minimal internet connectivity in Malaysia (it took us several days to get stable connection to upload photos for a post and a 3 minute video took 17 hours to upload…before it failed); we went home for 3 weeks for Christmas expecting to plunge right into our website redesign and underestimated how much time we would want to spend with the friends and family we had missed while we were away. Now, in Taiwan, we have yet to really settle down and have been pretty consistently on the move but with excellent and widely available internet, we really have no excuse and so, we’ve started the transformation.

Over the coming weeks we will be altering and updating, tweaking and refining the look and feel of our site but we will continue to post about our travels and will be sure to announce the final launch of the site.

 

If you’d like to be kept informed about the changes to the site and when the transformation is complete, please signup for our mailing list.

If you are interested in improving your writing skills, learning about travel writing, social media management, web design, or all of the above, check out TropicalWritersWorkshop.com for more information about the newest workshop starting in March.