Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do. Fueled by butterbeans & collard greens.


On 11:58 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , ,    No comments
This is the FIFTH of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.
IF you missed the first post, click HERE for 5 travel tips, from me, Nik Snacks.

Looks like you made it! 25+ tips and tricks to living your best travel life. I've shown you
All that's left is how to book your travel. I have spent countless hours searching online, asking friends, subscribing to newsletters and I have a small grasp on what it is to book travel for yourself and others. By no means do I fashion myself to be an amateur travel agent, but I know how to use these skills to my advantage and now you will too!

Let's book some travel

1. Go incognito

Sunglasses make me look incognito 

ALWAYS search for flights in incognito or private browsing mode to see the lowest prices.
Your cookies are reset each time you re-open an incognito window and based on your cookies, prices do increase when you search the same flight path repeatedly.
Start with a clean slate for EACH search. Close all of your incognito windows, open a new one, and then search away.

2. Get yourself a high-powered search engine

No single search engine is consistently perfect (though I find Skyscanner to be the best). You're going to need to try multiple search engines to cover all if your bases.
My favorites include: Skyscanner, Skiplagged, AirfareWatchdog, Priceline, Kiwi
Google Flights isn't a bad place to start when you're beginning your search. Just know that there is not ONE search engine that covers all airlines. You have to mix, match and find a combo to cover the most area. is a great tool to get the international wanderlust going and save money. Enter your departure city, then select a date range to fly. Approximate costs appear over hundreds of countries around the globe from your departure point and the list of destinations is sorted by price, so you to see the most cost-effective place you can fly.

Skyscanner is my absolute favorite as they have map views so you can see where the airport is, track when and where is cheapest to fly, and set up alerts when your flight price meets your requirements. There's also an app, so go download that immediately!

3. Point yourself in the right direction

Airline rewards programs are a great way to get free flights, free upgrades, and free companion tickets. No matter how often you fly, you should be signed up for the airline’s reward program. Every time you fly a new-to-you airline, sign up. Every SINGLE one. Delta is my airline of choice, but you better believe I'm signed up with United and American, too. I stick to US-based airlines since they are involved in all the major alliances and you can earn miles on their partner flights. For example, if I fly Air France, it’s credited to my Delta rewards account. If I fly Air Canada, it's credited to my United account.

4. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

No one likes to clutter up their inbox, but by signing up for mailing lists from airlines and search engines, you’ll be able to get updates about all the last-minute or special deals. This is one of the best ways to ensure you find a cheap flight. 

C'mon, let's go!

My favorite newsletters:
Cruises Only
The Points Guy
Fly Almost Free
Scott's Cheap Flights

And you can't beat emails direct from your preferred airlines.
Unfortunately, if you're interested in Amtrak travel, you're just going to have to go to the website. You can sign up for email alerts and newsletters, but there is no third-party source for discounts (although AAA, AARP and college student discounts do exist)

5. Use a travel planner. Save you time and money. Take care of EVERY SINGLE DETAIL from transportation, tickets, lodging, reservations and everything you didn't think of including.

I use A Way To Go Travel or my travel consultant friend & agent, Amy Schwartz.

Grand Tetons in Victor, Idaho

The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday for domestic travel.

For international travel, weekdays are usually cheaper than weekends. Friday and Sunday are the most expensive days for domestic travel.

Airline fares will keep rising the closer you get to departure, but there is a sweet spot when the airlines begin to either lower or increase fares based on demand. Don’t wait until the last second but don’t book too far in advance either. The best time to book your flight is around 6–8 weeks before your departure, or around three months before if you are going to your destination during their peak season. 21-days seems to be the last sweet spot of good prices for travel.

Some low-cost airlines don't allow their tickets to be quoted on comparison websites, so be sure to check them separately. DO YOUR HOMEWORK to understand what extra charges, such as carry-on or checked baggage fees, might increase the cost of your ticket.

See y'all in the friendly skies!

24 hours is not nearly enough time to run through the city of Montreal's offerings, but I took one for the team, traveled to the Great White North and made a schedule of some fantastic eats.

With over 5,000 restaurants, Montreal is one of North America's best destinations for anyone who loves food, world class destinations and access to some of the best gustatory experiences in the Western Hemisphere.

Pull up your athleisure pants, folks. Here's a stomach-stretching itinerary for a day and a night in the City on The Mount Royal.

Let's eat and drink your way through Montreal in 24 hours...

Let's go to Canada, eh?

SOOooo, Eater came out with its own 24 Hours In Montreal guide in September, but I would be remiss in my duty to you as a content provider if I didn't create my own list. All of these places can be reached by the extensive, well-developed transportation system of Montreal (metro or bus). If you time it right, this list will have you eating and drinking every 3 hours, like a good little tourist.

The street art in the city of Montreal is amazing

Sushi at Sushi Saint in Montreal
I found this gem by doing a cursory search of places to eat on Yelp. Not only were the reviews highly complementary, the photos showed a range of beautiful and creative dishes. I started with the sashimi and apple salad. Delicate julienne pieces of granny smith apple paired with a shimmering, piece of perfect salmon. Pictured above is the Maki Madonna: Tuna, salmon, spicy mayonnaise, mango, cucumber, avocado and seaweed outside. But know that there is also a Maki Marvin Gaye and a Maki Tupac, as well. Best sushi I've ever had.

Smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's Deli
Montreal is known for its smoked meats and Schwartz's is the best. Mounds of sliced, cured, and smoked brisket on rye bread with whisper of mustard await you. The oldest deli in Canada is a tried-and-true tourist spot, there is always a line snaking out of the door and once inside, you may THINK you're going to regret your decision, but you're gonna choose wisely. Seating is... intimate and cozy. There's just enough room to slink by the table next to you to get to your seat. The menu is on paper placemats and while you may be tempted to order french fries or a pickle the size of your hand to accompany your sandwich, DON'T. The only side worth getting completely stuffed over is the coleslaw.

Betty bought a bit of  Bishop Bitter to make her bitter batter better
Known for their gin collection, skip GO and collect your $200 by checking out their EXCELLENT beer and pub menu.
Grilled octopus, shishito peppers, feta, crispy onions? Yes.
Rarebit made with house bitter, hanger steak, fried egg? Uh huh
The Bishop Special Bitter is the house brew and it was the best Canadian beer I tried. And let me tell ya--I tried MANY.

Booty, booty, booty rockin' everywhere
Billed as an event space, cabaret mixed with a modern-day speakeasy, this place is hopping most nights with an impressive selection of fine liquors, beers and glasses in the shape of boots. Big boots. 1 liter of beer worth of a boot. Go. Drink. Be merry. I insist.

And away we go!
No, this isn't a restaurant--but it's important I add it to the list because this tour could literally set the tone for the rest of your trip. Explore Old Montreal with a certified guide who had to study over two years of culture and history just to be able to lead tours for FREE. They work for tips, so hand over your money as you will learn everything there is to know about Quebec, Montreal, a myriad of restaurants, pubs, bars and start to really feel like you can take the city by storm, whether you're fluent in French or not. It's a great place to start and what's two and a half hours of fun between friends?

Even more ubiquitous than smoked meat, Canada as a whole is known for the poutine. Crispy french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and splashed with brown gravy, this dish is what people come to eat. But THIS poutine is why I traveled to Montreal in the first place. At market price (~$14 CAN) you can get the ultimate poutine topped with big, succulent pieces of lobster and garnished with a little bit o' chives. Easier to get into than say, Joe Beef, the restaurant has no address number on the outside and only takes reservations 30 days in advance, but if you're a solo (or maybe even a double) diner and arrive precisely at 5:29:30 PM when they open, you may have a chance to get in without planning so far in advance. 

Baby's first poutine
If you can't go high, go low. As in, low price. At Patati Patata, you can get it for a small price, like $5 CAN. Don’t be fooled by the small size of the place. It's cozy and intimate, too. Crazy cheap and filling, you can get out of here for less than $20 CAN for two entrees with beer and a good tip, if you feel extra friendly.

Best bagels in the world
In 2017, this place celebrated 60 years of boiling and then baking bagels in a wood-fired oven for the masses. For less than $10 CAN you can get a dozen bagels (sesame is best) and munch on them delightfully all day long. A hot, fresh bagel fresh from that oven pictures above is one of life's joys that you should experience once in your lifetime. It should also be noted that Fairmount Bagels  also exists and is no less perfect than this place. Be a champ. Go to both. 

That's it, folks! Okay--there's more. A lot more. 5,000 more places you can try in Montreal! But this concludes my list of what to eat in the city. Have you ever been to Montreal? What did YOU eat? I'm always looking for more places to add to my to-do list for next time!

If you liked THIS post, check out my list of what to eat in PARIS!

This post is NOT sponsored in conjunction with ANYTHING. I received NO product or compensation. All opinions, photos and words are mine and mine alone.
On 8:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    No comments
This is the FOURTH of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.

IF you missed the first post, click HERE for 5 travel tips, from me, Nik Snacks.

The worst part of travel is NOT the unpredictable weather, the flight plan or not being in control of the vehicle you're in--it's being out of your comfort zone and not having the comforts of home within arm's reach. While you can't hitch up your luggage to your house and drag it along, there are a few things you can do to reduce your discomfort and potential anxiety.

1. Flight Essentials
Most airlines allow one personal bag in addition to your carry-on and this is where you really get to shine.
Get yourself a water bottle: #StayHydrated! It's the best piece of advice and the best way to accomplish that is with a portable water bottle. There are collapsible water bottles for those who REALLY want to conserve space, but a simple Nalgene or branded water bottle from the company picnic will do. The circulated air on the plane is dry and the 6 oz. of drink during beverage service is not going to do anything for you.

2. Wipes
Any parent will tell you that baby wipes are basically a bath in a box and they are exactly right. Since you're an adult, upgrade your bath-in-a-box to facial wipes. Throw in some antibacterial wioes, too, for wiping down any surface youre going to touch: door handles, thermostats, table trays, seat belts, windows, etc.

Also, the dry air of the plane and the dirt of domestic travel will have you feening to freshen up pre-final descent. I chose to pull personal wipes out as a separate tip because when all of your chips are down and you just don't feel like a person anymore, if your face, hands and other places that house lymph nodes are clean, you may feel like a person again.

3. Snacks (including water enhancers)
I've already covered snacks in a whole other post of this five-part series, but I have to emphasize its importance by listing it here again.

Spend $60 for a day pass and reap the benefits of your airline's club. Snacks, drinks, alcoholic beverages, strong wi-fi, clean restrooms and in some cases, showers and live entertainment.

4. Toiletry bag

You don't want to be caught in the middle of nowhere looking like "Who shot John?" and the horse he rode in on. You want to be as liquored up and lacqured down as possible. These items are the absolute bare minimum that should be in your personal bag. Anything else is probably extra. Also, everyone's travel comfort level is different, so keep that in mind if you're packing for other passengers in your group.

  • deodorant
  • earphones
  • device of choice (phone, Kindle, iPad) 
  • book, magazine, suduku/crossword
  • writing implement
  • international adaptor
  • credit/atm/debit card
  • passport/ID
  • lotion/oil
  • personal wipes
  • a few dollars and some change

Be smiling when you land with all of the tips presentend here & throughout the 5-Part Nik Snacks Travel Series

5. Flight outfit: pants/shorts, shoes, shirt, jacket WITH pockets
While you want to be comfortable, you also want to look as polished and put together as you can be. Because flight travel takes us out of our element and can potentially bring out the worst in us, looking the part can get us into the right frame of mind. Compression leggings and compression socks are becoming popular although their function transcends fashion. Prevent blood clots and DVT by wearing them.

6. Money

Every bank, credit card company and other financial institution is different when it comes to traveling domestic and abroad. The first thing you should do is notify your card company that you will be traveling. Next, decide how you are going to get your money. If you need a substantial amount of cash to carry (less than $1,500) order foreign currency from your bank.

I like to wait until I'm in my host country and withdraw from a bank once I get there. The fees are usually low and it's best to have cash on you as well as your favorite bank/credit card while traveling.
Ways to keep that money safe:

  • fanny pack (very fashionable, right now in the year of our Lord, 2018)
  • neck wallet (keep it tucked in your jacket or your shirt)
  • national titty bank of america (my favorite bank; everything is ALWAYS secure)
  • wristlet (also fashion-forward, but not very safe)
  • money alternatives (Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, GooglePay or ApplePay)

Next up: Top 5 Travel Tips HOW TO BOOK TRAVEL
On 12:13 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments
This is the THIRD of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun. 

IF you missed the last post, click HERE for 5 travel snack tips, from me, Nik Snacks.

I am often told by friends and family alike that I am BRAVE to travel solo to international destinations. I agree, but it's not as daunting and frightening as some make it out to be.
And then PLAN some more--that's how I get the most out of every situation. Going into it all with a sense of adventure and wonder will DO wonders for your travel life. Along with that sense of adventure, you cannot throw caution to the wind and have a devil may care attitude about traveling through a country of which you are not a citizen. I DO take personal safety precautions because I don't want to end up a subject of a Lifetime movie.

So, here are 5 personal safety tips and suggestions for traveling abroad; while not all of them apply to every person, at every location, or in every situation, in some cases, putting them into practice may save you or a loved one from serious danger.

Safety in numbers: Choose an Airbnb experience OR Yelp! event to be around others

1. Be aware of your surroundings.

Know where you're going, what time you're supposed to be at your designated place and have alternative routes mapped out just in case your first plan does not work out.

When I was in Paris, I planned to go to Mass at the only English-speaking Catholic Church in the city. I mapped out how to get there, what time the metro came, which streets to walk down and what time services were. WELL--when it was time to get off the train, the exit I needed to take was blocked. When I exited the metro station, the street was filled with armed military guards with machine guns and rows and rows of bullets crossing their bodies. To say I was scared was an understatement. I figured "Let me get to the Church, I'll be okay" But EVERY INTERSECTION WAS BLOCKED. And then--I had to use the restroom. BADLY. Long story short, the military guards and theblocked streets were because the French president was being inauguarted and it was his parade day. I didn't know that. I thought there was another terrorist attack. I ended up having "church" in a drug store with a large macaron and a shot of espresso. I was done for the day.
2. Join in group activities like tours, seated dinners, movies, performance art shows.

As a food tour guide for an amazing company, I've learned to travel via food tours in different cities, not only for enjoyment but for education about the city I am in.
Airbnb isn't just great for finding lodging, it's great to source activities in and around your chosen destination. Also, you can sign up to eat with locals who prepare food for you and other guests in their homes in a litany of cities on the social app, EatWith.

In Montreal, I signed up for a FREE walking tour and ended up meeting a group of friends who came from all around the world to meet up in the old city and WE all ended up hanging out, eating dinner and it was a magical night. I never felt so safe while being so far from home.

3. Hotels chains offer best safety. Choose Airbnbs and rental properties in safe neighborhoods near public transportation or major tourist attractions.

I only travel to cities that have extensive, reliable public transportation systems. I am not against renting a car, but when you add up rental + petrol + parking + time wasted = I'd rather take the bus or an Uber.
4. Learn key phrases in foreign language.

I don't think I need to expound upon this one.
Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Where is the bathroom and Help are the bottom of the basement, bare minimum you should know in every country you visit.
5. Do not dress as a tourist (ie. American). Research the typical mode of dress for the season in which you are traveling. Avoid sneakers, fanny packs, carrying big bottles of water.

Pickpocketers, con artists and other swindlers will be able to spot you from a mile away.

BONUS: 6. Contact the American Embassy to make them aware of your presence in the foreign country you are traveling. The embassy can also provide additional safety tips germane to the area.

There's that phrase "Safety in numbers..." and it's real and true. Take note of these 5 things beFORE you go. Three times is the charm and you have TWO more travel tip posts coming from this one blogger you know: Me. 


Next up: Top 5 Carry-On Items FOR Traveling
On 4:12 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    1 comment
This is the second of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.
IF you missed the first post, click HERE for 5 travel tips, from me, Nik Snacks.

1. If you have not purchased or were gifted a membership to your favorite major airline's sky lounge/club, spend $50-$60 for a day pass and reap the benefits of the club. Snacks, drinks, hot breakfast, lunch items, non-alcoholic beverages, strong wi-fi, clean restrooms and in some cases, showers and live entertainment (epic people watching, even though most are just on their devices being boring).

I had TWO 4-hour layovers to get to Oakland to visit with some family and attach a work-related excursion onto it. GSO >LAX >OAK = LONGEST flights of my life. I bit the bullet in Greensboro and purchased a day pass for $50 in order to relax all day. It was the best decision of my travel life.

View from one of the Delta Sky Clubs at LAX

2. PB and J is an easy and popular sandwich choice to pack on a trip, but using an alternative spread such as Sunbutter or Speculoos/cookie butter will be great to try and definitely safe for anyone suffering from tree nut or peanut allergies who may be traveling with you or sitting around you.

3. Utilize your water bottle by filling up at a water fountain. For those of you who cannot stand the taste of plain water, use those water enhancer packets for a little flavor boost. One packet is too much for me, so I use 1/2 packet and it's perfect for me.

4. Be careful with your salt and alcohol consumption the day/night before your flight. It's tempting to party hardy and tie one on the night before you travel home, but don't do it. Your feet swell, you get dehydrated faster and you feel like a miserable whale. Or is that just me?
The same goes for the night before leaving on your trip, too.

Me. Not being bloated after a 5 hour flight to Las Vegas.

5. Whether you're flying solo, in a couple or with a group, here's a list of snacks from which you should choose:

unsweetened applesauce pouches (or cups),
fruit cups packed in water or light syrup
potato chips
Carnation instant breakfast
oatmeal packets
beef jerky or pepperoni logs

cereal bars
dried fruit
chocolate bars
shelf-stable dips like salsa or hummus; water enhancers without aspartame
pre-packaged cakes
granola bars
trail/granola mix [see recipe below]

[Recipe adapted from Machete: Greensboro]

2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup pepitas (shelled, raw pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup (Grade A or light amber)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 cup chopped pistachios [optional]
1 cup sliced almonds [optional]
1/2 T kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried, chopped sour cherries*
1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate chunks

Combine oats, pepitas, coconut chips, nuts and olive oil in a container or bowl.

In a saucepan, bring vanilla, maple syrup, salt and brown sugar to a boil, pour and mix into the dry ingredients in the large container or bowl.

Spread mix on a parchment paper or silicon baking mat lined sheet pan and bake in 325°F oven for 23-25 minutes.

Mix in cherries and chocolate chunks after granola has cooled to room temperature.


Next up: Top 5 Personal Safety Tips WHILE Traveling

This is the first of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have  tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.

Bonjour, je m'appelle Nicolette* and I spending my free time traveling around the world. I have a yearly goal of visiting ONE international destination every year. I cannot believe my luck. I get to travel to the most amazing places.

Most of the time, I travel solo and occasionally I pick ONE or two friends to accompany me on my international adventures. I have been traveling solo for over 10 years and I have packing down to a SCIENCE. I have never missed a flight, I don't pay for extra luggage and I manage to have everything I need and look like a fashion plate at every port.

Lavender fields at Matanzas Creek Winery

Only pack ONE carry-on.
That's it.
No checked luggage. No baggage fees. No problem.

You can safely pack up to 10 days worth of clothes, accessories and essentials into one bag. Let me show you how:

Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item. Your carry-on standard luggage should measure 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. It's meant to be stowed away in the overhead compartment, but I usually slide it in the seat in front of me and don't worry about shuffling others' items in those compartments. Also, bashing someone in the head with your bag is the worst cardinal sin of airline travel next to people taking their shoes off and farting.

Your personal item dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm), because FAA rules say it should be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

1. Start with essentials: undergarments (bra, underwear, socks, hosiery). Count the number of days you'll be on your trip and add 2 pair. No more than 2 bras (strapless and conventional) and 2 pairs of shoes (flats or sneakers; sandals or boots). 

2. Next, think of dresses, rompers and other one-piece options. Separates include tops, t-shirts, sweaters and pants, skirts, leggings. Mix and match your options so you have plenty to choose. Use the same formula as you do for undergarments. Count and add 2.

Don't forget nightwear. I always do and I end up sleeping in my clothes, which I hate. 

3.There's no need to "plan outfits" when your baseline choices give you options throughout your trip. Last, choose accessories: bathing suit, jewelry, outerwear (blazers, cardigans, light jackets).

4.Your toiletry bag or as I like to call it, your TSA bag, will be in your personal bag. No need to pack hair products (save for the gel you use to tame that pesky cowlick), a dryer, flat iron, and in some cases, a toothbrush and toothpaste. 

Don't forget 3-1-1 for carry-ons -- up to 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag to be placed in the screening bin (unless you have TSA pre-check, which is worth all 8,500 pennies, even if you only travel twice a year--and it is valid for FIVE years) 
[I admit, I always pack more than 1 TSA bag in my luggage]

Call ahead to your hotel or message your Airbnb host and ask what, if any, personal amenities will be available. You can explain your conservative approach to packing and you may be surprised what the answers will be. As much planning as you put into your trip, invest the same amount of time into packing your one and only carry-on.

You can safely and securely pack one suitcase for your trip while still being fashionable. There are ways to be a fashion plate while being conservative with all of your choices. 

Next up: Top 5 Travel Snacks Tips

*My first full name is Nicolette and the only people who call me this are bill collectors and people who went to elementary school with me.
On 10:52 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks   3 comments
'Tis the season for grilled and charred vegetables and meat. People are gearing up for summer to end, I'm relishing and salad'ing into the last month and a half of the best season of the year.

This corn salad is my favorite side dish. The bits of juicy corn kernels pop in your mouth with such a soft sweetness, you won't believe it until you try it. The dressing of sour cream and line juice is tempered with dashes of smoky paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

I like adding bits of bacon because, let's be honest, EVERYTHING is better with bacon.

Whether it's silver queen, shoepeg or bi-color, this salad is a hit.

Yield: 6 cups

4 cups roasted (or grilled) corn (about 5 ears), cut from the cob

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

6 green onions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced

1/2 cup honey

4 tbsp lime juice (from about 2 limes)

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp black pepper, ground

2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup bacon, crumbled (optional)


Preheat oven to 450°F. Place shucked corn on sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes. Alternatively, cook corn over high heat in a skillet. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the corn starts to char. If using frozen corn, you will need a couple minutes extra to get the right charred bits.

Cut the corn off the cob. You can also use canned corn or frozen corn, thawed. If using frozen, no need to thaw it out.

Transfer the corn to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir everything together until well combined. Adjust lime juice and salt and pepper as necessary.

To serve garnish with bacon and green onions, if preferred.