In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Jurga Rubinovaite, the world traveler, mom, and wife behind Full Suitcase, a travel blog that documents her family’s adventures around the world. We chat with Jurga about the importance of travel, her top destinations around the globe, her favorite things to do in Italy, and much more. Check out her best travel advice and find out where she’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
For as long as I can remember myself, I always loved to travel. Mind you, being born behind the iron curtain, back in those days travel was very local. Together with my parents, we traveled all around my home country, Lithuania, and also to some of the neighboring countries. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the urge to explore the world was stronger than ever before. It only got stronger with each new destination I discovered.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
To me, travel is freedom. Travel opens your eyes and introduces you to different cultures, it makes you more tolerant and open-minded. It also helps you appreciate how beautiful and diverse our world is. I strongly believe that travel makes us better people and the world a better place.
You run a travel blog called Full Suitcase. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about? What makes it different from other travel content out there?
Full Suitcase is a passion project, a hobby that turned into a successful business. Starting a blog was a very impulsive decision. I was researching information for our trips with kids and just couldn’t find the answers to the questions that I had. That’s when I realized that I could help other families who are in the same situation. Four years later, we now reach hundreds of thousands of people every month, helping them to plan their own dream trips all over the world.
What makes Full Suitcase different is that we not only inspire people to travel, but show them how they can make that dream trip themselves as well. Our goal is to help people to make the most of their trips.
You’re initially from Lithuania but now live in Belgium. What makes these countries such great travel destinations? What do you suggest people do when they visit them?
Tourism in Lithuania and Belgium is very different in terms that Lithuania is a very new tourism destination, not yet known to a broader audience. Whereas Belgium has been a popular European destination for decades… At the same time, there are also similarities, because in both countries tourism is concentrated around a couple of main towns, and other smaller destinations are completely overlooked by the majority of tourists.
In Belgium, most first-time visitors go to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp. If you have more time, I recommend visiting the WWI battlefields as well. In addition, smaller towns like Mechelen, Leuven, Namur, or Dinant are really nice to visit and are not as crowded. With nice beaches and lots of fun theme parks, Belgium is also a great destination for families with children.
In Lithuania, tourism is at the moment mostly focused around the capital city of Vilnius and the nearby Trakai Island Castle. However, there is so much more to Lithuania than this! Nice smaller towns, quirky museums, incredibly beautiful untouched nature with thousands of lakes, hundreds of rivers, endless forests, and the most beautiful sand dunes you can find in Europe… Lithuania is a hidden gem of Europe just waiting to be discovered. Here you can find more inspiration for things to do in Lithuania.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year?
This is a tough question, because I never really take the time to count how many days I’m traveling. Because we have school-going kids, we can only travel during the official school holidays. We try to travel during most school breaks, but definitely not all of them (it’s good to be at home too!).
On average, we make 2-4 shorter trips and 1-2 longer trips every year. In addition, I sometimes travel for my work on my own, but I only go if it’s a very special place or event. Otherwise, I would rather just travel with my family.
What types of places do you like to visit?
We love nature destinations and road-tripping is our favorite way to travel by far. Some of the nicest road trips we have done were the ones in Namibia, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, and the United States.
We also love Switzerland and Italy, but because these destinations are relatively close-by for us, we travel there more often and tend to spend more time in just one specific area and explore it deeper.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I want to inspire people to travel more and take their kids along. Our blog is filled with inspiration and practical advice helping them plan unforgettable vacations of their own.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
How does one answer a question like that 🙂 The world is so diverse and every destination is so different, that choosing one means that you’re probably not doing justice to all the other amazing places…
That being said, if I really have to pick my top-3, Italy, Switzerland, and South Africa would top the list.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
You guys sure like tough questions 🙂 Let’s take Italy, even though a choice of top-5 is practically impossible here:
- Obviously, Rome is not to be missed. The whole city is like a museum, with centuries-old history and unbelievable finds behind every single corner.
- Italian Lakes are among my favorites as well. Especially Lake Garda and Lake Como. Visiting this area is like traveling through a painting.
- The Dolomite Mountains are among the most beautiful in the world. It’s like the best of Canada, New Zealand, and Switzerland in one place.
- Tuscany is an incredible region where nature, art towns, and good food and wine offer a perfect mix for an unforgettable vacation. It will appeal to any type of traveler.
- I want to end this list with a lesser-known region in Italy, Emilia Romagna. If you are looking for a more authentic part of Italy that encompasses the very best that this country has to offer, but don’t like the crowds, then get to this beautiful region before the rest of the world finds out!
How many countries have you visited so far?
I really don’t know. The last time I counted was when I started my blog, 4 years ago. It was around 45 at that time. In the meantime, I have added quite a few new countries to that list, so it’s probably somewhere around 60 or 70.
We don’t travel in order to count countries. If we like a place a lot, we can go back there again and again, exploring it deeper and getting to know it better. I rather see fewer places than rush from country to country just to be able to say that I’ve been there.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Italian, Lithuanian, and Mexican.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
Home-made pasta at any local restaurant in Italy.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My husband and kids.
What is your favorite travel movie?
I love travel movies, but no way can I choose just one. Into the Wild, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Out of Africa would probably top the list.
What is your favorite international airport?
I’m not a fan of airports. It’s just an unnecessary evil in order to get to places I really want to go to.
Which city had the friendliest people?
There are so many friendly people all over the world, but the smiles and kindness of the Thai people would probably top any list.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
You mean, when commuting between places? Listening to music, podcasts, watching a movie or reading a good book.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
My blog has taken me to some incredible places and opened more opportunities than I ever expected. The most exotic, I suppose, was my recent trip to Mauritius where I was invited to speak at a travel conference. My personal favorite was Greenland.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Be open-minded and flexible. Also, enjoy the moment rather than trying to document every single moment of your journey.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
Travel documents, a camera, good walking shoes, and sunglasses (yes, also in winter).
What is your ultimate dream destination?
Antarctica and the whole region including the Falklands and King George Island. However, I’m not keen on spending days and days on the boat, and that’s the reason why I didn’t get there yet.
What is your favorite travel quote?
‘In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’ by Lewis Carroll It’s not just a travel quote, it’s life philosophy.
Where are you headed next?
My next trip is to Svalbard in the Arctic region. I’m visiting the world’s northernmost town, Longyearbyen, in winter.
Jurga Rabinovaite is the founder of one of the world’s leading family travel blogs, Full Suitcase. Originally from Lithuania, she now lives in Belgium with her husband and their three boys. They take every opportunity to escape the daily routine and travel the world together.
Full Suitcase is a travel blog for everyone who loves to travel deeper and for families who want to show their kids the world beyond beaches and theme parks.