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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Avoiding the Flu While Traveling

We're deep in flu season and this year is much worse than usual. Not only that, but now there's the new Coronavirus coming out of China, too, which is even worse than the flu. I used to get sick any time I went on vacation, but I've since learned how to stay healthy on all my trips, including while flying. If you're worried about getting ill and ruining your whole vacation, you probably need some of these tips:

How to avoid getting sick while traveling

Bring antibacterial gel

Purell is a staple of my travel bag. A lot of airplane water tanks are dirty and full of bacteria, because they're super hard and annoying to clean. Because of that, avoid drinking water from the drink cart unless you get your own unopened bottle, and also don't wash your hands in the bathroom sink, as they come from the same tanks and you'd just be adding extra bacteria on top of bacteria. Just thoroughly coat your hands in gel, or use antibacterial wipes.

Wash your hands often

I know I just said that you shouldn't wash your hands in the airplane bathroom, but make sure everywhere else you go, you wash your hands as much as possible. This will help with any gross germs you pick up from places where people have just touched or coughed on surfaces. 

Don't touch your face

People touch their faces an average of three times an hour, which means if you haven't washed your hands or used Purell, there's a good chance those germs on your hands are getting in your nose, eyes or mouth. Gross, right? Try to consciously keep your hands from your face, especially on the plane. 

Wear a mask

This is another way to keep from touching your face, and also from keeping germs out of your nose and mouth. You can wear a regular medical mask (just make sure it's the right kind and you're wearing it correctly and you dispose of it properly). I, personally, like something a little more fun, and I highly recommend the winged mask from The Barrier Method (or a gaiter neck mask for men or those that like something less fussy. I'll be wearing mine on my trip to New Orleans, and will be purchasing one for Eric for our next trip in the fall.

Drink a ton of water

I bring along a reusable water bottle, mostly because we drink a lot of water when we travel, but also because buying a bunch of bottles is not economical and it's not environmentally-friendly. Once we arrive at the airport, I buy a cold water to fill up, and then when we get to our destination, we usually purchase a big gallon of water to put in the fridge, so we don't have to drink tap water and we have a good supply of clean water. My reusable bottle is a thermos and keeps our drinks hot or cold, so you aren't drinking awful lukewarm water in the middle of the day.

I also love to order a tomato juice while flying, because the altitude takes away some of the wonky flavor and it's also packed with vitamins, which are nice to have while flying.

This is all veggies (and rice)

Eat your veggies

When you travel, it can be hard to eat well, especially if you're eating out a majority of the time. I always make sure to get my allotment of fruits and vegetables, so I'm not losing nutrients that I desperately need, especially when I'm doing more activity than normal. I try to actually order extra veggies (that aren't deep fried) at least a few times when I'm out, or I get a good stash of fruits for breakfasts from the farmers' market or a nearby grocery store when we arrive. 

Take extra vitamins

With all the new foods and extra activity you're going to be faced with, it's easy to get a little lax with your health, so pack a box of immunity tabs, chewable tablets, or Emergen-C. I make sure we take one in the morning and one in the evening.

Get enough sleep

When I don't get enough sleep, I can be cranky and uncool. Nobody wants to be around me. In fact, *I* don't want to be around me. I make sure I give myself some downtime on my trips, because being go go go all the time is exhausting, and packing my days means I don't get to sleep as much as I need. A good night of sleep can do a world of good, plus you wake up feeling refreshed, plus you don't get sick from not allowing your body to recharge.

If you have problems sleeping, look for something that helps you drift on or stay asleep. A few of my favorite ways to do this is an herbal sleep spray, an all-natural sleep aid, a great eye mask and/or a good pair of ear plugs

Avoid excess alcohol

I love a tasty drink as much as the next person, but I try to limit my booze intake while traveling and I definitely avoid it while flying to keep from getting dehydrating. I may have a drink with dinner or while out at happy hour, but I also try not to drink much before it's time for bed, because it doesn't help me sleep better. In fact, I sleep really badly when I drink too much. You know your body better than anyone, so you can make sure you stay within your limits.

Staying healthy while you travel can really help you make the most of the time you have and avoid being miserable while trying to have a good time sightseeing. When you've got limited time in a place, you don't want to feel like you wasted money to go there. 

Do you have a favorite way to stay healthy on vacation?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Destination Potlucks Are a Thing Now

I love traveling, but even I can't travel all the time. First of all, I don't want to, and second of all, I don't have the money to do that. I have a lot of friends who like to get together for random things, and who also love to travel, but don't have money to do more than a trip or two every year. So, I came up with something to satisfy our cravings: Destination potlucks.

Destination potlucks to fill in travel lulls

This last weekend, we held our first one. The concept is simple. You choose a region or  country and everyone brings beverages, entrees, sides or desserts from that place. Our first potluck covered Scandinavia, so we included Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. Several of our friends brought more than one dish, and I made two as well as a beverage. 

Sorry for the terrible lighting on this video

In addition to food, I did a tiny bit of research and made up fun facts handouts, a map along with travel tips, and dressed up my Snape stand-up with a Scandinavian folk hat that I made out of heavy duty paper and ribbons, as well as giving my large "portrait" with a traditional holiday headdress, along with the history of it. I felt it only made sense if we learned things as well as made some cool dishes that we may or may not like. 

Here's a list of some of the dishes we had:
  • Kalpudding - a Swedish meatloaf and cabbage dish that was pretty easy make and also pretty tasty. 
  • Cucumber salad - I make this regularly, except without the tons of dill it calls for, so I was pretty confident in this dish.
  • Saft - A drink where you basically make your own fruit concentrate and then mix with sparkling water.
  • Kantareller og Geitost - A lovely dish made with chanterelle mushrooms and goat cheese that you can serve on crostini.
  • Ovnbagte aebler med log - Roasted onions and apples that are sliced and use lemon and elderflower. This is creamy and an awesome side.
  • Salmon chowder - If you like a hearty soup, this is fantastic.
  • Aebleskivers - I've made these little round doughnuts before, but I don't have a pan to make them now. My friend made three different kinds.
  • Kroppkakor - Potato dumplings with bacon and onion in the middle, which can be served with jam or gravy. Either way, they are yummy, and easily a main all by themselves.
  • Krumkaker - A cool cone-shaped thin waffle that can be filled with whipped cream and topped with candy, fruit, and/or sprinkles.
We had several other things, including a cheesecake dessert, candies, and drinks, and this was with just a dozen people. Everything was very filling, so I would suggest fasting a bit if you go with this region. So many carbs, but also so very delicious. 

a better view of Snape's folk hat :)

Everyone was so into this theme and can't wait until our next one. We haven't chosen a region yet, but we're leaning towards British/UK foods, so we can include Scottish and Irish foods as well as Indian (because there is a huge population in London and the official dish is chicken tikka masala). That way we can also ease into more ethnic foods for future potlucks. I'd also love to include some regional games and possibly have others bring 3 facts they thought were interesting from our destination.

Have you ever had a destination party of any kind? Share, so we can all have more ideas!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

5 Ways to Save Money On ALL Your Trips

Budget travel isn't always easy. Travel is expensive and you can't always stay within a budget you want to stay in, unless you really compromise, but we all know this. Luckily, there are ways you can save that are easy and you can do all the time. Here are five of my favorite ways to save money on every single trip I take:

5 ways to save money on all your trips

Travel in the off-season

Sure, everyone wants to travel in the summer, because the kids are out of school and the weather is nice, but this is also true other places. This means that attractions are open longer, but also there are way more tourists and long lines and higher prices. Shift your travel to the off-season, or at least shoulder season, to save up to half off hotels and airfare, plus save your time by not having to wait in giant queues everywhere you go. Do your research ahead of time to find out when peak season is and avoid that like the plague.

Eat local

I am the first one who wants to go out to eat when I travel, but not everything has to be fancy restaurants. In fact, you don't have to eat in a restaurant at all. I'm not suggesting fast food joints, because no. I pick at least one restaurant I want to eat at a day and then I fill in my meals with places that locals have suggested to me (because they don't make commission from their suggestions and tell you to go to places they truly love), food carts, and foods from the grocery and farmers' markets.

Take public transportation

Most cities have great public transportation, and since you aren't on any sort of schedule, getting places isn't a thing where you have to be there at a particular time (usually), so skip the expensive cabs, ubers and car rentals and take the bus, subway, or even just walk. Both of these options are cheap or free and are even a better way to see your destination, because you get off the main path. 

Look for promo codes and coupons

Attractions and activities can be expensive. I make sure I exhaust all options researching for promo codes and coupons for things I absolutely don't want to miss. A lot of times if you book online, you can get a better deal than gate price, even if it's just a few dollars. If you can't find any deals, hit up a nearby hotel lobby to see if they have coupons. We were able to save a lot of money at a great restaurant in Philly this way. 

Do the free stuff

You'll be surprised by how much free stuff you can see/do in a city if you look for it. Museums with free admission, parks with lots of sculptures and other artwork, building murals, free city tours. We've done all those things and more. 90% of the time it's really fun and something you wouldn't have done if you didn't actually look for it. Look online before you leave and don't forget to ask around when you arrive. 

So, while budget travel may be more work than just booking a trip blindly and then complaining about the prices of everything and then never going on vacation again, it's definitely worth it, and it makes your hard work that much more appreciated.

What are your favorite easy ways to save on travel?
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