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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Great Deals For All Budgets 8.28.10




Do you love flying as much as I do? I know there are plenty of people out there that hate waiting at the airport and just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible. I, on the other hand, view the trip to and wait at the airport as part of the journey. I like wheeling my carry-on through the overpriced gift shops, watching other travelers come and the excitement of walking down the tunnel to get onto the plane. If you don't view any of these things as obstacles, it makes your trip start that much more fun.
  • Alaska/Horizon has pulled together some low, low deals for travel in the U.S. and Canada between September 8th and December 15th. Sample rates include Seattle to San Jose for $79 each way and Atlanta to Vancouver for $169 each way. Rates are available for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and you must purchase by August 31st.
  • What's better than going on a trip? How about a FREE trip? American Airlines wants you to win one from them that includes flying to New York, your accommodations, seeing John Legend and The Roots in concert and a ton of frequent flyer miles. Register before September 30th for a chance at this once-in-a-lifetime prize.


It's not hard to find great discounts on hotels right about now. There are sales for as early as Labor Day weekend and all the way through Christmas. If you want to go somewhere touristy, then it might be a bit more difficult to find prices within your budget, especially if you want to stay in more luxurious accommodations. Here are a few options for you.
  • Hotwire is offering 4-star hotels at 2-star pricing for a limited time. Locations offered across America.
  • Stay in brand-new hotels. Hotels that have been newly built or totally remodeled often have an introductory period right when they open that offers rock-bottom rates. HotelChatter is a website that not only shows reviews of hotels, but they also list the opening dates of new hotels and update them if they change. The list shows hotels worldwide, so you can search before you book your room.


There are so many cruises to choose from with all the different itineraries and ships. They offer a large selection in price ranges from budget all the way to ultra-plush. Even though you may wish to take a luxury cruise, your wallet may not agree. Sign up for e-mail deals and then you, too, can get the low-down on all the great sales without having to search for them or learn about them from someone else. Here are some wonderful sites that send regular newsletters that I find particularly useful.
  • BookIt -- BookIt will send you a weekly e-mail with their best deals, but you can also search and find amazing deals on your own through their site.
  • VacationsToGo -- Their weekly newsletter is pretty bare-bones with no images, but it's packed with information.
  • LastMinuteCruises -- Just like the name implies, if you can book a cruise on 3 week's notice, then you can get amazing deals on cabins that are still available on a variety of ships and itinerary.
  • From $399 pp, go on a 7-night cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines to Bahamas or Florida.
  • From $379 pp, go on a 7-night Caribbean cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines.



I know that not everyone has the same taste in food and sometimes when you are on vacation, you just want something familiar. This is usually pretty easy to find if you have a hankering for a hamburger or pizza, but it's a lot harder when you have special food needs or allergies. I have several friends who are vegetarians and I have enough trouble thinking up food options for parties or dinner, sometimes. I always think, what do you do if you're in a foreign country and you don't know how to communicate your food needs. Here are a couple options, even if you're not vegetarian.
  • For those of you who are vegetarians/vegans or travel with someone who is, here's a great resource: HappyCow.net lists vegetarian/vegan restaurants the world over and also has listings for health food stores, markets, vegetarian-friendly lodgings and even a list of airlines that serve approved meals. For those with iPhones or iPod Touch, download their useful app called VegOut for only $2.99.
  • It's hard enough to communicate your meal preferences in English sometimes, but what about when you're in a foreign country? Now you can! With your iPhone or iPod, download the Veggie Passport app to be able to communicate to foreign waiters, hosts or travel companions in 33 languages. With the app, you choose one of many phrases, such as "I am a vegetarian," and it translates into the chosen language to show the person you need to convey your message to. The app got rave reviews and is downloaded for 99 cents. They also offer a similar application for those with food allergies called Allergy Passport. You can download it for $1.99, because nothing ruins a vacation like a trip to the emergency room.



When you find great travel basics, it's easy to stick with them, especially if those basics are also bestsellers for a company. You know they aren't likely to discontinue those items anytime in the near future, so you can always replenish your travel wardrobe if you need to. ExOfficio is one of my favorite travel clothing sites. though they have retail locations across America, the biggest selection of their clothing can be found at ExOfficio.com. Here are 2 of my favorite lines of theirs:
  • Dryflylite shirts: These come in a variety of colors and styles in both men's and women's lines. They often have sales on discontinued colors, too. This is one of their best selling shirts because they are rugged, stylish and keep you cool and dry. Long sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless, they have a dryflylite shirt to suit everyone.
  • All their undergarments. Yeah, I love them all. They are odor-resistant, super comfortable and keep you dry and non-chafed. TravelSmith has all ExOfficio under things 25% off until September 22nd.




I love a deal, as I'm sure most of you do, too, otherwise you wouldn't be reading my blog. There are quite a few that I've come across this week that I would seriously consider myself if I didn't already have a vacation planned at the moment.
  • If I could have a second home, it would be in England. The country is beautiful, I can speak the language and it just feels like I belong there when I'm walking the streets. This would be a wonderful addition to a London vacation or even a weekend getaway for UK residents: Relax in the serenity of the English countryside with great deals from Barcelo Properties, like this one from the Barcelo Basingstoke Country Hotel in Southern England. Enjoy the comforts of your room, spend the day exploring or visit the spa. With its close proximity to tourist attractions like Windsor Castle, Legoland and Thorpe Amusement Park, there's always something to do. Prices from £42.00 per person and includes breakfast AND dinner.
  • Save 30% off a fabulous tour of India. Voyage Prive brings you a 10-day trip, including food, tour guide, accommodations, flights within India, entrance fees and much more for $2509. Travel the country and see more than you can imagine for way less than you could do it if booked separately. Book by September 2 for select dates through the end of the year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Uncommon Vacation Destinations 8.25.10





  • Thailand is a colorful and beautiful metropolitan country. They have great shopping and nightlife and amazing food. Once you get there, there is always something going on and the country is fairly inexpensive. In the hustle and bustle of the hectic city life, know that you can wind down by staying at places like Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort. From only $74 per night, it is only 2 miles from the airport and located on a gorgeous property in a quiet neighborhood right on the Mae Kok River. The resort has a spa and fitness center to help you relax. They also offer shops, pools, several restaurants and shuttle service. You can take a river cruise or a day trip to the temples of Chiang Rai. This offer is good to Saturday from Tablet, though regular prices start at $114/night.
  • One day I will go to China and experience all the country has to offer…or at least all that Beijing or Shanghai have to offer, since the country is so big that it would be impossible for you to visit and soak in the culture in more than one or two cities in a two-week trip. For those of you who can go sooner rather than my "one day", you can stay for as low as $75 per night at the Novotel Beijing Sanyuan. Get 35% off and 4th night free! It is close to Tiananmen Square and the Underground, making it really easy to get to other parts of the city. The Novotel has a restaurant, 2 bars and a tourist information desk. We’ve stayed at other Novotel properties in the world and the rooms are much bigger than expected for the price and they have comfortable beds and great staff.


Everyone talks about going on a Hawaiian, Mexican or Caribbean cruise, but there are so many more destinations that you can choose from. Not all of them are expensive like going to the Greek Isles or Italy. What about the ones that are closer to home? Have you ever thought about going on a New England and Canada cruise? With much of the same kinds of landscape, these cruises can still be exotic and much cheaper. It’s likely that you’ve never even explored any of the cities that are included in one of these cruise itinerary, if you’re like me. There are many East Coast ports to choose from, such as Boston, Baltimore and New York.
  • Right now you can book a 7-night cruise from as little as $429 per person on great ships from Carnival Cruise Line and more. Visit amazing places like Nova Scotia, Saint John and Cape Libery. Get in some wonderful shopping and sightseeing and never have to take your luggage with you when you visit a new city. It’s the perfect way to see North America and still feel like you’re in an exotic locale. Book now for these amazing deals for travel this Fall.
Sometimes, you just need to rent a car to get around where you’re traveling. We rent when going on trips where we visit theme parks or family and friends or when we know we want to see a lot of scenery in a country, like we did in Ecuador. We were able to spend time in Mindo, Otavalo and Quito this way, without wasting time on a bus. It gives us the freedom to keep our own schedule and enjoy air conditioning and room to stretch out.

  • One of the best incentives for a certain rental company reservation is when you can book a great rate through another site that allows you to get rewards points or mileage for the rental. This gets you double points, if you’re a member of the rental car loyalty program (which I highly recommend), because you get credit on your rental company account and either hotel points or airline miles, too. Alaska Airlines is offering excellent rates for Dollar Rent A Car rentals, plus you can get triple miles on your Alaska frequent flyer account. You must rent between now and December 15, reserve a mid-size or larger car (I would reserve the smallest one that your party could comfortably fit in) for 3 days or longer. Use the code provided through the link and don’t forget to give them your mileage number, so you get credit. This same deal is available for American Airlines, Continental, Hawaiian, United and US Airways, just click on the preferred airline on the left-hand side of the screen.




Food is good…cheap food is even better, but only if it tastes great. I enjoy researching my many, many food options everywhere I go. I read reviews and menus and check out prices for all the areas I’ll be visiting and make a list. Anything I can make a reservation for before I leave is a plus, because it ensures that I will have a table waiting for me wherever I am when I’m STARVING, which is also inevitable in my case. Being outside in the fresh air and walking around really works up my appetite. I could probably eat five meals a day, but I try to control myself and carry some snacks in my bag, just in case. I also really like to try new cuisine wherever I go and I’m still a bit regretful that I never found a place in Ecuador that served cuy, which means I’ll have to go back someday. (Cuy is a dish made from guinea pig, which is a delicacy there, like we would consider filet mignon or lobster.)
  • Traveling in the U.S., it’s easy to read the menu, but just as easy to find good, local food. Inexpensive may be harder to find, especially if you want to go somewhere outside of T.G.I Friday’s and Burger King. I enjoy seeking out all the great, regional places that aren’t chain restaurants and offer you unique food, good service and reasonable prices. One way to do this is by purchasing gift certificates on Restaurant.com. Right now you can get 80% off their already awesome prices ($10 for a $25 certificate) if you use the code: CLEARANCE. The offer is good through 8/31, but you can buy as many as you want in as many offered locations as you want. These are especially handy on vacation when you are going somewhere new and might have a tight budget. The certificates can come in different denominations and just ask that you order a certain dollar amount of food (usually $35 for a $25 certificate – alcohol and gratuity are normally off-limits as well). We buy certificates from Restaurant.com for our local area, too, and for gifts! They make great stocking-stuffers and there are participating restaurants all over the country. Over 15,000 of them!



If you hear these words, you haven’t prepared yourself well enough for your trip. If there’s downtime on our vacation, it’s to eat, rest our feet or veg out before going to bed and doing it all over again the next day. I don’t like to have lulls in the day that weren’t planned for. If we go do laundry, we bring a game. If we are hanging out in the hotel room, we have a movie or a book or the iPod cranking out some tunes. If we’re standing in line waiting to get on a train or an amusement park ride, we have a card game that can be easily played. I don’t think we’ve ever just been sitting around thinking, “What now?” or “I’m bored.”
  • Last time I told you about Fluxx 4.0. As fun as that game is, you can’t always play it everywhere or you might want some variety. This game is great for people with kids, too, because it’s fast and easy, but also makes you think. From the makers of Cranium comes the card game called Zigity. A game can be played with the plastic cards in 5-10 minutes, but you can easily play several games to fill up an hour and not get bored. The premise of the game is simple: Be the first player use all of your cards. Use “Action Cards” in your hand to change the rules of the game to spell a word, complete a puzzle or add up to a certain number. It’s easy to learn and fun to play.


  • Another fabulous way to do more on vacation is to take advantage of included freebies with stuff you are already doing. Take Eurostar, for example. If you plan to take it into Paris, Brussells or London, your ticket includes Eurostar Culture Connect, which gets you 2-for-1 admission to participating art galleries and museums in your destination city. This can save you a fair amount and maybe even get you to do something you hadn’t planned on doing in the first place.


Packing. I just love the word. It means I’m going somewhere, hopefully fun, and I get to decide what comforts of home I want to take with me. I like to see how much I can do without, so I can pack my clothes and my husband’s into our regular carry-on bag and then any overflow, which is generally electronics and toiletries, in a smaller roller bag that can fit under the airplane seat. Maybe no one else thinks this challenge is a fun one, but I pack and repack until I’m satisfied have used up any empty spaces in my packing layers. A carry-on bag can be like Felix’s Magic Bag of Tricks…there is always free space to tuck something small in a corner or in a shoe. People are amazed what I can pack in my luggage, even without a compression bag. If the item is small unbreakable, I can find a space in my bag for it. My friend often has me pack her bag to get back home, because I can get everything she came with AND all her souvenirs into her carry-on, that seemingly had no extra space on the voyage to her destination.
  • We’re going to talk about toiletry bags and how to get everything you need in one, without having to ship anything to your destination or buy it there. I have two words for you: Travel Size. I know you hate having to go all over trying to find your favorite products in smaller containers, but think of how much space and money you’ll save if you don’t take your full-size products and don’t check a bag. Sure, some stuff you’ll have to buy those little plastic bottles and jars for, like your special moisturizer or hair gel. For everything else, check out Minimus.biz. I love, love, love travel-sized products. They’re like baby shoes: adorable. Minimus has the largest supply of items that are TSA approved: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower gel, toothpaste, etc. You name it, they have it. You can even buy sewing kits and sleep masks if you want. Even better than not having to track them all down yourself is that Minimus offers free shipping on orders over $20. That’s SO easy to do, even if you have to buy multiple items to stock your travel supply for more than one trip. It’s worth it.


Travel gadgets just make trips and packing that much more fun. I have a set list of the things I take on every trip (Kindle, iPod Touch, netbook, iGo) and then a list of other things that I pack for different kinds of trips (GPS, travel towels, travel adapter). Since there are so many out there, I like to spend some time each entry to tell you about one or two of my favorites. Right now, it’s a travel adapter. Even though I have a set of adapters, I saw this and immediately bought one of my own, too, because it is convertible and I only need to take the one with me instead of 2-5!
  • You NEED a travel adapter for all these great places you're going, but you have to jump on this offer, because it won't last forever. Shop4Tech has a universal travel adapter with built-in surge protector for only $3.95 with free shipping. Use the code SV15 to get an extra 15% off. That makes it a whopping $3.36 shipped! Most electronics are now dual-voltage, so you shouldn't have to worry about getting a converter, too. Convenient!
Even though I’ve posted some great deals above, I had some others that I thought I would throw in that caught my attention and made me think that now might be the time to visit any of the following places and relax, go shopping, take pictures and just generally have an enjoyable time.
  • I hear that Singapore has great shopping and sightseeing. They also have some great rates on hotels, making it a pretty affordable option between now and the end of Spring 2011. In May they have the Great Singapor Sale, where you can get clothes and other items up to 70% off! There are more festivals and incentives to get you to visit than I can list, but if you're interested in going for whatever reason, here's a beautiful hotel at only $112/night. Includes daily breakfast and is in an excellent location.
  • The Treasure State is waiting for you. For those of you who aren’t familiar with all our states’ mottos, that one is for Montana. Has it been on your must-list for travel? It should! You can take in the beautiful scenery, check out the local boutiques and art and sample some regional cuisine and beer. And if you book before November 1, for travel between now and June 30, 2011 (you have LOTS of time), you can save $100 on a flight and hotel package of 3 days or more from Travelocity. If you don't need a flight, just make hotel reservations, starting as low as $68/night.
  • Superbreak has some sweet discounts on hotels in Paris. One of the hotels I found is called the Alane Hotel. It's close to tourist attractions, shops and the Metro. Prices from £39.50 per person, per night. Search their site for even more great hotels like this at low prices.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dinner AND a show! 8.21.10

A vacation isn’t a real vacation to me if I don’t fly to get there. I get super excited to pack and get on the plane. The only thing better than getting on the plane is finding a great deal on my flight. There are so many places online to find great discounts, if you now where to look. Some people like to just go online and pick a flight and pay for it. That’s not how you’re going to get cheaper airfare if you’re trying. Here are some of my favorite ways to save:


  • Sign up for airline emails. I must get every major travel reseller email, as well as the large airline emails with specials. On Wednesdays, I can get an extra 20 emails in my inbox from just companies trying to tell me what the great travel sales are for the week. I am not always planning a vacation, though I wish I was, but I like to know what’s out there and also I post my favorite deals on here for you all that might have missed one that you are really interested in.
    Obviously, you’ll want to sign up for the big email senders, like Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and Hotwire. It’s up to you which other ones you are willing to receive. I fly American Airlines a lot, so I get their emails and many others that I might fly, like Delta, Alaska and Southwest. I recommend doing the same. The question you need to ask yourself is: “How much information do I want available to me?” I want it all, so I sign up for it all. If I find something to be less than useful, I eventually unsubscribe until I have only the most useful website emails at my disposal.

  • Use clubs that you subscribe to to get better deals. AAA and Costco are big ones. Not only do they give you great perks for everyday life, but they also have nifty travel departments that can get you super deals on just airfare or package deals. If you are members of either, you can call the travel department or register online and check out what’s available to you.

Your lodging is your home away from home, so you want it to be comfortable, convenient and functional. There needs to be enough room for you to put all your stuff and still be able to move around without difficulty. Depending on your travel group, you may need different things from your accommodation. We like to have a kitchen if we can, because we don’t like to go out for breakfast and just grab a toasted bagel or bowl of cereal before leaving for the day…and sometimes we come back during the day to make a sandwich or warm up leftovers from the previous day. If we travel with other people, we need to have more than one room, so everyone can have their own space and not get sick of each other, which is hard to do when there are only two beds in one small room. If you have a larger family, you might consider renting an apartment, condo or a house, where you have the option of bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and maybe more than one bathroom.


  • VRBO.com is a great website for you. It is the largest group of vacation rentals by owners available on the Internet in one place. You can search by amenities and price in your destination choice. View the property details, previous guest reviews and pictures that show you where you’ll be staying. You can contact the owner directly for more details and pictures and to ask any questions you might have about the accommodations or the area.




"There were no forks IN medieval times, therefore there are not forks AT Medieval Times." What they DO have at Medieval Times is awesome, awesome discounts. Right now, get dinner and show for only $29 per person. That's $30 off the regular price! Valid for any of 8 locations if purchased by Aug 31st. This is a great add-on to the end of a long vacation day. Rest your feet, eat a four-course dinner, cheer for jousters while waving flags. I love it! Even at regular price, it’s still cheaper than a lot of things you could do and those wouldn’t include food.





You all know how I love convertible pieces of clothing. Anything that I can wear 2 or 3 different ways is awesome and a space-saver in my suitcase. Here's one of my new finds: ExOfficio’s Women's Savvy Skirt. Wear it as a skirt or a dress! You can wear it as a bathing suit cover-up, a strapless dress, a halter dress, a long skirt or a shorter skirt by folding over the waistband of the skirt. I think this might be added to my wardrobe for my next trip.






For the gentlemen out there, check out the Nio Amphi Convertible Pants. They are 2 great items in one: Pants and shorts. My husband has 2 pair of thes that are already packed in our suitcase for our trip next month. They are awesome, because he can hang out on the beach in shorts and then zip the legs back on to go out to dinner or when it gets chilly or he needs protection on his legs while hiking or mosquitoes are especially active.






It’s always great to keep track of all your travel paperwork and packing lists and budgeting. There are so many travel organizers out there to choose from, but my favorite is the Knock Knock Travel Organizer. It is a binder with pocket folders to hold your confirmations and other plans. I put my printed out itinerary in there, packing list and maps or airport information. Aside from that, they have a 40-page pad for writing down your plans, a budget form, a useful travel website list and a map to mark where you’ve been and where you want to go! Anytime I find something that sounds cool to do that I can use later, I put it in the folder that I labeled for future trips.








Looking for a change of casino scenery? How about jetting to the east coast to Atlantic City instead? Right now, Travelocity has rates as low as $50/night on AC hotels. I see you can stay at Caesars for only $98/night, which is a steal! Book soon for best selection. Don't forget, you can save even more by adding airfare!

For only $80 per night you can stay at the beautiful Augusta Lucilla Palace Rome Hotel in a central Rome location close to the Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum and public transportation. This hotel got very positive reviews and includes daily breakfast!


Save 60% off in Puerto Vallarta at the all-inclusive Melia Resort. Now, book by Aug 31st to get rates of only $79 per person/per night. Right on the beach, with 4 restaurants. It's a great family resort where all drinks and food are included, also all non-motorized sports, alcohol, exercise facilities and more. Good for stays from now through December 15 and save even more by adding airfare to your package.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August is International Air Travel Month! 8.18.10

Quito

Thanks for visiting my travel blog! Here I will share my money saving tips for all aspects of travel, as well as give recommendations on travel clothes, accessories and other gear. As you may know, I enjoy life and all it has to offer, which includes traveling as often as I can. Unfortunately, like many of us, I don't have a big savings account, but I still want to get the most out of trips with my husband and stay in nice hotels and eat good food. I'll be posting weekly updates on how to save money when reserving airfare, hotels, cruises, restaurants and car rentals. I will also be adding general travel tips and useful travel items that I found and take with me on my own travels. For more deals, join me on Facebook (Shereen Travels Cheap) or follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/shereentrvlschp).

Jet plane

Airfare can be a huge chunk of your vacation budget. You will want to save as much as possible, right? I mean, I sure do. Traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday is a tried and true way to save on plane tickets. Sometimes, you can save hundreds by just switching your travel dates to fly on these days. Of course there are plenty of other ways to save, too! Try some of these money saving tips:

  • Sign up for the free frequent flyer programs for airlines. You can sign up for just a few or any that fly out of your home airport, this way, you will be the first to know about exclusive deals and promotions via email. You may be eligible for other perks, too. The best part about frequent flyer programs is that when you fly, you accumulate the equivalent amount of miles flown in your account, which can then be redeemed for free airplane tickets. You have to pay a small fee to exchange them (around $25 and can vary with the airline), but it’s still much less than a full-price ticket. Most airlines offer round-trip coach tickets starting at 25,000 miles and many airlines are now allowing you to buy part of your ticket with miles and make up the purchase price with actual money. Usually, you trade in 12,500 miles and it pays for the first half of your ticket. So, say you are flying round trip from Boston to Los Angeles, your Boston to LA ticket would be covered and you would pay for your trip back to Boston out of pocket.
  • The average “cost” of an airline mile is set at $.02, so 25,000 miles gets you a $500 ticket. Anything less than that is considered a waste of using your miles, so make sure you’re getting your money’s worth out of your free ticket by using it for rates of $500 or more, if you can afford to do so. You don’t want to use it on a ticket that’s on sale for only $325 R/T if you can help it. This is one of the only times that you can make your rewards points for anything worth more money, so take advantage of it as best you can.

Sleep

There are a lot of things to consider when finding a place to stow your belongings and lay your head at night. Price may be the biggest factor, but it doesn't mean the less you pay the crappier your stay. There are plenty of budget and moderate hotels that offer wonderful service and surroundings if you know where and how to look. I like to weigh all my options when deciding on where to sleep: does it have a restaurant? Is it close to what I want to do? Is it convenient to public transportation? Does it offer free breakfast? Free WiFi? Is it on a busy street? Do the rooms offer kitchenettes? All these questions are important, but here are some ways to save on hotels you want to stay in at your chosen destination:

  • The more inclusive extras you can get on a vacation, the further your money goes. Free breakfast saves you around $10 per person per day! Here’s an excellent example of a hotel with perks that save you money and brings up the value of your room rate:

    >>Enjoy European luxury in the Southwest. Stay in the London Bridge Resort on Lake Havasu for $119/night and receive daily family breakfast and a family boat tour. The resort is exclusively suites and offers a 9-hole golf course, full-service spa, restaurant, lounge and more! You have a view of London Bridge that was shipped over and relocated to the desert. Book by Aug 31st for travel through Dec 31st.

Getting Around

You aren't always lucky enough to be in a place where you can walk all over, or even want to if you could. There are many transportation options that are inexpensive, no matter where you are headed. Look at your options and weigh the pros and cons. I don't usually take taxis on vacation, because they cost a fortune, but some places they are really reasonable. In Quito, Ecuador we took a cab ride up to the Teleferiqo, which would have cost us at least $30-40 at home, but only cost us $10, including tip!

  • BackTrackWe walk and drive a lot and sometimes (okay, lots of times) we get lost. You ever pull into a giant mall or theme park parking lot and hours later totally forget where you parked? Well, they have created something just for those of us who do that: Bushnell BackTrack Personal GPS. The BackTrack can save your starting point in the memory and then whenever you’re done with what you are doing, it can lead you back to your car, the bus stop or your hotel. The tiny downside it has is that it doesn’t work indoors, so try not to park in a parking garage if you want to use it. Otherwise, it’s about the size of a stopwatch, fits in your pocket and comes in a variety of cool colors. I can see using this at home as well as on vacation.

Are we?

This, and "I'm bored" are among the worst things to hear when you get to your destination and realize that you haven't planned enough stuff to keep your family amused. Getting there is just the first job on your to-do list for your holiday. I'm not saying you have to pack your days to the gills until your family curses you as they crawl into the hotel room, clutching their aching feet and wishing they had stayed home, but enough to be busy doing something at least part of every day. This gives you the flexibility to do other things you find along the way or just relax the rest of the day.

  • FluxxI love games. I take quite a few with us on vacation: Nintendo DS, iPod Touch, card games and sometimes a book of logic problems. I like to keep myself busy, even though I know the first 3-45 minutes on the plane I’ll be trying to do the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine (if one exists). It’s not always fun to play games by yourself, especially if you are traveling with one or more other people. My husband and I discovered Fluxx 4.0. This game is awesome! It’s a card game with ever-changing rules. You start out with basic rules and a goal, like “Milk & Cookies”. Once you get the milk card and the cookie card, you win! But wait! You and your fellow players can change both the rules and the goals by the cards you hold in your hand, making it super fun to play anywhere you go. We play it on the plane, the train, the park, the Laundromat. You name it! And it doesn’t matter if you play with 2 people or 6. Everyone can play, though it says 8 and up. Fluxx is also available in different sets that you can play separately (or together, though we haven’t tried it yet). Variations include: Zombie, Family, Eco, Martian, Monty Python and Stoner editions.

Packing

If you're like me, packing is a super fun challenge to get as much useful stuff in my bag in as little space as possible. If you're like a lot of other people, packing is just a challenge. The more you practice, the better you'll get at it and you'll be a packing master! Here are some great tips to make the process go more smoothly for you.

  • Look for reversible clothing that can be turned inside out and present a new fabric or pattern. It doubles your travel wardrobe and packs in half the space. Genius! TravelSmith carries a lot of these pieces of clothing in stylish tops, skirts, jackets and more. They are reasonably priced and super comfortable to wear.

Gear

I'll be the first to admit my love of anything travel-related, and if it makes my life easier, does many things and is easy to pack on top of that, I'm in. Okay, not everything I think is essential is also multi-purpose, but a lot are. Here are some awesome items I find useful and want you to know about, too!

  • Belkin RockstarDo you have fights over who gets to listen to the iPod or the DVD player? Well, never fear, because Belkin Rockstar is here. This thing is great! With 5 earphone ports and a cool design, everyone can listen to music, or the movie or whatever else all at once. Unfortunately, it can’t help solve the fights about which band to listen to or what movie to watch, but I guess you can’t have everything.
  • Belkin Surge ProtectorEvery time I go to a hotel I think they must not want to add to their electricity bill by letting you plug in anything! There are 5 outlets in your room and every single one of them is occupied with stuff like the TV and 12 lamps. All I want to do is plug in my phone to charge and the only open socket is in the sink area next to the coffee maker. I don’t know about you, but I’m not plugging my phone in near a water source. Some, more innovative, hotels now have a socket in the lamp base on the desk. That’s awesome, but there are two of us and we often travel with more than one phone and several other electronics. Well, I found the Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB ports. We now have two; one for home and one for travel. It has 3 outlets to plug in your laptop, phone, Kindle or whatever else you bring with you, and also 2 USB ports to plug in things like your iPod. It’s great, because it’s small, has a lot of use and the plug on the back swivels 360 degrees to fit and outlet space anywhere you need it.

  • iGoI love the Belkin Mini Surge Protector even though I also have an iGo. It allows me to plug in my iGo and my laptop at the same time that way. What’s the iGo, you ask? It’s only the best invention ever made for people who travel. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but it’s in my Top 5! In fact, I love it so much, I plug it to everyone I meet and buy one for all my traveling friends. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to round up all my million adapter cords for all my electronic devices. I also like to have my travel bag packed as much as possible all the time. The iGo is a great little adapter that has interchangeable tips for each device you own. You can get the wall plug and the car plug (which can both use the same tips) for around $30 and then each tip is sold separately and they are usually around $10 each. You can toss the tiny bag with 2 cords and all your tips into your travel bag for the next time you go anywhere and be set for everything you take with you from your iPod to your personal GPS.

Deals

I like to share great deals I find, even if I may not be able to use them, I would like someone to. This is a new segment that will also be implemented on my website, too. I hope they appeal to you.

  • Tuscan6 nights in a castle in Tuscany. Includes airfare from New York and a rental car, so you can make the short drive to Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena. For $799pp, you get a 2 bedroom suite in the property guest house or for $99 more, you can stay in the actual castle. Book by Aug 27th for selected travel dates in Nov-Feb. Visit the site to see prices to fly out of other airports around the country and to upgrade to an automatic car for $79). This deal is good over Thanksgiving, too, and is only a little more than just the airfare would cost you. Similar deals show up at $1,000 more per person.

  • AirTran has announced its new fare sale. From $88 RT. Yep, you read that right. Round trip! Purchase by Aug 24th for travel through December 15th. Valid for travel days other than Fri & Sun. Great coast to coast deals!

  • Summer isn't over yet! You still have time to book that summer getaway. Save up to 40% off hotel prices across the globe through Sept 6th. You need to book by August 31st! Discounts on hotels in Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and more!


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