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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Where Your Memorial Weekend Can Take You

This long weekend is already predicted to be the most crowded on the road in the last 12 years. An estimated 39 million travelers will be hitting the highways to get to their destinations this year. Gas prices aren't any cheaper than the last few years, but the general good economy is getting people out of the house, so be prepared. That said there will also be a lot of people who are facing break-downs and flat tires, so make sure you've gotten your car checked out and you have roadside assistance on-hand for your trip.


While a lot of people use the long weekend to get away and bond with family, there are some people that are hoping to travel child-free, and not just people like me who don't have children. Short trips can be a good way to reconnect with your partner and take a break from being a parent and get you excited for taking that longer vacation with your child(ren) and discovering new, fun things with them.

photo credit
A lot of us already have big plans for vacations later in the year, so splashing out a bunch of cash for a long weekend isn't always in our budget. Luckily, it looks like there will be a lot of deals this year, which can be found on Priceline. There are also a lot of ways to skip the flights and take an awesome road trip, but here are 12 destinations that are really budget-friendly, no matter how you choose to get there:

Boston

Learn about the country's history, with fantastic shopping and seafood dining options. Last-minute deals can take 45% off regular rates, allowing you to visit for much less than other times of the year. If you're looking for things to do, check out this post.

Cancun (Mexico)

Not only do you get the benefit of cheap food and proximity to the ocean, Cancun hotel rates are halved this time of year, and there are so many things to do outside of laying on the beach and getting sunburned. (Seriously, apply and reapply or you'll never want to go back to Mexico.)

Catalina Island

When I was younger, I took several trips to Catalina Island off the coast of California. It's a great place to get a small town feel and oceanside accommodations. Hotel rates fall over 50% between May to October, when you can expect to pay under $100 per night, including the ferry ride to the island from Long Beach.


Hawaii

Airfare sales can be found to Hawaii right now and Memorial weekend kicks off summer sale rates for hotels, which can be found as low as $79 per night. Need tips on what to do or where to go? I've got tips for visiting Molokai, Maui or Honolulu.

Las Vegas

As long as you don't gamble away your savings in the casinos, you can totally make a trip to Sin City cheap. Rates at the MGM Grand can run you under $100 per night, and you can spend less at a less-luxurious hotel. Not sure how to keep your money in your pockets? Here are free and cheap ideas and what you can do if you have kids in tow.


New Orleans

The Big Easy has just gotten over the crowds from Mardi Gras and Spring Break. That means it's clamoring a bit for tourists. You can book a hotel for around $129 per night or fin an Airbnb deal for similar (or less). Worried you won't be able to find anything to do besides drink? You'll be treated to parades and here are some other inspiring ideas for how to spend your time there.

New York City

While you don't normally think of The Big Apple as a budget getaway, prices drop for Memorial weekend. It won't be super cheap, but $159 per night for a 3-star hotel is a deal that won't totally break the bank.

Orlando

Theme parks are certainly going to be busy over the holiday weekend, but there are tons of things to do in Orlando that aren't Disney World, plus room rates can run you just $100 per night. If you want ideas for what to do in the area, check out my Orlando Pinterest page.


Phoenix (and Scottsdale)

Arizona isn't at the height of its hot temps in May, making it an ideal vacation destination. Get amazing hotel rates or spend a little extra for a luxury resort that may be offering up to 40% off. There are a lot of cool things to see and do there, and tons of delicious Mexican food, too.

Riviera Maya (Mexico)

It's heating up in Mexico, and maybe you're ready to get a little sun worshipping into your life. Between May and the end of October, you'll face smaller crowds and room rates. Look to spend an average of $80 per night and pack your sunscreen, bathing suit and sunglasses.

San Francisco

This may seem like a really expensive destination, but if you look for hotels in the Union Square area, you can find rates as low as $112. Find awesome, and affordable, things to do there using this 48 hours post.


Washington, DC

See our nation's capital for less. Once the cherry blossoms fall in April, tourism drops off, so lodging prices drop as well. You can find great deals in May for as low as $69 per night. There are so many free things to do in the city, that you could easily only pay for food each day. Need some ideas? Check out my post from our last trip.

Where will you be spending Memorial Day? I'll be staying home this year and probably firing up the BBQ.

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 3

My coffee tour continues this month. We've had some really nice days at the beginning of the month, making it nice coffee weather, because I could sit outside if I wanted, and walking to one shop from another is fun and not miserable. I love that sort of weather. Actual Spring weather where it's sunny and warm enough to not wear a coat, but not so warm that you're sweating from walking three blocks.


This month I found some winners that were based on Instagram, Swarm friend suggestions and good old fashioned map Googling. I was pretty lucky with my visits too. You'd think that'd be easy with a coffee loving city like Portland, but not every coffee shop is created equal, which I have found out fairly quickly with this blog series. Anyway, let's get to the brews:

Peaks Coffee PDX

It's amazing what sort of connections you can make on Instagram. I found Peaks by following other coffee shops in the city. It's pretty much brand new and took over a tiny space in SE. They sucked me in with their minimalist design and their delicious coffee pics, including their new Mt. Tabor, which I decided I needed to try when I went in.

There were a couple really nice days in Portland, so everyone was getting excited about iced coffee, but it was back to dreary when I visited, so I ordered the Mt. Tabor hot and then a Mt. Hood bagel sandwich. The Mt. Tabor is a latte made with fresh mint. The hot version isn't that minty, though my breath was extra fresh for an hour after. It also has the added challenge of having floating leaves in the cup, which would probably easier to drink if it were cold and you had a straw. It was good though. It had a pretty good flavor that wasn't too bitter or too sweet, but I'd probably try something else next time.



The sandwich was awesome though. The Mt. Hood is a sandwich with cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. I got salt and pepper on it and it was one of the most delicious bagels I've ever had and it would be on the top of my list if I returned.



Peaks is small and only has bar stools for seating, so you're not going to go there and work on your novel or chat with your friends for an hour. You're going to go, chat with the barista while they make your drink and then sip it while watching people walk along the street, or you take your drink with you and become one of those people. Their prices are pretty consistent with the other coffee places in town, with a latte costing $4.75 and a bagel sandwich just $4. I'd say less than $9 for breakfast is a pretty decent deal.


Deadstock Coffee

This tiny little coffee joint is like walking into a little bit of an old school hip hop video. They have sneakers and sports memorabilia and a fun piece of art that features a boom box. They have a few stools to sit at, but when I was there they were full, including someone doing homework on a laptop, so they obviously are pretty social in their small space. You won't find food here, or a menu, but they claim they'll make any coffee you want, or you can ask for their specials. They didn't have any when I visited, but I asked them to just make me something cold and the barista suggested the Zero Chill (also seconded and applauded by a customer, or possibly another worker on break). 



It is a cold brew coffee mixed with ice tea. Those are my two favorite things to drink! He was nice enough to pour it into an espresso cup first so I could taste it before I committed to a full size, but I was in. It only cost $4, which I thought was a decent deal, considering how good and refreshing it was. If homeless people bother you, maybe just park across the street in the paid lot instead of finding street parking. I'm used to it and no one bothered me, even after I took my drink to go and drank it on my way to my next coffee adventure.


Courier Coffee Roasters

This little European style cafe is in a fun shaped building that's also home to several other eateries, including Portland landmark Sizzle Pie. They don't really serve food here either, but they have places to sit and their coffees are affordable. I asked for their most popular drink and they told me it was probably their lattes and also that the espresso was "especially good" that day, so I ordered that and a canelĂ© (what I'm told is a baked custard pastry). The two cost just $6 - $4 for my latte and $2 for my pastry. 



The coffee had a lovely rich flavor with a little bit of sweetness that eliminated the need for any sugar at all, plus it was pretty to look at! The pastry was amazing. I'd never had a canelĂ© before and I look forward to having another one. It was crispy on the outside and like a super moist cake on the inside. I loved it. I'll definitely be back next time I'm downtown, and maybe I'll head around the corner to one of the three places to eat as well. I was very impressed, and I'd have to say this is in a much more approachable part of Portland, right across the street from the North Park Blocks and a few blocks from Downtown proper with a ton of food cart pods nearby.

Heart

This was another shop that was my second visit of the morning. If you didn't know where Heart was, you'd probably not even notice it. It blends in with the buildings on the block and their monochromatic color scheme. The sign is small, but once you get there, you wonder how you missed it.


I found the prices of this minimalist coffee place a bit high. The prices seemed a $1 more for coffees and $1.50+ more for pastries. I had already had one coffee when I visited, so I opted for a small Americano and a blackberry blueberry scone. With a dash of sugar, the coffee was perfect. They use a mix of beans to get a lovely bold roast that is very satisfying. My scone had a nice crisp on the outside and was fluffy on the inside with that burst of fresh fruit. The two cost me a total of $7.50 ($3.50 for an 8oz $4 for my scone). 


For the price, you get the added convenience of a Downtown location, but unless you're visiting on a weekday morning, you probably are going to end up paying for parking as well. Although, if you're already downtown, it's easy to walk to and close to the mall, Target, Powell's Books, and Pioneer Square. There is plenty of inside and outside seating and the space is airy and bright. It's a friendly place to pop into for a to-go cup or to sit and relax for a bit. Don't expect any substantial food though, as I think I picked the heaviest thing on offer.    

There you have it. Four coffee shops that you may not have heard of and may be interested in grabbing a cuppa on your next visit to Portland. 

What's your favorite coffee shop from home or your travels?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hitting the Beach On a Budget

Got aspirations to go to the beach this summer? Well, you’re likely not the only one, especially since the kids are out of school and the sun is out and that makes people flock to beaches near and far. The problem with heading to the beach during the warmest months is that it is often quite expensive and crazy crowded. Considering most people are just lying on the beach on their trip, it makes no sense to spend a ton of money that you don’t have to. So, here are some tips on how to spend less than expected.

beach vacation

It’s summer, which means you don’t need to take much with you. Getting everything in a carry-on will save you checked bag fees and also get you on your vacation as soon as possible after your plane lands. Keep your travel wardrobe to a minimum by taking one nice outfit and then several tops and bottoms that mix and match. This way, even if you took only 3 tops and 3 bottoms, they could make two week’s worth of different outfits. I then suggest taking two pair of shoes that will work with your outfits as well. Normally, I take a nice pair of sandals that can also work with dress clothes and a good pair of walking shoes. This way, you will be prepared for anything. Throw in a pair of flip flops (which I don’t count as shoes, since they take up almost no space) and you’re set for bumming around on the beach or at the pool.

Change Location

Trade in the ocean for a nice lakeside location. Not only will it be a fraction of the price of an oceanfront property (or even an ocean “view” one), but you can do almost the same things you can otherwise. You can lay out on the beach, make sandcastles, go snorkeling, fishing, swimming, jet skiing and almost everything else you can do at the beach by the ocean.

Book a Rental 

Look for an apartment/condo/house rental instead of a hotel. I keep saying this, but it really can save you a lot of money. Many times you can find something for $300-400 per week, when most hotels you find are going to be well over $75/night, and that’s only for two people. On top of the savings per night and per person, you’ll also be able to shop for your own food and make as many meals as you like. I tend to like to buy breakfast fixings, because I don’t usually like to go out for breakfast and I don’t like to rush in the morning. I can eat a bowl of cereal or a bagel while I’m getting ready for the day and I’ve saved at least $8/day just for me alone. A lot of restaurants charge more than that. Heck, you could easily spend that much at Starbucks for a muffin and a coffee. And if you come back in the middle of the day for a nap or to rest your feet, you can make yourself a sandwich for lunch, too!

Go on a cruise

There are tons of deals going on right now, which means you can hang by the pool on the ship and then check out different beaches when you reach port. You also have the option of trying cool cuisines, saving money on food and accommodations while at sea and having a lot of shopping and sightseeing options.

Go South

Head to South and Central America where even during the summer, rates for hotels are pretty affordable. Places like Ecuador and Belize have wonderful beaches and budget-friendly food and lodging. Stay at a more luxury resort for a fraction of the price, which will help you stay on track with your travel budget and also give you more for your money. The beaches are just as good, plus you get to brush up on your Spanish or Portuguese.

Become Unpopular

Head to less-popular locations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other beachfront locations that have late summer travel deals. Many of these are located in the Southeast and in smaller towns, like Daytona Beach. While they may not seem very exciting at first, there are plenty of things to fill your spare time with, yummy fresh seafood and cool day trips as well. Fodor's has this great list of under-the-radar beach spots in the U.S.

So, if you’re hoping to work on your tan and enjoy some sand between your toes, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, your sunglasses and a bunch of sunscreen and start booking your flights, which will not be cheap this time of year. Where will you be headed this summer?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Cabeau's Midnight Magic Sleep Mask

Have you ever been woken up at the crack of dawn on vacation  or even at home – because the curtains or blinds don't shut all the way and then you end up with that one slice of sunlight across your face that blinds you the moment you crack open an eye. Yeah, That's happened to me more than once. It's hard to feel rested when you don't get enough uninterrupted sleep.


travel sleep mask
It's because of mornings like this that I've taken to traveling with a sleep mask. And then I was so happy with how well I slept, I had one for home, too. The only problem is finding a good one. Sure, you can get a generic sleep mask, but why not spend a little more and get a really good one that will last and will give you the best sleep. Cabeau's Midnight Magic can do just that. 


A lot of people hate to have something against their eyes and, that's the reason they hate most sleep masks. I don't mind it, but Cabeau has made their sleep mask with an eye well that allows you to blink without your lashes getting crushed. It's great for those that don't enjoy having anything against their eyes and doesn't ruin your REM sleep.


One of the problems I have with maskes is getting a good fit. The whole point is to block out the light, wherever you might be and this has a black-out adjustability. The nose bridge is moldable, so you can get just the right fit around your nose and cheeks, blocking out all the light and making your body think it's night time, even if it's not. So, you can get a good night's sleep, or a good day's sleep if you're on the plane. 


Also hard to find is a sleep mask that doesn't wear out from putting it on and taking it off many times. Most just have an elastic strap, that is either too tight or too loose. I've actually had to tie a knot in one before, but Midnight Magic has a Velcro strap, so you can fit it to make it comfortable for you. It's got a low profile, making it easy to sleep on your back, because it doesn't dig into the back of your head. 


You got the darkness and the fab fit, but what if you can't sleep if it's too loud? I've been on the plane with loud talkers and crying babies, but I've also been in a hotel with kids running up and down the hall and near round-the-clock construction. That's fun, right? Well, Cabeau doesn't want you to be in the dark and still not be able to sleep, so Midnight Magic has a this nifty little built-in pouch with ear plugs. They are memory foam, allowing them to conform to your ears and block out more noises than regular ear plugs. These are my favorites and even my husband can sleep soundly while wearing these, and he's a pretty light sleeper. And I love that you can't lose your ear plugs, because they always have a home!  

Midnight Magic has just the right coverage for me, with a wide, comfortable head strap. It also lets your face breathe, which can be a whole different problem. It's hard to sleep when your face is hot . With minimal points of contact, it helps to keep you as cool as possible, but also feels secure. I didn't wake up in the night with it on top of my head, so that's a win in my book. 

Considering how well I slept at home with my Midnight Magic mask, I'm really looking forward to traveling with it. It's soft and comfortable and perfectly adjustable to make it ideal for relaxation and sleep, whether you're in a nice hotel room, bunking on the couch or traveling on the train. You'll want one of these if sleep is even a little problem for you, or you just want to enhance your rest.

Other Specs
Where to buy: On Cabeau website or Amazon 
How much: $19.99
Colors: Black
More Details: 100% polyester, with an 80% EVA foam/20% brass wire nose bridge, elastic-free adjustable strap

Like what Cabeau is up to? Learn more by following them online: 

Disclosure: I was provided with the Midnight Magic Sleep Mask for the purposes of this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's Farmers' Market Season!

Fresh fruits and vegetables are awesome, aren't they? I totally think so. I also think being able to get local produce is pretty awesome and there's no better place to get such things than at a farmers' market. We make a point to hit up markets wherever we are if we can. Sometimes, they are just cute little roadside markets that sell yummy things, but often there are many merchants gathered with their goodies in a formal market. 



Some are open everyday and some only sell on certain days. Our local farmers' market, which we are lucky to be very close to, is open only on Saturdays and then on Wednesday evenings during the summer. A lot of markets we've been to have limited days like this, but they are worth the effort if you can go to them.


Try new foods
I'm all for trying new foods. How else will you know if you like something? This is the next best thing to picking it yourself. It's super fresh and probably a better deal than getting it at the supermarket. Likely, it doesn't have pesticides on it either. Produce I buy at the farmers' market always tastes better than the same things I buy at the store, which is why I frequent ours two or more times a month. Local foods are a great way to learn about a place, too. Have you ever tried dragonfruit or fresh papaya? I have, in Hawaii!


Buy staples for meals
You're staying in a vacation rental, right? Of course you are, because you like having more room and saving money. Well, that means you have a kitchen and can make your own dishes. If it works out, head to the market near the beginning of your trip and then you have fresh veggies, spices and herbs to make dishes with. Woo! Not sure if you can make entire meals with what you find? You can, and soon I can show you as I'm currently working on a travel cookbook. It'll be full of recipes on things to make before your trip and while you're on it.


Pick up fixings for a picnic
Travel during warm weather deserves to be celebrated with a picnic! If you can't find bread, cheese and meats to make sandwiches with, I'd be really surprised. Grab a bunch of carrots or other favorite veggie to have on the side. Delicious! 


Find food products you can take/ship home
You know those fancy jams, pastas, dried fruits, candies and stuff people always bring home with them? You can do it, too. Sure, you can buy them in specialty shops, but at the markets they are normally all in one place and you can sample them to know what you actually like. If the items are liquidy, like jam or wine, put them in your bag and check it back home, unless it's cheaper to mail them back, then do that. It'll be like Christmas after you get home.


Food trucks
This might not be the norm, though I've seen food trucks and carts more often than not at outdoor markets. Ours has a few and also a coffee truck, which makes morning so much better when you're up early enough to find a parking space (people here really like the market) and aren't totally awake enough to drag around your heavy bag of freshness.


Meet with the locals
Engaging with the locals is a fantastic way to learn more about your destination. You can ask them questions about good places to eat (when you aren't making your own food) and cool places to visit. You may even make a new friend. If you're in a place that speaks a different language, this is a great way to practice, too.


Support the economy
Supporting the local economy is important. Even better than shopping small businesses is giving money directly to the growers and makers of things. You purposely chose your destination for a reason, so maybe spend more time going to local shops and restaurants than chains and you'll be doing your part as a good tourist.

Do you have a favorite farmers' market from your travels? Aside from home, I have loved Portobello Market as well as the small one we found in Orlando.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why You Should Make Time for Travel

I love travel. I love seeing other places. I love meeting new people. Above all this, I feel better when I travel. I'm more relaxed when I'm on a trip and feel refreshed and ready for regular life again when I'm back home. I take those memories with me forever and recall them often. Travel is good for you and makes you a better person with better connections. Here's why: 

Benefits of Traveling

From Visually.
- See more at: http://visual.ly/benefits-traveling#sthash.5LCxyZOe.dpuf

If you've been putting off travel, use your vacation days now. Start planning future awesome memories. If you think you can't afford it, you can, eventually. Here are tips on how to save for your next trip. 

What's your favorite travel memory? Share with me in the comments!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: Travelsox Compression Socks

By now you know I'm a big advocate for compression socks. The good ones work and work well. The bad ones don't work at all and probably have a price that makes you wonder what the difference is between them and the expensive ones until you wear them. Of the many things at the Travel Goods Show, I was very interested in trying a new (to me) brand of compression socks and Travelsox easily agreed to be that company. 


If you find yourself with swollen feet and/or ankles when you travel, either from long flights or just extensive walking, then you need to get yourself a pair of good compression socks. We've finally gotten to the point where they are more common and therefore come in a lot of fun designs as well as the classic colors you want. They don't look like old people socks anymore, so you won't feel weird wearing them. 


The days at the Travel Goods Show were long with lots of walking the convention center and standing talking to vendors. I won't complain, because it's fun, even though it's work. Travelsox had a ton of fun designs, many of which are new, and I was interested to see how well they worked for my legs at the end of a long day of walking. When I got back to my room and settled in for the evening. I slipped these on and left them on, even after I went to sleep. They massaged my legs in all the right places and I could feel it helping to get my blood flowing again.   


My legs, ankles and feet all began to feel less swollen and achy (always a plus when you have more days of walking ahead of you). I left them on halfway through the night until I needed my feet to be cooler, but those hours of use really made my legs feel much better and ready for the next day.   


Since coming back from Vegas, I've been wearing these regularly on workdays where I'm standing for 8 hours at a time and they have made a world of difference. Usually, standing that long makes me feel like I want to cut my feet off too, but these help with the pressure, because they make sure that my legs and feet don't swell at all. 

And after a long day, my feet don't feel sweaty and they aren't stinky either, because Travelsox uses a patented fabric called Silver DryStat, that uses silver to make your socks antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-fungal. That's awesome, right? They also use  their own fiber called MICROSupreme to give your socks moisture-wicking properties. 



These hug your legs and feet in just the right way and aren't bulky at all, so you can wear them with all your favorite shoes, even slip-on ones like my work tennies above. In the cold warehouse they make sure that I'm warm, but not hot, and keep my feet happy even after hours of standing on a concrete floor. I don't know about you, but this is invaluable to me. I know that when I travel, I can wear them all day without issue and even if I just wear them when I'm back in the room, while I won't get the full benefits of wearing them while I'm actually active, they will they take down my swelling and hit all my aching points, so I have fresher feet the next day. And because of their anti-odor properties, if I can't do laundry for a couple days, I can wear them a second time with no problem. I'm guessing I'll just order another pair or two. 

Know someone who has bad circulation or do you need help on long flights yourself? These are half the price as some of their competitors and they are just as efficient, if not more. They come in fun colors and patterns or classic colors, plus you can get shorter socks if you aren't a fan of the knee-high version. Just know that they won't give you the great calf massaging benefits that you get with the taller ones, but maybe your issues are ankles and feet. If that's the case, then those shorter socks are perfect for you. 

Other Specs
Where to buy: On Travelsox website or Amazon
How much: $20-30/pair
Colors: Pretty much anything you're looking for. I'm wearing the TS1167 Travelsox Stripe OTC in brown.
Fabric: Composition: 75% Drystat, 15% Lycra, 10% Nylon, Care Instructions: turn inside out, machine wash warm, tumble dry cool, do not bleach, iron or dry clean.

Loving Travelsox's sock innovation? Find them online: 


Disclosure: I was provided with a pair of Travelsox compression socks for the purposes of this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
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