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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Exercising On Vacation

I don't exercise much, but I do try to keep in shape by eating right and parking further from the store to walk more and taking the stairs. When on vacation it's hard to eat healthfully, so I look for ways to burn more calories when I'm out and about...and make the effort to order vegetables. 


vacation exercise tips

Walk Whenever Possible

Instead of driving or taking public transit, try walking. Some destinations are more walkable than others, but you can easily walk 4-10 miles in a day (or more if you're going to a theme park) without even noticing. Look at your map and see how far your destination is for the day (maybe plan some things that are close to each other) and strap on our walking shoes if they are doable. At a slow pace, you can walk a mile in 15 minutes, which isn't that long or that far. Of course, if you're like me, you're more likely to want to walk in the morning when your feet are fresh, so give yourself some motivation to get up and stretch your legs. You can take the subway later in the day. You may face lots of stairs with this option, too. 

Besides the obvious benefits of walking, you will be able to slow down and see more of your destination, possibly finding some hidden gems along the way. We saw a really good portion of London by just wandering around. Just remember to stay aware of where you are and what's around you to stay safe. 

Get Up Early and Use the Gym

Lots of hotels we've stayed in have had workout rooms that are free for all to use. Now we stay in vacation rentals or timeshares, but many of them have gyms included as well. The same goes for cruise ships. Now, I find that I never actually make it to the gym, even though I say I will, but if I made more of an effort, I would at least make it down to get on the elliptical for a bit. If you're on a business trip, this may be the only exercise you get, so make sure to pack suitable clothes. My pajamas are generally a pair of running shorts and t-shirt, so I am set.

Or Exercise in Your Room

This is easier to do when you have a vacation rental or a suite, where there is actual room for you to move around, but even if you only have a little free space and a chair, you can get in some extra calorie-burning:
  • Chair crunches - I love the fact that if you have a chair, you pretty much have a low-impact gym. Sit on the edge and pull legs up or do the bicycle or other ab exercises like these
  • Work your triceps - These also use a chair, though you can use anything flat and sturdy. At home, I use my coffee table, but you can also use a park bench. 
  • Planks - Work your core! They hurt, but I assume when I see results, they will be all worth it!
  • Squats - Work your butt. You can do these outside, too, but people might you funny looks. If you want to get more advanced, go find yourself a bench and do some step-ups.
  • Calf raises - Do these anywhere, like brushing your teeth, watching the news or waiting in line to get into the Louvre.
  • Arm curls - You can do these just about everywhere. Buy a couple of water bottles and use them as make-shift weights. If these aren't doing the trick and you don't have anything heavier around that could work, check out these traveling dumbbells called AquaBells that you fill with water for your workouts. 
  • Resist! Pack a resistance band (or set) in your carry-on and do more strenuous workouts in the time you have available. There are also these fancy loop bands you can use to strengthen your legs/thighs 

Get In the Pool

Eric prefers to get his extra workout in the form of swimming. If there's a pool, he's going to get in it and do some laps. I'm not a swimmer, but I'll come sit for moral support. Usually, this is when I do laundry. Lugging a laundry basket to and from my room counts as exercise, right?

Rent a Bike

The only thing better than walking your destination is getting around by bike. Lots of destinations now have city bikes you can rent by the hour or the day. See the city in a totally different way by riding around and moving those legs. Bonus is that many of them have baskets, so you have a place to put purchases and/or your day bag. 

Drink More Water

This isn't strictly helpful in exercising, but it will give you more energy if you stay hydrated, meaning you won't want to just be a lump (anymore than usual) when you could be exploring the city on foot or checking out another museum. It also helps if you don't overeat. If you're hungry, but not starving, remember that most places will serve you at least 1.5 times as much as you should eat. Sharing a plate is a way to satisfy your hunger without loading you down with carbs and other foods, so you won't feel like a nap in the middle of the day and drag, because walking is more beneficial when you do it at a brisk pace.

Do you exercise when you travel? What's your favorite way to burn all those calories you ingested over the course of each day?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Simple Ways To Save On Food When Traveling

One of the most exciting parts of traveling, besides going somewhere new, is trying new food. Are you always thinking about when and where you’re going to eat next? Do you want to eat your way through the city? With all the fresh air and walking one gets while out sightseeing, it might be the thrill of being in a new city or because all the extra exercise, but it feels like you just ate and are hungry again! 

Unfortunately, it’s impractical to eat all day. Not just because it’s unhealthy, but also because it’s totally unaffordable. Plus, how would you get any sightseeing done? Even if you eat just three times a day, you’re going to need some tips on how to do it inexpensively, so at least you don’t go broke doing it. Here are just a few of the rules to follow to get the best bargains and keep your wallet from emptying out by the end of the first day.

Bring snacks!

Trick your stomach by bringing snacks with you in your bag each day. This way, if you’re tempted to nibble on something, you know you have them on you and are less likely to spend money on food you don’t really need.

Eat where the locals eat

Just by avoiding touristy areas, you can save a lot on your meals. When you’re out, ask a few people where they recommend. They aren’t going to tell you they prefer a chain restaurant over their favorite local pub. The food is likely more authentic than those that you can find right near tourist attractions, making it cheaper, because it’s local and not shipped in from a different country.

Make lunch your main meal

If you really want to try one of the “hip” restaurants by a celebrity chef, make reservations for lunch. The food will be just as good, but it’s usually much cheaper at lunch than at dinner. 

Hit up the food carts

Food carts can have a huge variety of different local and international foods, but can be half the price of (or less) than dining at a sit-down restaurant. With this kind of savings, you can try fare from several carts with no regrets.

Rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel with a kitchen(ette)

This is a great way to stretch a food budget, because there are so many options. Renting can be a great value over hotel stays if you’ll be visiting for a week or more, plus it gives you the chance to check out the local grocery store. If you aren’t a big breakfast person, instead of eating out for that meal, shop for new cereals and pastries that you can’t get at home. There’s never a better time to try new foods!

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

You don’t realize how much dining out can cost until you go on vacation. A reasonable breakfast can cost between $8-15 per person. If you multiply that by the number of people you’re traveling with and the number of days you’ll be staying, that number can be huge. If you find a hotel in your price range that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit a jackpot of savings.

Sign up for Groupon

Groupon is an amazing little site that offers daily deals on a wide assortment of things, not least of which is dining. Each day a new offer goes up at a big discount off the regular price. Dining certificates can be purchased quite often and many times you can grab a half-off gift certificate to a new local restaurant or one just trying to bring in new customers. It works! Sign up at Groupon for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less!

Don’t order off the kids' menu

If you travel with children, you’ll notice that all kids' menus seem to have the same small rotation of foods. Obviously, little ones don’t just live on hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Not only do they charge an outrageous amount for these “staples” that cost hardly anything to make, but they offer hardly any nutritional value and your kids are likely to eat only half of it before declaring they’re full. Instead, order a meal that you both will eat and share. This saves you money and might get them to eat a vegetable or two.

This is just a small list of things you can do to help stretch your food budget on your future trips, but they can save you quite a bit. Remember, the more money you save on meals, the more money you can spend on doing something else!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018 Travel Trends

It's always good to know the latest travel trends when you are planning your trips. It can make or break your trip if you don't know that your destination is going to be overcrowded or more than usual. Check out this infographic from Airbnb to see where your top destination stands this year.


What are your 2018 travel plans?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Planning Your Budget Spring Break Getaway

Thinking about taking a grown-up (or family-friendly) Spring Break trip? Believe it or not, you can make it affordable. Because Spring Break can vary between early-March to mid-April, there are a good 6 weeks when things are more expensive than normal. 

spring break planning


Unfortunately, Spring is a great time to travel, because the weather is warm, but not too warm and most kids are still in school, so the crowds are small if you avoid typical Spring Break destinations like Miami and Cancun. So, let's take a look at how to be a grown up and take a vacay that doesn't look like those old MTV shows full of sloppy-drunk, loud-partying, half-naked 20-somethings. 

Choosing a destination

Set your budget
Here's a thought. Instead of picking a place and planning your trip around it, decide on your budget and work around that. You may find that there are places you hadn't thought of before, but are just as awesome (or better) than where you first thought you might go. 
  • Scour deals on Groupon, Living Social and other daily sites for affordable vacations that might work for your time off. 
  • Use Kayak's Explore feature to find destinations that fit within your budget for the month/season of your choice.
  • Look at BookIt's promos for vacation packages that are awesome and budget-friendly.

Visit non-beach destinations

There are a lot of places that don't really fluctuate in price for travelers throughout the year. Some even have beaches nearby, even if they're only lakes (which can be fun in themselves). 

Travel to less-popular beaches

Some destinations just draw college kids. You can avoid those large crowds so you can at least get a little strip of sand for yourself and not have to fight people to get to the bar for a drink.
  • Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Daytona, Florida (the small size makes it perfect for those looking for a bit of quiet)
  • Puerto Rico (cheap accommodations and dining)
  • Myrtle Beach (rent a condo for as little as $50)
  • Costa Rica (stay way from the touristy spots)
  • St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (no passport required!)
  • Willemstad Curacao (stick to the all-inclusives here)

When to buy airfare

Usually, the perfect time to buy your airfare for domestic flights is right around 5 weeks out, but because the deals for Spring Break travel might be few and far between, look to book your flights 6-8 weeks out. If you have a stash of airline miles, this is the time to cash them in, even if it's just for one way of your trip. 25,000 points and $5 (on average) is hard to beat for a flight, but the earlier you book, the more likely you will be to find a reward seat. Start looking now. 
  • Book airfare on Tuesdays, and Sundays for lower fares.
  • Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdays for the best rates. These are the least busy days to fly.
  • Fly early in the day. The earliest flights out are generally a bit cheaper and have less of a chance of getting delayed.
  • Travel light and skip baggage fees. 

How to choose a hotel

As nice as some hostels are becoming, I still don't recommend them for grown-ups and the U.S. doesn't really have many. Look into hotels that offer extras: a kitchenette, free breakfast, kids stay free, etc. I'd also suggest looking at both Airbnb and HomeAway at vacation rentals. You'll have a bit more space, the prices are comparable to hotels and you usually have both a kitchen and laundry facilities. If you're traveling as a group, this can really save you money.
  • Sometimes paying up-front can score you an awesome deal on a room.
  • If you haven't pre-paid, keep checking prices up to the day you leave, in case the price drops and you can rebook.
  • Skip online booking and call the hotel to see if they can give you a better rate than what you see online.


Alternate choices

Not all vacations are traditional. If you can plan a great trip, but the airfare seems out of reach, look into driving instead. Is it possible that there are really sweet destinations within driving distance from home that you haven't been to yet? I'd be surprised if there weren't.

Looking for more tips? Check out this article that I contributed my expertise to on Cosmopolitan.com.

What are your Spring Break plans?

Monday, January 8, 2018

January Swago with Spin & Win (US)

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during their January "Swago" promotion starting Monday, January 8th at 9am PT and running until Monday, January 15th! Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you're filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online.


If you're thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster. Here are a few tips: 
  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores! 
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete. 
  • You have until 12pm PT/3pm ET on Monday, January 15th to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely. 
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely. 

  • Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you'll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!

The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until 11:59pm PT on Monday, January 15th to use all your spins. 

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points - if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus, which is enough for a $5 gift card from the retailer of your choice, including Amazon or Paypal credit.  

Click here right now and click "Join" to get started! If you don't already have a Swagbucks account, you'll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of January, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Get $3 when you sign up for Swagbucks in January (US)

Looking for a way to rebuild your finances after the holidays? 



If you haven't tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral during January. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash. 

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here's how: 


2. Earn 300 SB total before 2/1/18. You'll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it! 

3. If you want even more bonuses, you'll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That's in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.  

That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned over 61,000 Swagbucks that I use for Amazon purchases (for parties) and Paypal credit (that I use for vacations). 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

5 of 2018's Best Vacation Destinations

Each year experts look at the world's destinations to choose the most overlooked places that should be on your list. Whether they are affordable, tourist-low, or have awesome landmarks that you must see on your travels, these 5 destinations are amazing, fun and worth a trip in 2018. 


Put some new stamps in your passport and find new places to spend your vacation days. Even if you don't get to them this year, do get to them.

photo credit

Chile

Argentina and Peru have been on the top of lists for decades, but Machu Picchu is crowded with tourists and hiking, while Chile is cosmopolitan, charming, historical and has a killer wine region. With the addition of a new airport expansion, traveling the region is much more convenient. Pack your dancing shoes and your hiking shoes, because you can do all the awesome stuff you can do in other destinations all in one trip. 

photo credit
Montenegro

While not large, Montenegro offers big fun and luxury, which you can get in bordering Croatia, but with smaller crowds. Enjoy the mountains and the beach in one vacation, along with cool road trips full of tiny seaside towns, boutique hotels and shops, plus awesome nightlife. 

photo credit
Nashville

Known mostly for producing the majority of country music superstars, Nashville might surprise you as being a metropolitan city with so much more to offer besides Taylor Swift and the Dixie Chicks. Did you know that it is also the hometown of Kesha? It’s true! You’ll find amazing southern history around Nashville, including Civil War plantations. These grandiose homes are both awe-inspiring and educational. There’s no better way to learn about significant times in American history than to go right to the source. You can top off your days with down-home southern meals out and a vibrant nightlife full of all types of music.

photo credit
Madagascar

Climate change is rapidly impacting some destinations, including Madagascar, so you're going to want to visit it sooner rather than later. This island is one of the most bio-diverse on earth. You'll see the largest selections of animals, get eco-conscious education, and enjoy some of the best photos you'll ever take on vacation. Make sure you go snorkeling in the clear blue waters of Nosy Be, see the lemurs and even admire the majesty of the Baobab trees.

photo credit
Haiti

Caribbean vacations are evolving and now Haiti is becoming more popular. Though it's often overlooked, and people still remember the devastation of the country a few years ago, but the unpolished and wildness of it is what makes it so appealing. It's not a place you're going to go and have a big city sightseeing vacation. Discover the land and all it has to offer on your own or on an organized group tour. You'll find gorgeous mountainsides, bustling cities and almost deserted beaches. 

Runner up: Oregon coast

I may be a little biased, but the Oregon Coast is super beautiful and is virtually tourist-free outside of the summer. Of course, it's also pretty cool year-round and requires covering up a bit more instead of donning your swimsuit. The seaside towns of Oregon have some funky attractions, like the Undersea Gardens, Ripley's: Believe It Or Not?, the West Coast Game Safari Park, and the Prehistoric Gardens. If you're looking to visit in the Summer, know that Portland is one of the top family vacation destinations. And the beach is only 90 minutes away!

Where will you be traveling in 2018?
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