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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Perfect Snacks for Traveling

Having snacks on hand when you travel is very important. You never know what can happen or when a meal might get waylaid. I, especially, always have snacks for my plane trips, because a Biscoff or pretzels will only hold me for so long. It also helps if you have snacks that are higher in protein to keep your energy up and help avoid the dreaded jet lag.

Here are some snacks to keep in your bag, whether you're on the plane or on-the-go:

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Dried meat is all protein, packed with flavor, and transports really easily. Toss some in a bag and it doesn't take up too much room either. Look for one that's low in added sugar, or make your own in the oven or a dehydrator. That way you can add the seasonings you like.

Dried fruit

Find your favorite fruits in dried form and eat them for a burst of energy and sweetness. I like prunes, raisins, banana chips, and blueberries. You can find these in our local grocery store, but also Trader Joe's has the widest assortment of dried fruits I've seen.

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Very high in protein and tasty to boot, choose your favorite nuts, or opt for almonds and pistachios, which have higher levels than other nuts. A little goes a long way, so a handful is healthy amount. You can mix with dried fruit to make your own trail mix.

Hard-boiled eggs

Peel your eggs before leaving the house and pack them in your carry-on. They are an easy-to-eat snack, because they're really portable and contain almost all the nutrients your body needs. Sprinkle with a bit of salt to give it a little more flavor.

Roasted chickpeas

Chickpeas a high in fiber and are nutritious. They don't travel well on their own, but if you roast them, they become crunchy like chips. Sprinkle with spices to give them a bit of a kick and flavor. Your choice. You can make them salty, spicy, or any other flavor profile you enjoy.
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If you have an ice pack or a lunch bag, bring along some of your favorite cheese cubes or slices. Not only is cheese high in calcium, but it also has a lot of protein. Don't go overboard, because too much cheese can make you sad, but it's also an appetite suppressant, which means you don't even need to eat much of it to feel full. Also, cheese and fruit go awesomely together, so a small container is the perfect travel companion on an airplane trip.

Pumpkin seeds

Not only do pumpkin seeds have high levels of protein, but they have antioxidants, vitamin E and fiber, so a handful will do you, and even help your immune system fight back against that germy airplane air.

Cheesy popcorn

Popcorn has been proven to help you feel full, so you eat less than you would if you chose another snack, like pretzels or potato chips. It's healthier, too! It doesn't really contain much protein, but if you sprinkle it with a delicious cheese, like parmesan, that covers that base and makes your popcorn even yummier. Don't be surprised if you find that you're getting jealous looks on the plane when  you crack open your bag.

Now you can pack your bag with a few really good snacks that will keep you full, give you energy and not make you sleepy, even after a long flight. Not only that, but you'll save money at the airport by not spending $18 on a sandwich to take onto your flight.

What's your favorite travel snack?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How Not to Get Sick On The Airplane

I've had my share of being sick on vacation, and it sucks hard. You wait for months to go on a fun trip and it's mostly ruined because you feel disgusting and want to sleep all the time, even though you want to do all the cool things. You want to start pumping up your immune system before you leave home, but you also need to be vigilant on the plane, where the stale recycled air can get you.

Here's how to amp yourself up and keep it going so you have an awesome trip while you're healthy.

Before you leave home

About a week before your trip, you're going to want to add a few things to your routine and pack some items in preparation.

Add some Vitamin C to your day

Whether you normally take vitamins or not, purchase some Vitamin C tabs, Emergen-C or immune-boosting chewables and take them each day the week before your trip. Pack some in your toiletry bag as well, because you might want to also take them while you're on vacation.

Drink extra water

You're body's mostly water, so water not only rebalances and refreshes, but it also helps flush out toxins, meaning your immune system can do its job instead of adding stresses to what it normally has to fight off.

Pack anti-bacterial wipes

Germs lurk in places where many people are and on surfaces that are touched a ton. I've seen the plane being cleaned in between flights and I'm almost positive they don't have enough time to wipe down all the tray tables, so not only can you use these wipes on your hands, but on all the hard surfaces around your seat, like the window ledge and arm rest.

Eat your fruits and vegetables

Start your routine of eating better, so you aren't fighting the grossness of fried foods when your immune system is trying to be 100%. The better you can eat, the better you'll feel and less tired you'll be during and after your flight.

On the plane

Stay hydrated

Pack a reusable water bottle or pick up a bottle of water at the airport, so you don't have to wait for drink services. Avoid soda and alcohol, as they can dehydrate you. Extra water will keep your skin from drying out as well, and saves you from drinking tea, coffee or water on the plane. Most planes don't clean their water tanks regularly and a good portion of them have been found to have bacteria in them, so if they don't give out closed bottles of water on your flight, just pass and drink your own.

Keep your hands clean

This is where your antibacterial wipes will come in handy. Bring them with you to the bathroom as well, because the water that comes from the tiny sink is also from those possibly-bacteria-laden water tanks. Better to be safe than sorry.

Bring along some mouthwash

You can pick up a tiny bottle at the airport. The mouthwash will keep your mouth from getting all dry and also coat your mouth against airborne germs.

Take some extra vitamins

On flight day, you may want to take a double dose of vitamins that you've been taking all week. At the very least, nothing will happen. At the most, it'll keep your immune system kicking a bit harder.

Eat healthfully

On travel day, you'll want to eat lighter than usual and avoid a bunch of carbs if possible. Eat a pre-flight meal that's rich in protein, which will keep you alert and not feeling all groggy and jetlaggy. Something like salmon and veggies or a salad with chicken on it is a perfect travel meal, because you also won't feel heavy once you get to 35,000 feet.

Tilt the overhead vent away from your face

Nothing is worse than having recycled air hitting your straight in the eyes. Not only is is cold (which I know a lot of people want, because the plane can be hot), but you're basically just spraying germs at your face, so if you must have it on, tilt it away from your face if you can. The first thing I do when I get on plane is to close that vent. I'm prone to eye problems, but even if I wasn't, I'd close it off to eliminate the chance of gross germs.

Now that you know how to get to your destination hale and hearty, you can get excited to enjoy everything it has to offer without slowing down before you even arrive.

How many trips have been ruined for you by sickness?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Awesome Places to Travel for St Patrick's Day

In just a few days, the world will be overcome with green: Green beer. Green shirts. Green beads. Green hats. And corned beef and cabbage. What? Don't ask me. I've never heard of anyone eating corned beef and cabbage outside of an Irish restaurant or St. Patrick's Day. I'm not sure it's for me, but I made colcannon, which is basically mashed potatoes and cabbage, and I liked it, so maybe I should give it a try. Anyway, back to St. Patrick's Day - the celebration of St. Patrick driving the (non-existent) snakes out of Ireland, by drinking green beer until you can't see straight. Why? Because that's how Americans celebrate almost everything. 

While you can probably find that old Kiss Me I'm Irish shirt in your closet and hit up your local parade, a change of scenery may not be a bad thing. Maybe you're traveling over the holiday and are looking for something fun. Here are some of the best celebrations around the world:

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Bueno Aires, Argentina

Argentinians love to party and they have the 5th largest Irish population in the world, so not getting in on this celebratory time is simply crazy talk. The parade and a ton of activities, food stalls and more go one throughout the day. Because it's not an official holiday, it's celebrated on the Saturday closest to St. Patrick's Day (this year the 18th), so you can actually celebrate twice if you want, or spend the actual day going to church and the traditional things one would do on Friday, which I'm sure many of the 500,000 Irish in Argentina take advantage of.

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Chicago, Illinois

The city is famous for turning their river green each year for St. Patrick's Day. Once the Chicago River has been colored, it's time for the festivities to start. The parade takes place on the Saturday nearest the 17th, but there is a second celebration that takes place in the city as well. The South Side Irish Parade takes place the day after the downtown parade, so you can make a weekend of it. There are also many Irish pubs around town to indulge in some beer, music and food.

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Dublin, Ireland

The ultimate place to get in on the festivities is where it all began. Well, not the parties. The holiday was quite religious and secular in Ireland until fairly recently. The first festival to be held in Ireland didn't occur until 1996 and it was only one day. Since then, it has grown into a week-long celebration of all things Irish that draws hundreds of thousand of visitors every year who come to party, join parades, watch concerts, witness fireworks, attend sporting events, take in theater performances and, of course, to drink beer.

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Montreal, Quebec

Who knew that there was a place in Canada that was like being in a little version of Ireland? Despite being in the heart of French Canada, you can find a selection of Irish pubs and a St. Patrick's Day parade that's like the US Postal Service. Whether snow, rain, sleet or hail, the parade must go on. It always takes place on a Sunday and is surrounded by an Irish Film Festival, charity ball, luncheon and more. 

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New York City

There's no surprise that a city built on immigrants has a large population of Irish and makes their celebrations its own. The city still has one of the largest concentrations of Irish in the world and their history can't be forgotten. New York's St. Patrick's Day parade lasts nearly 6 hours, and if you can't make it there, or hate crowds, you can watch it online. If nothing else, you won't be surrounded by a bunch of drunks, as alcohol is strictly prohibited. 

These are just a few of the places that throw a great bash. It's by no means a complete list, as you can also find wonderful celebrations in Boston, London, the West Indies, LA and possibly even your own city. You won't catch me at pub chugging a green beer, wearing shamrock sunglasses, but I might be quietly sipping a Guinness and watching a local parade on TV.

How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Swago: Spring Edition is here! (US & Canada)

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during their "Swago: Spring Edition" promotion, which runs from now through Monday, March 12th at 9am PT! 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, March 12th 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, March 12th 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.  

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 April, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Travel Questions I'm Asked All the Time

I've been blogging for quite some time and I tend to get the same questions asked of me over and over when I tell people what I do. I was talking to a fellow blogger about traveling for work and getting excited when a trip is paid for, which basically rarely happens, and you're always starting any trip in the the negative. So, I want to address some of the questions I get all the time. 

What's it like to get paid to travel? 

I have no idea, but if you find out, let me know. I still pay for all my own travel and everything we do. Sometimes I get freebie tours or attractions, but unless I write about them, they aren't free, and even still I have to do a considerable amount of work to get and use them. I will sometimes go on press trips, but those aren't free either. I still have to get to the destination and pay for things that aren't included (some food, gas if I'm driving, attraction costs for the other people who might be with me).

Oh, so you travel all the time? 

Nope. Let's go back to the last question. I don't get paid to travel, so I can't just go wherever I want whenever I want. I still have to save to go where I want to go. Also, I have unlimited "vacation" time, but Eric still has a real person job and only gets 2-3 weeks if he wants to come with.

What's the easiest way to save on a trip? 

Packing light is the number one easiest way to save money on any trip, but second is to avoid summer altogether. Those are always going to be the first things out of my mouth, because they are easy and they can save a big chunk right off the bat. My next tip would be to skip taking a taxi and then get a vacation rental instead of a hotel so you can make your own breakfast and have a place to keep and reheat any leftovers you bring back.

Have you ever been to {insert city/country here}?

Probably not, but maybe. I have a travel list I work my way through, but it's long (same as yours, I suspect) and I can't get to everywhere all at once. I have a family and a job and I'm not a backpacker staying in a cheapo hostel going to 23 countries in 3 weeks. 

But again, even if I have been to wherever you are asking, I'm sure I haven't been all over to give you specific tips for what you want, but I'll try.

What's the one place you've written about that you want to go most? 

My top destination changes all the time, depending on what I've written about. At the moment it's Iceland, but tomorrow it might be Malta or Greece or Scotland.

So, you plan trips?

Yes. I plan my own trips. I'm not a travel agent and I'm not a travel planner, unless you want to pay me to create an itinerary for you.

How can I get a deal to {insert city/country here}?

Short answer: Sign up for travel alerts. Long answer: Unless I've been there, I can't tell you off the top of my head, because all destinations are different and travel is constantly evolving. I research every single place I go to and/or write about to learn these things, so please don't get annoyed that I'm not Google and don't have an immediate answer.

Also, please don't ask me for advice and then pull a face when I tell you my answer.

I'm sorry you don't want to save money enough to not bring 14 pairs of shoes or to fly on a Tuesday or not in the summer. You asked. These are the tips I have. It's like if you ask me if I like an outfit and I say no, but then you're mad at my answer. You're not going to be able to save hundreds of dollars by not changing anything. Sorry.

Don't assume I've been everywhere. I haven't. 

Again, I pay for my own travel, I have limited time to spare unless I want to travel everywhere alone, and I can't just put 4 day's worth.of food in a bowl and leave my dog home alone. I travel the same as you. Possibly a couple more times a year, but usually that is domestic and you aren't interested in how fun Vegas off the Strip is or how pretty it is driving through Montana. Not every destination is exotic, but every destination has something of value to make it awesome, which I'm all about. Not every trip is Paris or Hawaii or Mongolia. (Also, I've never been to Mongolia *but it's on my list*.)

These are the reasons I continue to blog and the reasons I don't travel more and why I don't have tons of money and I still have a part time job in addition to blogging and freelancing. Do you have other questions? Feel free to ask. And don't forget to follow my trips on Instagram.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

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

Want some extra boost for your budget this month? 

If you haven't tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral in March. 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, you can earn an additional $3 bonus! Here's how: 

2. Earn 300 SB total before 4/1/18. 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 hundreds of dollars that allow me to save more for my travels. Who doesn't want that?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Packing Light for Any Length Trip

I went to Vegas to attend the Travel Goods Show again this year and I knew I would be coming back with more than I left with. Sometimes it's a small bag full and sometimes I come back with an entire new suitcase plus goodies.

These are the pieces I left home with. I knew I didn't want to check a bag, so I limited myself to a small carry-on and a personal item, but I also packed a spare bag in case I had to bring back items without a new suitcase given to me at the show. As a media person, you never know what's going to be included in your "goody bag". Last year I had tons of stuff and a Lojel carry-on bag to stuff it all in, but then I had three bags and had to check one. This year, I didn't want to make that mistake, but I got everything I needed in that small bag and purse.

Two pairs of pants

Wear one and pack one. They will take up the most space, plus you really only need two good pair. I brought skinny jeans with stretch that were dark and went with everything. They could be dressed up or be casual. The other pair were dark grey and I wore  them on the plane. Both have a high waist, which I found much more comfortable and forgiving.

Go for neutral, so your color palette is easy to work with. All your tops should match your bottoms, so you have multiple outfit combinations instead of just one full outfit per day. Wouldn't it be much simpler to leave with 6 things that can make 9 outfits rather than 18 pieces that do the same job and take up three times as much room?

Two pairs of shoes

Same idea as with the pants, wear one and pack one. Wear the bulkiest so you aren't wasting room. I wore a pair of Tom's that I love and know are super comfy, plus they slip on and off and accommodate swollen feet, should that be a problem.

I packed a pair of fancy flats that could be dressy and worn with jeans or a dress/skirt if I wanted to go out or had a media dinner last minute.

Again, make sure you bring shoes that match everything, because otherwise you're going to be mad and wish you'd packed more. And don't bring shoes that are brand new and not broken in. That's just a recipe for sadness. (Ask me how I know.)

4 tops

This is usually the max for me, and I basically just toss in #4 as a backup or for emergencies. I knew I'd be doing some touristy stuff outside of the show, so I packed a spare t-shirt, but other than that, I brought 3 semi dressy tops that worked for anything and made me look professional enough for the show while I was networking.

1 dress or skirt

Guys might want to throw in a tie and a dress shirt, but ladies can totally get by with one dress or one skirt (as long as it's a neutral that matches all the tops you brought).

This trip I brought an athletic dress that had pockets on the side. If it was cold, I could add a layer, but if it turned out warmer than expected, it wicks moisture and was sleeveless. It's all black and had pockets for business cards and my phone, so it's basically multi purpose.

I brought all the necessities along as well: 
  • snacks for the plane and for breakfast
  • my travel flat iron that also works as a curling iron
  • a few zip top bags just in case
  • undies (v important)
  • a smaller purse to use while in Vegas and at the show
  • extra business cards
  • my glasses
  • compression socks for the room after walking all day
  • that spare bag that has come in handy on my trip home
  • my portable keyboard for working a bit easier on my iPad
  • my toiletries and my liquids bag
  • the Flint lint roller
  • a t-shirt and running shorts I wear as pajamas
How did that all fit in this tiny bag? By rolling all my clothes so they took up less space (30-40% less!) and using every available space inside. This bag is basically a glorified packing cube, so I crammed in everything I absolutely couldn't live without and then stuffed other items in the empty space and crevices. This ensured that I couldn't bring more than necessary and my bag would be manageable and still fit under the airplane seat (with my purse). My photos show the progression on my packing.

What's in my purse?

I pack my purse or "personal item" with all the things I want to use on the plane, that way I don't have to pack and unpack my larger bag.
  • my battery backup and charging cords
  • iPad mini for work, games, reading and shows from my DVR
  • snacks for the plane
  • money and credit cards (and my ID for getting through security
  • a scarf/shawl/travel blanket
  • an essentials bag with lotion, ibuprofen, lip balm, lady things, etc. in it.
  • a pen (because you never know when you'll need one)
  • camera, though I didn't even use it on this trip, because I forgot it in my room the one full day I had out for sightseeing and my phone worked just as well, especially since I could upload my pics to the cloud and also use anything I took for social media posts

I've had enough practice that I can cram a lot of things into small spaces. I'm short, so stuffing a heavy bag into the overhead can be extremely difficult for me. When I travel alone I tend to pack lighter, so I don't have to ask anyone for help to get my bag over my head. When people are behind me, I panic slightly and really can't do it. 

Know your limits and ask yourself if the bag you've brought will be easy to carry through the airport, shove into the overhead, and drag several blocks outside if you have to (it happens). I've been through it enough to know what I can and can't carry and for how long. The lighter, the better, if you ask me.

Another reason to pack light is to save money. A checked bag averages $30 each way, which can be spent elsewhere on your trip to make it better. It's likely you don't know anyone on your trip, so they won't know you're wearing the same top as a few days ago. Had I been gone longer than 4 days, I would have packed the same items, but included a little bag of detergent to do laundry. In that case, my extra bag would have been perfect as a laundry bag to haul my dirty stuff to wash. Bonus, right?

What's your biggest challenge when trying to pack light?
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