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Saturday, May 18, 2019

5 Affordable Summer Beach Destinations

Summer is all about visiting the beach, and with a majority of travelers doing so in the summer months, it can be hard to find a decent deal near the shore. I've read that something like 40% of people will not travel over the summer due to vacation costs. Luckily, there are still some spots on the coast that won’t break your bank. 

affordable summer beach destinations

They may not be places you’ve thought of traveling before, but if your goal is to walk along the sand and play in the ocean, here are five budget cities to plan your summer getaway to.

Photo by MacKenzi Martin on Unsplash

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With tons of resorts on the oceanfront, there is someplace to stay for every budget. Rental condos of all sizes are always on special to entice families to visit. Saving so much on your accommodation can help you do a lot more once you’re there. Not only will you find over 60 miles of beautiful beaches, but also amusement parks, award-winning golf courses, watersports and lots of outdoor activities like fishing, hiking and shopping.

Santa Monica, California

Best known for its famous pier, Santa Monica is packed with great people watching, mild weather to enjoy the beach and delicious restaurants. Third Street Promenade has wonderful shopping and in the evening you can catch live street performances and other entertainment. During the summer there are plenty of special activities to keep you busy on the beach, but if you’re hoping to get away from the crowds and hope to catch a glimpse of a famous face or two, jump on the hop-on, hop-off bus yellow route and ride it to amazing neighborhoods where you can get off and sightsee, including Rodeo Drive, Brentwood County Mart and Fox Studios.

Photo by parth upadhyay on Unsplash

Jersey Shore, New Jersey

For a traditional beach getaway, you can’t beat Jersey Shore. It’s not all Snooki and JWoww down at the water’s edge. Try your hand at boardwalk games, get on a few rides, take in a bit of shopping and then hang out at one of the many restaurants near the pier. If the fun in the sun becomes a bit too much for you, you can always hop on a train to ride into New York or try your luck in Atlantic City.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

South Padre Island, Texas

Best known as a hotspot for spring breakers, South Padre Island is a great place to engage in a variety of watersports, and also has many other activities to pique your interest. There’s a weekly farmers’ market, fireworks on the beach, catamaran races and other festivals during the warmer months. After lounging on the beach all day, dance your nights away at the numerous nightclubs on the island.

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Kennebunkport, Maine

Not really a famous destination for beach-lovers outside of the New England area, Kennebunkport feels like a bit more of an upscale ocean getaway. Feast on locally caught seafood and explore the historic town of Kennebunk. When not hanging out at the beach, you can fill your days with browsing antique shops, checking out the latest art and learning about long shipbuilding. Don’t forget to make some time to go shopping at a few of the many boutique stores to find the perfect gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.

No matter what your travel style, there is a beach vacation destination to suit you and your budget. From family-friendly to a romantic escape, one of these five cities can be the perfect vacation spot for you.

Where's your favorite summer beach spot?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Staying In Touch with Home

When you travel, it can sometimes be hard to keep in touch with home, especially if you're traveling out of the country.  I'm not about to just cut off all communication for a week or two just because I don't want to pay $.60 for a text message or much more than that per phone call minute. Here are the ways I stay in touch with home when I travel.

apps to connect with home
Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash
You could rely on email, but if you're traveling solo or actually want to speak to a human being, that's a bit impersonal, though you can also email people in addition to emailing them all the fun details of your days. I tend to do both, but I like for people to know that I haven't died, and I want to see my dog while I'm away for a week or more.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash


Voxer

Instead of texting, I use Voxer. Not only is it free, but it works off WiFi, so it can push through your "texts" when you have a signal, but will timestamp it when you actually sent it. It will also tell you when your message was delivered and when it was read. If the recipient clicks on it, can see exactly where it was sent from. This way you save money and people know you're alive, and if you go missing, they know where you were last. Voxer allows you to send/receive messages, videos and voice recordings, and it's free, unless you upgrade for more capabilities. You could use WhatsApp instead. I just didn't think it was as user-friendly.

Photo by Glen Anthony on Unsplash

Skype

Yes, I'm old, apparently, because the kids all snicker when you mention Skype instead of Facetime. One, I don't have an iPhone, and two, I don't want one. Skype is mostly free, easy to use, and allows you to actually see another person, even if you think you look like a hideous beast on camera like I do. 

Trying to figure out a time to talk to someone when there's a very significant time difference can be difficult, but I generally send a Voxer to my mom (or whoever I'm going to call), to let them know when I'm planning to Skype, so we can have the app open. I use it on my phone, so I can give them a walk thru of my Airbnb. Ha! 

Swarm

This doesn't strictly help you stay in touch, but it does let people know where you are at any given time. I check in to most places I go, because I like a record of things I did, in case I forget, but I also like my friends to know where I am, just in case. If I'm away and I don't check in somewhere for a day, they probably know there's something wrong. Plus, Swarm check-ins are fun and you earn points and stickers. 


Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

TripIt

This is another way for me to allow people to keep tabs on me. I upload my entire itinerary to TripIt, including my flights and where I'm staying, so I have something with all my confirmation numbers and addresses and phone numbers in one place (which also saves paper) and then I share it with one or two other people who like to know what I'm doing and who I want to check in with.

These are just a few of my favorite apps, but they are especially useful for keeping up with people wherever you are. If you have a favorite app to stay in touch with home, I want to hear about it. Let me know about it in the comments.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Art + Other Cool Stuff at the Airport

The only thing I love more than the airport is visiting an airport I've never been to before. I view it as part of my trip and the start (or middle) of an adventure. I will plan what I want to do and where I want to eat at airports long before we even travel. I have Gate Guru downloaded to my phone, so I can see what art and other cool stuff there is at the airport. If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.



Why do I enjoy the airport so much? It could be that I live where the best airport is (Travel + Leisure has awarded it six years running), but I like most other city's airports, too. I'll tell you why: Viewing the airport as a part of your trip makes it seem way better than just a waiting room to get into a smaller waiting room to get to where you really want to go.

It's like a mall that also has a portal to another destination! (Yeah, I actually hate the mall, but it's the best comparison.) Once you start thinking this way, you might feel differently in the future too, not be one of those annoyed harried people who look at the route monitors with a permanent scowl. Listen, you'll eventually get to where you want to be, so chill out and enjoy yourself. Get  a snack or a beer, buy a new magazine and go check out what the airport has to offer.

Art collection

All airports now have some sort of art collection. Some even have their own galleries for those travelers who have quite a bit of time to kill. I always like to see the different things on display at different airports. Take some time to wander your terminal to check out the exhibits available. One of my favorites is the History of Flight "museum" in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. They have a main exhibit and smaller exhibits throughout. 



Play area


Travel with kids can be trying and, after having to sit for hours without getting to flail or even stand up, jumping around and annoying people near the baggage carousel is not a fantastic way to burn off energy (or make friends). Head to the nearest play area, which almost all airports have, and let them climb and run and yell and whatever else so they can be ready to fly or for the next leg of your journey. Bonus is that they are usually airplane themed and lots of kids love pretending to be a pilot. 


Workout rooms

These may be few and far between, but if you're lucky enough to go through an airport with some, pack some shorts and a tee in your carry-on to do some running or strength training. Getting some exercise is a great way to stay alert and get moving after a long flight of being folded into a tiny space. If you normally get a workout in during the day, then you're not missing out by sitting on the plane.


Movies

You're probably bringing your laptop, so why not toss a couple DVDs in your bag to watch if you have 90+ minutes to spare on your layover. If you're lucky, you might be in one of those fancy schmancy airports that have an actual theater for travelers and you can see a new movie on a big screen.





Spa

Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure of something else a little luxurious. I've been lucky enough to get a manicure at the Butter London location in Seattle, but we've also hit up the Xpress Spas on trips as well. They do their best to make your treatments short and sweet, so if you have a tighter connection, you can still catch your flight.


Specialty souvenir shops


Bring home gifts to commemorate your trip for yourself or others. If you're just passing through, this is also a great way to sample some of the local flavor, whether it's candy or beer or whatever else. Fair warning, when you go through Portland (PDX) and think Oregon Rain sounds like a fantastic water choice, just don't.


Go sightseeing

If you have a fairly long layover, don't think you can't get out and enjoy your stopover city a bit. We had 8 hours in Vancouver, BC (YVR), rented a car and made a fun day out of it. On our way to Philadelphia, any flight we chose out of PDX had a layover in SFO and the outgoing flight from there wasn't until 10:30pm no matter when we flew, so we took the earliest flight, had 12 hours there and met a friend for some sightseeing and catching up. We went to lunch, the zoo, the wax museum, the San Francisco Dungeon and finished up with dinner at Pier 39, then went back to the airport and had a nice sleep overnight on the plane.

Recently, we flew through Salt Lake (SLC) and they had a brochure about taking a two-hour tour into their historical center. They have an airport shuttle to drop you off and bring you back and they get tourists into town and a little extra money in their economy. That was pretty genius to me. 

Buy something you forgot 

Or entertainment. My favorite new shops are the 24-hour kiosks in airports. You can buy everything from travel-sized makeup to fancy noise-canceling headphones to an ebook reader. You pay full price, but if you forget that sunscreen you love from Supergoop! or the best ever Benefit foundation, you can get them at whatever time you're stuck at the airport.

What do you like to do to pass the time at airports?
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