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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It’s Time for Oktoberfest! 9.1.10

Yes, September brings other things besides Oktoberfest, but it tends to be heavily on people’s minds. I mean, people love beer and parties, so to put them both together is always a treat. In Oregon, we have several large Oktoberfestivities, but there are SO many options across the nation that I think we tend to forget. September is also the official start of “fall travel deals” where prices drop dramatically now that the kids are back in school and the weather is turning a bit to the cool side. The best way to take advantage of this time is to go on vacation! I know, it isn’t always possible for all of us, but if you can, you should. Having suffered through a summer of work, work, work and maybe a quick weekend to the coast, we are all looking out our windows and longing to get outside before the leaves all fall off the trees and we’re in full-blown mitten-wearing season.

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I’m all jazzed up for my upcoming trip in a little over four weeks. I’m packed and have my activities and food planned already. Maybe I'm way overprepared, but I think that might be better than the opposite. it is this over preparedness that allows me to find the best discounts available on my airfare. If you continue to monitor the airfare rates, it's easy to see when the prices drop to a reasonable price. See some of the best deals going now below:
  • Cinco de Flyo...I totally didn't make that up. This is the name of the new Frontier Airlines promotion for flights to Mexico between now and November 17th. Find some great prices to locations all over Mexico if you book by September 3rd.
  • CheapTickets is offering rate sales of round trip flights under $200 for the next 30 days. Flights available for select cities in the U.S.
  • Win free travel for a year from Southwest Airlines and Cinemark by visiting www.southwest.com/takeoff and registering before September 15th.

There are many ways to sleep cheaply, without staying in your rental car, a hostel or a under a tree in a park. It's possible to get adequate to luxurious accommodations by searching online, getting travel e-mail, or my new favorite: Mystery hotels. Many places offer low rates on really nice brand-name hotels. You choose your price range, star rating and location area and book a hotel based on those qualities. The website will only book you in lodgings that have received a majority of positive reviews. Once you make your reservation, you will receive the name and address of your hotel. These hotels can only afford to offer their leftover rooms at these low rates through these programs, because then they won't be obligated to offer these rates to everyone. You get a rockin' deal and they fill their available rooms. Everybody wins!
  • Save up to 50% off hotels on Expedia's Unpublished Rate Hotels, by booking "mystery hotels" based on the posted rates. Find out your hotel name after you make your reservations

Just because you decide to go on a cruise, it doesn't mean that you have to go somewhere boring or typical of a cruiser, like Hawaii, Mexico or the Bahamas. Nope, there are SO many places to travel, even by boat, that you could go on a different cruise every year and never do them all. You can take an ocean cruise or a river cruise and there are more itineraries than you can count. Below is one of my favorite ones of the week:

  • Sail Europe for as low as $449 per person. That's right! It's just as inexpensive to travel in Europe as it is to travel in America. If you fly in the Fall and Winter seasons, then airfare will be comparable, too!
  • This cruise may not go anywhere that exotic, but the ship is a unique one to travel on. Get 44% off an 11-night cruise off an 11-night cruise on the Queen Mary 2. Cruise from New York to the Caribbean and enjoy all your meals, world-class entertainment, $100 onboard credit and other amenities, like the chance to be pampered in the famous Canyon Ranch Spa. Book by September 6th to get the low price of $959 per person for select dates.

That's a good question. A better one is "We're here already?" because that means you are having so much fun, you lost track of time. That's always a wonderful feeling. Want to find some excellent activities to do while you're on vacation and not visiting theme parks? Of course you do, because just wandering aimlessly around a city isn't always the best way to experience it. Here are some resources, besides Google, that will give you a multitude of suggestions:
  • Lonely Planet - I always buy a Lonely Planet guide and check their website when I'm going somewhere I've never been before. Not only do they explain the language, laws, money and more, but they also give you event and activity ideas, with pricing.
  • Ooh.com - This is like the travel Craigslist for the world. Find activities, tours and classes to do across the globe
  • Frommers - I love Frommers. Their guidebooks and their site are full of so much information from travel experts.

Packing is an art. It takes many trial runs of packing and unpacking to perfect it, I think. Maybe I also gained valuable packing experience from my years of working retail and spending every day making gift baskets and gift boxes for customers and shipping those items around the world. I feel prepared to pack just about anything. This past week, I had a friend visit from the Bay Area for a few days and she did some considerable shopping, as she always does (Oregon has no tax!). And, as she always asks, I packed her back home. Four days of clothes, souvenirs (which included a ceramic plate) and an extra laptop that she needed to take back home. Not only did I pack it all up in 20 minutes, but there was still room for her to have bought more stuff! If she HAD bought more stuff, we could have employed the SpaceBags that she brought with her. (See next section for a full description on the awesomeness of these.) Here are some tips on how I got everything in there.
  • Shoes go on the bottom and are full of odds and ends (any makeup, belts, toiletries, small breakables). Try to face them opposite directions, so they fit into each other, like they have them in shoeboxes at the store.
  • Tightly roll all the clothes that need to be packed, then start with the heaviest/largest items to fill in this bottom layer. Jeans, heavy pants, long sleeve shirts, etc., go in first. If you see space in between pieces, which is pretty much going to be the case, fill in with smaller items that will tuck in there. You want the layers to be tight.
  • After the first layer has no more room, put in anything that needs padding, like that plate I packed. I had some bubble wrap, but clothes work just as well, to protect it. Now, use smaller clothing items to fill in around those breakable items, so they aren’t smashed up against the side and have the possibility of breaking.
  • Add another layer of clothes, or just fold a pair of pants or a jacket over everything and cinch in with the “suitcase seatbelts”. If you have a toiletry bag or anything else that needs to be packed, you should find you have extra room to throw it in there now.

There are so many “gadgets” that make travel easier that I can’t even list them all, but I try to give you a good sampling every week. I’ve bought a lot of things that I thought would be useful and just didn’t really fill a void for me. My top two products are always the same. I’m like a broken record and you’d think I get some sort of compensation for telling everyone and their mother, but I don’t. I just think they’re awesome: 1) Amazon Kindle (or really an e-Reader. I’m just biased toward the Kindle, because that’s the one I have and Amazon makes finding and buying books so effortless), 2) iGo – I mean, who WANTS to take 52 different power cords when you can just take this one and your laptop charger? Take an extra outfit with matching shoes instead! Aside from my love of those two things, here are a couple others:

  • SpaceBag – So, you’re not always going to have enough room for everything you brought with you AND the stuff you bought on your two-week vacation. Face it, some of us don’t even have room to bring back everything from a three-day trip. Well, toss a couple of these in your carry-on’s front pocket and it’s like doubling your space in your bag…though it won’t be any lighter, just because things are smaller, so make sure you can still lift it. I tend to pack up for my return by smooshing as many clothes in these as possible and layering one on the bottom, souvenirs and clothes on top and then the second SpaceBag on top for protection. If you have anything really fragile that you’re bringing home, put that in a smaller carry-on or your purse, so you don’t accidentally crush it. Once, I did check my bag with 2 SpaceBags full of clothes and a bunch of bottles of rum packed in with other clothes keeping the bottles separated and everything was intact on arrival, so it depends on your packing ability and fragility of the item(s) you’re squooshing in between layers.

  • Baggallini Jewelry Square - Make the most of your travel wardrobe by packing some jewelry pieces to mix it up. This jewelry square keeps everything separate.

  • HOT DEAL! Oktoberfest is right around the corner! Get your hotel and tickets to one of the most popular venues for it in Vail, Colorado. From $199/night receive breakfast, discounted parking, complimentary beer steins, 6 coupons and more at the lovely Sonnenalp Resort. This great deal is valid for the weekends of September 10 and 17 and rooms are selling fast!
  • I know a lot of people who have visited Lake Geneva (in Wisconsin) and say it's beautiful. Maybe you have family there that you would like to visit and want to stay in your own place. Book by Sept 7th to stay between Sept 6th and Nov 24th for 2 or more nights at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Lake Geneva Resort and your rates are only $69/night. Close to Lake Geneva, Lake Como, Big Foot State Beach and Amusement Park and great shopping and dining.
  • Do you plan to visit Disneyland this month? With Alaska, you can save up to 40% if you stay 2 nights or more at a Disney resort or get 2 days/nights free! That can add up to a $950 savings. Must travel by Sept 30th. You will also receive an extra 1,500 frequent flyer miles per person for booking through Alaska Airlines Vacations.

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