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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Put Away Your Wallet - It's All Included! 9.29.11

This week, I wanted to share a great new resource for my UK readers (as well as anyone looking to take a mini-break from their vacation to the UK). Since most of my deals are centered around my readers in America and there are so many sites that cater to just the UK, I thought it would be great to showcase one type of site for you that can really help you save money on breaks and long holidays.

Travelling can be expensive, but as I’ve shown you before, there are many ways to cut costs and go on great holidays for less. One of the easiest ways to do this is by seeking out all-inclusive resorts that bundle all your meals, entertainment, lodging and, if you’re lucky, airfare into one manageable package. You know exactly how much you’ve paid and any leftover money in your budget can be put toward activities that aren’t included in your rate, like shopping and other things you want to do off-site. While some websites claim that an all-inclusive is cheaper than you could book on your own, it’s not always true, but if you do the math to see what it is per night per person, you may find that if you book separately, you would never be able to go for so cheap.

Some of the best deals on holidays can be found on all-inclusive holiday sites geared toward travellers from the UK. You can find 3-, 4- and 5-star resorts that have packages to fit every budget. Choose your own dates and stay between 1 day and 3 weeks! Look at the offers of the week and find great holidays starting around £250 per person, including resort stay, round-trip airfare, meals, drinks and more. Most resorts are beachfront or very close to the shore, so you can splash around in the surf, too. If the ocean isn’t for you, all resorts have beautiful swimming pools that are perfect for everyone in your travel party. You also have the possibility of shopping at nearby, off-site stores at many resorts, so you don’t feel as if you are trapped on the premises.

All-inclusive holidays are great for those travelling as a family and take the guesswork out of researching an entire trip to figure out if you can even afford to go. You will know right up front what the total of your holiday will be, including delicious multi-course meals that you may not have been able to find the money for otherwise. Isn’t that better than bringing your own food or eating at cheap restaurants that have a drive-thru the entire time you are away? The whole family will have so much to do; whether you travel for two weeks or just have time for a weekend break. Take the hassle out of holiday planning and just kick back and relax. Destinations vary widely and you will find something to everyone’s liking, whether you wish to holiday in the Canary Islands, Egypt or Cancun. Not only will you have amazing locales to choose from, but you’ll also enjoy amazing views when you get there.

Pricing and reviews can be found on many of the easy-to-use websites. A deposit often is required for booking, with the balance of your holiday costs due prior to your departure. Now, after finding your travel destination, all you need to do is pack your bags and be the hero of the family, because you saved so much money. You don’t need to tell them how easy it was!

This is a Sponsored Post by me for all-inclusive holidays, however, all opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Live and Learn: Paris 9.28.11

It's called the City of Lights and also The Most Romantic City in the World. I'm talking about Paris. While these things can certainly be true, there is also much to be learned in the city, which is not always romantic or bright. Regardless, the city is an amazing one to visit and experience culture. We only had three days there, but we still ended up learning quite a few things – some good, some bad – which were useful and easy to help us change our trips for the future. And here I am passing them on to you, so you won't make my same mistakes.

Plan ahead to get around town – The RER (Metro) can be a fantastic way to get around, but if you are used to the ease of the Underground or haven't mapped out your route, it can be kinda hard to get where you want to go. There are fewer stations, so you do need to plan ahead when you first get there (or before), so you don't get lost and end up somewhere totally far from where you meant to go.

Not all food is good food – I know. I rarely say this, but it's true. Since everyone told me that I would find such delicious food in Paris, I didn't research restaurants before leaving home. I really regretted this after the first day, because I ended up having McDonald's and pizza for two meals and the other times we ate were also disappointing. In fact, the one meal that we really loved was a ham and brie baguette that we picked up at a street vendor. Amazingly, it was also much more affordable than everything else we ate as well.

Jet lag is a thing – Get your body used to "local time", otherwise you'll end up losing most of a day like I did. Two days into our trip I crashed and burned and got up for breakfast and went right back to the room and passed out. Even though I missed half a day of vacation, when I woke up, Eric had sightseeing plans mapped out for us, which was pretty awesome. Not as awesome as going to Disneyland Paris, but I probably would have missed out on some of those cool things he planned if I hadn't been jet lagged. At least we made the best of it and it worked out well.

Parisians will snicker at you, even if you attempt the language – It's true. Unless you are fluent in the language, the French think it's "cute" that you are failing, even a little bit. I've never encountered this anywhere, but I have heard stories of other travelers say this is the norm. I think next time I will pretend to be British. My most irritating travel memory is from France....getting off the train, we headed to the ticket booth to ask for directions. I asked the lady if she spoke English, to which she replied "no". So, after butchering some French to ask where I could get a taxi, where I received a blank stare all the way through, the lady points toward the door and tells me in perfect English that there was a taxi stand down the street on the left. For real? I mean, I was tired and cranky and that lady is lucky there was a wall of glass between the two of us. 

There’s no such thing as free refills – I'm probably used to the American way of restaurants where you can have as much beverage as you want/need. Europe is really not like that. In fact, you're lucky if you get more than 3 cubes of ice in a drink. If you want refills, you have to pay for them, at full price. Your best bet is to just order a bottle of still water (non-carbonated), which is usually the biggest thing on the beverage menu and about the same price as a soda. Maybe they are just used to people ordering wine.

Coffee costs a fortune – Remember how I just said there were no refills? Imagine paying more for a cappuccino at a restaurant as you would for a Venti Frappaccino at Starbucks...and then having to pay the same for a refill or even something else to quench your thirst. 

You have no personal space – Do you like your personal space? Well, you better let go of that before going to France, because people there don't believe in such a thing. More than once you'll have someone pressed up against you in a line and realize you don't actually know them. Worse is when you feel their breath on you, too. Not that I have an issue with people being within close proximity to me, but unless I know you well, I don't really want to spoon you. So, that's something I (and probably you) will have to get over next time I travel there. Also, don't resort to dirty looks, because they don't care. Just make sure your bags and everything are not accessible to them, in case there are thieves among the crowd.

The Eiffel Tower is crowded – I think if you don't care about seeing the city at night, then  going as soon as the Tower opens is your best bet for beating long lines. If you do care, then expect to stand in line for at least an hour with a bunch of people who have no regard for your personal space and 

So, there you have it. My short break in Paris taught me some valuable lessons for when I return. I'll do much more research, so I will be able to see more, get more rest and also eat delicious food. Of course, if I has to subside on those yummy baguettes, that wouldn't be the end of the world. It will just be good that I walk around the city so much, to combat all the carbs and cheese.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hawaii: A Lesson in (Carry-on) Packing 9.24.11

I’ve been making my packing list and perfecting my techniques and while I talk a lot about how to pack and shove everything into a carry-on-size bag, I am well aware that a picture is worth a thousand words. That said, I decided to make a photo guide for you showcasing my actual packing and everything I take with me. Keep in mind that I am packing for two, so packing for one should be even easier if you travel alone, go with friends or you just want your own bag. I find that putting everything in one larger carry-on is convenient for us, because Eric can carry that bag and then I can carry my purse and the smaller carry-on that goes under the airplane seat (the one that has the toiletries in it).

Before I start, I can let you in on a new secret I learned: make your pile of travel stuff (clothes, toiletries, shoes, etc.) and put it all in one place, then take a picture of it. Take a look at it with an objective eye and wonder what other people would think of your must-take pile. Is it huge? Would a carry-on packer be embarrassed for you? If so, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. I don’t say this to be mean, I say this because it can really help you pare down your “essentials”. Even I was able to look at what I was taking and toss some stuff back in the closet, so you may see the before pictures with some notes!

My "plane purse": big enough to hold my netbook, ipad, Kindle,
card games, confirmations/boarding passes odds & ends and snacks!
I truly LOVE packing. It could be because I know it means I’m going somewhere fun and different, but I think I also like to see how good I am at actually getting everything into a small space and still have room to spare for bringing back goodies. While that is not quite as easy with two people’s sets of clothing, we also don’t take a lot of pieces. I always suggest taking clothing that coordinates with everything you plan to take. Each piece should match with at least 90% of other stuff you are bringing. It makes putting together outfits super easy at your destination, because all your tops will pretty much go with all your bottoms and vice versa. Make sure your shoes do the same, so you don’t have to take 9 pairs. Two should be your limit (not including a pair of flip flops, which are always useful). Wear one on the plane and pack one. This saves you valuable space in your travel bag and also helps you choose all your items carefully.

Eric's clothes including a pair of pants and
swim trunks
My clothes, including swimsuit. I've decided I'll be wearing the pair of pants and a top from this set on the plane.
You may have noticed that there aren’t enough tops or bottoms for the whole week, unless we re-wear pieces. We plan on doing that. I also plan on doing some laundry to achieve that. I know, I know. Laundry on vacation? That sucks! Look at it this way: You saved between $15 and $35 to carry your bag on instead of checking it. You’ll be hanging out in the room for at least an hour at some point during your vacation, so use that time to pop your clothes in the washer. While you wait you can watch a movie, catch up on some email, write a postcard to your mother, eat a sandwich, wander around the hotel gift shop, play a game of cards with your travel partner, call a friend and catch up. It’s only an hour. Give your feet a break. If you don’t have laundry facilities, then do your laundry in the sink while you’re winding down for the evening. Let it soak a few minutes, rinse it out and then roll items in a towel and wring them out, so they’ll dry faster. It’s not as horrible as it sounds. In fact, it’s kinda fun. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time hand washing, then do a few pieces each evening and then you’ll be done faster. 

See how these items are interchangeable?

Now, onto the actual packing. You always want to put the heavier things on the bottom. In the case you'll be packing one person per bag, your toiletry bag will be on the bottom with the shoes, as I show here:

 Shoes to pack --- my shoes and toiletry bag, if I were just packing myself.

Since there are two of us, I pack the toiletry bag in the smaller carry-on and use the space for the second pair of shoes. Putting the shoes at the bottom (the side near the wheels) helps to create a foundation for packing and also keeps your bag more stable when upright. Try to pack them where you will take up as little space as possible (see how I've wedged my shoes into the space left by Eric's?)

Now that you have your "foundation", you can start adding actual clothing. I prefer to roll my clothes, because it makes it easier to pack and because you can get quite a bit more into the bag that way. Without rolling, I find that only about 2/3 of the same stuff would actually fit in the bag without unzipping the bag's expandable section...and if I do that, I won't be able to take it on the plane. So, roll the clothes and go in layers. Bigger items on the bottom and smaller ones on the top and in spaces left between other pieces. Here's my progress:
Obviously, Eric's clothes are bigger than mine, so they go on the bottom.
I added another layer with the rest of his clothes.
I finished with all my clothes on the last layer and my swimsuit on top.
Make sure you leave out your luggage "seat belts". You'll need these later. See how I've crammed in everything in all the available space? This is the secret to efficient packing. Got some empty space between clothing? Shove something in there: socks, underwear, a scarf. Unused space is wasted space and makes your stuff take up more room. It is helpful to employ this type of packing on your way to your destination and also get practice for when you are on your way back and need to fit more in the same space, because you bought things. If you bought too many things, then you might need a tote bag, like the Travelon Pack-flat Backup bag I have and highly recommend. I put this on top of my clothes and then cinch everything down. If you have to open your bag for any reason, it's already organized:

In the zippered compartment of my bag, I put undies, bras and socks...and the all-important Spacebags (in case I REALLY buy stuff or only have a little bit too much to get back in the bag).

If you are packing for just one of you, you can also add all your toiletries and extra stuff you plan on bringing with you, like your hair dryer, accessories or any of this stuff I take as well:

If you are packing for more than one of you, they may still fit in your bag, or these extra items can go in a smaller carry-on that can fit under the seat. You can probably also put the things you need and want to use on the plane in this smaller bag, like those that I put in my "airplane purse" above. My small carry-on has my toiletry bag, both of our 3-1-1 bags and a packable rain jacket for each of us, because they are more convenient than umbrellas and might be needed upon arrival. 

You can use the same packing technique with this smaller carry-on, with the heaviest items on the bottom. In my case it would be my toiletry bag, then I layer with packable jackets, my bag with my iGo, tips, camera charger and power strip and I end with my 3-1-1 bags on the top, because I will need to get to them quickly when going through security. Now, obviously, if you are packing one person per carry-on, you will have room for pretty much everything you need in the one large bag. (Even with all our clothing, there is still room for much of the extra stuff in ours. The above is just an example.)  You'll probably want a purse or laptop bag to carry what you want to use on the plane, because trying to wrestle your big bag in and out of the overhead is inconvenient and sometimes totally impossible. My "airplane purse" will fit right inside this bag, too, if I need it to.

I hope this "tutorial" helps you in your packing endeavors in the future and inspires you to try to pack lighter, because if we can pack two people's worth of clothing for 1-2 weeks in one large carry-on and one small carry-on, then certainly you can do it for one person in one bag. Not only will you save money, but you'll also save your back, because you can carry it all on your own.  

Are you a savvy traveler (or shopper)? If so, or you have aspirations to be, go check out the Savvy Living Community where I'm a savvy travel leader. You can connect with me and 15 other awesome bloggers that blog on various topics, start fun discussions and engage members is live chats on whatever is hot that week/month. Do you want to share your biggest Packing Light Obstacles? Join in the discussion!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Corn is so a-MAZE-ing 9.21.11

Fall is totally my time to be outside. I guess because there are so many things going on that I want to do and the weather is nice, even if I have to wear a coat for them. After going to the farmer’s market and thinking about going veggie and fruit picking again, I was reminded of one of my favorite fun and frugal fall activities that you can do almost anywhere you go that has open land. That would be corn mazes. You have a lot of options when visiting a corn maze that you don’t ever have to feel like you’ve done it all before, because you can go through alone, in a group, in the daytime, at night with a flashlight. It really can’t be boring if you plan your trip right.

Need some alone time from your travel companions or family? Suggest a trip to the nearest corn maze. You can get out some frustration and energy by taking them out for the day. The kids can run all over, you can get “lost” from your family for hours and enjoy your personal space. Plus, fresh air is always a good thing. Most corn mazes are a short drive out of the city and fairly reasonable cost wise. Usually less than $10 per person, which is a small price for half a day of activity. Take a ride through the pumpkin patch, get lost in corn, pet some animals, have a hot chocolate, buy some pumpkins and go home and have everyone help make pumpkin pie. If you’re traveling and have a kitchen, you can always pick up some fresh squash to have as a side to a main meal (or as the main meal, if you are a vegetarian). Most corn mazes are located on farms and have a “general store” where you can pick up some produce and other local foods (maybe corn!), like pumpkin butter or jams, to take home or enjoy on your trip.

When should you go to the maze? Well, that’s really up to your preferences, because the daytime maze will be fairly tame and the maze at night is dark and may have several spooky surprises. Some have scary things that jump out at you – imagine being chased by a real scarecrow! – and others just have props, but in the dark, it’s going to be twice as frightening, since you probably won’t see it until it’s right in front of you. If being scared witless is your idea of fun, then the nighttime ones should be on your list. If it has been raining, wear shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy…like wellies or boots that are easily rinsed off. It can also be good to bring an extra pair on the car ride home. 

You really could just make a whole day out of the corn maze and pumpkin patch. Many mazes have a way to navigate through the corn, like trivia you must answer correctly to pick the right direction at each fork. So, not only do you not have to blindly wander around for hours, you can also use your brain. If you get the question wrong, you can turn back and try again, ensuring that you learn something for the day, too! 

Do you love a corn maze or a have been dying to check one out? Look for coupons on the farm websites. You might even find a great 2-for-1 deal on them or with daily deal sites, like I did on Living Social. And because they allow dogs at the one I am going to go to, my dog can get out in the fresh air, too, and we can all get some well-needed exercise.

The new travel stats have just come out saying that airlines will be cutting flights even more in the next year. They will be chopping 2-3% of their active flights, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering the small number of flights they already have and the overpacked planes, this could make it harder to find a cheap rate wherever you want to go. Also, airlines have reported at least a 2% increase in revenue from fees (mostly baggage) over last year. In just several months, oneairline has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars from their customers in fees alone. If nothing else, this just makes it more obvious that people are encouraging them to continue raising fees on checked bags, because they are willing to pay them. 

Books make great gifts!  Anna Cervova
You know what you can do about it? Besides traveling carry-on only yourself, you can purchase a copy of my book (which will be out soon) for an overpacking friend for the holiday season! Not only will it be cheaper than even the lowest checked bag fee, it will also be packed full of tips to travel within and below their budget to save them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on each trip! Imagine how many massages thatwill get someone. Maybe buy one for yourself, too. (And that is what I'm working on at the moment that I bring you this very short post. You can sign up to receive my newsletter and be the first to know when the book is available for purchase.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Getting Pampered on Your Travels 9.17.11

Okay, so I don’t often suggest doing things like getting massages and facials on vacation, because they can be expensive and also because you’re already “away from it all” and are probably more relaxed than you’ve been since your last trip. Plus, I can always think of other ways to spend that money while I’m away. Of course, traveling should be all about you and if it’s your only time to get pampered in any sense of the word, then I say go for it if you can fit it into your budget and schedule. The schedule can always be redone, but sometimes the budget is firm and has no give to allow for extra things that aren’t “necessity”. 

Luckily, there are some ways to give your budget a little bit of wiggle room. When you save on one thing, you can afford to do another and I find that my tips can cause a domino effect in that regard: save on your airfare, get a better hotel or room. Save on your hotel, eat out more. Eat in some nights, squeeze in more activities. Get a CityPASS to save on activities, have money to see a play, eat at a famous restaurant, do a bit of shopping or get a massage. I mean, just think of the possibilities!
If you’ll be hitting the road in the middle of October, you can take advantage of Spa Week. Twice a year, participating upscale salons in the U.S. and Canada drop prices of your favorite treatments: massages, body scrubs, glycolic peels, facials, pedicures and more. Each treatment will be just $50, which is a great deal for the more involved treatments, like body scrubs that can be over $100. Go check out the Spa Week salons in your area (whether traveling or not) and make an appointment to get peeled, scrubbed, painted or rubbed for the week of October 10-16. This is also a great way to try something new that you were afraid to spend the money on before. You can even buy a Spa Week gift card for a friend. How awesome would you be?

Other ways to get pampered for less are super easy with daily deal sites like Groupon (or Groupon UK), Living Social, Sharing Spree and others in your area. Generally, you get 50% off, but the deals can be anywhere from 40-90% off. All of these have daily deals that include dining, shopping, spa services, attractions and more, so if you don’t see something you like right away, don’t worry. The deal will change the next day and you’ll have a chance at something else. I like to subscribe to the deals to where I will be traveling and it’s also how I saved a bunch of money on my upcoming trip to Hawaii! See my post on how Groupon was instrumental in my travel planning and budgeting for this trip and how you can use it to save a bunch on your trips, too.

Living Social has some fantastic deals, even on vacations. I posted a deal on Facebook and a friend’s coworker saw it and purchased it and saved almost half on her trip to Cancun by using it. Instead of $3,000 paid out of pocket for her trip for air, hotel and activities, she spent a mere $1,750, because her hotel and some activities were super discounted with her Living Social deal. (Another great reason to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, too!)

Do you have an Entertainment Book? Consider buying one for your vacation destination. You can save on dining, entertainment, activities, hotels and more! In March and April the books become deeply discounted, giving you an even larger ratio of savings to book cost. Purchase it through Ebates to get cash back, too!

Use those daily deal sites to your advantage and save, save, save. You’re never going to regret using a coupon if you have it. If you could have and didn’t, you’ll be mad that you didn’t get to do something else (or saved that money and used it on bills or some other necessity). Now, go get pampered!

This week you'll see me on it! That's right. Shereen Travels Cheap will have an article in FareCompare's Travel Advice section. Stay tuned for a link.

Join me on Tuesday for a Live Chat in the Ebates Savvy Living Community at 6pm PST/9pm EST where we will talk about saving on your holiday travels. It's best to start planning now in order to get the best deals, especially if you are visiting family and must be there.

Vera Kratochvil
The new travel stats have just come out saying that airlines will be cutting flights even more in the next year. They will be chopping 2-3% of their active flights, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering the small number of flights they already have and the overpacked planes, this could make it harder to find a cheap rate wherever you want to go. Also, airlines have reported at least a 2% increase in revenue from fees (mostly baggage) over last year. In just several months, one airline has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars from their customers in fees alone. If nothing else, this just makes it more obvious that people are encouraging them to continue raising fees on checked bags, because they are willing to pay them.

Books make great gifts!  Anna Cervova
You know what you can do about it? Besides traveling carry-on only yourself, you can purchase a copy of my book (which will be out soon) for an overpacking friend for the holiday season! Not only will it be cheaper than even the lowest checked bag fee, it will also be packed full of tips to travel within and below their budget to save them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on each trip! Imagine how many massages that will get someone. Maybe buy one for yourself, too. (And that is what I'm working on at the moment that I bring you this very short post. You can sign up to receive my newsletter and be the first to know when the book is available for purchase.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Goes On Beneath the City? 9.14.11

Do you ever really wonder this? I do, but then I have been on three underground city tours in three different cities and then started looking into other underground tours in cities across the world. Most of the cities as we know them are built on a foundation of a maze of streets and hidey holes just beneath our feet. Some where the original streets of the city and some were for hiding things people didn’t want to know about: slavery, prostitution, gambling, drugs and alcohol. In the days of Prohibition, speakeasies were found in many undergrounds. Men could smoke, drink, play poker and take a woman to bed without fear of “the law” carting him away. There have always been secrets in the history of flourishing cities, but to find out what those are, you have to take a trip to where it all happened.

Why am I talking about this morbidly fascinating idea of underground tunnels and illegal activities? For one, it’s pretty amazing and the history can be better than you imagined, but for another, it’s a fun way to learn about a city from a different perspective and also do it on a budget. I have a long list of destinations that have underground tours that I want to visit. Most tours are a few hours in length, show you a whole new view of a place and also don’t break the bank. Usually they cost under $20 per person and are a fantastic way to learn new things about your destination, get some much needed exercise in and can be a little spooky, too. Why not get your heart racing with one of these tours, especially with Halloween just around the corner.

The three tours I have been on have been somewhat close to where I live. Several years ago we visited the Pendleton Underground Tour in Pendleton, Oregon. Not only is the original brothel still standing and in good repair, but your tour group goes right through it and learns cool things, like why the kitchen has pressed tin tiles on the ceiling, how false walls keep you out of jail and how a woman can attract a client when there are so many girls to choose from. Go underground and see actual artifacts from when Hop Sing was a clothes launderer and original speakeasy and learn what else went on in the underground passages. Did you know that Pendleton was the first city to have electric stop lights? I didn’t. I loved this tour and will be taking Eric to do it sometime in the next year. (Cost: $15pp – 90 minutes)

The second tour I went on was in Seattle. Seattle is famous for its underground tour, though I’m not sure why. I was quite excited to check it out, but I was highly disappointed when I went, because they use their tunnels as storage facilities, making it hard to envision how it must have been in its heyday. My husband said when he went on a tour there it was really fun and interesting, so possibly I didn’t get the full experience. I don’t remember my guide being upbeat and enthusiastic, as he did his, and that can really make all the difference. (Cost: $16pp – 90 minutes)

Last weekend we decided to finally check out the Shanghai Tunnels under Portland. It was featured on Travel Channel’s 10 Most Haunted. Though it came in at number 10, it was the only Portland site to make the list, so by simple reasoning, it must make it Portland’s most haunted site. I was disappointed that I didn’t experience so much as a cold breeze, nor did I catch anything on my camera, unless you count dust particles catching the light of my flash and presenting themselves as “glowing orbs”. I was really just excited to go down into one of the grates in the sidewalk that most people have lifts in and use for storage. I’m weird maybe, but still, it was some sort of goal. I hadn’t actually been to the tunnels before, because it was supposedly really dark and you needed to bring your own flashlight. I’m afraid of the dark and also of ghosts, but the tour has changed and even though it was dark and a flashlight was provided, I almost didn’t even need one. We learned some pretty cool stuff about kidnapping unsuspecting victims and holding them captive until they could be sold to boat captains as crew (this was know as “shanghaiing”). (Cost: $13pp – 90 minutes)

While we were enjoying pizza at one of my favorite places in Portland (that would be Old Town Pizza, for those that love a good pie) I got to thinking about other places that have underground tours and cities and which I’d put on my list to tick off when I got the chance. Here’s what I came up with.

Paris Catacombs – This is absolutely #1 on my list of must-see underground tours. While usually crowded and full of dead people, it’s super unique and steeped in history. If the walls could talk…well, then I would probably scream and flee in terror. Since they can’t (thank goodness) the map and signs will tell me everything I need to know. Bones of those riddled by disease, taken out in the revolution or sentenced to the guillotine all rest here. I’ll remember to make my reservations early, because lines can be super long and I’m not up to hanging around when I could be doing something else more fun. (Cost: $11pp – 45 minute self-guided tour. Skip the lines with a Paris Pass.)

Berliner Unterwelten – In a Berlin train station, you can enter a door that leads to a secret Nazi hideout. Well, it’s not really a secret anymore and those Nazis probably aren’t around anymore either. In WWII, the hideout was used as an air raid shelter and housed secret bunkers and escape tunnels. While part of Germany’s sad history, it’s still a pretty cool piece of history that shouldn’t be forgotten. (Cost: $13pp – 90 minute tour)

Mercat Tours – Amid all the Scottish ghost stories comes yet another buried under the South Bridge in Edinburgh. A storage space used by merchants became a place for murder victims and other illegal activities in the 1700’s. Historical? Maybe. Creepy? Definitely! Many sightings have been reported in these tiny passages, which might sound more appealing to me now than when it actually comes time to visit them. (Cost: $12 – 75 minute tour)

Central Park Underground City – There's so much to see in New York, but here's another cool thing to add to your list. Conspiracy Theorists love to talk about the "Manhattan Project". Maybe Hitler really did hide out there or the government stashed the Roswell aliens in it or Czar Nicholas III and his family escaped execution there. Maybe none of that happened, but you can still tour the underground city where there are over 60 miles of roads, an underground lake and the second largest telephone exchange in the U.S.  (Cost: $20 – 60 minute tour)

This is by no means a complete list of all the underground tours across the world. There are ones in Vienna, Roma, Naples, Jerusalem and even Seoul. Look for ones in the cities you plan to visit and enjoy a new way to see the city while saving money at the same time. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture the unseen parts of your destination, and possibly a ghost. Have you done any of these tours? What did you think?

Guess what? I have another fun post on the Ebates blog. Need some more help with your packing light prowess? Well, I've got 5 useful tips for you to help you pack small and enjoy big savings! Tell me what you think!

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