Let's Connect!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Healthy Travels 11.30.11

It wasn’t long ago that going on vacation also meant getting some kind of hideous sickness. I would either get the flu or a sinus infection, which is no way to have a fun time on a trip. Nobody wants something inconvenient to interrupt their travel goodness, especially something that can be prevented. So, how can you make sure you don’t end up all bedridden and stuffy?

Healthy travelers are happy travelers
Antibacterial wipes – These are the best. They don’t take up space in your 3-1-1 bag like hand sanitizer and they can be used on hands faces, seats, tray tables and more! Anything that you think might be coated in germs, you can wipe down with them. These are even more useful if you travel with children, since they also seem to have sticky hands or a dirty face.

Emergen-C and Airborne – Both of these pack a wallop of vitamin C and can prevent you from getting sick or can help you get over your sickness so much faster. I tend to go with Emergen-C, because they come in a lot more flavors, you can carry many packets in less space and they easily dissolve in a bottle of water (which you probably have with you anyway). Make sure you take a sip of water from it first, otherwise you will end up with it all over your pants when the powder starts to bubble up in the water. Believe me, that it is not cool. Airborne is easier used when you have a glass available, unless you want to crush it up to put in your bottle, which can be almost impossible.

Charcoal tablets – Keep from getting food poisoning or other food-related nasties with these. Charcoal helps to neutralize bacteria that your body can’t handle from new foods. These are really helpful when going out of the country and eating ethnic foods you aren’t used to or when dining at food carts in foreign countries. While they may be perfectly safe – and usually are – but your body may not be accustomed to some of the ingredients or products used to cook them.

Wash your hands – This is such a given, but people probably don’t do it enough when they travel. If you must touch your face, it’s much better to do it with clean hands than dirty hands. If you aren’t near a place where you can wash them, employ those antibacterial wipes you packed.

Olive leaf – I started taking olive leaf capsules years ago and get sick very infrequently. It boosts your immune system naturally. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to find. Your local GMC store or natural food store probably has them. You can also purchase them online. If you can’t find them, Acai works, too. It’s a super antioxidant. These are both great to take every day, not just while on vacation.

Even puppies need to catch up on their sleep
Get enough sleep – A lot of people tend to forget that vacation is also a time to get in some relaxation. Sure, you may be like me and want to pack as much stuff into your time away, but make sure you make time to do nothing and recharge. If you travel in the fall and winter it’s so much easier to do, because hours for shops and attractions are often shorter and force you to take some downtime. If you are traveling the summer and times when stuff is open longer, make sure to build some ‘do nothing’ time into your schedule.

Papaya enzyme – These chewable tablets are a must in my travel bag. If you find that something you ate doesn’t sit well with you or you have a habit of overindulging in the local cuisine, papaya aids digestion, so you won’t feel like you have a rock in your stomach and it also helps to stave off heartburn if you’re prone to it. You can find papaya in pretty much any drugstore with vitamins. Of course, eating fresh fruits and veggies is also a good choice, and trying not to stuff yourself at each meal.

help® has products for all your problems

Ibuprofen or other pain reliever – Walking around all day can be stressful on your feet and back. Keep a stash of pain relievers with you, just in case. If nothing else, they can also be used to shoo away a headache.

Drink water – Water is good for flushing out toxins and keeping you hydrated. Drink as much as possible to keep healthy, just like you would at home. Bring along a reusable water bottle to make sure you have some with you everywhere you go. Getting sick from dehydration can land you in the hospital, so don’t forget your liquids.

Don’t be a drunk – As fun as it can be to hit the bars and try some new brews and exotic cocktails, drinking too much can also take a toll on your body. Try to limit yourself to just a few drinks and not every day. You’ll definitely feel the difference in how much better you feel when you aren’t hungover. Staying sober has gotten less people in trouble on vacation than getting rip-roaring drunk, too. Being arrested in a foreign country is scary…and having a cap on how much you can drink can save you money, too. It’s a lot easier to stick to a budget when you can still remember your name and count.

Stay healthy, so you can keep having fun like this!
Many a vacation has been ruined by illness that could have been prevented. I have had more than my fair share, too. Hopefully this will help you travel healthier and keep you prepared for whatever may happen. Do you have tips that have helped you travel without sickness? Share!

I've decided to join almost all the other online sites in extending their sales through the week. If you want to get a copy (or three) of Shereen Travels Cheap, I’ll give you a code for 20% off! Purchase the book through my page on CreateSpace and use code BBGHV9F8 and purchase an ebook through Smashwords and use code UV82P. I’ve already had several people I know buy two or more copies as holiday gifts, so I know travel is a great gift to give. These codes will be good through Sunday, December 4th.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post: Top Travel Insurance Tips 11.28.11

Today's guest post comes from Joe Johnson, aka Backpack Joe, from the UK. Please make sure to check out his site and Twitter feed (shown at the end of this post).

Going on holiday is invariably one of the highlights of the year, unless of course you’re a wealthy oil tycoon and your whole year is one big holiday, but since you’re reading this, I’d wager that you’re not (what oil tycoon needs travel insurance?!). Everything about going on holiday is exciting, planning which restaurants to go to, flip-flop shopping, frantically scrabbling to locate your passport in the ‘safe’ draw, getting travel insurance… Oh wait.

Ok, almost everything about preparing for a holiday is exciting, and while travel insurance may be an unwelcome aside, it is nevertheless necessary, if only to give you piece of mind. Getting injured, falling ill or having your laptop pilfered is inconvenient in the outskirts of Coventry, but when you’re in an unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language, it can be more than distressing. Best shell out for travel insurance then. Here are some tips for ensuring you get the right type of insurance, and getting the most out of it should you need to use it.

1. Get Insurance 
Sounds obvious right? Maybe, but so many people make the mistake of not taking out travel insurance and regretting it afterwards when they end up with hospitals bills for thousands of pounds/dollars. You wouldn’t take to the road without car insurance, so don’t take a holiday without travel insurance.

2. Get the right Type of Insurance
Travel insurance covers many different things: injury, illness, delayed flights, loss or theft of possessions, and while you don’t want to go away without any kind of insurance you need to get the type that will suit your trip. If you’re going backpacking for example, you won’t need the same kind of insurance that would be suitable for, say, a business trip.

3. Abide by the Rules
As we all know, insurance policies are riddled with loop holes, so make sure you tick all the boxes by obeying the rules. This means checking in on time so you can claim if your flight is delayed.

4. Report Theft Immediately
If you are unfortunate enough to have your possessions stolen on holiday (or carelessly lose them), you must report to the local police in order to record the loss or theft. A crime reference number will usually be given. Failure to do this may mean you cannot claim on your policy.

5. Take Notes
If you do claim, your insurance company will want to know the precise details of what happened. Make sure you note every last detail down – what happened, when it happened, where it happened and why it happened. Make sure your story is water-tight or you’ll get caught out!

6. Get Luggage Insurance
We all know how heavy-handed ground staff at the airport can be. Not a problem if you have suitcases full of clothes, but a real risk of you have prized items in tow like a snowboard, guitar or canoe. Make sure any, large fragile, valuable items are insured. Oh, and always padlock your suitcase. Use TSA approved locks.

7. Keep Your Insurers Abreast of Changes
If you make any changes ahead of your holiday, be that changes to your schedule, holiday dates, hotel, car rental details or anything even mildly significant , be sure to inform your insurers so your policy can be adjusted accordingly.

8. Buy in Bulk
If you are travelling as a couple or a family, get group coverage. It’ll work out a lot cheaper than buying individual policies.

9. Think Long-term
The reason travel insurance can sometimes seem very expensive can simply be because you’re unprepared and disorganised. If you think you’ll be going away multiple times through the course of a year (lucky you) then buy a year's coverage since it’ll work out cheaper than buying many short-term policies. Consider what kind of holidays you’ll be going on, too. Skiing holidays require a different type of coverage than beach holidays.

10. Be Persistent with Claims
By their very nature, insurance companies don’t want to pay out for claims. They’ll try every trick in the book in an attempt to refute a claim. For this reason, you need to be persistent when claiming or insurance companies will brush you aside with legal jargon.

Joe is a travel blogger from the UK who always takes out insurance before going away! 

For more travel insurance tips, check out my earlier blog post.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: BlueAvocado Reusable Bag Set from Reuseit.com

Do you find yourself at the grocery store and either forgetting your reusable bags or wishing you had better ones? I love reusable bags. They hold more than those plastic bags, are easier to carry and help save the environment, because they aren’t clogging up a landfill for a million years. Reuseit.com asked me to review any of their reusable totebags and I jumped at the chance, because these are items that are always multi-purpose for home and travel.

Reuseit.com is committed to saving the planet through reusable products, like lunch bags, tote bags, bottles and more. I’m totally on board with a company like that. Some of their products are even made with recycled materials. I asked to review the BlueAvocado Starter Set that comes in two attractive color choices – burgundy and lime – both of which are great for men or women.

The set came at the perfect time: right before Thanksgiving, so I tested it out buying dinner fixings. The starter kit comes with 3 bags that all stash in the one bigger bag and fold up and you can buy other gro-pak bags to make your set bigger. This set comes with the pak carry-all bag, veg produce bag and pod stuff n’ go bag. Pod folds into its own pouch and then clips onto pak with a carabiner clip, while veg fits in the mesh pocket inside pak. The set can hold up to 50 lbs of product, has wide durable straps that comfortably fit on your shoulder and would also be an awesome set to take on trips where you plan to do shopping of all kinds or visit farmers markets.

Many things fit in all three bags and even though they were heavy, they were still easy to carry. As you can see, I was able to get a good deal in the big bag and probably could have fit more if I tried. The same with the pod tote. Only the veggie bag was stuffed full, but it held up well and none of my veggies were squished.

The gro-pak line of bags is made from recycled materials and replaces 8 plastic shopping bags per trip. They were created by women and 1% of the sales are invested in women entrepreneurs around the world via kiva.org. They pledge to keep 1 billion plastic bags off our streets this year. With many cities across the nation (and world) banning plastic bags, this great set will really help make shopping easier. Because it folds and stores easily, you can tuck it in your purse, when you leave the house and then you won't forget your bags in the car. Also, they are  washable, so when they get dirty, you can throw them in the washing machine, let them air dry and they will be ready to go for your next shopping trip!

BlueAvocado makes many other bags, as well as gro, a multi-use bag, and chill, a PVC-free insulated bag, that go along with this set, and Reuseit.com sells a ton of other functional and stylish bags and products to help make your travel and home shopping easier and eco-friendly. I am so thrilled with this set, that I'll be taking it with me on trips where I will be planning on hitting the grocery store. Also, my mom was so excited about it, she asked for a set for Christmas. 

So, if you have a environmentalist on your holiday list, this is great idea for them and reusable tote bags are an ideal alternative to gift wrap and traditional gift bags. You will be the most creative gift-giver at your exchange this year!

Please note: This review was sponsored by reuseit.com and they provided me with product; however, all opinions are 100% my own.

Don't forget about Small Business Saturday today:

I can help you shop Small. I consider myself a small business and if you want to get a copy (or three) of Shereen Travels Cheap, I’ll give you a code for 20% off! Purchase the book through my page on CreateSpace and use code BBGHV9F8 and purchase an ebook through Smashwords and use code CL73Z. I’ve already had several people I know buy two or more copies as holiday gifts, so I know travel is a great gift to give. These codes will be good through Cyber Monday (November 28).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shop “Local” on Small Business Saturday 11.23.11

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. You are encouraged to frequent independent stores, restaurants and other merchants. I try to do this as much as possible, at home and on vacation. Why should you stay, dine or shop local instead of sticking with brand names you know? Let’s talk about “Small Business” in relationship to travel and you can see how it correlates to your hometown. 

What are the advantages? There are so many, it’s hard to list them all, but I’ll definitely give you the biggest ones. See how it can save you money and immerse you in a new culture. When faced with new names and new places, I get a jolt of excitement, because I love new things. I want to stay somewhere cool and unlike other places I’ve stayed, eat new, delicious food and shop in family-owned stores that have totally unique merchandise. I know I’m much more adventurous than a lot of other people, but I think if you make the commitment to travel to new and exotic places and want to have a whole new experience, cut your ties with your normal life and psyche yourself up for doing something different and potentially life-changing.

I bring my comforts of home with me (travel blanket, Kindle, iPod, netbook), so if I need to just get back in my own familiar mode for a bit, I totally can when I get back to my room at the end of the day. Not sure you’ll love the food in a foreign land? That’s okay. Nobody else is either. Throw some snacks from home in your bag that you know you enjoy. It also helps when you’re walking around getting all that exercise and start to get a bit hungry in between meals. This happens to me all the time on vacation and I tend to want to eat all day long, so keeping a stash of goodies in my day bag is a good idea wherever I am.

Shop Local (or small). I’m sure you hear this all the time where you live. Shop local and support your local farmers, other workers and economy.  Makes sense. Shopping where you live can be beneficial to yourself and others in your community. Well, the same goes for travel. Shop local grocers, farmers markets and family-owned shops. Not only will you be helping the local economy thrive, but you’re also going to get better deals on local foods, engage with the locals, find authentic merchandise that is likely handmade or, at the very least, made in the area and go home with memories of the quaint stores you shopped in, instead of memories of wandering the endless aisles of a Wal-Mart (or similar).

I can help you shop Small this Saturday, too. I consider myself a small business and if you want to get a copy (or three) of Shereen Travels Cheap, I’ll give you a code for 20% off! Purchase the book through my page on CreateSpace and use code BBGHV9F8 and purchase an ebook through Smashwords and use code CL73Z. I’ve already had several people I know buy two or more copies as holiday gifts, so I know travel is a great gift to give. These codes will be good through Cyber Monday (November 28).

Eat Local. With the same premise as shopping local, eating local is even better. When you go out to have a nice meal, ask the people who live in the area that you come in contact with where they recommend. They aren’t going to point your towards McDonalds (I hope). Likely, they will send you to one of their favorite dining destinations that has local and, likely, more affordable fare. When people come to Portland and ask where a nice place to have dinner is, I don’t point them immediately to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, even though it’s delicious. I can’t afford to eat there, though, so I give them directions to places that I love to eat at, like Seasons & Regions, and can do so without having to save for three weeks. Travelers always appreciate suggestions for restaurants that are tasty and they don’t have at home. And just like with shopping, the food will probably be much more authentic than those that you see on the main street that cater to tourists.

Eating local also ensures that you find new and different foods. Those restaurants that have the local cuisine are going to be less expensive than others that have to order their food from other regions. If you’re visiting Germany, you’re always going to get a better price on German cuisine than if you went hunting for an Italian eatery. It just makes sense. Check out TopTable for listings of restaurants in the area you’ll be traveling. You can read reviews, book a table and get big discounts. You can also check out TripAdvisor and find diner reviews on hundreds of thousands of eateries worldwide.

Stay Local. I know this sounds odd, since you’re obviously going to stay local, but the point is that many chain hotels are still owned by other countries. You can also save money by not staying at big brand hotels, because the smaller ones have really competitive rates. Plus, many are more “traditional” to where they are located and can offer more personal service. While you probably won’t get a hotel with conference rooms and a gym, how many times have you ever used those things on vacation anyway? They still offer breakfasts, WiFi, pools and many other amenities you’re used to and will actually take advantage of. 

The employees of any hotel should be able to give you tips on where to eat, play and shop, but locally-owned hotels can give you the inside scoop and don’t get kick-backs for their suggestions. (Not all hotels do this, but many brand name hotels often get comped in some way for pointing hotel guests to certain establishments. Make sure to ask hotel workers that don’t work the front desk or concierge for their ideas, because they don’t have any affiliations.)

Choose carefully, just as you would any other lodging. You aren’t going in blindly, though. There are so many review sites to read up on hotels worldwide that it’s almost impossible to not find any reviews of almost any accommodation. Ask your friends and extended social network where they stayed when they went and then check out sites like TripAdvisor, Venere and Travelocity for traveler’s comments.

So again, shop, eat and stay small and local for these awesome reasons:
·                     Help the economy
·                     Get to know the locals
·                     Find more authentic food and merchandise
·                     Get immersed in the culture
·                     Try new things and find new favorites
·                     Get out of your “comfort zone”
·                     Eat where the locals do
·                     And, as always, save money

Your local shops and eateries will thank you, as well as all those independent merchants on your trips and you'll find brand-new places, food and things you may love that you will return to when you make it back to that destination. Small Business Saturday is waiting for you. Make it a Small Business Year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Go Dté Tú Slán to Ireland

I’ve been reading some of the great comments you’ve been posting on the book launch party on Facebook  which is still open until the end of the day if you want to join and enter to win a book copy  and I love the destinations readers are coming up with. Since I always want to show people how they can reach their travel goals, I have chosen Dublin to write about today. Those words in the title of this post are actually Gaelic for "May you go safely". Many people I’ve talked to have the desire to vacation in Ireland, and with it being so affordable to travel to, I’m surprised more people haven’t gone yet. Check out these ways to save getting there and sightseeing.

Get yourself a Dublin Pass. As always, I am recommending the city pass for those visiting Dublin. Not only is it a great deal if you plan to do a fair amount of sightseeing on the Emerald Isle, but it also it lets you skip the queues at the ticket booths. Your Dublin pass comes with an airport-city center transfer, entrance to over 30 top attractions, the Croke Park Experience (for those of you who are sports lovers), discounts on dining, shopping, etc. and even unlimited public transportation! Purchase online before you go to save 20% off. Your Dublin pass is valid for 12 months from purchase and “activates” upon your first use.

My Goodness My Guinness! Do you love Guinness like I do? How would you like a FREE pint? If you’re in Ireland, take a walk through the Guinness Factory and see how it’s made, enjoy a free pint at the end of your tour and take in all of Dublin from the 360 degree view in the Gravity Bar on top of the factory. Before you leave, make sure to stop into the visitor centre and museum to view old adverts and pick up some souvenirs. Here’s a good tip: purchase your entry ticket(s) online to bypass long queues and get 10% off (the not-so-cheap admission price of 14 Euros) or use a Dublin Pass that includes admission.

Do you prefer Jameson whiskey? You can take a distillery tour of their factory as well! Again, your tour ends with a good size “sample”. You can volunteer to do a taste-test, and if you are chosen it includes 3 Irish whiskeys, a Scotch whiskey and an American Whiskey and then a fancy diploma saying you took the taste test. Take a trip through the gift shop and buy a nice bottle for the rest of your trip or send some home for you, family or friends. The tour lasts about an hour and the distillery is open 7 days a week, but you can make reservations online and save 15% off the admission price of 13.5 Euros.

It might take a bit of luck to find a great deal on travel, but if you know what you’re doing – or you have me! – then it’s not so much luck as it is brains. Leprechauns are known to be crafty little guys, but you can outsmart them by turning the tables and not letting them find your pot of gold. In other words, don’t part with everything in your wallet trying to find them. Instead, find big savings with these great travel sales.

Sceptre Tours has Europe on sale. Tour packages generally include round-trip airfare, hotel and car. 

  • Save $400 off a 4-night Dublin getaway from New York. Book by November 30 for winter travel starting at $559 per person. More departure cities available. Add the Ultimate Dublin Experience for $99 more per person which includes a 3-day Dublin Pass, 1-day Hop-on Hop-off Dublin Bus Pass and Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. 
  • Explore the Ireland countryside for $799 per person. Stay 1 night at the Ritz-Carlton, 4 nights at a B&B, 1 night at the Academy Plaza hotel, a weekly rental car, round-trip airfare, a Glimpse of Ireland discount book and a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory.
  • Save $900 off a 5-star 6-night vacation. Spend 2 nights in each of 3 hotels (including the Ashford Castle) in each Wicklow, Clare and Ashford. Drive yourself to each amazing destination in your rental car and enjoy the diversity of Ireland.

Groupon wants to you stay in Ireland for cheap! Groupon Travel offers one or three night stay for two from £19 at choice of UK or mainland European hotels with Holiday Plus. You have your choice of over 1,600 3- to 5-star hotels.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Be a Travel Winner 11.16.11

While everyone is making plans for Thanksgiving and stressing out over making dinner and spending time with family, I thought it would be fun to bring you some great giveaways you can enter and dream about getting away from it all. The best budget travel is free budget travel, so buy a couple of bottles of wine to get through Thanksgiving and cross your fingers that you win one of these awesome vacations.

I can’t do a giveaway post without listing my own giveaway here first. Do you want to win a copy of my fabulous budget travel book and also a $100 credit for BookIt.com? Well, why wouldn’t you? Join my online book launch party on Facebook and comment on the event. The topic: Where have you always wanted to travel, but haven’t made it to yet?  I love hearing about everyone’s travel dreams. Saturday will be the last day to “enter” and then a winner will be chosen from those who’ve commented, using Random.org. Make sure to share with your friends to help me get my book info out to a wider circle.

Win a trip to Australia to watch the Australian Open of Surfing, sponsored by Hurley and Billabong. It takes place on Manly Beach in Sydney February 11-19, 2012. Winner will receive a trip for two to Sydney, including round-trip airfare, accommodations, VIP passes to the Australian Open, $500 Hurley shopping spree and $1,000 in spending cash.

Air New Zealand would like to spread the word of their new LA to London route, by giving away a trip to London from Los Angeles. If you win, you’ll get round-trip airfare for two and two 3-day London Passes. It does not include accommodations, but you get access to over 55 attractions with your London Pass, so you’ll save a ton by having airfare and activities paid for.

Enter to win a 4 day, 3 night trip to Walt Disney World, where you will stay in a Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotel, get breakfast each morning and transportation to all Disney theme parks.

Tucan Travel wants you to join their Facebook page and win credit to take one of their tours. They offer hundreds of group tours, packages and even cruises that are luxury quality at affordable prices. When you win, you can choose your OWN vacation.

One of my favorite magazines, Travel + Leisure, really knows travel. Subscribe (or don’t) to enter for a chance to win a Spain and Venice dream vacation worth $25,000, sponsored by American Express. I do recommend T+L if you are on the fence about subscribing. It’s a fantastic travel resource. I find all the great places I want to vacation in and also find some fun places to splurge on for dining.

Every day you can enter to win a family cruise for four from Frigo Cheese. 5 entrants will win a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Choose from sailing on Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas or Freedom of the Seas ships in 2 double-occupancy staterooms.

MTV and Dove want you to party on the island of Ibiza, Spain for 5 awesome nights for you and 2 friends. Win 3 round-trip tickets to Ibiza, accommodations in a first-class hotel and $500 spending money.

Choose your own destination with the Chicago Tribune and Navy Pier’s Passport sweepstakes. You and a companion will win round-trip tickets to a destination American Airlines flies to which could be in Latin America, London, the continental United States, Beijing, Caribbean and more. You’ll be responsible for the rest of your expenses.

Upload an original photo that says “Hi to Taiwan” and win a trip to Taiwan worth $3,300. You photo will be available on the site for you to send your friends to and vote for you to win! Three teams will win this grand prize.
Pin It button on image hover