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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Getting Your Daily Five 12.31.11

We’re talking fruits and veggies people! With the holidays winding down, I’ve realized that everything I’ve been eating this past week has not been the healthiest. As I had just ordered a fajita quesadilla at a local Mexican restaurant, I started thinking about getting back on track with my nutrition. This is the same problem I always have on vacation, even right now when I’m not actually traveling anywhere. I’m sure I can’t be the only one, since the number one resolution is to eat better and get in shape. With so much goodness available, it’s hard to say no and choose something healthier than everything on the menu that looks SO DELICIOUS.

Amazingly, it’s not hard to work fruits and vegetables into your travel diet. Think of it as your mission each day. Make it fun. Try new foods in order to get them incorporated into your meals. So, how to do it on a budget? Believe it or not, it’s not that hard.

Farmers’ Markets are where it’s at! I love an open-air market, whether it showcases antiques, handmade goods, vintage clothing, food or all of the above. Markets that sell food are fantastic, because they have super fresh, local produce. Usually you can try new foods at fantastic prices and not even realize how much goodness you’ve eaten. When in Hawaii this year, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and picked up a big bag of fabulous new fruits, like dragon fruit, apple bananas, papaya and coconut. Not like I’ve never had papaya or coconut, but I never buy it at the store and just cut it up and eat it. But seriously, dragon fruit? How can you pass up trying that? And yes, I said apple banana. It’s a banana that kinda tastes like an apple. Intriguing!

Eat local. Local is almost always cheaper. If traveling in a foreign country, look for restaurant signs written in the local language (assuming you aren’t in an English-speaking country). If you can’t find something like that, just go a bit off the main path and look for the busy dining establishments. If it’s packed, you know it’s delicious!

Go shopping. Always have a stash of fresh items on hand. The first thing I do when I arrive at my destination is scope out the nearest grocery store. I also bring my own reusable shopping bags(s), because they are so useful for things besides food. We stock up on diet soda, bottled water and fast and easy foods that can be eaten in the room or on the go, like granola bars, bananas, apples and whatever local snack I’ve never seen before and must try, or treats I’ve had before, but usually can’t find at home. Jaffa Cakes anyone?

Order an appetizer. Want something not so great for you? Order it as an appetizer or two and then split a healthier entrée with a travel companion. You can do it the opposite, too. If you find something totally divine on the menu, then order a salad to start or something chock-full of veggies, like a crudité plate, stuffed mushrooms or similar. Now, I know stuffed mushrooms aren’t the best for you, but they are mushrooms! Get creative, but don’t try to justify how baked potato skins are actually a vegetable. As wonderful as they are, you might as well just eat a deep fried stick of butter.

Look for vegetarian restaurants. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, it doesn’t mean you won’t find anything to your liking, plus all veggies! I am a fan of many a vegetarian dish. In fact, I sometimes buy vegetarian meats at home, like the awesome products from Quorn. I love, love, love their cranberry and goat cheese chik’n cutlet. So yum! Also, have you ever tried a soy ham and cheese sandwich? You can’t even tell it’s not ham. If they can make h’am taste like ham, then I think they make almost any vegetable taste awesome.

Hopefully, these tips will help you eat better and feel better when you make it back home. Eating healthfully on vacation can give you the motivation to continue to do so once you get home. In the next week, in keeping with New Year's resolutions, we'll be talking about how you can take an exercise program with you on vacation.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Post: The jewel Of Northern Italy: Lake Como

Today's guest post comes to us from Shane Mcc from NationalRVParks. Doesn't this make you want to visit Italy?

Any trip to Northern Italy should include a visit to Lake Como. It is a popular tourist destination because of its fresh air, water, mountains and great weather. This lake is so beautiful that many celebrities like George Clooney, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone and Gianni Versace  have purchased property there.  It has also served as the setting for movies including the Stars Wars.  Its appeal is truly legendary.

Como Photos
This photo of Como is courtesy of TripAdvisor

My family, which includes my mother, father, brother and I, traveled to this pristine area of Northern Italy in October 2011 as a side trip while we were visitng Milan.  Lake Como is in close proximity to Milan, Italy. It is easily accessed by train from Stazione Centrale in downtown Milan.  It takes about 45 minutes to arrive. We left on a quiet Sunday afternoon in mid October.

St. Marks

After a short walk from the main train station called San Giovanni, we gazed open-mouthed at a vast expanse of clear, glass-like, calm water and almost in unison, a smile appeared on our faces. We all knew immediately why this area of Northern ltaly is so popular.

Santa Maria Dellfiore
The town of Como was our starting point to tour the lake.  It has various docks where boats are available for transportation to other towns on the lake.  The lake itself, is shaped like an inverted "Y", and is rimmed by small village-like towns that each have a dock for easy boarding and unboarding. 

Statue of David

These towns are rustic and quaint.  A visit to any of them is the quintessential Lake Como experience.  Towns like Tremezzo, where the gorgeous Villa Carlotta is a must see  attraction, Mennaggio, with its small wine bars, gelatarias, and cafes, and, Bellagio, the "pearl of the lake" are all worthy of a  visit. 

Bellagio, in particular, was the most appealing for us.  We had lunch at a small trattoria situated along the lakeside.  I particularly remember a gentle breeze, soft sunshine and a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains accompanying our bottle of Pinot Grigio and bruschetta. A pleasant lago di Como memory that i will always treasure. An interesting note is that the little town of Bellagio was Steve Wynn's, the well known Las Vegas impresario,  inspiration for the  Bellagio Hotel, the centerpiece of the  famous Las Vegas Strip. The essence of an old Italian villagio comes to life in its buccolic surroundings.  Bellagio is known as the "Pearl" of the Lake. Our visit to Bellagio will be incentive enough for us to come back.

Photos of Bellagio Water Taxis, Bellagio

This photo of Villa del Balbienella is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Bellagio also is the home of another must see attraction;  the Villa Balbienello (the location of the famous Star Wars wedding scene).  Its meticulously maintained grounds and its old world Italian architecture are of particular note.  

There are many other sleepy little towns and villages worthy of a visit on the Lake.  If you are fortunate enough to spend a few days there, you can really get a chance to explore and enjoy  Lago di Como . The only mistake that you can make about visiting Lake Como is not making plans to return. Please, take some time to view some photos taken of our perfect lake Como sojourn.

Make sure to visit Shane at NationalRVParks, follow him on Twitter or join him on Facebook. [All photos above are courtesy of Shane Mcc, unless otherwise noted.]

Looking for some budget options for your trip to Lake Como? Check out these funky activities: 

Villa Balbianello - True Star Wars fans make the pilgrimage to Lenno to view the famous wedding spot. Heck, it's even available for weddings, but that's not the budget part. For only a few euro per person, you can take a water taxi over to Lenno and for €5 you can view gardens of the villa and for €11 you can gain entry into the villa and gardens.

Funicular Railway - Want to see the best views of Como? Well, for just  € 5.10 you can get a round-trip ticket on the railway, built in 1894, to Brunate. Amazing views of the Alps and Como. Make sure you bring your walking shoes, or else catch the bus to the lookout and lighthouse. For €20 you can get a return ticket and dinner. Choose from a variety of restaurants participating in the promotion. Allow for enough time to explore the village of Brunate and take pictures.

Villa Carlotta - Love plants and flowers? Then this is a fun place for you to visit. See over 500 varieties for €9 at this luxurious palace build in the 1600's. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the gardens or have a quick bite at the coffee house.

Jungle Raider Park - Starting at just €10, you can choose one of five courses (or a combination of them) and zip line, traverse rope bridges and other awesome outdoor amusements that test your skills and get you out in the fresh air.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Corner Office 12.28.11

The corner office has long been the dream of executives everywhere. Why? Because it is bigger and has twice as much "view". What does this have to do with travel? Well, if you book in advance to stay in a hotel, you too could live the corner "office" fantasy.

Replace the word 'office' with the word 'room' and you have the holy grail of hotel rooms. The corner room offers a better value for your money, because you pay the same price as the other similar rooms in the building, but you get more square footage and your room is brighter, because it features windows on two walls instead of just one. If you face the ocean, this room is coveted by all. Sometimes, if you're lucky, there is an extra wide balcony or possibly TWO. When you book early, you can put in a request for this sought after room. The further in advance you book, the more likely you are to claim it. You can up your chances by checking in mid-week or staying in the off- or shoulder-season. Remember that you can usually save money by traveling during these times, too, because hotels have empty rooms they are trying to fill, so they drop their rates to make it more enticing to book.

Want to save more and get more for your money? Here are a few tricks:

Stay where they offer free breakfast. This is obvious how it helps you save. Breakfast is one of the least expensive meals to make, yet they charge as much as they do for lunch at a majority of restaurants. $8-12 for two eggs and toast? Why not save that money to have a delicious lunch or cut down on your budget? The more people in your travel party, the more you save!

Take those lobby freebies. You know when you walk through the lobby a billion times during your trip and see that basket of fruit next the coffee pot? Those are free snacks! Grab an apple, orange or banana on your way out and when you find yourself hungry in between meals, pull it out of your bag instead if stopping to get a candy bar or bag of chips somewhere it's "convenient". You'll feel more healthy and get in a nutritious snack...unless the freebies are cookies, which isn't bad either, especially when you didn't quite have enough room for dessert after dinner. 

Find lobby coupons. Almost all hotels have a stand with brochures for activities and city attractions magazines. You can find a whole mess of discounts in them for dining, shopping, activities and more. From free dessert to BOGO theme park tickets, you can  save a bundle. Woohoo!

Go out to eat instead of calling room service. When you order from the room service menu, you end up spending almost twice as much as you would if you went out to a normal sit-down restaurant. Between the hopped up price they charge for each a la cart item, the tip they include for someone to walk it to the elevator and to your room and then the extra tip they trick people into leaving  when they ask them to sign for it and they see that tip line there. If you REALLY don't want to go out, call for a pizza.

Stock up on snacks. This is my specialty. I love shopping for snacks and having a variety of things to nosh on. they save you from buying a bunch of crap when you are hungry for something in between meals and you also have something on hand once you've retired to your hotel room for the evening. 

Do you specifically ask for a corner room or save on your room and/or dining in other ways?

*    *    *
So, Christmas and Hanukkah have come and gone and you didn't get a copy of Shereen Travels Cheap in your stocking or under the tree? Bummed out? Well, don't be. You can buy one yourself, and at a discount, too! Sign up for my newsletter and instantly get 20% off codes for the book at my online store and the digital version through Smashwords. (If you already subscribe, email me and I'll send you those codes.)

What's in it and why is it so cool? Well, for starters, you are getting over 200 pages of money saving travel tips, packing tricks, websites that will make your travel planning easier and cheaper, awesome gadgets and items that will get you excited to go on vacation, just so you can use them, plus personal anecdotes and travel stories. Find all the useful stuff that you've read in the blog, and a lot more than you won't ever find here, and have it all in one place in a handy-dandy reference book. 

Heck, don't take my word for it. Here's what other lovely people have to say:

"The book is organized so that you can check the table of contents and flip right to what you need, but it's also interesting enough to be read straight through. It's a travel tip book that reads like a novel!" – Allison Renner, Travel & Book Blogger

"A Goldmine of Information!" – Java Davis, Book Blogger

"Dense with information and completely thorough, Shereen Travels Cheap compiles a huge range of useful budgeting travel tips. Even though I have traveled extensively, many of the tips and recommended sites were new to me! Her guide covers the insider tips I never knew I needed and is the first place to start when planning a budget vacation where you hope to get a lot of bang for your buck." – Shannon O'Donnell, Travel Blogger

"I'm fairly obsessive about getting good travel deals, but I still hadn't heard of all these sites. Shereen is good at focusing on 'value' and not just headline costs." – Rachel Cotterill, Travel & Book Blogger

"I'm already a pretty cheap traveler (so many sofas! so many dicey hostels!) and even I learned a thing or two from this book! Shereen makes travel cheap without making it uncomfortable or intimidating." – Sarah of Yesandyes.org, Lifestyle & Travel Blogger

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays (in pictures)

Happy Holidays to everyone. I thought I'd take a moment to share some Christmas photos from various places.

Our neighborhood tree
Streets of London all dolled up

Cinderella's winter castle
Santa's house at Disneyland
It's a "small world" Christmas
The Grinch is pretty happy here at Universal Hollywood

Our office tree, now that you can see it without all the food donations.
Our tree at home
Whatever you celebrate, I hope you are having a great holiday with your friends and family.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Experience Spanish Island Life in Mallorca 12.24.11

Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate!

Spain has long been on my travel wish list, and in recent months I’ve been learning more and more about the island of Mallorca (or Majorca) from some of my favorite blogs, including Glampacker. With winter in full swing, I'm also thinking about warm and inviting destinations where one could get away from the chill. If you plan a visit to Spain, you can easily hop over to this Balearic Island. You have probably only heard of the party island of Ibiza, which seems to be a hang-out for the rich and famous. With amazing oceanic views and beautiful white sandy beaches, Mallorca is a fantastic tropical getaway for everyone, yet also has beautiful mountains and quaint cities and villages, making it a Mediterranean locale not to miss. It makes a convenient vacation destination for Europeans, especially, but it's certainly unique for those that travel from further away.

While over 10 million tourists flock to Mallorca every year, many wanting to soak up some sun while lying on the beach, there are plenty of ways to beat the crowds. Since the British have found how awesome the isle of Mallorca is, high-rise hotels have sprung up all over the island, which is great for those that like to be in the middle of it all, but for those that like a quieter stay, a vacation rental is probably more what you are looking for. I'm always looking for ways to save money and also have a different view of the city I'm staying in. A vacation rental is a good way to do that, since you can make some of your own meals, have your own space and feel like you live at your destination. You can find some affordable rentals through HomeAway and Venere. Choose from villas, vacation homes (for a larger travel group), apartments and country houses. You're sure to find something that suits you and your travel companions or family.

You can also find some wonderful Majorca hotels that are budget-friendly in the old quarter, where it is less crowded and close to great museums and dining. The majority of monuments are located in this medieval part of the city, including the Cathedral La Seu, Almudaina Palace and the Parc de la Mar.

If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry, many tourist areas also speak/understand English, German and French (as well as other European languages), making it an easy vacation destination to travel around in. The bus is affordable and can get you everywhere you're looking to go on the island.

Here are some pretty cool things I found to do on the island that are also budget-friendly:

Travel back in time on the wooden Sóller Train from Palma de Mallorca to Sóller. For less than 20 euro per person, you can take a 2 hour train ride that takes you to Sóller and back, through mountains, orange, lemon and olive groves and other amazing landscapes that will delight you. Sóller offers up unique shopping, museums and open-air markets on Saturdays. The city is walkable and full of beautiful architecture. It makes a wonderful day trip and it is said you should bring an insulated bag to bring back all the delicious food that can be found.

Visit a real castle for less than $5 per person. Bring a picnic lunch and take a bit of a hike to get to Bellver Castle, a 14th century gothic-style castle overlooking the town of Palma and the harbor. For 2.50 €, you can view almost the entire castle and museum. On Sundays and public holidays you can get in for free; however, the exhibition rooms and museum will be unavailable. I think the admission fee is worth seeing more, but that's because I'm pretty sure it has a gift shop in the museum, and I love a gift shop! Not like the museum itself isn't worth the fee, too.

Walk the harbor and admire the fancy yachts. While you probably don't have the money to charter one, you can look at them for free. If you're lucky, you might meet and make friends with a rich owner and get taken out. Brush up on your compliments and dazzle them with your charming wit! I'm not saying it'll work, but it never hurts to try.

See all the wonderful sites of the city on the hop-on hop-off trolley, one of the best deals in sightseeing at under $20 per person. The bus departs from many destinations every 20-25 minutes. There are 16 stops, which include Antonio Maura, Pl Joan Carles I, La Rambla, Pl España, Av. Alexander Rosello, Av. Gabriel Alomar i Villalonga, Passeig Maritim Poble Espanyol, Castell de Bellver, Pl Gomila, Av. Joan Miro (C.C. Porto Pi), Estacio Marítima, Av.Gabriel Roca (Auditórium), Pl. Porta de Santa Catalina (Es Baluard), Av. Jaume III and Moll Comercial. Get on at any of the stops and get off to see more of each stop anywhere along the way. Your ticket is good for 24 hours from your first use.

If the beach isn't your scene and you're willing to splurge (a bit) on a day of fun, Aqualand Water Park might be more your speed. Tickets run 24.00 € per adult (16.00 € for children 3 and up), but that is for an all-day pass and unlimited use of their water slides, beaches, lazy river and mini park for children. If you purchase your tickets online, you can save 10% off. Doesn't that guy on the Anaconda look like he's having a terrific time? You never even have to leave the park, because if you get hungry, you can eat at any of the snack bars or the restaurant on-site. They have a wide variety of food to choose from. Free parking, a photo processing lab and gift shop(!) add to the enticement. Don't forget to bring your sunscreen, so you don't look like a lobster like I did last time I went to a water park.

Find more awesome things to do on the Majorca Travel Guide, look to DoHop to find budget airlines to get to the island and check out the top rated restaurants on Trip Advisor for some delicious eats. Mediterranean fare and seafood can be found everywhere. Since it's local, it can also be super affordable. Tapas anyone? I hear they have them everywhere and are fabulous!

This is a sponsored post, as I was asked to write about Mallorca and all its awesomeness and was compensated for my efforts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting Your Vacation Beauty Sleep 12.21.11

Happy Hanukkah to those of you that celebrate!

Are you stressing out about the holidays? Well, then let's talk about how to relax and decompress with sleep. When traveling, you are probably getting way more exercise than normal, which is great, but can also tire you out faster, because you are go-go-go and eventually that “check out this awesome thing!” adrenaline rush is going to fade. You’re going to want to recharge your batteries by getting a good 40 winks. Or more. More is always good. You don’t want to come back from vacation looking more tired than when you left, do you? Of course not! Being a self-proclaimed master sleeper, I have many tips for you. Even though I can probably sleep curled up in chair with a jackhammer going across the street, I also know of ways to get quality sleep.

Living with someone who is a light sleeper, I have become a little more sympathetic to the plight of the insomniac. As a teenager, I often would be kept awake by sleeplessness until 3, 4 or even 5 in the morning. Luckily, getting by on only a few hours of sleep was never an issue and I got to watch a lot of Letterman, Beavis & Butthead and NSFW music videos as I was passing the time. I’m not sure that’s really a plus, but I was extremely up-to-date on pop culture in the early to mid-nineties. I can tell you that. Now that I’m older, I can safely say that any night where I only get 2-3 hours of sleep is going to make for a cranky and unpleasant day. In short, I NEED to recharge. And so do you. At home or traveling, rest is super important.

Keep your immune system strong – Yes, not getting enough sleep can make you sick! It’s happened to me at home and on the road and I DO NOT recommend it. Go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep in if you can. Or take a short nap in the middle of the day. Power naps are totally refreshing and awesome. If you plan an evening of drinking and/or dancing that you know will take you into the wee hours, plan a low-key day following, or you will be angry when the alarm goes off at the crack of dawn for you to get ready to go on a tour or get to the amusement park or whatever else. Trust me.
Get a sleep mask – Now, even though I can sleep for five hours on an airplane using my sweater as a pillow with a child screaming bloody murder two rows away (yes, this actually happened), the sun makes me mad at 5 or 6am. Also, there are a LOT of hotels that have curtains the thickness of gauze or can’t figure out how to get their window coverings to actually cover the whole window. And somehow, that 2 inch gap always ends up letting sunlight stream in right in your eyes! Seriously, this is a huge problem. You could sleep in the bathroom and still have that crazy bright light blinding you at daybreak. If you can’t sleep with an eye mask, travel with some binder clips or cover the flimsy curtains with all the towels they give you in the bathroom. This may present a whole new problem though, especially if you take your showers in the evening.
Bring something from home – It doesn’t have to be something big, and this works very well for little ones traveling with you, but a pillow case, travel blanket, baby blanket that packs well and you can’t live without, your teddy bear…whatever. If it helps you sleep and it doesn’t take up the whole suitcase, bring it. I like to take my husband, because sleeping alone makes it hard for me to fall asleep. It also helps that he’s my travel partner, entertains me and keeps me warm at night! He is not available on loan…

Ear Plugs – Living with a snorer taught me a few things: Breath-right strips do not work for the hard-core snorer, neither does a mouth-guard or kicking them repeatedly. Well, that does work, but it makes for a nasty middle-of-the-night conversation. And because you can’t force your partner/roommate/next door neighbor to sleep all night in the one position that makes them, miraculously, sleep quietly, I invested in ear plugs. Not just any ear plugs will do, though, because if you want to sleep through construction, child wailing, police sirens and that guy that thinks he has to use his leaf-blower at 7am, then you want to run up to your nearest drugstore or jump on Amazon and get yourself a pair of Hearos. Yup, you read that correctly. (Also, if that child wailing is from your own child, possibly it would be good to see if they need some help.) Hearos mold to your ear, so they don’t fall out if you roll over, and they are made of a material that actually muffles noise. I once slept through my alarm, which while inconvenient for me having to go to work on time, shows you that I don’t lie when I say they are the only ones that I would ever buy.

Pack some Sleepy Time tea or cocoa – Do you have problems winding down from your super fun day riding Space Mountain 182 times? Before you leave home, try a few different nighttime teas and then pack your favorite. They are portable and will make your evenings a lot more chill, even though they are hot. If tea is not your thing, or your child screws up their face at even the mere mention of it, look for decaf cocoa. Unfortunately, Hershey no longer sells their Goodnight Hugs hot chocolate that was super awesome in every way, but you can find other brands on the market. If not, warm milk may work, too. I have never tried this though, because I feel like milk is meant to be refrigerated for a reason.

Skip or seriously limit the alcohol – While you may (think you) sleep like a rock when you had a handful, or more, of drinks in you, it is not going to be quality sleep and you’re going to wake up feeling like someone just threw the bottles at your head. If you go out to a bar, pub, nightclub or friend’s house to have a drink, make sure you don’t overdo it and have five drinks. One or two is more than enough and will keep you from getting all judgment-impaired and head-throbby in the morning. Also, it’s never smart to be drunk in a strange place. I’m not saying that what happened in Hostel could actually happen, I’m just saying staying clear-headed is probably a good way to make sure it is less likely to happen. More probable will be that you make an a** of yourself in the middle of the street and get arrested…and, depending on where you are traveling, might be just as bad.
Sleep in a lavender field – Okay, not really, but you can simulate one by getting lovely lavender spray that you can spritz on your pillow. It’s calming and will send you off to dreamland fairly quickly if you just need a little push. Or this fun little sachet that fits inside your pillow can do the job.

Get a foot rub ­– This works a lot better if you have a willing travel companion (and you offer to reciprocate). Achy feet can make you crabby and also make it hard to sleep. Bring along a small tube of peppermint foot lotion (or buy some at your destination) and use it to refresh and invigorate your tootsies. The peppermint tingles and cools, making your feet feel almost as good as new and helping you feel less stressed and achy, allowing you to slip off to dreamland a little easier. Plus, when you wake up, you won’t have lingering pains that make even the trek to the bathroom make you relive your foot horror from the day(s) before.

Take a bath – Do you like a relaxing bath? A lot of people do. Imagine how calming you’ll feel if you fill the tub with some bubbles* or bath salts and warm water and soak for 20+ minutes. Read a magazine, listen to some music, chat with your significant other. Whatever it is that will help you unwind. A shower works, too, if your lodging doesn’t have a tub, just know that it probably won’t be as effective. [*If you generally bring shower gel with you, you can use that as bubble bath as well.]  

Don’t eat everything for dinner – When you’re on vacation, if you’re like me, you get excited over new food and want to try everything. Fine, sample and know that either you can take what you don’t eat with you or, if you are in a country that doesn’t allow that, split those things with travel companions, so you all eat a reasonable amount of food. Going to bed on a full stomach can sometimes be impossible. If not, then it can lead to weird dreams and interrupted sleep. If you want to eat a ton of food, do it for lunch and feel normal by bedtime.

Lay off the caffeine – If you are one of those people that get all hopped up on caffeine and it takes forever to leave your system, maybe a good choice for you is to just go decaf from a particular time of day on.

Read – Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read before bed. Of course, now I have gotten out of the habit, because I want to see what the secret ingredient on Iron Chef is and how they use it to make ice cream, but when I travel, it’s a whole different ball game. I always have a book and I read in much of my spare time (that isn’t taken up with uploading photos or answering emails). Reading totally relaxes me and helps me get ready snuggle down in the covers and think about what I just read until I doze off.

Limit electronic time – Bloggers are total electronic-aholics, but even I know that it’s not a good thing to be plugged in all the time. I try to do as much blog work as I can before my vacation starts, so I can just enjoy having time off. Spending hours with your Nintendo or iPad or laptop or TV can take its toll sometimes. It makes your eyes tired and can give you a headache. You don’t want to go to sleep because you feel crummy. Also, if I’m playing a game on my DS, I find that I want to continue playing and not go to sleep. Just one more level! I’m the grown up equivalent of your child begging for 5 more minutes. Unfortunately, that means I can do whatever I want and it’s usually not the good choice I make staying up until 2am trying to figure out how to solve Professor Layton’s newest puzzles.

If all else fails, try drugs – We aren’t talking hard-core, buy it on the street from some sketchy guy wearing a baseball cap and hoody, standing in an alleyway telling you he’s “got the good stuff”. Try something more your speed, like Tylenol PM or Nytol (they still have that, right?). Make sure you don’t get no-name sleeping pills, or you will be awake until 4am before it starts to work and then you’ll be dead to the world until noon. Trust me. Also, I think it’s best to test these out at home first. You don’t want to get there and find out they don’t work at all or worse, they work too well. Take them on a Friday night, so you don’t have to worry about missing work or Saturday morning cartoons.

Are you a sleep-challenged traveler? How do you cope?
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