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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Beach in Winter 11.28.12

Here in Portland we don’t get a lot of sun, even outside of Winter. Much of the time you go to the beach, you still have to wear long sleeves or a rain jacket. Going to the beach can be super-relaxing and gives your body much-needed vitamins. Mostly I like to go to the beach to walk along the sand and then go shopping, but my husband likes to go and attempt to swim, then run back and lie in whatever sun there might be, which usually isn’t much. So, instead of wasting 3 hours driving to and from the beach, we have found a new way to visit the beach throughout the whole year: salt caves.

Salt caves are rooms that are made of salt from the Dead Sea. The floor is covered in salt and feels like walking on the beach. The salt is a natural ionizer, which pulls impurities out of the air and the minerals permeate the air to help cure ailments like eczema, acne, allergies and respiratory issues like asthma. A regular session is 45-50 minutes and is the equivalent of 3 days at the beach. What a great way to soak up all that goodness in a short amount of time!

Yep. I still wear my sunglasses in the dark :)
You go in and sit in a lounge chair and they turn down the lights for you to relax. Generally, there are only a few people in the room at a time, and in some places, you can have your own cave to yourself. I spend my time blogging on my phone and, even though I’m technically working, it allows me to concentrate and unwind at the same time. You can sit in the salt if you want or just dig your toes in (as you remove your shoes before entering).

Eric naps in the salt cave
They keep the room comfortable, so it’s almost like being at the beach. It is suggested that you wear loose clothing in order to get the full effects of the salty air. This allows you to wear warm weather gear to give you the beachiest experience. After you leave you will feel completely relaxed and after several visits you may start to feel the difference. I have naturally oily skin, but found it evened out after my visits. I also felt like I breathed a bit better – being a lifelong sufferer of allergies. Even if you aren’t trying to relieve any ailments, a salt cave visit can be cheaper than the beach and can also be found in places where there is no beach. It’s like a mini vacation! Look for one in your area.

If you’ve visited a salt cave before, did you feel like it was worth the money?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Surviving Holiday Travel Ebook 11.24.12

Congratulations to all of our winners in the Best of the Best Holiday Travel Giveaway!

Today, if you haven't heard, is Small Business Saturday. It's your chance to help small businesses by shopping with them. Shopping small is the best way to help the economy and keep the family-owned businesses going. I know many of you did your part yesterday for Black Friday and getting deals. Well, I'm contributing to the deals today by offering a ton of my best travel tips for the holidays in an ebook. It's over 50 pages of ways to save money and your sanity over the holidays while traveling. There are tips on renting cars, getting the best prices on hotel rooms, saving on airfare, how to pack, what to pack, how to get free travel and ideas for gifts that won't have you stuffing a big suitcase and checking it to your destination. That's not even all!

You probably think this ebook loaded with tips is priceless, but I'm offering it for 99 cents! As an added bonus, this book comes with cold weather packing lists that can be viewed and also downloaded  to your computer for use over and over. I've aimed to arm you with all the information you'll need to make the most of your budget and also save as much as possible so you don't have to choose between that yearly trip you want to take and visiting your family over the holidays.  

You can purchase it and download it immediately on Amazon. Save hundreds for less than a dollar! How can you pass it up? How to Survive Holiday Travel on a Budget

What do you hate most about traveling during the holidays?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Doing Disney on a Budget 11.21.12

Today, I’d like to talk about getting the most out of your money on your Disneyland adventure, making the most of your time in the parks and share with you some rockin’ deals to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Even though I know Disneyland the best, I can’t fault anyone for choosing WDW, with their massive amounts of parks and new variety of rides, shows and parades. Please keep your arms, legs and hands inside the blog at all times. Remain seated until the blog comes to a complete stop. Thank you.

Disneyland may not be a huge entity in size, but it makes up for it in awesomeness. With over 50 rides and attractions between Disneyland and California Adventure, there’s no shortage of things to hold your attention for several days at a time. It’s also great that they are within throwing distance of one another and if you feel yourself dying of hunger on that long 100 yard walk between the two, you can veer into Downtown Disney to sit and refresh before journeying on.

Disneyland Paris Photos

This photo of Disneyland Paris is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As far as acreage goes, Disneyland Paris (formerly known as EuroDisney) is very similar to Disneyland in California. They have some different rides and different takes on the same rides, like Space MountainMission 2 where you actually go upside down. You get Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, which is also converted into a roller coaster (and awesome!) and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which is mostly the same, except for the giant animatronic dragon that breathes fire in the dungeon!

Photos of Walt Disney Studios Park, Marne-la-Vallee

This photo of Walt Disney Studios Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Instead of California Adventure and Downtown Disney, they have equivalents called Walt Disney Studios Park and Disney Village. Walt Disney Studios is more “Hollywood” themed and is closer to the feel of Hollywood Studios in Orlando. The rides and shows are a mash-up between Hollywood Studios and California Adventure and are enough to keep you entertained for most, if not all, of the day.

Disneyland Paris Photos

This photo of Disneyland Paris is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We weren’t sure if we would get the same experience at Disneyland Paris, but I will say that we were pleasantly surprised. I do wish we had more time, so we plan a return trip in the future, where we will stay at one of the Disney resorts that offers a great package plan and includes shuttle service throughout the day. In fact, the packages they offer are hard to pass up, because in between the hotel locations, free transportation to and from the parks and discount by bundling the hotel and park tickets together, you would be LOSING money if you stayed in Paris and took the Metro in each day, even if you had a rockin’ deal at a hotel in the city. Normally, I’m not one to jump on the Disney hotel package bandwagon, but Disneyland Paris is really the exception. The exchange rate doesn’t impede on the bargain either and, since most resort rooms are equipped with bunk beds, it’s even better if you go as a family.  Now, if only Disney properties in the States could figure out how to make their rates work to our advantage…It probably helps that Disneyland Paris is located in a town in the French countryside, a 30 minute train ride outside of Paris, called Marne-Le-Vallee.

Disney World Photos

This photo of Disney World is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Walt Disney World is a city unto itself. It claims to reside in Orlando, but in reality, Walt bought a plot of land so large that all of the resorts and theme parks belong to a “city” called Lake Buena Vista. It is virtually impossible to get around between the different parks and any non-Disney-owned hotels without a car here. I wish it wasn’t true, but I’ve now done Orlando both with a car and without and without was a right nightmare. While there are free shuttles to the parks from each outlying hotel, they aren’t hotel operated and they only travel from each hotel once (or maybe) twice a day and come back the same amount. Once you get to the parks, you can use Disney transportation to go in between the parks and it is very easy. Now, I don’t know if the shuttles operate more frequently in the on-season (namely: Summer), but any other time, when it is cheaper to travel and less crowded, you are stuck to the schedule of each shuttle…and don’t get me started on the city bus trying to go anywhere off the main street. If you plan to leave before each park opens each morning and spend the entire day there and then leave right after closing, then the shuttles will work for you. If you have something else planned, or are planning on visiting any of the Orlando theme parks that aren’t Disney, get a rental car. It will also end up saving you money over the cab/shuttle fee to and from the airport in the end.

So, how else can you save besides getting a rental car and buying a Paris package?
·        Purchase a park-hopper ticket. These can save you money over buying individual day tickets and you can use the same one over the course of your visit. They just scan your fingerprint now, instead of the old school way they did it before where you needed to sign the back of the ticket and present ID each day. Much quicker. You still need your ticket for them to swipe and also to be able to use the FastPASS machines.
·        Save time by buying your tickets ahead of time. Don’t waste time in the ticket queue, when you can go straight to the gate queue! Like you really want to wait in one more line anyway. You can save money by buying your tickets online at various locations. Search online for promo codes, too. I prefer to buy my tickets through the local AAA travel store, because I find they have the best deals, but you can also get Disneyland park hopper tickets through Costco and many credit unions sell discounted ones as well.
·        Use FastPASS. This can also save you much time and get you on more rides. We generally get one for Big Thunder Railroad, Splash MountainSpace MountainIndiana Jones, Rock’n Roller Coaster, Midway Mania or Buzz Lightyear. These are the big rides that always have a line. Go first thing when you enter the park and get a FastPASS, even if there isn’t a line, for any of these attractions (I recommend Midway Mania or Space Mountain, because the FastPASSes go quickly). If there isn’t a line, get on the ride, go do some other rides and then come back at your designated FastPASS time and do it again. If there IS a long line, go off and do some less packed stuff and then come back. This works awesome with rides like Big Thunder Railroad in the middle of the day, because even though the line isn’t humungous, there are a bunch of other rides to do that normally have shorter lines, and you can get to three other ones, come back and get right onto BTR and then head to another part of the park.
·        Get to the parks thirty minutes before opening. What’s the point? Well, there won’t be hoards of people waiting to get in yet and you’ll get first pick of the big rides when the gates open, freeing you up to do less popular rides in the middle of the day.
·        Make food reservations. While this won’t save you any money, it WILL save you time waiting in line somewhere. Disney has a designated dining reservation number for each park (or you can do it online) to book a table anywhere that has waited tables. You can book up to 90 days in advance. This is especially important if you are dying to eat a specific restaurant, because reserved tables get served before walk-ins, which means if you want to eat at Blue Bayou without waiting 45-50 minutes (when you could be doing other park activities), it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time. Try to book your dining a little earlier than regular dining times, like lunch between 11-12 and dinner between 5-6. This will help you avoid the crowds, both while waiting to be seated and when you finish dining, because everyone will have realized they are hungry, too, and flee to a dining establishment. Woohoo! Shorter lines for you!
·        Carry snacks. You know I always recommend bringing snacks everywhere you go. Disney doesn’t mind. As long as whatever you bring isn’t in a glass container or alcohol, it’s okay by them. Bring in your own bottled water, too, and save $9 by not having to buy their souvenir cups.
·        Use public transportation. Obviously, I mean for Disneyland only. Their shuttle busses are great and are much cheaper than the $12-14 it now costs to park in the Disney parking lot. Unless you have four or more people in your group, save the cash and gas. The shuttles leave every 15 minutes throughout the day until at least an hour before the park closes. There’s also the option of just walking, since there are so many hotels right across the street from the parks and main gate.
·        Avoid “Extra Magic Hour”. In Orlando, guests staying at a Disney resort are entitled to the EMH each day at different designated parks. They get in an hour before the park officially opens to the public or get to stay and extra hour after the park closes to the public. With a bit of planning, you can avoid these days and go to other parks instead and avoid the massive crowds at the EMH parks. This worked wonderful for us and we found that each park we hit up that day was almost empty until around noon time. I don’t know how that will work in the on-peak season, but in the fall, it was spectacular and we barely waited in line for anything for the first four hours we were in each park. You can find the EMH parks listed on the online Disney schedules or invest in a membership to TourGuideMike, which will give you all these tips and more well ahead of the actual online schedule.
·         Go in the middle of the week. There will be fewer parades and you'll have to schedule your day around things like Fantasmic, that only play on certain weekday nights, but Disney will certainly be less crowded during the week than on the weekends and you'll have shorter lines and be able to do more.
·         Bring your own souvenirs. Yes, I know this sounds weird, but if you have little ones, they are going to want toys and shirts and balloons and candy. You can try to evade some of these costs by stopping at one of the grocery or discount stores around Disney and stock up on some inexpensive souvenirs (many of which you will find at the parks for much more) and dole out a bit each day before you leave. Or keep them in your bag until the kids are getting restless and cranky. You're sure to make some happy faces.

What are your favorite money-saving tips for Disney?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Get Paid to Shop and Travel 11.17.12

I am positive you think that I'm making this up and you can't possibly get paid to do either of these things, but it's totally true! If you haven't heard me talk about Ebates before, you'll want to know about it. If you have, perhaps you'll learn something new today. I never buy or book anything without first checking Ebates. So, what IS Ebates? It's a fantastic - and free! - site that offers you cash back for purchasing from online merchants. If you plan to make a purchase anyway, you might as well get something for being a loyal customer (or even a new customer). 

Here's how it works: Sign up is quick and easy, then you're ready to shop! When you have a hankering to buy something, say, at Sephora, go to Ebates, sign in, click on Sephora and it takes you straight to the main website. You must go through Ebates, so they can track your purchase. At checkout, make sure you use the same email address you used to sign up on Ebates and within a few days, your purchase will show up in your account. You can track your cash back total to see how much you saved and then every quarter, Ebates sends you a Big Fat Check (if you choose that method) or a Big Fat Payment via Paypal. You even get $5 just for signing up! Who else does that? If there are coupon codes available or special sales, Ebates will show them to you, helping you save even MORE!



I like to use my cash back as a travel savings supplement. Each time I make a purchase, I rack up cash and then it gets deposited right to my Paypal account. I use that money to purchase travel stuffs, like Groupons, clothing, tours and more! If I can get more cash back with it, even better! Of course, you can use it for whatever you want. 

Stores you can shop at: Ebates has, literally, hundreds of online merchants you can choose from, including a long list of travel merchants. Just a sampling of those include: TravelSmith, Holiday Inn, Avis, Alaska Airlines, Camping World, Orbitz, Air France, Delta Airlines, HomeAway and even SkyMall! Keep your eyes out for the Daily Double. Each day one awesome merchant offers double cash back on your purchases for the day.

If you're already a member of Ebates, do you love saving so much money?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Get Free Airfare 11.14.12

Win awesome travel prizes in the BEST OF THE BEST HOLIDAY TRAVEL GIVEAWAY!

Free and Travel are not often two words one can put together. It’s like the Holy Grail for vacationers, though almost none of us seem to know how to achieve such a thing – besides have a job that involves traveling that your company pays for, though that doesn’t usually involve actual “vacationing”. I came across an article the other day that was written by a frequent flyer that is lucky enough to have the funds to fly a couple of times a month just to rack up frequent flyer miles. While I surely can’t follow in his footsteps, and you probably can’t either, I learned a few things about how I do travel and what I can do in order to score some free airfare, hotel and dining vouchers. These can be used on your current trip to save you money now or on a future trip to save you money in the later. It involves a fairly simple technique, too.

Everyone has heard the term “bumped”. If you haven’t – or if you have and are not sure what it means – it is the term given to a person who has the misfortune to get to the airport too late (read: after almost all the other passengers) to check in for their overbooked flight and loses their seat. They are “bumped” from the flight. With the amount of overall flights being reduced, there are now more people who want to fly on those that are available most days. There are a certain number of no-shows or ticketed passengers that miss their flights each day. The airlines have always planned for this, but in these tough economic times they also want to fill their seats on the limited flights they have, so they overbook. (This was always a common thing on their most popular flights before the recession.) Sometimes everyone shows up and that leaves around 3-5 people without an actual seat. The airlines will rebook them on the next available flight, but will also always ask if others are willing to be bumped instead. This is how you get comped free travel/hotel/food.

Tip: Ask for a credit voucher instead of a free flight voucher. This works like a gift certificate for the airline and allows you more freedom when booking your flight with it (i.e. you can use it for international airfare if you wish or to buy more than one cheap ticket).

When you get to the gate, you will normally see on the monitor at the check-in desk if there is a list of passengers. These people are already on the “waiting” list. They may have checked in after everyone else or were able to be put on stand-by. If someone else doesn’t show up, or someone gives up their seat willingly, they get to board that flight. If you aren’t in a hurry to get to your destination, then maybe you wouldn’t mind volunteering to hang out until the next flight. The more people on the list, the more willing the airline will be to work with you in giving up your seat. Go up to the airline employee and ask if they need volunteers to be bumped. If so, ask what you will be compensated. Usually, because you have been helpful and friendly (this is certainly key in any customer/customer service conversation), they will give you a voucher for a free flight or credit to use at a later date. You’ll, of course, not have to pay extra for being rebooked on a new flight.

Depending on how long of a wait it will be until your next flight, you might also be able to negotiate a free hotel room and/or dining vouchers for the airport while you hang around and wait for the next flight to come in. While you end up with a free flight (and probably more), the airline doesn’t really lose any money by giving you these things in exchange for your seat. They will be flying that future flight anyway and your seat was already paid for by the passenger who will be filling your seat when they purposely oversold the flight. You get all the perks for just being nice (even if it was selfish) and you might have made someone’s day by letting them take your place. This is a great way to be able to stretch your dollars and be able to vacation more throughout the year. You’ll also get more frequent flyer miles added to your account (if you are compensated with a voucher for a dollar figure and not a free flight)!

Tip: If the airline pays for you to stay in a hotel overnight, they must also pay for your transportation to that accommodation.

Want to avoid getting bumped? Make sure you get to the airport early instead of the last minute. It just takes that one person to get there before you for the flight to be full. I always suggest getting to the airport at least one hour early for domestic and at least two hours early for international. Of course, I get excited for any travel I do and want to allow time for anything that might delay me (traffic, long security lines, etc.), so we tend to get to the airport two hours ahead of any flight. We use the extra time to browse shops, watch people and eat. It’s always nice to be able to sit down and have a decent meal, instead of grabbing fast food right before you get on the flight. It gives you time to relax if you stress right before you travel. It also boosts your energy and helps reduce jet lag. Make sure you drink lots of water, too. I always buy a big bottle of water after security to take with me on the flight, since I am often thirsty, flying dehydrates you and I don’t always want to wait 45 minutes to an hour before they bring around the drink cart.

Tip: Want to finally get into the fancy schmancy airline lounge? Ask for a pass to use it if you’re bumped and have to wait a few extra hours.

More tips on getting “bumped”:
  • If you want to get bumped, it helps to get to the airport early as well. Get your name on the list of volunteers before anyone else.
  • Book on a flight that is likely to be overbooked (holidays, afternoon flights, early evening flights, last flight of the day, red eye, etc.)
  • Be polite. Don’t demand higher compensation than what they are offering you. If you know they are desperate, you can use it to your advantage, but negotiate in a polite manner.
  • Know the flight schedule. This can be just as useful to you and your travel plans as it is to the airline employee rebooking you.
  • Make sure you’re booking on an airline that does overbook flights. Some airlines do not. (Of course, this information is also helpful in not getting bumped.)
  • Be willing to fly on a different airline or a different route. This makes it easier to rebook you as well.
  • Pack light. While this doesn’t really help you to get booked, it does ensure that you keep all your belongings with you and the airline doesn’t have to figure out how to reroute your bags in addition to you (and your travel companions).
  • Fly through busy airports when possible. Obviously, these airports have more passengers flying everyday and have more overbooked flights than smaller airports.

I never really thought about postponing my flight a few hours to “invest” in my future vacationing, but with all this talk about how I can do it and it seeming to be so easy, I might just start thinking about how a few hours won’t really effect my travel plans and offer to give up my seat from now on. If it can help me budget a trip for cheaper the next time I travel, then it’s totally worth it. What about you? Have you ever purposely volunteered to be “bumped” in order to receive free travel?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visiting Anaheim GardenWalk 11.10.12

Win awesome travel prizes in the BEST OF THE BEST HOLIDAY TRAVEL GIVEAWAY!

I’ve always been a big fan of shopping malls, but when I moved to Portland where the climate isn’t a million degrees 98% of the year, I was able to full appreciate shopping outside. Collections of stores coming together without a roof overhead that aren’t outlet stores have become more and more popular in Oregon. Being able to appreciate the weather while getting to window shop or getting in a bit of retail therapy. Our vacation rental in Anaheim was right across the street Anaheim GardenWalk, which thrilled me to no end, because it had restaurants, shops and entertainment all in one spot. We found ourselves there on at least three occasions.

Even though we were just a short drive from Disneyland and it could have everything you want in terms of entertainment and food, the parks close at some point and you can’t find discounts to dining establishments there and you always feel compelled to be on the move. Since we travel during the shoulder season, attractions aren’t open as long as they are during the summer and holidays. Because of this, we found ourselves with a bit more downtime than we could have had. This gave us a chance to try out some new restaurants, browse in stores we don’t have at home and get in a movie or two.

Our first trip to GardenWalk found us having dinner at Bubba Gump. Even though it’s a chain, we never get a chance to eat there. The last time we dined at Bubba Gump, we were in Cancun celebrating getting engaged, so it has been a while. (Portland really needs some of those great chains like Hard Rock and Chili’s.) We grabbed a coupon for a free appetizer from our lobby and then ordered coconut shrimp – how can you NOT? – and a chipotle chicken salad. The free app turned out to be their signature dip and chips that was worth $10.50. Score!

The next time we headed over to GardenWalk, we were going expressly to see a movie, so we showed up a bit early to grab a bite to eat. We weren’t starving and we had decided to split an entrée somewhere. We chose Bar Louie, since it was close to the theaters, had a simple menu and, being a bar, seemed to have fairly fast service. We split a yummy turkey and brie sandwich with some fries and then went up to the third floor to the UltraLuxe Cinemas.

UltraLuxe movies don’t start until mid-afternoon, but go late into the night. It may not be in Hollywood, but they make you feel like a celebrity. When you purchase your tickets, you pick the seats you want to sit in, almost like going to a live production. You see what’s available and choose your seats on the touch screen. UltraLux theaters are also the only ones to have special theaters with seats that move! If you’ve gone to a theme park 4D production, like Captain EO, Shrek 4D or Star Tours, you’ve enjoyed these seats before. You don’t get things sprayed at you, but your seat moves in reaction to things happening on the screen. We went to see Hotel Transylvania, which was not in the moving seat theater, but I was able to test out the seats in the lobby with a preview of Frankenweenie. It was pretty awesome, though I’m not sure 2 hours of that would be all that fun after a while.

Our last night in Anaheim found us at GardenWalk again. We decided to live it up with a trip to Fire + Ice. If you’ve eaten at a Mongolian Grill, you know how it works. You choose the meat, veggies and other toppings, along with a sauce and the chefs cook it up for you on a giant round flat top while you watch and wait. It’s great, because you can choose everything that goes into your meal. The downside is that it takes quite a while to get your food and if you don’t step up the grill with your party, you may not end up eating together at all. I enjoyed a great salad and several plates of different combinations. (Yes, there’s no mystery as to where my extra weight came from on my vacation.)

Other cool stuff in Anaheim GardenWalk includes a gym, bowling alley, fountains and murals done by local artists. While we were there, there was also a haunted house (with it being Halloween time and all). Even if you buy nothing while you’re there, you can still browse at unique shops – Fresh Produce and Hello Tokyo – and your favorite brand shops – LUSH Cosmetics and Skechers.

If you visit the Anaheim area, GardenWalk can be a great way to spend some time and also save some money on dining over the theme parks.

What do you think would be the most beneficial part of having GardenWalk so close to the theme parks?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Best of the Best Holiday Travel Giveaway

OMG! Can you believe this year is coming quickly to a close? Where did the time go? It seems like we were just ringing in 2012 and in just a few short weeks it’s going to be Thanksgiving. If you just read that and went “Eek! I haven’t even started my holiday shopping yet!” you probably aren’t alone. Lucky for you guys, I’m helping you to get a jump on your gift list by reviewing my best picks of the year. Not only that, but some of my favorite travel companies have been super generous in sponsoring this giveaway to give you a chance to win fabulous items for your own travels or to gift to a friend or family member who loves to travel.

he giveaway will go through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so you will be notified before your holiday dinner and save a few bucks if you win. If you don’t win, it will give you a chance to jump on any sales happening between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yep, I thought of everything for you! And we’re adding a new feature to our giveaway! Share the giveaway with your friends and get extra entries!
So, let’s look at some of the best travel goodies we’ve reviewed over the last 12 months:

Photo courtesy of CarryOn Free

CarryOn Free – If you like to pack light or you are a frequent Spirit Airlines traveler, CarryOn Free has developed a bag that fits the exact specifications of a free carry-on bag. You didn’t know you could bring a carry-on aboard Spirit for free, you say? You’re not alone. Spirit buries that info deep in their site. With this bag that fits under their unusually small seat space you won’t have to pay $30, $45 or that new $100 fee for a checked bag. You can get a ton of stuff in this bag with some strategic packing and there are new colors and patterns now! Check out my CarryOn Free post to see how I got more than two days’ worth of packing in it.
Photo courtesy of CityPASS Facebook page

CityPASS attraction cards – Everyone wants to do more on their vacation, but they don’t want to spend a ton and go broke in the process. CityPASS cards are super easy to use and allow you to do almost twice as much as you would get to do with the same budget. Skip the lines, keep your wallet in your pocket/purse and save time, too! Read my CityPASS review here. Win it! A pair of CityPASS cards in your choice of city (excluding Southern California).

Photo courtesy of Conair
Conair – Toting around all your hair care appliances can really throw a wrench in your packing light plans. Conair makes wonderful products that translate just as well when they mini-fy them for your travel bag. I’ve had a chance to test three of the MiniPRO appliances: 3-in-1 Ceramic Styler, Cordless Curling Iron and Ceramic Straightener. All worked as well or better than current full-size products I use (or have used) and took up only half the space in my carry-on bag. This is perfect when trying to make room for other necessities and still look my best on vacation. Want to know more? Read my Conair review here.  Win it! Two new items: the MiniPRO dryer and the MiniPRO Deep Wave Iron (so jealous!). 
Photo courtesy of Footzyrolls
Footzyrolls – Shoes take up a ton of space in a bag and you don’t always want to be wearing your clumpy walking shoes on the plane when you have such little personal space the way it is. Footzyrolls are easy to pack and perfect for travel. Keep your feet happy, and still look put together, with a pair of Footzyrolls folding flats. They come in so many styles and colors, plus fit in your pocket. Once on the plane, take off those shoes you wore to save valuable carry-on space and slip your feet into a pair of Footzyrolls. It’s like being barefoot, but looks and feels better. They are also great at your destination, because they go with darn near everything and are a dream after a long day of walking, too. Mine totally saved my aching feet on my last trip when I needed to go to the lobby, but looking at my shoes made me cringe. Why wouldn’t you buy a pair (or seven)? Read my Footzyrolls review here.

Photo courtesy of GoLite
GoLite – You know you’re going to probably be traveling between now and the end of the year and taking a ton of bulky sweaters and pants to keep warm is going to make your travel bag very full and very heavy. Earlier this year, I reviewed the reversible Cayambe dress. It’s great for on-the-go and can be dressed up or down. It’s easy to wear and stretches with you (in case you eat one too many pieces of pie). Right now, you can get it for 70% off at GoLite, as they are transitioning to a new fabric and colors for Spring. Score! If you’re looking for something more casual and winter-y, GoLite makes awesome sweater and pullovers. They are attractive and super comfy and warm. I need more! Learn more about the Cayambe dress and my other GoLite purchases here.
Photo courtesy of Magellan's
Magellan’s – Who hates packing dressy pieces, because they seem to bulk up and take up all the room in your bag where you want to put jeans and tee shirts? Yup, me too! But, it’s the holiday season and you need to look good, whether it’s Turkey Day at your in-laws or an out-of-town business meeting. Magellan’s has taken the guesswork out of what to wear with their Matte Jersey Collection. From the faux wrap dress to separates, the pieces are comfortable, flattering and work with other pieces in your wardrobe. Did I mention they are wrinkle-resistant, have convenient pockets and don’t take up much space in your bag? You’ll love them. Read my review of the wrap dress here and the separates here. What's even better is they are all on discount right now!

Revlon – Going on a tropical vacation this holiday season, or just love to get to those warmer climates where you might be swimming or exposed to humidity or excessive rain (hello Portland!)? The Revlon Ultrasonic Conditioning Ceramic Straightener should be on your list – or for someone who sounds just like that. My hair is not straight when I come out of the shower, pool, ocean or monsoon. As much as I would like to let it dry au naturale and have it look as good as it did before it got wet, it just ain’t happening. This straightener will take your hair from wet to dry and beautiful in minutes. You can also use it on dry hair or sad, unmanageable hair to give it some oomph. Find out how in my Revlon review.

Photo courtesy of Runnur
RUNNUR – Tired of lugging around a day bag with you when you are trying to do activities where you would like your hands free? I know I do. With RUNNUR, you can take everything with you without really carrying anything. It’s awesome because you wear it like a seatbelt and it holds everything. Need a place to put your keys? Check. Need somewhere to put money? Check. Don’t want to keep holding onto that water bottle? Check! For real. The stylish RUNNUR works for men and women and is awesome for active travelers, plus, it looks really cool and futuristic. Want to see all the stuff I crammed in mine? Of course you do! See the RUNNUR review here. Win it! Your choice of size and color RUNNUR mini backpack.

Skyroll – And here we are again with the challenge of packing good looking clothing without taking a full-blown suitcase that you will have to check and pay for. Skyroll makes it easy to pack a lot in a little space. It’s the perfect companion for cruisers and business travelers, but also a bag you’ll want to keep around for romantic weekends and when you have to go to your brother’s third wedding. It’s a garment bag that rolls around a cylinder, which also holds the rest of your necessities. (I saw a business man at the airport with one on a recent trip and almost chased him down to talk to him about it.) Ever tried to pack a prom dress or a bunch of suits in a carry-on? Well, now you can actually accomplish that! See how in my Skyroll review. Win it! Get your very own Skyroll carry-on garment bag…in black!

Smart Destinations – When I go on vacation, I’m happy to do as little as possible to achieve my sightseeing goals. Since I’ve spent so much time planning my trip, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor. That includes not having to pull out a wad of entry tickets or fishing around for correct change to pay for admissions. With Smart Destinations’ GoCards, you don’t have to. You have one card and it gets you into a ton of attractions by just letting the ticket-taker scan your card. It also saves you a ton of money. You can save up to 50% off. The more you use it, the more you save. See how I used mine in Los Angeles with my Smart Destinations review. Win it! A pair of 2-Day GoCards to San Diego.
Travelon Bags – Travelon has been a wonderful review partner over the last year. It’s no surprise that I love their bags and other products. They are well-made, look great and are made for both men and women to carry. Over the last 12 months I’ve reviewed the Anti-Theft React Weekender (which can hold almost a week’s worth of stuff!), the Anti-Theft Urban Tour Bag (my husband’s new favorite accessory) and the RFID Blocking Trifold Wallet (also a favorite of Eric’s). Not only do these items all look awesome, but they have a high degree of safety. You’ll be a hero if you gift a Travelon product this holiday. Win it! An Anti-Theft React Small Messenger with slash-proof construction. (shown above)

I would not endorse these products once, let alone many times, if I didn’t fully believe in them. We’ll be talking more about travel gifts as the holidays get closer, but I urge you to take another look at the items I’ve reviewed, as they are high-quality products that would make a great addition to your travel bag or for that hard-to-please traveler on your list.
Enter below to win one of the 6 giveaway items/packages. Enter once to be eligible to win any of them. All you HAVE to do is “Like” Shereen Travels Cheap on Facebook to be qualified. We have a new addition this time, too. Share the giveaway on Facebook or on a friend’s wall (from the post on our Facebook page) and gain extra entries. It’s unlimited, so share as much as you want – you know how much is too much – to up your chances. Winners will be chosen on November 21st and notified on that day. You’ll have until the end of the 24th to respond to your congratulatory email with shipping info before a new name is drawn and your prize is given to them, so make sure you check your email in case you have won. Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to those residing in the U.S. Good luck!
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