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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Infographic: Which Hotels Have the Best Rewards?

You always want to get the most out your travel dollar, so when you can also use a travel reward program to help you earn more travel, that's a great thing. It seems like everyone and their mother has a rewards program of some sort. In fact, maybe your mother has one, too - do chores for 10 desserts, get one on the house. Might be a new fun way to get  your kids to do the dishes and clean their rooms. Of course, those sweets aren't going to get you closer to a free hotel room or a fancy upgrade, but these reward programs will, though some are definitely better than others. 

Hotel Rewards Points: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

Do you have a favorite hotel rewards program? Or a favorite hotel chain? I am partial to Accor and La Quinta.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

5 (more) Affordable European Getaways

I'm back with another five destinations in Europe that will help you keep some money in your bank account. If you missed the first five, check them out here. I love Europe and hope to get to more countries in the near future. On our short list is Spain, Greece and Germany, some of which are on this list of affordable getaways. Of course, if you plan ahead and do your research, almost all trips can be more budget-friendly. So, check out these options to add to your own short list.

Vienna Photos
This photo of Vienna is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Vienna, AustriaGot a sweet tooth and also think ice skating sounds like fun? Vienna, Austria just opened a huge free ice rink. You just pay to rent skates. If you’re already in Europe, RyanAir has some fantastic flight deals. When you get there, strap on your skates and get some exercise, then put back the calories you just burned off with a dessert buffet. Try famous Viennese sweets like Sachertorte, Palatschinken, Knödel and grab a quick bag of Maroni on the streets (those are hot chestnuts). Vienna is a great place to buy “street food”. There are many types of sausages available at street vendors and you can visit the Naschmarkt that sells stalls full of local and international foods. If you need to warm up, try some of the local wine, as Vienna is one of few world capital cities that has its own vineyard. 

Prague Photos
This photo of Prague is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Prague, Czech Republic – Prague is a winter wonderland in December, plus there is so much to do for super cheap or even free! Some of those awesome free things include the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. These destinations are popular with tourists for a reason. You can save a little more and avoid crowds by sightseeing in the suburbs. Žižkov, Vinohrady, Smíchov and Holešovice are all great to explore with their parks, bars, museums and historical architecture. Street food abounds, too, which is easy to eat on-the-go and doesn’t leave your wallet empty.
Photos of Berlin Wall Museum (Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie), Berlin
This photo of Berlin Wall Museum (Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

GermanyThe site of both World Wars, Germany has a lot of history, much of which was bloody. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany has become a wonderful tourist destination. The whole country is rich with culture and cool things to see and do. Save on ticket prices by purchasing airfare to Frankfurt via Reykjavik on Iceland Air. Add Iceland as a stopover for as long as you want for no extra cost! Purchase a city pass for major German cities like Frankfurt and Berlin and save big on attractions on your trip. Get discounts on museums, gardens, transportation, restaurants and more.

Paris, FranceParis can be very spendy if you don’t plan out your trip ahead of time. And don’t let the fact that Euros sound cheaper than British pounds fool you. Spring, fall and winter are good times to travel to France. Anytime, but summer, really. Fall and winter are going to be the least expensive times and also the least crowded. While shops and museums may be open shorter hours, you will be able to do more than you would in summer, since tourists are scarse. If you plan to do any real sightseeing in Paris, you should get yourself a Paris Pass. Gain entry to 55 museums and monuments (unfortunately, the Eiffel Tower is not included), amazing attractions like the Seine River Cruise, unlimited travel on the metro, buses and RER within Central Paris, an awesome guidebook and coupons for dining and shopping. Just looking to take a few relaxing days out wandering the streets? Well, that’s a great way to save money, especially since there are so many things to walk around and see without having to pay entrance fees. Stroll the Champs de Elysee, take pictures of the Arc and the outside of Notre Dame, cross the bridges over the Seine, buy a baguette or crepe from a street vendor, enjoy the sculptures outside of the Louvre and on and on. 

Reykjavik Photos
This photo of Reykjavik is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Reykjavik, Iceland – Iceland is #1 in cod production in the world. They fish extensively for it and create amazing dishes with it, too. Not only that, some Icelandic restaurants use geothermal vents for power and cook exclusively with the steam produced by these natural wonders. Amazingly, the heat from the vents can start water boiling in about eight seconds. Way to use the earth for economical and eco-friendly energy! While the restaurants may be on the expensive side, you can find lodging for relatively cheap and you can walk all over the city. You can always rent an apartment or house and save on your food budget and just go out for lunch or dinner each day. That way, you’ll be able to do more things than expected and also try the local cuisine without breaking the bank. Other great frugal activities include viewing the Northern Lights, soaking in hot springs and looking for the elusive Iceland elves.
Telling all your friends that you’ll be taking off for Europe will make you look wealthy and exotic, even if you only spend a fraction of what everyone expects you will. Between city pass cards that save you on attractions and yummy street food that enables you to spend the majority of your food budget on fancy lunches or dinners, your bank account can still sustain a longer trip at another time of the year or just extend this trip to a week or more. Bed and breakfasts or hotels that offer meals in their rates can save you even more. A trip to Europe can be within your reach and you don’t have to scrimp on the important aspects of your trip to make it happen. Plus, a weekend trip allows you to pack light to save baggage fees. Au revoir!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

5 Affordable European Getaways

When you think about Europe, you may feel like it’s out of reach for your travel budget, but sometimes just the airfare can be a challenge and then there are plenty of ways to save at your destination. London is known as one of the most expensive cities to travel in, and it’s true, but there is more to Europe than the UK and there are so many affordable cities where you can spend a weekend that won’t break your budget.
Photos of Grona Lunds Tivoli, Stockholm
This photo of Grona Lunds Tivoli is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Stockholm, SwedenYou aren’t going to get away with dining super cheap in Stockholm, so start your day off with a fika fix. Fika is coffee and the Swedes drink it by the barrel. Tour medieval Stockholm. Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s heart and the buildings still stand from the 1200s. Wander the historical streets early in the day to avoid large crowds. Spend your next day on Djurgården, the Royal Game Park. There are so many things to do on the island, from the world’s oldest open-air museum – containing Stockholm’s only zoo – to Gröna Lund, a theme park built in the 1800s.

Photos of Grace Santorini Hotel, Imerovigli
This photo of Grace Santorini Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Greece – With the economy of Greece being less than optimal, it’s the perfect time to get fantastic deals on hotels and airfare. Travel to the more popular locations instead of smaller, out of the way cities, because that’s where you’ll find the best deals to fit your budget and get better service, even if there are more tourists. Athens and Santorini are among the top places to visit, where you can enjoy amazing views of the water, white beaches and delicious Greek food.
Dublin Photos
This photo of Dublin is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Dublin, Ireland – Purchase a Dublin Pass to get the most bang for your buck with discounts on dining, shopping 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. Dublin is also the perfect place to go for a romantic getaway. With budget bed and breakfasts and cozy pubs everywhere, it’s hard to go wrong.
Cappadocia Photos
This photo of Cappadocia is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Cappadocia, Turkey –Right on the border of Europe and Asia, Cappadocia is a truly breathtaking and unique vacation destination. Set on a high plateau in central Turkey with high volcanic peaks and a moon-like atmosphere, it has a very different feel from anywhere else and has a warm, arid climate in the summer and has cold, snowy winters. Because the area was formed by ancient volcanoes there are a lot of volcanic deposits that are, essentially, soft rocks and buildings have been carved into the cliffs, including hotels, houses, churches and monasteries. You can stay in 3- and 4-star lodgings, dine in restaurants, use public transportation and rent a car all for less than the cost per night to stay in many economy hotels worldwide.
Lisbon Photos
This photo of Lisbon is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Lisbon, PortugalThe economy in Portugal isn't all that stable and tourism is a major factor in getting the budget under control and helping to get the country back on its economic tracks. You can visit Portugal for around $55-70 per person per day, including dining out at some nice restaurants and staying in a decent hotel. The busy travel season runs from mid-July to mid-September. Skip those times and end up skipping most of the crowds, higher hotel rates and the sweltering heat. The country is a water lover’s dream, with fantastic surfing, tons of seafood and one of the best and most affordable aquariums in the world, the Oceanario de Lisboa.

Now, just because this is called affordable weekend getaways, doesn't mean that these destinations are only cheap for short breaks. A longer, more traditional vacation would easily be budget-friendly as well. What do you think? Have you ever been to any of these destinations? For 5 more affordable getaways, stay tune for the next post.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Win $200 and Books for Your Next Trip

Welcome to the $200 Cash Giveaway!

Sponsored by Michael Phillip Cash.

Seventeen year old Arielle is at a crossroads in her life. Disenchanted with her father, she is testing the boundaries of his trust by dating someone he does not approve.

Under the moonlit sky in Long Island, Arielle and her boyfriend meet beneath the infamous hanging tree. The couple's destiny is rooted to the five spirits in the tree whose lives and deaths are determined by an ancient curse. Will her future be determined by the past or will Arielle's choices alter the course of her life?

Find out when you read The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash!

Michael is the best selling author of Stillwell: A Haunting On Long Island and his debut novel, Brood X.

The Hanging Tree is his first novella. To celebrate the release, Michael would like to offer one fan $200 Paypal Cash and signed copies of his books Stillwell, Brood X and a kindle download of The Hanging Tree!

Enter to win $200 Cash via PayPal as well as signed copies of Stillwell, Brood X and a kindle download of The Hanging Tree

Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway.
Refer your friends using your unique link at the top of the Rafflecopter for even more chances to win.
One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

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Ends at 11:59pm EST on November 3rd, 2013.

This giveaway was coordinated by Giveaway Promote.
If you're a blogger and would like to participate in a future giveaway event like this one, sign up for Giveaway Promote's weekly giveaway events newsletter.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fixes for Common Travel Problems Part 4

Have you ever gotten to your destination and realized your feet are too big for your shoes? This has happened to me on many occasions, because the airplane makes my feet swell. I'm short, so they don't really sit flat on the floor and they dangle. All the blood has a party down there and my feet are fatter than usual. This makes wearing any sort of attractive shoe (i.e. something other than sneakers/trainers) pretty difficult. In LA, we walked so much that I had to peel my shoes off my feet and they had swelled to the point where I could even get my flats on, because they didn't have any give. This is the day I swore I would never forget to pack a pair of flip flops (or those foldable ballet flats) ever again.

How to avoid leg and foot swelling
This is seriously a big problem. Not only can bad circulation in your legs and feet be really uncomfortable, but it can affect your whole trip and, in some cases, cause blood clots. Ouch! Nobody want that, because it just means a trip to the hospital. If you're prone to fat feet like I am, then I've got some tips to help your feet remain mostly normal and not make your trip seem like you're walking around in bear traps.

Compression socks
Do these things actually work? I have no idea, but I have a pair, so I'll try them out on my 9-hour flight and report back. Supposedly, they keep the circulation in your legs going. I don't know if they use magic or what, since they seem just like regular socks to me, but if they will keep me comfortable and from swollen lower extremities (that might or might not also fall asleep every so often) I really don't care. 

Where comfortable, non-restrictive shoes.
You know what else I'll never do again? Wear boots on the plane. On my first trip to Europe, I thought wearing boots would be smart. It was the middle of fall, it was going to be chilly, boots look really cute with jeans. Well, they would have, if I had taken them off during the flight and not had to practically cut myself out of them after traveling for about a day. Once I got them off, I couldn't put them back on the entire trip. After Day 3 I just didn't try anymore. In fact, I wore the same pair of walking shoes everyday for two weeks. Is it no wonder that I still have those shoes in my closet even though I don't wear them anymore? Those boots are probably lucky they didn't end up in the bottom of the Thames. This was a total live and learn moment. Stick to shoes that have some give. I prefer ballet flats, but moccasins, loafers and sneakers work just as well, too.

Wear loose-fitting clothing
This is right up there with not wearing boots. You don't want to constrict your blood-flow in any way. My plan for the plane is always to wear pants that breathe - this flight will have me wearing my stretch, made for travel, Hudson jeans - that still look good and then layer a t-shirt or tank with a cardigan, so I can take off or put on a layer as needed. I always carry my jacket with me. It is there if I need to wear it, but I can also use it as a blanket or pillow, or throw it on the floor when I choose to not wear shoes at my seat to keep them from touching whatever's down there.

Get up and walk around every hour
I know you can't always do this, but it's a good reason to have an aisle seat. You won't be the only one doing it, so don't feel awkward. Pretend you need to go to the restroom, or actually go and wash your face or go do some (super-restrictive) stretches in there. If you can't get up and walk around, stand up at your seat or do some of these other things.

Do isolation exercises
You might get a weird look from your neighbor, but it's probably just because they wish they had thought of this first. Do some isolation exercises in your seat, like pointing and flexing and drawing circles in the air with your toes, to get the circulation going in your ankles, shake your legs, too. Make sure you sit with your legs uncrossed. As natural as this feels, it isn't good for your blood-flow. 

I really do suggest this for everything, but water can really help you stay healthy and keep your body doing what it's supposed to. Avoid alcohol and coffee that can easily dehydrate you.

Stay away from salty foods
Yes, I love those fancy little pretzels and snack mix they bring around too. I also like to bring my own salted nuts and other snacks, but avoiding as much salt as possible can eliminate bloating and extremity-swelling.

Pamper yourself
Once at your destination, put your feet up when you can, get a foot rub, take a bath or just soak your feet. Try some peppermint foot lotion/mask/bath salts. Walking around is great exercise, but it can take a toll on your feet, so anytime you find a way to pamper your toes, do it.

If you missed the first three parts of this series, check them out here: 
Part 3 - Staying healthy

Do you have issues with swelling during long flights or trips with lots of walking?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Super Useful Travel Links – Halloween Edition

Can you believe October is here and already halfway over? Well, it is. If you don’t have plans for Halloween, you might want to get on that, unless your plan is to sit on the porch and hand out candies to wee ghosts and goblins. There are plenty of cool things to do over the season that can make your Halloween a little more shivery, not the least of which I showcased in my New England post. So, this week I’ve decided to give you some fun seasonal posts from around the world.

Photos of Hermitage Castle, Scottish Borders
This photo of Hermitage Castle is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If you’re headed to the UK and looking for something spoooooky to do, you could hit up the London/ Dungeon or the Tower Bridge Experience or you can just go somewhere that is actually freaky and visit one of the seven most haunted landmarks in the UK, including Hermitage Castle in Scotland. Budget Travel made this list, so if you don’t actually see or feel a ghost (as I didn’t when I was at the Tower of London and Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels or the Queen Mary), don’t blame me. If you want a second chance, here is there list of the world’s most haunted theaters.

Photos of Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
This photo of Eastern State Penitentiary is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If getting the you-know-what scared out of you is your ultimate goal, the possibly you want to go somewhere that will actually do that for you. I am such a fan of Halloween, but haunted houses or any place that has people in masks creeping up behind me are off my list. I know they’re just normal people, but I have irrational fears and I’m willing to admit it. Many people don’t have such fears, and for you Travel Channel has compiled a list of America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions.

Photos of Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle), Brasov
This photo of Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Everyone lists Salem on their must-list for Halloween vacation destinations. Wait. Do they? Well, they should. In addition to that given – because witches! Hello! – HomeAway wants you to visit these other 9 amazing places, which they coincidentally rent vacation homes in. From the Paris Catacombs (which I’m visiting this year!) to Vlad the Impaler’s castle, there are some really interesting destinations on this list whether you visit for Halloween or not.

Photos of The Original Ghost Walk of York, York
This photo of The Original Ghost Walk of York is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Did you know that York is the “ultimate ghost town”? Yeah, me either, but according to the Guardian, it is. Stay in haunted hotels, take a ghost walk, maybe spot a specter in a basement. To hear them tell it, you can barely walk without tripping over a ghost. 500 of them have been reported, which begs the questions, who exactly do you report a ghost to? and how many sighted ghosts haven’t been reported?

Photos of Postojna Caves, Postojna
This photo of Postojna Caves is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Europe apparently has the monopoly on monsters. They’re everywhere! Okay, maybe the stories just originated there. The Brothers Grimm did hail from Germany and were masters at scaring little kids into being good lest they be eaten by a witch or some other nasty thing that hides in the woods waiting for unruly children to skip by. Lonely Planet shows you where to find those elusive creatures like the dragon and elf by doing some monster-hunting in Europe.

Photos of Narrow Gauge Railroad Inn, Antonito
This photo of Narrow Gauge Railroad Inn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There might be some nifty Halloween events near you that are free or cheap, but if you don’t know of any or are traveling the U.S. this month, check out these free festivities rounded up by National Geographic. If you’ve got a bit of money to spend, prweb gives you 8 ideas for budget-friendly trips revolving around the holiday.

Stay here
Stay in a haunted home! Airbnb has a bunch of listings for places that feature ghosts and creepy digs. Rent a room in one and see if your paranormal senses tingle when you stay the night. If you're even brave enough to turn off the lights!

photo credit
And now for some truly scary links!
You know I make mistakes when I travel. I call them live and learn moments and then tell you all about them so you don’t do it, too, but there seem to be mistakes people make over and over and maybe don’t even know it’s wrong. I try not to do this, but sometimes you think “it’ll be fiiiine.” And really, it never turns out fine. CNN brings you 20 of the biggest travel mistakes and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

Could you imagine going to the beach and finding no sand? Well, in Florida, that’s what’s happening. Um…sort of. The abnormal weather in our country and the normal turns of the tide are naturally eroding the beaches of Florida, but at a seemingly more rapid pace than typical and beaches are getting smaller and smaller. In fact, resorts are so freaked out by the loss of sand that they are literally trucking it in from other places. So, when you look at rates for these places in the future and they seem astronomical, it could be because you’re paying for foreign sand! Crazy, right?

Photos of SoloEast Travel Chernobyl Day Trip, Kiev

This photo of SoloEast Travel Chernobyl Day Trip is courtesy of TripAdvisor

And two fun ones to leave you with
These places that have been abandoned may just be eerie to look at. They probably aren’t haunted, but you could make up stories to go with your photos if you ever visit them. I can’t be the only one who loves to see these kinds of places and hopes to travel there someday, can I?
Do you love travel so much you want to do it forever? Well, that’s just what this man is doing and he’s dead! I adore this story and wish I lived near a body of water his ashes could possibly wash ashore from. Wouldn’t you love to “meet” Gordon Scott Smith and call his lovely wife to tell him where he’s traveling now? This just might be a clause to write into your will.

Okay, that’s it for this week. I hope you found something fun here and, as always, if you found a fun travel link (Halloweenish or not) that you’d like to share, we’d love to see it. Just post it in the comments. Carpe Noctem, everyone!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Are You a Fierce Traveler?

I'm by no means a perfect traveler, but that doesn't mean I don't keep trying. I figure if I declare myself perfect, that means I have no room to grow and that would be boring. I often do things that make me wonder what I was thinking, but sometimes I do things that make me proudly say "That. Just. Happened." Some would call it being fierce. I hope you have some of those moments too. Today I have teamed with Fierce Fund to bring you one of my favorite fierce moments from my travels.

Here I am, blue-wigged, for the Fierce Fund

It's not always easy to communicate with others with there's a language barrier. You aren't going to be expected to speak every language fluently, nor do others expect it when you travel in their country. The point is that you try and learn from your experiences. My goal was to brush up on my Spanish before traveling to Ecuador. I did this by buying a game for my Nintendo DS called My Spanish Coach. In fact, we bought two copies, so Eric and I could practice at the same time. Not only was this a fun way to learn, but it helped me put together sentences, which has always been a problem for me. I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike. You can also get it for French, Japanese and Chinese (plus SAT, ESL and vocabulary). 

I learned as much as I could in the months leading up to our trip, which I knew would only get me so far if everyone only spoke Spanish. I was still ready to test myself out. Eric didn't grow up in Arizona, taking Spanish classes, so I knew more than he did when we arrived and did most of the communicating. This brought me to my fierce moment of the trip. While wandering around Quito, we noticed that practically every third store front was a jewelry shop. This was our second year of being married and we never had traditional, matching wedding rings. 

After browsing in several of these adorable shops, we picked a pair of rings we both really liked and I went inside and spoke to the sales woman. She only spoke Spanish, so with my language skills, I was able to convey to her what we were looking for and the rings we were interested in. She let us try them on and they fit perfectly. Fate! I was able to ask her how much they were and also learned a new word (par = pair). The pair were a bargain at regular price. We would have spent at least three times as much at home for the same thing. 
That's my wedding ring!
While I may have failed miserably at taking directions to our mountain lodge - which I feel was not totally my fault, as the only real directions I had were to turn onto a road that had no sign and turn right at a school - I had no problems taking direction to the nearest ATM from the shop worker. Most stores there don't take credit cards, even if what you're buying is hundreds of dollars. So, I went off to the ATM, got cash and came back to make our purchase. We headed home from Ecuador with a new set of matching wedding bands and feeling super proud of myself. Go me!

Every woman has a story of strength and should be rewarded for being awesome. The Fierce Fund celebrates and encourages you to be fierce. I think the blue really works on me, no? This was just one of my stories. Do you have one you want to share? Comment below! And if you want to help Clever Girls Collective support women and girls to be Fierce, and lfind out more about the traveling blue wig, visit http://www.clevergirlscollective.com/fiercefund to learn more about this girl-power project and vote for a great organization to win a $20,000 grant!

Disclosure: I was sent this wig as a participant in the Traveling Blue Wig Project, but this story is 100% mine! Want to rock this awesome Peggy Sue blue? Get one here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Infographic: Busting the Biggest Travel Myths

Anytime you go anywhere you hear myths about traveling and about your destination, but how many myths do you actually believe are truths? Train travel is rarely cheaper than plane travel, I've never seen Bigfoot and my plane has never fallen out of the sky because I forgot to turn off my cell phone. So, what myths do you believe are true that aren't? Below are 10 of the biggest. 

Possibly, it depends on the cruise ship you are on, but many cruises don't include soda in their "inclusive" prices and charge you for each one you order or will sell you a card for the soda plan. It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than paying each time you want a soda during the day. Other than that, I wish I found money in the Bible, or anywhere, in my hotel room and that announcing being on your honeymoon got you anything, but a higher bill. Have you heard of another travel myth we can confirm or debunk?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ooh I Want to Take You...to Aruba

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Aruba Tourism Authority for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The weather is getting chilly now that fall is here, which means you're either super excited to start wearing boots again or you're longing for the warm days of summer and wishing you were kicking back on the beach somewhere with an umbrella drink in your hand. We never made it to the beach this summer, though we took advantage of plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. The Caribbean is looking pretty good to me right now. Where would I go? Somewhere with culture, great food and crystal clear water. Aruba totally fits all those criteria.

Aside from amazing water activities and the obviously amazing opportunities for working on your tan, there are plenty of other things to do in Aruba that are both fun and budget-friendly.

Aruba Aloe Museum – Aloe is in pretty much every beauty product that is moisturizing, it helps alleviate the ouch of a nasty sunburn and also heals cuts and scrapes. Not only can you take a tour of the factory that processes aloe gel from plants introduced to Aruba in 1840, but you can visit the museum and purchase any number of aloe products. The tours run every 15 minutes and are free.
Butterfly Farm – Nothing is quite as beautiful as a butterfly and when you add into the mix exotic flowers. Put on your brightest colors and take a quick tour of the butterfly farm. After your tour, you can stay as long as you like and return for free anytime during your trip. You can’t beat that, right? On top of it all, you’ll have some awesome pictures.
Animal sanctuaries – If you’re an animal lover then Aruba is a great place to visit. You can visit the Donkey Sanctuary and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary.
  • Before cars came to Aruba, donkeys were brought to the island as a mode of transportation. Now, with no need for these beautiful pack animals, the small herds still surviving on the islands were rounded up in 1997 and brought to the newly opened Donkey Sanctuary, where they would get proper care and nutrition. The preserve is run entirely through donations and “adoptions”. Visit with these adorable creatures, tour the grounds and go home with some donkey-related souvenirs from the gift shop.
  • If bird-watching is on your list of cool things to do, then head over to Bubali Bird Sanctuary, which is within walking distance from the resorts area. More than 80 species of migratory birds call the reserve home and are free to observe.

Arikok National Park – Want to see funky bugs, go hiking and experience a natural pool? Then head to this national park that makes up almost 20% of the island. For just $10 per person, you have an endless amount of things to amaze you. Native plants that you may have never seen before inhabit the park. Many different kinds of rocks can be observed. There are even small, but spectacular beaches along the coastline.

Look for gold – Okay, not really, but you can view the ruins of gold mills on the island that were built by the first prospectors. If you are into history and abandoned places like I am, you will want to make time to visit at least one of these old mills.
Pamper yourself – Though not really cheap, the Body and Soul Spa at Tierra del Sol Resort is full-service and a great way to treat yourself to a luxe spa or salon treatment for the same price as one you would get at home.

Sample the local cuisine – You know I love food, especially trying new ones wherever I go. Aruba is chock full of restaurants and bars that serve up fresh seafood and other delicious entrées. If I were planning a trip there, here are a few of the affordable eateries I’d check out:
  • Charlie’s Bar – This place has character. The outside of the building is adorned with signs and artwork and inside you can order churrasco, Creole calamari, shrimp scampi and pasapalo, plus items you’re probably more accustomed to, like burgers and fresh fish. 
  • Hadicurari – Choose from a huge menu which ranges from the Caribbean or French breakfast to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Everything sounds delicious. I’d love to try the grouper sandwich and the fried goat cheese appetizer.
  • MooMba Beach Bar and Restaurant – I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to dine on the beach or eat something from a “Caribbean chic” menu. With items that feature their fresh-caught fish and something called pina colada shrimp, I don’t know how you can go wrong eating here. Also, the name is fun, which I enjoy.
Aruba really is a place that has something for everyone, whether you like to swim in the ocean, dance the night away, learn more about the local history or eat gourmet cuisine. After checking it out for myself, I think I might have to put Aruba closer to the top of my list of places to visit. Learn more about the awesome things to do in Aruba when you visit the Aruba travel page on Aruba.com. What would you do if you were planning a trip to Aruba? 
Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Win $1,000 to Spend at Expedia

It’s true! You could win a $1,000 Expedia credit to be used on a future trip! All you have to do is join Memolink. You may not have heard of this cool site, but it works much in the way that MyPoints does. Take surveys, complete offers and make purchases to get points that add up to more free stuff for you. Each week through December 31 new members can also win a $100 gift card to one of Memolink’s vast array of participating merchants. A different gift card will be up for grabs each week, which means you will be entered into the week’s drawing that you signed up in. At the end of this year, everyone who signed up between October 1 and December 31 will be entered into the grand prize drawing for a $1,000 gift card to Expedia!

What’s the catch? There isn’t one, unless you don’t like saving money! Anytime you want to make an online purchase, head to Memolink to see if that merchant participates in their program. If they do, click through, make your purchase and it will be tagged to your account, giving you a specific amount of points per dollar. When you have accrued enough points, you can redeem them for points or other goodies, like gift cards to your favorite stores or Amazon credit. Pretty rad, right?

The list of stores is HUGE, plus you can pick your faves and have them pop up right on your home page every time you sign in. I love that feature. Looking to save even more? Then search for coupons at your preferred merchant and you can use those as soon as you click through to shop/make a reservation. Did I mention that there are tons of travel merchants on the site? There are! Here are just a few: Accor Hotels, Budget Rent-a-car, CheapTickets, Hawaiian Airlines, Motel 6, Sandals and Samsonite. Really, something for every traveler’s price range.

Memolink doesn’t just give back to you, but they give back to the community, too. Through October, every purchase made through their Breast Cancer Awareness Guide will net a $1 donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It’s just a bonus that you get a free $5 credit into your account when you complete your registration!

Another awesome thing is that you don’t even have to make your purchase online to get points added to your account! Memolink has partnered with Plink and allows you to earn points for shopping at certain offline stores and dining at participating restaurants.

So, why not get entered to win an amazing prize that you can actually USE and also save a bunch of money while planning your trips and doing things you already do throughout the year. You know that extra money will come in handy on your vacation. Sign up with Memolink now!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Celebrating Museum Day Live!

Last weekend we took advantage of a free day at the museum, thanks to Smithsonian's Museum Day Live! We chose to visit the World Forestry Center, because we've never been before. Saturday was a great day to be inside, too, because it was pouring down rain. We learned some things about trees, conservation efforts around the world and we rode a train, a boat and in a safari jeep! 

Eric was too interested in looking out the train "windows"

As expected, there were a lot of hands-on exhibits for both adults and kids that were fun and educational. My favorite part was the world map of different woods, wood-related products (like maple syrup and cinnamon) and what natives are doing to be eco-friendly and conserve their natural resources through farming.

You don't have to wait for next September to get into a museum for free. Many museums have free admission days or discounted entry on specific days during the month. Did you take advantage of free museum tickets? If so, which one did you visit and what did you enjoy most?
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