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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

4 Travel Items That Save Space

4 Travel Items That Save Space
Packing light has become a mantra for many a budget traveler. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of practice to learn to pare down your items until you can take just one carry-on per person. (Eric and) I have perfected it enough to take one large carry-on and one small one that fits under the seat, but it hasn’t always been a smooth road to where we are now. Luckily, I love packing and am willing to pack, unpack and repack a bunch of times before I go anywhere to make the most of the space I’ve got. I may bring a pack-flat extra bag for goodies I acquire along the way, but I make sure that I have some extra space in my bag as well, because having a carry-on that’s bursting at the seams is nothing you want to start with.

So, what are some ways to get your packing under control? Multi-purpose items are important in saving space and getting you closer to being a carry-on-only traveler.

Kindle or iPad
I am a reader and I love using my time on the plane or relaxing before bed reading a good book. I find that I can get a lot of reading done just in my down time, unlike when I’m at home and have many other things to think about. If you’re like me, you may find that you are either in the middle of a book when you leave and then want to start on another during your trip. Instead of packing two or more books or a stack of magazines, download your desired reading material to your Kindle or iPad (you can even do it on your mobile phone, though it can drain your battery fairly quickly) and save quite a bit of space in your bag, plus you won’t have the problem of wrinkled covers or torn pages from floating around with everything else in there. And, for the most part, you can now use your Kindle and iPad for music and movies, too.

I don’t know about you, but I hate, hate, hate having 400 different chargers in my bag, or the drawer at home for such things. Somehow, they are all nice and organized and once you close and open the bag, even if it’s two seconds later, they have turned into a big jumble of wires, like ever year’s Christmas lights. What the hell? Well, I have a solution to this – Not your Christmas lights. Those are still a mystery. I carry around an iGo multi-charger. One adapter (or two if you bring one for the car), small charging tips for each device and a splitter to charge more than one at a time. We have been able to pare down our electrical devices over the years, so this works perfectly for us. I also have a small iGo USB charging plug, which can be used on our netbook or the small power strip we also take, because hotel rooms never have enough available outlets.

Packable rain jacket
It never fails. Everywhere we go, it rains when it’s not supposed to. I mean, there was a hurricane in London. I kid you not. I think it might be us, but it’s always good to be prepared. I never bring an umbrella anymore. They just take up space and if you are in crazy downpours, they don’t help anyway. Umbrellas do nothing against sideways rain and it’s hard to do other stuff when one of your hands is occupied and everyone needs to have their own. A packable rain jacket takes up less space, even if you have to pack one per person, and can be used in the event of a change in weather or it’s just a bit chilly. I get cold pretty much everywhere I go, so I probably get more use out of this than anyone…except for the fact that we end up in monsoon rains everywhere, so it’s almost a guarantee we will use ours. If you are traveling during the winter and already taking a coat with a hood, you can probably omit this one.

Not just for the beach anymore! A sarong can double as a billion different items, besides a bathing suit cover-up: a skirt, a top, a wrap, a headscarf (for those really conservative churches), a picnic blanket, a towel, a tote bag. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. A sarong packs down to almost nothing, is easy to carry around in your day bag or pocket and can be super-duper handy in many situations. You never know what might go wrong or when you want to have a picnic in the park and not get grass stains on your khakis!

What are some of your favorite items that save space in your travel bag?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Don't be an "Ugly American"

Don't be an "Ugly American"
Do you find it hard to adjust when you travel and find yourself trying to stick to some of your normal routines? It can be hard to touch down and just go with the flow sometimes, especially when things at your destination are so different from at home, but it helps if you've done your homework before you get there. Learning about the language, customs and just how to blend in a bit in general can really help you have a better time and not stick out like a sore thumb, making the locals hate tourists. While this infographic specifies Americans, it is not just Americans who make these same mistakes. 

Have you accidentally (or knowingly) done any of these or found tourists in your hometown acting the same way?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

10 Great Sites to Find Travel Clothing

10 Great Sites to Find Travel Clothing
I know other websites suggest bringing your favorite pieces with you when you travel, so you know that you'll wear what you take, but when travel I love to buy new things for my trip. I count it as part of my travel budget and purchase items throughout the year when I find them on sale. This is not to say that I don't take things I already own. I do. Especially when I know they are comfortable and going to be a great addition to my travel bag. The reason I buy other items is that I do laundry at my destination and even though some of my normal clothes are quick-drying, they aren't really fantastic at being breathable or moisture-wicking or suitcase-friendly. They might be too bulky or wrinkle way too easily. 

Having travel-friendly clothes are convenient in a lot of ways: lightweight, packable, wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant. The list can go on, but these are my basic needs in a travel wardrobe. So, though I have some pieces I wear everyday that are perfect for vacationing – because they are that comfortable, like my stretchy Hudson jeans – it helps to have more than a few items that are travel-ready...and it's also fun to have something new. This is why I have a list of go-to merchants to pick up those necessary pieces I don't own or need to be replaced.

Lucky me, I am close to an REI store. I love going in and browsing their racks and racks of fun outdoor clothes, accessories and goodies. This is one of a few places where you can find all the top brands and some you may not have heard of yet. I go there looking for Patagonia, Lolë and Arc'teryx, but have often come away with many other gems. If you don't live near an REI, shop online. They have even better discounts on sale items online, so you can save more. Or buy more. Another thing I like to do is shop online and then have it ship – for free! – to the store nearest you for you to pick up at your convenience. You can use Ebates this way and get your cash back. Double bonus!

Columbia Sportswear
I am also lucky to live in Portland, home of Columbia Sportswear. We have the flagship store right downtown, several outlet stores nearby and, my favorite, the employee store. You have to know someone who works at Columbia to be able to shop there, but if you have someone like that in your life, they can take you or give you a pass and you can go hog wild. with everything 50% off. Columbia is a great place to pick up lightweight (and attractive) sweaters and amazing jackets. Again, you can shop online. Once you know your size in tops and pants, this is super easy, as they are very rarely off. Plus, you can shop the outlet section for deep discounts. Sign up for Greater Rewards – for free! – and get free shipping on everything + exclusive membership discounts throughout the year. Again, use Ebates for cash back.

Backcountry & Department of Goods
Though I don't shop there often, this is genuinely one of my favorite online merchants. Backcountry has all the outdoor brands in one place. This site has ah-mazing discounts, al ot times you can get free shipping and an extra percent off. Before, you used to have to go between BC and Department of Goods (their outlet website) in order to snap of deals on discontinued items and colors, but now they pull them all into the regular site to make shopping easier. You can find clothing, shoes, camping and hiking gear here for the whole family. Save even more with Ebates.

This is only for the ladies. They are an offshoot of Old Navy and Gap and they feature feminine activewear pieces that are great for travel to the beach or to the city or if you want to just wear them to yoga. All the items very well made and flattering for your curves. You can save more by using Ebates here as well.

This one is also just for ladies. At one point, I had more Lucy clothes in my closet than anything else. They are comfortable and sporty and are the ideal place to get shorts, capris and tanks. No matter how much you buy, you always pay a flat rate for shipping, which is a bonus, since the difference in weight of $100 worth of clothing and accessories and $300 worth is not that much. Of course, if you sign up for their newsletter, you can be notified of sales first, and Ebates can also get you more discounts with cash back and promo codes.

Bluff Works 
Only for men, so far, they sell amazingly flattering travel pants that don't look like travel pants. In fact, they can be worn to the office one day and then rock climbing the next. You can see my review of their pants here – well, Eric's review.

You probably don't like to look like a tourist when you travel. I mean, who does? Unless you're off in the jungle, you don't need zip-off pants and similar clothing pieces. Magellan's has both attractive and functional clothing that you can wear everyday as well as on vacation, for both men and women. I have done a few reviews for them here and here. Ebates can help you out here, too.

This is one of the first "outdoor" clothing sites I purchased from. Eric has had many of their shirts and they last for years, even with regular wear. I've purchased many of their sweaters and button-up shirts for travel and they make Eric's favorite boxer briefs. they aren't cheap, but they are comfy and last forever – you can take just a few on a trip and they pack small, resist odors, wick moisture and dry super-fast. They are a favorite among many travelers. 

This is another one just for the ladies. They sell luxury travel clothing, that look awesome and feel just as good. They are perfect for finding what can be considered resort wear, but they have lightweight pieces that work for all sorts of travel situations and help you blend in as a local. You can view a previous review of their clothing here.

I'm still trying to get this company to send me some pieces for review. They are more affordable than some other travel clothing sites and they have some on-trend items in between classic and more offbeat pieces. I feel like they offer something for all age ranges and sizes, so it might be a place you'll want to check out when hunting for new travel duds.

Need to know more about Ebates? You can learn about it on this post. Do you have a favorite travel clothing shop or online merchant? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Easier (and Cheaper) Travel with Kids

Easier (and Cheaper) Travel with Kids
Just because you have children doesn't mean you can never vacation again or have to pack up the tent and go camping. Of course, I'm not opposed to camping. I did it all the time as a kid, but nothing beats a good old fashioned family vacation. One where you don't have to do all the work and take freezing showers for a week. Sure, traveling with more than two can be hard on your wallet, but you can save on things to make it more manageable. There's also plenty of things you can do to keep your kids occupied in between "entertainment".

So, you want to go on a real vacation, but don't think you can afford it with your whole family? Well, you're wrong. Your first step is to pick a destination and your second is to start a vacation savings account. If you can set aside a bit of money each month, it makes it much easier to deal with the cost of a trip of any size, because you can chip away at it all year long. Below are some ways to save that can allow you to stay longer than a few days at your vacation and make the airfare worthwhile.

  • Rent an apartment, house or condo. This is always a great option, but especially if you are traveling as a family, because it offers many advantages like cheaper rates than a hotel if you stay a week or more,  more space for everyone to stretch out in, a kitchen to save on your dining budget and more privacy than most hotels offer. Here are some ones to check out.
  • Visit a city that offers a pass card where you can visit many attractions for one low price. Here are just a few awesome ones. You buy one card for each person in your party (some even include transportation options) and then you skip the box-office queues at each location and just present your city pass as a ticket.
  • If a city is safe to drive in, renting a car might end up being less expensive than public transportation in some cases. Do your homework, because in some cities, it would just be more cost-effective to drive your family around than to get multi-day bus/subway passes.
  • Does your family love the beach? Instead of heading to the ocean, look into lakeside locations. They almost always have just as nice a beach and many of the same watersports, but at a fraction of the cost.
  • Can your kids miss a few days of school? Travel in the Fall, Winter or Spring. Summer rates for everything can be double the price (or more), because that's when families can travel.

  • Rent strollers and other baby equipment at your destination. They are available all over the world and can be much less than having to check through your personal ones and risk them getting damaged by baggage handlers. One of the best websites that has links to rental locations is Babies Travel Lite.

  • Don't overpack. If you need diapers and formula, buy them at your destination. You don't need to spend an extra $15+ for each bag that needs to be checked through. Carry only what you need for the flight, plus a bit extra in case in case of delays. If you'll be traveling somewhere that might not have convenient stores nearby, you can also use Babies Travel Lite to to send "baby care packages" wherever you are.
  • Children under the age of 2 fly for free if you aren't opposed to them sitting in your lap the whole flight. Probably not so doable on a trip across the Atlantic, but not too bad on a flight that's only a few hours long. 
  • Don't order off the kids' menu in restaurants. They are almost always overpriced and have a very limited (and repetitive) selection. Choose an entrée that you and your child can share. Not only will there be no waste that way (as can often happen when one is faced with another bowl of mac and cheese or pizza) but there will be a wider selection for them that normally includes a vegetable of some sort. Add a salad if it turns out that the one plate isn't enough.
  • If you choose to stay in a hotel or resort, stay in ones where kids eat free. Almost all places offer kids STAY free, so it's not really a good deal. Kids can eat you out of house and home, so that's really the bargain you want to look for. If an all-inclusive is in the cards, find ones where kids stay, eat and play free. You'll be surprised how much that will save you over the course of the week.

  • Stock up on snacks. Kids always want to eat when it isn't snack time and can get super cranky if they don't get something in their tummy pretty fast. Vacation is no different than at home. Bring snacks on all your outings to tide them over until it's time to actually sit down and have real food.

How do you save when you travel with your kids?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Making the Most of Your Cruise Dollars

Making the Most of Your Cruise Dollars
Do you dream of getting on board a cruise ship with your bag full of shorts and bathing suits and sailing the seven seas, all while being completely catered to and visiting new ports of call? With Summer fast approaching, there are cruise deals galore! Of course, not all of them are for Summer, many are for late Spring and even Fall. Luckily, with the exception of Alaskan cruises, the weather will be warm and (hopefully) beautiful. I learned a lot on my first cruise, both while I was planning it and while I was on it. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your money both onboard and in port.

The price you see is not the price you pay – It’s true! When you see a cruise rate that seems too good to be true, it’s because it isn’t listing the taxes and port fees that each cruiser has to pay. The more ports you visit, the more fees you incur. One could, theoretically, pay twice as much as the listed price once fees and taxes are added. Don’t let this scare you, though. I was able to Google port fees for my chosen cruise and find out exactly how much they would add to my rate. It may take a bit of detective work, but you can find it. If you don’t want to take time for that, just assume the cost will be twice what you see and anything less will be a nice surprise when you’re ready to book!

Get involved – Your cruise is (mostly) all-inclusive. You’re paying for activities and entertainment whether you use them or not. My suggestion? Use them! If there’s miniature golf or a shopping talk or a trivia session available, go do it! Unless it sounds like you’ll hate it, mark all the things on the daily schedule you want to do. It’ll keep you busy, keep you moving, keep you from being bored and give you the most value for your dollars spent. We never once set foot in the pool on our cruise. Not because we didn’t plan to, but because we ended up being so busy that by the time we thought about it, it was time to go to sleep. Also, the water slide was shut down practically the whole time we were on board. Some activities do cost money, like some exercise classes, rock climbing and dinners you need to make reservations for, but there are a lot of free things to do. Between crushing other passengers at trivia, going to the rivalry party, dancing, taking in an art auction, playing extreme dodgeball, watching all the entertainment and sleeping and eating, we didn’t really have time to be sitting around doing nothing.

Book your own excursions – No, don’t book it yourself through the cruise line, unless you want to pay double or triple the going rate. Book it completely on your own. There are many reputable excursion companies out there and you’ll find them if you look. I employed Google for this one again: (destination) excursions. You’ll get a whole host of companies that specialize in excursions that fit into the cruiser’s schedule. In my quest to find something fun and affordable to do in Grand Cayman (which we ended up being refunded for, because the ship couldn’t dock), Belize City and Isla Roatan (Honduras). I found some fantastic tours that were highly recommended by other cruisers and similar, if not exactly, to what the ship offered, but at a fraction of the price. Two tours were half the cost of the similar one offered onboard and through the Carnival website and the other was only one-third the listed price! The cruise line takes a cut of each excursion you book online and on board with them, so they mark the prices up higher than retail.

Most people don’t realize they can book on their own, or they are scared of doing it. As long as you find a reputable company with good reviews, you are safe in booking and also on your tour. My husband and I were the only two on our Isla Roatan tour and we ended up getting an extra 90 minutes out of it. Our Belize City tour only had two other people on it and we all had a great time. All the tours I booked were guaranteed and only required a 20% deposit. My Grand Cayman tour was cancelled due to weather. I was sad that I didn't get to go swimming with the sting rays, but our deposit was refunded to our credit card, as it wasn’t our fault that we couldn’t dock.

Book early – The earlier you book your cruise, the better chance you will have of getting a great deal on a good cabin. You’re bound to be given some extras as well, like onboard credit, cabin upgrade and more. If you aren’t sure what cabin is right for you, take a trip over toCruiseCritic and you can get the low-down on which decks have bigger and/or quieter rooms, which cabins and decks to avoid and more.

Get an inside cabin – Since we had never been on a cruise before, we weren’t sure if we were going to like it or not and decided that spending more money to get an oceanview or balcony cabin wasn’t really something we wanted to do. Oddly enough, those rooms don’t tend to be that much bigger and we figured we could just go up on deck to see the ocean. Besides the big drop in price, inside cabins are very quiet and VERY dark when you turn off the lights. If you have trouble sleeping with any sort of light coming at you, an inside cabin is the way to go. I might suggest bringing a portable nightlight with you, though, as trips to the bathroom can be super tricky without turning on a bedside lamp or the overhead light.

Don’t tip the staff – This sounds really mean, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. You want to know why? All specialty drinks (soft drinks and alcoholic beverages) are charged an 18% gratuity right off the bat. If you throw extra money in the tip jar, you’re actually tipping twice and making that drink – that’s already cost you twice what you would pay in any restaurant or bar – even more expensive. Also, you will be charged a certain amount of money for each guest for service gratuity. This includes tips for your awesome steward, maitre‘d, waiter staff and more. I think it generally costs $10-15 per passenger per day, so on a 7-day cruise for two people, you’re paying an extra $140-210 for those people to do their jobs. Of course, you can contest this at the purser’s desk and have them lower the amount if you feel the staff didn’t deserve so much, but I think you’ll find that they go above and beyond your expectations.

Save your drinking for the ports – I know you’re on vacation and you want to do some drinking, but alcoholic beverages are marked up quite high. Seriously, I had a piña colada and it cost around $15 after their added gratuity. Add up several of those per day across your stay and you’re in for a heart attack come “cruise bill” day. Port cities are depending on your business, so get several drinks on land for the same price as one on sea and keep your wallet happy. You’ll help the economy and have a fun time with your fellow cruisers.

A good way to get free drinks on your cruise is to attend the captain’s welcome party. Anyone can go and they generally serve free snacks and alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages. There is also the goodbye party at the end of your cruise where you can take advantage of free drinks. And during your cruise, if you take advantage of any tastings they are offering, you can get drinks for much cheaper. On our trip there was a deal for a tequila tasting. Six different tequilas for $20. What a bargain compared to my ONE piña colada. At least I got to talk to a lovely waiter from Bahrain.

So, while it seems like a cruise can be a money pit, there are a lot of ways to make it affordable and even a cheap vacation. You can meet a lot of different people, learn to be more outgoing and even discover more about countries around the world both on the ship and off. Keep an open mind and make sure to participate in games and other things around the ship. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have if you just let go. Hey, you’re never going to see those people again probably. I made quite a fool of myself during the sail away party and again at a blindfolded trivia and probably several other times over our week, but so did other people and I just laughed about it and had a great time. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Timeshares are Worth the Price

Why Timeshares are Worth the Price
Some people want to enjoy a vacation that doesn't involve a traditional hotel experience. Instead of making hotel reservations for a short term, tourists can participate in timeshare programs throughout the United States. A timeshare is simply a property that can host individuals for a period of time that's much longer than a traditional hotel stay. For example, people may reserve an entire month within an exclusive resort complex anywhere in the United States. There are companies that offer private vacation experiences that can only be enjoyed by individuals that hold memberships in the companies. The Bluegreen resorts wikipedia page is an example of a resource that offers information about an American timeshare company.

Timeshare properties are usually resort complexes that may feature several types of housing options. Some resorts have private villas, mansions, bungalows and other residential types of dwellings. Such properties allow guests to enjoy private amenities for months without having to share anything with other guests of the resorts. For example, some villas may have their own swimming pools and decks. Other upscale resorts include high rising hotel style buildings with individual guest rooms and suites.

People that are part of timeshare companies can essentially buy the right to stay at various properties that are managed by the brands. For example, a couple may want to enjoy a tropical vacation and purchase timeshare credits for a resort in southeastern Florida. Similarly, that couple may purchase the right to stay in a ski resort in Colorado that is managed by the same company.

Buying timeshares does not come with any strict commitments. Customers or share holders can always sell their holdings and lose the right to enjoy any of the properties that are managed by the resort companies. A lot of private vacation companies also have partnerships with major cruise lines. Therefore, people can stay in a timeshare oceanfront home while having access to a brief cruise along the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Additionally, timeshare properties have deals with local recreational facilities. For example, timeshare holders can have seasonal memberships to local country clubs that feature swimming pools, championship 18 hole golf courses, illuminated tennis courts with various surfaces and club houses. Otherwise, such country clubs may be exclusively available to annual members only.

Timeshare companies typically manage properties that are located near other major resorts and tourist destinations. For example, some private villa complexes can be located a short drive away from major amusement parks and water parks. Families living in timeshare properties can enjoy great amusement rides and other fun without having to return back home right away like most other tourists do.

While living in private timeshare properties, guests can also have access to common amenities that offer entertainment and pampering. For example, a complex full of private villas can have a central spa that is open to all timeshare holders. Similarly, an onsite theater can host daily entertainment such as music concerts and stand up comedy for all residents living in timeshare properties. To find out about the latest deals within private vacation companies, share holders can follow social media and networking websites. These popular sources often post the latest new additions to timeshare properties nationwide.

We have often stayed in a timeshare property and enjoyed the freedom that came along with it. The above photos show a property we stayed in when we visited St. George, Utah. We met up with our friends and their four kids, so having three bedrooms and a pull-out (that we didn't actually use) was a blessing. It gave everyone the privacy they needed and a place to getaway from everyone if they wanted. It was also nice, because the kids could go to bed and the adults could stay up and not keep them awake. 

The property had all the amenities one could want: a swimming pool, jacuzzi, game room, playgrounds, gym and arcade. Further on we found there was also a basketball court and tennis courts. Though there were quite a lot of guests staying in the surrounding units, we barely heard most of them. We also utilized the kitchen a fair amount the four days we stayed and saved money by eating our breakfasts, some lunches and a dinner in. 

Timeshares ensure you nearly always have a place to stay at your destination and can save you money overall in the future on your vacations. Have you ever stayed in a timeshare?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Washington, D.C. Wishlist

It's a snow day here in Portland and not being able to go anywhere for a few days due to icy roads, hail and quite a few inches of fluffy snow has a way of making me think about getting the heck out of here. Don't get me wrong, I love being snowed in, but when it melts and we're only left with the cold, it's not going to be as magical. So, I'm thinking about my next big trip, which is going to be tot he East Coast. We're going to spend two weeks between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach, VA and Washington, D.C. I'm pretty excited, because it's been over 20 years since I've been in Virginia and it's been long overdue to get back. I've never been to D.C. though, and Eric has never been to Virginia, so it will be new for both of us.

I can't wait to take Eric to places I spent my childhood and we're both thrilled to get the chance to visit the White House, since neither of us have done it. This is why on this snowy weekend, where two big occasions were either rescheduled or cancelled due to weather, we're looking at planning what we'll be doing on our trip. I share with you our Washington, D.C. wishlist!

Photos of White House, Washington DC
This photo of White House is courtesy of TripAdvisor

You can't really pass up a free tour of the White House, even if you can't bring your camera or lip balm or a pen inside with you or if it is difficult to request. 

Photos of Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, Washington DC
This photo of Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I have to pay a visit to the memorial of one of this nation's best presidents. I see that I can also visit the Ford Theater, so that may well be on my list, too.

Photos of Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington DC
This photo of Smithsonian Institution Building is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There are free things to do all over D.C., especially on the National Mall. Freebies, and historic ones at that, are kind of hard to pass up.

Photos of United States Botanic Garden, Washington DC
This photo of United States Botanic Garden is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I'm already going to be at the White House, so the Botanic Garden and all its glory is calling me. Look how gorgeous this picture is!

Washington, D.C. Wishlist
Photos of International Spy Museum, Washington DC
This photo of International Spy Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Call me a nerd all you want, but ever since I saw Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel go to the Spy Museum, I can think of little else when Washington, D.C. comes up. I mean, spies! Awesome!

Photos of Hard Rock Cafe, Washington DC
This photo of Hard Rock Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There's not resisting a chance to grab a meal and a t-shirt at a Hard Rock Cafe for me. I don't know what it is, but I love them. I especially enjoy when they have a local special. I always know my meal will be delicious, and I enjoy seeing rarely seen videos and rock memorabilia.

What do you think? Where should I go when I visit our nation's capitol?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Do You Have Vacation Rage?

Do You Have Vacation Rage?
I can't be the only one who gets what I call "Vacation Rage". One day of my vacation, I find myself cranky and hating my travel companion and myself and maybe even having a good cry over something completely trivial. It could be from lack of sleep, jet lag, or being in a new environment. Generally, you can find me eating chocolate cake and probably buying something I don't need that I will wonder why I bought when I get home. One of the best ways I've found to combat Vacation Rage is to have some "you" time. It can get to be too much traveling closely with someone for a week or more. At home, you can go in another room, but when you're traveling you rarely get that opportunity. My suggestion: rent an apartment, house or condo. 

Do You Have Vacation Rage?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against hotels. I love them and stay in a lot of them. Sometimes, renting a house, apartment or condo is simply more practical. I've come up with my top reasons why I would choose to rent:
  • You are spending a week or more in a destination. Prices on vacation rentals are cheaper if you rent by the week. 
  • You are traveling as a family or a group. Unlike hotels, vacation rentals are booked per night/week, not by occupants. They don't care if 2 or 10 people stay there (providing you don't trash the place and the rental can accommodate that many people), the rate is the rate. 
  • You have more space. Most rentals have separate sleeping, dining and sitting spaces, so even if it's not a big place, you don't have to be right on top of your traveling companion(s). Unless you book a suite in a hotel where you have more room to spread out, you are basically stuck with one room and the bathroom, which is generally tiny. Plus, hotel suites can run twice as much as a vacation rental, and you don't even get as much for your money.
Do You Have Vacation Rage?

  • Cook your own meals in the kitchen provided. Cooking on vacation doesn't always sound like a fun idea, but if you know you don't HAVE to, it becomes less of a chore. It also saves you money, because dining out can cost an arm and a leg. For the price of one meal out at a restaurant, you can make a trip to a local grocer and pick up food for breakfast...for the week. Even if you end up buying several different things (i.e. eggs, oatmeal, cereal, bagels, fruit), you still end up saving a lot. While I''m at the store, I also pick up some sandwich stuff and snacks (if I want something different than what I've brought with me), so we don't have to go out after dinner when we feel like munching on something and also to take with me during a long day out sightseeing. 
  • You don't have to clean up after yourself each morning, to make sure all your belongings are out of the way. (For those of you who don't do this, shame on you!) You can wait until the night before you leave when you're packing up to wash dishes and hang up towels. 
  • You're less likely to have noisy neighbors and you're guaranteed to not have children running up and down the hallway screaming at the top of their lungs at all hours...unless they're yours.
  • You can come and go as you please. Sure, you can do this if you're staying in a hotel, but many hotels lock the doors at a certain time of night, or you have to give your key to them every time you leave (this is common in the UK). 
  • Feel like a native. This is one of my favorite feelings. You aren't going back to a hotel, but a home. It's like you're actually living there during your travels, making it easier to feel at home in your new surroundings. 
  • If you're renting a car, you almost always get free parking! Many hotels will charge $15+ a day to park in their lot/garage. That's money in your pocket!
  • Pack fewer things and use the washing machine in the property if it's provided. I tend to look for only apartments that include one.
Do You Have Vacation Rage?

Try these Great websites for vacation rental listings:
  • VRBO.com - By far the largest vacation rental website on the net, so you may have to do a bit of searching to find a really good deal amongst them. You will get to see many pictures, the location and rates. Then you can email the owner for more information right from their website.
  • FlipKey.com - Run by TripAdvisor, this site lists many vacation rentals by owner. You will get detailed information about the property, previous renter reviews and pictures. There is a calendar with available dates and rates. You contact the owner directly by email through the site to ask any questions, request more pictures and to make your reservation.
  • ResortQuest.com - You can book a variety of rentals through them, including vacation homes, hotel, condos and resorts. With over 100,000 rentals to choose from in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and now Europe, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.
  • HomeAway.com - Sponsored by companies like Travel + Leisure and Virgin American, you can't go wrong booking with HomeAway. It boasts over 230,000 listings at reasonable costs.
  • Airbnb - Rent straight from owners who are looking to make extra money by renting out their extra property or their primary home while they are also traveling. 
Do You Have Vacation Rage?

What are your favorite things about renting a place to stay on vacation?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who Would Pack That?

Who Would Pack That?
Sometimes you may forget that you can't take certain things in your baggage, or hope to get a little something through security, like a lip gloss or a slightly larger-than-allowed bottle of lotion, but some people just can't help themselves from bringing illegal or just plain weird stuff with them when they travel. No matter what's been taken from you at security or customs, it's probably not as odd as some of these things. 

What's the weirdest or craziest thing you've seen someone try to pass through security?
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