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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Visiting the Warner Bros Studio

In my last post, I told you all about the Warner Bros Archive and the Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter exhibit. I loved it, and all my photos! That's not to say I didn't equally love the rest of the studio tour. I totally did, just in a different way, because I'm such a Potterhead, but I'm also a movie nerd and love to see the behind-the-scenes stuff.

warner bros studio tour

Your tour starts with a quick 10-minute video that gives you some reminders of past (as well as current) Warner Bros movies and TV shows that were/are filmed on location. After your video and any questions you may have, you go with your group with your guide - ours was Bob, who was phenomenal - and jump in your open tour vehicle where you'll zoom around the front lot. Look how fun it was!

Where you do go? Well, you're off to check out some iconic filming locations!

Does this bar-front look familiar? This is the bar from Shameless with William H. Macy. I don't watch the show usually, but Eric likes it. On the show, Macy can be seen passed out in front of this bar. Believe it or not, many of these facades also have room inside for crew and perspective. 

There were a lot of fronts from Pretty Little  Liars, which I also haven't watched enough of to recognize, but I'll be excited when I start the show from season 1 and see Rosewood on the screen. Fortunately, there were lots of places I do watch and/or remember. This stoop right here is from the episode of Friends where Phoebe got a bunch of money in bank error, then they "corrected it" by giving her even more money, so she decided to give it away to a homeless friend, who bought her a soda as a thank you. If you remember, that soda had a thumb in it, and she ended up getting more money for her pain and suffering. LOL!

Also, across the street (and in the street) was used for filming scenes from Jim Carrey's The Mask. Bob regaled us with a scene from the movie, which we all applauded, because he was awesome.

Does this city hall building with the columns look familiar? If you're old, like me, you remember seeing it in the original Batman series where Batman and Robin run up the steps to meet with Commissioner Gordon in several episodes. Well, it turns out they filmed that once and then used it as stock footage in a bunch of episodes. Convenient! 

Not all the shows are old or off the air. Here, Bob and I are reenacting a scene from The Big Bang Theory where the guys steal the copy of Star Wars the theater was showing, because they didn't get in to watch it, despite being in line for hours, because Wil Wheaton cut in front of them. P.S. It looks like we're running with suitcases, but it's only because film canisters are large and heavy. Ha! Only for you guys. And Bob.

I still don't know what this thing is or why, but I was intrigued enough to take a pic of it. (Sorry about that person's elbow) 

Can I tell you how amazing the prop department is? I took a lot of pictures and would have taken more if I'd been allowed to roam free. Maybe it's good I wasn't, because I might still be there. So, anything you can imagine being used as a prop is held in here. It's sort of like going to Goodwill, if Goodwill had awesome stuff that was all worth money. 

Apparently, things go here after they are made and used in shows and movies. Also, prop people purchase things of all kinds in many different styles and then the show designers come in to see what they want and rent it by the week. I saw several pieces that had hold tags on them. One of them was a statue that was $1600/week. Dang!

Also in the prop department are fun breakaway and foam props that look just like the real thing. Bob showed us this fake baseball bat and "splat mat" that totally look like he was just murdered. Did I mention that Bob is the best? 

Okay, so back to the Archive. You've seen the second floor, bu the first floor was dedicated to DC and Marvel, with Batman, Superman (and the above Kryptonite), the entire Suicide Squad and more. 

Here's where you can see all the costumes from Suicide Squad, get your picture taken behind bars at Belle Reve, and also check out some of the fancy props, like Harley's hammer. I still don't know how Margot Robbie did anything in those boots.

They're celebrating 75 years of Batman and, as such, have a whole warehouse dedicated to the Batmobile and other vehicles from all the Batman movies. We even got the chance to call Batman by turning on the Bat Signal. 

This awesome Batman tank car is my absolute favorite after the original Batmobile and before the Tumbler from The Dark Knight. It's fantastic up close and has so many details that you never got to see in the movie (Batman vs Superman). If there's ever a zombie apocalypse, this is the vehicle you want to have, though it probably doesn't have much room for your supply run. In here, you can also see Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman costume, Anne Hathaway's Cat Batpod (motorcycle), Poison Ivy's weapons and a pretty intimidating Batman statue in the middle of it all.

In between that and the end of our tour, we were able to enter a "hot set" to see what it looks like to be in the audience at a TV show. Most shows are on hiatus right now, so we were lucky, though weren't allowed to take any pictures inside. The set we saw was Two Broke Girls and it was pretty cool. We only got to see it from the front in the audience chairs, but we learned a lot of cool stuff about how live audience viewings work, and then we walked around the side and back, to get a view of where the crew and props can hide and I saw a wall of the dessert bar I've never seen on the show. There's a bathroom off to the left side? What? 

Okay, so then we were done with our tour portion with a guide (boo) and went into the building where they show you how movie magic works. We were excited about this for several reasons, and one of them was because they have the entire set of Central Perk inside from Friends. Not only that, but we got to go walk around on it! I didn't take nearly as many photos as I wanted to, but only because other people were waiting to get their picture taken. There's also a set up talking about costuming and manuscripts, which is what that pic with the costumes from Man of Steel is about. 

Look at all the details! I can't even tell you how exciting it was to me to sit on this iconic couch. I also got to stand in the alley where Monica and Rachel were spying on Jean Claude Van Damme on the set of Outbreak 2 when they all went to visit Marcelle, but I don't have a picture of that. Also, it's not as awesome as this, which I have several different pics of...and then some of just the set pieces I took while running away for other people to fan out over.

On to movie magic! I have always been fascinated by how they do special effects without relying on a computer to do all the work. 

Cue: forced perspective. In these two pictures with a set from Lord of the Rings, forced perspective is used to make the person on the right look like a giant and the person on the left look like a dwarf (or hobbit? Sorry LOTR fans). By now, you all know that Eric is approximately twice my size. I love these pictures where I it looks the opposite and the one where it's like I could fit in his pocket.

At the end of the self-guided tour there are three green screen ops. You can do any or all of them, with the option of purchasing your video(s) and/or photos. In the photos and videos, the green screen is replaced with movie backgrounds. The first is a broom from Harry Potter, where you don a house robe and fly through the city and battle Death Eaters. The second is a scene from The Dark Knight Rises where you ride the Batpod through the city. The third is you in space from Gravity working on your ship. Here's Eric taking direction from the WB crew member to make his Batman video more Batman-y. (That's a technical term.)

I loved my Warner Bros Studio Tour. So much so, that I'm actually looking forward to a return visit to see stuff I may have missed. While you end your tour at the gift shop, don't automatically dismiss it, as they have some pretty quality items from your fave movies and shows. The prices are competitive and similar to what you will find at the theme parks. You can buy your Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Beans here for the same prices, plus you can pick up Central Perk coffee and collectibles, like a Batman cowl or Bane mask. The prices seemed reasonable for those as well. 

Tour rates for adults are $65 and $55 for kids 8-12. Kids under 8 are not permitted on the tour, which is understandable when you go on it. Learn more or buy your tickets here.

What sort of movie magic intrigues you the most?

Disclaimer: Our tour admission was comped for the purposes of this (and the next) review, but all opinions are 100% my own. We had planned to take the tour regardless. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Exploring the Warner Bros Archive

A little over a month ago, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post about a new Fantastic Beasts exhibit. Now, as you know, I'm a huge Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts/magical world fan, so I needed to go see it. The exhibit was to be mixed with items from the Harry Potter movies as well and found at the Warner Bros Archive at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank, California. Lucky for me, I was already going to be in SoCal and arriving a few days after the exhibit opened.  

warner bros studio tour

If I had been in town a week earlier, I would have been there in time to visit during the press preview and met with Dan Fogle (who plays Jacob in Fantastic Beasts), but it was not meant to be. Instead, I took the tour like everyone else can and had a short time to explore the exhibit before the tour moved on. Now, there's a lot to see on the tour, so I'll just focus on this exhibit in this post.

I'm not sure what I expected when we arrived at this building. It certainly wasn't that it was going to be two floors packed with magical goodies. The top floor was devoted to Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter and the bottom to DC Comics, including Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, and Marvel's Suicide Squad. I quickly ran upstairs to soak up all the magic and was immediately surprised by how much was packed into the space.

I was greeted by Harry's Hogwarts letters spilling from the fireplace and a mini gallery of movie artwork. This is just a small sample of what was on display, and each piece was gorgeous. Around the corner came even more awe-invoking props:

Up close, you can see all the creativity and colorful illustrations done by MinaLima Studios for all the movie newspaper, sign and toy props. 

And look! I met Aragog! As much as spiders seem creepy in real life, I have a soft spot for Aragog, even though he's bigger than me and tried to eat Harry and Ron that one time. I mean, Hagrid raised him from an egg!

THE SORTING HAT! Sorry. I was just really excited about meeting him. He sorted me...into Ravenclaw. Big surprise. {I'm sure that lovely man told him to do so, but still.} Also, check out the amazing costumes behind me. So fantastic. I still had the urge to touch them all, but there was more to see, so I restrained myself. Plus, you know, security. Here's a quick video of Eric getting sorted:

Fun, right? Here's a bit of the Triwizard props (and the omnioculars from the Quidditch World Cup). A moment of silence for Cedric, one of the greatest Hufflepuffs.

While we're not weeping over an untimely death, let's move on. You can see some of the fantastic school robes on the left. On the right was a case with the golden egg and the Triwizard Cup. 

You know had to stop to ooh and ahh over Arthur and Molly Weasley's awesome wizard wear. Who doesn't want one of those robes? They dress pretty well for being poor, in my opinion anyway. I just now notice that her shoes look a bit like peanuts. I'm sure that's just the lighting though. Ha!

Now we're on to the Fantastic Beasts part of the exhibit. You're welcomed into the world the same as Newt, by going through Port Authority. Check out all the fun luggage!

Again, we see MinaLima's great artwork in these newspapers and poster. Even though it has a very different vibe, it's just as beautiful and whimsical as their previous contributions to the wizarding world.

Jacob's apartment is not much, but it's home. The prop department did a lot to convey how bland and simple his life was, and then you see the contrast between his plain clothes and the colorful wizarding world. 

Is it weird that I was excited to see that we Americans get Transfiguration Today? Eric thought it was a normal thing for me to point out, while the employee standing nearby chuckled at it. Also, if you look close enough, you'll see that this is an issue that published one of Dumbledore's articles!

I really can't get enough of Newt's overcoat and other parts of his outfit. I'm also in love with all the fantastic beasts, because we barely got to see any in the Harry Potter movies, by comparison. I remember reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and wishing there were more pictures. Then I hoped that we would see many of Hagrid's creatures on the big screen. Alas, there were so many that go left out. I didn't even get to see a blast-ended skrewt! Unfortunately, I had to wait until the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to see things like a Fwooper. I'm so excited for this new glimpse into the magical world, even I can never get used to calling someone a No Maj over a Muggle. 

For a big Potter fan like me, I would have paid the price for the entire tour to see just the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts props. Lucky for me, there was much, much more to see. The tour is around three hours long and includes a trip to the prop house, the front lot, possibly a current working set (we saw the Two Broke Girls set, but weren't allowed to take pics), the Batman vault and more. Check my next post for even more pics.

Rates for adults are $65 and $55 for kids 8-12. Kids under 8 are not permitted on the tour, which is understandable when you go on it. If you like movies, the tour is well worth the price for what you see and learn. Our tour guide, Bob, was the coolest. We came away with some phenomenal pics and a very memorable experience. Learn more or buy your tickets here.

Have you see the new Fantastic Beasts movie yet?

Disclaimer: Our tour admission was comped for the purposes of this (and the next) review, but all opinions are 100% my own. We had planned to take the tour regardless. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays (from the Theme Park)

Happy Holidays everyone! Last week we went to Southern California and we hit up the theme parks. Our trip happened to coincide with Disney's California Adventure's Festival of Holidays, where they celebrated all the great December holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Navidad. They had awesome food kiosks, where we grazed along, eating all the fun festival foods. On this holiday, I wanted to share with you some photos and videos I took while I was gone.

theme park holidays
the Christmas tree at Universal City Walk

Hogsmeade is always covered in snow (Universal Studios)

Look at this adorable "wizard" snowman cake! (Wizarding World at Universal)

The decor at Minion Mayhem was very awesome (Universal Studios)
Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise for the holidays
How cute are these Pooh and Piglet snow animals?

Even the cars at Radiator Springs decorated (California Adventure)

The "under the sea" tree at Ariel's Grotto (California Adventure)

Whatever you're doing this day/weekend/season, I hope it's happy and fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Road Trip Tips

The holidays are here and Christmas (and Hanukkah) is coming up fast. That means a lot of people will probably be taking to the road to visit friends and family. If you're headed out on a road trip this year, you'll want to plan accordingly and make sure your car's ready for the occasion.

road trip tips

Hopefully you've already gotten your car checked out, but if not make sure your tires are good, your brakes don't need replacing (because stopping is really important), you get an oil change and everything else is in good order. Got AAA? Then don't forget to keep your card handy. If one of your credit cards has roadside assistance, make sure you know all the details and know the numbers to call if you need them. Keep an emergency kit in your car, just in case, and a spare gallon of water to avoid overheating. It happens. If you'll be driving where snow or ice might be a possibility, then make sure you have a set of chains or cables for your tires, because sliding all over the road sucks. And not being able to go on without slide protection will suck too.
Once you've made all the boring and necessary checks on your car, it's time to start packing. Even though I have plenty of room in the trunk (and backseat), I still try to pack light. I don't want to drag a ton of bags in and out of hotels everyday and it's nice to have spare room in your car for any purchases your may make along the way. 

If you're traveling as a family, space is at a premium anyway. Don't bring your whole closet. One carry-on per person is enough. A cooler with drinks, snacks and sandwich fixings is a must, especially if you're trying to save some money on your drive. Plus, if you go with kids, they always seem to be hungry at different times throughout the day, so having healthy snacks to keep them satisfied is important. Toss a back-up carry-on bag in your trunk for rounding up purchases (or gifts) in one place, and a few reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping, dirty clothes and other miscellaneous things.

The best part of a road trip is the stops along the way. Know some of the fun, obscure, interesting and popular things to do on your route. I plan at least one or two of these per day to break up the monotony of sitting in the car and staring out the window. A great app to use for finding these things on main highways is iExit. It's free and will give you everything from places to eat, attractions, shops, rest areas and even animal hospitals, if you're traveling with a pet. I like that you can plan ahead by using the app without actually being on the road, but you can use it on-the-go. If you're a AAA member, you can order guidebooks and paper maps for free, too.

Sometimes you just need to get out and stretch your legs. Being in the car for long periods of time can make your legs cramp up and make you feel blah. See an interesting turn off? Stop! Run around, take a quick walk, take some pictures, check out a tourist attraction or make yourself a sandwich to tide you over until lunch or dinner. You'll be glad you did.

Dress comfortably. It is so easy to dress comfortably and still look like a person nowadays with fabrics like jersey, bamboo and rayon. Just because you've been in the car for 10 hours, doesn't mean you have to look like a slob. Not only are these fabrics comfy, but they also resist wrinkles and breathe well, too. If you can't live without your trusty jeans, invest in some nice ones with stretch. I have three pair that I paid a pretty penny for, but they are some of the best ones I own for travel.

Bring tunes from home. Don't rely on just the radio, otherwise you'll have times were the only thing you get are Christian and deep country music, if you can pick up anything. I swear there must be radio towers built into the mountains for these stations. If you're a fan of either, you are probably okay, but I still suggest loading up your iPod with some good road tunes, podcasts or e-books. That way you have a variety of things to listen to and aren't forced to listen to Jesus Rock in between static if you don't want to. 

Coupons, coupons, coupons! Along the road you're bound to stop at a few rest stops or greasy spoons (including Denny's) and when you do, grab one of those highway magazines that is full of coupons for dining and lodging. You can save a ton off already affordable necessities. Sometimes, you may find discounts for roadside attractions. If not, make sure to browse that rack in your hotel/motel lobby before you do anything nearby.

Now, toss a spare blanket and pillow in your backseat and you're ready to conquer anything...or, at the very least, the road.

Where's everyone traveling for Christmas?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

More Tips for the First Time Cruiser

In my last post, I started by telling you how to save on your first ever cruise without having to use a travel agent. I know they are experts, but that doesn't mean you can't be one, too, even if you've never been on a cruise before. Being different from any other type of travel can make a cruise vacation a bit of a challenge to navigate, but I have faith you can do it, especially with these tips and little bit of planning and persistence. 

first time cruise tips
photo credit

You know how to save, but how do you pick the right cruise and cabin and all that other good stuff? I'm about to give you some help! 

What to Consider

There are a lot of factors to deal with when booking a cruise, so don't just close your eyes and point at something, because that probably won't go well. My first cruise was on a very small ship and it gave me a good bout of cabin fever. The ship seemed bigger when looking at everything online, but in reality, it was fairly small compared to all the others out there. I learned for next time. 
  • Decide how much you want to spend. This is always number one. If you don't know, perhaps look around at cruise deals to figure out what sort of budget you'll need. Keep in mind what is included – cabin, food, beverages, most entertainment, kids club (most of the time), room service and what's not some activities, shore excursions, alcohol, soft drinks (usually), fancy coffees, specialty dining, childcare, tipping, spa service, casino, shopping, personal trainers and exercise classes. Gratuity generally adds about $10-15 per person per day to your cost, which will add to the posted cost. In fact, the posted price is always going to be less than what you will actually spend.
  • How long do you want to be gone? As a first-timer, I wouldn't suggest anything longer than 7 days, but it also depends on the itinerary you choose. If you're unsure how you'll feel about being on a big ship, maybe pick a shorter cruise to start off, and if you like it, you can plan a longer cruise in the future.
  • Where do you want to go? This is usually the first thing I think about and then figure out how I can make it work with my budget. It also depends on what time of year you can go what's available. Most cruises don't sail year-round. 
  • Who's going with you? Some cruise lines are more suited to families than others, which cater more toward grown-ups.
  • Are you cool with crowds? It's simple math. The bigger the ship, the larger the crowds on it. If you want a more intimate experience, go for a smaller ship. If you don't care and you want a long list of available activities, then a large ship is where it's at.
Really just want a good cruise for your first time without all the effort? Then check out Cruise Critic's list of 12 best cruises for newbies. They are also a great resource for researching all ships and itineraries.

photo credit

Choosing the Right Cabin

I'm not big on staying in my room, whether I'm on a ship or in a hotel. I mean, I like to be comfortable, but I tend to be out more than I'm in on almost all my trips. That said, you may end up in your cabin more than expected, so picking the right one for you can make or break your trip.
  • If you get seasick and are planning a trip on a smaller ship, choose one that's in the middle of the ship for the least amount of rockage. That said, you probably won't feel any rocking at all, no matter what ship you choose, unless the weather is pretty iffy. 
  • If you like to sleep and enjoy your blackout curtains, go for an inside cabin. This is also great for those that just want to enjoy the ship and ports and want to save as much money as possible. Keep in mind, if the lights are out, even if it's the middle of the day, your cabin will be pitch black
  • If seeing the outside world is important to you, or you just need sunlight to feel like a person who doesn't live in a cave, choose an outside cabin. If nothing else, it'll have some portholes that will let light in, so you'll at least know if it's daytime or not. Those higher up on the ship will have larger windows.
  • Some people value their connection to the sea and want to experience it 24/7. This is when you should get a balcony, or at least a Juliet balcony (which offers a sliver of standing room outside your sliding floor-to-ceiling window. 

Extra Tips

Staterooms on ships are not the largest. The bed takes up most of the space, so you’re going to want to hang everything you can. 

  • Bring some magnetic clips to keep stuff organized that you can stick to your cabin walls (because they’re magnetic!). 
  • Pack a cloth shoe organizer to hang in the closet to stash things that you don’t usually hang up, but don’t want to have to keep on the closet floor or wrestle out of your suitcase each time you want to use it.
  • Keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones by bringing along a mesh, pop-up hamper. I tend to take mine down to the laundry to clean everything before I leave so I don’t go home, or to my next destination, with a bag full of dirty clothes.
  • Pack a small power strip, because like hotel rooms, staterooms are woefully lacking in outlets. I like this one from Belkin and have one in my travel bag at all times and two at home.

Some cruise lines try to dupe you into paying more for less. I mean, it's like Vegas. Why not charge for everything when you still have money in your pocket? Here are some things to watch out for:
  • Check the room diagram (and reviews). Some lines are claiming rooms are suites when they really are not. A suite should be more than one room and a few are offering one room separated by a curtain, and some not even that.
  • A balcony should be able to hold a few chairs, at least. Watch out for those that claim you get a balcony, but it's either the smallest standing room, where you're basically standing in the doorway to be "outside".
Just because there are so many different things to do on the ship, it doesn’t mean you need to bring your whole closet. In fact, you can still pack light and have everything you need for your cruise.
  • Bring multi-purpose items, like a top that you can dress up or down depending on the situation. A plain black tank top can work for a formal night when paired with a statement necklace and a light wrap.
  • A nice pair of sandals can also be worn for formal nights, so you don’t have to pack a pair of heels that you’ll only wear a few hours the whole time you’re cruising.
  • Men can bring a lightweight sport coat and a few ties to dress up any outfit…and not have the same look twice if there’s more than one formal night on your ship.
  • Aside from these things, bring what you normally do: 5 tops, 3 bottoms, a pair of really good walking/running shoes, a rain jacket, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. If you need more help packing light, here’s a post for you.
  • Don't forget your passport if you aren't going to a closed-loop U.S. port.
Now you're practically an expert on all things cruising. You can pick the right ship, the right cabin, the perfect excursions on your own and even save money once onboard. The only thing that's left is to pack and put on your sunglasses! 

If you've been on a cruise, where did you go and what was your favorite thing?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tips for the First Time Cruiser

Cruising is unlike other travel. Most people book through a travel agent, because it’s so foreign and they are afraid of making a bad decision or getting a crappy deal. The thing is, you don’t need an agent, you just need to know-how to do it right, even if it’s your first time cruising. Unlike booking a hotel or a plane ticket, you’re stuck on the boat and in your cabin for three nights to three weeks (depending on your itinerary) and there’s really nothing you can do if you hate your boat or your room.

first time cruiser tips
photo credit
So, how do you figure it all out and still save money? It’s really not that difficult. You just need to do a bit of research and planning. This is the time to make sure to check out previous cruiser reviews.

How to Save Money

There are a lot of ways, big and little, that can help you save on your cruise. Some are no brainers (to me, anyway) and some are little known.
  • Book your cruise early. Unlike airfare, you can really save a lot of money if you book your cruise far in advance. I’m talking a year out, maybe more. Cruise lines lure you in with the promise of incentives like beverage packages, free gratuities, onboard credits, free upgrades and much reduced rates. 
  • Book your cruise late. If you don’t like to plan ahead (or that far out), look for last-minute cruise sales where you can get similar deals to early-booking. You may not get your first choice of cabin, but you’ll save big time on those that need to be filled before sailing.
  • Sail in the off season. When you can, choose off-peak times to cruise to get a better deal and possibly a less crowded ship. Obviously, prices are lower for the less desirable cruise times, like hurricane season (which rarely sees a hurricane).
  • Tip strategically. Most gratuities for services on the ship are included, which you’ll see on your receipt when you sign for them to charge them to your room. Unless your service was over the top outstanding, don’t double tip. In fact, if you go to check out your bill before debarkation and you feel like your gratuities are…uh…gratuitous, you can certainly dispute this to change them. And the reverse is also true if you want to add to your total.
  • Book your shore excursions separately. I can’t tell you how much cruise lines mark up excursions. They make tons of bank on people who either didn’t know they could book independently or were too lazy to do it. You can save an average of 50% by doing it yourself, even through the same companies that the cruise works with. Just make sure to check reviews to see what others had to say.
  • Book a package. If you know you’ll want to drink a ton of soda (or anything other than tea, water and coffee), purchase the beverage package and save yourself some bucks. If you want to spend time hitting up the specialty dining on your ship, look into the dining packages. You may save quite a bit by doing these instead of paying every time you decide to go “off menu”. 
  • Skip the spa or book on port days. You’ll probably be so busy doing other stuff on the ship that you won’t have time to get pampered at the spa, but if not, know that you may end up paying twice as much for services as you would on land. Prices drop significantly if you book when the ship is in port, since most people will be out and not interested in staying on the boat.
  • Save your drinking for port days. I know most people get super excited to sit by the pool and drink their days away. By doing this, you’re spening way more on booze than you need to. Instead, do other things on the boat and then drink for much less in port. If you must drink while cruising, here’s an article I did for Travelwise on how to do it cheaply or free.
  • Link your cruise card to cash instead of a credit card. This is a new tip I just learned. In order to combat overspending, which is super easy to do when you just hand over your stateroom card for everything, head to the purser’s desk and give them half of the cash you have allocated to spend onboard on the first day of your cruise instead of linking to your credit card. Halfway through, give them the other half of your cash. One, this eliminates the willy-nilly spending for things you don’t need. Two this allows you to have cash available for excursions instead going broke before your trip is over and
  • Book your next cruise while you’re on your cruise. This is more a tip for potential second cruisers, but you can do it while cruising for the first time. Cruise lines give deals to loyal cruisers with significant discounts, onboard credits and more.
Okay, so now that you know how to save on your actual cruise, you need to know how to pick a cruise. Well, like you must wait for the winner of The Voice…after the break…you’ll have to wait for my next post to learn more about how to be awesome at cruising.

If you've cruised previously, what are your best tips for saving on one?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: HappyLuxe Wayfarer Wrap

When I travel, I like to pack items that are multipurpose, because the more things I have that can do several things, the fewer things I need to pack. I’m often cold and have an impressive selection of cardigans and jackets and often have a blanket on the couch that I share with the dog. Even when you go to warm climates, there are times you go inside with air conditioning and it’s chilly. Your tank top and shorts are not sufficient. Usually, I either stash a lightweight cardigan or scarf in my purse. The same goes for the plane. It’s either really hot or really cold and no way to tell what you’re going to get.

travel blanket
photo credit: HappyLuxe

HappyLuxe has fixed all my chill problems with their Wayfarer Wrap. It can be worn multiple ways, it’s pretty, it’s super soft and you can even add a hand warmer to the pouch to give it even more warmth. Perfect for the weather in Portland right now, where we went from cold to blizzard in a day.

The Wayfarer looks and feels lightweight, but it’s quite substantial, with lots of coverage. It’s nice enough to wear with a dress, but can also look casual if you want to wear it with less formal clothes. I look forward to taking it with me to Southern California where it will be warm during the day and then cool at night.

Wear it like a shawl

When we were in New Orleans and it was 90 degrees outside, it was often much, much cooler inside, making a wrap a necessity. The same goes for our trips to Las Vegas, even in the middle of summer, and theme park trips where there are shows inside. They crank the air up to combat the crowds of people and make it more comfortable than the temps outside, but the difference can make it feel like winter. The Wayfarer worn as a shawl will definitely keep my arms and shoulders warm – and probably make some people jealous that they don’t have their own.

Instead of a coat, which doesn’t always look great with a dress, this lovely wrap completes an outfit much more beautifully. Nobody wants to go to dinner and have to put their outside jacket on if they’re cold. Same with the theater. The Wayfarer is a better fit and allows you to actually eat without getting your coat sleeve in your food.

Sometimes, you just need to cover your shoulders…or your head. Many religious sites will ask for these things. No problem! Your wrap can take care of both of these things, at the same time if needed.

Wear it like a scarf

Is it cold outside? We travel in the fall a lot, so it can be crisp outside in certain destinations. That coolness can creep in under the collar of your coat, so you’ll need a layer around your neck. No matter the collar style of your coat, your Wayfarer Wrap can fill in the gap.

Is it really cold? Pop a hand warmer into the hidden pocket of the wrap and it’ll be like walking around with a pretty heater around your neck. This would have been perfect on our last trip to Paris, where it was mostly 20 degrees out the whole time we were there and required several layers. Even Eric was cold and we needed to buy a second hat and scarf for him, so being outside wasn’t the worst experience.

The Wayfarer is totally going to get me through this harsh winter they’re predicting for Portland, so I can run around outside without wishing I were anywhere else. I’m not into the cold this year, but at least I’ll be warmer and prettier now.

Use it as a blanket

I have to admit, even on vacation, I wish I had a blanket with me. The plane is cold and I’m trying to sleep. The hotel room is cold, but too warm to sleep comfortably without the air on. The car is cold, because everyone else is hot. This way, I have a blanket with me wherever I go. A lightweight, but suitably warm blanket that folds up small when I’m not using it or need to toss it in my carry-on bag.

Many times we go to the movies and I end up putting my coat on my lap, because my legs are chilly. Sadly, I have a bit of arthritis in my joints, so being cold can make it feel worse. Being able to cover up is important for my comfort. Bringing a scarf along, even in the warmer months, seems a lot more common now than if I were toting around a jacket.

Other reasons the Wayfarer Wrap is awesome

As if the Wayfarer doesn’t sounds amazing enough, it’s totally got more going for it!
  • The colors it comes in are pretty, classic, and complimentary. There’s even a fun print!
  • It’s larger than most scarves, but if you love a blanket scarf, you’ll love this. This means it gives you a lot of coverage and is the size of a smallish lap blanket. You could totally use this as a regular size blanket for napping on the plane or the back of the car or the couch of your Airbnb.
  • The fabric is crazy soft that feels like cashmere, but is actually sustainable and made from beech trees. It’s breathable and machine washable. It’s also made in the U.S.
  • Did I mention it’s amazingly affordable? Plus they offer free shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee – that I doubt you’ll need – because the Wayfarer Wrap is remarkable. 
  • It makes a great gift for yourself and all the ladies on your list, whether they travel or not.
More details:
Where can I buy it? On the HappyLuxe website
How much is it? $39, but now through Christmas, you can get it for just $22.49 + free shipping + that money-back guarantee. 
What colors does it come in? jet black | cool grey (shown at top) | midnight blue | sea foam | aloha floral | pink crush (shown)
Other specs: 72" x 35", MicroModal fabric

What's your favorite multi-purpose travel item?

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Wayfarer Wrap by HappyLuxe for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.
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