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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prepping for Your Next Road Trip

I'm getting geared up for my next road trip, you guys. In March, I drove alone from Portland to Vegas and back. I was basically just trying to save money, so I did the drive each way in one day. I don't know that I'd recommend it, as it's very long and much of it is boring and out in the middle of nowhere. Next year I'll be flying, but only because it'll be snowy in February. I like my alone time and had fun on my own, but it would have been nicer to spend less time in the car and more time checking out stuff along the way, but that would have defeated the purpose for this mostly business trip.

road trip tips

So, when you want to take a real road trip, to save money and also see more than you would on a plane, you're going to want to make it more fun than frantically looking for a place to pee along the road when one side is a cliff and the other is a rocky beach, hoping you don't have to use your empty Starbucks cup. I wasn't proud of that either, but I was lucky enough that the beach had a public restroom and I didn't get murdered. Here's how to make your road trip awesome.

I love a good road trip and have done my fair share of them in my life. The first thing you should do to prep for your trip is to get your car checked out if you are driving your own and not renting. 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.

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. On my way to Vegas, I kept it to one small carry-on for my clothing, the small cooler you see here and the insulated Trader Joe's bag for other food, goodies and disposable plates, utensils and paper towels. I definitely came back with more than I left with. 

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 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 are a AAA member, you can order free travel books for states you'll be traveling in. These will give you maps and suggestions for where to stop and what to do as well. I've used these in the past and stopped at cool and kitschy places. You'll also find hotels and motels along the way that offer discounts to AAA members.

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.

Keep your eyes open for rest areas, because if you have to wait 126 miles until the next one, you may just want to get out and make yourself go. iExit can help you find the next stop, so you don't give up and pee behind a bush (if there even is one). When you road trip alone, it can be really important to know what's coming up for your safety. I've got a thing against rest stops in general, because they can be scary, especially at night. 

I look for stops that are large, bright and clean. I've been known to make my husband stand in the doorway or go in with him to the men's side if the place is deserted. As a solo road tripper, I won't stop at a place when I'm the only car or if almost all the vehicles in the lot are semi trucks. If there are fast food locations available, I'll choose to go in and buy a drink or some fries and use the restroom there. 

I always send a message to someone every time I stop, which means you should keep your phone charged while you're traveling. I like to be safe and cover all my bases. One of the ways I do this is by using the Voxer app on my phone. It works independently of your texting and doesn't use data. It's free and you can send text messages of any length, photos or voice messages to anyone else with the app. You can see when it has be delivered to the other person, when they've read it and they can see where you sent it from by clicking on the message details. 

If you're out of the country, the app works on WiFi and lets the recipient know when the message was sent, instead of when they received it, and sends any backed up messages once WiFi is available again. Did I mention it's free?

Looking for the cheapest gas available along your drive? Put the GasBuddy app on your phone. If not, iExit can tell you which gas stations are coming up. There's nothing worse than running out of gas...especially if you're in the middle of nowhere. 

Pack activities and a map. You may have a GPS in your car, but I can tell you there are places where it won't work. Make sure to keep a map in  your car for that reason. I also like to print out full directions for my trip, in case I can't use my technology. Bring your iPod, your phone if it's got music downloaded on it or a selection of CDs that will make your time more enjoyable. I like to listen to audio books when I road trip. It's fun and makes the time fly by. It's the people in the backseat that need activities. Bring a notebook, a tablet for books and movies, magazines, games and toys to keep them busy. If you need ideas for the kiddos, check out my Pinterest road trip board.

Now you're ready to have a fantastic trip. I'll be packing soon for my trip to Montana, which will include my mom and dog, so it'll be quite interesting and probably really fun (and a bit challenging). What are your favorite road trip tips?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Travel Gifts for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is right around the corner and if you haven't come up with a great gift for your mom (or sister, wife, grandma or daughter) who loves to travel, then you still have some time to snap up something good that'll make you look like a hero that knows her so well. No matter what your budget, your gift can be useful, thoughtful and something she'll love. 

mother's day travel gifts


Your mom loves having great hair. You know how I know? Because everyone loves having great hair. Help her get awesome hair while she travels by getting her a fantastic mini hair appliance like Conair's mini flat iron, which I have and works better than my full-size one. Get one for around $15.

Make sure you can follow your mom's travels on Instagram or Facebook by getting her a battery backup for her mobile. When she can keep her phone charged, she can call you to tell you all about the fun she's having and you can call her to check in and tell her you love her. I have this one and it can charge your phone 2 1/2 times before it needs to be recharged. It also has a flashlight and comes in at a cool $16.

Don't you like to chronicle your trips to remember later? I bet your mom would enjoy that, too. Get her a fun and fab travel journal to keep track of all the places she ate, the museums she visited and the people she met along the way. This awesome one is really affordable at under $12.

If your mom loves to lounge by the pool or play on the beach, then you need to get her a waterproof phone pouch. It keeps water and sand out, floats and still lets you talk, text, play games and take pictures. Last time I was using mine in the lazy river, a lady floating by asked me all about it. This would be an excellent gift to go with something else, because it costs just $10.

Give your mom the gift of travel inspiration with a subscription to Travel + Leisure Magazine. She may not have the money to stay at the included hotels, but I find it's a great starting point for planning where I want to go and what I want to do there. Get 12 issues for just $10.

Keep your mom safe from pickpockets and other thieves with a great travel purse from Travelon. Look for anti-theft features and slash-proof straps, so she never has to worry about someone stealing her money, passport or other necessities wherever she goes. You'll be looking to spend between $40 and $80.

I bet your mom likes to be organized...especially when she travels. Get her some of Lewis N. Clark's fantastic packing cubes, like the fun new expandable ones, so they fit everything she needs in her carry-on. These can run $10-44, depending on size and set.

Everyone needs a good pair of flats for walking in style. Butterfly Flats makes beautiful ones that are also comfortable and versatile enough to wear with dresses, pants and shorts, plus they fold to take up minimal space in your bag. You know your mom's shoe size, pick her out a pretty pair for around $40.

Purchase some rest and relaxation that your mom can choose herself. There are thousands of B&Bs all across the country that are part of a network. Get a BedandBreakfast gift card so she can find the perfect getaway for herself. Purchase in any denomination.


Everyone likes to look fantastic in their vacation pics and also feel comfortable and stylish. Find an upscale piece for your mom at Anatomie, luxury travel clothes for women. Prices are steep and range $100-$300, but they are classy and made really well, so she'll be wearing them for years to come.

Give the gift of experience and save her money with either a CityPASS or a Go Card from Smart Destinations. Both save up to 50% off a city's most popular attractions and saves her from waiting in the ticket line, which is always the worst. They start around $45 and go up from there depending on the city being visited.

Does your mom travel to rainy climates? If so a waterproof carry-on should be something she has. I have the Lojel Nimbus and love it, especially for Oregon. It has double spinner wheels, easy-to-grasp rubber handles, is lightweight and holds quite a bit. It's runs a bit much at $238, but it's guaranteed to last her many years.

You know what's awesome? Having noise-cancelling headphones that are also wireless and can help you sleep on the plane and are adjustable to fit everyone's head. Get her a pair of Sol Republic Air Tracks for around $70 and she will love you (even more than she already does).

Let her go farther for less by gifting her air miles or a gift card to her favorite airline. They come in any denomination you choose (or in quantities of 500 for miles), so you can work with the budget you have and, if you want to gift her your air miles, it's even more affordable.

What are you doing for the mom in your life for Mother's Day on May 8th?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Your purchases help me bring you more useful blog posts and travel overviews.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: Cosmetic Organizer from Lewis N. Clark

When I travel, I'm always looking to get more organized and simplify. I mix and match my wardrobe for maximum wear, I take only two pair of shoes, I pare down my toiletries so I only take the necessary items. Lewis N. Clark is helping me organize my toiletries in style and letting me leave the ugly quart zip-top bag at home, too. Their Plaid Cosmetic Organizer is everything you need, especially when traveling solo.

This new toiletry bag is part of a new line they have put out this year and is equal parts classy and convenient. It consists of two parts that zip together. One side has a mesh front and the other has a polyurethane front for your liquids. You can easily see what's inside both compartments when it's opened flat and you can either unzip the liquids side to throw it in the security bin at TSA or just lay it flat in the bin, so security agents can see what's inside quickly. It totally eliminates having to also have that loose bag of liquids in your bag and looks a whole lot prettier.

Okay, so here's what I normally bring when I travel. I try to keep everything to small trial-size items when possible, so I can keep it simple and recycle any items I use up before I head home. It seems like a lot, but it would take up a lot more room in my bag if I brought bigger sizes. I decant my face scrub and moisturizer into smaller containers (like that second contact case), because I don't need a ton of it. Everything up there, except a couple items, is a necessity. Up in the right corner is my solid shampoo and a small sewing kit.

I put my liquids in one side and all the other items, like my toothbrush, in the mesh side and everything fit inside with room to spare. This is great, because sometimes I add things last-minute or I find items on my trip to take home that needs to go in a 3-1-1 (liquids) bag. When you're getting ready in the morning, you can quickly find the things you need.

Only need your brush or medication? Unzip the organizer and just take the half you need. You don't have to use it just for makeup or toiletries either. Often, I carry a bag with my cords and adapters. This would be a perfect way to organize those things and keep them together. You can also keep small travel necessities inside, such as your passport, eye mask, pen and other things you'll use on your flight. Got kids? Store small toys, crayons, snacks or their electronics in this. It really has endless uses and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

The two halves are held together at the top by a magnetic closure. Each side is wider at the bottom than at the top, so it's difficult to pack it so much that the magnets don't catch. This makes it easy to hold onto as well. The fabric on the outside is a subtle plaid that is soft to the touch. You'll definitely get some compliments from other travelers. I also love the top zippers of the organizer. It doesn't just zip across the top, but starts and ends a little bit around the sides, meaning you can open it wide to get at things even in the bottom. Other similar bags make it difficult to get your hand inside the bag and you end up having to dump everything out to reach all the items packed into it.

I'm really excited for my next trip to be able to take this fantastic little bag set with me and use it for different things. It's classic looking and will serve many uses on my future trips, including a toiletry bag when I travel on my own (which is becoming more frequent). Of course, if you travel as a couple and need a little more room, having two of these probably won't take up much more space in your bag than your traditional toiletry kit.

Want to pick up one of your own? Of course you do. I love that these are not girly, so they are perfect for a man or a woman (and don't forget that Mother's Day is just next week!). 

Other specs
Where to buy it: On Lewis N. Clark website
How much it costs: $24.99
Size: 7.5in x 8.5in x 3.5in
Colors it comes in: Beige/Mint

Show your support & love of Lewis N. Clark by visiting them online | Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest
Disclaimer: I was provided with the Lewis N. Clark Cosmetic Organizer for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Real Vacations for Green Budget Travelers

For some, when they hear the words budget travel they wrinkle their nose thinking they have limited options and that there’s no way they are going to sleep on some stranger’s couch with their spouse and kids or stay in a hostel. Throw into the mix the words “green travel” and they immediately picture pitching a tent in the woods and eating granola and living without a shower for a week. While a lot of budget travelers like to backpack and couchsurf, there are other ways of doing it that can fit everyone’s taste and are also convenient for families, as well as those who like a little more comfort. You don’t have to give up everything to be an eco-friendly budget traveler. In fact, by just changing a few things you do, you can save a buck and help Mother Earth.

how to do green travel

Shop at farmers’ markets – Support local farmers, butchers, florists and artisans by shopping at open-air markets. Not only will you be putting money back into a community to help it thrive, you’re also keeping small businesses alive. By purchasing fresh ingredients that you can eat right away or do a little preparation with back at your lodging, you’re saving money over a traditional sit-down meal.

Eat at food carts – Another way to save on meals is to eat at food carts. They are the ultimate in budget dining, because they are basically a mobile kitchen. With their low overhead, (no seating, waiters, busboys, etc.) those savings are passed on to you. You also get to try local cuisine for less, and normally, where there is one food cart, there are many. If your kids are picky, there is bound to be something they find appetizing within reasonable walking distance from your current cart.

Ebooks and apps – Guidebooks are awesome, but not only do they take up room in your luggage, what do you do with them when your vacation is over? Probably you recycle them, but what if you didn’t have to? You can pretty much get any book you want in digital format for your e-reader or smartphone. You can even “bookmark” important pages you know you’ll need. And there are many apps that can give you directions, city tours, maps and even help you find attractions nearby. Many are even free! Going paperless can really make you feel lighter on your trips and allow you to feel better about all the information you’re toting around.

Walk or take public transportation – Many travelers rely on renting cars or taking cabs when on vacation, but that’s not always economical. In most big cities, taxis are really expensive and just a few trips could add up to hundreds of dollars. Why waste all that money (and gas!) when you can just as easily walk to your desired destinations or take public transportation? If either of these options are feasible, then take the time to slow down and smell the roses. You never know what you’re missing until you get out and see things from the point of view of a local. You’ll get some fresh air, exercise and even find a hidden shop or café that you can come back to. This is also a great time to let your kids take the reins and learn to navigate the subway map or figure out the best walking route from your hotel to wherever it is you planned on going.

Stay in an eco-lodge – If you’re looking for alternative accommodations from your typical hotel, consider staying in an eco-lodge. They come in many different types, but strive to do their best to impact the environment as little as possible, with low-flow toilets, use of sustainable materials, farm-to-table programs and more. You will find that many are a lot more luxurious than expected and even more affordable. Be careful, though, as some offer electricity, while others do not. If lights after sundown are important to you, then make sure you confirm that it is included before you book.

As a budget traveler that tries to do my part for the environment as much as possible, I’m always looking for new ways to save on my whole vacation. By just making the effort to get out and see your destination from a new perspective, you find different ways to experience your trips and change up your travel style a bit to make it more affordable and green at the same time. 

How do you travel green?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Getting the Most From Your Hotel Budget

There are plenty of things to consider when finding a place to stow your belongings and close your eyes at night. Price may be the biggest factor for you, but that doesn't mean the less you pay the worse your stay. There are plenty of budget and moderate hotels that offer wonderful service and surroundings if you know where and how to look. It's important to weigh all your options when deciding on where to sleep. Does it have a restaurant? Is it close to fun activities? Is it convenient to public transportation? Does it offer free breakfast? Free Wi-Fi? Is it on a busy street? Do the rooms offer kitchenettes? All these questions are important and if the answer is yes, you could save big. The more inclusive extras you can get on a vacation, the further your money goes.

getting the most of your hotel budget

Track Hotel Rates
Use Yapta to track hotel rates. Find a great deal? Search for the hotel(s) you are interested in and then track those specific ones. Even if you have reservations with them already, keep them on your list and keep waiting for prices to drop. Yapta will alert you to any prices that are lower than what you’ve already booked. If the price goes down, get on the phone with the establishment and see if you can change your reservation to reflect the lower rate.

Get Rewarded for your Loyalty
Sign up for Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards and get free hotel nights. For every 10 nights you book through Hotels.com, you get one free night. You don't need to stay 10 nights in a row, in the same hotel or even in the same year. Your credits just accumulate until you've reached 10 nights and then you are eligible to receive your free night. The price will be based on the average of the price per night you stayed for each of your 10 paid nights. If you wish to stay at a hotel that costs more than that, you will just pay the difference. If you frequent the same hotel or hotel chain, get on their loyalty program and start racking up points with each stay. You can trade these in for free nights and upgrades when you need them.

Avoid the Weekend
Hotel rates are almost always cheaper on Sunday through Thursday nights. Most people travel on the weekend. They know this, just like the airlines, so they make prices for Friday and Saturday stays more expensive. In some cases, they can be twice as much as on weeknights.

Stay in Business-Minded Hotels on the Weekend
Unlike most hotels, those that cater to business travelers don’t get much action on the weekend, so rates drop to encourage visitors to stay. These hotels are also ones to book over holidays, because they can be fairly empty and prices plummet.

Stay in Brand New Hotels
Hotels that have been newly built or totally remodeled often have an introductory period right when they open that offers rock-bottom rates. HotelChatter is a website that not only shows reviews of hotels, but they also list the opening dates of new hotels and update them if they change. The list shows hotels worldwide, so you can search before you book your room.

Go All-Inclusive
I know you’re paying to stay at these places to be entertained and well-fed; most of them also offer free activities in the form of non-motorized watersports and even have nightly entertainment. That’s a freebie in my opinion, though you may feel differently. I suggest pricing out what you would expect to spend on your trip if you didn’t go all-inclusive and see if the savings are significant enough to go one way or the other.

Stay in a Vacation Rental
If you have a large family, this may be your perfect solution. Rentals are booked per night, not by guest counts, so whether you have three people or eight people in your travel party you pay the same price. The other plusses to a rental are: having more space to stretch out, having a kitchen to cook your own meals in (or at least store some snacks and leftovers), there aren’t 20 potential neighbors waking you up at all hours and many rentals have a washing machine.

Look for Freebies
Free is always a great price, but if you don’t know how to get it, then it’s not really all that helpful. I love travel freebies and try to maximize them on every trip I take, because that’s less money I have to pay out of my own pocket. The more money I save, the better trip I can take or the more I can put towards a future vacation. There’s also the fact that if you save more, you spend less and suddenly a trip that was a little out of your reach is now within your budget!

Free BreakfastFree continental or buffet breakfast is a fantastic saver! On the low end, say you usually only have coffee and a bagel in the morning, you can save $5 per person, but on the higher end, if you like to eat out and have someone wait on you in the morning, you could be looking at $12+ per person.

Kids Eat Free – If your hotel has a restaurant and they offer free dining for kids, this is another big savings. Usually, you can get free meals for up to two kids this way if you purchase an adult entrée. Assuming a kid’s meal is an average of $6, that’s up to $18 per day, per child.

Free Wi-FiI always like to stay in touch while I’m on vacation, so I tend to bring my iPad and netbook everywhere I travel. This way my husband and I can both check up on what’s been happening while we’ve been gone and also communicate with friends and family. Hotels and resorts sometimes charge for internet service, or you can wait in the lobby and use one of their computers free of charge for a few minutes. Your best bet on this is to find one of the many places that give you free Wi-Fi, because it can save you weekly or daily rates, or those per-minute rates charged by Internet cafés. You also can’t do much business if you’re on a time limit.

Laundry On-Site – While usually not free, it’s still a minimal charge to use the machines there compared to the local Laundromat or worse, the laundry services they offer where you leave your bag of clothing and then come back to fresh clothes and a bill. Generally, the machines off-site can range anywhere from $1.75 - $3.00 per load for both the washer and the dryer. If you do laundry out of the country, it can cost almost $8 just to wash your clothes. Anytime I’ve used the on-site facilities, they range from $.50-1.00 for each machine and most times they were free. It’s easy to throw clothes in while you’re resting from your day out walking.

Free Coffee and Snacks – Many hotels offer free coffee/tea and snacks (like fruit and cookies) in the lobby. There’s no reason to not take advantage of such things that are included in your room rate. Think about all the times you want to snack during the day while you’re sightseeing. If you had a banana or some other snacky thing that you snagged on your way out, you wouldn’t have to shell out any money again until lunch or dinner. The free coffee and/or tea provided, while not fancy, can save you a trip to Starbucks in the morning.

Free Alcoholic BeveragesIf drinking is one of your favorite vacation pastimes, there are a few ways to get free drinks on your travels. The most obvious way is to stay at an all-inclusive resort where this is included. I consider it free, because you’re paying for your accommodations, entertainment and food all in one lump sum. Anything beyond that is a plus in my book. Another thing you can do is find a hotel that offers a free cocktail hour. They are kinda few and far between, but if you’re lucky you can find them.

While this certainly isn’t an inclusive list on all the ways you can save your dollars on accommodations, it’s a good start to help you travel within your means. Maybe that extra money you don’t have to spend is just enough to allow you to go to that one place that was just out of your reach budget-wise before. Every little bit helps when you have to pinch your pennies, so get planning and find all the ways you can lower your bottom line. You might be surprised at how all those little discounts can turn into one big one.

How do you stretch your hotel budget?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Be a More Organized Packer with Lewis N. Clark Packing Cubes

I feel like I'm an organized packer. I use a packing list, I roll everything, I have 98% of my packing done weeks before I travel. When I pack to come back home, I do things the same as when I left, including using my packing list to make sure I have everything I came with and then figure out how to include anything I've purchased along the way. Of course, one can always be more organized, especially when you can add pockets and/or compartments to your carry-on. Lewis N. Clark knows that being able to find everything in your bag is helpful and even necessary in a lot of cases. I travel with my husband almost all the time, so packing cubes can be useful in keeping each of our things together and easy to find whatever we need for the day.

packing cubes review
Here's the thing. You thought that all packing cubes were created equal. Not so. Lewis N. Clark has tapped into an improvement that I can't believe hasn't been on the market since packing cubes have hit it: Expansion. When I stopped at their booth at the Travel Goods Show, I was admiring all their new products (because previously, they had a lot of luggage locks, but not many other things) and picked up a lightweight packing cube set and realized there were extra zippers. Whoa, what? Yes, these nylon cubes come in a variety of sizes, but also become even more versatile because they expand to give you a little more room, so it's like two packing cubes in one.

Sometimes you buy stuff when you travel and you want to organize that as well when you travel home. Simply unzip the expandable part of the packing cube and voila! Now you have extra square inches to play with!

The above large cube was big enough to pack my husband's clothes for a weekend getaway. Because it isn't rigid, it allows you to pack things any way you like, then zip it up and you're ready to pack it in your bag. Got a little extra packing to do? Expand the cube and add those things. It still fits in your carry-on as well as it did when it was its original size.

I used the medium size to pack my own items for our weekend at the beach and then decided to see how it compared with the medium plaid packing cube that is a little more rugged and doesn't expand. The items fit just as well, but needed a little reshuffling to get in there perfectly. As you can see, it doesn't bulge out anywhere and keeps its rectangular shape easily. I also like the soft feel of it. If it gets dirty, just wipe it off with a damp cloth.

I then used the medium expandable for swimsuits, undies and socks. Another great thing about these cubes is that they have nice handles on the top, so you can quickly pull them out of your bag and toss them in a drawer at your destination. Then you can pull them out of the drawer each morning to find what you need and then throw it back in there. I love to keep one specifically for swimsuits, so I can grab it and go when we're off to the beach or the pool. I add a tube of sunscreen and a plastic bag, that way when we're done for the day, the cube goes into the plastic bag to keep everything else dry.

All the Lewis N. Clark cubes have a mesh front, so your clothes don't get all musty inside, especially if you're like me and like to keep some things packed all the time. There are certain things that I only use on vacation, because it's convenient and then I don't have to go track it down every time I pack for a trip. It also helps to see what's inside quickly, so you aren't opening them all to find what you need.

If you're a backpacker or travel with a soft-side bag, like a duffle, the ElectroLight cubes might be more your speed, but if you have a hard-side bag or like a little bit of rigidity, then the plaid cube that doesn't expand may work better for your bag and travel style. Now that you have all your cubes packed, you can stack them in your bag, where they will fit like puzzle pieces, and arrive organized and happy. 

More specs
Where to buy: On Lewis N Clark Website
How much: $12.49-$43.99
Colors: ElectroLight expandables: bright blue (shown) | charcoal | neon lemon | red
Plaid: beige/mint (shown) | taupe/pumpkin | charcoal/yellow
Sizes: Plaid medium: 11in x 8.5in x 3in | ElectroLight Packing Tube: 13in x 4in x 3in | ElectroLight set: Medium: 8.5in x 11in x 2in - 5in (expanded), Large: 12in x 14.5in x 2in - 5in 

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Beach For Less

Got aspirations to go to the beach this summer? Well, you’re likely not the only one, especially since the kids are out of school and the sun is out and that makes people flock to beaches near and far. The problem with heading to the beach during the warmest months is that it is often quite expensive and crazy crowded. Considering most people are just lying on the beach on their trip, it makes no sense to spend a ton of money that you don’t have to. So, here are some tips on how to spend less than expected.

It’s summer, which means you don’t need to take much with you. Getting everything in a carry-on will save you checked bag fees and also get you on your vacation as soon as possible after your plane lands. Keep your travel wardrobe to a minimum by taking one nice outfit and then several tops and bottoms that mix and match. This way, even if you took only 3 tops and 3 bottoms, they could make two week’s worth of different outfits. I then suggest taking two pair of shoes that will work with your outfits as well. Normally, I take a nice pair of sandals that can also work with dress clothes and a good pair of walking shoes. This way, you will be prepared for anything. Throw in a pair of flip flops (which I don’t count as shoes, since they take up almost no space) and you’re set for bumming around on the beach or at the pool.

Trade in the ocean for a nice lakeside location. Not only will it be a fraction of the price of an oceanfront property (or even an ocean “view” one), but you can do almost the same things you can otherwise. You can lay out on the beach, make sandcastles, go snorkeling, fishing, swimming, jet skiing and almost everything else you can do at the beach by the ocean.

Look for an apartment/condo/house rental instead of a hotel. I keep saying this, but it really can save you a lot of money. Many times you can find something for $300-400 per week, when most hotels you find are going to be well over $75/night, and that’s only for two people. On top of the savings per night and per person, you’ll also be able to shop for your own food and make as many meals as you like. I tend to like to buy breakfast fixings, because I don’t usually like to go out for breakfast and I don’t like to rush in the morning. I can eat a bowl of cereal or a bagel while I’m getting ready for the day and I’ve saved at least $8/day just for me alone. A lot of restaurants charge more than that. Heck, you could easily spend that much at Starbucks for a muffin and a coffee. And if you come back in the middle of the day for a nap or to rest your feet, you can make yourself a sandwich for lunch, too!

Go on a cruise. There are tons of deals going on right now, which means you can hang by the pool on the ship and then check out different beaches when you reach port. You also have the option of trying cool cuisines, saving money on food and accommodations while at sea and having a lot of shopping and sightseeing options.

Head to South and Central America where even during the summer, rates for hotels are pretty affordable. Places like Ecuador and Belize have wonderful beaches and budget-friendly food and lodging. Stay at a more luxury resort for a fraction of the price, which will help you stay on track with your travel budget and also give you more for your money. The beaches are just as good, plus you get to brush up on your Spanish or Portuguese.

Head to less-popular locations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other beachfront locations that have late summer travel deals. Many of these are located in the Southeast and in smaller towns, like Daytona Beach. While they may not seem very exciting at first, there are plenty of things to fill your spare time with, yummy fresh seafood and cool day trips as well.

So, if you’re hoping to work on your tan and enjoy some sand between your toes, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, your sunglasses and a bunch of sunscreen and start booking your flights, which will not be cheap this time of year. Where will you be headed this summer?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Your Travel Wardrobe's Staples

Packing. It can be a four-letter word for some. What do you take? What do you leave at home? How big a suitcase do you need? While you want to be comfortable, unless you’re trekking around the Outback, you probably don’t want to be seen in zip-off pants and hiking boots. Dressing like a traveler will only put a big target on your back that screams “tourist”. It’s always nice not to be pegged as an easy mark the second you step off the plane. You can still be stylish while being relaxed. In fact, you can find things right in your closet to coordinate with other versatile items to pack in your carry-on. You can pack light and look great.

travel wardrobe

Bring your new favorite jeans

Look for denim with stretch that will be comfy to wear on the plane and walking around all day (and after you’ve eaten way too much five days in a row). This is not the time to skimp on a pair of jeans. Get a high-quality pair that will look amazing on you and last for a long time. James Jeans and Hudson make great stretch skinnies that hug your curves in the right way and pack easily without taking up as much room as your regular denim. You can wear them with anything and they can be dressed up with the right shoes and accessories. You’ll love them so much you’ll want to wear them all the time. And you will!

Basic black always works 

Black pants are a fab travel staple. They don’t show dirt and you can find them in any fabric you like. Rayon is perfect, because it is lightweight and resists wrinkles. Linen is great option for tropical climates. You can even find your favorite khaki pants in black. These also can be dressed up or down, depending on what you wear with them. Pretty much everything matches a pair of black pants, which means you only need to bring one pair.

Blaze a trail 

Sure, you could bring a fleece with you, but in some destinations the locals wouldn’t be caught dead in such a thing. Blazers work for jeans, trousers, skirts and dresses. You always look sharp and put-together when you throw a blazer on, even over a basic tank or t-shirt. Not only will you be trendy, but it also doubles as a jacket if it starts to get chilly.

Travel Staples

Look to the trees 

Everyone loves a t-shirt and they are always acceptable. Leave your cotton tees at home in favor of those made of bamboo or soy. They are softer, keep their shape, dry quickly and they don’t hold odor, so even when you don’t have time to do laundry, your clothes won’t smell like it.

It’s a classic

Just like you have your favorite LBD at home, you will want one on the road. Travel dresses come in all shapes and sizes and you’re going to want to find one you love, because it will go everywhere with you. While you may be tempted to pull a dress from your closet in this case, think about how wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking and breathable it will be. You can find a huge range of styles, prices and brands on sites like Backcountry and REI.

Layer it on

If you’re like me, a good number of pieces in your closet are cardigans and cover-ups of some kind. The ¾ sleeve cardi can be your best friend on travels. It guards against chills and can be thrown over t-shirts and tanks. Bring one or two in neutrals that will match the other items you’ve packed and you can make more outfits out of fewer pieces.

Step it up 

Walking shoes are a must when you travel, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear trainers that make you stand out like a sore thumb. There are more walking shoes out there than ever now and many probably come from some of your favorite brands. A nice pair of sandals or ballet flats can go with everything from shorts to dresses and won’t get you kicked out a fancy restaurant like a clunky pair of sneakers will. Plus, this way you don’t have to choose between fashion and function.

When you have a handful of versatile pieces in your carry-on, it doesn’t take too many others to complete your packing list. Coordinating items enables you to pack less and still maximize your outfit options. You’ll be stylish and, as long as you’re not walking around with your nose stuck in a guide book or map, no one will ever think you’re a tourist. When you get asked for directions by other visitors, you’ll know you’ve really blended in with the locals.

What are your favorite travel staples?
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