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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Weekend Getaway Light Packing Tips

Most travelers aren’t content never taking a vacation or even slaving away all year to wait for their annual trip. In fact, aside from the usual two weeks, it’s hard to make it through day-to-day without getting away a few other times throughout the year. We tend to take a few days here and there a couple times a year. You might not think you have the funds to do it, but if you step back and take a look at your travel style you can find ways you can cut corners, meaning you’ll need a smaller budget to fund these long weekends. There are plenty of ways to save money, no matter where you go or how you get there. If you’ll be road tripping on your getaways, like I did on my trip to Bend, Oregon, then you can find tips for saving on drives here and here.
When you fly to your destination, one of the easiest ways to save – time and money – is by traveling carry-on only. You don’t need much for a few days, which means you can pack quickly, skip the airline counter check-in and ignore the baggage carousel upon arrival. I always have a packing list to help me keep the number of items down and also to make sure I don’t forget any of the essentials. I know when I get to my destination I can probably buy whatever I missed packing, since a weekend getaway isn’t going to take me that far from home (like, I probably am not going to Bali or Columbia), but I’m adamantly against spending money for things I already have. Here’s how to build your packing list:

Instead of even travel-size shampoo/conditioner, these samples can work for a weekend getaway
Normally, I take this 3oz hand cream, but these two sample packs are more than enough for 3 days
Save those samples
I know I’m not the only one that has a bag full of samples and trial-size health and beauty items. Every purchase I make from Sephora or other department store makeup counters comes with mini sizes of beauty products. I also sign up for many freebies online. When I travel, I go through and see what I can use and then pack it in my 3-1-1 or toiletry bag. I’m never going to use a full-size thing on a two-week trip, much less just a few days, so there’s no point bringing a whole container of anything, be it toothpaste, moisturizer or shampoo.

Pare down your beauty routine
Even with all your travel-size items, it still smart to take less. If you have an extensive morning routine at home, see what you can just get away with. I don’t load up on the makeup normally, so I figure there’s no point in taking a bunch of unnecessary items that I’ll probably not use. I know when I wake up I’m going to do the bare minimum so I can hurry up and get on with my day. Four or five products are all I need: moisturizer, foundation, powder, blush and mascara (optional). See what things you can do without. If you are an eye makeup kinda girl, look for makeup palettes that have everything you need in a neat little package, so you don’t have to pack everything separately.

Decant, decant, decant
Sometimes you can't find samples of your fave products, but you don't need to waste space by bringing even a large travel-size container. In this case, I say decant. Eric has a fantastic shave cream from Kiehl's, but it takes very little for each use, so I put some in a travel pot and kept the actual container at home. This makes it doubly perfect for traveling.

Pack multipurpose items
I love it when things do more than one thing. Cheek tint that is also a lip stain. Tinted moisturizer with SPF instead of sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation. A maxi skirt that can also be worn as a dress. A tablet for games, books, email and internet. All these things are perfect companions for your carry-on bag, because they take up less space.

My Vegas attire: shorts, capris, dress, 3 tops, fancy sandals and a
pair of  ballet flats (to be worn on the plane)
Mix and match
As always, when you coordinate all your clothing, it’s super easy to pack in a carry-on. Two bottoms and three tops can mix and match to make SIX outfits. That’s way more than you’ll need for a long weekend. Don’t forget that what you wear in transit can also be rotated in as needed. And shoes! You should take two pair – max. Make sure they are both comfortable enough to walk in all day. I had a coworker who told me that she had 16 pairs of shoes she wanted to take with her to Mexico on a four day trip. Sixteen! I don’t even think that many shoes would fit in my carry-on and if they did, there would be no room for anything else, except maybe socks and underwear. Her trip was for a wedding, so aside from what she needed for the ceremony, she could have survived with a sun dress, a pair of shorts, her bathing suit and some flip flops. Learning to pack efficiently is important and can save you a ton.

That’s it. Think about what you truly need with you for three or four days and be realistic. Don’t play the “what if” game. What if I go out to a fancy dinner? What if it gets really cold? What if I want to go clubbin’? Did you plan for those things? Do you normally just change plans at the last minute? Sometimes it seems like it might be harder to pack for a short trip than a long one, but with some practice, it can be super simple. Just think, if you don’t bring something that you thought you could live without, by the time you miss it, you’ll probably already be back home.

Yup, that's my actual packing list!
This trip we’re taking two bottoms, three tops, a pair of sandals/flip flops and a pair of walking shoes (my sandals are walking shoes, so I’m also taking a pair of ballet flats) each and our packable jackets. I threw in a travel dress to wear to dinner with family. All that and our toiletries fit into our rolling carry-on, so I’ll be taking a the new Travelon Signature Messenger to carry my regular purse stuff, important documents, laptop and snacks, and Eric will be carrying the Travelon Urban Tour Bag for the iPad, his 3DS and bottle of water. That’s it. We are traveling light. Staying at two places in three nights requires us to be able to throw everything in our bags and go quickly.

What are some of your favorite ways to travel light?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My New Orleans Wish List

This Fall I'll be traveling to New Orleans for the first time and I'm super excited. We had originally planned a two-week trip, but have cut it in half so we can also go to LA in December to check out the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Being our first trip to Nola, there are a lot of things we want to do. Number one is to not rent a car, except to take a day trip. So, let's look at our must-dos and must-eats and then you can tell me your suggestions, whether it's what I should add or what I should skip.

Things to do in New Orleans
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When I travel, I love to find great little places that make for beautiful photos, since that's the majority of what I bring back when we go anywhere. The historic Court of the Five Sisters looks like one of those places and I can't wait to grab a table, have a great meal and then take a ton of photos of this vibrant little courtyard.

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I know that people think that Bourbon Street is a tourist trap, but there's no way I'm visiting the city and not going there. I won't be taking a horse-drawn carriage, but I will be taking a bunch of pics, because I gotta!

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I'll not be renting a car for the most part, so we'll be relying on our feet and the streetcar. It'll be fun to ride around on this historic mode of transportation. And I love that it's all open.  

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Okay, you know I love a farmers' market and open-air market. They're the perfect place to learn about your destination and the foods the locals eat. Plus, you can pick up wonderfully fresh fruits, breads and pastries for breakfasts and snacks. I absolutely need to hit up the French Market.

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If I leave New Orleans without at least one visit to Cafe Du Monde, I think I may never be allowed back. Beignets and a really good coffee sounds like heaven to me. And also like it may keep me going for much of the day between the caffeine and sugar. I love that it's open 24/7, too.

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I'm super into old cemeteries and love when there are interesting headstones and tombs. You may remember my visit to Pere Lechaise Cemetarie in Paris.  I've been dying (ha!) to go to St. Louis Cemetery #1 for years. I expect to take a lot of pics to write a big blog post on it, so if you're also into learning more about it, stay tuned. I think we'll be taking a ghost tour that includes this final resting place as well.

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I just learned about this not too long ago, but New Orleans has a wall called the Before I Die Wall, where you can write the thing(s) you want to see/do/eat/achieve before you die and get inspiration from others' wishes as well. It's like inspirational (and legal) graffiti. 

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When you're in the place where voodoo was invented, you can't ignore that. I love a good museum that's also unique, so I'll be headed to the Voodoo Museum to check out how Marie Laveau and others harnessed the power of voodoo and what they hoped to achieve with it as well. 

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So, something you may not know about me is that I love a good absinthe. The taste and the process is fantastic to me and I am really interested to visit the Original Absinthe Bar where folks like Mark Twain and Andrew Jackson drank. 

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Okay. It seems irresponsible of me to wander the streets of New Orleans without soaking up some French influence. I may not be into getting a bowl of gumbo, but I am excited about French pastries and picking up some sweets, like macarons, at Sucre Bakery.

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The South has a controversial history of slavery and such. Evergreen Plantation is one of the places where I plan to learn more and maybe even catch a glimpse of a ghost. If you're lucky, I can catch it on film and share it in a future post.

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Here's where I'll be renting a car for the day and heading to Avery Island. There's no place else you can see Tabasco hot sauce being made and it sounds pretty awesome. We can buy a bunch of bottles to send home, plus wander the gorgeous grounds and check out the Jungle Gardens before heading back to the city.

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I have never really wanted to visit the madness of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, but I do want to check out the cool floats and props. Fortunately, for me, Mardi Gras World is the place where a lot of that stuff is stored and I can take a tour to see previous floats, costumes and more.

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There's always a splurge meal on my trips and brunch at the Commander's Palace is going to be the one in New Orleans for us. I'm going to dress up a little, listen to live jazz and dig into delicious food. They serve unique dishes like Braised Rabbit & Carrot Cake Flapjacks, Turtle Soup and Tabasco & Sugarcane Smoked Salmon. 

Okay, I have other stuff on my list as well, like a swamp tour, some specific happy hours, a ride on the ferry, possibly the aquarium and of course that ghost tour I was talking about. If you've been to New Orleans, where should I go, not go or eat? Keep in mind that neither of us will eat jambalaya and probably not crawfish.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Travel Gifts for Dads and Grads

Father's Day is just next month and soon all the kids will be graduating from high school and college, which means you need to buy gifts of gratitude and congratulations for those you know and love. If your dad likes to travel or your grad is planning a gap year, then why not get them something truly awesome to help them save money and make their travels better? Here are some ideas for gifts in all budgets.

Make sure you can follow your grad's travels on Instagram or Facebook by getting them a battery backup for their mobile. You won't have to worry if they got murdered when they can keep their phone charged. Your dad can use this, too, since he's streaming all those videos and looking at all the photos you keep sending him of your kids. 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? Get them a moleskine journal where they can write down all their thoughts, notes and drawings. They are sleek and convenient, so they fit in the pocket of any bag or jacket. These run $10-15. Get them a fancy pen to go with it and you're golden.

If your dad/grad loves to lounge by the pool or play on the beach, then you need to get them 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.

Sleeping on the plane (or a train or the back of the car) can be difficult. Give them the gift of easier sleep with the awesome hoodie pillow where they can get comfortable, keep their head warm and block out light. I love mine and take it everywhere I travel. They start at $20. 

(Almost) Everyone likes to be organized...especially when they travel. Get them 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.

Hydration. It's important. It's also nice to have a cold beverage stay cold and a hot beverage stay hot...like all day. Laken insulated bottles do just that and come in a variety of sizes. They're really sturdy and you'll still find ice in it hours later. I take this with me everywhere, especially when we go anywhere with the dog. Your dad will be excited that his coffee is still hot when he gets to work, or wherever he's going, even if he gets pulled into a meeting. It's also nice to have ice water available when sitting on a hot, sweaty bus in South America. Plan to spend $30-40 on a good size one.

Give the gift of experience and save them 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 them 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.

It's nice to have clothing that does double duty. Bluffworks pants are specifically for travel, because they are odor-resistant, stain-resistant, wrinkle-proof and almost indestructible. They look like dress pants, but they're sturdy enough to wear hiking, camping or rock climbing. One pair can work for everything you do on vacation or a business trip. These are $98 or $125, depending on the style, but they'll last a really long time.

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 them a pair of Sol Republic Air Tracks for around $70 and they will love you (even more than they already do).

Let them go farther for less by gifting them air miles or a gift card to their 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 them your air miles, it's even more affordable.

A great traveler needs a great bag that'll hold everything they need, but also discourage overpacking. The Skyroll is basically a garment bag with organizational pockets that wraps around a tube for your shoes and toiletries. It fits under the airplane seat and is easy to throw over your shoulder. Perfect for business trips, but also for cruises. These run $149.99.

What are you doing for the dad or grad in your life next month?

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

48 Hours of Fun on a Budget in Toronto

In this blog series I show you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere and I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

Next year we’ve decided to vacation in Toronto. We’ve only ever been to B.C. in Canada, so this will be a new experience, plus an interesting destination that I doubt many people think about. We were going to make this a friends vacation, but they can’t make it, so we are going to go anyway and maybe do a second leg in NYC, because why not? So, if you’ve been thinking about heading North, here’s my plan for spending two days in the city of Toronto. (Obviously, I’ll be spending around a week there, but maybe you can drive up for the weekend, or need a starting point.)

Toronto travel tips
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Day 1
{CityPASS now has the TorontoPASS which could save you up to 43% on 5 of the city’s most popular attractions.} Let’s assume you got in last night or early this morning, so you can hit the ground running. Start the day off with a healthy and unique breakfast at Cora’s. The meals can be large, so if you aren’t a huge breakfast person, you can easily split an entrée. Most range between $10-12. Look to spend around $20 for 2 if you split something and have coffee/juice.

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Make sure you’ve packed your camera today, because you’re going to head to CN Tower now and get a bird’s eye view of Toronto. It has two observation levels, one with a glass floor, at over 1,100 feet above the street. If you buy your tickets online, these will cost you $44 per adult, but it’s included in your CityPASS.

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Walk the few blocks to Union Station and take the train to the Royal Ontario Museum. This is where you’ll check out dinosaurs, artifacts from Egypt and Canada’s history. It’s Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history. In between your browsing of exhibits, head to the museum’s café for a bite for lunch. You can get all the usual easy foods like pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs, or you can get something more unique like chicken schwarma or veggie masala. Two people can eat for around $25. Admission for the museum is $17 per person, but this is also included in the CityPASS.

If you’ve purchased a CityPASS, I suggest heading back towards the CN Tower and visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It’s open late and is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium. There are dive shows each day, local marine life and so much more. This is great if you have kids, or just a lover of stuff in the water. If you didn’t purchase a CityPASS and this doesn’t sound appealing, head to the Distillery Historic District. It’s a no-car zone and the architecture is fantastic. You won’t find big box stores here, as they aren’t allowed, so you’ll be surrounded by pure Toronto. The District is free, but the aquarium is around $32 per person if you pay separately.

Save some bucks on dinner and hit up Nari Sushi to get some fish to go and enjoy it in your hotel room while you relax and prepare for tomorrow. You can pick up three 8-pc rolls for around $15.

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Day 2
Make sure your camera’s charged and you have a fresh memory card in it, or you have a backup battery for your phone, today you’re going to explore the fabulous Casa Loma. I’ll just tell you it’s a castle, because what? You can get there right when they open and head to the café for breakfast. They serve everything from muffins to waffles, so you can grab something light or fill up before walking the grounds and exploring hidden passages(!!!). Admission to Casa Loma is $25 per person and a meal in the café for two can run around $20. Casa Loma is included in your CityPASS.

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Head back to the city and go straight to St. Lawrence Market. Browse stalls of foods, plants, jewelry and more. There’s even an art gallery! Cobble together a lunch from finds at the market or grab something from a stall who offers made food for you. The market is free to wander. Plan to spend around $20 for lunch for two.

Walk over to the Harbourfront Centre where you can check out free shows and culture along Lake Ontario. You’ll find a wide range of foods here as well from a variety of local food vendors. Look to spend around $20 for two.

Head back to your hotel and pack to leave tomorrow. If you do everything on the list, you’ll spend around $292 CAD ($226US) – with the aquarium, it’s more like $276 US. If you purchase theCityPASS, you’re looking at $237 US.

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There are plenty of cool things to do in Toronto that aren’t on this itinerary. I also want to check out The Lockhart, a Harry Potter-themed bar, have tea at the Kitten and Bear and visit the magical Library at Osgood Hall. Oh, and check out The Danforth (or Greektown), because I’m a nerd and love the line in Barenaked Ladies’ Old Apartment

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How To Eat More Healthfully When You Travel

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating and trying new foods. This isn't always a great plan, especially when you find that none of your pants fit at the end of your trip. I am not an exerciser, but when I am on vacation, I walk a lot and climb all the stairs. Of course, I also eat more than I do at home, because...yum. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I will plan whole days around where I want to eat. More than once I've gained some weight on my trip and had trouble getting into my clothing by the end. You want to throw the rules out the window, but you also want to try to eat healthfully, if it doesn't hold you back from eating all the stuff.

Eat smaller meals
If you're always hungry on vacation, maybe don't go crazy and order a huge meal when you've also been snacking along the way. Maybe order an appetizer when you sit down for lunch. Or put some healthy snacks (nuts, granola bars, fruit, veggies) in your day bag to munch on in between meals so you aren't stopping and getting a hot dog or other crap from a street vendor before heading to lunch or dinner.

Say no to the free bread (or chips and salsa)
I love carbs. And I love, love, love bread. It might be difficult to tell your server to not bring that delicious bread basket, especially when you feel like you're starving. Unfortunately, it's easy to eat the whole loaf of bread they bring you and then eat your entire meal before realizing that it was a bad idea and being overstuffed. If you don't have it, you can't eat it.

lobster sandwich with fries that we split, but we also had a stuffed mushrooms app

Split an entree with a friend
Eric and I do this a lot. Sometimes we're hungry, but not hungry enough to eat a whole meal, so we choose something that we both want on the menu and share. You are full, but not super full when you're done, so you don't want to lay down and take a nap or feel sluggish the rest of the day. If we can't decide if splitting something would be enough, we ask the server about the portion size. If they seem iffy about it, or we do, we also order an app. This is a good budget dining tip as well. 

Don't order everything on the menu, unless there's a lot more than 2 of you

Share some tapas
Instead of splitting a main meal, split 2 or 3 apps or small plates. This gives you a variety, so it satisfies your need to try more, but also doesn't give you enough food to stuff yourself before the meal is over. In fact, you may feel like you've gotten more than if you just ordered a regular entree, and you save money!

Don't forget your fruits/veggies
It's hard to get in your fruits and veggies every day when you're eating out all your meals. I always keep it in the back of my head to look for something that has sides that are good for me that I actually like. If nothing on the menu seems to fall into that category, ask your server if they have something that works. Or skip the fries and get a fruit cup instead. I always aim for at least a serving of fruits or veggies for two of my three meals. If you find you aren't getting enough, hit up the local grocery store or market and get some things you like and eat for breakfast or while you're out walking around.

Skip dessert
Am I a horrible person for suggesting this? I feel like it. If I see a funky dessert on a menu, I want to try it (this might also be a time when we plan to split and entree). I'm not saying to say no to all desserts, just many of them. Try not to have more than one per day and, when you do, make it count.

Scale back on the alcohol
Okay, some of you probably feel like this is as bad or worse than skipping dessert. I like a good cocktail as much as the next person, but those are extra calories that can add up quickly. It can also make me feel sleepy before it's even bedtime, and then my sleep is not great when I do go. If you must have a drink, limit it to one per meal. I figure an ice tea will end up being more refreshing, hydrating and affordable. Think of all the other stuff you can do with the money you aren't spending on alcohol!

Get a salad sometimes and go light on the dressing
Yeah, yeah. Blech. After having a bunch of rich or carb-loaded meals, I just crave something light and fresh. If you see a really yummy sounding salad on a menu, order it. It'll probably be healthier for you, gets your veggies in and gives your body a break from the heavier meals you've been putting into it.

Avoid fried foods
I'll never turn down fried chicken, but when on vacation I look to order fewer fried things (fries, chicken strips, fried pickles) and try to sub in something a little better for me. Maybe order the fish or grilled meat instead. Get a cup of soup or a side salad instead of onion rings. You'll feel better, your pants will still fit and you'll have more energy.

So, there you have it. There are a few ways to maintain your weight when traveling. If you want to do more, then walk as much as possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator or get a quick workout in. How do you eat more healthfully when you're on vacation?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Doing Summer Travel On a Budget

Summer is creeping up on us and before you know it, it’ll be sunny and the kids will be out of school and you’ll realize you haven’t starting planning a summer getaway yet. Don’t wait until the last minute, because that’s when you’ll pay the most. Airfare alone can jump as much as 40% during the summer months, so here are some tips to help keep you in the black this year and have an amazing time:

budget summer travel

Shop for airfare on Tuesday and Wednesday and look for flights that depart on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday for the lowest fares. New fares are posted every Tuesday and Wednesday are the perfect time to get the best deals, and when you fly on less popular days, you can pay less and have a better chance of not getting bumped off your flight due to overbooking. One thing that'll make you happy is that this summer, flights will be the cheapest they’ve been in seven years. Of course, that doesn't mean you should slack and leave booking until later. You still need to get on that ASAP.

Go early. If your kids get out of school sooner the rest of the country, take advantage of your good fortune and vacation before the second week in June. Many schools have release dates in May, so if you can take time off before Memorial Day weekend, you can save a ton. The middle of June through the middle of August is going to be the most expensive time to travel almost anywhere, and the most crowded.

Go somewhere different. Your kids are always going to want to go to theme parks or the beach during the summer, but by changing up your destination, you can actually save a little or a lot of money. If they insist on going to the beach, look for lakeside resorts near where you live. Most still have a beach and everything that goes along with it, unless surfing is on the agenda. Other ideas are to visit cold-weather destinations or South America. The Southern Hemisphere experiences winter during our summer, making it a less desirable place to vacation. Less desirable equals more affordable. South America is close, but there are so many different places to choose from that are amazing, tropical and super budget-friendly.

Drive. Airfare can become a costly burden if there are many of you traveling. If you can spare the extra travel time, take a good old fashioned road trip to get to your destination. Make sure to plan fun stops along the way, like to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn, ghost towns or museums. It makes the whole trip seem like an adventure if you don’t just drive straight through.

A pic from our boat tour of Portland

Plan a staycation. If everything just seems too far out of budget this time of year, opt to do things around your own town and take your vacation over holiday break. Prices will be lower, most destinations will be less crowded and you will be able to see and do more than in the summer. Need some ideas for your planning? See my staycation post and check out my staycation board on Pinterest.

Don’t forget your cash back! Help keep a little money in your pocket or stretch the dollars you have by using Ebates to book your flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. You can even get cash back for buying essentials like sunscreen and shorts! It's totally free to join and it's super easy. In fact, they give you a gift just for making your first purchase. How can you beat that?

Plan ahead. Start planning for a cheap summer trip next year by picking up my Secrets to Summer Savings ebook. I give you all my travel saving tips to make summer travel cheaper and packed with more fun.

Where will you be going for your Summer vacation?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Las Vegas Wish List

So, as you know, I've been to Vegas many times. It tends to be a yearly thing and sometimes it's twice yearly, like this year and probably next. We have family that lives there, we have 4 timeshares to choose from, the NBA Summer League plays there and the Travel Goods Show takes place there as well. The fun thing about Vegas, besides the obvious, is that things are always changing, so what was there last year may not be there the next. This can be annoying if you really liked something, but at least it's never boring. 

las vegas wish list

This year we're not meeting friends, so between basketball games and hanging with family, we're going to do some stuff we've never done before, and probably a few things we have. Here's my list of what I want to do, see and eat this summer while trying not to die of heat stroke:

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Las Vegas Spring Preserve
I've wanted to visit the Preserve since I aw it along the highway. I love plants and animals, plus this is a really interesting setting and a unique thing to do in the middle of a city where everything this bright lights and sounds of slots.

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Ethel M Chocolate Factory
I had big plans to check this place out when I was in town in March, but I had limited time, was trying to get work done and was too tired to drive out to Henderson (which I know is only like 20 minutes away). I've been to a few chocolate factories, but this one is kind of a landmark and I feel a little guilty for not having gone to check it out already.

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Ethel M Cactus Garden
Outside of the chocolate factory is an extensive cactus garden that's totally free. Now that I don't live in Arizona anymore, I have more of an appreciation of cactus, since I actually see trees and grass and flowers everywhere I go. 

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Bad Owl Coffee
Someone was kind enough to send me a link to this place that just opened earlier this year. It's also in Henderson (where our family lives), so I feel like I see a whole day there. Bad Owl Coffee is supposedly some good coffee, but it's also Harry Potter themed, which you know I'm not going to pass up if I get a chance, because those are two of my favorite things...plus they have a Butterbeer latte, which tends to sell out halfway through the day, so I know where my morning is going to start.

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Capo's Speakeasy
I just bought a daily deal for this place for brunch, because look at it. Look. At. It. It's looks like an old mob restaurant and my brunch comes with unlimited drinks. Who's going to turn down neverending mimosas? I'll tell you who. Nobody. Plus, I'm always looking for new and interesting places to eat. I could eat everyday at a buffet, but I try not to stick myself in that box.

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Mon Ami Gabi
I could spend most of my days inside the Paris Hotel. It's beautiful and it makes me happy. It's like being outside while being inside...and there's crepes. So many crepes. I've never eaten at this fancy eatery out front that's actually outside, but I've got it on good authority that this place is a must-eat, so I'm going to check it out and eat some French-inspired food while I people watch. Incidentally, that's what I do when we eat at Ile. St. Louis inside as well, since it's made to feel like a sidewalk cafe, even though it's inside. I love that place.

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Downtown Container Park
Yes, I've been here before. We went last year, but we only visited at night, so I didn't actually get to look in any of the stores or most of the restaurants. This trip I want to take some time to wander the park and check out everything they have in there...and maybe go down one of those playground slides!

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Madam Tussaud's 
This place always freaks me out, but I keep going to them in hopes that I'll get over my fear of wax people being real people. I probably won't, but this is an included option in my Explorer Pass, so I'm going to summon my bravery and go hang out with the "stars".

Bellagio Conservatory
I go here every time I'm in town, because it's always different. The master gardeners at the Bellagio change the conservatory theme every season and it's always fantastic and amazing, especially to people like me who can't really grow anything except for plants that don't need my help once they're planted.

Salt Room LV
We went here last time we were in town and it's a great way to get away fro the crowds and get some detox. Salt rooms are great for your skin, allergies and other ailments and I always feel awesome when I leave. The bonus here is that they have weekday Happy Hour prices, so you can detox for less.

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Gordon Ramsay Burgr
We tried to go here last time, but there were no reservations and the line was crazy long, so we gave up and went elsewhere. That'll teach us to try to eat somewhere on The Strip in the evening where all the people hang out. Of course, I heard that a new Gordon Ramsay restaurant is opening this summer in the Linq Promenade, so we may try that one instead...and then maybe get a cupcake from Sprinkles.

This is probably not a complete list, but there will be basketball and family goodness in here, and floating about in the lazy river, so we'll just fill in as we go and then I'll tell you all about it when I get back! 

What are your favorite things to do in and around Vegas that I should add to my list?
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